John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 54 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 54 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

people Carlyle, etc. because she thinks they " pervert " me ; but I
never understand them till I find the thing out for myself. After ten
years' hard work I find out that " every man does his best thing easiest." *
Then I find the brief sentence in Emerson and am pleased : but he
does not teach it me. My "perverters" are Mr. Moore and Mr.
Bayne and the Bishop of Oxford, and Lord Shaftesbury ; the single
speech of the latter on geology is enough to make more infidels than
Voltaire, Carlyle, Rousseau, and Gibbon, in all their works. I name
Mr. Moore first, however, for the most damaging thing to Christianity
I ever yet heard in my life was a sermon of his on a verse in Psalms,
" Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name," 8 in which, apply-
ing the phrase " thy word " to the Bible, he sent, or endeavoured to
send, his congregation away with the impression that David had a neatly

1 [That is, by the Letter to Cairns, which was included in the Second Series of
Ilorce Subsecivae. It wan to Brown that Ruskin had written on the subject : see
the P.S. to the preceding letter (p. ;3!)3).]

2 [From the first chapter (" uses of Great Men ") in Emerson's Representative
Men (" Every one can do his best thing easiest. ' Peii de nioyens, teaucoup d'effet'").
For lluskin's sayings to like effect, see Pre- Raphaclitism, 3 (Vol. XII. p. 344),
and General Index (under " Ease ").]

3 [Psalms cxxxviii. 2.]


bound volume in the Bible Society's best print always on his dressing-
table, with a blue string at his favourite chapters of St. John, and I
fully expected to hear, before the sermon finished, how Masters Amnon
and Absalom were good boys and always learned their texts correctly,
but little Solomon generally had to have a Watts 1 hymn to learn besides,
for having made a mess of his pinafore in Bathsheba^s back garden.


LUCERNE, Thursday [December 19, 1861].

I had a row of ten miles yesterday, but no ducks and drakes, for
the North wind came down round Pilate, and my shoulders were stiff
and hands sore, before I could get home.

All the better work for me. I found your nice letter, with answer
to Mrs. Simon, when I got in; nothing can possibly be better. I like
your suggestion about Interpres very much ; it is far better than mine. 1
It would amuse you sometimes to think and hunt out a matter of
this kind. Good news of Laing, pleasant.

Articles in Times on Prince Albert very good. I have, however,
the bad habit of liking better to speak evil of the dead than the
living, and would add to the eulogium, that while he educated his
own family, indeed, very nicely, the German policy of the English.
Court would fain have kept all the millions of Italy in Brigandage
and Romanism, and has to a great extent succeeded in doing so.

The Queen, by first accounts in paper, seems behaving well. Widowed
Queens generally get on pretty well if you look to history ; it is odd
how a woman seems to take to the notion of government, considering
that they are not supposed to be intended for it.


LUCERNE, 20th December, 1861.

DEAR LADY NAESMYTH, Some reason there has been good reason,
I fear it is only by Sir John's gracious indulgence it can be called
for my not writing. It is simply that I have always been ill and sad,
and not inclined to write and say so. I am now better, though not
blyther; better by reason chiefly of rest and freedom from all anxiety
or charge. I am not blyther, because there are too many causes to
be talked of; the principal one being, I suppose, that in human life,
the hour of half-past two or three in the afternoon if one is not

1 [A reference to earlier letters iu which Ruskin had asked his father to look
up the etymology of the word and had made a conjecture of his own, which,
however, he afterwards abandoned.]


pleased with one's forenoon's work, and yet expects to be called early
to tea, or even early to bed is not a cheerful one. But as there is a
St. Martin's summer in the year, so there is a kind of St. Martin's
Morning, in the seventy years, to be sometimes hoped for and if I
ever get over the habit of regretting, and the hope of accomplishing,
1 may yet get through the " sufficient evil " of every day, not with-
out utility.

I told you before that one reason why I would not come to you
was that I was not myself, and as far as I can see at present I shall
remain somebody else. When I write another book if you like it,
perhaps I may venture to come and see you ; but it will be so different
from these old ones you can't think.

