Ruskin will understand why I connect his name with the latest event
that has befallen me, the leaving the cottage that for thirty years
had been my shelter" 6 -her removal from the little cottage at Three
1 See Art of England, 109 (Vol. XXXIII. p. 339).
2 See below, p. 1C4. 3 g e e Vol. III. p. xxxviii.
* To Mrs. Partridge : The Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford, edited by Rev.
A. G. L'Estrange, 1882, vol. ii. p. 107 ; and tetters of M. R. Mitford, second series,
edited by Henry Chorley, 1872, vol. i. p. 230. See also a letter to Mrs. Browning,
of July 30, 1848, in L'Estrange's Life of Mary Russell Mitford, vol. iii. p. 211.
5 Letters of Mary Russell Mitford, second series, edited by H. F. Chorley, 1872,
vol. i. p. 233. See also ii. 24, 82, 134, 145.
6 Ch. xiii. ("Great Prose Writers") of vol. iii. of the Recollections concludes-
(p. 292) with this mention of Buskin.
Mile Cross to Swallowfield. Ruskin's thoughtful kindness in divers little
ways did much, we are told, to cheer her closing days. " He sent her
every book that would interest, and every delicacy that would strengthen
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
her." 1 The letters in this volume show his desire to amuse and
please, and the receipt of them was always something of an event to
her. "I have had six charming letters from dear John Ruskin,"
she wrote to her friend and neighbour, the Rev. Hugh Pearson
(November Itf, 1854); and again (November 24): "To-day brought
me a most delightful note from dear Mr. Ruskin. You shall see all
his letters ; they are charming." 2 " There is a richness and trans-
parency in Mr. Ruskin's writing," she says, " that has scarcely ever
been equalled. Such power of beauty and expression is not to be found
in any letters which I have received. He is the best letter-writer of his
or any age." 3 When he was on the Continent, Ruskin did not forget
to send her books. She writes to Mrs. Browning (August 28, 1854):
" Dear Mr. John Ruskin was, when I heard from him, at Geneva with
his parents, sending me everything that he could imagine to help or
amuse me. His last gift was a French volume, Scenes et Proverbes par
Octave FeuiHet"* And a few months later a visit from Ruskin, as she
told the same friend, gave her much enjoyment. After her death
Ruskin wrote an account of this visit, with an appreciation of her
character, to Mrs. Browning. The editors are unable to give this
letter, 5 but a few passages from Mrs. Browning"^ reply may be quoted
to show its purport. " I agree with you," she said, " in much if not
in everything you have written of her. It was a great, warm, out-
flowing heart, and the head was worthy of the heart. . . . There
might have been, as you suggest, a somewhat different development
elsewhere than in Berkshire not very different, though souls don't
grow out of the ground. I agree with you that she was stronger
and wider in her conversation and letters than in her books. Oh,
I have said so a hundred times. . . . But no, her 'judgment' 1 was
not ' unerring. 1 " 6
1 The Friendships, etc., vol. ii. p. 108.
' 2 letters, second series, vol. ii. pp. 223, 227.
3 The Friendships, etc., vol. ii. p. 111.
* Life of Mary Jtuxscll Mifford, vol. iii. p. 288.
6 It is not among Mr. R. W. Browning's collection, so generously placed by him
at the disposal of the editors. Perhaps Mrs. Browning sent it to some friend
of Miss Mitford.
