anywhere; and it's no use your writing to me, because I know all you
can say about it. I've been nearly as hard put to it before, only I
wasn't so old, and had not the great religious Dark Tower to assault,
or get shut up in by Giant Despair. Little Rosie is terribly frightened
about me, and writes letters to get me to come out of Bye-path
Meadow 1 and I won't; she can't write any more just now, for she's
given herself rheumatism in her fingers by dabbling all day in her
hill river, catching crayfish. And Bye-path Meadow is bad walking
in this Will-of-the-Wispish time ; but as for that straight old road
between the red brick walls, half Babel, quarter fiery furnace, and
quarter chopped straw, I can't do it any more Meadow of some sort
I must have, though I go no further.
Well, what have I to tell you ? Of Stillman I have not heard for
a month, and fear to write. So many melancholy things are happen-
ing to me all at once that I shrink from asking. Rossetti, as you
know I suppose, is married (Beatrice in your drawing 2 ). She was very
ill for long before her marriage, but is getting stronger now, and he
is looking well. Jones is married, too he has got a little country
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
violet with blue eyes and long eyelashes, and as good and sweet as
can be. I took them both to the theatre the other night. She had
only been twice before in her life, and had never seen a ballet and
unluckily there was one, and the deep astonished pain of the creature,
not in prudery, but in suddenly seeing into an abyss of human life,
both in suffering and in crime, of which she had had no previous con-
ception, was quite tragic.
(Ylth June.} I was ashamed to send you that, and this will be
very little better. But I am a little better, and have resolved to go
and live for some time at a French fishing seaport small and out of
the way, and to learn to sail a French lugger and catch dogfish.
After that I'll think of learning something else. I shall make friends
with the little fishing children and with their priest, and read about
the Madonna to them, and some Arabian Nights and other apocryphal
literature besides, and I hope to recover a little so, what with con-
chology, sunsets, and early bedtime, besides.
1 [The Pilgrims Progress, part ii.]
'* [The drawing of "Beatrice denying her Salutation": see above, pp. 235, 335.]
368 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. 1 [1861
Til soon, if I don't get drowned, write and tell you how I get
on with the fishing. The Missal leaves are chosen, and verily come
with this. Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.
Kindest regards to your mother and sisters.
To Miss HOSE LA ToucHE 1
BOUJXKJNB, 21 st June, 1861.
MY DEAREST POSIE, Fin going to have my letter ready in case I
want to write in a hurry, that it may not disappoint you by blank
paper again. I used to write long pieces of diary when I was abroad,
now I am too lazy ; but I will do a little bit sometimes, for Wisie
and you if you care to read it: sometimes I might like to be put in
mind of a thing which I had forgotten myself. (You see I've fixed
on " Wisie " ; - I think it's very funny and nice.)
Well, to-day, by the way of beginning well, I overslept myself.
Then breakfast in a penitent manner. Then wrote a business letter
to make amends. Then took my umbrella in one hand, and stick
in the other, and went out to market.
The market was all white and red, with clean caps and straw-
berries. Choosing a nice-looking head and cap, I request her to choose
me a basket. She produces one which looks unexceptionable.
St. C. " Mais toutes les plus belles sont en haut, n'est ce pas,
et toutes les mauvaises en bas?"
White Cap. "Monsieur, je viderai le panier devant vous!"
St. C. " C'est pas la peine. Je me fie a vous."
White Cap. "Je vous assure, Monsieur, elles sont toutes bonnes.
Est que la petite n'ira pas avec vous pour les porter?"
St. C. " Ta serait trop loin. Je m'eii vais jusqua Portel" (three
White Cap. " Ah, bien oui c'est trop loin."
La Petite. "J'y serais aller, Monsieur, tout de nu > me. v>
St. C. " Nous verrons, peut ctre, quand j'aurai deux paniers a
porter. Mais, Madame vous allez me faire cadeau d'une feuille de
choux, pour que ca se tienne fraiche.""
White Cap. " Mais bien volontiers, Monsieur/ 1
1 [A ropy of tliis letter was sent by Ruskin to his father and mother, and l>y
them preserved. "Copying/' he wrote, "is good, quiet, unexciting work for me."]
'-' [As his pet name for the elder Miss La Touche : see Pra-teritfi, Vol. XXXV.
p. o2(), where it is also explained that "St. C." was the children's name for
1861] A WALK AT BOULOGNE 369
This being thus satisfactorily arranged, I shoulder my umbrella,
put my stick through handle of basket (weighing about three pounds),
and march off* for Portel.
