John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 46 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 46 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

from organised and sometimes from free labour, you keep hold of
this main clue that organisation which is intended for the advantage
of either separately, injures Loth ; but chiefly those for whose advan-
tage it was intended. There is another still surer clue, but one
which, though you may use it yourself, you can't at present suggest
with hope of toleration to the British public namely, that what is
Justest, is also Wisest.

There is no way in which that verse, "The Fool hath said in his
heart, No God," was ever so completely fulfilled as in the modern
idea that Political Enonomy depends on Iniquity instead of Equity
and on avo/xta instead of BiKatocrvvrj.

We keep to our plan of being home in early October (just in
time for dead leaves and fogs). I resolved six years ago never to
pass another October out of a mountain country and have never
been in a mountain country in October since. Few people have seen
this part of the world in October, and it is perhaps more wonderful
then than at any time, the mountains being literally clothed with

[As Ruskin had found from practical exporic'iice : see above, p. 200.]
1 [Matthew xx. ; the next Bible reference is I'salm xiv. ].]



1859] SWISS OCTOBER 319

gold and purple. The worst of it is that in cold weather one likes
one^s dinner, and the cookery hereabouts is free labour, and done
cheap. So is the guiding at Zermatt, and they have just dropped a
traveller into a crevasse, and left him there.

Always with all our kindest regards, believe me, my dear Dallas,
affectionately yours, J. Rusxix. 1

1 [No. 8 in Various Correspondents (pp. 31-35) is a letter to the same corre-
spondent from Ruskin's father (October 31, 1859) : " I was delighted with a Letter
shown to me by my Son (written to him by you in September, on your Return
from the Sea-side) with your definition of Whig and Tory, and some remarks on
artificial organisation. As a City man I am half with the Times in believing my
son and Dr. Guthrie innocent of Political Economy ; but these Geniuses sometimes
in their very simplicity hit upon the right thing, whilst your ponderous Economy
discusser twaddles on in endless mazes lost. 1 say this from a single glance at
the last article in the Edinburgh Review, just out ; and from my son, who is in

Cheshire, writing to me as follows: 'Mr. told me last night that at the

Social Science meeting one of the principal Speakers said that if my recommenda-
tions as to the Employment of the workmen had been auopted, there would never
have been any strikes ; and that this reference and statement were accepted as
quite just and true by the members of the meeting. The whole discussion in
which this occurs is omitted in the Times.' Of course the Times omits what it
regards as of minor importance, but call you this backing of your friends ? Neither
does it ever notice a Book of his, though it notices smaller Books. However, as
I formerly said, the Critique on his Stones of Venice given in the Times 1 was beyond
all price, and leaves me eternally its Debtor.

" In my son's last little book, The Two Paths, he calls himself a safe Guide in
Art, but says as a writer he cannot approach Carlyle or Tennyson. The Reviews
quote the arrogant assertion, and leave out the modest one. Is this allowed to be
honest Criticism ?

"By the way, if the Letter in the Times to-day is really Napoleon's, 2 my pet
Emperor is losing some of his sagacity. I am curious to see to-morrow's paper,
doubting the authenticity of the Letter. Well, we are getting all armed and less
alarmed. I had a long talk with an old French Notary related to several men high
in office in passing lately through Paris, and entirely agreed with him in believing
the Emperor, whom alone we load with abuse, to be the last man in France who
would wish to invade England. Take his subjects, however, from the Count to the
Costermonger, or from Cellar to Garret, and they would without exception give
any few francs they ever like to part with towards equipping Fleet or Army to
invade us.

" I got a chill on the Lake of Geneva, followed by Dysentery, and came home
ill. I hope by the time my son returns, three weeks hence, to be better, and
hope to have the pleasure of seeing you here.

" P.S. I can just remember our wars since 1707, and anything more thoroughly
stupid or more painfully disastrous and humiliating than the China Affair I recollect
not. It is nearly a checkmate : useless to go forward, and you cannot go back.
The old East India Company could, but neither Palmerston, Russell, nor Bowring
can manage China."]



1 FA long review in three instalments, September, October, and November 1853: see
Vol. X. p. xlvi.]

2 (The open letter to the King of Sardinia, dated "Palace of St. Cloud, 20th of October
1859, r ' in which the Emperor laid down the bases on which lie intended to settle the Italian
question ("Italy to be composed of several independent States, united by a federal bond"),
The letter was genuine.]



