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as I believe that you may at some future time fall again into the
same state, and that you may at present sometimes suffer in various
ways from a conscientious reserve, fearing to speak out lest you should
do me harm, it is just as well that you should know there is no
danger of doing this, and, therefore, in what state my own mind is
with regard to religion.

I have never had much difficulty in accepting any Scriptural state-
ment, in consequence of those abstract reasonings which seem always
to have disturbed you. That the doctrine of the Trinity is incompre-
hensible, or the scheme of Redemption marvellous, never seemed to me

1 [Macbeth, Act v. sc. 3.]

1 [Proverbs xxvii. 22.]

3 [A passage that follows has been printed in Vol. X. p. 436 .]


any objection against one or the other. I cannot understand what
sort of unity there is between my fingers that move this pen, and the
brain that moves them: so it is no trouble to me that I cannot under-
stand the Trinity ; and for the scheme of Redemption, I feel that I
cannot reason respecting that unless I had the power of understanding
God's nature and all His plans. I am perfectly willing to take both
on trust. Neither is the meanness and baseness of man any trouble
to me that is rather a confirmation of Revelation ; neither is God's
choice of this contemptible creature, to raise above angels 1 for that
also I feel is God's affair, not mine: and until I understood all His
ways and works, I could not expect to understand that. Nothing of
mysterious or strange, so that it be plainly revealed, is any trouble
to me.

But on the other hand, while I am ready to receive any amount
of mystery in What is revealed, I don't at all like mystery in the
manner of revealing it. The doctrine is God's affair. But the revela-
tion is mine, and it seems to me that from a God of Light and Truth,
His creatures have a right to expect plain and clear revelation touch-
ing all that concerns their immortal interests. And this is the great
question with me whether indeed the Revelation be clear, and Men
are blind, according to that " He hath blinded their eyes and hardened
their hearts " ; 2 or whether there be not also some strange darkness in
the manner of Revelation itself.

When I was a boy, I used to read the poetry of the prophecies
with great admiration as I used to read other poetry. But now their
poetry torments me. It seems to me trifling with what is all-impor-
tant, and wasting words. I don't want poetry there. I want plain
truth and I would give all the poetry in Isaiah and Ezekiel willingly,
for one or two clearer dates.

This is my first trouble. But the answer to this is very ready
at hand. Although, from the peculiar life I have led, poetry happens
to be useless to me, to ninety-nine out of a hundred it makes those
prophecies more impressive. To me it has a suspicious look, a Delphic
oracle tone in it, savouring of tripods and hot air from below. But
to the mass of mankind it assuredly makes those prophecies more im-
pressive to them poetry appears the proper form of Divine language,
and I have no right to expect revelation to be made fit for my par-
ticular taste. Then as to the obscurity of it, the answer commonly
given is that it is just as clear as it can possibly be, so as to leave
human action free. It could not be prophesied that Louis Napoleon

1 [See Hebrews i. 4.]

2 [John xii. 40.]


was to send the Assembly to prison on 2nd December 1851, or the
Assembly would have taken care of itself.

This answer is good to a certain extent; but it does not seem to
me perfectly good. Though prophecy could not be thoroughly literal
and clear, it might yet have been so definite within certain limits,
that at the close of these 2000 years after Christ, we should be able
indisputably to attach a meaning to a considerable portion, and to
show, to the conviction of every thinking man, that such and such
events were foreshown and none others. Now respecting this there
are two questions: (A) how far it is so; (B) how far we have a right
to expect it to have been so.

(A) How far is it so? The prophecies respecting Babylon,
Nineveh, Alexander, and the Jews, are accomplished visibly in great
part, and this is a strong sheet anchor. On the other hand, the book
which is especially called the Revelation of Jcsius Christ, and is said to
be a Revelation of things which must shortly come to pass, remains
altogether sealed ; and the most important parts of the prophecies of
Daniel and Ezekiel, and all our Saviour's prophecies except those re-
specting Jerusalem, remain subjects of continual dispute. Now observe
the main question is how far these disputes are the result of man's
pride and not of God's secrecy. Elliott and Gumming publish a
plausible view of the Revelations. Dr. Wordsworth presently pub-
lishes a book with a totally contrary view. Is this because the Revela-
tions are obscure, or because Dr. Wordsworth is an University man,
and determined not to be led by Dr. Gumming ? l It is one of the
works which I am chiefly desirous to undertake, to ascertain how far
the prophecies have been accomplished clearly, and how far the
obscurity of their accomplishment has been increased by man's pride
and folly.