* From Mrs. Browning's letter of November 5, 1855, to Ruskin, in letters of
Elizalteth Barrett Urowning, vol. ii. p. 216. The whole of the letter is worth
study, not only for its characterisation of Miss Mitford, but incidentally for
some shrewd criticism of Ruskin himself. Lovers of Miss Mitford are familiar
with her beloved servant " K " (see, for instance, Lady Ritchie's charming
With nearly all the poets of the day Ruskin became acquainted,
and with some of those of a preceding generation he had certain links
of association. He was the friend of "Keats's Severn," to whom there
are two letters in this Collection (pp. 68, 353), and whose son, Arthur,
was to become closely connected with him. He had seen Southey,
though only in church, when a boy, and the description of the poet's
features in the Iteriad (II. p. 297) is observant and agrees with the
portraits. On the same occasion he saw Wordsworth, who a few years
later heard Ruskin recite a Prize Poem at Oxford and took kindly
notice of him; 1 but it is disappointing that he never afterwards met
the poet, as he might so easily have done, either in London or in
the Lakes. Wordsworth, as we have seen, was among the early readers
of Modern Painters. 2
With Coventry Patmore, Ruskin was acquainted through his early
tutor Dr. Andrews, 3 whose fifth daughter, Emily Augusta (1824-1862),
was Patmore's first wife " by whom and for whom," he said in the
dedication to The Angel in the House, " I became a poet." For that
poem, of which the first part appeared in 1854, Ruskin had a great
admiration. " A most finished piece of writing," he called it in The
Elements of Drawing, "and the sweetest analysis we possess of quiet
modern domestic feeling." 4 He quotes from it in Sesame and Lilies,
and speaks of Patmore as " the only living poet who always strengthens
and purifies." 5 His defence of Patmore's simplicity of diction, con-
tained in a letter to The Critic in 1860, is one of Ruskin's most
interesting pieces of literary criticism. 6 Of Patmore himself, he speaks
in Fors Clavigcra as a "greatly honoured and loved friend." 7 Of
Patmore's later Odes, Ruskin wrote that " no living human being had
ever done anything that helped him so much." 8 It is interesting to
know, however, that Ruskin's first admiration for the poet was not
coloured by any bias for the friend. A copy of the first part of The
Angel was sent to him anonymously. " Rossetti was with him a day
Introduction to the illustrated edition of Our Village, 1903). There is a letter
from Ruskin to his father (Arona, July 14, 1858) in which he encloses "one from
the son of Miss Mitford's pet servant K, always pronounced Kay, being the
only conceivable pleasant abbreviation of the pious old English scriptural name
Kerenhappuch [Job xlii. 14]. The letter was, as usual, one saying that some-
thing had failed which ought to have gone right." Ruskin goes on to beg his
father, for Miss Mitford's sake, to try and get a situation for the boy.
1 Vol. II. p. xxvii. - Vol. III. p. xxxvii.
3 See Prcvterita, Vol. XXXV. pp. 71, 73-74. 4 Vol. XV. p. 227.
5 Vol. XVIII. p. 120 and n. 6 Vol. XXXIV. pp. 488-490.
" Letter 66 (1876), Vol. XXVIII. p. 633.
8 Memoir, vol. i. p. 250, where Patmore quotes the words, which, however,
do not occur in the letters printed in that book ; but see below, p. 548.
or two after he received it ; Huskin asked him if he had seen or knew
anything about ' a glorious book called The Angel in the House.' " x
With Patmore's earlier Poems of 1844, Ruskin only became acquainted
at a later date, as a letter in the present Collection shows (p. 147).
Ruskin's letters to the poet reveal alike admiration for the work and
affection for the man. He was godfather to one of the poet's sons,
and presented another with a nomination to Christ's Hospital. Some
of the letters refer or are addressed to Patmore n s daughter, Bertha,
of whose artistic talent Kuskin thought highly and whom he assisted
with much advice. He was not fond of dining out, but he seems, if
we may judge from one of the letters (p. 546), to have made an
exception in favour of Patmore's parties. At one of these, it is
interesting to hear, the guests were Browning, Huskin, and Tennyson
only. 2 Conversation between Ruskin and Patmore Ruskin ever
courteous and deferential, yet paradoxical and not always to be gain-
sayed, Patmore imperious and disdainful (as Mr. Sargent has depicted
him) must have been anything but dull. Patmore's notes of his visits
to Brantwood (in 1875 and 1879), from which I have quoted in an
earlier volume, 3 suggest that the surface of friendly discussion was not
alM-ays quite unruffled. On one occasion, writes Patmore, " I praised
a little book of old Catholic devotion, called The Spiritual Combat,
which I saw among his books. 'Oh, do you think so much of it?
Now, it seems to me to be drivel: how do you account for that? 1
said he. I replied, ' I suppose that you have not had the particular
experience which explains it. 1 This manifestly annoyed him." 4 Which
in its turn, as I think we may see, did not displease the recorder.
A letter has been published from Mr. Aubrey de Vere in which he
suggested to Patmore that, considering how much influence he had
with Ruskin, he should write to his friend "seriously respecting the
claims of the Church on men who see as much as he does, when not
in perverse moods, of its character and its rcwfr." I do not know
that Patmore undertook the task ; it may be surmised from some
letters in the present Collection that Ruskin held himself to belong
to a Church yet more Catholic. 6
With Elizabeth Barrett also, Ruskin was an admirer of the poet
1 From a letter of Patmore's to William Allingham (November 6, 1854) in
Memoir and Correspondence ofCoventri/ Putntore, by Basil Champneys, vol. ii. p. 179.
1 Memoir and Correspondence, vol. i. p. 130 7). 3 Vol. XXIII. p. xxvi.
4 Memoir and Correspondence, vol. i. p. '284, \\ here it is stated that Ruskin once
said of somebody that to hear him talking of Patmore's poetry was " like seeing
a little devil jumping upon a bed of lilies."
