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Full text of "John Ruskin, his homes and haunts. With twelve drawings in crayon by W.B. Robinson and other illus"

rTHE 

PILGRIM 
BOOKS 





JOHN RUSKIN 



THE 
PILGRIM BOOKS 

General Editor 
S. L. BENSUSAN 

1. SHAKESPEARE 

2. LAMB 

3. WORDSWORTH 

4. TENNYSON 

5. RUSKIN 

Others in Preparation 




JOHN RUSKIN 



HIS HOMES AND HAUNTS 



BY r ^ 

JAMES D.'SYMON 




WITH TWELVE DRAWINGS IN CRAYON BY 

W. B. ROBINSON 
AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS 



LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK 

16 HENRIETTA STREET, W.C. 
AND EDINBURGH 




PR 



IN PIAM MEMOBIAM 
OPTIMA MATRIS 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD HUNTER STREET 

AND HERNE HILL 1 

II. HERNE HILL AND EXCURSIONS . . . . . .13 

III. OXFORD 24 

IV. THE BEGINNINGS OF FAME 32 

V. "THE INDUSTRY OF MID-LIFE" 38 

VI. FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, AND ITALY .... 46 

VII. OXFORD ONCE MORE : THE SLADE PROFESSOR . . 62 

VIII. GATES OF THE HILLS . 70 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PORTRAIT OF RUSKIN . . . .- . . . Frontispiece 
RUSKIN'S BIRTHPLACE, 54 HUNTER STREET, BRUNS- 
WICK SQUARE, W.C _ . . . Facing p. 4 

RUSKIN'S HOUSE, No. 28 HERNE HILL .... ,,16 

RUSKIN'S HOUSE, DENMARK HILL .... ,,20 

CHAMOUNI AND MONT BLANC ..... ,,24 
THE QUADRANGLE AND PELICAN, CORPUS CHRISTI 

COLLEGE, OXFORD ,,28 

RUSKIN'S WALK, DENMARK HILL .... ,,32 

KINNOULL ,,36 

CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD ,,40 

DANIELI'S HOTEL, VENICE ,,44 

ENTRANCE TO THE DOGE'S PALACE, VENICE . . 48 
THE MOAT OF NUREMBERG. DRAWING BY JOHN 

RUSKIN 52 

CONISTON WATER AND THE OLD MAN ... ,,56 

BRANTWOOD, CONISTON ....... ,,60 

LOIRE-SIDE, BY RUSKIN, AFTER TURNER ... ,,64 
THE BRIDGE OF RHEINFELDEN ON THE RHINE, 

BY RUSKIN, AFTER TURNER ,,68 



PEEFACE 

THIS essay is obviously an outline; it could not be 
otherwise when the story of eighty years had to be 
told in eighty pages. The reader will find little that 
is new save an anecdote here and there ; but the treat- 
ment, as regards locality, has at least the freshness of 
its attempt to describe places and scenes not as they 
may appear to the independent observer to-day, but 
as they appeared to Ruskin himself. 

The principal authority has therefore been the 
works of John Ruskin, in their compass. Quota- 
tions not directly acknowledged in the text are from 
Prceterita. Elsewhere the sources are indicated. The 
author also acknowledges much valuable help from 
the biographical notes of Mr. Cook and Mr. Wedder- 
burn in the Library Edition of Ruskin, as well as 
from the short biographies of Mr. Collingwood and 
Mr. Frederic Harrison. On many critical points he 
has consulted, always with illumination, even where 
complete agreement was denied him, the invaluable 
monograph of Mrs. Meynell, and that of Mr. J. M. 
Mather. In justice to himself, he may perhaps confess 
that these pages were passed for press before he read 
Dean Kitchin's " Ruskin at Oxford." 

Cordial thanks are due to Mr. John Leith for his 
kindness in lending for reproduction a memorable 
letter of Ruskin's. 

J. D. S. 

Til 



JOHN RUSKIN 



CHAPTER I 

PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD HUNTER STREET 
AND HERNE HILL 

AT the birth of John Ruskin, the Fates that spin the 
destinies of Art and Letters must have sung harmo- 
niously to their spindles. For seldom has a man of 
genius been so favoured by fortune as the child who 
was born to John James Ruskin and his wife Margaret 
on February 8, 1819, at 54 Hunter Street, Brunswick 
Square. An only child, he was from the beginning 
marked out as one apart : his forbears were no ordinary 
people ; his training was to be peculiar ; above all, he 
was to be spared that which is at once the handicap 
and the spur of great abilities, a fight with adversity. 
He was, it is true, to become in after years a com- 
batant among combatants, to fight gallantly for truth, 
and to pass away grieving that the complete victory 
he had sought was denied him ; but in the early years 
no cloud obscured his growing powers. He grew up 
like some rare and curious flower in a garden closed 
and sheltered from the storms of the world, nurtured 



2 JOHN RUSKIN 

certainly with a strange spiritual rigour, on his mother's 
part ; but that high austerity, unknown to the children 
of a more favoured age, was tempered and qualified by 
the humanity and culture of his father. 

Between them, John Ruskin's parents exercised 
upon their son forces differing in degree and in direc- 
tion, and the resultant was the critic and stylist. A 
third force was that of surroundings, in a merely 
topographical sense, and in a certain sense no other 
English writer has been so much the product and the 
expression of that which lay about his path. For the 
most part the dwelling-places of men of genius have 
been an accident; for John Ruskin, as the event 
proved, they were an essential. It is said that 
" home-keeping youth has ever homely wits." John 
Ruskin, a home-keeper as few men have been, in the 
respect that he continued to live with his parents even 
until manhood was well advanced, managed to disprove 
the proverb. But this close tie to the parental roof 
and to the society of his father and mother, although 
a tether, was a tether of elastic that stretched first 
over England and Scotland, and afterwards across the 
continent of Europe. The Ruskins were the last to 
cling to the ideal method of travel, that of the post- 
chaise, and their gentle and joyous passages through- 
out the length and breadth of the land gave the boy 
a temper and an experience that are inseparably inter- 
woven with his character. Ruskin is pa?' excellence the 
English writer whose career and development are best 
illuminated by a study of his Homes and Haunts, and 



PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD 3 

that is the theme and purpose of the present essay 
in little. 

By birth a Londoner, John Ruskin was essentially a 
Scotsman by descent and early training. The heritage 
of his blood brought him in full measure the qualities 
and the defects of the Northern character, wherein 
natural breadth contends ever with an imposed rigidity. 
In his parents severally these characteristics were per- 
sonified : the father a strenuous man of business, 
devoted to the arts and somewhat nebulous in his 
religion ; the mother of the straitest sect of the 
Evangelicals, but with a certain gracious, if some- 
what restricted, enthusiasm for the gentler flowers of 
the mind. She had striven during the long years 
of her engagement to make herself the fitting com- 
panion of the man she was to marry, a man whose 
education was superior to her own, and the Fates 
had ordained that that effort of hers was to find a 
strange issue in moulding the mind of a boy who 
was afterwards to write his name indelibly on the 
page of English Literature and on the artistic de- 
velopment of the world. There are some who have 
held that Mrs. Ruskin's methods are open to criticism, 
but surely her wisdom is justified of its child? Her 
rigorous instructions in the text of the English Bible 
may sound terrible to this age, but they laid the 
foundations of that sense of language which framed 
the melodious close of Ruskin's periods. To the 
Authorised Version he owed more than to disorgan- 
ising Gibbon or judicious Hooker. But when all is 



4 JOHN RUSKIN 

said and done, models and masters play but a secon- 
dary part. "The style," as Buffon did not say, "is 
the man himself." It is with the man that we have 
here principally to do. 

Like most Scotsmen of account, John Ruskin had 
a pedigree. It is interesting, but too elaborate, too 
full of side issues to be detailed here. There is a 
remote link with the Sir Andrew Agnew of the memor- 
able speech at Dettingen, another with Ross the Arctic 
explorer, but these scarcely count in any explanation 
of his heredity. What is to the point is that he was 
the son of a man whom he described as " an entirely 
honest merchant," when he came to write his epitaph, 
and the grandson of a woman of extraordinary force 
of character. Ruskin sprang of commercial ancestry 
on the father's side, and of seafaring people on the 
mother's. That he came of the commercial classes he 
tells us with a conscious candour worthy of Evan 
Harrington. Harringtonesque, too, are his reminis- 
cences of an aunt who kept a baker's shop in Croydon. 
The confession is made with just that little excess of 
geniality which betrays effort. With equal candour, 
in the same book, he avows himself all for aristocracy, 
though in no sense an aristocrat. No more need be 
said. Let this glimpse of an amiable foible suffice. 

