John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 27 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 27 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

call upon her himself, but that he was held entirely at the Emperor's
service. This is, of course, mere politeness but it is politeness just
like Sir R. Inglis's 1 and I find that in reality the Marshal was much
pleased at our twice coming to Verona merely to go to his ball, and
that, while we esteemed it a favour to be asked, he did not less think
it polite in us to come.


VENICE, 21 */ March, 1852.

Yesterday being Sunday, I have no text - to send you to-day, but
hope to have a sheet to-morrow.

On Saturday evening I went out, wonderful to relate, to an
evening party at our landlady's Mine. Wetzlar's merely having to
step across the landing-place of the stairs in order to hear Rubini 8
sing once more. He is now living quietly in his native town of
Bergamo, being some fifty or fifty-five years old, and having lost all
the splendour of his voice ; but I v:as curious to hear its modulation
again. He came to Venice to pay his respects to the Grand Duke
Constautine, and then to Mine. Wetzlar as an old friend. I never
was so surprised as when he came into the room. I recollected him
in grand tragic parts in Lucrezia Borgia and Lucia di Lammermoor,
scowling and striding in a very heroic manner indeed ; and there came
in a little man in a brass-buttoned coat, with the most good-humoured
English-farmer-like look conceivable how he ever got himself to look
like an opera hero I understand not. Everybody is fond of him,
saying he is one of the most good-natured of men, and I should
think they were right. He put me more in mind of Mr. Severn 4 than
anybody I recollect. He sang twice, but only in concerted pieces with
Count Nugent and M. Cinq Mars, who both sing beautifully. Rubini's
voice appears quite gone, but his old taste and feeling and quiet
comic power are of course still delightful. I enjoyed my evening
exceedingly, Mine. Wetxlar knowing how to make people comfortable,
and the party being very small only, I think, about twenty people
altogether. A lady, Mine. Marini, sang magnificently, but too loud for

[See above, p. 8(5.]
2 [Of The, Atones of Venice.}

' [See Pra'terita, i. 202 (Vol. XXXV. p. 175 n.).]
4 [Joseph Severn ; for whom, see above, p. (58.]

1852] THE TWO WAYS 137

me, or for the room ; everybody, however, declared it to be sublime.
I should have liked to tone it down a little or to have heard it from
the other side of the CanaU The merit of a woman's singing seems,
in modern musical society, to be measured by the pitch of her
shriek. I really think, without any hyperbole, that I could have
listened with great satisfaction to Mme. Marini if she had been on
one side of the Mer de Glace and I on the other.


VENICE, Easter Day [April 11], 1852.

I did not in my Good Friday's letter explain enough what I meant
by saying I had come to the place where the " two ways met." * I
did not mean the division between religion and no religion: but
between Christianity and philosophy. I should never, I trust, have
become utterly reckless or immoral, but I might very possibly have
become what most of the scientific men of the present day are.
They, all of them who are sensible, believe in God in a God, that
is and have, I believe, most of them very honourable notions of their
duty to God and to man. But not finding the Bible arranged in a
scientific manner, or capable of being tried by scientific tests, they
give that up and are fortified in their infidelity by the weaknesses
and hypocrisies of so-called religious men, (who either hold to what
they have been taught because they have never thought about it, or
pretend to believe it when they do not). The higher class of thinkers,
therefore, for the most part have given up the peculiarly Christian
doctrines, and indeed nearly all thought of a future life. They philo-
sophize upon this life, reason about death till they look upon it as
no evil : and set themselves actively to improve this world and do as
much good in it as they can. This is the kind of person that I
must have become, if God had not appointed me to take the other
turning: which having taken, I do not intend, with His help, ever to
look back. For I have chosen to believe under as strong and over-
whelming a sense of the difficulties of believing as it is, I think,
possible ever to occur to me again. No scientific difficulty can ever be
cast in my teeth greater than at this moment I feel the geological

