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first, the wood of firs through which the road runs; above this, a
broken range of rocky mounds, with a general tone of purple upon
them given by the heather, and a white spot or two moving scarcely
visible conjecturally sheep. Over the ridge of this is seen a very
blunt, stony, far-off', pyramidal mass of hill, commonly with a light
cloud resting on the top of it, which is a mountain of some note,
Schehallion, and which closes the prospect to the south.

At the east side of the garden and grass plot is a little door, in
a higher wall, which leads into a small square of kitchen garden,
sloping steeply down, and full of gooseberry bushes with berries on
them in clusters almost as close as grapes, but sickly with the wet
weather and sour in antiquated unripeness. At the bottom of the
garden is the gardener's cottage, and the washerwoman's the Eve of
the garden performing that useful function. Past the cottage flows a
little streamlet, undefilable even by soap, and crossed by a large flat
slate for a bridge ; and beyond the stream a winding path so steep
that you feel like a stone going up and like a wheel coming down
recedes among a straggling forest of birches with all manner of knots
tied in their trunks, and presently emerges on the arable part of the
estate, an irregular runlet of level ground, with scattered islands of
rock, each with its clump of birches, surrounded by golden oats (not
cut a fortnight ago), the corn running in and out among the crags
as if it had been melted and poured round them, yet every now and
then giving it quite up, in some narrowest of narrow inlets, where
there is not room even for scythe to swing, and which laps up into
the rocks like green water. Following the path a little further, one
comes through a gate into a wilderness of fern, with black, wild-eyed
sheep rustling and rummaging in it, and next down into a dark
dingle with a rattling, glittering stream giving you light at the
bottom of it ; and if you can get over this, without slipping in on
two birch trunks with some turfs upon them you may climb up upon
the other side until the professional life of the path comes to a
sudden termination at the foot of a range of shattered cliffs, some
fifty feet high. These, if you are not tired, you may get up by
keeping in the cracks and holding on by the birch trunks, and when
you are got up you will see literally no end of moor, rolling away
eastward like a great Red Sea, with shadows of purple and grey, and
far off' eighteen miles off a gloomy, deep-blue, solitary, peaked hill,
which is an outlier of the Grampians, popularly known as Ben Vracky.



80 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1847

As I have only got from south to east, I see there is no chance
of post-boxing the compass under twopence, so I will send this sheet
to-day, and if you are not quite tired I shall pray for your further
company to-morrow. Kindest regards to Mrs. Harrison and the young
ladies. Remember me to the Miss Constables when you see them.
Ever, my dear Mr. Harrison, faithfully and gratefully yours,

J. RUSKIN.



To the Rev. W. L. Buowx

PITLOCHHIE, 28th Sept.

MY DEAR Ma. BROWN, I proceed to say what I can, in answer to
" count 1 " of your letter, giving up the reviews at once : " cant "
is just the word for them, and yet I believe that some of them are
done by men who really have genuine feeling, but do not know how
to express it; and, with regard to myself, I admit the charge of
enthusiasm at once, but my intended position I know not if tenable
or not is that there is a certain kind and degree of enthusiasm
which alone is cognizant of all truth, and which, though it may
sometimes mistake its own creations for reality, yet will mi<ss no
reality, while the unenthusiastic regard actually misses, and comes short
of, the truth. I am better able to assert this now than formerly,
because this enthusiasm is, in me, fast passing away, and I can now
in many instances compare the mode of sight of apathy or common-
sense with the mode of sight of enthusiasm ; and I most bitterly
regret the loss of the keenness and perfection of the latter. For
instance, there was a time when the sight of a steep hill covered
with pines, cutting against blue sky, would have touched me with an
emotion inexpressible, which, in the endeavour to communicate in its
truth and intensity, I must have sought for all kinds of far-off, wild,
and dreamy images. Now I can look at such a slope with coolness,
and observation of fact. I see that it slopes at 20 or 25 ; I know
the pines are spruce fir " Pinus nigra " of such and such an age ;
that the rocks are slate of such and such a formation ; the soil, thus,
and thus; the day fine, and the sky blue. All this I can at once
communicate in so many words, and this is all which is necessarily
seen. But it is not all the truth ; there is something else to be seen
there, which I cannot see but in a certain condition of mind, nor
can I make any one else see it, but by putting him into that con-
dition, and my endeavour in description would be, not to detail the
facts of the scene, but bv any means whatsoever to put my hearer's
mind into the same ferment as mv mind. A single word in a great



