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fractions. But I will not anticipate difficulty. Really, Sir, I think the
drawing room, withdrawing room or room into which I withdraw to
draw, owes all its beauty to your presence. We have sat in it two
nights, and the vacancy of the throne which you are wont to fill, and
from which thou art wont to impart the learning contained in the
volumes of literature, enlivening it by your conversation and facilitating
its comprehension by your remarks, the vacancy of that chair, I say,
made the room appear vacant, and the absence of that conversation
made conversation flag. Return, oh return from thy peregrinations,
fly from the bosom of the bogs to the bosom of those who wait thee
in anxious expectation. As the eagle returns to its eyrie, as the
bird that wanders over distant climes returns to its place of rest, so
do thou return to us who are sorrowing for thy presence [hole in
paper] winder up ! ! ! Factas meas admiro. And now ^alpotre, as
Anacreon says, pour la presente pro non quantum sufficit temporis ut
literam longam scriberem, I remain your most mightily affectionate son,

JOHN RusKiN. 2

1 [Much Ado about Nothing, Act iii. sc. 3 ("most tolerable," etc.).]

2 [Ruskin's father, in sending this letter to Mrs. Richard Gray, wrote upon it :
' ' We think him clever, and his masters pronounce his talents great for his age. . . .
If the Almighty preserves the Boy to me I am richly blessed, but I always feel
as if I ought to lose him and all I have."]



6 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [isse

To his FATHER

HERNE HILL, 25M March, 1836.

MY DEAREST FATHER, I sit down to write of I know not what.
I intend to commence with our third lecture, English literature. 1 Four
lectures on this subject have spoken of four celebrated authors of old
time Sir John Mandeville, Sir John Gower, Chaucer, and Wickliff'e.
We are made acquainted with their birth, parentage, education, etc. ;
the character of their writings is spoken of, and extracts are read as
examples of their style. These extracts are always interesting, fre-
quently entertaining, sometimes laughable, although the laugh of the
hearer is generally at, not with, the author. The writings of the

poets before Chaucer are like Lifting my eyes oft' the paper in

search of a simile, they encounter a piece of the sky seen through
one of the very large panes of our drawing-room window. It has
been raining, softly and silently, a benevolent rain, r.nd the large red
blossoms of the almonds, and the buds of the lilac, and the branches
of the firs are all full of that delicate day dew, glittering and glancing
and shaking off showers of jewels into the moistened ground, and
their vegetable life seems strong in them I could fancy I saw them
growing ; they are like the students at college after having heard a
lecture, full of the rich dews of instruction ; and above them are
long lines of grey cloud, broken away into thin white fleeces which
are standing still in the heavens, for there is no bree/e to move
them, and between those grey clouds is seen here and there a piece
of excessive value, which is not dark, but deep, pure, far away,
which the eye seems to plunge into and gc on, on, on, into the
stillness of its distance, until the grey cloud closes over it and it is
gone. That bit of sky is like one of these old poems, cloudy and
grey, uninteresting; but ever and anon through the quaintness of his
language or uncouthness of expression breaks the mind of the poet,
pure and noble and glorious, and leading you away with it into
fascination, and then the cloud closes over him and he is gone.
Then after the conclusion of the lecture and a few additional remarks
from Mr. Dale on the way to Lincoln's Inn Fields, 2 I enter the most
formidable library in which we receive our lessons.

Books are the souls of the dead in calf-skin. When I enter a library
I always feel as if I were in the presence of departed spirits, silent
indeed, but only waiting my command to pour forth the experience of

1 [Lectures given by the Rev. Thomas Dale : see Praterita, i. 205 (Vol. XXXV.
P- 177).]

1 [Mr. Dale was at this time vicar of St. Bride's, Fleet Street, and he resided
iu a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields.]



1836] THE GREEK WRITERS 7

their lives, 1 the thoughts and imaginations, the feelings and the passions
which have long since ceased in reality, but they continue to think
and feel to me. Even as I look up to the rows of volumes in my little
library, they seem turning into living beings, and the ancients and the
moderns seem rekindled into contemporary life. There is an old man
lying on a piece of beautiful green turf beside a stream, and the
stream is clear and pure and beautiful, and it is singing to him sweetly
as it passes by, and he is listening to it drowsily. He looks old, for his
long hair is silvered, but there are no wrinkles on his brow, for there
is no care there; there is a tall tree hanging over him, and a cicada is
singing on one of its green boughs, and the old man is pleased to
hear the insect sing so joyfully, and he is conversing in his mind
with the stream that flows by him, and with the light breeze that
plays among his hair, and with the insect on the bough that is
chirping intoxicated with day dew. That is Anacreon.