6 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 34:!. Mr. Aubrey do Vere was himself a friend of Ruskin.
Vol. XXX VII. p. 191.
before he became acquainted with the writer. In the first volume
of Stones of Venice, he had written of "the burning mystery of
Coleridge " and " spirituality of Elizabeth Barrett," l and this must
have been " the word dropped in one of his books " of which Mrs.
Browning afterwards said to him that she " picked it up and wore
for a crown." 2 She was an intimate friend of Miss Mitford, and
in a letter to her of 1848 Mrs. Browning mentions that she and
her husband were reading "your Oxford student's work upon art." 3
In 1852 Mr. and Mrs. Browning spent some months in London ; and
Ruskin, doubtless at Miss Mitford's suggestion, went to call upon them,
and they presently, as has already been related, went to see him, his
parents, and the Turner drawings at Denmark Hill. 4 They counted
Ruskin henceforward among their " valuable acquaintances," and he
became an occasional correspondent. His reference to the " noble
poem," Casa Giiidi Windows, in the second volume of Stones of Venice 5
(1853) must have given Mrs. Browning much pleasure, for contem-
porary criticism was less favourable to the piece than it deserved.
The earliest of Ruskin's letters to her, contained in this volume, was
written in March 1855 (p. 191), and in it he spoke of his admiration
for her poems, adding some pretty compliments besides. A further
letter of April (p. 195), in which he mingles some criticism with
compliments, is the more interesting because Mrs. Browning's letter in
vindication of herself is also accessible. 6 Presently, in the summer of
1855, Mr. and Mrs. Browning were again in London, and they resumed
their personal intercourse with Ruskin. Of his meetings with Robert
Browning in this year (and through him with Leighton), and of their
discussions upon poetry, account has already been given. 7
Ruskin at this time seems to have read Browning with some diffi-
culty, and this was a sore point with the poet's wife. He tried again,
and seems to have written appreciatively. " You please me," wrote
Mrs. Browning to him (November 5, 1855), "oh, so much by the
words about my husband. When you wrote to praise my poems, of
course I had to bear it I couldn't turn round and say, 'Well; and
why don't you praise him, who is worth twenty of me ? Praise my
second Me, as well as my Me proper, if you please.' One's forced to
be rather decent and modest for one's husband as well as for one's
1 Vol. IX. p. 228.
- In a letter of March 17, 1855 : The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1897,
vol. ii. p. 191.
3 Ibid., vol. i. p. 384. * See Vol. V. p. xlvii. 5 Vol. X. p. 243 ?j.
6 In the Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, vol. ii. pp. 198-202.
' In Vol. V. pp. xlv., xlvi.
self, even if it's harder. I couldn't pull at your coat to read Pippa
Passes, for instance. I can't now. But you have put him on the
shelf, so we have both taken courage to send you his new volumes,
Men and Women, not that you may say 'pleasant things' of them,
or think yourself bound to say anything indeed, but that you may
accept them as a sign of the esteem and admiration of both of us.
I consider them on the whole an advance upon his former poems, and
am ready to die at the stake for my faith in these last." l Rusk in
read the new poems, and sent a letter of appreciation which greatly
pleased the poet, 2 though containing also much criticism, to which he
thus replied :
"PARIS, Dec. 10th, '55.
" MY DEAR RUSKIN, for so you let me begin, with the honest friendli-
ness that befits,
" You never were more in the wrong than when you professed to say
' your unpleasant things ' to me. This is pleasant and proper at all points,
over-liberal of praise here and there, kindly and sympathetic everywhere,
and with enough of yourself in even what I fancy the misjudging, to
make the whole letter precious indeed. I wanted to thank you thus much
at once, that is, when the letter reached me ; but the strife of lodging-
hunting was too sore, and only now that I can sit down for a minute
without self-reproach do I allow my thoughts to let go south-aspects,
warm bedrooms, and the like, and begin as you see. For the deepnesses
you think you discern, may they be more than mere blacknesses ! For
the hopes you entertain of what may come of subsequent readings, all
success to them ! For your bewilderment more especially noted how
shall I help that ? We don't read poetry the same way, by the same law ;
it is too clear. I cannot begin writing poetry till my imaginary reader
has conceded licences to me which you demur at altogether. I know
that I don't make out my conception by my language, all poetry being
a putting the infinite within the finite. You would have me paint it all
plain out, which can't be ; but by various artifices I try to make shift "with
touches and bits of outlines which succeed if they bear the conception
from me to you. You ought, I think, to keep pace with the thought
tripping from ledge to ledge of my ' glaciers,' as you call them ; not
stand poking your alpenstock into the holes, and demonstrating that no
foot could have stood there ; suppose it sprang over there ? In prose you
may criticise so because that is ihe absolute representation of portions of
truth, what chronicling is to history but in asking for more ultimates you
1 Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, vol. ii. p. 218.