820 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1859

To ALFRED TENNYSON l

STRASBURG, Sept. 1859.

DEAR MR. TENNYSON, I have had the Idylls in my travelling desk
ever since I could get them across the water, and have only not written
about them because I could not quite make up my mind about that
increased quietness of style. I thought you would like a little to know
what I felt about it, but did not quite know myself what I did feel.

To a certain extent you yourself of course know better what the
work is than any one else, as all great artists do.

If you are satisfied with it, I believe it to be right. Satisfied with
bits of it you must be, and so must all of us, however much we
expect from you.

The four songs seem to me the jewels of the crown, and bits come
every here and there the fright of the maid, for instance, and the
"In the darkness o'er her fallen head" 2 which seem to me finer than
almost all you have done yet. Nevertheless I am not sure but I feel
the art and finish in these poems a little more than I like to feel it. 8
Yet I am not a fair judge quite, for I am so much of a realist as
not by any possibility to interest myself much in an unreal subject to
feel it as I should, and the very sweetness and stateliness of the words
strike me all the more as pure workmanship.

As a description of various nobleness and tenderness the book is
without price; but I shall always wish it had been nobleness inde-
pendent of a romantic condition of externals in general.

" In Memoriam," " Maud, 11 " The Miller's Daughter, 11 and such
like will always be my own pet rhymes, but I am quite prepared to
admit this to be as good as any, for its own peculiar audience.
Treasures of wisdom there are in it, and word-painting such as never
was yet for concentration ; nevertheless it seems to me that so great

1 [Alfred Lord Tennyson : a Memoir by hit Son, 1897, vol. i. pp. 4-52-4.54. The
Idylls of the King, published in 185i), were " Enid," " Vivien," " Elaine," and
"Guinevere." The "four songs" were thus (in "Enid") "Turn, Fortune, turn thy
wheel," (in "Vivien") "In Love, if Love he Love," (in "Elaine") "Sweet is true
love tho' given in vain," and (in "Guinevere") "Late, late, so late!"]

1 [For both of the "bits," see "Guinevere."]

3 [The present Lord Tennyson says that "So far as the word art, as used
here by Mr. Ruskin, suggests that these Idylls were carefully elaborated, the sug-
gestion is hardly in accordance with the fact. The more imaginative the poem,
the less time it generally took him to compose. 'Guinevere' and 'Elaine' were
certainly not elaborated, seeing that they were written, each of them, in a few
weeks, and hardly corrected at all. My father said that lie often did not know
why some passages were thought specially beautiful, until he had examined them.
He added : ' Perfection in art is perhaps more sudden sometimes than we think ; but
then the long preparation for it. that unseen germination, that is what we ignore
and forget.'"]



1859] A SUGGESTION TO TENNYSON 321

power ought not to be spent on visions of things past, but on the
living present. For one nearer capable of feeling the depth of this
poem I believe ten would feel a depth quite as great if the stream
flowed through things nearer the hearer. And merely in the facts of
modern life not drawing-room, formal life, but the far-away and quite
unknown growth of souls in and through any form of misery or
servitude there is an infinity of what men should be told, and what
none but a poet can tell. I cannot but think that the intense,
masterful, and unerring transcript of an actuality, and the relation of
a story of any real human life as a poet would watch and analyze it,
would make all men feel more or less what poetry was, as they felt
what Life and Fate were in their instant workings.

This seems to me the true task of the modern poet. And I think
I have seen faces, and heard voices, by road and street side, which
claimed or conferred as much as ever the loveliest or saddest of
Camel ot. As I watch them, the feeling continually weighs upon me,
day by day, more and more, that not the grief of the world but the
loss of it is the wonder of it. I see creatures so full of all power
and beauty, with none to understand or teach or save them. The
making in them of miracles, and all cast away, for ever lost as far as
we can trace. And no " in memoriam."

I do not ask you when you are likely to be in London, for I know
you do not like writing letters, and I know you will let Mrs. Prinsep
or Watts send me word about you, so that I may come and see you
again, when you do come; and then on some bright winter's day, I
shall put in my plea for Denmark Hill.

Meanwhile believe me always faithfully and gratefully yours,

J. RUSKIN.

To Mrs. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE J

[1859.]

