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6 George Harley, F.R.S. : the Life of a London Physician, by Mrs. Alec Tweedie,

1899, p. 238. "1 never knew a man/' added Dr. Harley, "use more beautiful
language in ordinary conversation than Ruskin ; words tripped lightly from his
tongue well-chosen words, well-arranged sentences, and excellent matter." For
Ruskin's letters to Harley, see Vol. XXVI. pp. Ixii., Ixiii.


upon Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), who was visited by Raskin
at High Elms and used to meet him at Professor Story-Maskelyne's.
He was a man of " singular charm," says Lord Avebury, who has con-
tributed a charming letter to this Collection. Ruskin's willingness to
learn, and gratitude to those who had the patience to teach him, are
pleasantly shown in his correspondence with Sir Oliver Lodge. 1

One of the most characteristic sections of Ruskin's correspondence
is that with his booksellers and printers. There is none which shows
better his geniality and warm-heartedness. He was never content to
treat business affairs in a dry business manner. The human relation-
ship was what he everywhere sought ; every one who served him in
any business capacity had to be his friend, and this was especially true
of those who were concerned with books. For books were to him
as to Milton, " not absolutely dead things,'" but " kings and statesmen
lingering patiently, not to grant audience but to gain it " ; 2 and
the bookseller was thus a court-chamberlain, whose private ear it was
a privilege to have. As a buyer both of illuminated MSS. and of
costly books, Iluskin had dealings during many years with the late Mr.
Bernard Quaritch. They had their disputes sometimes, but Ruskin
enjoyed few things more than a chat and a rummage, and was some-
times a guest of Quaritch at dinner. 3 Among the letters preserved by
Ruskin is one from Quaritch, of February 28, 1882, 4 and Mr. Quari ten's
son and successor permits its publication here :

" The expression of your satisfaction with my services as your bookseller
is extremely gratifying to me. Nature has blessed me with exceptional
vigour ; this gift I have concentrated upon my trade. Love of knowledge
has aided me in my business ; love of order lias insured my commercial
success ; love of truth has secured me the patronage of such men as you,
the late and the present Earl of Crawford, of Mr. Gladstone, and of the
late Earl of Beaconsfield and others. Just treatment and fair wages have
enabled me to surround myself with a good staff' of assistants. I have been
forty years in London, and have never been a day absent from my duties :
when I have been ill, I have gone to my work all the same."

Ruskin's endorsement on the envelope was "very interesting"; his
letters to its writer show how highly he esteemed alike the knowledge
and industry of the great bookseller.

1 Vol. XXXVII. pp. f,13, -517, etc.

2 Rename and Lilicx, 6 (Vol. XVIII. p. 59).
See Vol. XXXVII. p. 39H.

4 In reply to Ruskin's of the preceding day, see Vol. XXXVII. p. 387.


The letters to the late F. S. Ellis the well-known bookseller and
publisher of New Bond Street, compiler of the Shelley Concordance,
and editor of Chaucer are equally interesting. These were privately
printed by consent of Mr. Ellis in 1892. 1 In ordering books, Ruskin
soon begins dropping critical remarks by the way. An invitation to
Brantwood follows. Then Mr. Ellis undertakes the sale of one of
Buskin's pamphlets. 2 "Truly" and "faithfully" pass into "affection-
ately"; and finally, when Mr. Ellis had given some prudent advice
which Buskin valued, he becomes Papa Ellis a brevet relationship
which he had the honour of sharing with Bawdon Brown and Carlyle.
Some of the Letters to Ellis are very slight, though all are character-
istic ; others, included in the Principal Collection, contain many obiter
dicta on men and books, which should not always be taken with com-
plete seriousness.

With his " readers," printers, and engravers Buskin was on terms
of the same friendly cordiality. This is an aspect of his private
relationships which has been illustrated in a previous volume, 3 and
a few additional letters are included in the present Collection to
Mr. Smith Williams, literary adviser to Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. ;
to Mr. Jowett, of Messrs. Hazell, Watson & Viney's printing estab-
lishment ; and to Mr. Le Keux, the engraver. Business letters from
Buskin, pure and simple, hardly exist. The dealers who supplied
him with minerals, or the cutters whom he employed to polish his
specimens, received with their orders some expression of his views or
good wishes.