In the meantime you will be glad in your kindness to hear that
I have enjoyed the autumn and early winter among these hills it is
a pity Sir John and you and Miss Naesmyth went to Venice. Sir
John would not have been ill, I think, had you remained among the
Alps. I was two winters at Venice it is far colder than hitherto it
has been here ; and, to my delight and amazement, I gathered a large
handful of the Gentiana Verna on Sunday forenoon last, having "gone
to church" 1500 feet above the lake, and got through what we (have
learned from the beadle) ridiculously call "Divine Service" without
the objectionable accompaniment of any Preaching except from the
above-named Gentians.

One great delight of the winter is that all the streams are clear
and not too large. I walked through the Reuss half a mile below
Lucerne just before it receives the Emme on the 22nd November,
after two days' frost. It took me to mid-thigh for about twenty yards
of its breadth running like a mill race, so that I had to hold my
pole firm, and h'x it cautiously; but if you have seen the Reuss in
summer, you may imagine what a difference there must be in the mass
of the stream. On the St. Gothard, one may dabble in it nearly any-
where as one would in a Highland stream, and the crystalline clearness
of the higher summits is almost intolerable in brightness. I stayed a
week at Altorf early this month, and was obliged to come away
because of the over-excitement caused by the intense beauty and light :
it seemed to make me giddy, like strong wine. The beauty of the
autumnal colours among the woods, from the mid-October to end of
November, is "a sight to dream of, not to tell" 1 (only in the

1 [From Part i. of Christabel, describing the unrobing of Gerald! ne :

" Behold ! her bosom and half her side

A sight to dream of, not to tell ! "
quoted also in Vol. XIX. p. 11.5.]


contrary sense, spoken of the mountain sides, from that in which it is
written of Geraldine's). But truly, I never did so much as dream of
beauty of colour like it, nor did I know before what Autumn was
meant for I thought it was only for grapes and apples.

The best, however, is now over, and I return home, D.V., for the
New Year, but shall be back among the Alps probably early in Spring,
to be out of the way of the Exhibition and its belongings.

A line to Denmark Hill, with your forgiveness and good news of
Sir John, would find grateful welcome any day after the first January
no matter how short, so only that it assured me you still believe me
faithfully and gratefully yours, J. RUSKIN.


LUCERNE, Saturday, 2lst [December, 1861].

I have your nice line of the 18th about Political Economy, etc.
My own feeling is that I should like those essays, or any bits of
them, published anyhow anywhere it will certainly be years before
I write anything else. I might republish the whole four in large print
with a word or two of preface perhaps. 1 But I don't care about the
matter. I have to settle foundations so new and so deep for myself;
to learn so much, and think so much, before I again speak, that what
I do now is wholly immaterial to me. Thank you for flowers and
sweets sent to Chelsea. When you have little, send there, not to
Park Street. Rosie is better and if she were not, the flowers would
do her no good and they do do good to Mrs. Carlyle.

I have such a coaxing letter from Rosie that I might perhaps have
come home three days sooner for it ; only perhaps Mamma and you
might have been more jealous than pleased, and Mrs. La Touche have
thought me absurd. Here is a funny little dialogue between her and
Rosie, the other night, which she (Mrs. L.) sands me.

Mrs. L. " Rosie, don't you wish St. C. would come home ? "

Rosie. " Yes, indeed I do. How tiresome of him ! "

Mrs. L. " Do you think he wants us at all ? "

Rosie. " Well, perhaps he does. I think he wants to see me r

Mrs. L. " And doesn't he want to see me ? "

Rosie. "Well you know well Mamma, I think he likes your
letters quite as much as yourself, and you write so very often and
I can't write often. So he must want to see me."

1 [As was done in the following year : see Unto this Last, Vol. XVII. followed
at no long interval by Muneru Pulveris.]


The mainly pleasant contents of Rosie's letter are, however, in the
brief terms, "I'm all right." She is forbidden to work, compose, write
letters, or use her head in any way, but the doctors say she may draw.
What a satire on the popular notion of drawing. " That requires no
brain ! "

I shall not let her touch a pencil, if I can help it.

You know in that matter of universal salvation, there are but three
ways of putting it.

1. Either "people do go to the devil for not believing."

2. Or " they don't."

3. Or " We know nothing about it."

Which last is the real Fact, and the sooner it is generally acknow-
ledged to be the Fact, the better, and no more said about Gospel, or
Salvation, or Damnation not one of which three words is even under-
stood by one in ten millions of the persons who use them,- in the sense
in which they are used in the Bible.

To Mr. and Mrs. CARLYLE

[December, 1861.]