1 [The greater part of the "Good Friday's letter" has been printed in Vol. X.
pp. xxxviii.-xxxix. In it, he describes how religious doubts had been quieted,
and consolation found, by experimental faith. " I must have turned," he added,
"either one way or the other. I have .come to the place where the two ways


difficulty : no moral difficulty greater than that which I now feel in
the case of prophecies so obscure that they may mean aw/thing, like
the oracles of old. But I have found that the other road will not do
for me, that there is no happiness and no strength in it. I cannot
understand the make of the minds that can do without a hope of the
future. Carlyle, for instance, is continually enforcing the necessity of
being virtuous and enduring all pain and self-denial, without any hope
of reward. I do not find myself in the least able to do this I am
too mean, or too selfish ; and I find that vexations and labours would
break me down, unless I could look forward to a " crown of rejoic-
ing." 1 My poor friend Mr. George 2 used to talk of death in exactly
the same manner that he did of going to bed as no evil at all
though expressing no hope whatever of rising from that bed. I
cannot do this : so far from it, that I could no longer look upon the
Alps, or the heavens, or the sea, with any pleasure, because I felt
that every breath brought the hour nearer when I must leave them
all. To believe in a future life is for me the only way in which I
can enjoy this one, and that not with a semi-belief which would still
allow me to be vexed at what occurred to me here, but with such
a thorough belief as will no more allow me to be annoyed by earthly
misfortunes than I am by grazing my knee when I am climbing an
Alp. Of course it is not in any human nature and assuredly not in
mine, which is a very ill-tempered and weak one to conquer the sense
of vexation or of pain; that is not intended. Mental pain is, and
must be, as definite as bodily pain as the aching of the flesh after it
is torn, so must the aching of the heart be, after that is hurt : and
if you were to write me word that all my Turners were burned, I
don't mean that my heart would not ache about it, but that I could
now bear the heart-ache as a thing which in time would pass away,
as if it had not been, and not as an additional bitter in a cup of
life which, when I had drank out, no more was to be had. So far
(Monday morning) from being able to bear great misfortunes as if
they were nothing, I find it very sufficiently difficult to bear patiently,
at this moment, the return of the bitter March wind, with a tempera-
ture nearly down to freezing, to the utter cessation of all out-of-doors
work, and the still greater destruction of all ideal of an Italian spring.
But it makes all the difference whether one regards a vexation as a
temporary thing out of which good is to come in future, or a dead
loss out of a short life.

The March wind came back in its bitterest form on Saturday

1 [1 Thessalonians ii. 1!).]
* [See above, p. U2.]

1852] WORK AND TIME 139

morning, and all Sunday blew mercilessly this morning it seems relax-
ing, and I may perhaps get something done.

I don't mean by what I said above of Mr. George that he had no
hope beyond this world, but he never expressed any it was not his
way. He seemed to have made up his mind to work as well as he
could here, and to leave the hereafter in God's hands. His sister said
his mind passed through many struggles and changes before his death.

Scientific men are less likely to feel the slightness of this world,
because their labours are handed down from one man to another, and
though the men die, the work accumulates, and the bit of it that each
man does is done for ever. But in my field of labour it is otherwise.
The work goes, like the man. "All his thoughts perish." 1 Perish by
time, at latest or by violence, earlier. A fool may abuse Newton's
Principia he cannot overthrow them. But the Venetian Academy re-
paints a Paul Veronese, and it is as if the painter had not been born.


VENICE, IQth May, Evening, 1852.

We drank your health after dinner, and I had a most successful
day of daguerreotyping and drawing, and a lovely row after dinner,
and fine sunset. Your birthday has been the happiest day I have yet
spent in Venice. I enclose Macdonald's letter, and my answer. I do
not know where he is will you find him and arrange the matter for
me as you think right ?

I beg your pardon for sending such short letters, but I am draw-
ing a little more each day now than I have been doing lately, and do
not want to try my eyes by anything, more than I can help.

Effie is getting up a little party of pleasure with two Venetian
ladies, Madame Palavicini and Madame Arco : all the three are going
together to Treviso to visit a gentleman there ! Count Falkenheim
one of the plainest men in Venice, but one of the best, and the ladies
are all so fond of him that now he has been sent away to command
at Treviso, they must needs go and see him there. It was he who got
Mr. Brown's servant put into the Arsenal, for Effie.

Mr. Brown was as much delighted yesterday as I should have been
with a Turner, by Effie's gathering three wild strawberries and sending
him them in a bit of Venice glass. He likes to be thought of, in little
things or great.

1 [Psalms cxlvi. 4.]



VENICE, Sunday Evening, C>th June, 1852.