Some of the most charming of Buskin's Letters are addressed to
children. He loved them, and he understood them. He knew, for one
thing, how to avoid that air of condescension which makes so many
"grown-ups," with the best intentions, earn only the contempt of their
little friends. Buskin was indeed the teacher, with child-friends as
with other persons; but whenever children had affairs of their own
in progress, he was careful to treat them gravely and on terms of
equality. This is one of the keys to the hearts of children, and they
opened gladly at Buskin's touch. Some pleasant glimpses of him as
the children's friend have been collected already. 4 But his relations
with children are perhaps best shown in the letters to "Katie Mac-
donald" a series of which some are given in the text of Vol. XXXVII.
and others in its Bibliographical Appendix. An entry in Buskin's

1 For a collation, see the Bibliographical Appendix, Vol. XXXVII. p. 638.

2 The Academy Notes of 1875 : see Vol. XIV. p. 458.

3 Vol. XXXIV. pp. 713-716. See Vol. XXXIV. pp. 716-717.


diary for January 1885 records the receipt of an "Altogether delicious
letter from little girl announcing founding of society for kindness to
animals." This was "The Friends of Living Creatures, 1 " founded by
Miss Katie Macdonald, cvt. 10, and some other children at Bedford
Park, with a full complement of Rules, Badges, Knights, Secretary,
a Journal, Editor and Art-Editor. 1 Katie's mother was a reader
of Iluskin, and it was his denunciations of the wanton destruction of
beautiful and harmless creatures 2 that prompted the foundation of
the Society. At the first meeting it was resolved that Katie should
write asking him to accept the office of Patron. Finding the letter
*' altogether delicious, 11 he accepted the honour, pleading, however,
for "Papa" as title, instead of "Patron." 3 He sent sketches, gave
them advice about the Journal, and delivered judgment on knotty
points submitted to him. On coming up to London presently, he
offered to meet the Society and deliver a little Address. What
Ruskin said, Katie remembers not ; he had spoken to her " So this is
Katie," putting his hand on her shoulder and bending down to her,
and the rest was the dazed adoration of hero-worship in its most
overpowering form. But Katie's mother has given recollections of the
discussion which followed the Address. A boy, greatly daring, wanted
to know if, supposing certain donkey-boys insisted on kicking their
donkeys, the rules of the Society would permit its "Knights" to give
them "a jolly good thrashing." Ruskin rose with admirable gravity and
said :

"The speaker has presented me with a serious problem, and the
directress has invested me with the responsibility of solving it. I
really hardly know what to say. Of course, we are largely depen-
dent on the good offices of our ' knights ' in the society. They have
quite special duties to perform which cannot be entrusted to the
younger boy members, and which, of course, must not be allowed
to trouble the girls. Now, whether or no the particular methods
advocated by the speaker can be justly considered as compatible
with, or included in, the exact performance of a knight's duties I
find extremely hard to decide.

"Well, 1 am inclined to think," continued Ruskin, "at the risk

1 The story of "The Friends of Living Creatures and John Ruskin" is told in
two very prettily written articles, by Mrs. Katie Macdonald (Coring (the Katie
of the letters), in the Fortnightly Jtevieu.', September and October 1907.

2 See his remarks on the Lecture on Birds (LVi) in Vol. XXXIII. p. 530, and
his quotation in Furs Clnviycra, Letter 74 (Vol. XXIX. p. 3fJ), of Blake's lines:

' Kill not the moth nor butteiliy,
For the last judgment draweth nigh."

V..]. XXXVII. p.


of incurring the displeasure of all the mamas now present" this
with a look and deprecatory smile around the room " I am inclined
to think that, if all other means have been tried, and have failed,
that if patient explanation, persuasion, reason, and warnings have
alike been unsuccessful in inducing the donkey-boys to treat their
animals with consideration and fairness I think, yes, I really do,
that our knights are only fulfilling the obligations we have laid
upon them, in shaming the donkey-boys into right conduct, by giving
them (I accept the speaker's terms) a thoroughly good, sound

Another, and a still knottier, question followed. A girl rose to pro-
pound it. She was willing to accept the policy of the Society in all
other points she would even give up butterfly- hunting but if shrimp-
ing was still to be forbidden, she could not join. Ruskin was equal to
the occasion :

" I cannot, of course, as the speaker will understand, take it
upon myself to alter the rules of the Society. That can only be
done, after careful thought, by a thoroughly competent and responsible
committee. But, after consulting with the directress, the founders,
and the officers of the Society, I think I may say that the point will
be considered. The question of whether shrimping should or should
not be permitted to members will, no doubt, be fully discussed
before the next meeting, when the decision of the committee will
be made known. In the meantime, I may, perhaps, be allowed to
put forward, for the committee's consideration, the plea that shrimps
do really constitute a highly nutritious article of food. Indeed, I
believe that shrimps with water-cress are often the characteristic
dish and chief course at tea by the seaside. So that it might be
argued that shrimping conducted, of course, with as much con-
sideration as possible for the shrimps is really a method of furnish-
ing the larder, and providing the family table with a wholesome
and necessary meal."

