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V

JOHN RUSKIN



BY

MRS. MEYNELL



NEW YORK

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
1900




Copyright, 1900,
BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY.



Contents



CHAP. PAGE

I. INTRODUCTION i

II. MODERN PAINTERS (FIRST VOLUME) .... 9

III. MODERN PAINTERS (SECOND VOLUME) ... 36

IV. MODERN PAINTERS (THIRD AND FOURTH VOL-

UMES) 46

V. MODERN PAINTERS (FIFTH VOLUME) .... 64

VI. THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE ... 79

VII. THE STONES OF VENICE 98

VIII. PRE-RAPHAELITISM 117

IX. LECTURES ON ARCHITECTURE AND PAINTING . 121

X. ELEMENTS OF DRAWING 125

XI. THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF ART 129

XII. THE Two PATHS 133

XIII. UNTO THIS LAST 145

XIV. SESAME AND LILIES 158

XV. THE CROWN OF WILD OLIVE 17 it

XVI. TIME AND TIDE BY WEARE AND TYNE . . . 175

XVII. THE QUEEN OF THE AIR 181

XVIII. LECTURES ON ART 186

XIX. ARATRA PENTELICI 200

XX. THE EAGLE'S NEST 205

XXI. ARIADNE FLORENTINA 217

XXII. VAL D'ARNO 225

XXIII. DEUCALION 233

XXIV. PROSERPINA 340

XXV. GUIDE BOOKS 247

XXVI. FORS CLAVIGERA 259.

XXVII. PR^ETERITA 273

CHRONOLOGY 283

226739



Modern English Writers



MATTHEW ARNOLD . . . Professor SAINTSBURY.

R. L. STEVENSON . L. COPE CORNFORD.

JOHN RUSKIN Mrs. MEYNELL.

TENNYSON ANDREW LANG.

GEORGE ELIOT .... SIDNEY LEE.

BROWNING C. H. HERFORD.

FROUDE JOHN OLIVER HOBBES.

HUXLEY EDWARD CLODD.

'THACKERAY CHARLES WHIBLEY.

DICKENS W. E. HENLEY.

*.* Other Volumes will be announced in due course.



DEDICATED TO

LIEUT.-GENERAL SIR W. F. BUTLER, K.C.B.

" A British Officer who is singularly of one mind
with me on matters regarding the nation's honour.' 1 ' 1

PREFACE TO RUSKIN'S " BIBLE OF AMIENS."



JOHN RUSKIN

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

JOHN RUSKIN'S life was not only centred, but
limited, by the places where he was born and taught,
and by the things he loved. The London suburb and
the English lake-side for his homes, Oxford for his
place first of study and then of teaching, usually one
beaten road by France, Switzerland, and Italy for his
annual journeys these closed the scene of his dwell-
ings and travellings. There was a water-colour
drawing by his father that interested him when he was
a little boy in muslin and a sash (as Northcote
painted him, with his own chosen " blue hills " for a
background), and this drawing hung over his bed when
he died; the evenings of his last days were passed in
the chair wherein he preached in play a sermon be-
fore he could well pronounce it. The nursery lessons
and the household ways of the home on Herne Hill
partly remained with him, reverend and unquestion-
able, to his last day. And yet the student of the
work done in this quiet life of repetitions is somewhat
shaken from the steadfastness of study by two things
multitude and movement. The multitude is in the

'



.2. ' JOHN. RUSKIN

thoughts of this great and original mind, and the
movement is the world's. Ruskin's enormous work
has never had steady auditors or spectators : it may be
likened to a sidereal sky beheld from an earth upon
the wing. Many, innumerable, are the points that
seem to shift and journey, to the shifting eye. Partly
it was he himself who altered his readers ; and partly
they changed with the long change of a nation; and
partly they altered with successive and recurrent
moods. John Ruskin wrote first for his contem-
poraries, young men ; fifty years later he wrote for
the same readers fifty years older, as well as for their
sons. And hardly has a mob of Shakespeare's shown
more sudden, unanimous, or clamorous versions and
reversions of opinion than those that have acclaimed
and rejected, derided and divided, his work, once to
ban and bless, and a second time to bless and ban.

