John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 35 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 35 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

new plan. I cannot worry myself with this everlasting " What is to
be done?" Maurice must manage the College, and I will teach there,
minding my own business. I never was thoroughly ashamed of you
and your radicalism till you sent me that ineffably villainous thing of
Victor Hugo's. Did you ever read The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
I believe it to be simply the most disgusting book ever written by
man, and on the whole to have caused more brutality and evil than
any other French writing with which I am acquainted.

De Balzac is sensual, but he is an artist of the highest touch, and
a philosopher even in his sensuality. Eugene Sue paints virtue as well
as vice. Dumas is absurd and useless, but interesting. Beranger blas-
phemous, but witty. George Sand immoral, but elegant. But for pure,
dull, virtueless, stupid, deadly poison, read Victor Hugo.

I am going to consult with Dickinson about drawing class. If you
could come with Mr. Hole to the drawing class on Thursday, I would
make an appointment for chat about Leeds.

Truly yours, if you will utterly and for ever disclaim Victor Hugo,

J. RUSK ix.

To J. J. LA, SG i [i]855]

I wish you would keep yourself quiet. You cannot help me in any
other way than by doing simply what I have got to do and you
can only help yourself, by doing at present as little as possible, till
you are stronger in health.

As for any effectual progress in architectural power, you need not
hope for it until you can draw properly that is, artistically. There
are no different kinds of drawing but two, Bad and Good. Archi-
tectural drawing so called is merely Bad drawing precisely clone.
I value the precision, but not the Badness. Perhaps you will under-
stand better what I mean when I say such drawing is merely a mass
of lies neatly told. I knew you were a good workman as far as pre-
cision went, and told you so, if you remember, when first I saw your
drawings; and I will jind you out quite fast enough. First of all,
learn to draw and colour, and not to fret. You must learn to draw
well and fast, and then you will begin to see your way. Imitations of
engravings are simply abortions and abominations.

Your illuminations are all excellently done, except here and there
a line which nni.it be wrong. I will show you when I get home.
Ever affectionatelv vours, J. HI'SKIN.

1 ["Some llubkin Letters," in the U'exlminster Gazette, August 27, 1894.]



1855] THE ARTIST AS TELESCOPE 213

TO W. J. STILLMAN 1

TUNBBIDGE WELLS, May 31, 1855.

MY DEAR SIR, I answer your two last questions as well as I can.

What is the origin and use of fluting in columns ? The origin, I
believe, was a conventional expression or imitation of the roughness of
the bark of trees. But architects are not agreed on this point. The
use is to give greater energy to the vertical character of the pillar by
marking it with upright lines of shadow, which are more beautiful than
those of the triglyph, because continually varied (by the necessary effects
of perspective, and light and shade) in apparent depth and diameter.
Your correspondent will find further observations on the subject in the
chapter on "The Shaft"" in first volume of Stones of Venice?

2nd. Whether is the artist's feeling or the nature he represents, of
more importance in a picture ?

Suppose you were looking thro 1 Lord Rosse's telescope 8 which
would you think of more importance to your enjoyment the telescope
or the stars ? The artist is a telescope very marvellous in himself, as
an instrument. But I think, on the whole, the stars are the principal
part of the affair. The artist, however, is, when good, a telescope not
only of extraordinary power, but one which can pick out the best stars
for you to look at display them to you in the most instructive order
and give you a mute but, somehow or other, intelligible lecture on
them. We thus become of considerable importance, but may always
be dwarfed in a moment by the question Suppose there were no stars ?
And the best artist is he who has the clearest lens, and so makes you
forget every now and then that you are looking thro 1 him. Believe
me always faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.

P.S. You sent me a question about the fall of Raphael. A very
interesting one, but too serious to be answered in this sort of way. You
will see much of what I have to say in the third volume of Modern
Painters. 4 '

To DANTE GABRIEL RossEra 5 17 June [?1855]>

DEAR ROSSETTI, You must have wondered at my never speaking
of the poems in any of my letters but I was for a long time when I
first left London too ill to examine them properly.

1 [Editor of The Crayon. The letter is reprinted from No. 26 of that journal,
June 27, 1855, vol. i. p. 409.]

2 [Chap. xxvi. ("Wall Veil and Shaft"): see Vol. IX. pp. 354-358.]

3 [The great telescope constructed by William Parsons, third Earl of Rosse
(1800-1867).]

4 [Vol. V. pp. 78-82.]

