free and strong.
To Miss JEAN INGELOW
PADUA, 19th July, 1869.
DEAII Miss INGELOW, Thank you much for your letter with the
mended words and dotted i's. I had not answered the question I
asked you in my own mind. I do not treat you with levity, nor dis-
respect, in any matter least of all in this. It was a very grave
question, and I am not quite sure how far you have answered it in
saying, that perhaps you can help me to set forth my plan, though
you cannot (may not, at least) act on it. For as soon as you are
quite convinced of the need for action, I think you will act, either on
my principles, or on some wiser person's, or as you yourself see good.
But you will act.
Now for your question about Education. It is one of the greatest
mistakes of this age to think of it as a Leveller. It is the greatest
of Separators. 1 Leave Newton and Justice Shallow both on their village
green, and you will hardly know one from the other. Educate both
as well and as far as you can, and see what a gulph you set
between them ! I never said all were to be educated alike, but the
best possible done for each. Everything made of them that can be
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
but that means, very plain things made of some and very great of
Distinctions of rank are merely formal already. They do not now
depend either on education, intellect, or merit, though an English
nobleman usually knows Latin and the European languages and a
little of most other things (except art, or policy); but distinctions of
rank are now everywhere matters either of custom or convenience, and
founded on no personal distinctions except accidentally. Even thus,
they are in the highest degree useful and vital, and it would be one
of my chief aims to mark them more severely than now, and to attach
gradually, by systematic teaching, so much sense of responsibility to
them as would ensure, on the average, higher attainments.
1 [Compare Time and Tide, 170 (Vol. XVII. p. 456).]
576 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1869
July, Morning.} I have just returned from my morning
walk, in this, perhaps most venerable now, certainly, in comparison
of its former self, most deeply sunk of all cities of Italy might I
not say, of the Earth ? For the revival of all its best learning came
from this school.
There is an old tomb, at a narrow turning of a street, called and
lono- believed to be the Tomb of Antenor. It is a Gothic tomb of
the twelfth century but the lower Italians themselves still think it
Antenor's. Were it so, it would be the most precious of all monu-
ments known. Even now with its mere traditionary character and
Dante's words, in the most touching passage, to me, of all the
Purgatorio the fifth book where there is the story of Buonconte of
Montefeltro "Giovanna nor none else have care for me 11 and just
before, Jacopo of Cassero's words
"The deep passages,
Whence issued out the blood wherein I dwelt,
Upon my bosom in Antenor's land . . ." l
it has great power over me.
I have dealt somewhat too much in mosfs, in this page. At all
events, there are few spots in the world more venerable than that
street and its tomb.
The house beside it is now the " Caffe e Bigliardo all 1 Antenore."
The tomb itself has bills stuck upon it its base is made a fruit-stall
(N.B. fruit unripe the Italians have not even sense or patience
ever to taste a ripe peach) and there are notices all round it of
lotteries and horse races.
Remember, the one thing to be done so far as I see or know-
is to show how beautiful life may be made, while self-supporting.
Think of this till I write again. Ever affectionately yours,
To CHARLES ELIOT NORTON 2
VERONA, 9th August, '69.
MY DEAREST CHARLES, . . . Several things have concurred lately
in furthering my preparation for the plan I told you of about the
Valais. To-day, in coming from Venice, I met an engineer who is
1 [Ruskin quotes from Cary, Book v. 88, 73-75. The " Tomb of Antenor,"
the legendary founder of Padua, is now commonly supposed to be that of some
Hungarian invader in the ninth century.]
2 [Atlantic Monthly, August 1904, vol. 94, pp. 165-1(50. Xo. 73 in Xorton ; vol. i.
pp. 21(5-219. One passage of the letter ("The more I see of your new fashions . . .
by means of ' Liberty ' ") had been printed by Professor Norton in his Introduction
(pp. xi., xii.) to the American "Braiitwood" edition of The Queen of the Air (1891).]
1869] VULGARITY AND LIBERTY 577
negotiating a loan of four millions of francs for an aqueduct to Venice,
and had various talks with a Venetian merchant about the lagunes
just before. Of course, the thing to be done is to catch and use and
guide the rain, when first Heaven sends it. For 1200 years, the
Venetians have been fighting vainly with the Brenta and its slime.
