last days. I don't mind this a bit if it does you any good to stop
the paper only, don't think of me in such matters the one only
thing I can have is liberty. The depression on that German tour
was not in writing the letters, 3 but in having them interfered with.
The depression I am now under cannot be touched by any society.
It can only lessen as I accomplish what I intend, and recover in some
degree the lost ground of life. My opinions will never more change
they are now one with Bacon's and Goethe's and I shall not live
long enough to be wiser than either of these men. (I trust I shall not
change by becoming foolisher.)
1 [A leading article on July 15, chaffing the Congress and its members (including
Dr. Acland) on the nature of its proceedings : " Plausibility, plausibility, plausi-
bility, plausibility have the first, second, and third place on these occasions," etc.]
2 [Chapter ii. of the " Essays on Political Economy" (collected as Munera
Pulveris) for Fraser's Magazine.]
3 [On the Italian question in 1859 : see above, pp. 314, 331, 340, 347.]
416 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1862
To Dr. JOHN BROWN l
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
Monday Morning .
Sunshine at last, looking as if it would stay, puts me into some
little heart again. Among many subjects of discouragement lately, I
am not sure that any told upon me, among personal matters, more
than my amazement at finding out how little you knew of me. That,
after all the work I had done, and the kind of quiet labour with
which I had brought to bear the elements of various sciences on my
own apparently unscientific subject, you should think I did not know
the look of a science when I saw one, or that I would blurt out an
assertion on a matter affecting the interests of every living creature in
the world, which could be overthrown by an article in the Scotsman. 2
Nothing perhaps has ever shown me how futile my work has really
been hitherto, and how necessary it was to set about it in another
way. For this " science " of political economy, it is perhaps not quite
the damnedest lie the Devil has yet invented, because it does not
wear so smooth a face as his monasticisms and sanctifications did, but
it is at all events the broadest and most effective lie, and the most
stupefying. Nothing in literature or in human work of any sort is so
contemptible, considering the kind of person (well educated, well mean-
ing, and so on) from whom it proceeds, as the writings of political
economists. In no other imaginary science did its disciples ever start
without knowing what they were going to talk about; that is to say,
to talk about " necessaries and conveniences " (vide first sentences of
Adam Smith 3 ) without having defined what was Necessary or Con-
venient. Ricardo's chapter on Rent and Adam Smith's eighth chapter
on the wages of labour stand, to my mind, quite Sky High among
the monuments of Human Brutification ; that is to say, of the para-
lysis of human intellect fed habitually on Grass, instead of Bread
of God. They are two of quite the most wonderful Phenomena
in the world, and the tone of mind which produces such, together
with Cretinism, Cholera, and other inexplicabilities of human disease,
will furnish people, one day, with notable results for real scientific
1 [No. 11 of " Letters of Iluskiii " in Letters of Dr. John Brown, 1907, pp. 297-
2 [See the following letter.]
3 ["The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it
with all the necessaries and conveniences of life."]
1862] POLITICAL ECONOMY, A LIE 417
To Dr. JOHN BROWN l
DEAR DR. BROWN, Yes, indeed, I shall always regard you as one of
the truest, fondest, faithfullest friends I have. It was precisely because
I did and do so that your letters made me so despondent. " If Dr.
Brown thinks this of me, if he supposes that my strong, earnest words
on a subject of this mighty import are worth no more than the Editor
of the Scotsman's 2 or (who is it ? Mr. Heugh's ?), and that they can
be seen to the bottom of in a day's reading, what must others think
of me ? " You say I have effected more revolution than other writers.
My dear Doctor, I have been useful, in various accidental minor ways,
by pretty language and pleasant hints, chiefly to girls (I don't despise
girls, I love them, and they help me, and understand me often better
than grown women), but of my intended work I have done nothing.
I have not yet made people understand so much as my first principle
that in art there is a Right and Wrong.
At this instant nineteen thousand Turner sketches are packed in tin
cases without one human being in Europe caring what happens to them.