Ruskin's grandfather was an Edinburgh wine-mer- 
chant of good position, afterwards lost by imprudence. 
His father, John James Ruskin, was educated at the 
High School of Edinburgh, under the famous Dr. 
Adam. He received that excellent sound old classical 



PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD 5 

training which in those days of no specialisation fitted 
a boy alike for the university or for business. Had 
his father continued prosperous, J. J. Ruskin would 
doubtless in due time have become an Edinburgh 
student, for he showed a strong bent for Latin and 
philosophy ; but the family affairs had gone wrong, or 
were going wrong, and young John James went into 
business. It was fortunate that he did so, for his 
commercial success enabled him to surround his son 
with those affluent influences which suffered his genius 
to develop along its own lines. A place was found for 
the elder Ruskin in a wine-merchant's office in London. 
There he spent two years, and in 1809 he entered into 
partnership with a Mr. Telford, a wealthy squire of 
Kent, and a M. Domecq, a great grower of sherry. 
Telford, as Mr. Collingwood notes, contributed the 
capital, Domecq the sherry, and Ruskin the brains. 

For nine years, taking no holidays that were not 
business journeys, J. J. Ruskin exercised those brains 
in putting his firm on a sound basis. His sensitive 
honour had made him resolve to pay off all his father's 
debts before he would lay by a penny for himself. 
When that was accomplished, he went north to claim 
the girl who had been his betrothed during all the years 
of his servitude. Margaret Cox was his cousin, the 
daughter of a Yarmouth skipper. For a long time she 
had lived with J. J. Ruskin's mother in Edinburgh, 
whither she had gone on the marriage of his sister. 
Her own mother, the skipper's widow, kept the old 
King's Head Inn in Croydon Market-place, and had 



6 JOHN RUSKIN 

done her best for her daughter's education. Even 
when J. J. Ruskin declared himself in a position to 
marry, Margaret would have delayed ; but one evening 
he persuaded her to get married at once in the Scotch 
fashion, and next morning the pair left for London. 
On this happy despatch hung great issues. 

Memory awoke early for the child John Ruskin in 
his first home, that Hunter Street house where he 
began to construct the world for himself. His picture 
of his childhood is that of a solitary, somewhat over- 
disciplined little boy, who was always summarily 
whipped if he cried, did not do as he was bid, or 
tumbled on the stairs. He had few possessions, and 
was taught abnegation early, never being permitted for 
one instant to hope for the possession of such things 
as one saw in toy-shops. A bunch of keys in early 
infancy, a cart and a ball when he was older, two 
boxes of well-cut bricks when he was five or six, were 
his "entirely sufficient possessions." Almost as soon 
as he could remember, he had learned to cultivate the 
pleasures of the imagination. 

" I would pass my days contentedly in tracing the 
squares and colours of the carpet, examining the knots 
in the wood of the floor, or counting the bricks in the 
opposite houses ; with rapturous intervals of excite- 
ment during the filling of the water-cart through its 
leathern pipe from the dripping iron post at the pave- 
ment edge, or the still more admirable proceedings of 
the turncock, when he turned and turned until a 
fountain sprang up in the middle of the street." 



PAKENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD 7 

The sense of form, however, was his chief resource, 
and he sought patterns in the carpet, in bed- covers, 
dresses, and wall-papers. The critic awoke in the con- 
templation of the carpet, and when he was only three 
and a half he asked Mr. Northcote, the Royal Acade- 
mician, to whom he was sitting for his portrait, why 
there were holes in his carpet. But the sense of colour 
was awake also, for when the artist asked the child 
what he would like for a background, he replied at 
once, " Blue hills," thus presaging not only the future 
master of colour, but the passionate lover of moun- 
tains, alike in their picturesque and their scientific 
significance. He was rewarded by the introduction 
of two rounded hills "as blue as his shoes." 

Already the little Ruskin's horizon had stretched 
beyond a Bloomsbury street. Holidays spent with the 
Croydon relations had given him his first impressions 
of a South London still rural and beautiful, that was 
soon to be his home for many years to come. There 
were walks on Duppas Hill and on the heather at 
Addington, and sometimes the family took lodgings 
with a Mrs. Ridley at Dulwich, in a house that was 
"the last of a row in a lane which led out into the 
Dulwich fields on one side, and was itself full of 
buttercups in spring and of blackberries in autumn." 
He knew Hampstead also, where they lived in " real 
cottages, not villas so called." Of his moral train- 
ing at this remote period he remembered chiefly his 
mother's steady watchfulness to guard him from all 
pain and danger; her willingness to let him amuse 



8 JOHN RUSKIN 

himself as he liked, provided he was neither fretful nor 
troublesome. Her rigour was seen in her restriction of 
toys of which she disapproved. A " most radiant 
Punch and Judy," the gift of his less austere aunt, 
was accepted, but afterwards removed, with an intima- 
tion that it was not good for him to have them. They 
were never seen again. How strange, yet in a way 
how salutary, is this to an age that has accepted the 
Golliwog and the Billikin, the former innocent and 
pleasing enough, but the latter anathema ! 

But these were insignificant travels: for the child 
in his fourth summer had seen and learned to love 
Scotland. His father's sister Jessie was married to a 
Mr. Richardson in Perth, and in his aunt's house at 
Bridge End beside the Tay, towards which the garden 
ran sloping steeply, the infant John Ruskin found new 
impressions, to be strengthened during later visits, and 
to be perfectly described in after-days in the pages 
of Prceterita, that autobiography "written frankly, 
garrulously, and at ease." 

" I would not change the dreams, far less the tender 
realities, of those early days, for anything I hear now 
remembered by lords and dames of their days of child- 
hood in castle halls, and by sweet lawns and lakes in 
park- walled forest. 

" Lawn and lake enough indeed I had, in the North 
Inch of Perth, and pools of pausing Tay, before Rose 
Terrace (where I used to live after my uncle died, 
briefly apoplectic, at Bridge End), in the peace of the 
fair Scotch summer days." 



PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD 9 

On this head one more passage must be quoted, 
for the light it throws on the mind of the child, 
thus early susceptible to the influence of the "spirit 
of place " : 

" I passed my days much as the thistles and the tansy 
did, only with perpetual watching of all the ways of 
running water, a singular awe developing itself in me, 
both of the pools of Tay, where the water changed from 
brown to blue-black, and of the precipices of Kinnoul ; 
partly out of my own mind, and partly because the 
servants always became serious when we went up 
Kinnoul way, especially if I wanted to stay and look 
at the little crystal spring of Bower's Well." 

Thus, like the gods in the Euripidean chorus, 

" Ever delicately marching 
Through the most pellucid air," 

the soul of John Ruskin began its pilgrimage through 
a world to which he was to bring great and high teach- 
ing, at much cost to his own peace. But long, tranquil 
days of preparation were still before him, amid fairer 
surroundings than the fascinating bricks of Hunter 
Street. 

In 1823, the year after the painting of the North- 
cote portrait, John Ruskin the elder had so far 
prospered in his business as to be able to think of a 
home in a pleasanter quarter. The family removed to 
a house with an ample garden on Herne Hill, after- 
wards known as No. 28. It was one of a group of four, 



10 JOHN RUSKIN 

the highest blocks of buildings on the crest of the ridge, 
three-storied with garrets, commanding a remarkable 
view towards Windsor and Harrow. The garden was 
rich in fruit-trees, forbidden to the child, but afterwards 
to bear a rich literary fruit for him and for the world, 
in the principles laid down in " Proserpina," and even 
then early realised, that the seeds and fruit of them 
were for the sake of the flowers, and not the flowers 
for the fruit. 

In that pleasant garden the boy spent most of his 
summer days ; surely the weather must have been kinder 
then ? Lessons had already begun, and as soon as he 
could read fluently his mother began a course of sys- 
tematic instruction which nothing was allowed to 
interrupt. After his father had gone to town by coach, 
John was sent to his daily task, which he was expected 
to know by twelve o'clock. The text-book was the 
Bible, and a passage had to be learnt by heart. Again 
and again mother and son read the Scriptures from 
beginning to end, with minute attention to pronuncia- 
tion and accent, until the lightest inflexion was per- 
fect. This discipline, ended only when Ruskin went to 
Oxford, he counted the essential portion of his educa- 
tion. With the formidable chapters, strictly learnt by 
heart, his mother, as he himself says, " established his 
soul in life." Peace lay about him, in those days, and 
he learnt obedience and faith, also that habit of fixed 
attention with eyes and mind which long afterwards 
caused Mazzini to say that Ruskin had the most 
analytic mind in Europe. 



PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD 11 

He notes, however, the defects of the method 
" calamities," he calls them. Withal he had nothing 
to love, nothing to endure, no training in precision of 
etiquette and manners. The last cost him a quaint 
disquiet, humorously confessed in his account of his 
first love affair, and the serio-comic Disraeli episode at 
Christ Church. 

The evenings at Herne Hill were no less remark- 
able than the mornings. Mr. Ruskin came home early, 
and while he dined his wife heard from him the events 
of the day. From these counsels the son was rigidly 
excluded, but in summer he joined his parents at tea- 
time in the garden, where the rest of the evening was 
spent. In winter or rough weather he had his bread 
and milk in the drawing-room, in a little recess, where 
he remained, like an idol in its niche, until bedtime, 
listening while his father read Scott or Byron. Before 
him was a small table, at which as he grew older he 
practised a marvellous literature. The Muses had 
caught him. He toiled at a conclusion of Miss Edge- 
worth's "Harry and Lucy," with copper-plates 
"written by a little boy and drawn," is the artless 
legend of the title-page. His father's taste and skill in 
water-colour had roused him to emulation. But he 
aspired even higher. This child of seven, whom his 
mother had fondly dedicated to the Church, had 
already recognised a vocation. John Ruskin was to 
be a poet. 

