John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 45 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 45 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

have been in new places also, and on the whole in comfortable inns ;


and the railroads are nicely managed and give very little trouble or

No end of congratulations on the fall of Salisbury. 1 All our loves
to you all. Boo won't be so like a German girl with her short hair,
though. Kiss her for me. Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


MUNICH, 15th July [1859].

DEAR RICHMOND, I have this moment got your kind little note
written nt the small hours. Indeed I am very grateful to you for all
you have done, and for your kindness in sparing me labour here, and
I hope I feel this as I ought not without very great and painful
regret at being unable to divide this work with you.

Your account of things is a relief to my mind in one great point,
for I had feared that the work would be worse instead of lighter than
last year; but your good arrangements, and happy home-helpers, have,
I suppose, thus shortened the toil. And I am rejoiced to hear the
work has been so much better than last year. For myself I think I
have been to something almost like the extent of my deserts punished
for leaving you. Never in my life have I yet been thrown into such a
state of hopeless and depressing disgust as by this journey in Germany.
The intense egotism and ignorance of the modern German painter (in
his work) is unspeakable in its offensiveness. The eternal vanity and
vulgarity mistaking itself for Piety and poetry the intense deadness
to all real beauty, puffed up into loathsome caricatures of what they
fancy to be German character the absorption of all love of God or
man into their one itch of applause and Fine-doing, leave me infinitely
more sorrowful than the worst work of the French or Italians. In
France one gets some really vigorous Slaughter-house work some sense
of a low sort of beauty some Natural concupiscence at least, if nothing
else natural. But the German is too vain to enjoy am/thing. I doubt
not their painters are all excellent men. Virtuous Domestic amiable
kind Cream of everything Fancy cream of everything mashed up in
a bowl with an entire top of Rotten eggs and you have the moral
German art with its top of vanity.

The German architecture even the old is all detestable ; Cologne
Cathedral a miserable humbug every bit, old and new, one as bad as
another. If it hadn't been for two Titian portraits a lady in pink

1 [The Marquis of Salisbury (father of the Prime Minister), Lord President of
the Council (and thus Simon's official chief) in Lord Derby's Administration 1858-
1859, which had just been defeated.]


and a white girl with a flag fan, at Dresden and a Paul Veronese of
his own family, 1 I don't know what would have happened to me; it
was enough to make one forswear art and all belonging to it for ever.

IVe been at Diisseldorf, to see their sentiment at Hanover, to see
their Kingship at Berlin, to see well, Dr. Waagen has done it better
than anybody else. The Berlin gallery is very beautiful. Of course,
all the best pictures are at the top, and all the bad at the bottom,
but the gallery is very beautiful.

Did you ever see Holbein's portrait of George Gyzen ? 2 Quite
worth going to Berlin to see nothing but that. IVe been at Bruns-
wick. Saw the Hartz in the distance this shape [slight sketch],
highly interesting. So to Dresden, got a little comfort; now here,
where I am entirely out of all words, and where, I think, a real
change is likely to be effected in my general modes of appeal to
people. Hitherto I've spoken to them sincerely, in the hope of doing
some little good that way. It doesn't seem to me that it is possible
to be sincere to such creatures. They cannot understand one syllable
one ever says. So one may as well be False to them. I think I shall
begin flattering people now and praising them. IVe always spoken
truth even to my dogs, because my dogs understood it. Many and
many a time IVe put myself to great inconvenience to keep a promise
of a walk made to my little Wisie. 3 But to these gallery and Epic
art people I don't see any use in being true. I think I shall come
out in a new light. I hope you enjoy the figure Prussia and England
are making politically ? / do. 4 It's the only comfort I have at present
(though Louis Napoleon has done a capital stroke of work but he
shouldn't have left poor Venice and Verona so).

Love to Mrs. Richmond and Willy, and your secretaries and
songsters. My Father's and Mother's kindest regards. Always affec-
tionately yours, J. RUSKIX.


SCHAFFHAL'SEN, Slst July, '59.

MY DEAR NORTON, I have been too unwell or sick at heart lately
to write to my friends but I don't think there's another of them who
has been so good as you, and believed still in my affection for them.

1 [For Iluskin's notices of these pictures, see Vol. VII. pp. 400-491, 290, 3:30.]