2 See Vol. V. p. xlvi.
must accept less mediates, nor expect that a Druid stone-circle will be
traced for you with as few breaks to the eye as the North Crescent and
South Crescent that go together so cleverly in many a suburb. Why,
you look at my little song as if it were Hobbs' or Nobbs' lease of his
house, or testament of his devisings, wherein, I grant you, not a < then
and there/ ' to him and his heirs,' ' to have and to hold,' and so on, would
be superfluous ; and so you begin: 'Stand still, why?' 1 For the reason
indicated in the verse, to be sure, to let me draw him and because he
is at present going his way, and fancying nobody notices him, and more-
over, 'going on' (as we say) against the injustice of that, and lastly,
inasmuch as one night he'll fail us, as a star is apt to drop out of
heaven, in authentic astronomic records, and I want to make the most
of my time. So much may be in ' stand still.' And how much more was
(for instance) in that 'stay!' of Samuel's (I. xv. 16). So could I twit
you through the whole series of your objurgations, but the declaring my
own notion of the law on the subject will do. And why, I prithee,
friend and fellow-student, why, having told the Poet what you read,
may I not turn to the bystanders, and tell them a bit of my mind about
their own stupid thanklessness and mistaking? Is the jump too much
there ? The whole is all but a simultaneous feeling with me.
" The other hard measure you deal me I won't bear about my requir-
ing you to pronounce words short and long, exactly as I like. Nay, but
exactly as the language likes, in this case. Foldskirts not a trochee ? A
spondee possible in English ? Two of the ' longest monosyllables ' continu-
ing to be each of the whole length when in junction ? Sentence : let the
delinquent be forced to supply the stone-cutter with a thousand companions
to ' Affliction sore long time he bore,' after the fashion of ' He lost his
life by a penknife ' ' He turned to clay last Good Friday,' ' Departed
hence nor owed six-pence/ and so on so would pronounce a jury accus-
tomed from the nipple to say lord and landlord, bridge and Cambridge,
Gog and Magog, man and woman, house and workhouse, coal and char-
coal, cloth and broad-cloth, skirts and fold-skirts, more and once more,
in short ! Once more I prayed ! is the confession of a self-searching pro-
fessor ! ' I stand here for law ! '
"The last charge I cannot answer, for you may be right in preferring
it, however unwitting I am of the fact. I may put Robert Browning into
Pippa and other men and maids. If so, peccavi : but I don't see myself
in them, at all events.
" Do you think poetry was ever generally understood or can be ? Is
the business of it to tell people what they know already, as they know
it, and so precisely that they shall be able to cry out ' Here you should
1 Referring to the poem, "Stand still, true poet that you are," with the line,
: 'And Hobbs, Nobbs, Stokes, and Nokes combine."
supply this that, you evidently pass over, and I'll help jou from my own
stock ' ? It is all teaching, on the contrary, and the people hate to be
taught. They say otherwise, make foolish fables about Orpheus enchant-
ing stocks and stones, poets standing up and being worshipped, all
nonsense and impossible dreaming. A poet's affair is with God, to whom
he is accountable, and of whom is his reward ; look elsewhere, and you
find misery enough. Do you believe people understand Hamlet ? The
last time I saw it acted, the heartiest applause of the night went to a
little by-play of the actor's own who, to simulate madness in a hurry,
plucked forth his handkerchief and flourished it hither and thither : certainly
a third of the play, with no end of noble things, had been (as from time
immemorial) suppressed, with the auditory's amplest acquiescence and bene-
diction. Are these wasted, therefore ? No they act upon a very few,
who react upon the rest : as Goldsmith says, ' some lords, my acquaintance,
that settle the nation, are pleased to be kind.'
" Don't let me lose my lord by any seeming self-sufficiency or petulance :
I look on my own shortcomings too sorrowfully, try to remedy them too
earnestly : but I shall never change my point of sight, or feel other than
disconcerted and apprehensive when the public, critics and all, begin to
understand and approve me. But what right have you to disconcert me
in the other way ? Why won't you ask the next perfumer for a packet
of orm-root ? Don't everybody know 'tis a corruption of zm-root the
Florentine lily, the giaggolo, of world-wide fame as a good savour? And
because ' iris ' means so many objects already, and I use the old word, you
blame me ! But I write in the blind-dark, and bitter cold, and past post-
time as I fear. Take my truest thanks, and understand at least this rough
writing, and, at all events, the real affection with which I venture to regard
you. And ' I ' means my wife as well as
" Yours ever faithfully,
" ROBERT BROWNING." x
Ruskin answered promptly, for on Christmas Eve Mrs. Browning thus
" 3, RUE DU COLYS^E,
" Thursday Evening, 24th [December, 1855].