Well, I have read the book 2 now, and I think nothing can be
nobler than the noble parts of it (Mary's great speech to Colonel Burr,
for instance), nothing wiser than the wise parts of it (the author's

1 [From the Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, by her son, C. E. Stowe (London :
Sampson Low & Co., 1889), pp. 336-338. Reprinted in Igdrasil, November 1890,
vol. ii. pp. 68-69, and thence in Ruskiniana, part i., pp. 96-97. The following
is a passage (p. 313 of the Life) from a letter (June 1857) by Mrs. Stowe to her
daughter: "Mr. Ruskin lives with his father at a place called Denmark Hill,
Camberwell. He has told me that the gallery of Turner pictures there is open
to me or my friends at any time of the day or night. Both young and old Mr.
Ruskin are fine fellows sociable and hearty and will cordially welcome any of
my friends who desire to look at their pictures." See, further, p. 337 below.]

2 [The Minister's Wooing : a Tale of New England, by Mrs. H. Beecher Stowe,
with illustrations by H. K. Browne. London : Sampson Low, 1859.]

XXXVI. X



322 LETTERS OF RUSKIN Voi,. 1 [issg

parenthetical and under-breath remarks), nothing more delightful than
the delightful parts (all that Virginia says and does), nothing more
edged than the edged parts (Candace's sayings and doings, to wit) ; but
I do not like the plan of the whole, because the simplicity of the
minister seems to diminish the probability of Mary's reverence for him.
I cannot fancy even so good a girl who would not have laughed at
him. Xor can I fancy a man of real intellect reaching such a j>eriod
of life without understanding his own feelings better or penetrating
those of another more quickly.

Then I am provoked at nothing happening to Mrs. Scudder, whom
I think as entirely unendurable a creature as ever defied poetical justice
at the end of a novel meant to irritate people. And finally, I think
you are too disdainful of what ordinary readers seek in a novel, under
the name of " interest/ 1 that gradually-developing wonder, expectation,
and curiosity, which makes people who have no self-command sit up
till three in the morning to get to the crisis, and people who have
self-command lay the book down with a resolute sigh, and think of it
all the next day through till the time comes for taking it up again.
Still, I know well that in many respects it was impossible for you to
treat this story merely as a work of literary art. There must have
been many facts which you could not dwell upon, and which no one
may judge by common rules.

It is also true, as you say once or twice in the course of the work,
that we have not among us here the peculiar religious earnestness you
have mainly to describe.

We have little earnest formalism, and our formalists are, for the
most part, hollow, feeble, uninteresting, mere stumbling-blocks. We
have the Simeon Brown species, indeed ; and among readers, even of
his kind, the book may do some good, and more among the weaker,
truer people, whom it will shake like mattresses making the dust fly,
and perhaps with it some of the sticks and quill-ends, which often
make that kind of person an objectionable mattress. I write too lightly
of the book far too lightly but your letter made me gay, and I
have been lighter-hearted ever since ; only I kept this after beginning
it, because I was ashamed to send it without a line to Mrs. Browning '
as well. I do not understand why you should apprehend (or rather,
anticipate without apprehension) any absurd criticism on it. It is
sure to be a popular book not as Uncle Tom was, for that owed
part of its popularity to its dramatic effect (the flight on the ice, etc.),
which I do not like ; but as a true picture of human life is always

[Who was a friend and admirer of Mr*. Beecher Stowe : see tetters of Elizabeth
Barrett Ur owning, vol. ii. pp. 107, 110, 258, 408.]



1859] CONDOLENCE 323

popular. Nor, I should think, would any critics venture at all to
carp at it. The Candace and Virginie bits appear to me, as far as I
have yet seen, the best. I am very glad there is this nice French lady
in it: the French are the least appreciated, in genera], of all nations
by other nations. . . . My father says the book is worth its weight
in gold, and he knows good work.



TO W. EDWARDS 1

DENMARK HILL, 8th October, '59.

DEAR MR. EDWARDS, I cannot see you at Church to-morrow
without having first expressed my own and my father and mother's
sincere sorrow for your sorrow. We heard of it at the time; but I
did not write to you, thinking all words were insult to such a grief
in its first fall.

Nor am I now going to say anything of what people seem to
think it right though they know it to be useless to say in such
cases. This only I will say, though it may seem a hard and strange
thjng but it has often struck me as I watched the course of a sorrow
of bereavement that we are too ready, it seems to me, to admit the
terrible feeling that the void left in the heart can never be filled in
any wise. A father, left sonless (you are not\ might in a holier and
higher sense than others read the words, become a Father to the
Fatherless. 2 Though the object of the intensest parental love and
hope be taken away, love and hope may still be felt for others. How
many need the love, how many might fulfil the hope, if we could in
any wise, for the sake of the lost one, try to give part of the feelings
which he had no more need of, away to another.