1847] TRUTH AND IMAGINATION 81



poet's hand and mouth can do this, and leaven the whole ^vpa^a ; l but
if you bring such a word or description to the test of plain truth, I
suppose it would often seem to fail. One may entangle a description
with facts, until you come to pigments and measurements. For
instance, in describing "The Slaver," 2 if I had been writing to an
artist in order to give him a clear conception of the picture, I should
have said : " Line of eye, two-fifths up the canvass ; centre of light,
a little above it; orange chrome, No. 2 floated in with varnish, pallet-
knifed with flake white, glazed afterwards with lake, passing into a
purple shadow, scumbled with a dry brush on the left," etc. Once
leave this and treat the picture as a reality, and you are obliged to use
words implying what is indeed only seen in imagination, but yet what
without doubt the artist intended to be so seen ; just as he intended
you to see and feel the heaving of the sea, being yet unable to give
motion to his colours. And then, the question is, not whether all
that you see is indeed there, but whether your imagination has worked
as it was intended to do, and whether you have indeed felt as the
artist did himself and wished to make you. Now the matter of the
bent tree 3 is a case exactly in point. In order to feel that picture
as the artist intended you, you must of course turn Romanist at once
and believe thoroughly in all the miracles of St. Jerome. That done,
you will immediately feel that it would have been immeasurably
beneath the dignity of St. Jerome to go hunting for a piece of timber
to his purpose, when he could manufacture one in an instant; and, as
you believe that by raising his finger, he at once made a savage lion
kneel down to have his blessing, (and afterwards act first as game-
keeper and then as sexton to himself and friends,) you will not insult
him by supposing him to have the slightest difficulty in dealing with
stiffness of joints either in fir or fig trees. You must feel that he
had only to lay his hand or his book upon him and they must turn
into desks directly. And that this was indeed what the painter meant,
you have sufficient evidence; for, in the first place, a scarlet mantle
very full in the skirts and embroidered with gold, a beard reaching
to the waist, bare feet, and a bald head, do not constitute a costume
in itself suggestive of either a past or purposed walk in the woods in
search of crooked trees ; and, in the second place, the bend of the
tree itself, though in pine trees just possible, is in a jig tree so utterly

1 [1 Corinthians v. 6.]

1 "See above, p. 67-]

3 [See the description of Bellini's "St. Jerome" in Modern Painters, vol. ii. :
" A noble tree springs out of a cleft in the rock, bends itself suddenly back to
form a rest for the volume, then shoots up into the sky " (Vol. IV. p. 319).]

XXXVI. F




82 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [18*7

against nature that you see at once that St. Jerome had better have
set out in search of a philosopher's-stone pulpit than of such an one ;
and to complete the assurance, the top of the tree, and all the other
vegetation of the pictures, are executed with a vivid accuracy and
knowledge of its nature which show that the deviation in the particular
instance is wilful, and to be regarded with interest and
attention. I am sure, therefore, in this case that I have
interpreted the pictures rightly ; but of course such a mode
of interpretation is often liable to error, and necessarily
sometimes involves it. Many of the passages respecting
Turner are not actual descriptions of the pictures, but of
that which the pictures were intended to suggest, and do
suggest to me. I do not say that much of my conjectur-
ing may not be wrong, but I say that in the main it is
rightly concluded and carried out, and that the superiority
of Turner to other men consists in great measure in this
very suggestiveness ; it is one of the results of his own
great imaginative power. For the rest, I know that in some of the
descriptions attempted, epithets gratuitously inapplicable to any picture
frequently occur these I would willingly cut out, but I do not think
the book worth the trouble, and prefer leaving it as characteristic of
the enthusiasm of a young man : temperate and deliberate writing will,
I am afraid, be too soon, in me, compulsory.

I have not time to follow your letter farther to-day, but hope to
be able in the course of the week, and to draw out another letter
from you, for you do me much good. Only, by-the-bye, observe that
all this interpretation system of mine in no wise confounds bad
painting with good. It is only the good painter who sets you
inventing, and if, as you hint, I bring to him what I get out of
him, how is it that I can do this with no one else, and that
I would not walk ten yards to see a landscape by any other living
painter? Kindest regards to Mrs. Brown and my young friends.
Ever, my dear Mr. Brown, faithfully and respectfully yours,

J. RUSKIN.

I would work out the Guiltiness of the ship for you, 1 and force
any twelve householders to bring her in guilty that you could impanel,
if I had time.