"My DEAR MR. RUSKIX, Your note having just arrived, Robert deputes
me to write for him while he dresses to go out on an engagement. It is
the evening. All the hours are wasted, since the morning, through our
not being found at the Rue de Grenelle, but here and our instinct of
self-preservation or self-satisfaction insists on our not losing a moment
more by our own fault.
1 From W. G. Col ling wood's Life and Work of John Rwkin, 1900, pp. 163-167.
Part of the letter has already been quoted in Vol. V. p. xlvi.
" Thank you, thank you for sending us your book, and also for writing
my husband's name in it. It will be the same thing as if you had written
mine except for the pleasure, as you say, which is greater so. How
good and kind you are !
" And not well. That is worst. Surely you would be better if you
had the summer in winter we have here. But I was to write only a
word Let it say how affectionately we regard you.
" ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING."
Ruskin's mature opinion of some of Browning's work was given in
the fourth volume of Modern Painters?- published in 1856. Towards
the end of that year, Mrs. Browning published Aurora Leigh, and
Ruskin wrote two enthusiastic letters to her husband 2 in praise of
the poem (pp. 247, 252) praise which he repeated in The Elements
of Drawing in terms no less enthusiastic. 3
In The Political Economy of Art (1857), 4 Ruskin again had occasion
to mention Casa Guidi Windows ; and the next of his letters (pp. 275
276) refers to this. It is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Browning " for
I never think of you two separately," he said in a further letter (p. 279),
and they were in the habit of writing joint letters to him. Ruskin's
next letter was somewhat gloomy; perhaps he was sad in order that he
might be comforted, in which case Mrs. Browning's reply (January 1,
1859) gave him, in very beautiful and affectionate terms, what he
needed. 5 She tells him, among other things, that his sadness is only
"the languor after victory"; she speaks with delight of all he is
" permitted to do for England in matters of art," and seeks to draw
him out of himself by asking his advice about the education of her son.
The year 1859 saw the Franco-Sardinian war for the liberation of Italy.
Mrs. Browning's next letter to Ruskin (June 3) 6 shows her passionate
enthusiasm for the Italian cause and her indignation with the anti-
French sentiment in England. Here she and Ruskin were heartily in
sympathy ; 7 and " we thank you and love you," she writes, " dear, dear
Mr. Ruskin, more than ever for your good word about our Italy."
The reference is perhaps to his private letter of January 15 (p. 303).
Later in the year he took up his parable in the public press, and
his Letters on the Italian Question, 8 about which he wrote to Mrs.
1 Vol. VI. pp. 446-449.
2 Mrs. Browning refers to them in a letter to Mrs. Jameson (Letters of Elizabeth
Barrett Browning, vol. ii. p. 253).
3 See Vol. XV. p. 227. 4 Vol. XVI. p. 68 n.
5 Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, vol. ii. pp. 299-301.
Ibid., pp. 315-317. 7 See Vol. XV1IL p. xxiii. 8 Ibid., pp. 537-545.
Browning (p. 330), must, with some qualifications, have pleased her
greatly. He was not indeed so optimistic about modern Italy as she,
nor yet at all times so anti-Austrian ; but this correspondence is of
interest as giving to him also some link in that " golden ring "
which the English poetess made, as the Italian poet said, between
Italy and England. In July came the Peace of Villafranca a bitter
disappointment, put what gloss upon it she might; Ruskin speaks of
it as her death-warrant (pp. 347, 413). The year 1860, which opened
with the cession of Savoy and Nice to the Emperor Napoleon, witnessed
presently Garibaldi's liberation of Southern Italy. Ruskin wrote to
Mrs. Browning about the state of affairs in November not too sym-
pathetically, one may think (pp. 349-350). The last of his letters,
written six months later, is a very interesting one. She greatly enjoyed
hearing from him, and " I'm going to write often now," he said.
That was on May 13, 1861. On June 29 she passed away. Her death
was a great loss to Ruskin (p. 374), and it was some time before he
could bring himself to write to her husband (p. 392). The publication
of the poet's Dramatis Personce in 1864 drew a letter from Ruskin.
He had known the original of " Mr. Sludge, the Medium," and seems
to have thought that he had been unfairly treated in the poem.