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moment ; but a modern poet would be mighty shy of such. Now
the moment you can sweep away all conventionalities, and manners,
and fears, and give to an artist this fervent desire to tell the pure
truth and such intensity of feeling as dreads no mockery that moment
you lay the foundation of a great art : and so long as you have artists
who think of what will be said, or who struggle to get something
higher and better than God's great truth, so long all you bring will
be foam. It is inconceivable how much this single defect in the
English character prevents us and pulls us back. A defect I call it :
for I conceive there is nothing ridiculous in the world. There is too
much of the pitiable and the melancholy ever to leave room for the
ridiculous, and the tendency to turn serious things into jests is a plague

1 [The portrait discovered in 1841 : see Vol. XXIV. p. 33.]

2 [George Herbert : The Church Porch, xlii.]

3 [Inferno, xxxii. 120.]

4 [Purgatorio, xxvi. 35, 30 : the latter words are quoted also in Vol. XIX.

Purgatorio, xxvi. 135.]


spot in us, which hardens us and degrades us. George Herbert has it
"the witty man laughs least, For wit is news only to ignorance."" 1 Give
a man a quick sense of all that pollutes, of all that is "earthy, sensual,
devilish,"-' and no sense of that which is to the vulgar laughable, and
you will have a pure art. Till you can do this there will be little done
in England.

To hi.9 FATHER

[AMBLKBII>K, March 23, 184?.]

I have your letter of 20th with enclosures, all very pleasant. I
was certainly not well when I came down on the Lake, nor am I yet,
perhaps ; but I am only in the sort of illness which makes me look
to nature with more thirst. I wrote till half-past one yesterday, got
out just before two, walked to Rydal, looked at Wordsworth's house,
then climbed to Fairfield (2900 feet) lots of bog and coarse grass.
George 3 sat down once, as in Switzerland, but jumped up again in a
hurry. "Hollo, sir, it's all sponge." Fine day, and fine view Scaw-
fell, Grisedale Pike Helvellyn close by moors of Penrith, Lancaster,
Windermere, Coniston, etc., and some snow on the top really pretty
deep and wide ; but as for mountains^ they're nothing of the sort,
nothing mere humpy moorlands, mighty desolate. I came down by
a little bit of a rivulet, and came to an old sheepfold which it all
at once struck me must be the subject of Wordsworth's "Michael." 4
I inquired when I got down, and found it was indeed Greenhead
Ghyll see poem "Michael," in second volume I think. I came down
into the road beyond Grasmere, near Dunmail liaise, and walked back
by the road to Ambleside to dinner at half-past six. As for guides
on these rubbishy places, I may take them when I want one on Ken-
nington Common.

Rydal was very pretty in the still evening. I never saw reflec-
tion anything like so perfect on foreign lakes, but it is sad cockney
work only the birds sing sweetly, and have a far-away sound with

I try this to Denmark Hill, thinking it may come in the morning
before you leave.

My cold is better I left it in the snows on Fair field.

The Church Porch, xxxix.]
.lames iii. !.>.]

^Unskiifs servant: see above, p. 41.]
For another reference to the poem, see Vol. XXVII. p. 210.]



[DENMARK HILL] Saturday, IQth June [1847].

MY DEAR MADAM, You will not, I am sure, doubt the regret with
which I received your last kind letter, informing me both of the dis-
appointment I must myself sustain and of its cause, so trying to you
yourself. I do indeed sympathise most deeply in the sorrow (it can
hardly but reach what may without exaggeration be so called) which
your present privation must cause you, 2 especially coming in the time
of spring your favourite season a punishment certainly far too heavy
to be connected by you in thought with any such gossamer-bodied sin
as that in which you say you were once entangled, the vanity of long
walks; for which vanity, if all guilty of it were to be shut up in
doubting castles, without keys, their cramps taking them (I beg
pardon for mixing in this heterogeneous manner the giant and his
prey) I fear that it would be soon said of each and all of us walkers
that "nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he." 3 In fact, is it
right to think of any misfortune in this world (except such as are
necessarily and legally connected with every sin mortification with
vanity, and lameness with over-exertion) as sent as punishment at all ?
Do not twenty miseries come for a purpose for one that comes for a
punishment? After all, though your feet are in the stocks, 4 you have
the Silas spirit, and the doors will open in the mid-darkness though,
as for your enumeration of consolations, I am afraid I should be but
shortly supported by them under the circumstances.

