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of loss, at once.

It describes precisely what I had before supposed was your feeling.
If indeed these enthusiasms give you any consolation in the loss of
any person whom you care for, or the decline of any personal faculty

1 [Probably of Mr. Harrison's article, "The Positivist Problem," in the Fort-
-niyhtty Hi-view, November 1HG9 (vol. vi., N.8., pp. 4GD-4D3).]


of your own,* Heaven forbid anybody should interfere with them. But
that this supposed Religion of Humanity should leave you so entirely
without sympathy in the feelings of ninety-nine out of every hundred
people about you as to make you fancy such a "religion"" could be of
use also to them, makes it quite one of the most microscopic " isms "
which have ever become particles of coagulation for the wandering
imaginations of the Sons of Men. Ever affectionately yours,



DENMARK HILL, 6th October, 1869.

MY DEAR GEORGE, It was very naughty of you not to keep to our
last faith in Christian names, and to Ruskin me again. And it was
not naughty in me to command the ill temper which I could not but
live in, all day, and dream in, all night alone at Verona (among the
saddest and evillest sights and souls I am well certain that may now
be found on this dusty globe) and not to spend any of my spite on
you or any other loving friend. I have neither done superlatively,
nor positively, beautiful drawings, but I have done some that are
more sensitive than photographs, and a little more faithful to the fair
and a little more blind to the foul aspects of things, and Tom likes
them, and thinks them good, 1 because he likes me too, and / did them.
But they are just barely good enough to render it possible for me to
endure the sight of them as I work, which it never was till now,
so that I used to spoil all my poor little in raging at it. But now
I let it stand for what it can. If this letter finds you still but it
won't, so it's no use but I was going to ask you to ask Lady Water-
ford why she never writes me a word now about anything.

But this little note had better miss you, and so we all shall see
you the sooner.

Come please as soon as may be. I have much to ask you about,
and always to tell you how faithfully and affectionately I am yours,


^ Turner's and Scott's bursting into tears as their hands ceased to
obey them ! Your time has not come for that.

1 [Some of the drawings are reproduced in this edition : the Tomb of Can
Signorio, Vol. XIX. Plate XXII.; a niche from the same, Vol. XXI. Plate XXVI. ;
the Piazza dei Signori, Vol. XIX. Plate XXVI. ; the Tomb of Can Grande. Vol. XIX.
Plate XXIII. ; study of a capital from the same, Vol. XXI. Plate XLIV ]



LONDON, Wth October, 1869.

MY DEAREST CHARLES, I cannot tell you how opportune and in
all likelihood how useful your Geneva letter was and will be, unless
I first told you of many plans and difficulties which I cannot, for
I want to answer your more important first letter.

In putting the two questions " respecting the being of a God "
and "respecting Immortality"" together, you render it almost impos-
sible for me to speak but prefatorily and not to the point of your

That I am no more immortal than a gnat, or a bell of heath, all
nature, as far as I can read it, teaches me, and on that conviction I
have henceforward to live my gnat's or heath's life.

But that a power shaped both the heath bell and me, of which I
know and can know nothing, but of which every day I am the passive
instrument, and, in a permitted measure, also, the Wilful Helper or
Resister this, as distinctly, all nature teaches me, and it is, in my
present notions of things, a vital truth.

That there are good men, who can for some time live with-
out perceiving it, does not make me think it less vital, than that,
under certain excitements and conditions, you could live for a cer-
tain number of days without food would make you think food not
vital. (Did ever a civilised being's sentence get into such a mess
before ?)

If you had to teach your children that there was no evidence of
any spiritual world or power, I think they would become separate
from their fellows in humanity, incapable of right sympathy, in many
ways themselves degraded and unhappy.

But to teach them that they must live, and Die totally in obedi-
ence to a Spiritual Power, above them infinitely^ how much more than
they are above the creatures whose lives are subject to them if you
can teach them this, I think you show them the law of noblest heroism,
and of happiest and highest intellectual state.