(B) Then : How far have we a right to expect it to be so ? Is it
indeed beforehand to be expected that a mathematical proof, such as
must convince every thinking man, was to be certainly attainable of
the truth of revelation ? Or would not even this have been interfering
with human free will, more than in this dispensation it seems ever to
be intended to do ? Is it not rather apparent that God's purpose is
to leave every man dependent upon his own conduct and choice for
the discovery of truth, shutting it up in greater mystery as men
depart from His ways, and revealing it more and more to each man's

1 [John dimming (1807-1881) published numerous books on the Apocalypse,
maintaining that the "last vial" was to he poured out between 1848 and 1807.
The other references are to Kdward Hishop Elliott's J/iirte Apocalypticce (4th ed.
1851) and Christopher Wordsworth's Lectures on the, Apocalypse (1849 ; 3rd ed.


conscience as they obey Him and would not this purpose have been
utterly defeated by a Revelation which was intellectually and exter-
nally satisfactory?

Having got thus far, I believe I must send off my letter this
morning, this first difficulty being pretty thoroughly set at rest. I
will go on, however, writing this subject out, for to-morrow's letter;
meantime I enclose you a fragment of a chapter much later in the
book. I cannot number it at present ; it is the chapter on the Tombs
of Venice. 1 I shall send you as they are ready a bit of it here and
there ; it is a chapter I have worked upon at intervals, for some tombs
are in draughts where I cannot stand just now, and others are in dark
places and require fine weather, and others are here and there out of
the way, so the chapter is in a very inconsecutive condition at present,
but it will read in bits.


VENICE, 7th February, 1852.

I was reading at breakfast this morning some of Schlegel's criticisms
on Shakespeare 2 very good and complimentary, but treating the plays
much more as elaborate pieces of art than as deep and natural expres-
sions of a great man's mind. This is shallow. I believe Shakespeare
wrote with the most perfect ease, but had in each play a simple and
very grand purpose, which gives to it that consistency that the common
critics think the result of laborious composition. I don't think this
purpose has been at all noticed. On the contrary, people have found
fault with Romeo and Juliet because the catastrophe turned on an
accident, as if Shakespeare had merely brought in the accident that
he might get a catastrophe. It was not without a meaning that in
Romeo and Othello both catastrophes are brought on by mistakes in
Hamlet by inactivity in King Lear by an old man's weakness and
hastiness. I see that Shakespeare knew long ago what I am just begin-
ning to find out that the sorrow of the whole world is all the conse-
quence of Mistake; and its chief miseries are brought about by small
errors and misconceptions, trifles apparently, which our own evil pas-
sions leave us to be the prey of. Thus the whole of Romeo and Juliet
is evidently written to show the effect of heedless and unbridled passion,
exposing men to infinite calamity from accident only. Everything con-
curs to give this lesson. Mercutio fights in a jest Tybalt in a lury

1 [Ultimately part of ch. ii. ("Roman Renaissance") in vol. iii. of the Stones:
Vol. XI. pp. 81 ?7.]

2 [A. W. von Schlegel's Vorlesungen iiber dramutische Kunst und Literatur,
3 vols., 1809-1811 ; often translated into French, English, and other languages.]

xxxvi. i


tx>th are slain. Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight, and at
the first sight of sorrow, kill themselves. Capulet and Montague are
first introduced calling for swords, and are last seen reconciled by the
loss of all that is dear to them the whole being a most profound
teaching of the character of human passion, and its folly, and its
punishment wrought out by its folly. In order that this lesson may
be more true and inevitable, the passion of the lovers is invested with
all the charms of poetry that human passion ever can possess. In
Othello two of the greatest of human souls are seen by one weakness
becoming the prey of the vilest another awful lesson. Hamlet is
exactly opposed to Mercutio abuse of the intellectual faculties being
the sin in both. King Lear the most highly wrought of all is written
to show the evil of irregular passion, in Gloster and Edmund, and of
the hasty judgment in the king; but the evil passion to which these
follies then expose them is the blackest of all ingratitude and there-
fore Shakespeare seems to have taken more pains to work out the


VENICE, 15th February, 1852.