The love of poetry !

I pause for I was going to write treachery I don't think I can
make out my case by the token, especially, that we are at this time
being, carrying our hay; and the said hay is sending me all manner
of pleasant and odoriferous invitations through the open window to
come out and make its better acquaintance ; and all the servants of
the house the maids in all manner of shaped bonnets, and the men
in marvellously decorated hats, with ribands of inconceivable colours
are raking and shaking in goodly procession after a staggering cart :
and all this has no persuasive effect upon me whatever, that I should

1 [For Ruskin's friendship with Miss Mitford, see the Introduction (above).]
* [Miss AJitford had become lame, as the result of a fall, and could only get
out in a pony chaise : see The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, vol. iii. p. 205.]

3 [Gray's Elegy, 28.]

4 [The Bible references are Job xiii. 27 and Acts xvi. 24, 26.]


leave my desk, or my four-walled chamber, so long as I have Miss
Mitford's letter to read, or her ear to gain.

I leave town on Tuesday, in order to be of what use I may-
Heaven only knows at the meeting of the British Association, 1 whence,
returning, I hope to stop at Reading and to find you out. After-
wards I am going to Scotland to stay quietly with a very dear friend,
in a cottage a little worse than a cottage at the side of Loch Tay.
I need this, for I have most foolishly accepted evening invitations, and
made morning calls, these last four months, until I am fevered by the
friction. I have done no good, incurred many obligations, and suffered
an incalculable harm. I know not what is the matter with me, but
the people seem to have put a chill on me, and taken my life out of
me. I feel alike uncertain and incapable of purpose, and look to the
cottage on Loch Tay not as an enjoyment, but a burrow. I could
not finish this history of Lucien 2 there was too much of what was
exquisitely painful to be endured sympathetically. I have got the
poems you speak of, however, their short pathos being bearable ; and
they are indeed very noble the Irish ballads, I mean 3 one or two
verging on the desperate, but all powerful. I note what you say of
your more humble friends; it is highly characteristic of you, and very
interesting, and I am sure true. I know several tradesmen for whom
I have high respect, and I am sure I should like them if I knew
more of them. But they don't take me up, and having no house of
my own, I can't take them up ; but I imagine that worthy and clever
shopkeepers are in general far higher and better men than any but
first-rate artists. I am often surprised at the low education and feeling
of this latter class of whom I have, of course, seen more than of any
other even the better ones are not a little disappointing.

My mother exceedingly regrets her disappointment in not seeing
you ; but perhaps when I go to Scotland you will come and see her,
and comfort her on the subject of my absence. Before then, however,
I hope to see you towards the 4th or 5th of July. I had hoped to
have been at Reading before now, but a multitude of miserable (with
one very happy too happy) engagements have kept me in London.
But ever, my dear Madam, believe me, most gratefully and respectfully
yours, J. RUSKIN.

1 [At Oxford. Ruskin was one of the secretaries of the Geological Section :
see Vol. VIII. p. xxv.]

2 [In Balzac s Illusion* Perdue. 1 ! (in the Kci:nes de la Vie de Province) a book
recommended to Ruskin by Miss Mitford.]

* [Probably by Gerald Griffin: see below, p. 8(5.]



LEAMINGTON, 16th August [1847]-

DEAR RICHMOND, I am packing up to leave for Dunbar and
Tantallon only stopping at Kenilworth to finish some ivy stalks to-
morrow. 1 I am indeed better at last thanks to the perfect rest I have
had here and my thoughts and faith are returning to me. I have had
great good from dissecting some water-plants out of the canal. My
eyes do not seem to serve me very well, but they are better than nine
pairs out of ten, and I am very thankful to have such, and to have
Jephson's authority on two points first, that there is nothing whatever
the matter with me that I cannot conquer by quiet, regularity, and
exercise; and secondly, that there is nothing which -may not soon be
the matter with me, if I go much into society or sit up at night.
Acland does look very happy, and I am sure he is; but Mrs.
Aclands are not to be found every day nor to be won except by
Dr. Aclands ; nor Mrs. Richmonds neither. Thank you for your
kind affection. I shall write again from Tantallon to-day I must really
go and pack. Love to Henry. Remember me to Mrs. Acland and Sir
Thomas and all friends.