1 [See Vol. VII. p. 490, and Vol. XIX. p. 10 (and Plate II.).]
(See Praterita, Vol. XXXV. p. 499.]

* [U ritten in the character of insincerity which he had just proposed to adopt :
for his real opinions on the subject, see Vol. XVI II. pp. o.'58-645.J

s [Atlantic Monthly, June 1904, vol. <.):}, pp. 804-805. No. 18 in Norton; vol. i.
pp. 79-8]


As I grow older, the evil about us takes more definite and overwhelm-
ing form in my eyes, and I have no one near me to help me or soothe
me, so that I am obliged often to give up thinking and take to walk-
ing and drawing in a desperate way, as mechanical opiates, but I can't
write letters. My hand is very shaky to-day (as I was up at three
to watch the dawn on the spray of the fall, and it is hot now and
I am tired), but I must write you a word or two. The dastardly
conduct of England in this Italian war has affected me quite unspeak-
ably 1 even to entire despair so that I do not care to write any
more or do anything more that does not bear directly on poor
people's bellies to fill starved people's bellies is the only thing a
man can do in this generation, I begin to perceive.

It has not been my fault that the Rossetti portrait 2 was not
done. I told him, whenever he was ready, I would come. But when
I go home now, I will see to it myself and have it done. I broke
my promise to you about sending books there was always one lost
or to be got or something and it was put off and off. Well, I
hope if they'd been anybody else's books, or if I really had thought
that my books would do you any good, I'd not have put it off. But
you feel all I want people to feel, and know as much as anybody
need know about art, and you don't want my books. Nevertheless,
when the last volume of M. P. comes out, I'll have 'em all bound
and sent to you. I am at work upon it, in a careless, listless way
but it won't be the worse for the different tempers it will be written
in. There will be little or no bombast in it, I hope, and some deeper
truths than I knew even a year ago.

The Italian campaign, with its broken faith, 3 has, as I said, put
the top to all my ill humour, but the bottom of it depends on my
own business. I see so clearly the entire impossibility of any salva-
tion for art among the modern European public. Nearly every old
building in Europe, France, and Germany is now destroyed by restora-
tion, and the pictures are fast following. The Correggios of Dresden
are mere wrecks;' 1 the modern Germans (chiefly at Munich) are in,
without exception, the most vile development of human arrogance and
ignorance I have ever seen or read of. 5 I have no words to speak
about them in. The English are making progress, which in about fifty
years might possibly lead to something, but as yet they know nothing
and can know nothing, and long before they gain any sense Europe is

1 [See Vol. XVIII. p. xxiii.]

2 'Of Ruskin, commissioned by Norton: see below, pp. 329, 335, 405, 497.]

3 'The Peace of Villafranca, July 11 : see Vol. XVIII. p. xxiii.]

4 [Compare Vol. VII. p. 492.]

5 | Compare Raskin's letter to Clarkson Stanfield, R.A. : Vol. VII. p. liii.]


likely to be as bare of art as America. You have hope in beginning
again. I don't see my way to it clearly.

I want to be as sure as I can of a letter reaching you just now.
I shall send this with my London packet to-day, and the next sheet
with the next packet next week, so as to have two chances. My
health is well enough. I draw a great deal, thinking I may do more
good by copying and engraving things that are passing away.

Sincere regards to your Mother and Sisters. Ever, dear Norton,
affectionately and gratefully yours, J. RUSKIN.

To Mrs. HEWITT l

THUN, 9th August, '59.

That is an excellent idea about the mosaic pavement. I never
thought of it before; but of course it must be mosaic. For there are
the good intentions of well-meaning people who do the great mischiefs
in the world, which must be stones of the colour of blood and there
are the good intentions of weak people, which must be grey ; and of
wicked people, which must be black ; and then there are finally the
good intentions of good and wise people, which must be white and not
much to the previous fancy, only necessary to make out the pattern.


THUN, August 9, 1859.

Fve lent Mr. Rossetti's Harp-sketch 8 to somebody and forget
whom. Tell Mr. Rossetti to mind and do the best he can ; for he
and the good P.R.B.'s may really have Europe for their field some day
soon. The German art is wholly and everywhere imbecile to a degree
quite unspeakable. The P.R.B.'s are the only living figure-painters of
this age


THUN, 15th August [1859].