When I look back to any of my former work, I am always dis-
satisfied and feel as if I had utterly lost my time. Thus, as I said to
you a few letters ago, the sketches I made when here with you, in
May 1846, are now so worthless in my eyes that I would give them
all for a single walk with you in the Piazzetta. And so of nearly all
I have ever done. But I forget, when I feel in this way, and long
for the time to come over again, that those sketches are not the result.
The dissatisfaction with them is the result. It was necessary I should
do them, before I could despise them. If I had not done them then,
I should be doing the same kind of things now. It is therefore the
knowledge that I have gained to which I ought to look as the true
result of these years 1 labour: and I am only apt to be discontented
because I forget in the feeling how little I know now, how much less
I knew in 1842.

When I wrote the first volume of Modern Pointers I only under-
stood about one-third of my subject : and one-third, especially, of the
merits of Turner. I divided my admiration with Stanfield, Hard-
ing, and Fielding. I knew nothing of the great Venetian colourists,
nothing of the old religious painters admired only, in my heart,
Rubens, Rembrandt, and Turner's gaudiest effects : my admiration

1852] A RETROSPECT 131

being rendered, however, right as far as it went by my intense love
of nature.

In 1843 I studied under Harding, 1 studies now nearly forgotten,
but useful in teaching me a little how to lay on colour; in 1844* I
made some coloured studies of rocks which are still useful to me. But
in 1845 came a total change : I had luckily tried to draw some of
Raphael's figures and landscape, and read Rio 2 on the old religious
painters; and bought Turner's Liber Studiorum. I went into Italy
with a new perception of the meaning of the words drawing and
chiaroscuro. My first attempts with my new perception were those of
the stone pines at Sestri 3 now in your bedroom the brown avenue,
behind the door in the study 4 the little wild one you liked so much
that used to be in the anteroom of the breakfast-room and my
mother's study of trees at Isola Madre the mountain ones, in the
study Conflans, etc., and many others all indeed that are framed about
the house, except St. Michel, were done in 1845. They cost me great
labour, but from that time I understood the meaning of the words
"light and shade," and have never since had any occasion to alter my
views respecting them.

This course of study altered all my views about Turner's early
works, formerly despised. The value I have assigned to the Yorkshire
drawings, and the price I made you pay Lupton for his proofs, were
all the consequence of this year's work.

But meantime I began to study the religious painters. Till 1845
I had never seen an Angelico did not know what a Giotto was. In
about four months I explored a whole half world of painting in
Florence, and was able to write second volume of Modern ^Painters
when I came home.

But farther. When I went to Venice with Harding, I was intro-
duced for the first time to the Venetian colourists. The overwork
mentioned in my former letter was in studying Tintoret and architec-
ture at once. But I got an entirely new perception of the meaning
of the word colour: which altered all my views respecting Turner's
latest drawings, as my spring work of that year had altered them re-
specting his earliest. I came home, to find that his last works were

1 [The lessons were begun, however, in 1841-1842 : see Prceterita, Vol. XXXV.
p. 308.]

2 [See Vol. IV. pp. xxiii. n., 184, 188.]

3 [See Plate 12 in Vol. IV. (p. 346). The Plate (VII.) here introduced seems
to be a study made at the same place.]

4 [This may be the drawing- of Sens (which, however, is dated 1846), Plate 32 in
Vol. XXXV. The "Isola Madre" may have been No. 70 at the Fine Art Society
(1907). The "St. Michel" was perhaps the "Pine Forest": see Vol. XXXV.
p. G37 and n.~\


his greatest, and that he would never do any more, for his mind failed
in 1845.

Now, observe, I say all my views were altered altered, that is, into
higher admiration instead of, as the public thought, into less. And
they were altered with respect to two-thirds of his works I having,
as I said above, understood only one-third of my subject. Of his
middle drawings, I think what I always did. His early drawings I
once despised ; but last year you know I gave Lady Baines 100 for
two injured ones, which I would not part with for 200 each. His late
drawings I at first thought slovenly now you see them named in my
catalogue 1 as above all price.

