John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 58 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 58 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

promise to Mrs. La Touche. 2 I am very glad you are glad of it it
was not one I would have given for money, nor for Turners (which
I value much more than money), but it was the only thing I could
do for Mrs. La Touche, and she would do all she could for me. What-
ever my writing may be in future, it will not be careless my care-
less writing is that which you think has done so much good. What
it really is worth in the public mind, I think you may guess by the
price they set on my drawings.

I see you were a little hurt by Fronde's speaking only of my

1 [For the result of Ruskin's inquiries, see his lecture "On the Forms of the
Stratified Alps of Savoy/' Vol. XXVI. pp. 3 seq.]

2 [For this promise, see Vol. XXXIV. p. 002.]



436 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6s

mother but I am very sure that this was only because he would not
expect to find you at home in the forenoon. I think there is, however,
a curious sympathy between Froude and my mother. But as for your
being a nonentity you have cut me out with half my friends. The
Richmonds Dr. Brown Bayne Gordon the Pritchards think twice
as much of you as they do of me ; you have run me very hard with
Lady Trevelyan might have done anything you liked with Mrs. Prinsep
Mrs. Simon and Mrs. Hewitt are your most obedient and I shall
soon begin to be jealous of you with Georgie herself. 1 I don't know
what you would have ! I will write to Froude he may come ; if you
had more faith in him you would find yourself easier with him.

To CHARLES ELIOT NORTON 2

MOHNKX, IQth March, 1863.

MY DEAR-EST NORTON, I shall give you the dissyllable hence-
forward ; no one else has it but my father and mother, and my pet
Rosie, to whom, because of the passage denying my saintship, I shall
send your letter; she canonized me once, but mourns over my present
state of mind, which she has managed to find out somehow. I shall
send her your letter that she may see that people can yet love me
who won't give me any votive candles (not that she ever burnt many
for me, or ever will), for she has been scolding me frightfully, and
savs, " How could one love you, if you were a Pagan ? " She was
a marvellous little thing when she was younger, but which has been
one of the things that have troubled me there came on some over-
excitement of the brain, causing occasional loss of consciousness, and
now she often seems only half herself, as if partly dreaming. Fve
not seen her for a year, nor shall probably, for many a year to come
(if Fve many to live, which is hardly likely). But I am a little better,
and this quiet may bring me round to some vitality again.

Well, I will do as you say, and write a little word daily, or other-
daily, for you. I shall like it ; for the loneliness is very great, in the
peace in which 1 am at present, 3 and the peace is only as if I had
buried myself in a tuft of grass on a battlefield wet with blood,

1 [Mrs. Burne-Jones. For Mrs. Hewitt, sec above, pp. 290, 312.]

2 [At/antic Monthly, July 1004, vol. 94, p. 1,5. Some passages ("no one else. . . .
vitality again," and "This loth of March . . . that interests me") were omitted.
No. 35 in Norton; vol. ii. pp. 138-142. A passage from the letter ("the loneli-
ness . . . eyes daily") had been previously printed (with the omission of a few words)
by Professor Norton in his Introduction (p. ix.) to the American " Brantwood "
edition of Ethics of the /)//*/, 1801.]

[Mr. Norton's printing of this passage has varied, and is here amended : see-
Bibliographical Appendix (Vol. XXXVII. p. (580).]



1863] A DAY AT MORNEX 437

for the cry of the earth about me is in my ears continually if I
do not lay my head to the very ground. The folly and horror of
humanity enlarge to my eyes daily. But I will not write you melan-
choly letters. I will tell you of what I do and think that may give
you pleasure. I should do myself no good and you, sometimes, per-
haps harm, if I wrote what was in my heart, or out of it. The
surface thought and work I will tell you.

I wrote you a letter the other day you either have it by this
time and are very angry with me for once, or have it not, and are
forgiving me for supposed neglect of your kind last letter.

This 10th of March, then, to begin diary: I had headache yester-
day, and was late, late up this morning. Read a bit of the first
Georgic at breakfast, and wondered what laetum sUiqua quassante legu-
men 1 precisely meant. Had it been pease blossom, I should have accepted
the laetus ; or when I was a boy, and got the peas to shell, should have
accepted it for myself, not for the pod. After that I wrote about
ten words of notes for a lecture I have promised to give this season
in London on the stratified mountains of Savoy. 2

Then I drew the profile of the blossom of the purple nettle, and
tried to colour it, and couldn't, and tried to find out why it was
called Lammm 3 and couldn't.

Then I walked up and down the room watching the pines shake
in fierce March wind, which I was afraid of bringing on headache
again if I went out in.