Political economy in 1860 had but one orthodoxy,
which was that of "Manchester"; scientifically, it
held competition in production and in distribution,
with the removal (as far as was possible to coherent
human society) of all intervention of explicit social
legislation, to be favourable to the wealth of nations ;
and ethically it held that if only the world would
leave opposing egoisms absolutely free, and would give
self-interest the opportunity of perfection, a violent,
hostile, mechanical equity and justice would come to
pass. Only let men resolve never to relax or cede
for the sake of forbearance or compassion, and the
Manchester system would be Found to work for good.
In 1860 it was much in favour of this doctrine that



INTRODUCTION. 3

itself and all its workings were alike unbeautiful to
mind and eye. Men might regret the vanishing
beauty of the world, but they were convinced that it
was the ugly thing that was "useful," and that, as it
did not attract, it would not deceive. Before the clos-
ing of the century all men changed their mind. But
when Ruskin warned them that scientifically their
" orthodox " economy made for an intolerable poverty,
that ethically it aimed at making men less human, and
that practically it could never, while man was no less
than man, have the entire and universal freedom of
action upon which its hope of ultimate justice de-
pended; when he recommended a more organic and
less mechanical equity he was hooted to silence.

Ruskin first commended the rejoining together of
art and handicraft, put asunder in the decline of the
" Renaissance " ; and for this too he was generally
derided, because men were sure that the ugly thing
was the useful and the comfortable. John Ruskin
would show them that it was neither of these, but
they would have it that he was showing them merely
that it was ugly. That is, he was accused of teach-
ing sentimentality in public economy and in art,
whereas his teaching dealt with human character and
ultimate utility.

But the moving world has rejected his teaching
more violently after fifty years, in two things more
momentous than the rest : it has gone further in that
enquiry as to the origin of the ideas of moral good
and evil against which Ruskin warned it in the words
of Carlyle ; and it has multiplied its luxuries. By



4 JOHN RUSKIN

these two actions it has effectually rejected the teach-
ing of Ruskin.

" The moving world " : assuredly this great
thinker gave years of thought to the discovery of
moral causes for the enormous losses of mankind, and
did not sufficiently confess the obscure motive power
of change. Byzantine architecture was overcome by
Gothic, not only because Gothic was strongly north-
western, but because it was new ; Gothic was sup-
planted by the Renaissance, not only because Gothic
was enfeebled, but because the Renaissance was new.
He saw the beauty of the hour with eyes and heart so
full of felicity that he cried, " Stay, thou art so fair ! "
It never stayed, passing by the law but how shall we
dare to call that a law whereof we know not the
cause, the end, or the sanctions ? Let us rather, ig-
norant yet vigilant, call it the custom of the uni-
verse.

John Ruskin himself has told us his life in exquisite
detail. He underwent in childhood a strict discipline,
common in those times, had no toys, was " whipped,"
was compelled to a self-denial that he perceived his
elders did not practise upon themselves. It was the
asceticism of the day, reserved for the innocent.
Charles Dickens did more than any man to make the
elderly ashamed of it. Ruskin's mother kept the
training of the child in her own hands, and subjected
him and herself to a hardly credible humiliation by
the reading aloud, in alternate verses, of the whole
Bible, Levitical Law and all, beginning again at
Genesis when the Apocalypse was finished. She was



INTRODUCTION 5

her husband's senior, and, like him, of the Evangelical
sect. She dedicated this her only child " to the
Lord " before his birth, and when his genius appeared
hoped he would be a bishop. He obeyed her, tended
and served her, till at ninety years old she died.

John Ruskin's father was a Scottish wine-merchant,
well educated and liberally interested in the arts. He
married his first cousin, daughter of an inn-keeper at
Croydon, prospered greatly in trade by his partnership
with Telford and Domecq, and rose in the world. His
sister was married to a tanner at Perth ; his wife's
sister to a baker at Croydon. His son, born at 54
Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, on February 8, 1819,
took his first little journeys on his visits to these aunts.
The child remembered the street home, but it was in
his Herne Hill home and in the Herne Hill garden that
he became possessed of the antiquities of childhood.