But, if you cannot do this, I know that you can, and will, teach
them a life of love and honour. This is wholly independent of right
opinion on any questionable point of belief, and it seems to me so
entirely a matter of mere example and training, in certain modes of
thought and life, that I cannot understand your feeling any fear about

1 [No. 83 in Xorton ; vol. i. pp. 250-253.]


it. I am not the least afraid of Sally's beginning to tease her pet bird
or kitten, because you and Mr. Darwin choose to teach her that their
tails grew by accident, or that feathers were once fur; while, on the
contrary, I should be much afraid that both you and I might be teased,
very literally, to Death, with fire or brimstone, by some very pious
persons, if they could read both our letters and were allowed then to
do what they liked with us.

(I wish the Spirit would help me to write straight. You would
believe in it after such a miracle.) And, lastly, it seems to me that
a father ought to tell his children, as their teacher, only what he
knows to be true; and as their friend, he may tell them, without his
paternal sanction and authority, many other things which he hopes, or
believes, or disbelieves; but in all this, he need fear no responsibility
beyond that of governing his own heart. It is the law of nature
that the Father should teach the children, openly, fully, fearlessly,
what is in his heart. Heaven must be answerable for the end
not you.

I am alone, and often weary, but doing good work. But I can't
write more than is necessary, having no heart for anything, or else
there's so much it ought to be the best Rest to write to you; but I
am ever, with love to you all, your faithful J. RUSKIN.


DENMARK HILL, Y[th November ', 1869.

MY DEAREST CHARLES, . . . This is what I am doing:

1. I write every day, if possible, a little of my botany ; as much
of it as is done by my birthday I shall then collect and print, pro-
mising, if I keep well, to go on next year. It is to be called Cora
Nivalis, "Snowy Proserpine": an introduction for young people to
the study of Alpine and Arctic wild flowers. 2

2. I am translating or transferring " Chaucer's Dream " into intelli-
gible and simple English, and am going to print it with the original,
and a note on every difficult or pretty word, for the first of my series
of standard literature for young people. 3 I hope to get it out also
about my birthday.

1 [No. 84 in Norton; vol. i. pp. 253-256.]

2 [The scheme was postponed, and the title changed to Proserpina (Vol. XXV.).]

3 [On this scheme, compare Fors Clavlgera, Letter 61, 14 (Vol. XXVIII.
p. 500).]

xxxvi. 2 P 2


3. I am translating the Cent Ballades 1 into the same kind of Eng-
lish (our own present simplest), and am going very soon to write to
the publishers for leave to edit that for the second of my standard
books. I have worked through 57 of the 100, but am much puz/.led
yet here and there.

4. I am correcting Sesame and Lilies for a new edition, adding
the Dublin lecture, 2 and a final, practical, piece of very plain direc-
tions to those young ladies who will mind what I say. Q. How
many ?

5. I am preparing a series of drawings of natural history, and from
the old masters, for use in the schools of Oxford. I have done a
prawn's rostrum and the ivy on a wall of Mantegna's. 3

6. I am writing this following series of lectures for Oxford in the

1. The meaning of University Education ; and the proper har-

mony of its Elements.

2. The relation of Art to Letters.

3. The relation of Art to Science.

4. The relation of Art to lleligion.

5. The relation of Art to Morality.

6. The relation of Art to Economy.

7. Practical conclusions.

7. I am writing two papers on agates, and superintending the
plates for the Geological Magazine in December and January. 4

8. I have been giving lessons in French and drawing, and

am giving lessons in Italian and directing her as a vowed sister

of our society with one or two more.

9. I am learning how to play musical scales quite rightly, and have
a real Music-master twice a week, and practise always half an hour
a day.

10. I am reading Mai-montel's Memoirs to my mother. . . .

Now, I hope you'll get this letter, for you see I haven't much time
left for letters. Love to you all. Ever your faithful


1 [See above, p. 588.]

2 [On "The Mystery of Life and its Arts/' first added to tesatne in 1871 : see
Vol. XVIII. p. <).]