Then I got your letter, and was pleased. Then I dined at half-
past two, and read some of the papers.

Then I went to my other house (for IVe two houses), 4 which looks
up the valley of the Arve, and drew some of a careful drawing I'm
making of it 5 very slowly and feebly.

Then I came back here and swung logs of wood about, to warm
myself, and wondered why we had a wretched four-legged body to
take care of, with a nasty spine all down the back of it and a sternum
in front. Then I had tea, and thought what I should, and what I
shouldn't write to you. Then I sate down to write this.

Of course you're not to be diaryed to that extent every day, yet
I'll put down anything that interests me.

1 [Virgil, Georgics, i. 74 : see Vol. XIX. p. 3G8, and Vol. XXV. p. 34G. J

2 See below, p. 442.]

3 " Had llusldn had Dr. Asa Gray's admirable Manual at hand, he would have
learned that the name was from Author, the throat, in allusion to the ringent
corolla." C. E. N.]

4 [See Vol. XVII. pp. Ivi.-lvii.]

5 [No doubt the drawing reproduced as Plate IV. in Vol. XVII. (p. lx.).]



438 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6s

Do letters come pretty regularly in these pleasant times of yours?
Remember me affectionately to your mother and sisters. Ever
affectionately and gratefully yours, J. RUSKIN.

Til get that book of Jean Paul's.

I know well that happiness is in little things, if anywhere, but
it is essentially within one, and being within, seems to fasten on little
things. When I have been unhappy, I have heard an opera from
end to end, and it seemed the shrieking of winds; when I am happy,
a sparrow's chirp is delicious to me. But it is not the chirp that
makes me happy, but I that make it sweet.



To Mr. and Mrs. BuRNE-JoNEs 1

[GENEVA, March 24, 1863.]

MY DEAREST CHILDREN, It's all very fine, but Fm sure there never
was a good papa who ever had such naughty children before. Fancy,
taking his nice theories and etymologies and granite stones out of his
mouth; and insisting on the absurd colour of "green" just on purpose
to put him in mind of the stone which he thought was green in the
nvch at Milan and which was only rubbed over with nasty paint, like
the colour that Ned paints his Necromantic skies of. You naughty !

Ah, well : have it your own way. I suppose it's that serpentine,
however ! that Chaucer meant ? nothing more likely.

Yes, indeed, I had noticed Patience. There's another beautiful
prolonged e Dame Pacience ! (Pazienza). Is the " hill of sonde "
hourglass sand ? It is the finest bit I've found yet, in all Chaucer. 2
I am on the whole rather better pleased at the idea of Italy next
year than this : for I could only have stayed with you a week or ten
days altogether this year but next, I could go on to Florence and we
would have such games, up at Fesole and in the sweet convent
gardens, and wouldn't we draw ! So if Ned goes on well, we'll plan
it so, shall we ? I've lost a whole month here with unexpected bad
weather, cold wind, in which I am fit foj- nothing, and this has
narrowed my time for exploring some rock beds, which I've to lecture
about, so that I'm well pleased to stay here, for myself. I am so

1 [A few words of this letter have been printed in Memorials of Edward Burne-
Jones, vol. i. p. 2(50.]

3 [The lines from The Assembly of Foules

" Dame Parience sitting there I fonde,
With face pale, upon an hill of sonde "-

were presently used hy Huskin in Tin; ('tutus of Aglaia, 30 (Vol. XIX. p. 82).]



1863] DUCAL PALACE DOCUMENTS 439

sorry to hear of Georgie's anxiety and sorrow. It may be that a
little run here in the late spring, without going further, would be
good for both of you. Consider of that.

As for the tapestry, 1 I think Jason will be delightful. I would
rather, too, have something Greek, and personification is always a little
tiresome and dead.

The Valentine's Day with shutter opening must be a million of
times better than with window. 2 I'm pleased more than you are that
my father likes Rosamund. 3

I was a little better the spring flowers are coming out at last,
and do me good. Ever your affect. Papa, J. R.

To RAWDON BROWN

GENEVA, 7th April, '63.