DEAR NORTON, Scrap No. 2 is long in coming if it hadn't been
for the steamers here, which keep putting me in mind, morning and

1 [From Sothe'y's <Sn/e Catalogue of Autograph Letters, June 3, 4, 1!*07, No. 25.]
[From the Preface to Rnskin, Roxsetti, and Pre-JKaphaelitism, p. xii.]
[Possibly one of many sketches for a water-colour, afterwards executed, called
"The Return of Tibullus to Delia" ^see p. 149 in H. C. Marillier's J). G. Ro*setti\}
4 [Atlantic Monthly, June 1904, vol. 93, p. 805. No. 19 in Norton; vol. i.
pp. 83-80.]


evening, of the steamer on lake of Geneva, 1 I don't know when it
would have come. It's very odd I don't keep writing to you con-
tinually, for you are almost the only friend I have left. I mean the
only friend who understands or feels with me. Fve a good many
Radical half friends, but I'm not a Radical and they quarrel with me
by the way, so do you a little about my governing schemes.
Then all my Tory friends think me worse than Robespierre. Rossetti
and the P.R.B. are all gone crazy about the Morte d'Arthur. I
don't believe in Evangelicalism and my Evangelical (once) friends
now look upon me with as much horror as on one of the possessed
Gennesaret pigs. 2 Nor do I believe in the Pope and 'some Roman
Catholic friends, who had great hopes of me, think I ought to be
burned. Domestically, I am supposed worse than Blue Beard ; artisti-
cally, I am considered a mere packet of squibs and crackers. I rather
count upon Lowell as a friend, though I've never seen him. He and
the Brownings and you. Four well it's a good deal to have of
such, and I won't grumble but then you're in America, and no good
to me except that I'm in a perfect state of gnawing remorse about
not writing to you; and the Brownings are in Italy, and I'm as
alone as a stone on a high glacier, dropped the wrong way, instead
of among the moraine. Some day. when Fve quite made up my
mind what to fight for, or whom to fight, I shall do well enough, if
I live, but I haven't made up my mind what to fight for whether,
for instance, people ought to live in Swiss cottages and sit on three-
legged or one-legged stools; whether people ought to dress well or
ill ; whether ladies ought to tie their hair in beautiful knots ; whether
Commerce or Business of any kind be an invention of the Devil or
not ; whether Art is a Crime or only an Absurdity ; whether Clergymen
ought to be multiplied, or exterminated by arsenic, like rats ; whether
in general we are getting on, and if so where we are going to ;
whether it is worth while to ascertain any of these things ; whether
one's tongue was ever made to talk with or only to taste with. (Send
to Mr. Knott's house 3 and get me some raps if you can.)

Meantime, I'm copying Titian as well as I can, that being the
only work I see my way to at all clearly, and if I can ever succeed
in painting a bit of flesh, or a coil of hair, Fll begin thinking " what

I'll send you another scrap soon. I'm a little happier to-day than

1 [On winch Ruskin and Norton had met in July 1856 : see Pr&terita,
Vol. XXXV. pp. 519-520.]

2 [Matthew viii. 30-32.]

3 [See above, p. 295. Mr. Knott's house was haunted by ' ' raps that unwrapped


IVe been for some time at the steady look and set of Tuscany and
Modena. 1 It looks like grey of dawn, don't it? Sincerest regards to
your Mother and Sisters. Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


THUN, 15th August, 1859.

DEAR MRS. SIMON, I see in looking over your last letter you had
been a little vexed by thinking that I thought you cared about " pure
diamonds" or " monachism " 2 or other absurd things. If you look
at my letter again you will see it may be read as it was meant as
a merely general statement. It had no bearing or allusion whatsoever
to what you thought, but only put some hints in your former letter
in a shape which I supposed would lead you into the discovery of
what you really did think or feel. I never suspected you of liking
either diamonds or nuns. I merely write this line to comfort you
for I don't know where I am going or staying. I don't care, for
I am working at clouds and trees and I can get them anywhere ;
so I let papa and mama stay where they find themselves happy, and
am getting a little comfortable again by help of physical science,
which is the only thing I can think of at present without getting
into a dumb fury which makes me ill. But the clouds puzzle me
sufficiently, and do me good. Never mind what people say of me
men or women. I think I've told you that before. Make yourself
quite well and comfortable, and then you may help me, but you
can't by fidgeting. I've told Allen to send you all that is printed
I don't know how much is, but hope all of the three letters, 3 for
part of which you made a face at me. Why did you like that
abusive bit about the, Italians and "its all being their own fault"?
Of course when a child is spoiled it could cure itself ii it would
but it won't.