3 [The prawn is No. 198 in the Educational Series (Vol. XXI. pp. 02, 130);
the study from Mante^na,, No. 298 in the Rudimentary Series (ibid., p. 2

4 [See Vol. XXVI.]


To Miss R. S. ROBERTS 1

DENMARK HILL [November 18],

DEAR Miss ROBERTS, It is very delightful to be able to give so
much pleasure as I saw and as you now tell me you had yesterday.
I ought to be much helped by that alone. But you can, and shall,
help me in many ways I have only time for the merest word to-day.

"In everything give thanks." 2 Yes but I iind myself always
thanking God for what I like and not thanking Him at all for
what I dislike. If I ever can say that His praise is continually in
my mouth, I shall be very different from what I am.

But my main feeling about it is : Suppose, when I shake the
crumbs out of the window for the sparrows, they were all to come to
the window and say, " How very good and great you are and how
beautifully you draw and how very much obliged we are for the
crumbs, for it is very cold." Shouldn't I say, " My dear sparrows,
I am glad the crumbs came when you wanted them, but I am not
anxious for your thanks, or for your opinions of my works " ?

On the other hand, one would be glad of the Love even of much
less things than sparrows. So one may love as much as one likes,

That is what I always feel about thanks and praise. That they
must be constant, and entirely submissive, or none. Ever truly and
very gratefully yours, J. RUSKIN.

Poor little Lizzie 3 is delighted with your letter to her. She begs
me to thank you for that at all events. But she says she is a butter-
fly, and can't be anything else, which is perfectly true.


DENMARK HILL, 27th November.

. . . I'm going to give my Woolwich lecture this way. 4 I shall
say that I'm tired of finding fault, even if I had any right to do so ;

1 [For Miss Roberts and her visit to Denmark Hill, here referred to, see
Vol. XVIII. p. 1.]

8 [1 Thessalonians v. 18.]

8 [Miss Lizzie White, sister of the Florrie of the Ethics of the Dust (Vol. XVIII.
p. Ixxii.).]

4 [On "The Future of England," delivered on December 14, and printed in
The Crown of Wild Olive: see Vol. XVIII. pp. 494 seq. (and, more especially,
p. 507).]


that henceforward, I'm only going to say what ought to be done
not what ought not to be done.

That there are two great parties in the state the Radical and
Conservative that I have thought over their respective wishes, and
that they have two opposite watchwords, which are both right and
only right together namely:

Radical, " Every man his chance."
Tory, "Every man in his rank."

I shall ask leave of my audience to make myself a Thorough Radical
for the first half-hour, and to change into a Thorough Tory in the

And I'll say my best on these two mottoes.

Arthur 1 is doing such beautiful woodcuts for me.


DENMARK HILL, Christmas Day, 1869.

DEAR MRS. SIMON S., I mean, Thanks for that bit of Athens
it is very beautiful and precious to me.

I did not answer a bit of your former letter, about what the last
ten years of my life might have been.

It is one of the strangest and greatest difficulties of my present
life, that in looking back to the past, every evil has been caused by
an almost exactly equal balance of the faults of others and of my
own. I am never punished for my own faults or follies but through
the faults or follies of others.

Nevertheless, it will be justest in you to blame either Fate or me
myself, for all that I suffer, and no other person. My Father my
Mother and R. have all done me much harm. They have all done
me greater good. And they all three did the best for me they knew
how to do.

Would you have me, because my Father prevented me from saving
Turner's work and because my mother made me effeminate and vain
and because R. has caused the strongest days of my life to pass in
(perhaps not unserviceable) pain abandon the three memories and
loves ? Or only the most innocent of the three ?

1 [Arthur Burgess.]


I am in a great strait about it now whether to think of these
ten years as Divine or Diabolical.

Whether to live still in the weak, purifying pain or to harden
myself into daily common service.

I must do the last for some time. But think of it for me.

Ever your loving J. R.


Edinburffh o- London




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