You say nothing of yourself. I hope I shall hear from you again
soon. Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


DUNBAR, 20th August [1847].

MY DEAR MR. HARRISON, Your kind long letter was a perfect
delight to me, and I would have answered it forthwith, had I not
been fearful that the mere superscription of the place of my abode,
or the slightest hint respecting such topics of interest as pumps and
promenades, would have reminded you, in contrast with your late sub-
jects of inquiry and observation at Woolwich, of our friend Major
Bagstock, 2 in contrast also with our friend Captain Johns. I have no
doubt that you would write an interesting letter at Leamington, or
Land's End, or anywhere ; but the only society I kept being that
of the humble bees on the thistle-tops, and a certain goodly company
or club of ants in an old willow stump, I found my gossips rather
wanting in general information. But I got away at last, and am now

1 [Probably the sepia drawing (If>|-xl9 in.) of the ruins of Kenilworth over-
grown with ivy which was in the possession of Mr. W. Ward.]

1 [For Ruskin, like the Major (Dombey, chap, xxi.) had been to Leamington.]


in the thick of the herring fishei-y and somewhat initiated into its
profundities. One of the more striking processes is the spade-ing the
tish into carts out of the boats, which is done precisely after the
fashion of dustmen by the intervention of a basket the spade thrust
into the heap of fish makes a gash in two or three at every lift,
which gives a disagreeable look to the heap. Pitched into the cart,
the mass of tish slips and swings about unctuously, keeping its level
like a liquid, until it is carried to the curing place, or the fishmarket;
the latter is of a very peculiar description. In order to give you
any notion of it I must describe to you, first, the general appearance
of the pavement of the fashionable part of the town. It is " la mode "
here to empty what in England we call "slops" with a distributive
jerk from the street door; when this function is entrusted to any
of the junior members of the family, the young people wait with
exemplary patience until an opportunity offers of jerking the same, in a
playful manner, between the legs of a passer-by, selected with due pre-
caution as to size and of the fair sex, if possible. The solid contents
of the emptied vessels remain stranded, while the " Vernice liquida"
soaks its way partly to the gutter, and partly into the porous basalt.
While this is doing, the bare feet of the passers-by take up various
proportions, and deposit the same in pretty little, small-waisted impres-
sions, with five little dots at the end, all down the street. These
impressions intersecting each other and drying irregularly, produce
curiously mottled stains and patches, of an entertaining complexity.
Fresh libations reduce the dried deposit into various stages of repeated
solution, giving rise to an endless variety of patterns. Points of colour
derived mainly from gooseberry skins, at this season add interest to the
arrangement; and a pretty, inlaid, glittering look is given by the
scattered herring scales, as well as a certain amount of oily varnish
which helps to bring out the effect. Irregular streamlets running from
doors and crevices variously divide the space, and reduce your walking
faculties within the limits of so many passes of Killiecrankie. Occa-
sionally, when the average of gooseberry skins is exceeded, these passes
might become slippery and dangerous to traverse, but for the corrective
effect of cinders and eggshells mixed, for which you have reason to be
thankful, and which are abundantly supplied, especially in the morning,
from at least every other door. A portion of pavement of this descrip-
tion, walled off into successive partitions, serves for the fishmarket,
being farther enriched by nondescript portions of heads, tails, and
insides of the fish sold the day before, among which, and among the
fish of the current market, stand the barefooted fishwives; it rains
to-day, hard, and the market will be washed for once but the above


description is generally applicable. The fish are in the main very good,
but I am afraid your feeling towards things Caledonian would not be
softened by any of the sights to be enjoyed here at all events, your
interjection respecting Sherry Cobbler, " Sweets to the sweet," l is only
in a very modified sense to be transferred to either the fish or the

But, my dear Mr. Harrison, how have you deferred so long your
initiation into the depths of Sherry Cobbler? I can vouch for its
having been a favourite beverage among the bishops for some time
back I saw one imbibing it with great dexterity, 2 and it was to be
conjectured with great relish. I would rather have seen your friend,
however, than any bishop. For the thing itself, I think the glory of
it is in the getting at it; it is worth a straw and no more. The ice
is very pretty to look at, but it comes to something very like spoiled
lemonade in the end. Your epigram is worth a butt of it.