The boy learnt, in his companionship with his father
and mother, to love Scott, Rogers, and Byron, and he
remained nobly docile to the admirations of his dear
elders. Otherwise, one should have needed to quote
some phrase of his own to define the feebleness of the
Italy, the cold corruption of heart of Don Juan, the
inventory of nature's beauties versified by Scott. Rus-
kin was impulsive ; sometimes he loved a thing first
seen more than he was to love it later ; but generally he
loved the customs of his sweet childhood. He read
with a tutor a nonconformist minister, Dr. Andrews,
the father of the lady who became Coventry Patmore's
first wife ; matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, in
1836, where he won the Newdigate prize (Sahette and



6 JOHN RUSKIN

Elephanta the subject) in 1839, became Honorary
Student of Christ Church and Honorary Fellow o
Corpus Christi, and Slade Professor (Chair of Fin<
Arts founded by Felix Slade) in 1870, to be thre<
times re-elected. His boyish education had beer
furthered by annual journeys with his father and mother
first in Britain, on wine-selling business, and thei
abroad, always in a travelling carriage. The three use<
to set out in May of all these years ; and the las
journey was in 1859, m Germany. Early in his teen
the boy fell in love with the daughter of his father';
partner, Mr. Domecq, and suffered a decline, of healtl
in his disappointment. But the friendship with Turne
(if that could be called a friendship which seemed t<
have such strange reserves) was the central fact of hi:
life as a young man.

The little family took up its abode in a larger anc
more worldly house, 163 Denmark Hill, in 1843. ^
1848 Ruskin married, most unfortunately; his wif<
left him a few years later, the marriage was legallj
annulled, and he lived again, as though he were a boy
with his parents. More than twenty years later ;
lady who had been his girlish disciple and whom hi
had long loved, but who seemed unable to decide fo
or against a marriage with him, died estranged.

This solitary life was consoled during all its middl<
and later terms by the affection of his cousin, Mrs
Arthur Severn, who had lived with his mother in he
widowhood, and bore him company, with her husban<
and children, until his death in his home at Brant
wood, Coniston, on the aoth of January, 1900.



INTRODUCTION J

John Ruskin had been a writer from his babyhood.
The first expectation was of the poetic genius, but his
poems were never more than mediocre. His prose
asserted itself quickly, for he was only twenty-four
when the first volume of Modern Painters was pub-
lished. His renunciation of the sectarian religion of
his parents will be told further on. He was always
essentially religious, but he passed, during the later
maturity of his mind, through some years of doubt as
to authoritative doctrine, returning to definite beliefs in
course of time. His Oxford and other series of lec-
tures, and the undertaking of the St. George's Com-
pany, will be touched upon in this volume in their
place amongst his works. Of those works I have
attempted the analysis, slight and brief, but essential,
with quotations from beautiful and indispensable pages.
I intend the following essay to be principally a hand-
book of Ruskin.

In his central or later-central years John Ruskin was
a thin and rather tall man, very English (Scottish in
fact, but I mean to indicate the physique that looks
conspicuous on the Continent), active and light, with
sloping shoulders ; he had a small face with large
features, the eyebrows, nose, and under-lip prominent ;
his eyes were blue, and the blue tie by the peculiar
property of a strong blue to increase a neighbouring
lesser blue, instead of quenching it made them look
the bluest of all blue eyes. He had the r in the throat,
the r of the Parisians, which gives a certain weakness
to English speech ; and in lecturing he had a rather
clerical inflexion. He was a disciple (as in his rela-



8 JOHN RUSKIN

tion to Carlyle and later to Professor Norton), a mas-
ter, a pastor, a chivalrous servant to the young and
weak, but too anxious, too lofty, to be in the equal
sense a friend.

He was broken by sorrow long before he died. His
purposes had been, for the time, defeated. His final
renunciation of the Slade Professorship (he had resigned
it before for one interval in a time of deep grief ) was
due to the vote passed to establish a physiological
laboratory (to establish, that is, vivisection) at the
museum at Oxford ; he took this for a sign of the
contradiction of the world. He has left his museum
at Sheffield, a linen industry at Keswick, and handloom
weaving at Langdale, fairly successful, the Turner
drawings arranged ( at indescribable labour ) in the
National Gallery, and his public gifts. But much of
his work that was not the written word passed, like
the drawing-lessons he had given to working-men at
their classes in Great Ormond Street and in the fields,
in 1857. But it was not failure or rejection, or even
partial and futile acceptance, that finally and interiorly
bowed him. " Your poor John Ruskin " (his signa-
ture in writing to one who loved and understood him)
was the John Ruskin who never pardoned himself for
stopping short of the whole renunciation of a Saint
Francis. Lonely and unhappy does the student per-
ceive him to have been who was one of the greatest
of great men of all ages ; but the student who is most
cut to the heart by that perception is compelled to
wish him to have been not less but more a man sacri-
ficed.



