John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 34 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 34 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

red, light red, vermilion, blue black, burnt sienna, madder brown, burnt
umber, Roman ochre, brown ochre, yellow ochre, gamboge, yellow lake,
cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, chrome yellow, orange chrome. Could
you kindly write those you find useful besides, on another sheet of
paper, and tell bearer where to get violet carmine ? The others you
name he can get at Winsor & Newton's, as their half cakes fit my
box. Yours affectionately, J. RUSKIN.

To Miss ELIZABETH ELEANOR SIDDAL S

[DENMARK HILL. ? May 1855.]

DEAR Miss SIDDAL, I merely write this line to prevent your having
any hesitation, or feeling any discomfort, in accepting the offer I asked
Rossetti to convey to you. It is very possible you may feel as if
it involved a sort of pledge on your part to do a certain quantity
of work, and that, if you could not do as much as you thought you
should, you might get unhappy.

Now, I believe you have imagination enough to put yourself in
other people's places (even 7 have imagination enough sometimes to
do this), and if you will put yourself in my place, and ask yourself
what you would like any other person to do who was in yours, I believe
you will answer rightly, and save both me and yourself much dis-
comfort. For I think you will then see that the best way of obliging
me will be to get well as fast as possible; not drawing one stroke
more than you like.

1 [From Ituskin, Koaxetti, and Pre-Raphaelitiam, pp. 77-78.]
[The first number of Academy Notes: see Vol. XIV.]

1 [From Ituxkin, Itowtti , and Prc-ltaphuelitixnt, pp. (J4-f>7. "This letter again
is imperfect." For Raskin'* arrangements to help Miss Siddal, see the Introduc-
tion ; above, p. xliii. The drawing of "The Holy Grail," here reproduced (Plate X.),
is among those which she did for him.]




The ITolv (Irail



1855] A REST CURE 203

I should like you to go to the country immediately. The physician
whom you consult will probably give you some suggestions, but doctors
nearly always have some favourite watering-place. He may, however,
recommend south of France or Italy. I shall be most happy to meet
the expense (which will not be great) of your journey to any point
recommended to you, but I strongly would oppose your thinking of
Italy, which would be so fearfully exciting to you that I believe you
would be thrown into a fever in a week. South of France might per-
haps be well ; but, if you were my own sister, I should plead hard for
a little cottage in some sheltered Welsh valley. My own belief is that
you want calm, sweet, but bracing air, rather than hot, relaxing air.
Of this we can talk afterwards.

Once established with some one to take care of you in a cottage
if possible near a cattle shed you must try and make yourself as
simple a milkmaid as you can, and only draw when you can't help it.
One thing remember, that if ever you try to do anything particularly
well, to please me or any one else, you are sure to fail. Nothing
is ever done well but what is done easily. You must never draw but
at an easel so placed as that you need not stoop. You ought to have
a little one to screw to your chair.

What you do you are to send me, whether you think it bad or
good, nothing or something, except what you like to give Rossetti or
to keep yourself. As for Rossetti, I will sometimes give him some
of mine if he begs very hard.

Work as much as possible in colour. I do not care whether they
be separate drawings or illuminations, but try always to sketch with
colour rather than with pencil only I mean so far as is agreeable
to you. The slightest blot of blue and green is pleasanter to me
than a month's work with chalk or ink.

Be sure to travel comfortably, and not too far at once. Of this,
however . . .

To Miss ELIZABETH ELEANOR SiDDAL 1

[DENMARK HIM,. ? May 1855.]

. . . would not receive such a present from me, though you knew
that it was as much my duty to give it as yours to take it.

The world is an odd world. People think nothing of taking my
time from me every day of my life (which is to me life, money, power,

1 [From Raskin, Rossetti, and Pre-Raphaelitism, pp. 62-64. "This," says Mr.
W. M. Rossetti, "must have been a long letter. I only find the second sheet
of it."]



204 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1855

all in all). They take that, without thanks, for no need, for the most
trivial purposes, and would have me lose a whole day to leave a card
with their footmen ; and you, for life's sake, will not take that for
which I have no use you are too proud. You would not be too
proud to let a nurse or friend give up some of her time, if you needed
it, to watch by you and take care of you. What is the difference
between their giving time and watchfulness and my giving such help
as I can ?