Portel is the first fishing village south of Boulogne. My immediate
object there is a little cabaret close to the village school and church,
inhabited by a triple-traded aubergiste (who makes hooks for mackerel
and catches crabs), his wife, and their three children.
The youngest boy (to whom I had yesterday made the present of
a plate of cherries, for family distribution, which he immediately took
possession of by thrusting his whole hand down thro 1 the middle)
announces my approach. The wife receives me graciously and shows
me into sanded parlour. I beg her to provide me with some milk,
sugar, pain de menage, and four plates, the whole to be ready in an
hour. Which being faithfully promised, I proceed to descend the hill
which leads to a large farm on the other side of the village, and meet,
coming up to it, my hostess's little eldest daughter (9) with a sad
blue mark on her forehead, continuous down the middle of the pretty
little French nose, and terminating in a red scar on the upper lip. On
my inquiring the reason of these unaccustomed appearances, Clotilde
explains to me how coming out of church, " on m'a poussee," how being
" poussee " I fell with my face on the corner of a step, and how " ca
m'a fait bien mal."
St. C. "Va seulement chez toi, petite; nous allons manger des
fraises, et nous nous guerirons bientot."
Clotilde disappears with a slightly incredulous, but nevertheless
illumined countenance; and I, following the cart road a few steps
further, turn aside into a narrow footpath with a steep bank of grass
on one side crowned by a cornfield ; on the other, a hedge of wild roses ;
with gaps here and there into a sloping field at the bottom of which
lies the great old French farm, with grey stone gates and rusticated
columns of the time of Louis XV. Far beyond on a sweep of open
hillside, and crowning it, rise the thatched roofs of another " domaine,"
ended by a huge old round tower, which looks like a donjon, but is
only a pigeonnier. Looking back, I see between the grass bank and
the wild roses a little blue half-moon-shaped piece of calm sea. I
walk slowly and more slowly and at last take to examining the newly
Rose, dearie, did you ever notice the way the ears come out of
the thin grassy envelope of the stalk ? You know that verse, " First,
the blade; then, the ear; after that, the full corn in the ear." 1 You
1 [The Bible references here, and later, are : Mark iv. 28 ; Matthew iii. 12 ;
Psalms cxxix. 7 ; Matthew xiii. 8 ; 1 Corinthians xiii. 8 ; Isaiah xli. 16 (combined
with Psalms ciii. 16).]
XXXVI. 2 A
370 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6i
know it is usually read as if it meant three stages of growth only
as if the blade became the ear; and the ear became the corn. But I
believe St. Paul means deeper things. If you look at the young plant
you will see that it has one broad leaf or " blade v at the top as the
most conspicuous part of it : the ear at this time being entirely wrapped
up and hidden, deep down in the seeming stalk. Gradually the stalk
gives way : the ear bursts through it ; and rises, rises, till it passes the
blade, which, once uppermost, remains now an appendage to the risen
ear. But there is yet no com in the ear. It must blossom first; and
little by little the white, precious farina forms in its alternate buds.
Now whether you suppose the " kingdom of God " to be spoken
of the world, or of change in a single human heart, does it not seem
that each condition is, as it were, the defence of and preparation for
another? the Last only being the precious or perfect one. The
Jewish dispensation enclosed the Christian as the blade does the ear:
the Christian itself, blossoming partly, partly blighted, has yet to
undergo the winnowing by Him whose Fan is in His hand ; who will
gather the grain into His garner and burn the chaff with fire. Or
if you take it of a single soul, does it not seem as if each successive
condition of mind, though for a time good and necessary, were only
the covering and guiding preparation for better things; better, that
is to say, more useful and fruitful. First the leaf, like fresh religious
feeling which m;iy pass away (whereof he that binds the sheaves fills
not his bosom) but if it hold, beneath it springs the ear, which we
may take for well-formed purpose that also may be blasted before
it be grown up; lastly the good fruit forms, some sixty, some an
hundred-fold, which is like charity that doth not fail the blade and
the chaff failing and ceasing like prophecies and like knowledge. We
thought the green was good but it passes : we thought the gold was
good but the winds carry it away and it is gone : we thought at
least the grain was good but even that must be crushed under the
millstone, and only at last the white is good.