Close by him stands another, a young man, but there is deep
thought in the fire of the dark eye that flashes from beneath the
shadow of his high helmet. It is night, and he is standing by the
light of a watchfire leaning on his lance, and the light flashes on the
arms of his sleeping friends, while round on every eminence, through
the gloom of the midnight, blaze the beacon fires of their enemies ; but
he sees them not, for his mind is far away in his beloved Greece, and
high hope beams upon his brow that he shall see his native shore once
again. It is Xenophon.

There is another, but he is in such a crowd that I cannot see him
well ; he is conversing with every one, and putting down what they say
in his own deep memory; there is a veil over his face, and it has been
woven partly by truth and partly by falsehood, and that part which
has been woven by truth is very transparent and I can see the face
of the old man through it, but the other part is dark, and shadows of
the crowd round about him are thrown upon it; and yet from the
whole veil there is a magic lustre emanating, Avhich is given by the
brightness of the old man's mind. It is Herodotus.

Is that a criminal standing before his judges? It cannot be. It
is a most aged man; his limbs are feeble, and his hand quivers, and
his voice trembles as he reads; but what is he reading? All are silent,
all eager in attention ; the judge bends forward from his high seat,
the very accuser is listening astonished, and the crowd round lean
forward intently to catch the sounds of the old man's feeble voice.
How his eye kindles as he reads. It is Sophocles.

1 [The idea is precisely that of the well-known passage in Sesame and Lilies:
see Vol. XVIII. pp. 58, 59.]



8 LETTERS OF RU$KIN VOL. I [iss6

The next is leaning against a rock under tall cypresses, and before
him flashes down a mighty cataract; on his other side is deep, blue,
bright water, spreading away into far distances, and woody promon-
tories, and mighty crags rise above them, and distant Alps glitter in
the blue of the sky, and to him there is a voice in nature, and his
eye is on the birds that wing their way through the air, and on the
fishes that glitter through the sapphire blue of the waters, on rock
and tree, herb and flower, and they are his companions. It is Pliny.

Beneath the low door of a small cottage stands another moralizing ;
high on the opposite hill stands the gorgeous villa of his patron, or
rather friend, but he envies it not; from his low dwelling he looks out
on the doings of the world, and instructs and amuses, flatters and
satirises as he sees occasion. [It is Horace.]

Then come a troop of moderns; too numerous to be particularised.
One is standing alone on the shore of a rushing sea, an ocean of a
river, the dark forest closed around him, birds of jewelled dyes flying
over his head ; from the recesses of the wood comes the melancholy
cry of the leopard, and the billows before him are lashed by the bulk
of the crocodile. Another is on a point of pure snow ; mountains on
mountains are tossed about him like a sea, but all far below him, the
sun is careering through a sky which is dark, very dark, and filled with
undistinguishable glimmering of many stars. Another is beneath the
burning sun of an African desert, thinking of the green fields of
England, and the only sound which falls on his wearied ear is the
howl of the hyena, or shrill cry of the ostrich. My characters are
now, however, becoming too numerous for enumeration, even in my small
library ; what should I do, then, if I attempted to describe those of
Mr. Dale's gigantic assembly of books, in the midst of which Matson l
and I receive our lessons, amused now and then by the egregious
blunders of Tom-ass, as Matson divides his name?

"Then perchance when home returning, you the story hearing,
With a smile may cry, ' Poor Tom.' "

You were wont now and then, Papa, in former times, to give me a
great deal of pleasure by writing me one or two letters in the course
of your journey. Now, if you had ;i little spare scrap of time,
(Mamma says you do not write because I do not ask you) you know,
my dearest Father, it would infinitely delight your most affectionate
Son, JOHN RUSKIN.

1 [For Ktiskin'.o schoolfellow, Edward Matson, see Pra-tcrita, i. !>], ii. 1/il
(Vol. XXX V. pp. Oi 1 , 381).]



1837] THE GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY 9

To fife FATHER 1

HERNE HILL, 10th Jan., 1837.