DEAR MR. BROWN, I'm so glad I haven't lost a letter, and I like
you so much better for not answering directly because I used to be
quite frightened at you for being so formal with me, and so ashamed
of my own unpunctuality. But I'm frightened now about what you
say of your eyes ; you know it will never do to overwork them,
whatever else one overworks. Pray rest for two or three months
from Calendars read nothing but large print. Now about Lorenzi's
documents. 4 What quantity of them (in bulk, I mean) will be pro-
ducible, and what funds are needed for furtherance of plan, or publi-
cation of results ? I will not let such a plan, in such hands, come
to abortive close, if it falls within any manageable limits : and if the
documents bring out any results contrary to my anticipations, I should
all the more wish to have some share in the good work of their recovery.
Let me know, therefore, what Lorenzi's materials and plans are. There
is, of course, no question about publication, except that of the simple
absolute loss, in such a case as this ; it is simply building one's own
self such monument to the place as is possible. Please give my best

1 [Which Burne-Jones was to design for the girls at Wilmington to make : see
Vol. XVII. p. Ixxiv.]

2 [Mrs. Burne-Jones in an earlier letter to Ruskin had written : "Ned has begun
a smaller water-colour of Love flinging open a lady's window in the early morning
on St. Valentine's Day" (Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, vol. i. p. 256).]

3 [Raskin's father had bought Burne-Jones's water-colour of " Fair Rosamond/'
and was greatly delighted when he found that the drawing was much liked by his
son. See the Introduction ; above, p. liii.]

4 [The documents were ultimately published in 1868 under the title Monumenti
per servire alia storia del Palazzo Ducale di Venezia ovvero serie di alti Pubblici dal
1253 al 1797, by Giambattista Lorenzi (of the Library of St. Mark). Ruskin pro-
vided funds for the publication, and the work was dedicated to him. Compare
Vol. XXII. p. 89 n. Ou the envelope of the present letter, Rawdon Brown wrote :
"Ruskin's generous motives for assisting the publication of Lorenzi's work."]



440 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6s

regards to Lorenzi and say I am most happy to hear how he is
employed, and shall think myself still happier if I can help him.

If I were to come to Venice for a week or two about 15th Septem-
ber next, should I find you there? and between this and then, could
the plan be brought into any manageable form ?

I wonder what would be the cost of a little bachelor's den, for
a permanency of cupboard to put things away in, with a marble
balcony to the window, somewhere on the Grand Canal or by the
Ponte dei Sospiri quarter the only one for me, wherever I live, now.
I should not be ever much at Venice, my health requiring hill air,
but I should like to find my own door opening to me when I came.
I am making many plans at present, which may possibly all end soon
in the house with the grass door and no key. But I wrote only
yesterday to an advocate at Bonneville, asking if he could buy for
me the entire barren top of a crag, with a little grassy cleft in it
which Fve long been fond of, 5000 feet above the sea. I want to
build myself a den there, at any rate, wherever I may wander on
lower ground.

Why do I want to shut ears and eyes? In my own country, for
the noise and smoke ; in others, for the cries and blood. Not but
ice shed enough of that red ink over account books.

Love to Joan and Panno. Ever vour affectionate J. RUSKIX.



To his FATHER

TALLOIRES, April 23rd, 180.3.

I wonder whether the things which Wordsworth tells in " The
Two April Mornings" 1 really took place on an April morning, or
whether he chose April afterwards because its mornings are so sweet.
Be that as it may, the chance or choice was admirable, for the exqui-
site softness and purity of the mornings just now among the blossoms
are indescribable. A summer's morning, however fine, is always a little
hot, misty and languid at least unless you get up at four ; but just
now, the calm lake with the clear snowy mountains, at seven o'clock,
stirred with a bree/e here and there on its surface into a blue bloom,
across its reflections and the soft sunlight on the green of the hill-
sides, which touches them as lightly as the dew being to the rich
massed green of summer, just what hoarfrost is to snow; and the
air, nearly made up of the life of blossoms; feeling as one could
fancy peaches melted into air would feel with just shade enough of

1 [A piece quoted by Ru*kin in Vol. XVIII. p. 2LG, Vol. XXIX. P. 2G!),
Vol. XXXIV. p. 349.]



1863] TURNER'S "PALESTRINA" 441

rock and pine to make it all grave and deep as well as intense in
sweetness all this would be nice, if one were in a good humour,
and is helpful when one isn't. But it gets windy in the middle of the
day, and then I lose my temper, and don't recover it till after next
morning. Though the evenings are well enough too. The cuckoo is
always in five or six places at once and the air is quiet again
Jupiter in the south, Venus in the west, shine like pieces of the moon,
brighter for being broken off: the moon holds her old self in her
arms, as one recollects one's old round life when only a quarter of it
is left the rest ghostly the Tournette of Annecy glows like a censer,
with " strange fire " 1 the light seeming within her rocks, and warm
and the singing of the birds runs in rivulets down the glades and
makes song-falls over the rocks and through the budding thickets.
But it is all always going away fading and one has to go to bed,
and try to die for eight hours; arid if one doesn't die, one has to be
half dead all the next day which seems to me a very sorrowful
arrangement. If one could put one's self out, like the candle, and light
one's self with a match, when one wanted one's self to see by and
never run into gutters, nor burn at both ends what a nice world it
might be.