Why, again, should you suppose that I would be unjust in any such
serious work as this, if I could help it ? Those expressions of mine may
do me harm, or do me good ; what is that to me ? They are the only
true, right, or possible expressions. The Science of Political Economy
is a Lie. . . . 3
There is no " state of mind " indicated in my saying this. I write
it as the cool, resolute result of ten years' thought and sight. I write
it as coolly as I should a statement respecting the square of the
hypothenuse. If my hand shakes, it is from mere general nervousness,
vexation about my mother (who, however, is going on quite well as
far as the accident admits), and so on. The matter of this letter is
as deliberate as if I were stating an equation to you, or a chemical
analysis. You say I should " go and be cheerful." I don't know what
your Edinburgh streets afford of recreative sight. Our London ones
afford not much. My only way of being cheerful is precisely the way
I said, to shut myself up and look at weeds and stones; for as soon
as I see or hear what human creatures are suffering of pain, and
1 [No. 10 of "Letters of Ruskin" in Letters of Dr. John Brown, 1907, pp. 296-
2 [For notices of the article in the Scotsman on Unto this Last, see Vol. XVII.
pp. 69 n., 71 ]
3 [The passage here omitted is printed in Vol. XVII. p. Ixxxii.]
xxxvi. 2 B
418 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1862
saying of absurdity, I get about as cheerful as I should be in a sheep-
fold strewed hurdle-deep with bloody carcases, with a herd of wolves
and monkeys howling and gibbering on the top of them. I am rest-
ing now from all real work and reading mineralogy and such things,
amusing myself as I can, and hope to get rid of nervousness and so
on in good time, and then have it well out with these economical
It puzzles me not a little that you should not yet see the drift
of my first statement in those Cornhill papers. I say there is no
science of Political Economy yet, because no one has defined wealth.
They don't know what they are talking about- They don't even know
what Money is, but tacitly assume that Money is desirable, as a
sign of wealth, without defining Wealth itself. Try to define Wealth
yourself, and you will soon begin to feel where the bottom fails.
To GEORGE ALLEN
GENEVA, 9th August, 1862.
MY DEAR ALLEN, Instead of coming to Dieppe, I shall want you
to come for a month or so to Switzerland, there to draw and consult
about future operations.
I am going to look for a house here near Geneva and I think it
most probable that it will appear on consideration desirable that you
and your family should all " emigrate " also and here pursue your
work in good light and air. The children would have to live a rough
country cottage life, which probably would be better for them, and
their mother too, than their present one.
I write you word of my own conclusion, so soon as I have deter-
mined it, that you may begin talking it over with your wife. . . .
Always faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.
To his FATHER
GENEVA, Sunday, 10th August, 1862.
It is now one of the evils of Geneva that one must despatch
one^s letter just as the letters from England are put into one's hand.
This must be written before I receive yours. I know my resolution
to stay here must give you much pain, and I shall receive some painful
letters in consequence. I am sorry, but it is unavoidable. I answer
in advance some things I know you will say.
That I have failed just at the most provoking moment ? It i.s
1862] SELF-DEFENCE 419
true. The horse fails just at the leap, not as it crosses the ploughed
field. If it is a good horse, the rider should know it has rightly
measured its powers, and that he had better be shaken in his seat a
little, than go down together.
That I have broken my promises? My promise was of course
made, and to be understood, on terms of health and life.
My mother and you have such pain at present in thinking my
character is deteriorating? Now once for all though this assertion
may somewhat pain you*on the one side, it should more pleasure you on
the other. I could easily prove to you, if I chose, but take it on my
word, and do not force me to humiliate you by doing so that I am
an incomparably nobler and worthier person, now, when you disapprove
of nearly all I say and do, than I was when I was everything you and
my mother desired me.
To his FATHER
GENKVA, 12th August, 1862.
I was very deeply grateful yesterday for your kind letter written on
receipt of telegraph which I knew would make you anxious and sorry.
I trust things will now go better, with all of us. I have great com-
fort and peace of mind in the thought of staying among these old
hills ; and Couttet says I shall be all right in three months, if I will
I am going out to-day to look again at a house which I can rent
for a month, or for two, on the slope of the Saleve, about five miles
between this and Bonneville, two miles to the right of the mail road.
It is in exquisite situation and air, but has not good view from the
windows, though perfectly divine view from the garden. But I could
get good meat every day from Geneva, and my letters as now, and it
would be a good site whence to look for a permanent house. . . .