The growth of his little lyric gift, and its renuncia- 
tion for the highest achievement in modern English 



12 JOHN RUSKIN 

prose, lead us far away from Ruskin's childish days. 
But it remained the leading motive of his life until he 
stood upon the threshold of manhood. Let us follow 
him thither through that growing boyhood, upon which 
the shades of the prison-house seemed reluctant to 
close. 



CHAPTER II 

HERNE HILL AND EXCURSIONS 

THE great event of the year for John Ruskin was 
his father's birthday, the 10th of May. For that 
occasion the small poet always produced a copy of 
verses, the subject of much anxious thought during 
the preceding weeks. But besides these special efforts 
he was continually busy with composition, which his 
parents encouraged. They made it, indeed, the means 
of earning pocket-money, a custom of doubtful wisdom. 
But the money at any rate was earned, for the child 
did not spare himself. 

Nor were his labours wholly in the field of art. 
His passion for physical science had declared itself 
in his fondness for minerals, and on that theme 
he wrote learnedly. As for the reward " Homer " 
fetched a shilling a page; "Composition," a penny 
for twenty lines; "Mineralogy," a penny for each 
article. His verses are wonderful for a mere child, 
but like the rest of Ruskin's poetry, even the maturer 
examples, they are little more than literary curiosities 
to-day. He imitated Scott, Byron, and Young with 
a quaint infusion of his own small observation and 
experience. The close transcript of the thing seen is 



14 JOHN RUSKIN 

perhaps the most valuable sidelight the poems afford 
upon the mind of the author-to-be. 

But the 10th of May had another significance. 
It marked the departure of the Ruskin family upon 
their annual tour through England. Their way fre- 
quently extended as far as Scotland. These leisurely 
journeys, made in a roomy post-chaise, fitted with 
all sorts of fascinating convenient devices, were under- 
taken as much for business as for pleasure, and in 
their course Mr. Ruskin called upon his chief country 
customers, always bearing away a substantial sheaf 
of commissions. This remarkable wine-merchant was 
welcomed everywhere for his personality, like the great 
Mel Harrington; but, unlike Melchisedec, he knew how 
to turn his popularity to sound commercial advantage. 

To little John these travels were another education 
and an inspiration. He learned to know the countries 
of his birth and of his descent, and he reproduced his 
impressions in a continual stream of literary works. 
He kept journals, he composed itineraries, he cele- 
brated the things he had seen in various verse. 
Perched on a little cushioned seat in front of his parents, 
he delighted in the wide unfolding view from the 
chaise windows, and caught by the equestrian spirit, 
he imitated the postilion, in mile-long imaginative 
gallops. To add to the realism of this pastime, patient 
Papa Ruskin allowed his own devoted legs to be 
whipped, "in a quite practical and efficient manner," 
with a silver-mounted riding-whip he had himself 
given to the boy. 



HERNE HILL EXCURSIONS 15 

The chronology of these early journeys is important. 
The first visit to Scotland was made by sea in 1822. 
In 1823 the summer tour lay through the south- 
west of England. In 1824 they went to the Lakes, 
Keswick, and Perth. In 1825 John made his first 
acquaintance with the Continent, and saw Paris, 
Brussels, and Waterloo, which last he afterwards sang 
in a dramatic poem. He was present during this 
tour at the coronation festivities of Charles X. In 
1826, the year of his first poem, "The Needless 
Alarm," they were again at the Lakes and Perth. 
His first memory of life, he says, " meaning of things 
chiefly precious to me afterwards," was of Friar's 
Crag on Derwentwater, now marked by his monu- 
ment. The limiting phrase is significant ; for he 
had earlier memories, and it marks that passion for 
the hills, and above all his affection for that Coniston 
region, where he was at length to see an end of his 
labours. At the Coniston Inn, in those early days, 
he and his mother stayed, while his father went on 
his business journeys to Whitehaven, Lancaster, New- 
castle, and other northern towns. Thus at large leisure, 
and under intelligent guidance, John Ruskin's appren- 
ticeship went forward. Through an unspoiled England 
he came by easy stages to his life-work. 

The year 1826 not only saw the dawn of poetry, 
but marked an epoch in Ruskin's formal education. 
It was now time to begin Latin. To that task Mrs. 
Ruskin was quite equal, and, with the same thorough- 
ness that she brought to other lessons, she put her 



16 JOHN RUSKIN 

son through the Grammar of Dr. Adam, using the 
very book that her husband had carried in his satchel 
to the High School of Edinburgh. 

The summer of 1827 found the Ruskins again at 
Perth ; next year they went to the west of England, 
and about that time the poet projected a great work, 
"Eudosia, a Poem on the Universe." In that year, 
too, Mr. and Mrs. Ruskin adopted John's Perth cousin, 
Mary Richardson, who was brought up as a sister to 
the boy. There was no extended tour in 1829, only 
a little sojourn in Kent. In the autumn of 1830 
Ruskin was at length considered to have outgrown 
his mother's tutorship. 

At that time there ministered in Beresford Chapel, 
Wai worth, an excellent divine, whose oracles Mrs. 
Ruskin attended, accompanied, "contentedly or at 
least submissively " (says Ruskin in Prceteritd), by 
her husband. Dr. Andrews* who was the father of 
the first Mrs. Coventry Patmore, "had the reputa- 
tion (in Walworth) of being a good scholar," so to 
him John was sent to learn Greek, already too long 
delayed. It appears that Dr. Andrews 

"in Greek 
Was sadly to seek," 

his method was peculiar, not to say fearful and wonder- 
ful, but he accomplished one thing in which a more 
accurate scholar might have failed he interested his 
pupil, who ever retained a wistful affection for Hel- 
lenic studies, although he was the first to confess his 






.', 







HERNE HILL EXCURSIONS 17 

lamentable deficiency in grasp of the language. In 
the sketch of his Oxford career, it will be seen how 
he suffered from the lack of proper training. Perhaps 
it did not matter much : the enemies of classical 
teaching will say that it was better so ; but they mis- 
conceive, for Ruskin would have been infinitely helped 
by a thorough mastery of Greek, and it was impossible 
for him ever to have sunk into a mere pedant. 

With Dr. Andrews he went on with his Latin, 
reading Virgil, and taking pleasure in his tutor's odd 
illustrations; in Greek he read Anacreon, before he 
knew his verbs, and of course he fell at once to verse 
translation. It was a happy-go-lucky, genial scramble 
up Parnassus, with more waggery afoot than sound 
learning on both sides ; but the boy was delighted, and 
looked forward eagerly to the three days a week on 
which he worked with his desultory master. Some 
suspicion of the method entered Mrs. Ruskin's shrewd 
brain, but she could not be expected to put her finger 
on the place. She thought, however, that Dr. Andrews 
was " flighty," when, after six months, he proposed that 
John should begin Hebrew! Of Semitic studies we 
hear no more. 

All this time Ruskin's interest in Art was steadily 
increasing. He tried to copy Cruikshank's illustrations 
to Grimm's Fairy Tales, his first serious beginnings in 
drawing. The " singular genius of Cruikshank " and his 
pictures, "perhaps the finest line-work since Rembrandt's 
etchings," he was always to hold in reverence, and he 
would have all beginners make this their first model. 

B 



18 JOHN RUSKIN 

Ruskin's work showed so much promise that his 
father now sent him to take drawing-lessons from 
Mr. Runciman, with whom he remained for several 
years. Runciman was a severe and somewhat opinion- 
ative taskmaster, but once at least he bowed to his 
pupil's independence, and actually modified his method, 
allowing him to use colour earlier than he would have 
done in the case of a pupil less extraordinary. In the 
same year, 1831, a mathematical master was engaged, 
and with him Ruskin got a firm hold of the elements 
of geometry, a subject which he really liked and in 
which he attempted a little original work of a romantic 
kind the baffling tri-section of an angle. 

But a greater influence was now at hand : the boy 
was to encounter a force in art that was afterwards 
to make his own career, and to rescue from obloquy 
and misunderstanding a once popular genius, who, 
reaching after a new expression of truth, had put 
himself of necessity out of favour with his country- 
men. Ruskin's fourteenth birthday brought him a 
gift which was a revelation. His father's partner 
Mr. Telford sent him Rogers' " Italy." Perhaps the 
giver thought only of the poetry in making his choice, 
but Ruskin thought less of that than of the wonderful 
illustrations, those vignettes by a marvellous man 
Turner, who saw mountains as the boy saw them, 
but with the eyes of a life's experience. Ruskin's 
soul went out with a rush to this new master, in 
whom he found what he had been seeking ever since 
his precocious mind had begun to grope after the 



HEBNE HILL EXCURSIONS 19 

artistic concept. He set himself to copy the "Alps 
at Daybreak," and from that moment there was for 
him no turning back. 

Travel again came to the aid of this fortunate 
prince. That very year he saw the Alps of his 
dreams not, however, because of the Turner book, 
as one might suppose. The son's enthusiasm for 
the peaks and the great silences found only a qualified 
echo in the father ; but by a happy chance Mr. Ruskin 
had just bought Prout's " Sketches in Flanders and 
Germany," and being interested in Gothic, he readily 
fell in with his wife's suggestion that they should 
all go to see these places for themselves. In May 
1833 they set out, and John Ruskin entered upon a 
new phase of his mental and moral development. 