5 [From Ruskin, Rossetti, and Pre-Raphaelitism, pp. 229-231, where the date
" 1859" is added, but this, as appears from what follows, is unlikely. "The poems"



214 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [isss

You have had an excellent critic in Allingham as far as I can
judge. I mean that I would hardly desire for myself, in looking
over the poems, to do more than ink all his pencil. But as a reader
or taster for the public I should wish to find more fault than he
has done, and to plead with you in all cases for entire clearness of
modern and unantiquated expression.

As a mass, the poems are too much of the same colour. I think a
considerable number of the love poems should be omitted, as, virtually,
they repeat each other to a tiresome extent. The dialogue with Death,
which is the finest of all, should be finished up to the highest point of
English perfectness ; so also the war sonnets about Pisa and the wolves l
and so on and if possible more of this general character should be
found, and added to the series. Great pains should be taken to get
the two despatches of ballads right; they are both exquisitely beautiful.
You must work on these at your leisure. I think the book will be
an interesting and popular one, if you will rid it from crudities.

I am very glad to find you can stick up for your work, as well as
burn it. We will say no more about the drawing until you see it again.
I am beginning to have a very strong notion that you burn all your
best things and keep the worst ones. Virgil would have done so, if he
could ; - and numbers of great men more. Ever affectionately yours,

Kind regards to your brother.

There was nothing noticed in the pamphlet 3 that was out of my
way. My business is to know all sorts of good small and great, no
matter how small and to attack all sorts of bad, no matter how
great. I am going to run full butt at Raphael this next time. 4

are Rossetti's translations from the Italian, which Ruskin presently enabled him
to publish. It appears from llossettfs Letters to William Allingham (p. ,58) that
Rossetti had, as early as 1854, shown some of the translations in MS. to Allingham,
who "liked them so much" but advised the omission of some of them. In one
letter of 1855 (p. 101) Rossetti speaks of an intention to show them to Ruskin,
with a view to obtaining his help towards publication ; and in another of the same
year (p. 121) he mentions having given them, with Allingham's criticism on the
margin, to Ruskin. In 1858 (p. 212) he was again asking for Allinglmm's annota-
tions on a revised MS. A letter printed above (p. 108) shows that as early as 1854
Ruskin had asked for sight of the translations.]

1 [See Guido Cavalcanti's "A Dispute witli Death" (p. 377, ed. 1801), and
Folgore da San Geminiano's sonnet "To the Guelf Faction" (p. 99). The
"despatches of ballads" are pieces in which ballads are despatched by the poets:
Lapo Gianni's "Message in charge for his Lady" ("Ballad . . . Hie thee to her,"
etc.), p. 427; and Guido Cavalcanti's "In Exile at Sarzana" ("Ballad . . . Go
thou for me," etc.), p. 304.]

* ["In his last illness he ... called for the cases which held his MSS., with
the intention of burning the ^Eneid" (Sellar's Virgil, p. 128).]

3 [If the date of the letter be 1855, "the pamphlet" would be the first
number of Academy .Vote.?.]

* [That is, in the third volume of Modem Painters: see above, p. 213.]



1855] A STRANGE WELCOME 215

To ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

DOVEK, June IQth [1855].

DEAR MRS. BROWNING, I was truly glad to have your letter
yesterday, 1 being a little anxious lest you should have been made ill
by this bitter spring, and when I got it I was very sorry to hear
that you were coming north. I am afraid for you. You say, I
cannot understand how difficult it is to leave Florence. But the only
thing I can't understand is, why you should come here, in such a
year as this at all events, and no dear Miss Mitford to see. I should
like to see you, myself, truly, but if I had any influence with you,
I should say nevertheless: go and look at the exhibition wave your
handkerchief to the Emperor give a kind thought and hope to the
Empress and away with you back to the Val d'Arno.

However, this is a strange welcome, and yet I cannot help it.
I wonder if the wind whistles down the Avenue des C. E. as it does
round this Dover Harbour, stretching all the pendants out on a
perfect rack of undulations. But if you are foolishly kind enough
to, come and you will make us very happy, if you keep well. I
merely send you this line to say we are going home to Denmark
Hill to-morrow, and to beg you to let me know where you are as
soon as you arrive in town. I suppose I am more frightened for
you than is reasonable, having suffered much myself this spring, from
the bitter cold of it. It quite beat me at last, and I was forced to
leave London and come down to Tunbridge Wells, in a very shaky
state indeed. When you have succeeded in all your designs upon the
English language, I might perhaps most graphically describe it as

Tesseric, pentic, hectic, heptic,*
Phoenico-daemonic, and dyspeptic,
Hipped-ic, Pipped-ic, East-wind-nipped-ic,
Stiffened like styptic, doubled in diptych,
Possi-kephaly-chersecliptic.