There is no chance of my changing my idea about a house. I
have intended it for twenty years; and should have done it long ago,
but I could not bear to leave you and my mother so much alone,
nor should I now, but that beyond all doubt or mistake my health
compels me to leave London. There was a question in my mind,
until lately, between this Swiss house and taking part of a house with
Rossetti, 1 to follow out our work together in London ; but the experi-
ment I have made in painting at Milan has shown me that I must
for the present rest in mountain air. This autumn 1 shall take up
the botany and geology of the Saleve ; and I feel, as I said, in much
more comfort and peace than I have done for years.
1 [See above, p. 412.]
420 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1862
To hw FATHER
[MORNKX] Sunday^ \1th August, 1862.
If you write such nice letters in answer, it is enough to make me
go on writing half cruel letters : but I hope they are over now ; I
can hardly account for the instinct which forced them from me just
at that time, unless it was, by showing you how sulky I was, to make
you less regret my visiting nowhere. But there was a very bitter
feeling of distress, both for you and for myself, in my mind as I came
over the Simplon, thinking how much otherwise it might have been
for both of us if we had understood and managed each other better,
of which it is needless to speak more.
I am in great comfort in this place, 1 and feel decidedly better,
though weak to a degree ; partly as one always feels weak when one first
gives in, and throws oneself down to rest. I've got a garden not a
very pretty one, but as much as for the present I want; backed by
a rough stone wall, with rougher espalier over it, facing south and
covered with vine ; luxuriant fig, full of fruit ; gourd ; convolvulus, and
semi-standard peach, of rough old stem, yet getting warmth of wall
and with fruit more picturesque than promising, but pretty to look at,
growing in bunches, like grapes, four or five peaches in a knot. Then
there are a few beds of vegetables, a rose or two, and some syca-
more and pine trees, and view beyond up the two valleys of Veyrier (?)
and Bonneville, Mole, Brezon, and Reposoir forming a jagged chain of
crests against morning light. Above, a little bit of Burgundian Gothic
chateau of fifteenth century, and then the Saleve, like Malvern Hills,
below, a broken sandstone dingle; and beyond it, between me and the
plain of Bonneville, a hill covered with noble woods of Spanish che.st-
nuts and pine, mixed with blocks of grand gneiss and granite, the
moraine of the great antediluvian glacier of Geneva, in places heaped
up high enough to make the ground like a piece of Chamouni. The
air is divinely pure and soft, so that I can sit out and read in the
covered gallery round the house, as comfortably, or more so, than
inside, and (which is a great point) the country people are not only
civil and gentle, but pretty, half Swiss, half Savoyard, without the rude-
ness of the one, or the ugliness of the other.
Moreover, which happens curiously by good fortune, as it seems to
me, my "landlady" (this is certainly the right word how has it come
1 [Compare the description of his house at Moruex in Vol. XVII. pp. liv.-
Ivi., where an illustration of it is given. 'Hie " Hurgimdian chateau " is seen in
Plate IV., Vol. XVII. (p. lx.).]
1862] A HOME AT MORNEX 421
in English to mean an inn-keeper ?) is the widow of the late professor
of history in the University of Geneva : l a well-educated woman of
about fifty, having not only her husband's large library still in his
house at Geneva, but free access to the books and manuscripts of the
University, which I find from her account, and from her husband's
catalogue of them, must be far more interesting than I had any idea
of. I have been out weeding a little and looking at convolvulus bells
in the sunshine before breakfast, and after despatching Couttet with
this to make sure of its right posting (after this the Messageries will
be answerable, so you must not be alarmed if a letter or so misses),
shall go out for a quiet ramble, and especially to complete an examina-
tion begun yesterday of the growth of wild thyme, on the slopes of the
Saleve. I dine at three, take tea at six, then, if I like, can in a
quarter of an hour reach the brow of the Saleve so as to see the sunset
over Jura and Geneva plain on the other side without losing my own
view of Mont Blanc on this, and so to bed at nine. . . .
Dearest love to my mother. It makes me very sad to think how
in her time she would have enjoyed this place, with its little ruralities
of garden and ground, its pure clear air, and its quiet.
To LADY TREVELYAN
MORNEX, SAVOY, llth Aug. .
DEAR LADY TREVELYAN, I do not know if you ever got a long
letter I sent to your London (Brompton) address ; if not, it does not
matter, there was nothing in it.