Apropos of straws, I saw and heard a peasant let us grant a
shepherd playing on a Real Pipe, the other day, for the first time in
my life, and that for his own amusement, as he plodded across the
meadows under Kenilworth Castle.

I was very much obliged to you for the serious part of your letter
as well as the jest of it though most grieved to hear your report of
our present parliament. What we shall come to I cannot guess. I
find the laws of the crabs and limpets unchanged, and confine my
studies to their permanent politics and their foundational principles
of pinch hard and hold fast. . . . 3


DUNKELD, Wednesday Evening [25th August, 1847].

I intended staying here till I heard from Macdonald, 4 for it is very
beautiful, but I must go on. I feel so utterly down-hearted to-night
that I must get away to-morrow without going out again, for I am
afraid of something seizing me in the state of depression. I never
had a more beautiful, nor half so unhappy a walk as this afternoon ;
it is so very different from Switzerland and Cumberland that it revives
all sorts of old feelings at their very source and yet in a dead form,
like ghosts and I feel myself so changed, and everything else so
ancient, and so the same in its ancientness, that, together with the

1 [Hamlet, act v. sc. 1.]

2 [See Praterita, iii. 28 (Vol. XXXV. p. 502).]

3 [For the remainder of this letter, see Vol. VIII. p. xxvii.]

4 [Of Crossmount : see Prceterita, Vol. XXXV. pp. 423 *eq."]


name, and fear, and neighbourhood of the place, I can't bear it. The
flow of the Tav before the window under the bridge, with its banks
of shingle and clear, soft, sliding, ringing water, is so unlike the Arve,
and every other stream, and so like itself old Tay the very Tay that
I remember in the Bridge-end house at the bottom of the garden l
the very Tay for the association with which, however partial or
imperfect, I believe it is that I have so loved all other running streams
that it is enough to break one's heart to look at it. I have had a
long ramble among the woods but how different from Switzerland !
Without the power, luxuriance, si/e, splendour or horror how far
more graceful, pensive, historical and human ! I came on a little bit
of quiet lake among the rocks, all belled about with heather and fresh
with fern, birch trunks over it, and ash, and silky beech, and on the
other side a copse of dark, slight-pointed, close-set pines, and the
water divided between water-lilies and blue sky. Then I got among
some fallen rocks with such fantastic Scotch firs growing out of them
that they looked as if they had been to Dunsinane and back again ; 2
and then I saw some leaves that I thought were not such as I was
used to see grouped with pine, and what should this be but a Spanish
chestnut and presently another; and after that, at the bottom of a
crag, and forming a dark foil to a knob of birches, another tree which
made me start again from its strange look in such a place, and behold
a great laurel a laurel as big as those in the Isola Madre and ever
so many bluebells just over it, and then some oxalis not half so large
in leaf as the Swiss, but as beautiful, and all put together with a
freedom and sentiment beyond everything a peculiar softness and
wildness mixed, like the finest Scotch music and an intense melancholy
too. But the far-off' views are not so good indeed, the valley of the
Tay and all the plain towards Perth was as lovely as even the plain
of Jordan; but the hills black moorlands, swells of purple peat and
grey spectral stone no mountains no cliffs no peaks no power.
Yet great space, and sublimity of a certain kind. I love it all, but I
could not live here. I am like Helena with Demetrius I feel as if " I
had found this Scotland as a jewel mine own, and not mine own." 3

(DUXKELD, Thursday morning.) A little better for the night's sleep,
but don't like to look at the Tay. Morning walk very sweet. Found
a gentian very shabby but heather nearly as good. I was not tin-
least prepared for the splendour of the Scotch heather the shabby
little Swiss stuff' is not fit to be called heather; here it almost makes

1 [See Pra-tcrita, i. '.) (Vol. XXXV. p. <>-').]

- [See Macbeth, Act v. sc. 7.J

; [See Alid.fummer Xiylit's Dmtm, Act iv. sc. I.]


up for Alpine rose, and in aetherealness and dewy purity and flush of
colour is far finer, but I don't know how to draw it. I shall try, but
there are no reds in painting good for anything. Certainly no one
has ever yet painted heather or bluebells properly.