That last line, by-the-bye, is really a triumph of expression at
least it will be, when it is " distributed to the multitude." 2 Apropos

* Anglice all at sixes and sevens.



1 [The letter (of June 2) is printed in the Letters of Elisabeth Barrett Browning,
vol. ii. pp. 198-202.]

8 [The reference is to the following passage in Mrs. Browning's letter of June 2 :
"The longer I live in this writing and reading world, the more convinced I am
that the mass of readers never receive a poet (you, who are a poet yourself, must
surely observe that) without intermediation. The few understand, appreciate, and
distribute to the multitude below."]



216 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1855

of that same distribution, it is all very well in theory, but if you
over bake your verses in the poetic fire, who is to chop them up?

We will have it out, when we meet. I was truly obliged to you
for introducing Mr. Tilten and Mr. Jarves. 1 I liked them both
exceedingly. I haven't been able yet to look at Mr. Jarves's book
with any care, but it seems well felt. I hope the Americans will soon
create a school of art for themselves.

Accept all our sincerest regards both for yourself and Mr. Browning.
I am so glad I like the same poem that he does.

Good-bye and Good-speed. Ever most faithfully yours,

J. RUSKIN.

My mother's especial and most sincere thanks for the bit about
your boy.

To Mrs. Ac.LAND 2

TI-ESDAY, 10/A July, 1855.

DEAR MRS. Ac LAND, I write to you, by Henry's bidding, touching
a partly planned expedition in search of foam, very typical of wiser
men's pursuits in general.

I find for this year that I must give it up. The arrangement of
materials which I have been collecting for ten years brings with it
perpetual memories of things whicli were left to be done at the last
i.e., just now and the quantity of mortar which I want, to put all
together, 3 is so great that I must needs go to gather stubble, for
myself nobody being able to help me, and time a hard taskmaster.
But, God permitting, I mean to have a book out at the New Year
which will settle a good many things about art that will be better
settled. Meantime, every morning that I wake, I find more things in
my head, to be fitted into it, here and there, than the day serves me
to put down ; and it is so excessively difficult to keep a good grasp
on the whole thing that I dare not distract myself in any way till it
is done. If I should have to go to bed it does not matter, for a

1 [James Jackson Jarves, of Boston, author of Art Hints (1855) and other books
of art and travel, and the owner of a collection of pictures formed by him during
a residence of many years in Italy. "Our American friend Mr. Jarves," Mrs.
Browning had written to lluskin (June 2, 1855), "wrote to us full of gratitude
and gratification on account of your kindness to him, for which we also should
thank you." It was Mr. Jarves who presently introduced Charles Eliot Norton
to Kuskin.]

1 [Some sentences of this letter ("These geniuses . . . any good") are printed
in J. B. Atlay's Memoir of Ac/and, pp. 2"2U-'2-20.]

3 [In the third and fourth volumes of Mode.rn Painters, which came out in
January and April 1H50.]



1855] WAYWARD GENIUS 217

little resting illness only delays, does not confuse me. But if I were
to go with Henry and Liddell anywhere, I should fall into all kinds
of new trains of thought not manageable together with this. I don't
think I shall need rest of any kind, for when I say I "have not
time' 1 '' for a thing I don't mean, as Henry does, that I have worked
since five in the morning and that it is now twelve at night. But I
mean that I have worked for four hours and that it is my time for
going to see how the grass grows, and what the ants are about, and
that I haven't time for anything but that. But next year if all
should be well, I will make a promise to meet Henry in any part of
Switzerland, at any time he likes.

I don't know exactly how that wilful Ida 1 has behaved to you.
As far as I can make out, she is not ungrateful but sick, and sickly
headstrong much better, however, for what Henry has done for her.
But I find trying to be of any use to people is the most wearying
thing possible. The true secret of happiness would be to bolt one's
gates, lie on the grass all day, take care not to eat too much dinner,
and buy as many Turners as one could afford. These geniuses are
all alike, little and big. I have known five of them Turner, Watts,
Millais, Rossetti, and this girl and I don't know which was, or which
is, wrong-headedest. I am with them like the old woman who lived in
the shoe, 2 only that I don't want to send them to bed, and can't
whip them or else that is what they all want. Poor Turner went
to bed before I expected, and " broth without bread " the rest are quite
as likely to get, as with it, if that would do them any good. My
father and mother are at Tunbridge Wells, or would desire to be
kindly remembered to you. All anecdotes about Tiny, or Angie, or
Harry are very acceptable to my mother, should you have time to
set them down ; and by no means unacceptable to me. My kind love
to them all. Always truly yours, J. RUSKIN.