By way of " customary Calais " the Ruskins began 
their posting journey through Flanders and Germany. 
The boy noted in after-years that he was already wise 
enough to feel Strasburg Cathedral stiff and iron-worky, 
but the richness of the wooden houses impressed and 
excited him because of their promise of nearness to 
Switzerland. "The Nature of Gothic" was not yet 
even dimly perceived, otherwise the houses would have 
suggested more than Switzerland. That land of his 
desire was approached strategically after family council 
with Salvador, their courier. Should it be Basle or 
Schaffhausen ? At Basle there were no Alps in sight. 
To Schaffhausen, then, be it ; and so, on a memorable 
Sunday evening, " suddenly behold beyond 1 " 

A lifetime later he paused, with remembered 



20 JOHN RUSKIN 

emotion, on these exclamatory words, and left his 
great paragraph incomplete. Artist that he was, he 
could not write the name of the sacred rampart of 
Europe, but there was no need to tell his readers what 
he had seen. He resumes : 

" There was no thought in any of us for a moment 
of their being clouds. They were clear as crystal, sharp 
on the pure horizon sky, and already tinged with rose 
by the sinking sun. Infinitely beyond all that we had 
ever thought or dreamed, the seen walls of lost Eden 
could not have been more beautiful to us ; not more 
awful, round heaven, the walls of sacred Death." 

For the rest of that journey he moved in an en- 
chanted land, with Turner for his guide. They crossed 
the Spliigen and went down into Italy, seeing Milan, 
the Lakes, and the Mediterranean at Genoa. Then 
they came back through the Oberland to Chamouni, 
the scene in after-days of many labours. Already he 
had a new great work on hand he would make an 
Italy of his own after the manner of Mr. Rogers, and 
be his own illustrator, after the manner of Turner. He 
set himself to imitate the delicate vignettes, and as 
he wrought came to a surer dexterity of hand, to be 
further confirmed in the next year's tour. The route 
of that second journey is recorded in his sketches : 
Chamouni, St. Bernard, Aosta, the Oberland once 
more, St. Gothard, Lucerne, by the Stelvio to Venice 
and Verona, and home through the Tyrol and Ger- 
many. But his study of the Alps was not alone 



HERNE HILL EXCURSIONS 21 

artistic. The young man of science was also busy with 
a geological, inquiry, helped by Saussure's Voyages 
dans les Alpes, a birthday gift from his father in 1834. 
The mountains, he had seen, held physical secrets as 
well as possibilities of picture-making, and these he set 
himself to discover. 

In the interval between the first and second Alpine 
journeys, John Ruskin was sent to school as a day-boy 
with the Rev. Thomas Dale in Grove Lane, Peckham. 
The mere place of his new Academe had not then the 
odd associations it bears for us to-day, although it is at 
least quaint that he should have passed, with a brief 
interlude of study at King's College, London, straight 
from Peckham to Christ Church. It was now recog- 
nised that Dr. Andrews would never prepare him for 
college and the Church, in which the elder Ruskins 
hoped in due time to see their genius advancing towards 
lawn sleeves. But while he made some better progress 
in mere school- work with Mr. Dale, Ruskin had other 
occupations that were leading him surely away from 
Holy Orders. 

The year 1834 had seen his first appearance in print 
with his "Enquiries on the Causes of the Colour of 
the Water of the Rhine," and another essay, " Facts 
and Considerations of the Strata of Mont Blanc," both 
published in London's Magazine of Natural History. 
Nor was Poetry neglected. Through his cousin Charles, 
a clerk in Messrs. Smith, Elder's, he had been introduced 
to Mr. Pringle, the Editor of that sumptuous boudoir 
annual Friendship's Offering. Mr. Pringle encour- 



22 JOHN RUSKIN 

aged Ruskin's verse-making, and even took the boy to 
see Samuel Rogers. At that interview Ruskin knew 
not how to play the courtier ; his talk to the poet of 
" Italy " was all of Mr. Turner's drawings, about which 
Rogers showed little enthusiasm, and no progress was 
made in that direction. Mr. Pringle even administered 
a mild rebuke on the way back to Herne Hill. But 
Friendship's Offering for 1835 contained three poems 
" Andernach," " St. Goar," and " Salzburg "all by 
John Ruskin, and they were illustrated with a beauti- 
ful plate engraved by Goodall after Purser, somewhat in 
the Turner manner. So the bard felt he might hold 
a candle to Mr. Rogers after all. This was all very 
giddy and exciting, no doubt, but greater joy was in 
store, dashed, however, by a miscarriage of publication. 
No matter, he had entered the lists and broken his first 
lance for his hero. Blackwooffs criticism of Turner's 
Academy pictures for 1836 roused the young man to 
reply. Mr. Ruskin enclosed the MS. to the artist, 
asking permission to send it to " Maga " ; but Turner, 
while obliged, was contemptuous of attacks, desired no 
reply, and sent the MS. to Mr. Munro of Novar, who 
had bought the censured picture. This article, the 
germ of " Modern Painters," was therefore lost. Dis- 
covered long afterwards in a duplicate copy, it shows 
Turner's champion firm in his saddle firmer, indeed, 
than he ever was on the back of that early pony from 
which he rolled so persistently into the mud of Nor- 
wood lanes. 

With these occupations and excitements, tempered 



HERNE HILL EXCURSIONS 23 

by painting lessons from Copley Fielding and by the 
wholesome fear of the Oxford matriculation examina- 
tion, now looming in sight, Ruskin passed the year 
1836. In October he matriculated, and the following 
January saw him go into residence. Like everything 
else in his career, his entry into Oxford was unique, 
a thing apart and purely Ruskinesque, unparalleled 
perhaps in the history of the University. At that 
amiable comedy we are now to assist. 






CHAPTER III 

OXFORD 

EVER desirous to do the best for his son, Mr. J. J. 
Ruskin realised the serious importance of entering 
him at a college that offered the highest social and 
educational advantages. His choice fell upon Christ 
Church, where the society was certainly unexception- 
able in point of rank, and where scholarship was 
represented by its Dean, the mighty Grecian Gaisford, 
unpolished in manner but withal terribly learned. 

To Gaisford Mr. Ruskin went in the early part 
of the year 1836, to arrange for John's matriculation. 
The son, writing of the interview long afterwards, is 
quietly alive to its humour. Blunt Dean and earnest 
paterfamilias must have made an odd contrast as 
they discussed what status John should occupy in 
college. Mr. Ruskin learned that there was a finer 
flower of undergraduate known as the Gentleman-Com- 
moner. Was there anything to hinder his son's being 
enrolled as such ? It was merely a question of some 
rather heavy fees. Money mattered not, and thus 
it came about long afterwards that Mr. Tuckwell, 
writing delightfully of that far-off Oxford of 1837, 
mentions among the men of note " Young Gentleman- 
Commoner Ruskin." 



OXFORD 25 

It was an Oxford somewhat hard for us of a 
later generation to realise. Tract XC. was still three 
years ahead, and the University was only beginning 
to arouse herself from her long lethargy. But stirrings 
of a new spirit were in the air, and at Oriel Newman 
was fighting his great spiritual battle that would at 
length separate him from his Alma Mater and from 
the Church of his fathers, but would set a quickening 
seal upon the place he had left. It was an age of 
remarkable men Stanley, Matthew Arnold, Clough, 
Lord Hobhouse, Henry Acland, Jowett. Gladstone 
had but recently gone down. Of the greater dons 
of that time, Dr. Routh, who had actually seen 
Dr. Johnson, still held the Presidency of Magdalen 
and kept the eighteenth century alive in dress and 
manner, but he appeared rarely in the streets after 
1836. Pusey, more or less a hermit, occupied the 
Hebrew Chair, and formed the subject of fantastic 
myths. Buckland, the geologist, with his surprising 
hat and bag, was, next to the Dean, the chief 
" character" of Christ Church, then rich in oddities. 
Newman, taking indispensable exercise, was a familiar 
figure on the country roads any afternoon. 

Undergraduate life had less diversity, less colour, 
than it carries with it to-day. Athletic sports were 
unknown, football unheard of; there was only one 
cricket field, the Magdalen ground. Boating had not 
become a passion ; the delicate, lazy delights of punt 
or canoe on the Cher had not yet been discovered. 
The hunt, the drag, hurdle-jumping, and tandem-driving 



26 JOHN RUSKIN 

amused the rich. Men drank too much, and on 
Sunday, according to Mozley, in a college affection 
forbids us to name, they drowned, in a double measure 
of ale, the boredom of writing out, in compulsory 
abstract, the morning's sermon at St. Mary's. Costume 
was stiff and formal : academic dress strictly en- 
forced. Frock and tail coats were correct in hall; 
the beaver- hat was worn on the way to the boats 
or the cricket field. No one would have appeared in 
flannels on the High. The times were now dull, 
now riotous as ever, since St. Scholastica's day. 
Rowdyism moves in cycles, passing from college to 
college as the wind blows. At the time when John 
Ruskin went up, Christ Church seems to have been 
lively. At first he was an augmenting cause. 