I've lain down to take my rest at last, having rented experi-
mentally a month or two of house preparatory to fastening down
post and stake but except as I used to come abroad, I come home
no more. For the present, I have a bit of garden, with espalier of
vine, gourd, peach, fig, and convolvulus shade of pine and sycamore
view over valley of Bonneville to the Savoy mountains and Mont
Blanc summit above me, like Malvern Hills, the rocky slopes of the
Saleve in front, a dingle and rich wood of Spanish chestnut and pine,
strewn with blocks of the tertiary glaciers, granite and gneiss, moss
covered. I am within six miles of Geneva (Poste Restante there the
best address); the air is so soft that I can sit out all day, and as pure
as 2000 feet above sea and fair ground (and no furnaces) can make it;
1 [M. Gaullieur, author of a history of Switzerland, used by Ruskiu (see, e.g.,
Vol. XXXV. p. 510).]
422 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [isfis
and if I don't get better here, it will be a shame (but that's no reason
why I should). I've been out before breakfast weeding a little and
looking at the convolvulus bells in the sunshine, and the morning
clouds on the Mont de Reposoir. What a sad thing a yesterday's
convolvulus bell is, when you pull it open. I feel so like one, and
like a morning cloud, without the sunshine yet better a little even
of a few days' peace but more still of the resolve to have peace at
any price if it is to be had on any Mont du Reposoir, and not only
under the green little Mont du Reposoir or out of any "Saal" but
that which is "auf kurxe Zeit geborgt Der Glaubiger sind so viele." 1
Have you ever looked at the second part of Faust ? It is a perfect
treasure-house of strange knowledge and thought inexhaustible but
it is too hard for me just now. I'm going dreamily back to my
geology, and upside-down botany, and so on. I'm very sorry for
them at home, as they will feel it at first but no course was possible
but this, whatever may come of it. I trust they will in the issue be
happier ; they will if things go right with me, and they won't see much
less of me, only I shall be clearly there on visit, and master of my
own house and ways here which, at only six years short of fifty, it
is time to be.
The father has stood it very grandly hitherto ; I trust he will not
break down. I could not go home. Everything was failing me at
once brain, teeth, limbs, breath and that definitely and rapidly. I
painted a little at Milan, and would fain have gone on, but could not.
I'll write you soon again, if I get better. Love to Sir Walter.
Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIX.
To CHAKLKS ELIOT NORTON 2
MORNKX, HAUTK SAVOIK, "2Kth August,
DEAR NORTON, It seems to me hardly possible I can have left your
last kind letter with the photograph unanswered, but it seems also I
have become capable of anything. I have to-day your pretty little
note asking where I am. Six miles from Geneva on the way to
Chamouni I am in body (if the wretched thing I live in can be called
a body). But where I am in soul I know not, that part of me having
disappeared for the present. During the summer I was at Milan, trying
1 [See the "(irallejfung " scene, at the end of the Second Part of Fauxt (for
which compare Vol. XX. p. 208).]
2 [Atlantic Montli/i/, July 1904, vol. 94, pp. 13-14 ; the first sentences (" It seenus
to me ... for the present") were omitted. No. 3'2 in Norton; vol. i. pp. 12H-1:}!.]
1862] THE AMERICAN WAR 423
to copy some frescoes of Luini's. I suppose it will be the last drawing
work I shall ever try, for all my strength and heart is failing. You
asked in one of your last letters how I had got into this state : do
not ask. Why should I, if there be any reason for it, afflict you too,
or trouble your faith? Besides, I have no strength for writing. All
my work has been done hurriedly and with emotion, and now the
reaction has come. I found myself utterly prostrated by the effort
made at Milan so gave in on my way home, and have rented a house
for a month on the slope of the Saleve. I saunter about the rocks,
and gather a bit of thistledown or chickweed break a crystal read
a line or two of Horace or Xenophon and try to feel that life is
worth having unsuccessfully enough. In short, I have no power of
resting and I can't work without bringing on giddiness, pains in the
teeth, and at last, loss of all power of thought. The doctors all say
" rest, rest." I sometimes wish I could see Medusa.
And you can't help me. Ever so much love can't help me only
time can, and patience. You say "does it give you no pleasure to
have done people good ? " No for all seems just as little to me as
if I were dying (it is by no means certain I'm not) and the vastness
of the horror of this world's blindness and misery opens upon me
as unto dying eyes the glimmering square 1 (and I don't hear the
birds). . . .