With which the meeting was dissolved, and members and their mamas
were introduced to Ruskin. " He insisted upon having the knight
brought to him, to confer with him further on the proper treatment
of donkey-boys. ' Where is the shrimper ? ' he asked. ' I must shake
hands with the shrimper.' 1 A girl of ten, with long bro\vn curls and
shining eyes, the Beauty of Bedford Park, delighted him with her
sweet, gay smile and manners ' Diamond Eyes, 1 he called her, then,
and never forgot her. A child of five, our youngest member, lured him,


as the room grew emptier, with a game of 'Touch last,' and kept
him pursuing her for ten minutes and more, in and out among the
disordered benches, her peals of baby laughter echoing through the

Is it not a pretty scene? If the children gave him hero-worship,
was he not worthy of it ? But he made one mistake. The officers of
the Society had presented him with bouquets. In the scurry of depar-
ture, he forgot them ! He knew how the children would feel this, and
on reaching home wrote his regrets a an attention which not every
busy man would have found time for. Many other letters followed ;
full of graceful play, and tender thoughts ; revealing his love alike for
children and for animals. " You know, my dear," he says in one letter,
"little girls are not much better than kittens or butterflies, and boys,
seldom quite as good as ponies or dogs." His illnesses interrupted
communications between the Society and its "Papa"; but the members
might " at least remember with gladness throughout their life how kind
they were to their old and sick friend." 2 Some of his latest letters
are still to " Katie," who bids farewell, in graceful words, to the " pure
and generous spirit, whose gentle radiance, shed for a while upon the
garden of our childhood, lies there luminous amongst the flowers ;
shining again into our faces as we breathe, in haunted, lovely moments,
the fragrr.nce of old days." 3 Ruskin's love for children was as sunlight
upon lilies. 4

The next collection of letters to be noticed those privately printed
in 1903 as Letters to M. G. and H. G. is of interest as introducing
Mr. Gladstone among Ruskin's friends. Ruskin in 1847 had been on
the Committee for securing Gladstone's election for the University of
Oxford, and " the Oxford chairman was sure that Mr. Gladstone would
appreciate at its full value the support of such high personal merit and
extraordinary natural genius." 5 In the same year they met at Lady
Davy's dinner-table, and quarrelled across Miss Lockhart over Neapolitan
prisons ; " he couldn't see," explains Ruskin, " that the real prisoners
were the persons outside." 6 Later on, Raskin's view of Gladstone was
Carlyle's, and he expressed it in terms of unbridled scorn in one of
the earlier letters of Fors Clavigcra (September 1875). 7 The Eastern
Question, however, brought the two men into some political accord.

1 Vol. XXXVII. p. G78 (No. 10). - llul., pp. 537, 539.

3 Fortnightly /,'rrifw, October 1907, p. GOD.

* Mr. \Vynclh:iiii ! s phrase ; Letters to M. <V. and H. 'V., >. ix.

Morley's L\j\> of <;in(lstne, vol. i. p. 329.
1'rfj'teritft, ii. ID* (Vol. XXXV. p. -12^).

' Vol. XXVTIT. p. 403.


Ruskin, like Carlyle, was one of the conveners of the famous St. James's
Hall Conference in December 1876. Soon afterwards Gladstone had
been profoundly stirred, as Canon Scott Holland tells us, 1 by a paper
of Ruskin's in the Nineteenth Century. This was " An Oxford Lecture "
which appeared in the number for January 1878. 2 One of the prin-
cipal theses maintained in the lecture was just such as would have
appealed to Gladstone. It was t; the reality of that ministration of
the good angels, and of that real adversity of the principalities and
powers of Satan, in which, without exception, all earnest Christians
have believed, and the appearance of which, to the imagination of the
greatest and holiest of them, has been the root, without exception, of
all the greatest art produced by the human mind or hand in this
world." It should be remembered, as explaining some of Gladstone's
subsequent conversation with Ruskin, that the lecture referred incident-
ally to Sir Walter Scott and the romantic landscape of his country.
Gladstone was full of this lecture, and Ruskin was known to be in
sympathy with Gladstone's views on the Eastern Question ; the occasion
was thus favourable for a meeting, and Miss Mary Gladstone (Mrs.
Drew), who was an admirer of Ruskin's writings, and had come to
make his acquaintance through Burne-Jones and other common friends,
suggested to her father to invite him to Hawarden. Canon Scott
Holland, who w^as also of the party, arrived by the same train, and
has given an amusing account of their arrival:

" As we drove up from the station, I discovered that he had the darkest
view possible of his host, imbibed from the ' Master/ Carlyle, to whose
imagination Mr. Gladstone figured, apparently, as the symbol of all with
which he was at war. Ruskin was, therefore, extremely timid and sus-
picious, and had secured, in view of a possible retreat, a telegram which
might at any moment summon him home ; this telegram loomed largely
the first day, and we were constantly under its menace. But as hour by
hour he got happier, the reference to its possible arrival came more and
more rarely, and finally it became purely mythical."

The other guests were a little nervous about the experiment of bring-
ing two forces, apparently so unsvmpathetic, into touch ; but it was a
complete success. On every subject that came up, Gladstone and Ruskin
did. it is true, differ ; but except in opinion, they did not disagree.

1 In an article on "Gladstone and Ruskin ;; in The Commonwealth for July
1898. Canon Holland's recollections were, however, at fault in some dates and
other details.

2 See Vol. XXII. pp. 529-538.


" Mr. Gladstone retained throughout the tone of courteous and deferen-
tial reverence as for a man whom he profoundly honoured. And
Mr. Ruskin threw oft' every touch of suspicion with which he had
arrived, and showed with all the frankness and charm of a child his
new sense of the greatness and nobility of the character of his host."
So says Canon Holland ; and I have heard from another member of
the party of the indelible impression made upon him by the bearing
of the two men each of them expressing his convictions with deference
towards the other, and both of them displaying in perfection the
graces of old-world courtesy. A third member of the party who had
been welcomed with special warmth as one of the band of Hincksey
''diggers" has recorded the impression made by Ruskin's ''manifold
pleasant ways; his graceful and delightful manner bright, gentle,
delicately courteous ; the lyric melody of his voice more intensely
spiritual, more subuuedly passionate, more thrilling than any voice I
ever heard. He is a swift observer and acute. Not talkative, but
ever willing to be interested in things, and to throw gleams of his
soul's sunlight over them; original in his dazzling idealism." 3

The conversation between Gladstone and Ruskin on this occasion
has been well reported by the writer last quoted, and also by Canon
Holland. Gladstone asked his guest's opinion on some controverted
point :

" For at least twenty years past," replied Ruskin, " I have made
it a rule to know nothing about doubtful and controverted facts
nothing but what is absolutely true absolutely certain. I do not
care for opinions, views, speculations, whose truth is doubtful. I
wish to know only true things ; and there are enough of them to
take a full lifetime to learn. Why is there not an absolutely truth-
ful newspaper in the world ? I hate finding that what I believed
yesterday I must disbelieve to-day. Why is not a newspaper started
which we may entirely trust, which should wait until news Avas
certain before admitting it ; what would delay signify if truth were
assured ? I wonder no such paper should have been got up if
only as a mere luxury.

''How horrible is the condition of our daily press! Columns full
of horrors, murders, suicides, brutalities conspicuous villainy and
abomination. I would have a paper that would tell us of the
loveliest and best people in every town or place of nothing but
pure and beautiful things. Nowadays it is the most infamous people

1 "Ruskin at Hawartlen in 1878: Extracts from an Old Journal," pp. 15-27 in
letters to M. <j. ami 11. <!. It can hardly be rash to identify the writer "(.)" with
Canon Ottlev.


who are published to the world, who are forced upon our thoughts.
I would have the gentlest, purest, noblest of mankind, set before
the public mind made famous in the journals. This fame and the
world's admiration could not" [this in reply to H. S. H.'s objection
and Miss G.'s] "spoil the really good, nice people. Their light
ought to shine and be set up on a candlestick. It would indeed
go on burning even under a bushel, but goodness ought to be set
up, a city set on a hill. No ! There need be no fear of spoiling
the truly nice people by bringing them into prominence. At present,
they are precisely the last people in a place to be heard of."