MY DEAREST FATHER, I was in the meeting room of the Geo-
logical Society in Somerset House on Wednesday evening last at half-
past 8 o'clock precisely. The Geologicals dropped in one by one, and it
greatly strengthened me in my high opinion of the science, to phreno-
logize upon the bumps of the observers of the bumps of the earth.
Many an overhanging brow, many a lofty forehead, bore evidence to
the eminence of mind which calculates the eminences of earth ; many a
compressed lip and dark and thoughtful eye bore witness to fine work
within the pericraniums of their owners. One finely made, gentlemanly-
looking man was very busy among the fossils which lay on the table,
and shook hands with most of the members as they came in. His
forehead was low and not very wide, and his eyes small, sharp, and
rather ill-natured. He took the chair, however, and Mr. Charlesworth,
coming in after the business of the meeting had commenced, stealing
quietly into the room, and seating himself beside me, informed me
that it was Mr. Lyell. 2 I expected a finer countenance in the great
geologist. Dr. Buckland was not there, which was some disappoint-
ment to me, and some disadvantage to him, inasmuch as a ground of
dispute had been started in the last meeting, about the elevation or
non-elevation of a beach near Barnstaple bay, in which Dr. B. had
taken the non-elevation, and Dr. Sedgwick the elevation, side of the
question, and the decision of which had been referred to this meeting.
Both the doctors being absent, two of the members rose Mr. Greenau
for Dr. Buckland, and Mr. Murchison for Dr. Sedgwick, Mr. Lyell
being on the Sedgwick side, though, as chairman, he took no part in
the debate, which soon became amusing and interesting, and very
comfortable for frosty weather, as Mr. Murchison got warm, and Mr.
Greenau witty. The warmth, however, got the better of the wit, and
the question, unsupported by Dr. Buckland, was decided against him.
The rest of the evening was occupied by a discussion of the same nature
relative to the coast of Peru and Chili, 3 and I was much interested and

1 [A short passage from this letter has already been printed in Vol. I.
p. xxxvii. n. ; and another (quoted from W. G. Collingvvood's Life) in Vol. I.
p. 206 .]

2 [Charles Lyell (1797-1875), secretary of the Geological Society, 1823-1826 ;
F.R.S. 1826; Professor of Geology at King's College, London, 1831-1883; president
of the Geological Society, 1835-183(> and 1849-1850.]

[The paper (read on .January 4, 1837) was by Darwin, "Observations of Proofs
of Recent Elevation on the Coast of Chili " : see Proceedings of the Geological Society,
vol. 2, p. 446. Ruskin refers to it again, below, p. 14.]



10 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I L 183 ?

amused as well as instructed by the conversation of the evening. They
did not break up till nearly 11.

As to the Meteorological, Mr. Pat Murphy's " anticipations " have
turned out not pat at all, but quite Irish bulls. Their failure is the
more ridiculous because they were published in the scientific journals,
and the attention of meteorologists in general invited to them. The
Society would be much better employed, instead of listening to antici-
pations which never will be realised, and prophecies which the weather
takes good care not to fulfil, in ascertaining the causes and effects of
phenomena which have actually taken place, or in perusing such scien-
tific and interesting communications as one which I sent in to Mr.
White, and which he says in a note he will have great pleasure in
laying before the Society at their next meeting (to-morrow, Tuesday
evening). 1 Richard says it will frighten them out of their meteoro-
logical wits, containing six close written folio pages, and having at its
conclusion, as a sting in its tail, the very agreeable announcement that
it only commences the subject, which will be farther treated of in a
series of similar papers !

I made a most noble round of visits on Saturday ranging from
Bayswater, where I found Mr. Runciman out, to the City, where I
found Mr. Greenaway off for Calcutta. As the commencement and
termination of my peregrinations were thus equally unfortunate, I con-
sidered my medics res very lucky, and that in two respects, my finding
Mr. B. out, and Mr. London's friend in.

True and inevitable is the old proverb about birds of a feather.
Mr. London's house, as I have often remarked, is to the eye of the
casual observer, what the extent of the work he goes through proves
that it cannot be to the Master or presiding genius thereof, a chaos
of literary confusion. Dust-covered fossils, and lack-lustre minerals,
their crystals shattered, their polish destroyed, and enveloped in cob-
webs of duration so antique and si/e so formidable as to render the
specimens far more interesting to the entomologist than the mineralogist,
occupy the landing-places and passages, while the floors of the rooms
themselves are paved with books and portfolios. On entering the
company room of Mr. Lamb, I found myself in the midst of an admired
disorder of such architectural specimens as in their native land or spot
would have been beautiful, while where they were, they were only so
many causes of lamentation and instigators of indignation. Here, on
a wooden bracket, over a narrow cupboard which suggested involuntary

1 [The paper was "On the Formation and Colour of such Clouds as are caused
by the Agency of Mountains." It was not printed. For a later paper, printed in
the Trninttirtinna of thr Meteorological Kocieti/ in 18.39, see Vol. I. p. 20(5.]