If anything was needed to make his position more 
difficult and difficult it was enough, owing to his 
early education it was the extension of his mother's 
care even to the gates of Christ Church. It would 
not be fair to blame her, for Ruskin was physically 
delicate, and needed watching over in an especial 
degree. But it might have been well to have spared 
him the burden of a chaperone. It is easy to imagine 
the unholy glee of his contemporaries when it became 
known that the Gentleman-Commoner from a Peck- 
ham Academy had actually been accompanied to 
college by his " Mamma," as he called her. Mrs. 
Ruskin took lodgings in High Street, and her son 
devoted all his evenings to her, until Tom, the great 
bell of Christ Church, recalled him at nine o'clock 



OXFORD 27 

to his rooms in Peckwater Quadrangle. At first he 
had to put up with the usual furious invasions of 
the revel-rout of undergraduates, but he lived that 
down, helped no doubt by the diplomacy that led 
him to lay in a bottle or two of papa's best wine. 
But the ungodly broke his windows, rode on his 
back round the quadrangle, and made his reading 
of an essay in Hall the occasion for what would now 
be called a " rag," culminating in the inevitable bon- 
fire. His theme, alas ! had been very long and very 
fine. He had transgressed the unwritten law that 
no Gentleman-Commoner's composition should exceed 
forty-eight words in length. He had behaved like 
a vulgar reading-man, and he was taken to task ac- 
cordingly. But in repartee he could hold his own 
neatly enough. 

There used to be an undergraduate tradition, for 
which there is no hint of authority in Prceterita, that 
Mrs. Ruskin did not intend her son to go into college 
at all, but to live with her in High Street. Christ 
Church militant, the tradition says, broke the windows 
every night until Ruskin came into the House. But 
this is disposed of by the testimony of the autobio- 
graphy. Ruskin tells' us that his first night in residence 
was spent in Peckwater. The madcap ways of the 
noble young men with whom her son was thrown were 
inexplicable, if flattering, to Mrs. Ruskin. " It does 
little good sporting his oak," she writes, adding that 
Lord Desart and Grimston had climbed in through 
the window, when John was "hard at work." The 



28 JOHN RUSKIN 

dear lady evidently imagined that it was eagerness for 
her son's society that prompted this feat. 

Brought up as he had been, Ruskin was at once 
a little too superior and not superior enough. His 
intolerance of undergraduate pranks is evident from one 
of his poems, in which he describes contemptuously the 
noise of a distant " wine." But he found staunch and 
good friends in Acland and Liddell. The fame of his 
drawings soon brought the curious to his rooms, and 
Gaisford sent for his portfolio, which he returned with 
a note of compliment. 

Wretchedly prepared, Ruskin of course found his 
mere reading a tax, and he had to work out of all 
proportion to the average necessities of the case. In 
these days of far severer schools, the Honours man 
is tempted to smile at the elementary studies which 
cost the future Professor of Fine Art so much toil. 
Luckily, in Osborne Gordon he found a sympathetic 
tutor, who in the fulness of time pulled him through. 
A very pleasant part of his Christ Church days was 
his friendship with Buckland, who pressed his artistic 
talent into the service of the geology lecture. Some 
of Ruskin's drawings are still in use at the House. 
At the Bucklands' he met Darwin, and recognised 
him at once for a man of genius. 

To win the Newdigate Prize for English Verse 
Ruskin set himself with infinite labour and patience. 
Three times he tried. The first time Stanley beat 
him, the second time Dart ; the third time was lucky, 
and in 1839, coached by Keble, he recited his " Salsette 






-^4k 




. ^.. - .^^ , 

^fi 1 lit 

J " 




8. 

s 



<J 



J 7?) 



OXFORD 29 

and Elephanta" in the Sheldonian Theatre at Com- 
memoration. 

At this point, however, his career was interrupted 
by serious illness, due to a disappointment. Shortly 
before he went up to Oxford, he had fallen wildly in 
love with one of the beautiful daughters of his father's 
partner, Mr. Domecq. But Adele Clotilde saw nothing 
in the awkward poetical boy of Herne Hill, and the 
union eagerly desired by the parents of the young people 
could not be arranged. The lady made another match. 
During his first two years at Christ Church, Ruskin 
ate his heart out and sang his sentimental woes. Then 
he was threatened with consumption, and was carried 
from health resort to health resort for two years. The 
news of Ad&le's marriage was carefully concealed from 
him. For the time his degree stood over, and sym- 
pathetic relatives spoke of a blighted career, of honours 
lost, and with them all hope of high preferment in the 
Church. Every one who can estimate the circum- 
stances aright understands that, despite the Newdigate, 
John Ruskin was not on the high-road to academic 
distinction, as the Schools account such. 

Fortunately for the world, he recovered, and in 
1842 he w r ent up again to Oxford. Taking pass 
Schools, he was awarded a ludicrous distinction then in 
vogue complimentary honours, " an Honorary Double 
Fourth." It is in no carping spirit that we are at 
this pains to place Ruskin's scholarship at its proper 
level ; it only makes his independent achievement the 
more extraordinary when we realise how meagrely 



30 JOHN RUSKIN 

equipped he came to his task. Here is no wail that 
he was not turned out a finished pedant, but one does 
regret, on a consideration of pure economy, that he 
lacked the training sufficient to save him from the 
ever-lurking, insidious blunder, source of much sorrow, 
and painful waste of time in after-years. 

It is difficult to arrive at a sure knowledge of his 
feelings towards his Alma Mater. His reticences hint 
at a life not wholly at ease there. The Cathedral stirs 
him, but there is no passionate affection for the stones 
of Oxford. In all his references to the University 
there is not one passage touched with the spirit of the 
Scholar Gypsy. His was not the temper that would 
turn to watch with wistful adoration 

" The line of festal light in Christ Church Hall." 

In its vast spaces he confessed himself always out of 
place. 

Fiercely ironical (in Fors Clavigera), he reproaches 
Harrison for wasting time in Magdalen walks, "old- 
fashioned thirty years ago." Why did he not seek "the 
rapturous sanctities of Keble," the lively new zigzag 
parapet of Tom Quad, or "the elongating suburb of 
the married Fellows on the cock-horse road to Ban- 
bury " ? Perhaps one may detect some enthusiasm for 
the groves of Magdalen in his irony, some jealousy for 
Christ Church in the protest against the parapet of 
Tom Quad, but it is doubtful whether Wolsey's 
foundation moved him as it has moved many. The 
gaunt outlines of Peckwater, where he lodged, looking 



OXFORD 31 

across to the still drearier pile of the library, impressed 
him at first. Later he takes this as a sign of crudity. 
But he cannot at any time have loved it. And 
he certainly hated the "howling" of riotous under- 
graduates. 

In Arnold and Newman the spires of Oxford and 
the snapdragon on her walls awoke a romantic longing 
that is scarcely discoverable in Ruskin. But however 
deep might be her offence, he was loyal to the trust 
Oxford had given him and loyal to the idea of a 
University. " It is," he said long afterwards to his 
pupils, " the scholar's duty to know and love the per- 
petual laws of classic literature and art." That was 
the reason of their presence at the University, and 
he warned his hearers that he had nothing to give 
them that they could sell. "If you come to get 
your living out of her, you are ruining both Oxford 
and yourselves." 

From reticences and implications rather than from 
overt statements, some hint may be caught of Ruskin's 
attitude towards his University. Of his return thither, 
and of his work as Professor, something will be said 
on a later page. We have now brought him to the 
year 1842, in which he took his B.A. degree and was 
entitled to sign himself "A Graduate of Oxford." 
That modest title he put to a memorable use. It was 
the signature of the first volume of " Modern Painters," 
the work in which he found his vocation. The claims 
of Poetry and the Church had faded away before the 
new vision of Ruskin the Art Critic. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE BEGINNINGS OF FAME 

FOR Ruskin, the long break in his Oxford life had been 
anything but unfruitful. He had extended his travels ; 
he had passed by way of the Loire and the Riviera to 
Rome ; he had visited Naples, Bologna, Venice, and 
Basle. Although often very ill, he was never really 
idle, and his brain was constantly accumulating im- 
pressions, that, altered and exalted by his analytic 
thought, were to provide the rich material of his 
work. His pencil was always employed and dexterity 
increased ; the mere mannerism of the drawing master 
fell away, and Ruskin developed a style of his own. 
The centre of his mental processes was Turner, always 
Turner. 

On his twenty-first birthday his father had given 
him the Master's " Richmond Bridge " and " Gosport." 
Out of his redundant pocket-money he had himself 
purchased " Harlech Castle," an extravagance startling 
to his indulgent parent, who was scarcely prepared for 
this flight of hero-worship. But the incident brought 
an introductipn to the artist, and a curious friendship 
sprang up between the elder and the younger genius. 
Now more than ever Ruskin observed Nature in terms 
of Turner, On the way to Naples, he saw at La 



THE BEGINNINGS OF FAME 33 

Riccia that wonderful effect of winter landscape which 
he reproduced in a passage that is a veritable Turner 
in words. Many, on meeting it for the first time in 
"Modern Painters," must have exclaimed when they 
had read half-way, " But this is a Turner " ; and it is with 
a curious thrill that one reads the opening sentence of 
the next paragraph "Tell me who is likest this, Poussin 
or Turner ? " The cunning with which he builds up this 
startling climax remains one of the chief proofs, per- 
haps the chief proof, of Ruskin's power over language. 
This may be claimed without disputing the criticism 
that denies classic rank to the passage in question. 
He got his effect, but forced the means beyond due 
classical restraint. It is the exuberant effort, one 
had almost said the trick, of an exceptionally clever 
boy, revelling in newly discovered powers. 