Every wave of it is just so much gold, running idly into the sea, and
dragging the ruin of kingdoms down with it. Catch it when it first
falls, and the arid north side of the Alps would be one garden, up to
7000 feet above the plain, and the waters clear and lovely in what
portion of them was allowed to go down to the plain for its cultiva-
tion. Not a drop should be allowed to find its way into the sea from
Lombardy, except as much as would make the Po navigable as far at
least as Pavia, or, better, Casale; and the minor rivers constant with
clear water in one fifth of their present widths of bed. . . .
Omar is very deep and lovely. 1 But the Universe is not a shadow
show, nor a game, but a battle of weary wounds and useless cries, and
/ am now in the temper that Omar would have been in, if somebody
always stood by him to put mud into his wine, or break his amphora.
You don't quite yet understand the humour of thirsty souls, who have
seen their last amphora broken and " del suo vino farsi in terra
The Valais plan, however, is only the beginning of a bigger one
for making people old-fashioned. The more I see of your new fashions
the less I like them. I, a second time (lest the first impression should
have been too weak 3 ), was fated to come from Venice to Verona with
an American family, father and mother and two girls presumably rich
girls 15 and 18. I never before conceived the misery of wretches
who had spent all their lives in trying to gratify themselves. It was
a little warm warmer than was entirely luxurious but nothing in
the least harmful. They moaned and fidgeted and frowned and puffed
and stretched and fanned, and ate lemons, and smelt bottles, and
covered their faces, and tore the cover off again, and had no one
thought or feeling, during five hours of travelling in the most noble
part of all the world, except what four poor beasts would have had,
in their den in a menagerie, being dragged about on a hot day. Add
to this misery every form of possible vulgarity, in methods of doing
and saying the common things they said and did. I never yet saw
1 [For another reference to FitzGerald's Omar Khayyam, see above, p. 455.]
2 |"Delle mie vene farsi in terra l&go,"Purgatwio, v. 84.]
3 [The first time is alluded to above, p. 569, but the experience is not detailed
in the letters published by Mr. Norton. Ruskin worked up his second experience
in Fors Clavigera, Letter 20, 17, 18 (Vol. XXVII. pp. 345-346).]
xxxvi. 2 o
578 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1869
humanity so degraded (allowing for external circumstances of every
possible advantage). Given wealth, attainable education, and the inherit-
ance of eighteen centuries of Christianity and ten of noble Paganism,
and this is your result by means of "Liberty."
I am oppressed with work that I can't do, but must soon close
now. Send me a line to Lugano. Love to you all. Ever your affec-
tionate J. R.
To CHARLES ELIOT NORTON l
LroANO, 14M August, '69. i past seven, morning.
MY DEAREST CHARLES, I am sitting in a splendid saloon with a
French Turqu-oise 2 carpet and a French clock, and two bad pictures,
one in the French, one in the Italian style, and some French china,
and velvet chairs, and a balcony composed of blocks of granite, 7
inches thick by 9 over, carried jauntily on rods of beautifully designed
cast iron thus. 3 But / can't give you the lovely Blondin-like effect
of the granite balanced on the edge of the iron fence at a (and I've
rounded it, to the great injustice of the trim cutting). I leave Italy
here, but at Baveno, where I entered Italy, I had a balustrade
similarly constructed, composed, however, of half balusters of cast iron,
hollow and painted to imitate the granite. Outside, I have a garden,
with a Chinese pagoda in it painted vermilion, and a fountain.
I have been vainly ringing for my breakfast, and have had to order
it successively of two waiters, the first not being orthodox I mean
not the right Lord in Waiting. The magnificent pile which I thus
triumphantly inhabit, with granite pillars outside, and Caryatides of
rough marble in the great arm and leg and eyebrow style, is built,
or, rather, jammed straight up against the wall of Sta. Maria dcgli
Angeli, where Luini's Crucifixion is thus. 4 Observe, in passing, that
the Crucifixion fails in colour, all its blues having changed ; nor was
it ever high in that quality, Luini having in it too many instru-
ments to manage (great musician as he was) to come well out of
it. Nobody but Veronese or Tintoret could have tackled a wall of
this bigness, and they only by losing expression of face, which Luini
Also, observe Luini can't do violent passion. As deep as you like,
1 [No. 74 in Norton; vol. i. pp. 220-224.]
1 See Vol. X. p. 447 n.]
3 "Here was a rough sketch." C. K. N.]
* ["Here another rough sketch." C. E. N. For another reference to the
Luini, see Vol. XXXIV. p. 725.]
1869] A SIMPLE PROBLEM 579
but not stormy ; so he is put out by his business here, and not quite
up to himself, because he is trying to be more than himself.