1 [See] the description of Turner's "Slaver" in Modem Painters, vol. i. : "The
lurid shadows of the hollow hreakcrs are cast upon the mist of night, which
gathers cold and low, advancing like the shadow of death upon the guilty ship"
(Vol. III. p. 57:0-]



1847] IDEAL TREATMENT 83



To the Rev. W. L. BROWN

FOLKESTONE, PAVILION HOTEL, 27th Nov. [1847].

MY DEAR MR. BROWN, I have three kind letters of yours to
answer, one of which I indeed acknowledge, but without noticing its
account of the young traveller who asserted Switzerland to be " a take
in." If not chargeable with mere and simple coxcombry, he may be
perhaps comforted by the hope that when he is a little older, he
may be able to take it in ; or if not, he had better travel no more,
or confine his observations to men, and mathematics many a good
politician and geometrician may be made out of the sort of half men
whom nature left without eyes, and who never can be said to see
anything but with vitreous humours ; the eye, as I conceive, properly
so called, implying the brain working with the instrument does it
not? Best thanks also for your farther remarks upon St. Jerome, etc.,
but surely it is not right to parallel the pleasures of emotion and
imagination with the mere exaggerations of first impression. I think
there is no tendency in pure imagination to exaggerate at all, and it
often exerts itself powerfully upon things small and close at hand,
incapable of exaggeration flowers, stones, low sounds, etc. its essence
being not in increasing the thing itself, but in understanding more
from it. You say, in losing the delight I once had in nature I am
coming down more to fellowship with others. Yes, but I feel it a
fellowship of blindness. I may be able to get hold of people's hands
better in the dark, but of what use is that, when I have nowhere to
lead them, but into the ditch ? Surely, devoid of these imaginations and
impressions, the world becomes a mere board-and-lodging house. The
sea by whose side I am writing was once to me a friend, companion,
master, teacher; now it is salt water, and salt water only. Is this an
increase, or withdrawal of truth? I did not before lose hold or sight
of the fact of its being salt water ; I could consider it so, if I chose ;
my perceiving and feeling it to be more than this was a possession of
higher truth, which did not interfere with my hold of the physical one.

You ask what St. Jerome did in the woods with his scarlet mantle.
A difficult question to answer, for it involves the whole question of
the use, nature, and propriety of ideal treatment. For instance, rake,
treated by the pre-eminently ideal masters, such a subject as the
Nativity. The Madonna is robed in blue and scarlet, a diadem on her
head, surrounded by a glory ; she kneels to the Child ; the manger
is represented as supported by inlaid columns of arabesque work ; the
Child is crowned also, with a glory, a crimson cross in the centre of



84 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I

it. A cow and an ox, quaintly drawn, mark that the building is a
manger; they also are kneeling. Angels surround the whole in a circle
in the air, playing on all manner of instruments. Contrast with this
the wnideal treatment, adopted by the Spanish and other (always
irreligious') later masters, where a woman meanly draped sits nursing
a baby in a stable.

It is impossible in a letter to enter into the profound metaphysical
questions on which the choice of these treatments depends, but the
question of the St. Jerome robes is precisely the same. You say
you do not admire the master who requires such an interpretation.
Nay, he does not require it ; his choice was between laying the book
on a common bank or stone, and laying it on the strange tree. Had
he laid it on the stone, there would have been no gain in any way,
only a thought the l-ess. Laying it on the tree, he gives you the
thought if you like to take it ; if you do not, neither are he or you
worse off than if it had not been expressed at all. There is no
sacrifice made to introduce the thought; you may enjoy the figure as
much as if the tree were not there, only the additional suggestion is
ready for you, if you look for it. It could not have been more dearly
done he could not have written on the tree, "St. Jerome bent me";
and to my mind, the merit is all the greater because there is no
tradition about it. The Lion at his side is a matter of course that
is traditional, as much as St. George's dragon. It attended him as
his servant, and when he died, dug his grave. . . .



To SAMUEL ROGERS *

DKN.MAHK HILL, 1~th December, 15?47.

MY DEAR MR. ROGERS, I only returned to town on Monday, and
to wait on you to-morrow will be the first, as it is always the happiest
of my duties. I have been where

"The squirrel leaps from tree to tree,
And shells his nuts at liberty," 2

not even then without regretful thoughts of the better freedom of
" St. James's grove at blush of day." Ever, my dear Sir, believe me
faithfully and respectfully yours, J. RUSKIN.