Before his illness, he had published some scientific 
papers in Loudon's Magazine, and these led the 
Editor to tell Mr. Ruskin that his son was certainly 
the greatest natural genius he had ever known, and 
that one day, "when both you and I are under the 
turf, it will be remembered in the literary history 
of your son's life that the first article of his which 
was published was in Loudon's Magazine of Natural 
History" The period following his restoration to 
health was marked also by memorable advance in 
his conception of art. It was in the days just pre- 
ceding his final examination, when he was reading at 
Herne Hill with Osborne Gordon, that this formative 
experience came to him. 

c 



34 JOHN RUSKIN 

During a walk on Tulse Hill he began to draw a 
tree trunk entwined with ivy. Schooled as he had 
been to arbitrary " composition," he suddenly revolted 
from the extremity of that law, in the recognition that 
the natural disposition of the ivy was infinitely finer 
than any conventional rearrangement of his own could 
be. From that moment he vowed fidelity above all 
things to Nature herself. To that hour he looked back 
as narrowly devout men do to the instant of their con- 
version. 

One of the pleasantest periods of Ruskin's life is to 
be found in the record of those busy days at Herne 
Hill, when the first volume of " Modern Painters " was 
in progress. 

After his industrious morning, he would go for a 
tramp in the Norwood lanes, and look in perhaps at 
the Dulwich gallery ; or he might give Mr. George 
Richmond a sitting for the full-length portrait then 
in progress, or call on Mr. Windus, whose roomful of 
Turner drawings were invaluable to a young man 
fighting Turner's battle. In the evening he wrote 
again for an hour or two, but there was no burning of 
midnight oil. Next morning at breakfast the previous 
day's task was read over to Mr. and Mrs. Ruskin, who 
received their privilege with emotion, not untouched 
with tears. We know that breakfast table from "A 
Conversation," one of the birthday poems. It is 
dramatic in form and serio-comic. Mrs. Ruskin feels 
the touch of winter and complains of draughts. Mr. 



THE BEGINNINGS OF FAME 35 

Ruskin sighs for the skies of Italy, whereat Master 
Ruskin interjects soulfully : 

" Skies so blue, over you." 

He permits himself to speak only six times in the 
dialogue. The sayings are characteristic of the meteor- 
ologist and of the colourist. Mr. Ruskin longs for the 
beauties of Italian architecture, and the son echoes : 

" Gems and marbles, rich and rare." 

But that scene was several years earlier. One may 
be sure that in 1842, when the newly written sheets 
of " Modern Painters " were the breakfast-table topic, 
Mrs. Ruskin had no care for winter and rough 
weather. 

The rough weather lay ahead for the young 
author. John Ruskin was ready to step down into 
the lists of the world for the combat of half a century. 
His challenge to preconceived ideas rang clear from 
the pages of that first volume, published (without 
previous hawking about, as foolish rumour says) by 
Messrs. Smith, Elder in May 1843. The new doctrines 
raised a storm. Ruskin, already somewhat eminent, 
found himself in the front rank of fame. The Oxford 
Graduate's bold heresies were attacked in the Press 
with all the slashing freedom of reviewers in those out- 
spoken times. The defendant, Turner, was embar- 
rassed ; he, who " never moved in these matters," had 
been forced by young enthusiasm into the central place 



36 JOHN BUSKIN 

of a movement. And so the battle raged, amid scandal 
and admiration. A sad innovator, but a great writer ! 
Such language was a revelation, although the doctrine 
might be strange. It was terrible to hear Claude and 
Poussin arraigned, to see the accepted favourites of 
the hour set on a subordinate plane to the inexplicable 
later Turner, who had swerved from things people 
could understand towards a manner directly hi defiance 
of truth, so that he was " imagined by the majority of 
the public to paint more falsehood and less fact than 
any other known master." " We shall see," says 
Ruskin, "with what reason." 

The full exposition of his case, with many digres- 
sions, was to occupy him for nearly twenty years. 
During that period, Ruskin's untiring brain threw off 
by-products that would have served very well for the 
life-work of lesser men. His succeeding works, how- 
ever, were to be written amid new surroundings ; for 
what we may call, for the purposes of this sketch, the 
first Herne Hill period, was drawing to a close. In- 
crease of material prosperity, their son's fame, a desire 
to rise to the occasion and to return distinguished 
hospitality in a distinguished way, led the elder Rus- 
kins to seek a more commodious home. " Subtlest 
of temptations," the son called it, when he told how it 
cost his father much of his former happiness. 

The year that saw the publication of "Modern 
Painters " was that of the Ruskins' removal to 51 Den- 
mark Hill. There, with frequent intervals of travel 




Krnoouif 



THE BEGINNINGS OP FAME 37 

abroad, and with one brief interlude, to be hereafter 
mentioned in a single word, John Ruskin lived and 
worked until, having laid both his parents to rest, he 
turned northward and sought those " Gates of the 
Hills, whence one returns not." 



CHAPTER V 

"THE INDUSTRY OF MID-LIFE" 

WITH the new home on Denmark Hill as a base of 
operations, John Ruskin sent his "line out through 
all the earth." He went far afield for his material, 
but for the most part his actual writing was done in 
the new study, of which, as well as of the house, he 
has left a minute record, in that chapter of Prceterita 
entitled " The State of Denmark." 

It was to his parents " a peaceful yet cheerful and, 
pleasantly, in its suburban manner, dignified, abode of 
their declining years." For his own part he confesses 
that the place had little to endear it, although it had 
every good in it except nearness to a stream. The 
old passion for running water, discovered on the banks 
of Tay and by the Springs of Wandel, was still alive 
and clamant never to be stilled, in fact, while life 
endured and Ruskin looked back with regret to that 
early unaccomplished plan of digging a model canal 
with real locks, which had been one of his dreams at 
Herne Hill. 

The new house stood in seven acres of ground, 
meadow, orchard, and kitchen-garden ; there was a lawn 
on which the breakfast-room opened, that room which, 
he notes, was extremely pretty when its walls were 



"THE INDUSTRY OF MID-LIFE" 39 

mostly covered with lakes by Turner and doves by 
Hunt. The dining- and drawing-rooms were " spacious 
enough for our grandest receptions never more than 
twelve at dinner." Guests usual on a birthday were 
Turner, Prout, Stanfield, Leslie, Mulready, and Roberts; 
a company where respect went hand in hand with 
understanding, while the talk ranged from art (except 
when Turner was there) to the last subtleties of sherry. 

As for the great man's own room, fifteen feet by 
five-and-twenty inside the bookcases, it was distinct, 
as his, only by its large oblong table around which 
the rest of the available space made a passage. The 
lighting was awkward, from two windows forming a 
bow, blank in the middle, giving a cross-light that 
considerably fretted the student. Above was his bed- 
room, with command of the morning clouds, until 
the encroaching builder stole that inestimable aid to 
healthy thought. " In such stateliness of civic domicile 
the industry of mid-life now began." 

Of that giant industry it is hopeless to give any 
adequate account in this brief study. The most that 
can be done is to indicate, at the risk of tedium, 
the chronology of Ruskin's writings, and the con- 
tributory journeyings. With the ground cleared, once 
for all, by that synoptic survey, we follow Ruskin 
at leisure, and with some liberty of selection and 
omission, to the chief scenes of his inspiration in 
France, Switzerland, and Italy. And unto these last 
we shall come not in the spirit of the guide-book, 
but seeking by salient illustration to catch at least 



40 JOHN RUSKIN 

a glimpse of the things Ruskin himself saw, and to 
learn if possible in what temper he approached them. 

As a central point, it is well to remember that 
" Modern Painters " went steadily forward from 1842 
until 1860, the dates of the first and fifth volumes. 
The second appeared in 1846. Preparatory to its 
production he had travelled in Switzerland, and had 
studied old masters in the Louvre, in 1844. In 1845 
he made his first tour alone, visiting, with memorable 
results, Pisa ; Lucca and Florence, where he took up 
the study of Christian Art ; Verona, which gave colour 
to all his thought and teaching; and Venice, where 
he awoke to the meaning of Tintoret. The year 
1846 found him passing through France and the 
Jura, to Geneva, then over Mont Cenis into Italy. 
Next year he was in Scotland. In 1848 he began 
a pilgrimage to the English cathedrals, and visited 
Amiens, Paris, and Normandy, and the same year 
he threw off that wonderful parergon, "The Seven 
Lamps of Architecture." 