My gondolier was is a man of about forty, works hard, and starves
himself nearly to death, to keep his children and wife in macaroni. I
noticed he went punctually to church in the morning. One day

R. " What do you say there, Panno ? "

P. " I say the Pater noster, sir."

J{. "Can you say it well all through?"

P. " Yes certainly."

1 [These States had after Villafranca shown themselves firmly set upon union
with Piedmont : see Bnltou King's History of Italian Unity, vol. ii. pp. JMi #<?</.]
1 See aliove, p. 307, for "diamonds," and p. 308 for " mouachiiiu."]
1 LOn the Italian question : see below, p. 3.31 n.]


R. " Would you mind letting me hear you ? "

P. Repeats Lord's Prayer in Latin like Dean Gaisford without a

R. " Well now what does all that mean ? "

P. Much astonished such a question never having occurred to his
mind " Mean why it means it means to ask for for for every-
thing for God's blessing for all that is good."

R. "But you don't know what it really does ask for?"

P. "No, sir."

Now, I would of course rather take Panno's chance in next world
than that of most English clergymen, but nevertheless his state of
rnind and body might be both bettered for he is very thin and he
might as well know the Lord's Prayer in Italian as not. And how is
he to better them ? What would you tell him to do ? I shall be
writing to him this winter, and will give him any advice you tell
me. Love to John and Boo. Ever affectionately yours, J. R.


THUX, August 18th (1859).

MY DEAR DALLAS, I had your kind letter some three weeks it
must be ago, and it gave me great pleasure from its heartiness and
friendliness. I am very much helped in all ways when I find anybody
cares for me at all ; and it is very good of you, seeing how little we
have been able to be with each other lately. I hope to have a chat
about many things as soon as we get home, say about six weeks
hence. I must say in writing first I did not say that political economy
of mine was 200 (did I say two ? perhaps one allowing for steam
would have been enough) years in advance of the age, because I
thought it either my own best work, or a good book absolutely; but
simply because, as far as it goes, it is founded on principles which it
will take the world still another 100 years to understand the eternity
of. If you like to look at the Galignani of to-day, you will see it
gravely stated as a great and recent discovery, in a Russian journal,
that the interests of a nation are not to be sacrificed to those of an
individual. In another 100 years England may discover that human
beings have got souls, which are the eminently Motive part of the
Animal ; and that to get as much Material result as you can out of

1 [No. 6 in Various Correspondents, pp. 19-24. Extracts from the letter were
printed in Messrs. Sotheby's Sale Catalogue of November 26 and 27, 1891, and
reprinted in the Pall Mall Gazette, November 21, 1891. P^neas Svveetland Dallas
(1828-1879),, leader-writer in the Times; author of The Gay Science.}


the animal, his soul or Heart must be in a healthy state also his
stomach (including liver and intestines); and his brains not in a state
of congestion. Political Economists of this age fancy they can reason
about men without their souls as mathematicians do about lines as
length without breadth. But they are slightly wrong in this matter,
for the mathematician reasons on his line in Ideal perfection : and
they on humanity in Ideal and even more impossible Truncation.
They have founded a vast series of abstruse calculations, made with
profound skill and accuracy, on the original hypothesis that a triangle
has only two sides. I would have taken up these subjects more
seriously, were it not still in question with me how far certain truths
connected with them can be spoken in the present state of the public
mind. It is often impossible, often dangerous, to inform people of
great truths before their own time has come for approaching them ;
and there is much which people will one day know as well as their
alphabets, which I should be sorry to tell my class at the Working
Men's College at present.

Meanwhile it will be very naughty of you to growl at me and my
book, while I am thus muzzled. But you may have your go at it,
for I shall write nothing more on such matters for some time to
come, till I can paint a little better, at all events. Fm very busy
with clouds and colours, and in a state of disgust with my and every-
body else's country, which makes me perforce dumb.