Perhaps I have said too much of my wish to do this for Rossetti's
sake. But, if you do not choose to be helped for his sake, consider
also that the plain hard fact is that I think you have genius; that I
don't think there is much genius in the world; and I want to keep
what there is, in it, heaven having, I suppose, enough for all its pur-
poses. Utterly irrespective of Rossettfs feelings or my own, I should
simply do what I do, if I could, as I should try to save a beautiful
tree from being cut down, or a bit of a Gothic cathedral whose
strength was failing. If you would be so good as to consider yourself
as a piece of wood or Gothic for a few months, I should be grateful
to you. If you will not, I shall not be.

I don't see what more of objection there is. I have tried to fancy
myself in your place, and I believe, though certainly sorry I could not
work, I should not torment myself about it. All I have to say is,
finally, that I don't expect you to be able to work at all for about
four months yet; that by that time I believe you may have gained
strength enough to do a little water-colour drawing, and next year to
begin the oil ; and that if I hear of your being any more restive I
shall be very seriously saddened and hurt and there an end. Believe
me affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

If you would send me a little signed promise " I will be good "
by Rossetti, I should be grateful ; you can't possibly oblige me in
any other way at present; you would only vex me if you sent me
the best drawing that ever was seen.



To HENRY ACLAND, M.D. 1

[P1855.]

MY DEAR ACLAND, I am going to burden you still with some
other cares on the subject of Pre-Raphaelitism, of which you have
already had painful thoughts enough.

1 [A few words of this and tlie next letter ("She has more . . . fresco." "She
is the daughter . . . save her") are printed in J. B. Atlay's Memoir of Acland,
p. 227.]



1855] MISS SIDDAL'S ILLNESS 205

I have not asked Rossetti for permission to tell you (but I am
sure I only do both him and you justice in assuming such per-
mission) that one of the chief hindrances to his progress in art has
been his sorrow at the state of health of the young girl, some of
whose work I showed you. I fear this sorrow will soon be sealed
and with what effect upon him, I cannot tell; I see that his attach-
ment to her is very deep, but how far he is prepared for the loss I
know not.

She was examined a fortnight ago by a leading London physi-
cian (I know not which) one side of the lungs pronounced seriously
affected. She is uncomfortable in her family, who, though kind enough
in other matters, set their faces steadily against all her artists feelings
and have in no wise any sympathy with her, so that she goes up to
her room without fire in winter to hide herself while she draws. The
physician strongly recommended change of scene and air. I fear no
good can be done, but at least it would put Rossetti's mind at peace
if he knew she was in pure air and at rest.

She has enough to enable her to support herself in a little cottage
or lodging somewhere in the country and Rossetti is deeply anxious
to get her out of town and out of the element that grieves her, but
at present he can find no companion for her. Do you, among any of
your Devonshire peasantry, know a kind woman in some pretty place
by the seashore, who could take charge of her ? I should not think
she was wayward, or troublesome; I have only seen her twice, but she
has a perfectly gentle expression, and I don't think Rossetti would
have given his soul to her unless she had been both gentle and good.
She has more the look of a Florentine fifteenth-century lady than
anything I ever saw out of a fresco. . . .



To HENRY ACLAND, M.D.

[? 1855.]

DEAR ACLAND, I am truly obliged and Rossetti will be put at rest
by your kindness in this matter. Miss Siddal had a fancy for going
to Jersey to see the sea, and for sake of sea voyage, but I thought
Devonshire would be better, and begged Rossetti to make her wait till
I could write to you. She cannot go about to see things much, but
I should be very glad if you would get her a lodging at Oxford for a
little while and examine her and direct her how to manage herself
then sending her to the place you think fittest. She will be able, I
have no doubt, to pay the two pounds a week. I answer in haste,
doubting not that when I have shown your letter to Rossetti he will



206 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1855

be able to persuade her to give up the Jersey plan but she cannot
move for some days yet. I will let you know when to get the rooms
for her.