That work was not written at Denmark Hill, but 
at 81 Park Street, his London residence during his 
short and unfortunate married life. To Switzerland 
he went again the next year, and spent the winter 
in Venice studying missals and architecture. In 1850 
he wrote the first volume of " The Stones of Venice " 
at Park Street. 1851 is memorable for the pamphlet 
"Notes on Sheepfolds," purchased by at least one simple 
shepherd in the belief that it was a practical guide to 
his calling. Too late, the good man discovered that 



"THE INDUSTRY OF MID-LIFE" 41 

he had paid his florin for a tract on ecclesiastical 
polity. The same year Ruskin made the acquaint- 
ance of Carlyle and Frederick Denison Maurice, de- 
fended the Pre-Raphaelites, travelled again in France 
and Switzerland, and spent the winter and the fol- 
lowing spring in Venice. On December 19 Turner 
died, and Ruskin heard that he had been named an 
executor a trust resigned as to the letter of the 
law, but discharged with how great a fidelity of 
spirit the Turner drawings in the National Gallery 
declare; for by Ruskin's infinite labour they were 
at length rescued from neglect and arranged. 

The second and third volumes of " The Stones 
of Venice " were written in 1852. In 1853 Ruskin 
appeared first as a lecturer, delivering at Edinburgh 
his course on "Architecture and Painting." To Swit- 
zerland again in 1854 with his parents, he devoted 
himself to drawing, and on his return he founded 
his Working Men's College. In 1855 he fluttered 
the dovecotes of Art with his first " Academy Notes," 
so destructive to the mere market value of some 
men's work that Punch introduced a sad Academician 
singing : 

" I paints and paints, 
Hears no complaints, 

And sells before I'm dry ; 
Till savage Ruskin 
Sticks his tusk in, 

And nobody will buy." 

That year (1855) saw the second and third volumes 



42 



JOHN RUSKIN 



of " Modern Painters." In 1856 he wrote the " Ele- 
ments of Drawing," and the following year is memor- 
able for two lectures " Imagination in Architecture," 
delivered before the Architectural Association; and 
" Political Economy of Art," at Manchester. He was 
occupied also with the arrangement of the Turner 
drawings. " Conventional Art " was spoken at South 
Kensington, "Work of Iron" at Tunbridge Wells 
in 1858, and he made his official Report on the 
Turner Bequest. This busy year also held his " Study 
of Art," an address to St. Martin's School. Going 
alone to Switzerland and Italy, he studied Veronese 
at Turin. On his return he gave the Inaugural 
Address at the Cambridge School of Art. Three 
lectures mark 1859 the "Unity of Art," at the 
Royal Institution ; " Modern Manufacture and Design," 
at Bradford; "Switzerland," at the Working Men's 
College. This year's tour, the last he made with 
his parents, was in Germany. "Religious Art" was 
delivered to the Working Men's College in 1860, 
and at length the volume of the book of " Modern 
Painters " was closed. 

But there was no resting. At Chamouni he wrote 
" Unto this Last," and stepped forth a heretic declared. 
The Cornhill published the papers for a time, but at 
last Thackeray and Smith said nay. Froude gave a 
second series another chance in Fraser's Magazine, but 
at the fourth essay he too cried, "Hold, enough!" 
For the first time Ruskin bit the gag. He had 
turned his back on orthodoxy; he had declared that 



"THE INDUSTRY OF MID-LIFE" 43 

the time was out of joint he had even begun to in- 
quire how it was to be set right. The world, as ever, 
would have none of such doctrine. The Fraser papers 
were afterwards published as " Munera Pulveris." 

The studies of 1862 and of 1863 were of Luini at 
Milan and of the Limestone Alps : 1864, the year of his 
father's death, saw the lectures " Traffic " and " Kings' 
Treasuries and Queens' Gardens," next year incorpo- 
rated in " Sesame and Lilies," his most popular book. 
Of immediately following works names and dates must 
suffice : " Work and Play," a lecture ; " The Study 
of Architecture " and " War," the last given at Wool- 
wich (1865); "Time and Tide" (letters to Thomas 
Dixon, a working cork-cutter); " Modern Art" (1867); 
" The Mystery of Life" and "The Three-legged Stool 
of Art" (1868). "Flamboyant Architecture of the 
Somme," "The Queen of the Air" (Greek Myths 
of Cloud and Storm), " Hercules of Camarina," and 
" The Future of England " were the fruit of 1869. 
He revisited France, Switzerland, Verona, and Venice, 
where the news reached him that he had been elected 
Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. 

Next year Rusk in took up his professorial duties 
and delivered his first and second courses. Before 
the Royal Institution he gave his " Verona and its 
Rivers," one of the loveliest examples of his descrip- 
tive and expository style. It was the memorable 
year of the first Fors Clavigera. Again he moved 
through Switzerland and Italy ; he made a fruitful study 
of coins in the British Museum for his Oxford course 



44 JOHN RUSKIN 

on Greek Art, in which he now found a new signi- 
ficance ; and the Woolwich Cadets were privileged to 
hear him once more in the " Story of Arachne*" He 
gave them also, in 1872, " The Bird of Calm." His 
Slade lectures for the year were "The Eagles Nest" 
and "Ariadne Florentine" Corpus now gave him 
an Honorary Fellowship, which meant an Oxford 
lodging of his own, "between a Turkey carpet and 
a Titian," under the very shadow of Christ Church. 
That Society had already honoured him in 1858 at 
her first election of Honorary Students. 

Here we reach the close of the Denmark Hill 
period. After his mother's death in 1871, Ruskin 
looked for and found a long-desired retreat among the 
Lakes. From W. J. Linton he purchased Brantwood, 
by Coniston Water, and there in 1872 he made his 
home until the end. Before we leave the associations 
of South London, it should be noted, in a retrospective 
word, that in 1852, when he left Park Street, Ruskin 
took the house on Herne Hill next door to his old home. 
There he finished " The Stones of Venice." In 1868 
he bought No. 28 itself, and used it for his rougher 
collection of minerals, keeping only his finest specimens 
at Denmark Hill. His reasons, given in a letter, are 
worth recording : 

" first, affection for the old house : my second, want 
of room ; my third, the incompatibility of hammering, 
washing and experimenting on stones, with cleanliness 
in my stores of drawing. And my fourth is the power 



"THE INDUSTRY OF MID-LIFE" 45 

I shall have, when I want to do anything very quietly, 
of going up the hill and thinking it out in the old 
garden, where your green-house still stands, and the 
aviary without fear of interruption from callers." 

But Dr. Dryasdust has held us too long with these 
statistical details. It is time, without much burden of 
chronology, to glance at the chief scenes of Ruskin's 
inspiration in France, Switzerland, and Italy. 



CHAPTER VI 

FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, AND ITALY 

" THERE have been, in sum, three centres of my life's 
thought: Rouen, Geneva, and Pisa." So Ruskin 
made avowal when he came late in life to review bygone 
things. All that he did at Venice he held to be but 
bye- work, on the strange plea that he dealt there with 
things hitherto unknown or falsely stated. Because 
he toiled after truth in Venetian history, because his 
interest lay in "Tintoret virtually unseen, Veronese 
unfelt, Carpaccio not so much as named," because, too, 
something was due to his fondness for gliding about 
in gondolas, he put Venice in the second place among 
his instructors. The others had accepted lessons ready 
to his hand. Venice he regarded, by a strange subtlety 
of thought, as a receiver rather than a giver. He 
taught her to read her own history aright, to acknow- 
ledge her greatest painters. The receiver, therefore, 
is less blessed. And the tremendous work itself was 
pastime, because of those gliding gondolas. 

It is a delightful sophistry, but, like all the Ruskin 
sophistries, sincere. Later came the inevitable qualifi- 
cation. To the three thought-centres he must add 
Verona, because she gave the colouring to all they 
taught, and virtually represented the fate and the 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 47 

beauty of Italy to him. Of this he has left us proof 
in the passage that records his Pisgah-vision of Italian 
story as he looked, from the heights above Verona, 
across the Lombard plain. 

With so much to be examined in few words, this 
meagre sketch can take only the lightest account of 
Rouen. For critical work there the reader must turn 
to the " Seven Lamps." In the Norman capital 
Ruskin worked out for himself his grammar of the 
flamboyant Gothic, approaching his task, as ever, by 
easy stages, and reading, during that journey of 1835, 
a preface in the architecture of Abbeville. Not yet 
ready for Rouen itself, he read the foreword gladly, feel- 
ing that " here was entrance into immediately healthy 
labour and joy." In time he was to appreciate Rouen 
as a critic, and the preface became an interpretation. 
On that first visit the cathedral gave him, in a purely 
personal sense, a thrill of delightful contrast, just such 
a contrast as the Ruskin way of life must have pro- 
duced time and again : 

"Imagine the change between one Sunday and 
the next, from the morning service in this building 
(Dr. Andrews' chapel) attended by the families of the 
small shop-keepers in the Walworth Road, in their 
Sunday trimmings (our plumber's wife sat in the next 
pew . . . ) ; fancy the change from this, to high 
mass in Rouen Cathedral, its nave filled by the white- 
capped peasantry of half Normandy ! " 

A fuller account of Rouen and its cathedral was 



48 JOHN RUSKIN 

among the unfulfilled projects of Ruskin's later life. 
Of Abbeville, and his " cheerful, unalloyed, unwearying 
pleasure " in getting sight of the city and St. Wulfran 
on a fine summer afternoon, he has left a record, in one 
phrase of which, if it reflect an actual thought of that 
5th of June 1835, and not the afterthought of years, we 
may trace the germ of doctrine expounded with what 
mastery and knowledge 1 in the first volume of " The 
Stones of Venice" the unity of church Gothic and 
domestic Gothic. Examine in particular the use of 
the word "faithful," and learn that Ruskin used no 
epithet at random. He has spoken of the churches 
of Abbeville, and continues : 

" Outside, the faithful old town gathered itself and 
nestled under their buttresses, like a brood beneath the 
mother's wings." 