TO Dr. W. C. BENNETT 3

DENMARK HILL, July llth, 1855.

DEAR MR. BENNETT, Many thanks for your interesting poems. I
like all the war songs very much, but am truly sorry to see you taking
up that Dickensian cry against Capital Punishment. 4 You, with all

1 [Ruskin's name for Miss Siddal : see above, p. 208 n.]

* [Compare below,, p. 303.]

* [No. 27 in Art and Literature, pp. 71-73. The book referred to is Poems, by
W. C. Bennett; London, 1850.]

4 [See "The Execution and how it Edified the Beholders"; pp. 17-22 of Dr.
Bennett's Poems. And on "the Dickensian cry," see Vol. XXVII. p. 667.]



218 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [isss

others on that side, seem to think that a man is hanged by way of an
example. A man is hanged because it is written (wholly irrespective of
the Mosaic Law) that "whoso, etc.," Genesis ix. 6; and you might as
reverently try, and as mercifully, to take the rainbow out of heaven, as
to overthrow or disobey that ordinance.

A man is hanged publicly, because it is necessary that the fact
of his being hanged should be incontrovertibly known not for a lesson
to the mob. 1 Those who go to see it will not be mended by it ; but
the assurance (and / would make it an assurance that should include
every kind of murderer mad, drunk, or what not except of course
accidental murderers) that every one who kills will be killed, has a
most wholesome restraining influence on thousands of villains in a pro-
gressive state.

I need not say a word after Wordsworth 2 as to the other, and
more far-extending, phases of the question. But I cannot forbear
protesting, whenever I come across it, against the fallacy of thinking
that people are hanged by way of a salubrious show. Believe me,
always faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.



To F. J. FUUNIVALL 3

DOVKR, July llth, 1855.

MY DEAR FURXIVALL, I shall be delighted to see Munro 4 with
French, and he can then tell me what he thinks can be done with
this ugly head of mine, which I often look at very carefully, asking
myself what I should think of it if it were on anybody else's shoulders,
with much discomfiture and humiliation. If I could paint I could make
something of the front face, but I cannot conceive how Munro could
make anything fit to be seen, without gross fallacy, out of the side.
He knows best, however, and, merely as a matter of curious difficulty,
I should like to see him try. 5 When people know me better, I have

1 [In reference to the closing lines of Dr. Bennett's poem :

" And lovers of the good old times and gibbet walk off loud
In praises of the moral good the hanging's done the crowd."]

* [Sec his Sonnets ujwn the Punishment of J)enth, 18,39:

" Lawgivers, beware,

Lest, capital pains remitting till ye spare
The murderer, ye, by sanction to that thought,
Seemingly given, debase the general mind ;
Tempt the vague will tried standards to disown," etc.]

[No. IS) in Fnrnivall, pp. 52-54.]

4 [Alexander Munro, sculptor : see above, p. 201 ;i.]

* [See below, pp. ,305, 407.]



1855] PORTRAITURE 219

no objection to their knowing as much about my nose and cheeks as
may in anywise interest them ; but I should like neither to be flattered,
nor to leave what appear to me to be the facts in my face subjected,
at all events for a year or two yet, to public animadversion. What-
ever of good or strength there is in me comes visibly, as far as I know
myself, only sometimes into the grey of my eyes, 1 which Millais ought
to have got, but didn't, and which Munro certainly cannot get. On
the whole, I think (while I am very much delighted that Munro thinks
he could make something of me) that nothing should be done, or shown,
for a year or two yet. I will promise Munro faithfully that no one
but he shall try it, when it is a proper time to try it, and shall be
very grateful to him if he then will.

I scratched out " faithfully " because I don't mean my promises
generally to be anything else ; but you may bring the scratched-out
word down to the Yours always, J. RUSKIN.

On the twenty-fifth, then, I expect you all three. I fear I cannot
see you sooner, unless you are at the College on Thursday.



To F. J. FURNIVALL 2

CAMBERWELL, July 25th, 1855.