1 [From Rogers and his Contemporaries, by P. W. Clayden, vol. ii. p. 322. Re-
printed in Jydrasil, March 1890, vol. i. p. 84, and thence in Jtuskiniana, part i., 1HDO,
p. 6.]

J [See Rogers's Poemt, "An Italian Song"; and, for the next quotation, "An
Epistle to a Friend" in the same volume.]



1848] SELF-FORGETFULNESS 85



i

[Ruskiu was married in April of this year to Miss Euphemia Chalmers Gray,
daughter of old friends of his parents. In August he and his wife went for a
tour in Normandy ; some letters written thence to his parents and others, with
extracts from his diary, are given in Vol. VIII. pp. xxix.-xxxiii. On his return he
settled in Park Street, Grosvenor Square, and set himself to writing The Seven
Lamps of Architecture. ~\

To Dr. JOHN BROWN l

DENMARK HILL, 9th February [1848].

MY DEAR DR. BROWN, I owe you my best thanks for your most
interesting review ; 2 it is delightful as a memoir of such a man, and
equally so as a piece of very beautiful thought, and very perfect writing.
I do not recollect anything that has given me greater pleasure than
the account of the Doctor's Sisyphian labours and ratiocinations on the
Pentlands, or than the very beautiful comparison of Genius, talent, and
information with the three several streams; but it is all valuable. The
worst of it was, that after all that we hear of your noble old friend's
Thunder and Lightning, one is at least I was a little disappointed
by the quietness and sobriety of the extracts from the Scripture read-
ings. Is it at all possible to get a Calotype 3 of him ? I suppose it
must be now. There is certainly nothing like them for rendering of
Intellect, nor to my taste for everything else, except beauty.

I liked the passage very much about self-forgetfulness, but how is
this virtue to be gained ? Happy those whose sympathies stretch them
out like gold leaf until their very substance is lost. But there are
others not unprincipled men who yet cannot make themselves to
themselves transparent nor imponderable. They overbalance and block
out everything with their own near selves. . . .

To MARY RUSSELL MriFORD 4

KESWICK, CUMBERLAND, Good Friday [April 21], 1848.

MY DEAR Miss MITFORD, The pain of deep self-reproach was
mixed with the delight which your letter gave me yesterday. Two

1 [No. 3 in " Letters from John lluskin to Dr. Brown " in Letters of Dr.
John Brown, 1907, p. 291.]

2 [Dr. Brown's article on the Rev. Dr. Chalmers' Works in the North British
Review, February 1848.]

3 [See Vol. III. p. 169 n.]

4 [From The Friendships of Mary Russell Clifford, as recorded in Letters from
her Literary Correspondents, edited by the Rev. A. G. L'Kstrange, 1882, vol. ii.
pp. 108-1 11. Reprinted in Igdrasil, April 1900, vol. i. pp. 121-122, and thence



86 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1848

months back I was each day on the point of writing to you to ask
you for your sympathy the kindest and keenest sympathy that, I
think, ever filled the breadth and depth of an unselfish heart. But
my purpose was variously stayed, chiefly, as I remember, by the
events on the Continent, fraught to me with very deep disappointment,
and casting me into a depression and fever of spirit which, joined
with some other circumstances nearer home, have, until now that I
am resting with my kind wife among these quiet hills, denied me the
heart to write cheerfully to those very dear friends to whom I would
fain never write sadly. And now your letter comes, with all its
sweetness and all its sting. My very dear lady, believe me, I am
deeply gratified for your goodness, in a state of wonderment at its
continuance to me cold and unthankful as I have seemed, and I
earnestly hope that in future it may not so frequently have to take
the form of forgiveness, nor my sense of it that of remorse.