She is the daughter of a watchmaker. Rossetti first got her to sit
to him for his higher female faces, and thus found out her talent for
drawing, taught her, and got attached to her, and now she is dying
unless the rest and change of scene can save her. She is five-and-twenty.
I went in yesterday and hunted through all Rossetti's folios, but he
always gives away or throws away everything as it approaches com-
pletion. I found one noble thing of the Virgin and St. John long after
the Ascension in St. John's house at evening he reading, and the
Madonna standing at the window watching the sunset; but it had got
all torn and dirtied and half effaced. 1 So that I have determined for the
present to send you the one you liked here, of the group at the table
of the Passover, 2 and I have taken instead of it a coloured sketch,
which was not what you wanted at all, but will be very useful to me.
I was very glad to extricate it from the mass of the condemned it
is a single figure in a golden dress singing. 3 I gave Rossetti the five
pounds and took this for it, as for you, so that properly it i-s yours,
only I send you the other because you will like it better, and I will
" ketch hold " of the first thing that Rossetti does of the sort you
want, and if you like it better than the Passover I will exchange with
you ; but the Passover is a fine thing, and I shall be very glad that
such a drawing is seen at Oxford. Only mind and tell people that it
was merely a waste piece of paper given to me, and sent to you because
I knew you would like it, otherwise they won't understand the half-
rubbed-out St. John. I hadn't a frame that would fit it properly ;
the one it was in was all over knobs and wouldn't carry, but you
can keep the one it is sent in, if it will at all do (I write before I
have tried).

What a strange, sensitive creature you are about talking to people !
As if you had said anything to me about my aims, other than what was
encouraging to me ! It was depreciatory of Turner and landscape, and
J. M. W. T. considers himself insulted by you, certainly, but not /.
I \vas, on the contrary, very thankful to find that you thought I rcv/.y

1 [A \vater-colour of this subject was finished by Kossetti in 1858, and a replica
of it in 1859. The former was owned by Lady Trevelyan ; the latter by Miss
ileaton (N 7 os. 79 and 85 in H. ('. Marillier's list). Kuskin refers to the drawing
in Art of England, 5, ,'J1 (Vol. XXXI11. pp. 270, 287).]

1 [A pencil design for "The Hating of the 1'assover " ; reproduced opposite
p. 68 of II. ('. Marillier's Itoxwfti.]

3 [The "Girl playing a Lute," a small water-colour, afterwards given by Ruskin
to Mrs. Churchill ; it is reproduced at p. 42 of Mr. Marillier's book.]



1855] DR. ACLAND'S HELP

good for something, for I had a notion before that you had been talked
out of all faith in me. Ever in haste, affectionately yours,

J. RUSKIN.

You have not understood about Arundel Society. You will not
have to subscribe, for I shall send you all the publications as they
come out. I have spare copies always. I only meant to let other
people see.



To Miss ELIZABETH ELEANOR

[?May 1855.]

DEAR Miss SIDDAL, Forgive me for pressing you to do anything
you do not like, but I do so only because you do not know my friends
and I do. I hold it of the very highest importance that you should
let Dr. Acland see you, because he will take that thoughtful and tender
care in thinking of your case which only a good and very unusually
sympathetic man is capable of. You shall be quite independent. You
shall see no one. You shall have your little room all to yourself. Only
once put your tongue out and let him feel your pulse. Mrs. Acland
may perhaps trespass on you for a quarter of an hour. As for children,
when I tell you they never brought them into my way, you may be sure
they will not into yours. In fact, I have explained to Acland all about
it, and I am so certain it is the best and happiest thing for you that
I have taken upon me even to tell him to get your lodgings for you at
\ a week as you desire, until he has ascertained where you should go
in Devonshire. Please therefore pardon me, and get ready to go to
Oxford, for every day lost is of importance. Could you get one of
your sisters to go with you on Monday ? I have told Dr. Acland to
write to you when the rooms will be ready I hope on Monday. Please
do excuse my pressing you in this way, and believe me most respect-
fully yours, J. RUSKIN.

If one of your sisters cannot go, Rossetti says he will take charge
of you to Oxford.

To Miss ELIZABETH ELEANOR SIDDAL 2

[DENMARK HILL. ? May 1855.]

DEAR Miss SIDDAL, You are a very good girl to say you will break
oft' those disagreeable ghostly connections of yours. I do hope you will

1 [From Ruskin, Rossetti, and Prc-Raphaelitism, pp. 80, 81.]

2 \_Ibid., p. 82. "The opening sentence seems to refer to some design of a
spectral subject that Miss Siddal was making : perhaps ' The Haunted Tree/ a
good water-colour now in my possession" (W. M. R.).]



208 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1855

be able to go to Oxford on Saturday. I have asked Rossetti to write
and tell Dr. Acland if you will. The Doctor will let you see a little
sea, if you tell him you like it, and you will see rocks too and heather,
and what not, down in Devonshire. But I know it is difficult to be
cheerful when one is ill. I could sit down to-day and cry very heartily.
Only keep your mind easy about work, and all will I trust be well.
Truly yours, J. RUSKIK.