CHAPTER II

"MODERN PAINTERS"

THE FIRST VOLUME (1843)

" THE picture which is looked to for an interpreta-
tion of nature is invaluable, but the picture which is
taken as a substitute for nature had better be burned."
John Ruskin began to write Modern Painters in order
to teach men how they should see Turner to be like
nature, whereas the " critics " of that day called him
unnatural. The " critics " of our days would leave
that word to their wives and daughters. But it was
a word for the best reviews in the middle of the cen-
tury. In order to prove this delicate point as to the
interpretation of nature and its value, John Ruskin,
then very young, wrote the first half of the first vol-
ume, and the discussion of Turner follows, with the
universal digressions that make of this volume and its
fellows a work at once of unity of motive, and of
multitudinous variety. The first volume is written
with extreme explicatory labour. Having thought out
a certain difficult thesis, the writer bends every power
to the task of communication. What he has to im-
pose is no state or grace or affection, what he has to
communicate is no conjecture, nor does he make his
way by that attractive divination of authorship which
is companionable, now at fault, now halting, now

9



IO JOHN RUSKIN

leading with confidence a new and untried way. No
more than a treatise of science is this work designed
to bid the reader to that table of entertainment, the
art of English prose. It is only at intervals, and at
the end of a clause of explanation, that this author,
who has excited so many enthusiasms, some futile
and some worthy, by an over-abundant eloquence a
pure style but somewhat prodigal adorns his argu-
ment with a cadence, a group of beautiful warm
words, as it were alight and in time, " musical " and
u pictorial," the vital, just, and brilliant phrase that
afterwards took the nation.

The argument is difficult difficult in the prolonged
study made by him who wrought it from the begin-
ning to the end, most difficult to present sufficiently
in a brief commentary such as this. What Ruskin
had to prove was that a few greatly admired masters
Salvator Rosa, Gaspar Poussin, and Claude, espe-
cially, were inferior as painters of landscape to a
certain number of English artists at work about the
middle of the nineteenth century ; but their inferiority
also to the earlier masters whose landscape was but an
accessory, and to the Venetians of the great school of
colour, whose landscape has been mistaken for arbi-
trary decoration, makes so large an incident of the
work that the title becomes questionable. Modern
Painters proved to be a great apology for the art of
the past, and of all periods of the past, for Gainsbor-
ough profits splendidly : the antithesis disappears.
Salvator Rosa, Gaspar Poussin, and Claude have, be-
sides, ceased (thanks to Ruskin's own teaching) to



"MODERN PAINTERS" n

have the importance that the critics of sixty years ago
assigned to them ; their names do not stand, in our
thoughts to-day, opposed conspicuously to those of
later men now long dead, and brought, in our view,
near to those predecessors by the perspective of time.
The slight anomaly of the name Modern Painters is
increased for us now ; but that name represents much
that is of significance. The admiration of Salvator
Rosa and the contempt of Turner, the fact that
Claude was a seventeenth century painter and Turner
was new, are things important in the history of the
authorship of Modern Painters. Let it be noted here
that a writer to whom was committed by one of the
principal reviews the criticism of art in 1842 preferred
a Mr. Lee to Gainsborough " he is superior to him
always in subject, composition, and variety " not
with an irresponsible preference, but with the prefer-
ence of a connoisseur, "subject, composition, and
variety," not being things whereof the first comer
is able so to print opinions. " Shade of Gains-
borough ! " says Ruskin " deep-thoughted, solemn
Gainsborough, forgive us for rewriting this sentence."
Lee was a painter more insular than it is permitted to
a painter to be, piecemeal and literal, and very cold
in colour; "well-intentioned, simple, free from affec-
tation," and doing his work " with constant reference
to nature," says the preface to the second edition of
Modern Painters, but lacking " those technical quali-
ties which are more especially the object of an artist's
admiration." This phrase is quoted here because it
is one of many that should keep the reader straight in



12 JOHN RUSKIN

the following of the doctrine of this book. A reader
who had spared himself the pains of close following .
might think Ruskin to have taught that " well-inten-
tioned " work bearing a " constant reference to na-
ture " had nearly all the qualities, whereas in this
passage he declares it to have, virtually, none.

The evil of the ancient landscape art (Ruskin per-
sistently calls it ancient, but let the reader bear in
mind that he is in the act of comparing it with more
ancient as well as with modern) " lies, I believe,"
says this preface to the second edition,

" In the painter's taking upon him to modify God's
works at his pleasure, casting the shadow of himself
on all he sees. We shall not pass through a single
gallery of old art without hearing this topic of praise
confidently advanced. The sense of artificialness,
. . . the clumsiness of combination by which the
meddling of man is made evident, and the feebleness
of his hand branded on the inorganisation of his
monstrous creature, are advanced as a proof of in-
ventive power."