DEAR MR. AND MRS. CARLYLE, Only to wish you as happy a
Christmas as anybody has any business to have. Nice peace on earth
and good will to men we have preached and practised this many a
day have not we ? But I do wish that people had feeling enough,
when they want a word synonymous with beef and pudding, to use a
less solemn one. My father sent me Mrs. Carlyle's love, and it
came quite nicely. I'm coming home for New Year's Day at any
rate, D.V.

I write you cheerful scraps, because it makes me cheerful to think
of you but it was very cool of Mr. Carlyle to say I was leading a
life " with a trace of sadness " in it. I'm entirely miserable that's all ;
but it's all right and I believe I'm stronger than I was. It is not
muscular power that I want so much, though I've no large allowance
of that : but the least over thought above all, the least mortification
or anxiety makes me ill so quickly that I shall have, I believe, to
live the life of a monster for some years and care for nothing but
grammar. If I could make a toad of myself and get into a hole in
a stone, and be quiet, I think it would do me good. My eyes (and
toads have got those too) and ears (which asses have also) are
too much for me. " Non veder non sentir (m')e (sarebbe) gran ven-

I can't write letters but I love you both, and would if I could,


and long ones. I've got the Lion, 1 photographed and engraved and
neither are the least like ; and it doesn't matter, for the real thing is
good for nothing like the useless "fidelity" (query "stupidity" and
" obstinacy ") which it commemorates. I've no patience with the Swiss,
now nor with anybody myself included. Good-bye. Ever your affec-
tionate J. RUSKIN.


LUCERNE, Monday, 23rd [December, 1861].

... I got some good reading done indoors, and in these three
months and a half I have done at least twice as much effective work
as I ever did in any single term of my Oxford life (irrespective en-
tirely of sketching). That is to say, I have read two books of Livy,
the whole of the Odes of Horace, a considerable quantity of Xenophon,
and a little Homer, with such care as I never before gave, or knew
how to give, to reading anything. With the Geology and German I
read at Boulogne this makes a profitable half year : and though it
seems a long while to be from home, both absences together are not
like that of 184-5, from April llth, when I crossed the Jura in snow,
to October 26th, when I crossed the Simplon to return, or that of '51,
from 7th September, day of arrival in Venice, to same day of June,
when I got back to Park Street, certainly no gainer in health if in

The Boulogne part of this year, however, was much the best for
me, both for its forms of exercise, and because I had then some
dim vestiges of idea about the possibilities of a more happy close of
life than beginning, which, vague as they were, somewhat cheered and
animated me. I did not then quite feel how old I was, nor, though
I was much tired and despondent, had I ascertained the unfitness for
active life in society of which I am now certain, and which involves
the duty of some sharp self-denial and watching, for the time most
likely arrived even now when I must give up my "pettie" or at least
begin to give her up.

I must manage at Denmark Hill to be as quiet as possible, to
have a settled time for painting, reading, and walking. You must let
me be very firm in the matter of visitors. I have now no power of
talking to people. I have no animal energy left. I do not believe in
their religion, disdain their politics, and cannot return their affection
how should I talk to them ?

1 [Thorwaldsen'a monument to the memory of the Swiss Guards during the
French Revolution, August 10, 1792. For Ruskin's appreciation of the monument
in his boyhood, see Vol. I. pp. 253, 256.]

xxxvi. 2 c


I will give Couttet his napoleon with great satisfaction but I shall
want a circular note of ^20 sent to Mem-ice's to make me quite safe.
I see you are disappointed at my apparent loss of a day in Paris:
but if you look to my first plan, it was to stay Sunday at Boulogne,
and I cross by the same steamer on Monday, only coming up by the
Paris train for it I think it will be right to call on the Paris people, 1
and I will do it. I leave this the day after to-morrow. Thursday,
sleep at Basle, take the mail train to Paris next day. It does not leave
till three, but there is no other way of managing without risk of damp
bed at Troycs. I hope to telegraph from Paris at or about ten
o'clock on Saturday morning. Write to Mem-ice's with full addresses
of French people and what I am to say to them. Write me word
also of the names of all their children. Clotilde has two, has she not ?