I never had time, when I was writing from Verona, to tell you
what an interesting investigation we had of the Marshal's secretaire.
He gave Count Thun his private keys that he might show us all the
pretty things that had been sent to him by crowned heads, towns,
municipalities, etc.; and his orders. Of these last there was a chest
full, as much as a man could carry, divided into five tiers and sliding
drawers, each filled with some two dozen or two dozen and a half of
Orders, generally two of each the usual one, to be worn commonly,
and another in diamonds or otherwise enriched, in compliment to him
an enormous value in mere jewellery : and I suppose no man in
Europe, except our own Duke, could show such a box full of honour
in its scutcheon form. 1 But, on the whole, the more interesting things
were the various freedoms of towns, or other complimentary papers,
addresses, etc., bound in velvet with chasings of silver, black, or gilt,
wrought out into the most perfect forms of German fancy, and with
drawings on their title-pages in water-colours, exquisitely laboured, and
many of them full of genius in fact, all the genius of this century
goes into things of this kind. Some of these books were two or three
feet long, and so heavy with silver that they were as much as could
be lifted, one at a time. It is pleasant to hear that the Marshal
enjoys these gifts, and really values them, and keeps his keys very
jealously, as I do of my Turners. He has conquered, by consistent
kindness, even the sulkiness of the Italians, as far as regards himself.
None of them now speak ill of him, however furious against Austrians
in general.

And indeed, of both Italians and Austrians, rcr have reason to
speak well, for I do not think that either have ever refused us any-
thing in their power that could oblige us. And there is one point
in the Italian character which is very pleasing, though the result
perhaps of reprehensible ones : the entire freedom with which they
throw open their pleasure grounds to any one who likes to use them.
You see a garden gate open you walk in as if it were your own
stare about you touch your hat to the proprietor if he happens to
be there explore all his grounds at your leisure and find at the gate
his gardener waiting with a bouquet for you. Fancy what Emily
would have said, to the bare idea of such :i thing !

1 [See 1 Jffinrt/ 71'., act v. so. ].]


To his FATHER l

[HERNE HILL] Sunday Evening [September 1862].

MY DEAREST FATHER, We heard Mr. Bridge this morning very
pleasant, but I like Mr. Moore better, 2 and we shall come there with
you when it is possible. We had a very pleasant breakfast with Mr.
Rogers his niece Miss Rogers was there, with Lord Glenelg, 3 and he
himself was very lively and happy, talking much about Homer and
much about himself, quoting himself with great enjoyment, and saying
naively, "How sublime people would have called that if they had
found it in the Iliad."" The worst point about him is the envy of other
poets. I never knew any one conceal it so little. He cannot bear to
hear Tennyson so much as named; and some one speaking of Mrs.
Browning (Elizabeth Barrett), he sent for one of her poems to read it
with a burlesque accent on the ends of the lines, flinging the book
from him at last, with an ironical "It's very affecting.'''' He was not
a little indignant at finding out that we had her last poem, Casa
Guidi Windoics, in our carriage. I was getting it up, for Patmore
had invited me to meet her and her husband the same evening. As
Frank had the other horse fresh, I went in, in the evening, but of
course only the husband came whom, however, I liked ; he is the only
person whom I have ever heard talk rationally about the Italians,
though on the liberal side. He sees all their worthlessness, and is
without hope. His wife's poem takes the same view, and is in most
respects very noble. She follows good models in her favourite poets,
Dante and yfischylus, and there are some fine pieces about Michael
Angelo. Patmore lives in a small house enough, of course, but in a
pretty part of the world of London. 4 I had no idea there were such
nice, old-fashioned, quiet lawns and avenues in that direction. I got
home at a quarter past eleven, and did not feel the worse for my little
transgression of usual rules; but I am certainly gaining very fast in

1 [This letter, recording Ruskin's first meeting with Browning, is marked by his
mother, "?1850"; and Mr. Colliugwood (Life and Work of John Ruskin, p. 163)
accordingly states that " Ruskin had met Browning in June 1850." But, as the
Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning show, the Brownings did not leave Italy in that
year. Moreover, Casa Guidi Windows was not published till 1851. Mr. Champneys
"(Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patniore, vol. ii. p. 292) dates the meeting
September 1852.]

2 [The Rev. S. F. Bridge, of St. Matthew's, Camberwell ; the Rev. Daniel Moore
(above, p. 117), incumbent of Camden Chapel, Camberwell, where he succeeded
Canon Melvill.1

3 [Charles Grant (1778-18GG), created Baron Glenelg, 1831 ; resigned office as
Colonial Secretary, 18'J!).]