But with all these drawbacks, and failing most where it tries most,
it is, as far as I know, the greatest rendering of the Catholic con-
ception of the Passion existing in the world ; nor is there any other
single picture in Italy deserving to rank with it, except Michael
Angelo's " Last Judgment " ; no other contends with it, even, in
qualities of drawing and expression and for my own part, I would
give the whole Sistine Chapel for the small upper corner of this, with
the Infidelity of St. Thomas and the Ascension.
Well, I walked in there, just out of the " Salon de Lecture " of
my divinely blessed and appointed Inn and out of it I walked
down to the lake shore, which was covered with filthy town refuse
rags dust- putrid meat and the rest of it, except at one place
where they were carting lime from a newly built villa into it ; so I
came back to my breakfast almost blind with rage, and sat down
between the first and second Lord in Waiting^ arrivals to write to
you-, who, on the whole, are the real Doer and Primal cause of what-
ever is done in Modern days. For all this essentially comes from
America, and America only exists, as other things only exist, by
what little good there is in them and it so that you, being the
foundation of America, are the Real Doer of all this, when one sees
Well, I had meant to write to you before about the granite
business, for at Como yesterday I found the old houses in its principal
street pulled down and replaced by big ones over shops, behind a vast
colonnade of granite pillars, with Roman Doric capitals (the ugliest,
you know, in all classicism), and this base, 1 (neither more nor less)
each pillar about 18 feet high by 6| round ! of solid granite.
Now, my dear Charles, it is entirely proper for you in America to
know your political economy rightly. Also, while I play, and have
pleasure in your play, about this bar between us respecting Mill,
remember, it is a bar and a very stern one, however covered with
creeping jessamine. Also, you cannot study any history rightly, ecclesi-
astical or otherwise, until you have so far made up your mind on cer-
tain points of political economy, as to know in what directions certain
methods of expenditure act for good and evil.
Here is a very simple problem for you. Think out the exact
operation of the money from first to last, spent on those granite
columns, as affecting the future wealth of Italy. And write to me
1 [" Here another sketch." C. E. N.]
580 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1869
your result. I'll tell you where, to-morrow I'm not quite sure to-day,
till I get my letters, and I must send this first.
Love to you all. Your affectionate J. RUSKIN.
To CHARLES ELIOT NORTON l
FAIDO, 15th Aug. '69.
MY DEAREST CHARLES, I got letters at Lugano yesterday which, as
I feared, may necessitate my running home soon. 2 ... I know you
will be sorry I cannot come to Vevay but remember, I am in too
steady pain to be able to enjoy anything my work is an opiate, but
is most so when quietest; few things are worse for me than the sight
of domestic happiness and since I have come to Italy, I have seen
horror of which I had no conception before, in social destruction of
law, which makes me at present quite speechless. You might as well
expect a starved hyena to enjoy himself with you, as me, just now.
I am going to see a poor sick girl at the Giessbach, the only Swiss girl
I ever knew with the least understanding of her own country, and the
only one I have known lately with any grace and courtesy of the old
Swiss school left but, of course, she's dying. 3
Meantime, look here : No one can do me any good by loving me ;
I have more love, a thousand-fold, than I need, or can do any good
with; but people do me good by making me love them which isn't
easy. Now, I can't love you rightly as long as you tacitly hold me
for so far fool as to spend my best strength in writing about what
I don't understand. The best thing you can do for me is to ascertain
and master the true points of difference between me and the political
economists. If I am wrong, show me where it is high time. If they
are wrong, consider what that wrong extends into ; and what your
duty is, between them and me. Ever your affectionate friend,
Write to Hotel Giessbach, Lac de Urientz. I write this two miles
below Turner's 4 Now, Turner chose the Ticino as his exponent of
Alpine torrent rage from the first day he saw it, and, eighteen years
after his death, I find its devastation so awful that alone of all Alpine
streams it gives me the idea of being unconquerable.
1 [No. 75 in Norton ; vol. i. pp. 224-22G.]
2 [Letters announcing his appointment to the Slade Professorship of Fine Art at
Oxford : see Vol. XIX. p. Iviii.]
1 [For "Marie" of the Giessbach Hotel, see Vol. XVIII. p. xliii., Vol. XIX.
p. lix., and Vol. XXVIII. p. 131.]
* [Here was a rough sketch of Turner's " Pass of Faido."]