At another time Gladstone raised the subject of the Oxford course ;
the tendencies of the schools, their strain and mental effects. Glad-
stone gave, as a strong argument in favour of it all, the value of the
sudden effort, the vast concentration of mind and the calling into play
of all the intellectual powers, as a training for political life:

" Ruskin (with his inimitable genuine modesty) ' had never
thought of that': ' It was quite a new idea/ and worthy of much
consideration. But he still seemed to think the general effect of
the strain bad. Speaking around the same topic, he said: 'The
man who has failed in any subject has no right whatsoever to say
one word respecting the subject in which he has failed. But if I,
speaking as one who has entirely failed,' etc. ; and he then told us
how he had failed, ' partly through ill-health ' ; how, out of kind
consideration, they gave him a double-fourth ; how great a disappoint-
ment his failure had been: 'not only on my own account I wished
to succeed, but also for my father's sake.'

" He told of the modesty and simplicity of Carpaccio, who
would be known only as Titian's disciple, and ' put his name to his
pictures in the mouth of a lizard or some other beastly little animal.'

"The woman should not venture to hope for or think for per-
fectness in him she would love, but he should believe the maiden
to be purity and perfection, absolute and unqualified ; perfectly fault-
less, entirely lovely. ' Women are, in general, far nobler, purer,
more divinely perfect than men, because they come less in con-
tact with evil ! '

" Ruskin said that one of the loveliest graces of holy childhood
that pretty leaning of a youngling against your knee, and bending
over gracefully as a lily, with inimitably winsome love is a thing
rarely caught by artists. It is so fine and exquisite a movement
as to be generally passed over. He only knew one artist who had
truly found it Vandyke, it was."

xxxvi. f


It is Canon Holland whose recollections illustrate most happily
the collision in opinions between Gladstone and his guest:

" The amusement of the meeting of the two lay in the absolute con-
trast between them at every point on which conversation could conceiv-
ably turn. The brimming optimism of Mr. Gladstone, hoping all things,
believing everybody, came clashing up at every turn with the inveterate
pessimism of Mr. Ruskin, who saw nothing on every side but a world
rushing headlong down into the pit. They might talk on the safest of
topics, and still the contrast was inevitable. We heard Gladstone get
on Homer, and a sense that there at least all would be well came over
us. What was our despair when we realised that in the poetic record of
some prehistoric exchange Mr. Gladstone was showing how thoroughly
Homer had entered into those principles of barter which modern economic
science would justify. As he paused in an eloquent exposition for a
response from his listener, Mr. Ruskin said in a tone of bitter regret,
' And to think that the devil of political economy was alive even then ! ' '

At another time Walter Scott was uppermost. Here, indeed, it
was thought, was common ground, but Mr. Gladstone unfortunately
dropped the remark that " Sir Walter had made Scotland " :

" On Mr. Ruskin's inquiry as to the meaning of the phrase, Mr. Gladstone
began telling of the amazing contrast between the means of communica-
tion in Scotland before Sir Walter wrote compared with the present day,
mentioning the number of coaches that were now conveying masses of
happy trippers up and down the Trossachs. Mr. Ruskin's face had been
deepening with horror, and at last he could bear it no longer. ' But, my
dear sir,' he broke out, ' that is not making Scotland ; it is unmaking it ! ' '

The next recollection is of a later date, when Ruskin was breakfasting
with Gladstone in Downing Street:

" I shall never forget Mr. Gladstone's look of puzzled earnestness as
Mr. Ruskin expounded at length a scheme he had for enforcing our social
responsibility for crime. We all of us were guilty of the crimes done in
our neighbourhood. Why had we not sustained a higher moral tone which
would make men ashamed to commit crime when we are near? Whv
had we allowed the conditions which lead to criine ? We ought to feel
every crime as our own. How good then would it be if London were
cut up into districts, and when a murder was committed in any one dis-
trict the inhabitants should draw lots to decide who should be hung for
it. Would not that quicken the public conscience ? How excellent the
moral effect would be if the man on whom the lot fell were of peculiarly
high character ! Mr. Ruskin felt sure there would be no more murders in


that district for some time. He conceived that even the murderer himself
would be profoundly moved as he silently witnessed the execution of this
innocent and excellent gentleman, and would make a resolution as he

Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 8 of 74)