I did not of course quite think out this by the side of the wheat
field ; but partly felt it. For I was disturbed by a feeling of remorse
at spoiling some of the most beautiful ears by pulling them open,
and besides, disturbed a little by the rose hedge on the other side,
which led me into some reflections upon the symbolism and destinies
of Hoses; but as these could not be of the slightest interest to you,
Pet, I shall not set them down.
I was also interrupted by some Poppies, in which the grey-golden-
green, or whatever you can call the indescribable colour of the stamens,
was of peculiar refinement, and the leaves of quite blinding scarlet.
1861] A STRAWBERRY TEA 371
I could not moralize on the poppies, partly because I was bent on
discovering the cause of the bronze colour with my magnifying glass,
and partly because a sentence of Edmond About's about mauvaise
honte came into my head. " Les coquelicots sont bien rouges mais
je le fus davantage en entendant," etc.
Having got past the poppies, I found myself in a narrow lane
leading down to the gate of the old farm. Approaching which, and
standing to observe the interior, I surprised and shocked two of the
farm dogs, who immediately trotted to the gate and remonstrated
with me upon my conduct. I pretended not to understand French,
which made them very angry, and as all angry people do, they barked
louder in order to make themselves understood. For peace's sake I
stepped out of their sight behind the gate pillars, and, after addressing
some general remarks upon the English, of a deprecatory character,
to the pigeons, they returned to their kennels. Whereupon I set
myself to sketch the gate in profile, delighting myself with imagining
what the state of their minds would have been, if they could Lave
known I was still there, making sketches of their masters gate.
The gate pillars were all overgrown with moss, and large white
daisies, in fringed rows, white on the blue sky. Before I had drawn
half of these it was time to think of Clotilde's strawberries; so I put
up my book and walked briskly back to Portel.
A white cloth on the table, the basket with undisturbed cabbage
leaf, a jug of milk and four plates, were "duly set." The children
had been withdrawn from temptation into the inner room.
I chose and carefully drew from the stalks thirty-six model straw-
berries, and put twelve on each of the three plates. I then looked
for the largest in the basket and put that in the middle of Clotilde's
plate. Then I filled with milk ; and touched the crests with sugar
after the manner of Alps, and then summoned the children. Nervous
excitement preventing the two youngest from carrying their plates
even, I had to carry them myself into the inner room, where we found
Mama laying cloth for dinner. " Ah, monsieur, vous les gatez," said
she, " ca sera pour le dessert."
I returned into my salle and eat my own twelve strawberries
(the pain de menage is exquisite).
Then I returned to the inner room, to see how dinner is going on.
Clotilde has arranged her own strawberries and her sister's in a
perfect circle round the plates. But the little boy has apparently
refused absolutely to eat his strawberries on decorative principles ; and
has got his plate close to him in its original Alpine chaos.
In the centre of the table is a magnificent dish of fried skate,
372 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6i
with (as Madame explains to me) "Sauce a la matelote" (which is
brown and has more vinegar in it than I like), and surrounded by
delicatest new potatoes. The head of the family, for more dignity
and ease, eats out of the dish. Mama and the children have plates,
and little black-eyes, resolute in all things, has possessed himself of
the largest knife on the table, with which he is vainly but perse-
veringly endeavouring to cut segments out of a new potato, naturally
polished slippery, moreover, with sauce a la matelote, and so large
that he cannot hold it, though he applies to it the whole acquisitive
power of his left hand. The arrangements are farther enlivened by
a jug of brown liquid, about which I am unfortunately curious, for
it turns out to be flat and sour cider ; and a discussion arising on
the relative merits of our English, bottled, it seems probable that
I shall be obliged to finish my glass in order to convince me of the
futility of my English prejudice. To avoid which penalty, I rise
somewhat hastily, pay for my bread and milk, present the strawberry
basket with remaining contents to the children (thereby dispersing
a slight cloud which had arisen on the face of the mcnagcre because
her mother would not eat the large thirteenth, which she had set
aside for her): and walked down to the beach. Low tide and black
rocks, as far as the eye can reach.
To FREDERICK J. SHIELDS^
BOULOGNE, 7 July, '01.
MY DEAR MR. SHIELDS, I have the photograph safely I think
the design J quite magnificent, full of splendid power. I wish you
could send me a photograph, not enlarged, and more sharp, to give
me more idea of the drawing, which I should think must be wonderful,
and quite beyond the power of any woodcutter I know.