As for your American war, I still say as I said at first, If they
want to fight, they deserve to fight, and to suffer. It is entirely hor-
rible and abominable, but nothing else would do. Do you remember
Mrs. Browning's curse on America ? 2 I said at the time " she had no
business to curse any country but her own." But she, as it appeared
afterwards, was dying, and knew better than I against whom her
words were to be recorded. We have come in for a proper share
of suffering but the strange thing is how many innocent suffer,
while the guiltiest Derby and d'Israeli, and such like are shooting
Well, as soon as I get at all better, if I do, I'll write you again.
And I love you always, and will. I am so glad you liked Rossetti's
banner 3 so much. Remember me affectionately to your mother and
sisters. Write to Denmark Hill. I stay among the hills all winter,
but don't know where yet, so D. Hill is the only safe address. Ever
your affectionate J. RUSKIN.
1 [Tennyson : see above, p. 404.]
2 \_" Curse for a Nation" (a denunciation of American slavery), one of the
pieces in Poems before Congress, published in I860.]
3 [See above, pp. 329, 404.]
424 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1862
GENEVA, 13th Sept. [?1862].
I have your nice letter you need not mind being amusing nothing
amuses me ; the best that people can be to me is not disagreeable.
You ask my plans I have none, except to live out of England, which
I am tired of, and which is, so far as it is acquainted with me, tired
of me. You ask how I am in health I have not the least notion,
except that I walk somewhat, eat somewhat, sleep somewhat. You ask,
Is the Burden of Life lighter ? Much less I have of it now and less in
prospect. Of Associates ? Plenty ; there are plenty of vipers hereabouts
if one looks for them some large lizards and innumerable small ones
and, what is a mercy, plenty of accessible places which are neither men
nor women. I don't mean to sign myself any more " Affectionately "
to anybody. Aubrey de Vere is the noblest Person IVe yet heard of
your getting hold of. He is one of the very few religious men living
(I knew him once and know his Work still). 2 . . .
To Sir JOHN MURRAY NAESMYTH, Bart.
DENMARK HILL, I5th Nov., Saturday.
DEAR SIR JOHN, I got home last Wednesday, and my father this
morning transmits to me your kindest letter over the breakfast table
not without well-merited indignation.
Well, I was ill very after I last wrote to you, and did not know
what to do with myself at last I went into Savoy to old places that
I used to like when I was a child, and climbed and got better, and I
am now much better and getting on, thank God, as it seems to me
to renewed strength.
One great worry is over and settled, and in a way which Lady
Naesmyth and you will be mightily sorry for. You will soon hear if
you have not heard of the Bishop of NataPs book. 3 Now for the last
four years I've been working in the same direction alone, and was
quite unable to tell any one what I was about and saw it was of no
1 [This extract from a letter was printed as No. 124 in Sotheby's Sale Catalogue,
February 20, HKH5. For mention of other letters to the same correspondent, see
above, p. 200.]
2 [At a later date Ruskin and he met again at Coniston : see Aubrey dc Vrrr :
a Memoir, by Wilfrid Ward, 1904, p. ,'522.]
3 [C'olenso's The Pentateuch Critically Examined, part i., 1862.]
1862] COLENSO'S "PENTATEUCH" 425
use but it forced me to be quite alone I could not speak of any-
thing, because all things have their root in that, and when you or
any of my friends used to speak to me as if I was what I had been,
it worried me. And the solitude was terrible and the discoveries and
darknesses terriblest and all to be done alone.
But now the Bishop has spoken, there will be fair war directly, and
one must take one's side, and I stand with the Bishop and am at ease,
and a wonderful series of things is going to happen more than any
of us know but the indecision is over.
I am only here for three weeks. Then I go back to Savoy, where
I'm going to live, coming to London only on visits.
I've much to do and am forced to make it a law never to over-
work any more. I need not say, forgive for I see you and Lady
Naesmyth have forgiven and always will. Remember me affectionately
to her and to Miss Ada and accept the assurance of my grateful
affection also. Please write me a line to say how you all enjoy
Florence. Ever faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.
To C. H. SPURGEON 1
DENMARK HILL, 25th Nov., 1862.
MY DEAR FRIEND, I want a chat with you. Is it possible to
get it, quietly, and how, and where, and when ? I'll come to you,
or you shall come here, or whatever you like. I am in England
only for ten days, being too much disgusted with your goings on
yours as much as everybody else's to be able to exist among you
any longer. But I want to say "Good-bye" before going to my den