I am sorry to have stayed here so long as I have, but I had
several things to make up my mind about very seriously, and under
circumstances of some ambiguousness what my conduct should be to
the La Touches was the chief of these : and that depended partly on
my thoroughly knowing the state of my own health, and partly on my
finding out if possible whether Rosie was what her mother and you
think her, an entirely simple child, or whether she was what / think
her, that is to say, in an exquisitely beautiful and tender way, and
mixed with much childishness, more subtle even than Catherine of


[Rnskin had returned home on the last day of 1801, and for the next four
months he was at Denmark Hill, preparing Unto this Lout for publication. In May
he went to Switzerland and Italy, with Mr. and Mrs. Burne-Jones : see Vol. XVII.
p. liii. In August he established himself for the autumn and winter at Mornex.
Several letters written thence are in Vol. XVII. pp. liv. set).]


DKNMARK HILL, 6 January, '(12.

DEAR NORTON, At home again at last, after six months' rest. I
have two letters of yours unanswered. But after six months of doing
nothing I feel wholly incapable of ever doing anything anv more, so
I can't answer them. Only, so many thanks, for being nice and writ-
ing them. Thanks for Atlantic. Lowell is delicious in the bits,

[Various members of the Domecq family : see below, p. 409.]
1 {Atlantic. Monthly, July 1904, vol. 94, pp. 12-10. No. 2!) in Xorton ; vol. i.
pp. 121-123.]


" The coppers ain't all tails," l and such like ; but I can't make out
how it bears on the business that's laziness too, I suppose. Also, for
said business itself, I am too lazy to care anything about it, unless I
hear there's some chance of you or Lowell or Emerson's being shot,
in which case I should remonstrate. For the rest, if people want to
fight, my opinion is that fighting will be good for them, and I suppose
when they're tired, they'll stop. They've no Titians nor anything
worth thinking about, to spoil and the rest is all one to me.

I've been in Switzerland from the 20th September to day after
Christmas. Got home on last day of year. It's quite absurd to go to
Switzerland in the summer. Mid-November is the time. I've seen a
good deal but nothing ever to come near it. The long, low light,
the floating frost cloud the divine calm and melancholy and the
mountains all opal below and pearl above. There's no talking about
it, nor giving you any idea of it. The day before Christmas was a
clear frost in dead -calm sunlight. All the pines of Pilate covered
with hoar-frost level golden sunbeams purple shadows and a moun-
tain of virgin silver.

I've been drawing painting a little ; with some self-approval.
I've tired of benevolence and eloquence and everything that's proper,
and I'm going to cultivate myself and nobody else, and see what
will come of that. I'm beginning to learn a little Latin and Greek
for the first time in my life, and find that Horace and I are quite
of a mind about things in general. I never hurry nor worry ; I don't
speak to anybody about anything ; if anybody talks to me, I go into
the next room. I sometimes find the days very long, and the nights
longer ; then I try to think it is at the worst better than being dead ;
and so long as I can keep clear of toothache, I think I shall do
pretty well.

Now this is quite an abnormally long and studied epistle, for me, so
mind you make the most of it and give my love to your Mother and
Sisters, and believe me ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


DKNMARK HILL, 16th January, '62.

DEAR DR. BROWN, There's no use in telling you these lay sermons
are delicious, for everybody will be telling you as much, but you may

1 [" But groutin' ain't no kin' o' use ; an' ef the fust throw fails,
Why, up an' try agin, thet's all, the coppers ain't all tails."

Birdojredum Sawin, Esq., to Mr. Hosea Biglow.]

- [No. 9 of "Letters of Ruskin" in Letter* of Dr. John Brown, 1907, p. 295.
The "lay sermons" were Plain Words on Health, published 1861.]


be glad to know, at least, that I'm getting the good of them. And
partly the Bad of them, for all such wise and good sayings make me
very selfishly sorrowful, because I had them not said to me thirty years
ago. All good and knowledge seems to come to me now

" As unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square." 1

But you yourself, I remember, were despondent about yourself when
you went (to Spain, was it not?), and now you're able to write these
jolly things and preach them too !

Am I not in a curiously unnatural state of mind in this way
that at forty-three, instead of being able to settle to my middle-aged
life like a middle-aged creature, I have more instincts of youth about
me than when I was young, and am miserable because I cannot climb,
run, or wrestle, sing, or flirt as I was when a youngster because I
couldn't sit writing metaphysics all day long. Wrong at both ends
of life. ,


UKNMARK HILL, l ( Jth January, 1862.