1837] A COLLECTION OF RELICS 11

ideas of papers of tea and loaves of sugar, was a Corinthian capital
from Tivoli ! There, in a fantastic niche, his knightly heel kicking a
rush-bottomed chair, stood some ancient Saxon monarch whose marble
brows, which had long frowned down the shadowy and echo-voiced
aisles of some ruined abbey, now held the same dignified expression,
while gazing on the poker, tongs, shovel, and ashes, which were the
accompaniments of the parlour grate ; while a richly carved Gothic
altar, which had long stood in the noble cathedral, the burial place
of Alfred, now occupied a corner in dangerous proximity to the fire
broom. I had, however, the pleasure of knowing that a good many
of the relics which lay about the room, like rocks to confound and
swallow the navigation up of the unwary stranger, were casts, and after
he had looked at and praised the first of my sketches when we got to
the cathedral spire [of] Rouen, we entered into a very interesting
discussion upon architecture in general, and particularly on Gothic,
which, as he had examined it a good deal as an artist, and I a good deal
as an architect, we agreed upon in every particular; then he looked over
the remainder of my sketches, and admired them very much; and then
he produced numerous portfolios, which were excessively interesting to
me, etchings, drawings, designs, etc., many of them excessively beautiful.
I staid two full hours, and was invited, and that earnestly, to call
again. I got Mr. Anderton's address, and will call to-morrow.

I am charging the mathematics terrifically, and in particular a
problem which Biot says is impossible, but which I believe to be
possible. 1 Mr. Rowbotham says if I solve that, I can solve anything,
and I told him I should have it done and demonstrated by the time he
came back, and in order that my anticipations may not be Murphian
I shall have to work almost all day ; wherefore, my dearest Father,
begging you to return as soon as you possibly can, that we may spend
a few quiet assembled evenings before our break up, which now ap-
proaches terribly near, I remain, your most affectionate son,

J. RUSKIN.

To his FATHER 2

OXFORD, Sunday, nine o'clock, Feb. 1837.

MY DEAREST FATHER, Calmly, brightly, beautifully dawns the day
over the mouldering columns of Peckwater, when, every morning, at
five minutes to seven, precisely, I assume my seat of learning my

1 [See below, p. 21.]

2 [Ruskin was now in residence at Christ Church, Oxford. There are not many
letters to his parents written thence, for, as related in Prteterita (Vol. XXXV.
p. 199), his mother was in lodgings at Oxford, and his father came up each



12 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [iss?

dignified armchair, before my writing-table thus putting to shame
the drowsiness of your sleepy servants. All that I can advise you to
do, in order to prevent future annoyance of a similar nature, is to
oversleep yourself not to cut the acquaintance of the warm sheets
or luxurious bolster until what may be considered, by all parties, a
reasonable time; thus you will make away with some of the melan-
choly morning, and will be better armed against the cold reception
of frost and solitude and solitude, silent, unfeeling Encyclopaedia-
perusal-prompting solitude, which I wish I could enliven with the
relation of something interesting; but little has of late happened.

Lord Desarfs card party (wherein not a card was touched
nothing but dice) was by no means interesting. Returning to college
at night, I have twice met Emlyn ; he was quite philosophical, had
been to an Ashmolean meeting, of which he gave me an account. I
have been twice to March's rooms, comparing notes, after Kynaston's l
lecture. Yesterday (Saturday) forenoon the Sub-dean sent for me,
took me up into his study, sat down with me, and read over my
essay, pointing out a few verbal alterations and suggesting improve-
ments ; I, of course, expressed myself highly grateful for his condescen-
sion. Going out, I met Strangways. "So you're going to read out
to-day, Ruskin. Do go it at a good rate, my good fellow. Why do
you write such devilish good ones?" Went a little farther and met
March. " Mind you stand on the top of the desk, Ruskin ; gentleman-
commoners never stand on the steps." 1 I asked him whether he thought
it would look more dignified to stand head or heels uppermost. He
advised heels. Then met Desart. " We must have a grand supper
after this, Ruskin ; gentleman-commoners always have a flare-up after
reading their themes." I told him I supposed he wanted to " pison
my rum and water." When we got into the hall, I was first called
up, and I think I showed them how to read; but when I went back
to my seat, they said " I didn't go half fast enough." - Drake came
up at dinner-time with " Permit me to congratulate you, Mr. Ruskin,
upon the distinguished appearance you made in the hall this morning."