I will think about it and write you more when I receive your
second packet. Most truly yours, J. RUSKIN.
P.S. If there is any question about expense in the cutting, I shall
be most happy to contribute towards having it done well but 1 fear
no money can get it clone.
1 [Of Vanity Fair in tlie Pilgrim's Progress. It was ultimately cut by Hcrr
(Jaber, who cut the Kicbtcr designs. The volume wa.s entitled llluxtrntitnm to
Bunyans Pilgrim's I'rogrexs In/ l-'re<llc. J. Fhi'ililx (sic). London : Simpkin, Marshall
and Co. ; Manchester : A. Ireland it Co. 1HI54."!
1861] A COMET 873
To his FATHER
BOULOGNE, I2th July, 1861.
I was out looking at the comet last night (I am delighted to
hear my mother saw it), and was much tickled by an old French
(shop) lady who was out on the pavement looking at it through her
spectacles, and repeating, in a voice of commendatory surprise, " Mais
elle est bien haute excessivement haute." Her idea of a comet was
evidently that it was something of the nature of a kite, and that it
had been got up that evening rather higher than usual. Tell Mr.
Harrison this. It was not indeed altogether to see the comet that I
was out, for I was returning from hearing one of the sweetest of
(second-rate) operas Auber's Haydee^ ou le Secret (the plot being
Scribed and at Venice nothing to do with Byron's) very sweetly sung
at least in its two principal parts. It began at seven o'clock, and
when I went out en grande temie white gloves and so on having to
walk half a mile along the main street facing the quay, I was mightily
pleased to find one of my little fish-children friends, who was going
home bare-footed, coming up to me, and without the least impudence,
on the one side, or the least idea that I mightn't like it, on the
other, walking beside me, and talking the whole way, mostly in the
gutter, with her basket on her arm.
To Mrs. BURNE- JONES *
BOULOGNE, Saturday [July 20, '61].
MY DEAR GEORGIE, I can't get this to you in time to wish you
joy to-morrow. I've already been made a great deal more wicked
than I should have been by the Post Office. I'm always so angry
because I can't get letters delivered on Sundays if it hadn't been for
that, I might have been a " Sabbatarian." I was bred one. I think
I shall send you a telegram. I can always do that. And this you
will get on Monday morning early, indeed and in truth wishing you
all good (whatever good may be), for both your sakes. But don't
trust to that strength and health of yours having been so unbroken.
You soft blue-eyed people, I know, have always cceurs de lion, but
I'm not so sure about the poitrine. Do take care. In those chest
affections, remember, the old proverb is fearfully true What's done
can't be undone.
1 [Passages from this letter are printed in Memorials of Edward Ihirne-Jones,
vol. i. p. 232,]
374 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6i
And don't be too sad about your friends. I am sorry about Flint, 1
but for his own sake and for th.it of others much more than for
Edward's. Ed. is sure to have always more than he can do. But
Mrs. Wells 2 is the main sorrow unless there are other friends, whom
I don't know, of whom you are speaking. / am very, very* sorry. I
did not know her much, but I always counted upon her as a friend
whom I could make, if only I had time. And there's Mrs. Browning
gone, too, who was a friend, and such a one; but one must not think
about oneself in talking of her, it is all the Earth's loss. I get horribly
sad whenever I give myself time to think ; and can only keep up by help
of those things which you think so sad, when you see them going out.
I was on the deck of one all Wednesday night, it blowing hard : and the
sea a blaze with phosphoric foam, one perpetual torrent of white fire
rushing over the lower side of the deck ; for we were going fast, and
when the moon went down at one the night was nearly black, all but
the fire of the waves. We began mackerel fishing off' Hastings at five
in the morning, but after holding on by ropes all night, I got tired
of having spray come over me, and I couldn't breathe in their hole
of a cabin forward, so I made them take me home. We set all sail,
and of all the noble and gay things going, I don't think there are
many gayer than a good boat when she gets leave to go and has the
wind as she likes, and plenty it is like a sea gull and an always
conquering knight in a tournament, at once half flight, half crash, as
she meets the waves. I had the helm for an hour and a half, and my
arms are not well on again yet. We got in to Boulogne about ten.