4 [At this time, at "The Grove," Highgate.]


health now, promising some peace, and enjoyment with my Turners.
The affection in the throat has taken a great turn for the better,
and now hardly gives me any trouble. I lost all appetite for my
dinner yesterday, however, in mere delight at a new subject of the
Liber, on the St. Gothard, which Griffith had got for me; but when I
began, the appetite came back, and I finished a partridge and a half,
to EfnVs great astonishment and alarm "a fat one too," sent us with
three more by Mr. Cockburn l the young one, who dined here, with a
face the colour of scarlet verbena from shooting all the day before.



DEAR RICHMOND, Ours is a most difficult house to direct anybody
to, being a numberless commonplace of a house, with a gate like
everybody's gate on Herne Hill and a garden like everybody's garden
on Herne Hill, consisting of a dab of chrysanthemums in the middle
of a round O of yellow gravel and chimnies and windows like every-
body's chimnies and windows ; and what notorieties I might find out
as you might difference between one side of a face and another by
diligent examination will all be, together with the similarities, lost in
six o'clock darkness. All I can do for you is to advise you that some
half mile beyond my father's there is a turn to the left, which you
must not take, and after passing it we are some ten or twelve gates
further on upon the Tight and as, if this weather holds, it seems likely
you will have to come Leander fashion, I will play Hero for you,
and light the Gas in mine upper chamber, and put two candles in
the window besides and it is not very likely there will be two houses
on the hill signalising their garrets by making lighthouses of them
for distressed travellers.

Love to Mary and Julia. Ever affectionately yours,

J. RrsKix.


DK.VMARK HILI,, 20th October [1852?].

MY DEAR PATMORE, It would have given me rcry great pleasure
to be with you to-morrow evening, but I have got a chronic relaxa-
tion of the throat which is beginning to make me cautious, and 1 fear

1 [For whom, see Prri'terila, Vol. XXXV. p. 10:].]

1 [Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Put wore t vol. ii. p. 293.


I cannot venture out at night during its continuance. I beg your
pardon and Mrs. Patmore's for being so long in answering, but I
really could not make up my mind to refuse. ... It is very curious,
I particularly want to know Tennyson, and whenever I have had an
opportunity of doing so, I have been ill and imprisoned, once at
Leamington and now again here. Ever most truly yours,



HERNE HILL, December 5th, Evening.

MY DEAR FURNIVALL, I have only this moment had your letter,
and this moment answer it. I am most truly thankful to you for
acquainting me with this matter, and, as long as I live, I will never
jest any more in any way which could by any possibility be liable to
mistake. I am a nervous, shy, awkward person, with a bad manner,
and this is not the only instance in which I have found that what I
meant for jest has been taken in earnest.

On the day in question I went into the Arundel, having screwed
up my courage, after much self-debate, to say some things which I
was afraid I should not have the face to say unless I did so at once.
In this primed condition I went in, and Mr. Ker 2 was leaning back
in his chair, looking very happy and full of jest and he said what
he told you, and I answered in what I meant for a playful assumption
of importance, as he told you. I never saw his countenance change,
nor anybody else's. I had no more idea of having offended him than
intention to do so. I liked him, and respected him, and should as
soon have thought of insulting the Lord Chancellor. The speech I
made afterwards though the things alleged in it were, of course,
seriously alleged against the Council was throughout intended to be
playful, and to be said in the way in which I should say to you:
" Furnivall, I want to give you a good scolding for not looking after
your master toilers 11 supposing one of them had run away. It was
only my bad manner which gave rise to the other impression, and I
will take care no such mistake ever occurs again.

liut why in the world did the rest of the Council allow themselves
to be deprived of Mr. Ker's help without telling me the reason ? I

1 f^o. 7 in Furnivall, pp. 22-25, where the letter is dated ' ' 1853," but Ruskin
was in Scotland on December 5 of that year. "18,52" is probable, as Ruskin was
at Herne Hill.]