To Miss ELIZABETH ELEANOR SIDDAL*

[DENMARK HILL, May 1855.]

MY DEAR IDA, I shall be anxious to see Dr. Acland's answer, or
at least to hear the substance of it. I should think there was no
necessity for your going south for two months yet. My principal
theory about you is that you want to be kept quiet and idle, in good
and pure not over warm air. The difficulty is to keep you quiet,
and yet to give you means of passing the time with some degree of
pleasure to yourself. You inventive people pay very dearly for your
powers there is no knowing how to manage you. One thing is very
certain, that Rossetti will never be happy or truly powerful till he
gets over that habit of his of doing nothing but what " interests him,"
and you also must try and read the books I am going to send you,
which you know are to be chosen from among the most ?minteresting
I can find. I will write more when I send them. Ever affectionately
yours, J. RUSKIN.

To DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 2

[DENMARK HILL] 11 May, 1855.

DEAR ROSSETTI, The enclosed note, posted, will, I doubt not, bring
you the ^35 by return of post. But, unless it is really a question
of sheriffs officers, I would rather you would make an effort to finish
the picture and send it here to me, and let me remit you the money
in a business-like way ; for the fact is, I have not the sum by me,
and cannot ask my father for it in advance without ruining you in
his mercantile opinion, which I don't choose to do ; so my only other
resource is to state the facts, which I have done in the enclosed note,
to my publisher, who will remit you the sum instantly. But I do not
quite like his knowing that I do anything of this kind without my
father's knowledge. Do not put yourself to inconvenience, but, if you
can keep the wolf from the door without using the note, I would rather.

1 [From Ru*kin, Jtosxetti, and Pre-llaphae/itii, \t. US). " Ida " was Ruskin's name
for Miss Sidrlal, taken presumably from Tennyson's Prince** and included in S;V/dl.]
L ' [/</., pp. m, 84. J



1855] A HOPEFUL REPORT 209

When you send the drawing down, send a note with it merely
saying: "Dear R. I promised you the refusal of this, and I must
part with it immediately; let me know as soon as you can if you
would like to have it."

You may be pretty sure I shall " like to have it " ; but I wish you
to put it in this way, as I shall state my arrangement with you to
my father on these terms that I am to have the drawings I like
best. Besides, I am sure you would like me to have this choice.

I am very sorry to hear what you tell me from Oxford. But I
can write no more to-night. Forgive my long explanations and the
trouble I give you, and believe me most affectionately yours,

J. RlJSKIN.

To DAXTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI l

[DENMARK HILL, 12 May, 1855.]

DEAR ROSSETTI, I wrote in great haste and considerable puzzle-
ment, merely glancing your letter through yesterday. By all means,
make use of the note. I did not then see how much you wanted the
money. I write chiefly to tell you that I have a quite favourable
opinion from Acland of Miss Siddal, only saying she must be absolutely
idle, but he thinks there is no really unarrestable or even infixed
disease as yet. I am very glad you saw and liked him.

I have written to Allingham. 2 I quite forgot to answer about your
brother's wish to show the Turners. They shall always be open to
him and to his friends when the covers are off again; but you see
what a state the house is in.

Now, have done talking about efforts (?), and get up instead of
down. I only wish it were my 27th birthday. Ever yours affection-
ately, J. R.

To DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 3 [?May 18551

DEAR ROSSETTI, I hope to come and work with you, according to
your kind wish, sometimes during the summer, when our house here
will be turned inside out by French people. 4

1 [From Jiuskin, Rossetti, and Pre-Raphaelitism, p. 85. " This note is a good
deal torn. The concluding sentence indicates that it was written in reply to a
letter from Rossetti, saying that he was then just twenty-seven years of age, which
occurred on 12th May 1855" (W. M. R.).]

2 [Rossetti in a letter to William Allingham (May 11) had written: "Yesterday
I took the MSS. to Ruskin, who, on hearing that they came from you, said you were
one to whom he owed and would yet pay a letter of thanks, which he was sorry




XXXVI.



210 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. T [isss

I should like to consult with you and hear your reasons about oil-
painting. I don't think that this form of study is quite necessary, 1 and
it will involve much trouble and expense. For one thing, I cannot
have any oil-painting whatsoever in the room in which my class works,
otherwise I could not leave my books and prints about. Please don't
go into this further till I see you. The worst of it is, I am so shaky
that I must put off again your promised visit on Wednesday, my
cough being still violent, and I may perhaps have to lay up altogether.
There is, as far as I know and I know pretty well no danger in it,
but merely that which would become dangerous if I were careless with
it. Always affectionately yours, J. RDSKIN.