No, there's no real sadness, though much solemnity in the life. The
man at the helm during the night was just as happy as if he had
been asleep, smoking, and just glancing now and then at the relief of
the sail in the moonlight, to see that it was rightly filled. The other
men were snoring in their hole like dormice, as merry when they
began fishing as if they had been in an alehouse nay, what say I ?
immeasurably more; they came out of their oily, tarry, salt black hole
in perfect peace of mind to meet the face of Dawn, and do their daily
work would they have come in the same peace of mind out of the
alehouse? Nay, are not they happier even than the well-conducted
peasant in their homes, seeing wife and child by daylight instead of
dark? And then their "sense." One of the pilots I've been sailing
* I speak selfishly. I hardly knew her husband it's no use thinking
of him or of her brother.
1 [Sec below, p. .S77 ;/.]
2 [See Vol. XIV. p. :}() n., where a letter from Raskin to his father, lamenting-
her death, is
1861] A PILOT'S WISDOM 375
with I was out with him all day on Monday, when it was calm
enough for talking is precisely of my way of thinking on all points
of Theology, morality, politics, and economy. He kept saying, in
good French, just the very thing I meant to have tried to say in
bad. There's wisdom for you ! Do you think any of your clodpolly l
country people could have done that, Miss ? (I beg pardon, Mistress.)
Well, that was very funny, your talking about Rosie being better than
a currant bush. Only a letter or two before I had been describing to
her a cottage I was going to have in the Alps, and I described con-
tents of garden thus :
" With daisies in it ; yes, and violets, yes and currant bushes,
and cabbages, and other useful vegetables."
She hasn't written me a word since the scolding about Victoi'ie
and Louise, so I've sent her a letter on the natural history of shellfish,
and seaweed, which I hope shell like better. I shall not see her till
November. Nay, I shall never see her again. It's another Rosie every
six months now. Do I want to keep her from growing up ? Of
course I do. Should I like more than half to see you over here ? Of
course I should full three-quarters. Do come if you can. But come
by yourselves. I won't have anybody. Stop, I see you're to be with
friends, without Ned no, that won't do for me. But I think you
and Edward may manage to come before I leave my little sea parlour
and look out of it, and be lulled, not kept awake by far off-sea. I
can't write more to-day. Write to me and tell me all about the
troubles. Ever your affectionate J. R.
P.S. So glad to hear of Nativity and nice " feet in grass " Annun-
To his FATHEII
BOULOGNE, Sunday, 21st July, 1861.
The boat goes early to-day, so that I cannot think over the con-
tents of your letter, so as to be able to answer in any definite way
to-day. It happens to be complicated by a very earnest invitation
from the La Touches for the month of August after the fuss of the
Court visits are over 3 and Bethune's 4 note, though I've hardly had
time to read it, is very nice. I had no idea that I had given him an
1 [Coined by Ruskin from the Shakespearean clod-pole.']
2 [Possibly the Annunciation "in which the Virgin kneels by her bed while
the Angel appears amongst blossoming apple-trees " (Memorials of Edward Burne-
Jones, vol. i. p. 261).]
3 [See below, p. 383.]
4 [The husband of Caroline Domecq : see Prceterita, ii. 178 (Vol. XXXV.
876 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6i
impression of being kind. I should, and should not, like to go and
see them. I am ashamed of my bad French, and of my weak health,
and of my not being able to ride nor dance, nor do anything like
other people, so that I'm always, in a small, minor way, tormented
when I'm with people who don't know my forte such as it is and
with these French people I should be doubly uneasy, because I know
they would wish to be kind and put themselves out of their way to be
so. Then I've nearly promised to go to the Cookes * in the autumn,
for a day or two, and I believe the best thing for me would be to do
none of these things, but go on not here, perhaps, but in some quiet
place as I am doing.
My opinion of my drawing is not morbid. It is the same fixed
opinion which I have formed of my poetry, and will never more change,
being grounded on clear and large knowledge of what is really noble
and good in human work. I would I could lose the knowledge again,
for it is an awful one, making the common world and its ways look
half death and half dust ; but as I have wrought for it, and this is all
I have got for my labour, I suppose it will be of some use in time.
My drawing may perhaps still be of use to me in illustrating natural
history, or such things.
Sir Joshua was the last healthy painter, because he was the last
painter whose work was received. Turner was a painter also but his
work was not received, and he died mad. There has been no other
man, since Sir Joshua, worth the bread he ate or the grave he will
lie in I mean, of course, as a painter. Every man deserves his bread
who fairly wins it; but they win it with sorrow not having the true
gift which makes half the work as easy and unconscious as that of
winds and rain.
To FREDERIC J. SHIELDS