I do not know if there is any dim feeling of solace also in know-
ing how others have suffered in like manner. As we returned from
Switzerland we met a Mother and Father with their family, very
sweet girls, and one young boy. But their eldest was in all things as
yours. This mother was Mrs. H. B. Stowe. 3

Some day, if you would like to see it, I will let you see her letter
about her son. How strange it seems that such things should fall
on those who feel the deepest. Pray accept the expression of our
sincere sympathy with you all, and believe me, my dear Mr. Edwards,
always faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.

1 [On the death of his eldest son, William Threlkeld Edwards.]

2 [Psalms Ixviii. 5.]

3 [Whose eldest son had been drowned in 18.57.]



324 LETTERS OF RUSK1N VOL. 1 [1859

To J. J. LAINI;

October, 1859.

Mv DEAR LAING, I am glad to hear of the proposed lessons in
illumination, which you are quite competent to give, and as far as
execution goes I have not yet met with your equal.

You must not, however, associate yourself as in any way connected
with me, nor should you in prudence " set up " as the promoter of
any cause or the mouthpiece of any party. I entirely disclaim all
parties, and all causes of a sectarian or special character, and, a for-
tiori, so should you, as you have not yet experience enough to judge
of the real nature of the subjects of dispute. Call yourself a student
of drawing and, if you like to do so, a student of drawing on the
principles I have advocated ; but only so far as you perceive them
useful and true.

You would do harm to the Pre-Raphaelites by leading the public
to think that severe architectural or decorative drawing formed any
part of their peculiar system. Believe me always, faithfully and affec-
tionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

To Miss ELLEN H EATON

16th November [1859].

MY DEAR Miss HEATON, It is quite vain to excuse myself. I have
nearly given up writing letters, and feel as if I should have to give
up writing books too, being at present in an entirely idle and good-
for-nothing condition yet trying to do something never doing it.

I went and saw your Rossetti 2 the other day. It is good, but
not as good as he ought to do. Still a possession ; but I expected
far more of this subject.

I saw Mrs. Browning. 3 It is better than the photograph, but not
at all satisfactory to me. I am in so bad a humour just now, how-
ever, that my opinion is not good for much. Mr. Richmond gave me
the Sacred and Profane Love, 4 and the ultramarine, for which sincere
thanks. That must certainly be a most noble picture. I entirely
agree in Mr. Richmond's estimate of it.



1 ["S<
- [Pro 1



; Some Ruskin Letters," in the Westminster (idzette, August 27,
'robably the water-colour " Mary in the House of John," now in possession
of Mr. Beresford Heaton.]

3 [The chalk drawing done at Rome in 1851) by Field Talfourd ; it is in tlie
National Portrait Gallery (No. 322), having been presented by Miss Heaton in



IW1.J



By Titian, in the Borghese Gallery at Rome.]



1859] LADY WATERFORD'S DRAWING 325

Thanks for contribution to museum. 1 It will be most useful to
help in carving the front windows, which it is very difficult to get
funds for. I leave it to my friend Dr. Acland to choose inscription,
forbidding anything of mine.

I have been thrown into my present state of inanition chiefly by
intense disgust with German art, of which I was forced to look at
quantities at Munich, and which in its hypocrisy, stultification, and
ugliness, acted on me like a real poison, and made me quite ill at
the time, and half sick ever since.

I note your wishes respecting Turner. I have no power for the
moment, but will take care to effect the exchange as soon as possible.
Believe me always most truly yours, J. RUSKIN.



To LOUISA, MARCHIONESS OF WATERFORD 2

DENMARK HILL, November 20th [P1859].

DEAR LADY WATERFORD, I risk this to Ford Castle, in hope of its
being pitifully forwarded to you, and at last relieving my conscience
respecting the drawings you have trusted me with so long. They are
all quite safe. I could not answer your line sent in the Spring, as
you passed through London, till too late.

I have been in Switzerland, but am much tormented by not being
able to draw things to my mind ; and, for the present, I am every
way out of heart. Wottld you kindly send me Mrs. La Touchers
address in Ireland ? I want to write to her ; and tell me where to
send your drawings.

I have just been re-reading an old letter of yours, in which you
lament your want of power of expressing action. I am sure it is not
this you want; no action could possibly be better caught than this of
the figure in Sir Joshua's picture. You only want practice and habit
of completion.