1869] A NATIVITY BY LUINI 581
To Miss JOAN AGNEW
LAKE LUCERNE, 16th Aug., 1869.
... If we don't take care ... we shan't be able to write or talk
anything but pussy talk soon ! l I declare I feel quite awkward trying
to write English now, but I must write a word or two to-night.
Seriously, it is very dull and sad here, utterly bad weather and I
have so many weary associations now with this dark lake. . . .
I feel out of my element here, too, now and bitterly sad because I
am so. I can't climb as I used to do, and the cold high air puts
me all wrong in my whole system. It has the most curious effect
on me just like eating unwholesome things. The warm Italian air
seems life to me, and I work on the buildings happily in my increased
knowledge of history but on the hillside, it is always " Would I were
a boy again ! "
I've been trying to write to Mr. Richmond, but in vain. I could
say so much, but all sad. I have done some drawings which will
interest him when he comes to Denmark Hill again.
I saw at Count Borromeo's, the loveliest Nativity I ever yet saw
in all my life a little Luiiii. 2 The difference between it and every
other was in its extreme simplicity, with extreme joyfulness, every-
thing pretty and tender and gay. It is easy to be tenderly grave
but to be tenderly gay !
I have seen many exquisitely decorated and graceful designs of
nativities, but never one so naive, yet so infinitely sacred and pure.
The Virgin is just going to lay the Child into the little crib of the
oxen, and it is half full of hay, and two delicious little angels, boy
angels, with ruby-coloured wings, and as full of fun as any mortal
boys are shaking up the hay with the lightest, prettiest, half hay-
maker's, half chambermaidish touch and toss of it, to make it all nice
and smooth for the baby, the Virgin looking into the child's face as
she lays it down with the most passionate mother's look of love not
adoration at all, but just all her face suffused with a sort of satisfied
thirst of perfect love, and in the distance, a dainty little blue angel,
like a bit of cloud, coming at the heads of the shepherds like a swallow,
in such a hurry ! None of your regular preachers of angels, that put
their fingers up and say, " Now, if you please, attend particularly and
do this," or " Be sure you don't forget to do that," but an eager little
angel saying, " Oh, my dear shepherds, do go and see ! "
1 [The reference is to letters in the " little language " which Ruskin sometimes
used in writing to his cousin : see the Introduction, above, p. Ixv. ?z.]
- [The picture (now in the Museo Borromeo at Milan) is noticed in Verona
and its Rivers (Vol. XIX. p. 444).]
582 LETTERS OF RUSKIN Voi, I [1869
To CHARLES ELIOT NORTON l
BECKENRIED, LAKE LUCEIINE, 16th Aug., 1869.
I should have written long ago, if I had had pleasant things to
write, but my life is much more like a strange dream of things that
I once cared for, than a reality.
MY DEAREST CHARLES, I can't go on with this begun letter [to
another correspondent] one of my long ago foretellings has come
true at last. They are making a railroad up the Kigi ! 2 I never
cared for the Rigi, but fancy Wordsworth, after writing his poem
" Our Lady of the Snow," 3 hearing of it. And think of all that it
means. I came on the steamer to-day in a crowd of animals smoking
and spitting (English and German not American) over the decks till
they were slippery- Upon my word, I haven't been afraid of going
mad, all through my sorrow ; but if I stay much in Switzerland now
I think my scorn would unsettle my brain, for all worst madness,
nearly, begins in pride, from Nebuchadnezzar downwards. Heaven
keep me from going mad his way, here, for instead of my body being
wet with the dew of Heaven, 4 it would be with tobacco spittle. All
Mill and you, when one looks into it. Ever your loving
To CHARLES ELIOT NORTON 5
GIESSBACH, 18th Any. .
MY DEAREST CHARLES, You need not doubt the reality of my
wish to see you here, because I cannot come to Vevay to take my
pleasure. I can take pleasure now no more in anything that used to
make me happy, but I can be soothed and helped by my friend, if
he is well enough to come ; but do not, for any motive, cause me
the pain of knowing that you are running any risk to come to me.
If you can safely come, it will be good for me to see you. If
unsafely, you could not do anything 7m good for me.
Above all, do not come in the thought that 1 feel otherwise to
you in your absence, or in your letters, than 1 do in your presence.
All that in your present letter you say "you thought I knew" I did
1 [No. 76 in Norton ; vol. i. pp. 227-228.]
2 [The two railways up the Rigi were built respectively in 1809-1873 and
3 [No. xviii. in the Memorials of a Tour on the Continent, 1820.]