To his FATHER

Saturday, 2nd May, 1863.

I have to-day your interesting letter about Brett. 2 I am much
obliged by what you have done for him : nor do I think it will be
useless. I've written to him repeating what I told him three years
ago that painting large studies by way of pictures was simply
ridiculous that he must make small ones first, saleable, and learn to
choose subjects. The little Florence will, I think, be very pleasant to
me it is sure to be " preciously " like.

I hope you have got some of your Hunts and Prouts. I was half
inclined to say, " Buy more Prouts, if you can get any that you like
for I like all."

I am also much inclined to say buy the Palestrina. You may
have it for nothing, literally as long as you choose. It will be worth
^4000 in five years more which will pay both interest and insurance.
It is not a composition 3 it is Virgil's Praeneste insisting on the stream

1 [Leviticus x. 1.]

2 [John Brett, afterwards A.R.A. : see Vol. XIV. p. 171 n.~]

3 'The title of Turner's picture in the Academy of 1830 had been " Palestrina
a Composition." The picture was sold in 1863" for 199.5. It was then in Mr.
Bicknell's collection, and had presumably been offered privately to Ruskin. In
1881 it fetched 3150.]



442 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [is6s

descending from the hills (the bridge evidently being a careful study
on the spot), because of the following lines :

"Quique altum Praeneste viri, quique arva Gabina>
Junonis gelidumque Anienem et roscida rivis
Hernica saxa colunt " (JEneid, 7, 683).

The way Turner used to fish out the character and meaning of a whole
family of scenes in this way is quite miraculous.

I don't know if I have told you the work I shall be upon when I
come home. It is to copy in large, permanent, delicate oil, some of
Turner's small drawings to show what is in them. Depend upon it,
if I live, Turner's work will yet be worth double what it is ; if I die
you won't care for the money.

I may, however, yet want a thousand here before coming' home
being in treaty for a pasturage on the Brezon (it is not far advanced
yet, but may come to something), and it will be a glorious place for
quiet work, and rest if I can get it. But you'll never again have a
chance of such a picture as Palestrina for that money.

I am gaining here at last ; which I know by some recovered sense
of enjoyment; the sleepless nights were chiefly caused by the begin-
ning of lecture diagrams worrying me, while the geology of the hills
outside was puzzling me all the time I was out. I've got over the
diagram difficulty, and given up the hill one finding it hopeless : the
lecture will be none the worse perhaps rather better, from avoiding too
complex ground and I'm no longer nervous about it. 1



To his FATHER

TALJAMRES, 4th May, 1863.

I have yours of 30th with notable Turner sales, etc. I am heartily
glad you have that Hunt, be it bullace or gage. 2 I have an impression
rather of blackberries than hips in my drawing but may be wrong.
Mama will know in a moment what plums they are.

You say, Why did I not mention Lucerne ? I did in my first
letter name it as Bicknell's best, 3 but I did not say " get it," for I
knew it would fetch an unheard-of price, and I had rather try for
early drawings, having a fair series of the late. Our Constance and

1 [The lecture, "On the Forms of the Stratified Alps of Savoy," given at the
Royal Institution on June 5, 18(53 : see Vol. XXVI. p. 3.]

[Perhaps No. 12(> in the William Hunt Exhibition of 1871) : see Vol. XIV.
p. 44.5.J

3 [The drawing of the I^ike of Lucerne mentioned in Vol. XIII. pp. 480, 483 ;
now in the collection of Mr. J. Irvine Smith. It fetched '714 at the Hicknell sale.]



1863] ALNASCHAR'S DREAM 443

Coblentz 1 are drawings as high in quality. In old time I should have
as soon thought of any catastrophe as of letting this Lucerne escape,
but now I have been long forced to make up my mind to many
things, once unimagined. But I consider no price too high for that
drawing if people have the money to spare. The mad prices are only
those given for the late small vignettes, every one of which was
forced, false, and bad, quite disgraceful to Turner. My yesterday's
letter very nearly and curiously corresponds with yours of to-day,
I try now to fix my mind on other objects; but I am sadly like
Alnaschar 2 only more foolish in that he destroyed his present power
in dreaming of what might be, and I, too often, in regretting what
might have been. But nothing has more contributed to alter all my
views of religion than the somewhat bitter experience that what I did
unselfishly and generously, when I was young, brings me nothing but
punishment and vexation, and that only what was prudent and selfish
is rewarded. I did little that was selfish less that was wise and
other people seem to get the good of all I do. I meant them to do
so, in fairness, but never meant or expected that after taking all the
abuse with poor Turner while he lived, I should have all his work
snatched over my head when he died.