I hope, if not in Paris, that you have gone somewhere out of
town with Mrs. Dallas this year; for until the last three days the
heat has been hereabouts as great as ever. It is cooler to-day at
least one begins to know the difference between warm and cold

But we have been all : well on this journey. I was nearly made
seriously ill by the German frescoes : it was as bad as living in Bedlam
or a hospital for cretins, to look at Cornelius's 2 things long: but I
got little consolatory peeps at Titians and such things, which the
Germans hang out of the way in corners, and so got over it.

Nice sensible discussions you're having in England there about
Gothic and Italian, aren't you? 3 And the best of the jest is that

1 [That is, Iluskin himself and his parents.]

2 [For other references to Cornelius, see Vol. VII. p. 489; Vol. XVIII. p. o()9 ;
and Vol. XXII. p. 480-1

3 [The reference is to the "battle of the styles" then raging around the designs
for the new Public Offices. Gilbert Scott's Gothic design for the India Office had
been accepted ; but he was subsequently made by Lord 1'almerston to convert it
into the Italian manner : see Vol. XVI. pp. xxxi.-xxxiv. There i.s an amusing
letter from Palmerston on the subject in The Letter* of (flieen Victoria, vol. iii.

p. . r >(;<;.]


besides nobody knowing which is which, there is not a man living
who can build either. What a goose poor Scott (who will get his
liver fit for pate de Strasburg with vexation) must be, not to say at
once he'll build anything. If I were he, I'd build Lord P[almerston]
an office with all the capitals upside down ; and tell him it was in
the Greek style, inverted, to express typically Government by Party:
Up to-day, down to-morrow.

I don't know where this letter mayn't find you. I hope somewhere
where you will be too idle to read it; and it won't matter if you
don't, except that my father would be sorry if you didn't get his
message of sincere regards. Always affectionately yours,


My mother's kind regards also.


BONNEVILLE, September 4th, 1859.

MY DEAR DALLAS, By some fatality it seems to happen just now
that I can't get on with my own business without being perpetually
distracted by something more interesting in other people's. Every-
body is so absurd that it's like trying to paint in the midst of a
pantomime, and I never can write a serious word about anything for
the public, without feeling as if I were talking sentiment to the

Here, now, are those ineffably rich letters which people are writing
every day to the Times, about this Builders' strike 2 and the delight-
fully moral and intellectual efforts of your political economists to per-
suade the men that labour can't be organised, when the half of the
labour of the country of all kinds (from your cabman's sixpenn'orth of
oaths and flogging, up to your premier's five thousand pounds' worth
or how much has he? of architectural 3 and other useful knowledge)
is organised already. Your soldiers kill people ; your Bishops preach
to them ; your lawyers advise them ; and your physicians purge them ;
for a shilling or six-and-eightpence or a guinea according to the
stated value of murder or physic ; and you never think of offering
your Bishoprics to the people who will confirm cheapest, or getting
yourself cured of the gout by contract. And it seems to me, brick-
laying (though it is not easy, and susceptible of many degrees of

1 [No. 7 in Various Correspondents, pp. 25-30.]

2 [See Unto this Last, 4 (Vol. XVII. p. 27), and for the principle of fixed
salaries and wages, ibid., p. 33.]

3 [Again a reference to Lord Palmerston's interference with Sir Gilbert Scott.]


fineness in the art 1 ) is rather a more organisable kind of labour than
sermon-making, or diagnosis.

I haven't any patience left to write ; but if you have any, you
might do a great deal of good just now by examining this subject of
the organisation of labour thoroughly, and putting, as far as you can
make it, an exhaustive article in the Times about it. And if you
cannot do this, at least point out (apropos of this unhappy strike of
the poor builders) that whatever the rights or wrongs of the ques-
tion may be, they will probably suffer more than they gain by their
present way of dealing with it ; and that the true way of carrying
out their views is to acquiesce, so long as they are workmen, in the
present state of things ; but to strain every nerve to become masters ;
and then, when they are masters, to carry out the principle of the
organisation of labour among their own workmen and to die for it,
if need be ; it being a principle quite worth dying for, if it be true.
And there is some likelihood of its being so, ever since a great master-
workman went into his market to hire his labourers at their penny a
day and had a roughish quarrel with some of them, on this very
matter of the organisation of labour, before night. 2

You may think that's a fair day's work enough that I propose
to you the "examination of the organisation of labour thoroughly.""
But you would find it easier and simpler than it looks if, among the
innumerable examples of good, and evil, apparently arising sometimes

Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 45 of 74)