4 [Daniel iv. lo.]
6 [No. 77 in Xorton ; vol. i. pp. 228-23.5.]
1869] MILL'S POLITICAL ECONOMY 583
and do know. And what I write to you is not with reference to any
of your late letters. It is in consequence of the entirely quiet time
I have had to think over all you have said to me, from Abbeville to
now ; over all you have told me of America ; over the lives of the
young Harvard soldiers ; over Longfellow's, Lowell's, Emerson's work,
as I read it now by the light of the dying embers of Italy. And
what I have just written to you on the economy question is in con-
sequence of precisely the views which your present letter again states :
that you still confuse my morality with my economy, that you do not
yet clearly see that I do not (in my books) dispute Mill's morality ;
but I flatly deny his Economical science, his, and all others of the
school ; I say they have neither taught, nor can teach men how to
make money that they don't even know so much as what money is
or what makes it become so that they are not wise men nor
scientific men (nor I say here good men) ; that they have an accursed
semblance of being all these, which has deceived you and thousands
more of really good and wise men; and that it is your duty to
ascertain whether their science is, in its own limits, false or true, and
to understand thoroughly what they are, and what it is.
But if you come here, I shall not talk of these things. What
I want most to say, I always write. I am never sure, in talk, of
saying just what I mean. If you come, you shall see my drawings at
Verona ; hear, and help me in my plan for the Valais ; rest among
some of the purest Swiss scenery yet left in spoiled Switzerland ; and
give one gleam of light more to the close of the life of a Swiss girl,
who, I think, in serene, sweet, instinctive, penetrative power, surpasses
one's best ideal of youth in women. I shall be free till Thursday
week ; but if you come, give me a day's warning that I may have a
nice room ready for you. Ever your loving J. RUSKIN.
Thursday morning. Alas, only till this day week, and the weather
seems wholly broken. . . . When you get this letter, and determine
what to do, just telegraph to me, if you come, on what day and then
I will get a room for you at Thun, and you will have a quiet morning
at lovely Thun, and Til meet you at the end of the lake of Thun (it
was Turner's favourite quay in all Switzerland, from first to last 1 )
nearest here, and save you all trouble and noise when you quit the
steamer. I will write you again to-morrow with details of steamer
Now, one word more about polit. econ., because I'm not going to
1 [Compare the Notes on Ruskin's Turner Drawings, No. 7 (Vol. XIII. pp. 417-
584 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [1869
talk of that. Don't tell me any more about good and wise people
"giving their lives" to the subject, and "differing from me." They
dont differ (look in dictionary for Diff'ero) from me. They are absolutely
contrary to and in Collision with me; they don't know the alphabet
even of the science they profess; they don't know the meaning of one
word they use; not of Economy, for they don't know the meaning of
Norny nor of law, nor of the verb re/iw ; not of a House, for they have
no idea of Family; not of politics, for they don't know the meaning
of a city; not of money, for they don't know the meaning either of
nummus or pecus ; and if you were to ask Mill at this moment, he
couldn't tell you the historical facts connected with the use of alloy
in precious metals he could tell you a few banker's facts, and no
They don't know even the meaning of the word "useful" they
don't know the meaning of the word " to use," nor of utor, nor abutor,
nor fruor, nor fungor, nor potior, nor vescor ; the miserable wretches
haven't brains enough to be prologue to an egg and butter, and you
talk of their giving their lives ! They haven't lives to give ; they are
not alive they are a strange spawn begotten of misused money, sense-
less conductors of the curse of it, flesh-flies with false tongues in the
proboscis of them. Differ from me, indeed. Heaven help me ! I am
bad enough and low enough in a thousand ways, but you must know
the " difference " between them and me, a little better, one day. And
that's "just what I mean."
Here's a pig rhyme, to finish with, I made to amuse Joan the day
before yesterday. There were two little brown pigs on the pier at
Beckenried I never in my life saw such splendid obstinacy, nor so
much trouble given in so little time by two little beasts; it was lovely;
and, you know, I've written a whole " In memoriam "' of Pig verses to
Joan, so this is only one of the tender series.
" Dear little pigs on Beck'ried pier,
Whose minds in this respect are clear,
That, pulled in front, or pushed in rear,
Or twirled or tweaked by tail and ear,
You won't go there, and will come here,
Provided once you plainly see
That here we want you not to be ; *
Dear little pigs ! If only we
Could learn a little of your he-