This change, or advance rather than change, in all my views was
like being thrown into a great sea to me. I wrote second volume
of Modem Painters in the first astonishment of it. I then perceived
a thousand things that I wanted to know before I could write any
more, and 1846 and '7 were passed in floundering about, and getting
my new self together.

If in 1848 I had got abroad to Switzerland, the fruits of these years' 1
work would have been seen sooner. But being driven into Normandy,
my attention was turned in a new direction and the Seven Lamps
and Stones of Venice were the result.

The materials collected in 1849, in Switzerland, are of immense
value to me the fruit of 1846-7 and '9 is all, I hope, yet to come
in third volume of Modern Painters. The architectural works have been
merely bye-play this Stones of Venice being a much more serious one
than I anticipated.

So that my time has not really been lost, though I often feel as if
it had been. But it is one somewhat unpleasant result of my work,
that I have got to feel totally differently from the public on all sub-
jects connected with art, and that the effect of what I believe to l>e
my superior wisdom is that nobody will attend to me. When I wrote
about Stanfield and Harding, there was a large audience ready to hear
what I had got to say and confirm it : but now that I don't care for
either of them and write about Millais, nobody attends to me. And I
see that this is very natural. It has cost me seven years' 1 labour to be
able to enjoy Millais thoroughly. I am just those seven years' 1 labour
farther in advance of the mob than I was, and my voice cannot be
heard back to them. And so in all things now I see a hand they
cannot see; and they cannot be expected to believe or follow me: and
the more justly I judge, the less I shall be attended to.

1 [The "catalogue," seut-..ta Jiis father on January -3, is printed in Vol. XIII.
pp. xlvii.-l.]



VENICE, IQth Feb., 1852,

The Austrian officers gave their last carnival ball last night, and as
there were to be masquers and much festivity, I thought Effie might as
well see it, so I took her there at nine, and left her, staying till ten
myself to see what was going on. Although they are much earlier here
than in London, there was, however, no masquing before I came away ;
but I saw something worth going for, in the toilette of the Grand
Duchess Constantine. Of course, as the Russians have done so much
for the Austrians lately, 1 the Russian Grand Duke and Duchess are in-
finitely feted, and as there is no person here at present superior to them
in rank, the Austrians, Avhose guests they are, make them the centre of
a kind of court, and invest them with a sort of vice-imperial dignity.
So the Grand Duchess, who does not dance, is taken up to the top of
the room and set in a kind of throne chair, with her ladies behind her,
and the circle of officers in front, exactly as if she were our queen, or
their empress. She is not exactly pretty, but very delicate and interest-
ing a face between Marie Antoinette and our Sir Peter Lely beauties
pale by day, but very brightly and sweetly flushed at night ; her hair
was dressed in the French way, in the small close clustered curls pro-
jecting at the side, like La Belle Gabrielle, and the rest of her dress
very rich and delicate at once lace over rose brocade, with a row of
six or seven emeralds clasping the dress from the neck to the waist,
each about the length of a small walnut. Madame Palavicini was
standing behind her, leaning forward to talk to her, and she, though
anything but pretty, is exceedingly sweet and refined in feature and
expression dressed in white, all, with a crown of white roses. You
never saw anything so courtly or pretty as the group of the two
together. In our society, a duchess is generally a fat old woman
worse dressed than anybody else, and highly painted, and with a whole
jeweller's shop of diamonds shaken over her till she looks like a
chandelier ; but here there was youth and refinement, and consider-
able beauty ; and though there were at least 20,000 of stones on the
front of that dress, they were not put so as to catch the eye. Effie
enjoyed herself very much, and came home at half-past one, which I
thought very moderate.

1 [In tlie war against the Hungarian insurrection.]



Saturday Evening, '2Qth February, 1852.