DEAR FURNIVALL, I am very happy to know that your friends
were so yesterday, and I can only assure them in return that I had
very great pleasure from their visit meaning what I say, though the
thing is said so often that it seems to have no meaning. How can,
or could, it be otherwise ? You let me ride my hobbies over you
all, backwards and forwards. What can human being desire more ? I
fully appreciated your delicacy in not speaking again of Mrs. Browning ;
and yet, as it happened, both you and I suffered for your politeness,
for I wanted you to stay, 3 and was truly vexed when it suddenly
came into my head that you were gone ! In general, with me, do
not be delicate. Ask for what you want, and if 1 have not answered
speak to me about it again, for you may be sure I have forgotten it.
It is never a form of refusal with me. If I don't want to do the
thing, I shall say so at once; and if I hadn't wanted you to stay,
I should have remembered, and said so, early in the day. And so I

1 [Compare what Ruskin says of his face in Prceterita, Vol. XXXV. p. 281.]

' [No. 21 in Furnivall, pp. 56-57.]

3 [To meet Mrs. Browning, who was coming to tea at Denmark Hill.]



220 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I

shall do always, simply, so that you must always simply ask for
everything you want, and then I shall neither hesitate to say no
nor feel uncomfortable in saying so, if it has to be said. Ever affec-
tionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

You must come the next time Mrs. Browning comes, which I hope
will be soon.

To DANTE GABRIEL ROSSKTTI l

[?July 1855.]

DEAR ROSSETTI, I am truly sorry to hear of your illness and all
your vexations. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to take a
little holiday with you, and ramble about sketching and talking. You
know I do not say this or anything else without meaning it. But
this pleasure I must at present deny myself. I am deep in difficult
chapters of Modern Painters. I cannot be disturbed even by my best
friends or greatest pleasures. When I have to work out a chapter on
a difficult subject, it is precisely the same to me as a mathematical
calculation to break into it is to throw it all down back to the
beginning. I do as much in dreamy and solitary walks through lanes
as I do at home. I could not have a companion.

I want you next year to take a little run to Switzerland. I will
either go with you or meet you, if our times should not suit for start-
ing. And then we will do some Alpine roses and other things which
the world has no notion of. AVill you come ? Meantime, as soon as
you get this, pack up your drawing, finished or not, in the following
manner :

1. Sheet of smoothest possible drawing-paper laid over the face, and
folded sharply at the edges over to the back, to keep drawing from
possibility of friction.

2. Two sheets of pasteboard, same size as drawing, one on face,
the other behind.

3. Sheet of not too coarse brown paper, entirelv and firmly en-
closing drawing and pasteboards.

4. Wooden board, a quarter of an inch thick, exact size of drawing,
to be applied to the parcel drawing to have its face to board.

5. Thickest possible brown paper firmly enclosing board, parcel,
and all, lightly corded, sealed, and addressed to me, " Calverley Hotel,
Tunbridge Wells. P 'aid ', per fust train.'''

Take it to London Bridge Station yourself, and be sure to say it
is to go by fast train. And there is no fear.

1 [From Ihitk'm, Jiossetti, and J're-Jfaphac/itisni, pp. 1)0-02. This letter has been
given in part in Vol. V. p. xlix.]



1855J AN INVITATION 221

I have told my assistant to bring you this morning four pounds
which he happens to have of mine (they may be of some little use, as
you have been longer than you expected in finishing this), and will
send you cheque the moment drawing arrives.

Acland continues to give a hopeful opinion of Miss Siddal. Ever
in haste most affectionately yours, J. RUSKIX.

The 4< will be in part advance for the " Passover " l I shall send
you fifteen. I wish you could take 4s worth of fresh air and rest.



To DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 2

[DENMARK HILL. ?July 1855.]

DEAR ROSSETTI, The enclosed note puts me in a fix. It is dated
Tuesday, but I did not get it till late last night. I had given Mr.
Browning leave to bring Leighton "any day next week," but I under-
stood Leighton was going away before Friday. 3 I cannot put them off
now, and the question is

Can Ida and you come on Saturday or Monday instead ?

If Saturday is fine, seize it ; I will send for you early, we will have
pleasant forenoon here. I will leave you for a couple of hours for my
men, and come back to you to tea. If Saturday is wet, then Monday.
But, if neither Saturday nor Monday will do, come to-morrow, and
never mind Leighton though you will find them rather too noisy, I
am afraid, for Ida.

I send in this for answer, that I may make sure of you one of
the days.

How did the elephants behave ? How is Ida after her dissipation ?
How are the ladies in Purgatory ? And how are the Buttercups ? 4
Always yours affectionately, J. RUSKIN.

The carriage will be at your door at half-past twelve on whichever
day you choose ; so mind you get up in time. Leighton and Browning



Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 35 of 74)