(PiTLocHitiE, three o'clock.) Drive here from Dunkeld very lovely
in crag and river bits one piece of valley view exquisite, but no
mountains, and the mere undulating bogs a bad upper termination of
the pine and larch woods. Children pretty girls with hair in net
bags behind very picturesque and graceful, better than Swiss, and in
feature much better. I am comfortable here, with a pretty view from
window, and purpose staying here till Saturday. Love to my mother.

I found the air singularly soft this morning not warmer, but as
if it had got mixed with eider-down.


PITLOCHRIE, Saturday, 25th Sept. [1847].

MY DEAR MR. HARRISON, You are very good to take so much
interest in my hermit life among the moors. I do not often write
descriptive letters now for I have begun to get tired of descriptions of
natural scenery myself, and do not, therefore, calculate on the patience
of my friends but indeed I hope that you will be induced by some
of those hospitable and kindly Scotch friends of yours to think better
of them than to leave their invitations ten years getting mouldy for
lack of use. Surely, now that Edinburgh is within a day's journey
now that you can breakfast in Langport Place x and dine at Holyrood
it would be worth your while to divest yourself for a week or two of
the troubles of the Crown, and to try how your despised bannocks
taste after a walk through the heather. I know nothing that would
give me so much pleasure as hearing what were your impressions and
sympathising with the very great enjoyment which I am sure such a
trip would procure you. For myself, my mind has perhaps been too
long exclusively occupied, and my time too lavishly spent in enjoyment
of this kind : it has now in great measure lost its zest, and I can sit
quietly at home and read Greek grammar (neglected in its proper
time) while clouds are resting on hill tops, and breezes rippling the
mountain lakes thinking sometimes, with self-reproach and sorrow,
how much more others would make of such opportunities, and what

1 [Mr. Harrison lived at 2 Langport Place, Camberwell. "The Crown " was the
insurance office where Mr. Harrison was employed : see above, p. 24.]


a rapture of delight a single such day as many that pass with me
indifferently would give to many, who "desire to see such days" 1 and
see them not. If, however, I can, by any description, convey to you
any of that pleasure which I have ceased myself to feel, it will give
me another pleasure quite as great.

Crawmount 2 (short for ^crossmount for there is no popery in
the Vale of Tuminel, nor any crosses, beyond those of hard weather,
hard ground, hard times, and a scarcity of grouse) or, as it is fully
entitled, Crossmount Lodge is a very small whitewashed house, with
a little projecting square tower covered with ivy above the door,
dining-room and drawing-room and little library on the ground floor,
and some six or seven small bedrooms above. In front of it is a little
grass plot, considerably smaller than ours in front of Denmark Hill,
with a few beeches where our elms are, and a low stone wall, with a
flower border where our paling is; and beyond that, a green knoll,
with a little grey projecting crag at the top of it, set round with an
irregular clump of larches. A light gate here opens in the stone wall
into a close, green, beechey avenue; with a bank on one side of it set
thick with barberry bushes in full fruitage, and on the other, peeps
between the trunks of the beech trees up the vale of the Tummel.
At the end of the avenue an iron gate opens into the public road
a very narrow one which on the left ascends, where we will follow it
presently, and on the right descends into a dirty little hollow, always
muddy in wet weather, and known, therefore, as "the ford"; all the
dirtier for the neighbourhood of a little black cottage with a shapeless
roof and a doorway without a door, and a peculiar peaty, hot, anoma-
lous flavour about its atmosphere, and two or three healthy, red-faced,
irreclaimable rascals of boys grinning in a supernatural manner out of
the same which establishment is more than suspected of being princi-
pally devoted to the illicit preparation of " Rosee de montagne."" 1 On
the left the road, as I said, ascends first through a wood of spruce
firs; then emerges on a bare moorland scattered over with rocks,
whence it descends into a broken hollow with a nameless, indefinable
middle course between a lake and morass in the bottom of it a thing
on which neither boat can row nor biped walk in which neither fish
can swim nor cattle feed, and which remains the undisputed property
of a large and respectable society of snipes. Round this the road is
carried, among the loose rocks, crosses by a rude bridge the stream
which feeds it, winds under a little sparkling cascade set with a twisted

1 [See Luke x. 24.1

2 ' Where Huskin had been staying with his friend, William Macdonald : see
above, p. 7 ; ">-]


birch tree or two in the sides of it, and finally runs away in a long
string over the moors, nobody knows where.

Above the knoll and larch trees, seen in front of the house, rises,

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