DEAR NORTON, I am at home again, or at least in the place
which ought to be home ; but I cannot rest the fields around me all
built over, and instead of being refreshed and made able for work
by my long holiday, I only feel more discontented with all around
me. One weight upon my mind, slight but irksome, is, however, at
last removed. Rossetti was always promising to retouch your draw-
ing, 3 and I, growling and muttering, suffered him still to keep it by
him in the hope his humour would one day change. At last it has
changed ; he has modified and in every respect so much advanced
and bettered it, that though not one of his first-rate works, and still
painfully quaint and hard, it is nevertheless worthy of him, and will be
to you an enjoyable possession. It is exceedingly full and interesting

1 [Tennyson, The Princess, iv. 34: quoted also in Vol. VII. p. 45!), Vol. XIX.
p. 101.]

[No. 30 in Xorton; vol. i. pp. 123-12C.]

3 [The water-colour drawing known under the title of "Before the Battle "-
done in 1858, and retouched in 18(52. "The drawing which I have for you," Ilossetti
had written in the former year, "represents a castle-full of ladies who have heen
embroidering banners which are now being fastened to the spears by the Lady
of the Castle." It is reproduced at p. 100 of H. ('. Marillier's Dante Gabriel

1862] IN THE "RUE DE L'ENFER" 405

in fancy, and brilliant in colour, though the mode of colour-treatment
is too much like that of the Knave of hearts. But at last it is really
on the way to you ; and to-morrow I go in to give him the first
sitting for the portrait, and will get it done as fast as may be. 1

I am no better than I was last winter perhaps worse certainly
more depressed ; but the year has been a hard one for me in various
ways, not likely again to occur ; and I gained somewhat in the summer
in spite of these perhaps this year will bring better chances. But
all things seem to go wrong at present. Jones, who promised to be
the sweetest of all the P.R.B. designers, has just been attacked by
spitting of blood, and, I fear, dangerously. 2 I have earache, indigestion,
and appear on the whole to be only beginning my walk through the
" Hue St. Thomas de TEnfer " on the way to " das ewige Nein." 3 My
Father and Mother are the one well the other patient under much
pain which accompanies every movement. She reads good books and
makes herself happy, and me profoundly sorrowful. Is happiness, then,
only to be got thus ? Are lies, after all, the only comfort of old age ;
and are they the sons of God, instead of the Devil's?

(Sunday, 9th February.} I kept this note by me to be quite sure
the drawing had gone, and to tell you the portrait is in progress,
and Rossetti seems pleased with it. 4 I have just got Holmes 1 poems 5
and am so delighted with them, at least with some of them " The
Boys," and "Sister Caroline, 1 " and some other such, more especially.
Jones is a little better no more blood coming.

I am trying to draw a little. I've done the coil of hair over the
Venus de 1 Medici's right ear seventeen times unsuccessfully within the
last month, and have got quite ill with mortification.

Did I tell you the winter was the real time for Switzerland? It
is. Fancy being able to walk everywhere among the wild torrent beds,
and see all their dreadfullest places, with only a green streamlet singing
among sheaves of ice as a gleaner among laid corn. And such sun-
shine, long and low, rosy half the day. Ever your affectionate


1 [See above, p. 329 n., and pp. 311, 335.]

2 [Happily "the hemorrhage was from the throat, not the lungs, and it never
returned " (Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, vol. i. p. 234).]

3 [See Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, book ii. ch. vii. ("The Everlasting No"):
" Full of such humour, and perhaps the miserablest man in the whole French
Capital or Suburbs, was I, one sultry Dogday, after much perambulation, toiling
along the dirty little Rue Saint-Thomas de PEnfer. . . . Thus had the everlasting No
(das ewige Aem) pealed authoritatively through all the recesses of my Being."]

* [But see below, p. 497.]

5 [Songs in Many Keys (Boston: Ticknor & Fields). "The Boys" is at p. 208.
Professor Norton, in printing the letter, queries " Sister Caroline," but the poem is
at p. 382 of the same volume ("Brother Jonathan's Lament for Sister Caroline").]



[DKNMAHK HILL, March 12, 1862.]

DKAU Miss HEATON, Do not buy any Madox Brown at present.
Do you not see that his name never occurs in my books do you
think that would be so if I could praise him, seeing that he is an
entirely worthy fellow ? But pictures are pictures, and things that
ar'n't ar'n't.

Well, you can, I think, do real good, and very, very much please

Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 54 of 74)