2 [Charles Henry Belleuden Ker (1785-1871), conveyancing counsel to the
Courts of Chancery.]


wish you would write to Mr. Ker, and either send him this note, or
say to him that if he will come down to the Council I will, before all
the people who witnessed the insult, express my most sincere regret for
it. People don't know how shy I am, from not having ever gone into
Society till I was seventeen. I forget who it is who says that the
mixture of hesitation and forced impudence which shy people fall into
is the worst of all possible manners. So I find it.

Touching the Hunt. I will ask my father about it at once, but it
will make an awkward flaw in his room we have only three, and they
hang in a trefoil round our central Turner. But I must know first
which it is a bird ? two nests ? or some plums ?

Pray settle this matter of the offence as soon as you can for me,
as it gives me much pain. Thanks for the rest of your letter. Most
faithfully yours, J. RUSKIX.


Hi-: IINK Hux, December 28* A, 1852.

DEAR MR. BEXNETT, I hope this line will arrive in time to wish
you and yours a happy New Year, and to assure you of the great
pleasure I had in receiving your poems from you, and of the continual
pleasure I shall have in possessing them. I deferred writing to you in
order that I might tell you how I liked those which were new to me,
but Christinas, and certain little "pattering pairs of restless shoes"
which have somehow or another got into the house in his train, have
hitherto prevented me from settling myself for a quiet read. In fact,
I am terribly afraid of being quite turned upside down when I do, so
as to lose my own identity, for you have already nearly made me like
babies, and I see an ode further on to another antipathy of mine
the only one I have in the kingdom of flowers the chrysanthemum.
However, I am sure you will be well pleased if you can cure me of
all dislikes. I should write to you now more cheerfully, but that I
am anxious for the person who, of all I know, has fewest dislikes and
warmest likings for Miss Mitford. I trust she is better, and that she

1 [From the Testimonials f)f W. C. Hennett, LL.I>., < umiidate for the Clcrknhij> of
the London School liourd, 1871, p. - . Reprinted in Arrows of the, Vhacr, 1880,
vol. ii. pp. 2(57-208. The pamphlet consists of "letters from distinguished men of
the time," and includes some from C'arlyle, Tennyson, Ilrowning, Dickon.-, and
others. lluskin's letter was originally addressed to Mr. Bennett in thanks for a
copy of his 1'oenut (Chapman A: Hall, 18oO). The poems specially alluded to
are "Toddlinir May" (from which Kuskin quoto). " Hahy May." and another ''To
the Chrysanthemum." The book is dedicated to Miss Mitftird.]

2 [His wife's younger sisters.]

1853] PROOF-SHEETS 145

may be spared for many years to come. I don't know if England has
such another warm heart.

I hope I may have the pleasure of seeing you here in case your
occasions should at any time bring you to London, and I remain, with
much respect, most truly yours, J. RUSKIN.



DEAR MR. HARRISON, The plate I send is unluckily merely out-
lined in its principal griffin (it is just being finished), but it may render
your six nights' work a little more amusing. I don't want it back.

Never mind putting "see to quotations," as I always do. And, in
the second revise, don't look to all my alterations to tick them off,
but merely read straight through the new proof to see if any mistake
strikes you. This will be more useful to me than the other. Most
truly yours, with a thousand thanks, J. RUSKIN.


[The second volume of Stones of Venice was issued in the spring, and the third
in the autumn, of this year. For the London season, Ruskin took a house in
Charles Street In July he and his wife went to Glenfinlas, where they were
visited by Millais, and in the autumn Ruskiu delivered at Edinburgh his Lectures on
Architecture and Painting. Several letters written from Glenfinlas and Edinburgh
have been given in Vol. XII. pp. xx.-xxxv.]

To J. J. LAING 2

Friday, January 2Qth [1853?].

MY DEAR SIR, I have been a good deal embarrassed by your letter,
and wanted time to think over it.

It appears to rne that the Romanist question depends on the state
of your belief respecting Rome.

1 [A facsimile of this letter, from a collection of autographs in the possession
of Mr. T. F. Dillon Croker, appeared in the Autographic Mirror, December 23
and 30, 1865. Reprinted in Arrows of the Chace, 1880, vol. ii. p. 278. The book to
which the letter refers may be The Stones of Venice, and the plate sent the third
("Noble and Ignoble Grotesque") in the last volume of that work.]

2 [First printed, with omissions, in the Westminster Gazette, 27th August 1894,
p. 2. Next (without omissions) as No. 7 in Art and Literature, pp. 25-27 ; it is there

Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 27 of 74)