Best regards to your brother. The cheque is all right. You have
only to present it and be paid in cash.

TO W. J. SflLLMAN 2

DENMARK HILL, May 14 [1855].

MY DEAR SIR, I have just received No. 13 of The Crayon, and
hasten to assure you that you are quite right in your explanation of the
circumstances which must have led to the exhibition of a drawing of
mine at New York. 8 Not only is it exhibited without my knowledge
but it would have been difficult for any of my bitterest opponents to
have given me more annoyance in a small way, than is thus caused me,
by what I presume to be the act of some injudicious friend. I have
not the remotest idea what the sketch is; but I know that it can be
nothing but some of my boy's work literally thrown aside for waste
paper; or perhaps given, just because it was boy's work, to some old
domestic. This last possibility occurs to me, because I remember that
some time ago, when I was abroad, an American gentleman called at
my father's house, and by the regret he expressed at my absence, and
the interest which he kindly showed in anything that concerned me,
so won the heart of the confidential servant who has care of our Turner

1 [That is, at the Working Men's College.]

1 [Editor of The Crayon. The letter is reprinted from No. 23 of that journal,
June 6, vol. i. p. 301.]

1 [There had been correspondence in The ('rayon (p. 283), ridiculing a sketch,
or, according to one report, "three pictures hy the great Raskin," on view at the
New York Academy of Design. In the next number the Rev. E. L. Magoon
explained that in 1854 he had made a pilgrimage to Denmark Hill, and received
from a servant "probably the first preserved drawing Ruskin ever made." Sub-
sequently he bought a sketch from a clerk in the employ of Messrs. Smith, Elder
and Co., and this latter was the one exhibited. The gentleman responsible for
accepting it for exhibition maintained that "though slight, it would do credit to
any artist" (p. 21)8).]



1855] THE LIMITS OF DETAIL 211

drawings, that she hunted through the stores of the servants' hall for
some of these scraps of my old sketches, and by way of a most costly
gift, presented, it appears, her new friend with three of them. It does
not at all follow that it must be one of those which is now, I am
grieved to hear, not the admiration of New York but I name the cir-
cumstance, because it is only in this way that any drawing of mine
can have got before the public at all and any such drawing must
assuredly be one of the worst and earliest of my efforts and that is
saying much for until 1 was eighteen or nineteen, I was totally ignorant
of the first principles of drawing and as I never had any invention,
it would be difficult to produce anything more contemptible, in every
way, than the sort of sketch I used to make in my boyhood. Nor do
I at present rest my hope of being of service as a critic on any power
of painting. When I praise Turner, I do not think I can rival him,
any more than in praising Shakespeare I suppose myself capable of
writing another Lear. But I can now draw steadily, thoroughly, and
rightly, up to a certain point, and as the American public have seen my
child work, I shall be grateful to them if they will do me the justice
to examine, with some attention, the drawing which I shall take care to
have in the next New York Exhibition, if it may there be accepted.

You sent me two rather formidable queries in your last private
note to me. On one "What are the limits of detail?" I have some-
thing like sixty pages of talk, in the third volume of Modern Painters*
which, if I live, will be out about Christmas but I may answer
hurriedly, as you will at once understand what I mean that as far as
you can see detail, you should always paint it if you intend your
picture to be a finished one, and to be placed where its finished painting
can be seen. It is of no use to detail the hair of figures on a dome
300 feet above the eye and there are many pictorial thoughts which
may be expressed in ten minutes, without detail at all. But in every
picture intended for finished work, and intended to be seen near, the
limit of detail is visibility and no other. Always faithfully yours,

J. RUSKIN.

To F. J. FlJRNIVALL 2

TUNBHIDGE WELLS, May 22nd, 1855.

MY DEAR FURNIVALL, I return the plan as you bid me. It is very
nicely and wisely put, and very nobly felt! I say as I did at first, I
am afraid of it.



1 [See ch. ix. (Vol. V. pp. 149-168): presumably

2 [No. 18 iu Furnivall, pp. 50-51.]



curtailed on revision.]



212 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. 1 [isss

Hardly a fortnight has passed since the College began without some



Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 34 of 74)