In the end of the letter you say, " Talk to me about Italy." Would
you like to see a letter of Mrs. Browning's which I have just received,
with much talk about Italy in it ? Believe me, always faithfully yours,

J. RUSKIN.

There now Fve blotted all the back of the sheet, like a schoolboy!
If I had half your power, I would turn it into a sketch. But the
blot is better than any sketch / could make out of my head ! You
might take the hint, and make a sketch in action of the Blots !

1 [A donation to the fund for the Oxford Museum : see Vol. XVI. p. xlvi.]

2 [No. 24 in Art and Literature, pp. 62, 6,3.]



326 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [i85

To Miss WOODS l

DKNMAHK HILL, 3rd December, '59.

MY DEAR Miss WOODS, I am entirely obliged to you (in all sorts
of ways, I mean by " entirely ") for those sketches and extracts ; they
will both be very useful to me. I am working hard at the tree-buds,
and find them marvellously puzzling and amusing. A bud is really
nearly as capricious and curious and charming a thing as a schoolgirl
there's no knowing what it will do next.

Mind you do not work too hard at this index work ; it may not
be unamusing, but it is trying.

I think the plan of the extracts of things seen and unseen will
be very fruitful and delightful in carrying out, though you will find
generally that when you begin extracting from a real Seer's poetry,
you may simply write it out all for he sees always. Perhaps one of
the most wonderful pieces of sight in all poetry is Nay, that's just
it; I was going to say a bit of Tennyson the piece of Alp in the
"Princess" 2 but Tennyson's all alike, one thing as perfect as another.
What an epithet of elephants' trunks " Their Serpent Hands." 3

Miss Bell says I am to write you more Sunday letters. I shall
like to do so, only I think they perhaps cost you too much trouble
ii> working out the texts afterwards. How long does it generally take
you because I must take care and not over-task you in all ways at
once? Believe me always sincerely yours, J. RUSKIN.



To JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL*

DKNMAHK HILT,, 5th December, 1859.

DEAR MR. LOWELL, It was indeed a happy morning for me this,
bringing me your letter 5 besides a delightful one from Norton. For
many causes lately I have been needing some help, and this from you

1 [A member of Miss Bell's staff at Wilmington School. The girl.s there pre-
pared the index at the end of Modern Painters, vol. v. : see below, p. ,'W2.]

2 [The "Small Sweet Idyl" in division vii. of the poem "Come down, () maid,
from yonder mountain height" "written in Switzerland (chiefly at Lauterbrunnen
and (irindchvald)," and counted by the poet as amongst his "most successful
work" (Alfn-d Lord Tenny*on : a Memoir by hitt rti, vol. i. p. 252).]

1 [In Vivien:

" the brutes of mountain back

That carry kings in castles, bow'd black knees
Of homage, ringing with their serpent hands,
To make her smile, her golden ankle-bells."]

[No. 20 in Norton ; vol. i. pp. 86-89.]

"' ["To ask Ruskiu to write for the Atlantic Monthly." C. K. N.]



1859] LOWELL'S POEMS 327

is the greatest I could have, and best, though there are few days pass
without my getting some help from you and finding something strange
and beautiful, bearing on the questions which are teasing us here in
the old world ; with none of the rest of age, only its querulousness
and sleeplessness. I am myself in a querulous and restless state enough,
what head I have nearly turned, or turned at least in the sense in
which the cook predicates it of our cream when she can't get any
butter. I can get no butter at present (couldn't even get any bread
at two guineas a page), being on the whole vacantly puzzled and para-
lyzed, able only to write a little now and then of old thoughts, to
finish Modern Painters, which must be finished. Whenever I can write
at all this winter I must take up that, for it is tormenting me, always
about my neck. If no accident hinders it will be done this spring,
and then I will see if there is anything I can say clearly enough to be
useful in my present state of mystification. I told Norton in my last
letter a few of the things I am trying to find out, and I've found out
none yet. I like other people's writings so much better than my own
Tennyson's, Carlyle's, yours, Helps's, and one or two others'es that I
feel much driven to silence and quiet, trying to paint rather than write
more. In the meantime Modern Painters is giving me more trouble than
I can well stand, and I cant do anything else till it is out of the way.

You gave very great delight to a good many good little hearts
the other day. One of my best and wisest friends is the mistress of



Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 46 of 74)