We ought to note the.word " inorganisation." For
we shall be willing to take it from Ruskin that the
painter convicted of that is the one condemned ; he
who destroys in order to reconstruct produces inor-
ganised work, and work therefore without vitality.
But a certain foreseen and judicial re-arrangement of
natural facts a new but indestructive relation proves
that very organic quality, and is defended, not once
or twice, but a hundred times in the teaching of Mod-
ern Painters. And only by exquisitely close reading



"MODERN PAINTERS" 13

can we distinguish and reconcile, so as to take this
defence and also what follows :

" In his observations on the foreground of the San
Pietro Martire, Sir Joshua advances, as matter of
praise, that the plants are discriminated ' just as much
as was necessary for variety, and no more/ Had this
foreground been occupied by a group of animals, we
should have been surprised to be told that the lion, the
serpent, and the dove . . . were distinguished
from each other just as much as was necessary for
variety, and no more. ... If the distinctive
forms of animal life are meant for our reverent ob-
servance, is it likely that those of vegetable life are
made merely to be swept away ? "

(In this case Sir Joshua, according to Modern
Painters^ was wrong even as to facts, and Titian, like
Raphael, was accurate in his foreground flowers.) Sir
Joshua separates, says Ruskin, " as chief ^enemies, the
details and the whole, which an artist cannot be great
unless he reconciles." " Details perfect in unity, and
contributing to a final purpose, are the sign of the
production of a consummate master." This is surely
a passage of singular difficulty. Truth to nature
the statement of no falsehood and the doing of no
destructive violence is an intelligible condition of
the art whereof this is the apostolate ; but detail ? Is
detail, or explicit recognition of minor facts, really
the " sign of the production of a consummate mas-
ter " ? " Details contributing to a final purpose "
seems to be a phrase permitting the ignoring of details
that do not contribute. And what does the Impres-



14 JOHN RUSKIN

sionist ask more than this ? A powerful artist, says
Ruskin in a previous sentence, " necessarily looks
upon complete parts as the very sign of error, weak-
ness, and ignorance." Once for all, this should an-
swer the common and careless reading of Modern
Painters and the rest.

Leaving the question of detail, then, aside, or leav-
ing it, if once for all is hardly possible, for a time, we
shall do justice to Ruskin's teaching by choosing from
his most dogmatic pages the following passages that
bear upon the larger question of truth :

" When there are things in the foreground of Sal-
vator, of which I cannot pronounce whether they be
granite, or slate, or tufa, I affirm that there is in them
neither harmonious union nor simple effect, but simple
monstrosity. . . . The elements of brutes can
only mix in corruption, the elements of inorganic na-
ture only in annihilation. We may, if we choose,
put together centaur monsters : but they must still be
half man, half horse ; they cannot be both man and
horse, nor either man or horse."

And this :

" That only should be considered a picture in which
the spirit, not the materials, observe, but the animat-
ing emotion, of many . . . studies is concen-
trated and exhibited by the aid of long-studied, pain-
fully chosen forms ; idealised in the right sense of the
word, not by audacious liberty of that faculty of de-
grading God's works which man calls his ' imagina-
tion,' but by perfect assertion of entire knowledge
. . . wrought out with that noblest industry which
concentrates profusion into point, and transforms ac-



"MODERN PAINTERS" 15

cumulation into structure. . . . There is ...
more ideality in a great artist's selection and treatment
of roadside weeds and brook-worn pebbles than in all
the struggling caricature of the meaner mind, which
heaps its foreground with colossal columns, and heaves
impossible mountains into the encumbered sky."

Those columns and those mountains get no respect
from any one at present, but it must not be forgotten
that the book before us was in part written to over-
throw them.

All this is from the later-written preface. We
come next to Modern Painters, Part I. Section I, the
earliest important page of one of the greatest authors
of our incomparable literature. It is a laborious page,
in great part filled by one sentence explaining that
public opinion can hardly be right upon matters of art
until, with the lapse of time, it shall have accepted
guidance. The same chapter declares war explicitly
upon the " old masters " in landscape, and the reader
has to add to the names of Salvator Rosa, Caspar
Poussin, and Claude, those of Cuyp, Berghem, Both,
Ruysdael, Hobbema, Teniers (in landscape), Paul
Potter, Canaletto, " and the various Van somethings


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