Nor did I shrink more from the silent blame than from the
painful news of your letter, though I conjecture that your escape,
though narrow, was complete you say nothing of any hurt received. 1
I hate ponies and everything four-legged, except an ass colt and an
arm-chair. But you are better and the spring is come, and I hope,
for I am sure you will allow me, to bring my young wife to be
rejoiced (under the shadow of her new and grievous lot) by your
kind comforting. But pray keep her out of your garden, or she
will certainly lose her wits with pure delight, or perhaps insist on
staying with you and letting me finding [sic] my way through the
world by myself, a task which I should not no:c like to undertake.
I should be very, very happy just now but for these wild storm-clouds
bursting on my dear Italy and my fair France, my occupation gone,
and all my earthly treasures (except the one I have just acquired and
the everlasting Alps) perilled amidst " the tumult of the people," the
"imagining of vain things." 2 Ah, my dear Miss Mitford, see what
your favourite "Berangers"" and "Gerald Griffins" do! 3 But these
are thoughts as selfish as they are narrow. I begin to feel that all
the work I have been doing, and all the loves I have been cherishing,

in Ruxkimana, part i., 1800, pp. 9-10. The words referring 1 to Iluskin's wife, though
included in Mr. L'Kstrange's hook, were omitted in lydrasil; they were re-inserted
in Ruskiniatia (being there distinguished by inclusion in brackets). The letter has
hitherto been wrongly dated 18-W.]

' .Miss Mitford had had a fall from her pony-chaise.]

1 'Psalms Ixv. 7 ; ii. 1.]

3 The Irish poet Orald Griffin (1803-1840) is the subject of ch. vi. in vol. iii.
of Miss Mitford's llccvlltrtiong of a Literary Life. A letter from Miss Mitford (to
Mrs. Drowning of July .'50, 1848) records a visit from lluskin and a story about her
favourite Bc'ranger. " U'hen Lamartiue was in London a feu years ago Sir. Rogers



1848] THE ENGLISH MOUNTAINS 87

are ineffective and frivolous that these are not times for watching
clouds or dreaming over quiet waters, that more serious work is to
be done, and that the time for endurance has come rather than for
meditation, and for hope rather than for happiness. Happy those whose
hope, without this severe and tearful rending away of all the props
and stability of earthly enjoyments, has been fixed " where the wicked
cease from troubling." Mine was not; it was based on "those pillars
of the earth " which are " astonished at His reproof." l

I have, however, passed this week very happily here. We have
a good clergyman, Mr. Myers, 2 and I am recovering trust and tran-
quillity, though I had been wiser to have come to your fair English
pastures and flowering meadows, rather than to these moorlands, for
they make me feel too painfully the splendour, not to be in any wise
resembled or replaced, of those mighty scenes, which I can reach no
more at least for a time. I am thinking, however, of a tour among
our English abbeys a feature which our country possesses of peculiar
loveliness. As for our mountains or lakes, it is in vain that they
are defended for their finish or their prettiness. The people who
admire them after Switzerland do not understand Switzerland even
Wordsworth does not. Our mountains are mere bogs and lumps of
spongy moorland, and our lakes are little swampy fishponds. It
is curious I can take more pleasure in the chalk downs of Sussex,
which pretend to nothing, than in these would-be hills, and I believe
I shall have more pleasure in your pretty lowland scenery and richly
painted gardens than in all the pseudo-sublime of the barren High-
lands except Killiecrankie. I went and knelt beside the stone that
marks the spot of Clavers" 1 death-wound, and prayed for more such
spirits we need them now. . . .

My wife begs me to return her sincere thanks for your kind
message, and to express to you the delight with which she looks

asked him, with strong interest, to give him some details about Be'ranger, ' the
greatest French poet.' ' Ah ! Be'ranger/ said M. de Lamartine, ' he made advances
to me, and of course wished for my acquaintance ; but he is a sort of man with
whom I do not choose to have any connexion ! ' Think of that ! Mr. Rogers told
the story himself, with the greatest indignation, to the Ruskins, and they told it
to me" (Life of Mary Russell Mitford, vol. iii. p. 211).]

1 [Job iii. 17; xxvi. 11. Ruskin's letter reflects the excitement caused by the
events of '48. In France the Revolution had broken out on February 22 ; Louis
Philippe fled to England, and the Republic was proclaimed. In Italy there were
revolutions in many States ; Carlo Alberto declared war upon Austria in March,
and in April pushed his troops beyond the Mincio. The fortune of war, which
was to give the victory to the Austrians under Iladetzky, was uncertain at the
time of this letter.]

* [Frederic Myers (1811-1851), perpetual curate of St. John's, Keswick ; father
of F. W. H. Myers.]



88 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [18*8

forward to being presented to you remembering what I told her
among some of my first pleadings with her that, whatever faults she
might discover in her husband, he could at least promise her friends,
whom she would have every cause to love and to honour. She needs
them, but I think also deserves them. Ever, my dear Miss Mitford,
believe me, faithfully and affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.



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