I stopped to-day just as I was coming to that part of your letter
when you say we shall or should have too much (^ J l 0,000) in Turner,
because I should not see my pictures if I went to the Alps. But do
you count for nothing the times out of time you see me looking at
them morning and evening, and when I take them up to sleep with ?
I have fifty pounds' worth of pleasure out of every picture in my
possession every week that I have it. As long as you live, I shall
not be so much abroad as in England ; if I should outlive you, the
pictures will be with me wherever I am. You count all I " would
buy," but I have named to you all I can hope to get ; supposing I
live long and outlive their present possessors on which I have no
business to calculate I don't think that to have spent by the time I
am fifty or sixty, *! 0,000 in Turners, sounds monstrous. People
would not think it extravagant to buy a title or an estate at that
price I want neither. Some people would think it not too much at
a contested election. But all depends on the view you take of me
and of my work. I could not write as I do unless I felt myself a
reformer a man who knew what others did not know, and felt what
they did not feel. Either I know this man Turner to be the man of
this generation or I know nothing. You cannot wonder that, as long
as I have any confidence or hope in myself, I should endeavour to
possess myself of what at once gives me so great pleasure, and
ministers to what I believe to be my whole mission and duty here.
It is a pity that I cannot frankly express my feelings on this subject
without giving you cause to dread the effects of enthusiasm ; but it is
just because I am enthusiastic that I am if I am powerful in any
way. If you have any faith in my genius, you ought to have it
in my judgment also. You may say (probably all prudent fathers
would say), "If he wants to buy all these just now, what will he want
to buy as he grows older?'"' "He began with one and thought
himself rich with two now he has got thirty, and wants thirty more :
in ten years he will want three hundred.'" I feel the force of this
reasoning as much as you do, and I know this to be the natural
course of human desire if no bridle be set upon it: nor am I so
foolish as ever to expect in this world to have all my desires gratified,
or to be even able to say there is nothing more that I wish for.
That, I believe, ought only to be said by a man when he is near
death. But I can very firmly and honestly assure you that I inn


much more satisfied with my collection now than when it was smaller,
and that if I now express more exorbitant desires, it is not because
I want more, but because you are more indulgent to me. When I
was a mere boy, I had not the impudence to ask you or even to
hope for a present of more than 50 once a year. Then it came to
o J 160 once a year, and my expression of desire has always increased
exactly in proportion to the degree in which I thought it might be
expressed without giving you pain. The longings were always there,
but I did not choose to utter them knowing that they would cause
you suffering perhaps also knowing that their expression would be of
no use, they would not be granted. Yet you may remember that
when Griffith proposed to sell his whole collection, I did in a humble
manner lay his offer before you of fifteen drawings at 50 each.
You gave me four, and I did not press the rest ; but be assured, I
longed for them just as much as I do now though I did not then
know half their value, else I should have permitted myself in more
importunity. Again, when the offer of twenty drawings at 4<0 each
was made to us, I laid it before you, in a timid hope that you might
take them. I had exactly, myself, as much longing and as large
desires as I have now nay, greater, by the smallness of my posses-
sions but I had not the face to express them. Now that I am older
and wiser, and you are more indulgent, I come out with all that I
want, and it looks as if my desires had greatly increased, but they
have not increased one whit. I am, on the contrary, infinitely nearer
contentment than I was, and if I had the drawings named in my
first and second class, 1 and a bundle or two of sketches, I certainly
should never feel sickness of heart for a Turner drawing any more.
As it is, I think that my going on quietly with my work here, while
such things are going on in London, may show you that I am toler-
ably content with what I have though, in sober conscience, I think it
right and wise to "ask for more." 2

I intended when I began that this should be a nice long letter
on various topics, but having this morning Sunday, 29th opened at
breakfast my Stones of Venice^ it led me on, and I did not lay it
down till near prayer time and now I must finish my letter for the
post. / find it a most interesting book not at all dull and it gives
me a great impression of reserved power, on coming to it with a fresh
ear. I am quite sure it will sell eventually.

The Emperor has come here to visit his Russian guests, and

1 [See, again (as on p. 132 above), the "catalogue" in Vol. XIIL]

' [A quotation from Oliver Twist (1838), not then quite so hackneyed as now.]

3 [That is, the first volume.]


Radetsky came to meet him, and sent a most polite message to Effie
by his aide-de-camp, saying that he was extremely sorry he could not

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