As I say, I try to think of other things, but botany is after all
a mere catalogue of forms : and I am a little too old for geology.
I can't walk strongly enough. I like my classics and economy best,
if I could keep at them, but they tire me sometimes, and the hanker-
ing for old Turner thoughts and plans comes over me. I was thinking
of the brook that sang to-day under the apple blossoms as Byron
of the Rhine

"Even yet what wants thy stream? that it should Lethe be." 3

I think if I get into a course of really serviceable painting, some
of these feelings may pass. They torment me most when I am un-
settled by anything as just now by the continual hanging on and
off of this new house plan ; and by the lecture, which requires me
to go over more ground than I expected in geological reading. They
have found out so much in these last years.

P.S. I am most thankful to see your complaint lessening. I hope
to send a more cheerful letter for your birthday.

i [Xos. 63 and 62 in the Exhibition of 1878 : see Vol. XIII. pp. 455, 454.]
8 [See The Barber's Story of his Fifth Brother (called El-Feshshar in Lane's
edition, vol. i. p. 359).]

3 [Childe Harold, canto iii. 50 ("Even now," etc.).]



444 LETTERS OF RUSK1N VOL. I [i86s

To his FATHER

MORNKX, 14th May, 1803.

I have your kind letter with the photographs, which delight me :
not but that I had rather have Northcote's picture 1 and that not
for painting but for true likeness still there are certain vital and
minute resemblances in a photograph highly valuable; these are not,
however, as well taken as they might be. Your backgrounds are too
dark, and Mr. Harrison's eyes do not show enough. But Tin glad
of all. Mr. Thos. Richmond comes admirable, and is wonderful for
its true vivacity.

Countess Maison I return with thanks. Not much in it: in fact,
I might almost pay it the compliment she pays my book : she is
sure it is very good and does not read it. Touching my Brezon
plan, I think it would be foolish to build a mere wooden chalet in
which I should be afraid of fire especially as I should often want
large fires. I mean to build a small stone house, which will keep
anything I want to keep there in perfect safety, and will not give
one the idea of likelihood to be blown away. I go to Bonneville
on Wednesday next ; Couttet is to meet me. Then the first fine
day afterwards the Mayor of Bonneville is to go up the Brezon with
me, and with his lawyer. I shall show him what ground I want, and
a map of it will then be made by a surveyor. It is now property
of the Commune. Purchases are made by offer, which is published ;
if no higher one is made, the grant is given at the next communal
meeting. When I have marked out my ground, and, with Dr.
Gosse's counsel 2 and Couttefs, made my offer, I shall leave the rest
in Dr. Gosse's management, as the business part of it will be long
in Savoy. I mean to have the summit with two or three acres
round it, and the cliff below : this is all barren rock, and should
cost almost nothing there is only a little goat browsing on it in
summer it is worse than the Black Dwarf's common. 3 But from
the flank of it slopes down a pasturage to the south ; the ridge of
which is entirely secure from avalanche or falling rocks, and from
the north wind : it looks south and west over one of the grandest
grouped ranges of jagged blue mountain I know in Savoy. It is
accessible on that side only by a footpath, but the summit is acces-
sible to within a quarter of an hour of the top, by a bridle path
(leaving only a quarter of an hour's walk for any indolent friend

1 [Plate VII. in Vol. XXXV. (p. 1^0).]

! [For Dr. Gosse, see Vol. XVII. p. Ixi., Vol. XXXIV. p. 493.]

3 HSee the description of Mucklestane Moor in chap. ii. of the uovel.]



1863] AN ESTATE AT CHAMOUNI 445

who won't come up but on horseback). It is about 5000 feet above
the sea; which is just the height at which I now find myself most
cheerful and able for work, rather more than 1000 feet lower than
the Montanvert. I am surprised to find how much the thinking of
it and planning it relieves the nervous state of the brain. I have been
gaining greatly these last two or three days the air being soft and
fine, and I am able always to be out in it.



To his FATHER

MORNEX, 26th May, 1863.

I find your two pleasant letters on my return from Chamouni, which
I ran up to on learning from Couttet that the piece of ground



Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 58 of 74)