Saturday to Monday. Part of the present letter from " yesterday (Saturday)
forenoon" to "pison my rum and water" has been printed in AV. G. Colling-
wood's Life, and \Vork of John Ruskin, 1900, pp. .59-60. For mention of his
Christ Church friends, Lord Desart and Lord Emlyn (afterwards second Earl
Cawdor), see Preeterita, i. $ 2.35, 219 (Vol. XXXV. pp. 208, 192). ' March " is the
Earl of March (1818-1903); afterwards (18(>0) sixth Duke of Richmond. "Strung-
ways" was another gentleman-commoner, whom Ruskin had previously met in
Switzerland : see Pra-teritn, i. $ 224 (if/id., p. 197).]

1 [Classical lecturer at Christ Church : see Prtetrritu, i. $ 229 (ibid., p. 201).]
1 [For Raskin's fuller account of his experiences on this occasion, see Pra-tcrita,
i. ^ 22.3 (ihiri., p. 190). Drake was his "scout"; Dawson, presumably als,> a
College servant.]



1837] LIFE AT OXFORD 13

Dawson says I am the first gentleman-commoner who has been up for
many years.

I suppose Mamma had told you about the races. I should have
liked to have seen Desart in his jockey cap and jacket. There was
very high betting one man lost 1500. All the Dons of the Univer-
sity were ass2mbled at the Dean's house the result of their lucubra-
tions is unknown, but the riders are afraid of Collections. When they
were returning, the proctors, particularly Hussey, 1 were excessively active
endeavouring to catch them, dashing at the horses' heads, and en-
deavouring to seize the bridles ; but they whipped their horses by at
full speed; one fellow knocked off Hussey's cap and drove neatly over
it. He only succeeded in catching two men in a gig, whose horse was
tired and could not be got into speed.

I had a chess party last night, had invited Liddell 2 and before he
came, in came Goring, 3 by chance, with the same intention. He is an
agreeable, gentlemanly man, and a fine player. Our game lasted an
hour and a half, and he beat me ; but I don't think he'll do it again.
During the game Carew 4 came in, and then Tierney. Liddell appeared
at last; he is also a good player, and it was a drawn game. Liddell
was soliloquising to this effect upon the figure he should cut at Collec-
tions: "I've had three lectures a week from Mr. Brown, and have
attended five in the term ; I've had ditto from Mr. Kynaston, and
have attended two in the term ; and three a week from Mr. Hill, 5 and
I've attended three ; and I'll be dashed if I don't come off' as well as
the whole set of you."

Carew sat talking till nearly half-past eleven. Tierney was talking
about Lord Desart, who had been out with the drag. It appears there
is an old gentleman residing a few miles off', who has a favourite
preserve, full of game, and in which he has two pet foxes, and cannot
bear to see a hound near the place. Desart got the pack together on
the other side of the cover, set them in, and went round to the house
on the other side, hat in hand, to make an apology for the unfortunate
accident. I hope I shall have more interesting information for you
when you come up on Saturday Friday I hope it will be, if the judges
will evacuate our rooms. 6 It is nearly nine o'clock.

1 [See Prceterita, i. 229 (Vol. XXXV. p. 201).]

2 fNot the future Dean, but his cousin, the Hon. Adolphus, of Ruskin's own
age; permanent Under Secretary of the Home Office, 18G7-1885.]

3 [Charles Goring, 1819-1849 ; M.P. for New Shoreham, 1841-1849.]

4 [See Vol. XXXV. p. Ixiv. Sir Matthew Edward Tierney (1819-1860), third
baronet; lieut. -colonel in the Coldstream Guards.]

5 [For the Rev. W. L. Brown, classical tutor, and the Rev. E. Hill, mathe-
matical tutor, see Prceterita, Vol. XXXV. pp. 200, 201.]

6 [That is, the rooms where his parents stayed ; used also as the Judges' Lodgings.]



14 LETTERS OF RUSKIN Voi, I [iss?



To his FATHER *

OXFORD, April 22, 183".

MY DEAREST FATHER, When I returned from hall yesterday
where a servitor read, or pretended to read, and Decanus growled at
him, "Speak out!" I found a note ou my table from Dr. Buckland,'-
requesting the pleasure of my company to dinner, at six, to meet two
celebrated geologists, Lord Cole and Sir Philip Egerton. 3 I imme-
diately sent a note of thanks and acceptance, dressed, and was there
a minute after the last stroke of Tom. 4 Alone for five minutes in
Dr. B.'s drawing-room, who soon afterwards came in with Lord Cole,
introduced me, and said that as we were both geologists he did not
hesitate to leave us together while he did what he certainly very much



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