In those days the kinship of house and church had 
not been disguised or swept out of remembrance by 
modern desecrators. St. Wulfran's and St. Riquier's 
walls and towers were alike coeval with the gabled 
timber houses of which the busier streets chiefly con- 
sisted when Ruskin first saw Abbeville. 

One could linger long enough over the story of 
those posting journeys to the South, with their digres- 
sions to Dijon, where, in after-years, at the Hotel de la 
Cloche, the master pointed out the room where, in his 
wash-hand basin, had been bitten "with savage care- 
lessness " the last plate for the " Seven Lamps." But 
the limits of these pages forbid. 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 49 

There was a time when Ruskin wrote of Venice : 
" Thank God I am here ; it is the Paradise of cities. 
This, and Chamouni, are my two bournes of Earth." 
Once more the correcting hand descended on these 
words. When he wrote that rhapsody, he knew neither 
Rouen nor Pisa, though he had seen both. Geneva, 
he notes, is meant to include Chamouni in the triad 
of "tutresses" a word, by the way, not of the first 
choice, and unworthy of his style. 

"My true mother town of Geneva," Ruskin ex- 
claims, when he tells how it was there, in church, to 
the accompaniment of braying organ and doggerel 
hymns, that the impulse came to him which threw his 
new thought into the form of "Modern Painters." 
He repaid his debt in a wonderful passage of descrip- 
tion, enshrining the memory of the little town, the 
canton four miles square, in the days of his early visits, 
before the place was spoiled by " the people who have 
hold of it now, with their polypous knots of houses, 
communal with 'London, Paris, and New York.'" 
He stayed on his first visits (1883, 1835) at the Hotel 
des Etrangers, " one of those country houses open to 
the polite stranger, some half-mile out of the gates." 
There he rejoiced in a Geneva " composed of a cluster 
of water-mills, a street of penthouses, two wooden 
bridges, two dozen of stone houses on a little hill, and 
three or four perpendicular lanes up and down the 
hill." He saw it as a community well-ordered, the 
home of honest industries, this bird's nest of a place, 
centre of religious and social thought to all Europe, 



50 JOHN RUSKIN 

" Saussure's school and Calvin's, Rousseau's and 
Byron's, Turner's " 

Here Ruskin the humorist looks out. He was 
ready, he confessed, to add that Geneva was his own 
school as well, "but I didn't write all that last page 
to end so." 

The outsider who sees most of the game will 
perhaps hazard the opinion that kindred Chamouni 
was even more closely interwoven with Ruskin's life 
and work. It was the inspiration of early poems (a 
small matter, but worth noting) ; it was the base of 
his constant studies in the geological structure of the 
Alps, scene of close observation of plants and clouds, 
subject of many drawings. There he grappled with 
the ethical problems predestined in "The Nature of 
Gothic," and at Mornex he gave them their first formal 
expression in " Unto this Last," fruit of a deep anta- 
gonism to his times; thither in 1879 he longed to 
return, but glacial changes had made Chamouni a 
"desolated home to him" for vanishing glaciers had 
betrayed him. But it was at Chamouni, after all, in 
1882, that he wrote his delightful, urbane foreshadow- 
ing of Prceterita, the Epilogue to the reprint of 
" Modern Painters." He had a dream to establish his 
life on some parcel of land near the chain of Mont 
Blanc, and once he actually bought a piece of meadow 
in Chamouni, but only to sell it again, on foreseeing 
the approach of the inevitable tourist, and consequent 
ruin of those solitudes. 

From the Diary of 1844, a fragment on Chamouni 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 51 

seemed to Ruskin perhaps worth keeping. His sparing 
hand is justified : 

" 28th June, half-past ten. I never was dazzled by 
moonlight until now ; but as it rose behind the Mont 
Blanc du Tacul the full moon almost blinded me : it 
burst forth into the sky like a vast star. For an hour 
before, the aiguilles had appeared as dark masses against 
a sky looking as transparent as clear sea, edged at 
their summits with fleeces of cloud breaking into a 
glorious spray and foam of white fire. A meteor fell 
over the Dome as the moon rose : now it is so intensely 
bright that I cannot see the Mont Blanc underneath 
it ; the form is lost in its light." 

Excellent as it is in feeling, this first-hand writing 
from a journal shows how necessary it was for Ruskin 
that his greater works should have been revised by 
Mr. W: H. Harrison, his mentor and editor for thirty 
years. In his charming tribute to that friend, Ruskin 
is plainly all at sea about the technical reasons for his 
taskmaster's severity: but he took his castigation like 
a man, rewriting and recasting cheerfully. 

In Ruskin's account of Pisa occurs an implicit 
explanation of his curious depreciation of Venice as 
a teacher. When he came to any place prepared for 
what he was to seek as material for learning and found 
it, there he recognised an informing influence. At his 
first sight of Pisa, in 1840, he was impressed by the 
purity of her architecture, but he had too little know- 
ledge to make progress. His guides were chiefly 



52 



JOHN RUSKIN 



Byron and Shelley. But in 1845 he had read enough 
of Dante and of Sismondi's " Italian Republics " to know 
what he had to seek. His picture of his works and 
days there is altogether amiable. Still orthodox, he 
found in the frescoes of the Campo Santo the entire 
doctrine of Christianity. He copied the frescoes, then 
rapidly vanishing to make way for civic monuments ; 
he sketched in the streets and drew admiring crowds of 
companionable not common Italians, in whom he 
recognised their wonderful natural gift for knowing 
what was right in a picture. 

At Pisa Ruskin made good friends with the Abbe^ 
Rossini, Professor of Fine Art, and heaped coals of fire 
on his head by going patiently to hear his great lecture 
on " The Beautiful, " although that morning the Abb6 
had dismissed Turner with a superficial word, " Yes, 
yes, an imitator of Salvator." Ruskin's only revenge 
was a conviction, after the lecture, that he knew a 
good deal more about the Beautiful than the professor. 
That excellent man in turn made ample amends by 
having a scaffolding put up to enable a future Professor 
of Fine Art in another place to make partial records 
of the frescoes. And thus 

" The days that began in the cloister of the Campo 
Santo usually ended by my getting up on the roof of 
Santa Maria della Spina, and sitting in the sunlight that 
transfused the warm marbles of its pinnacles till the 
unabated brightness went down beyond the arches of 
the Pont-a-Mare, the few footsteps and voices of the 
twilight fell silent in the streets, and the city and her 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 53 

mountains stood mute as a dream, beyond the soft 
eddying of Arno." 

Needless, perhaps, to point out that even here, in 
words written a good forty years later, despite Dante 
and Sismondi, the influence of Shelley is still para- 
mount. 

These, then, were Ruskin's three great teachers, 
and such, in the lightest outline, were the impressions 
he drew from them while his mind was still plastic; 
although it is well to remember that his account is 
written, for the most part, with the hand and thought 
of ripe experience. 

Of Lucca, where Quercia's Ilaria del Caretto became 
for Ruskin his ideal of Christian sculpture, the mere 
mention must suffice. Florence, at first grievously 
misunderstood, at length took her true place; in 
witness whereof "Val d'Arno" (most charming of 
the Slade lectures), the " Laws of F^sole," and passages 
innumerable throughout the works. 

The central point of Florence was, for Ruskin, 
Giotto's Campanile, lovingly remembered in the 
frontispiece to "The Seven Lamps." "Mornings in 
Florence " records his vision, one of the most significant 
things in all his teaching, that tells how the last tradi- 
tions of Faith and Hope of the Jewish and Gentile 
races met for their beautiful labour at the foot of that 
Tower. He begs the pilgrim to get right the little 
piece of geography fixing the local relation of the 
Campanile, the Baptistery, and Brunelleschi's Dome. 



54 JOHN RUSKIN 

For the Baptistery was the last building raised on 
Earth by the descendants of the workmen taught by 
Dasdalus, the Tower the loveliest inspiration of the 
men who lifted up the tabernacle in the wilderness. 
Here is the last and noblest inspiration of living Greek 
and living Christian work. And the Dome was the 
latest example of the best Christian architecture just 
before the onset of decline. Long afterwards Ruskin 
mourned the profanation of that sacred spot by all the 
horrors of a modernised Italy. 1 

And what of Venice? "Bye- work," he said. 
Possibly, but not to be neglected. It was a "vain 
temptation," he says ; but it is well that Ruskin allowed 
himself to be tempted. He was still a boy when he 
first saw Venice, and the beginning of everything was 
the sight of the gondola beak coming actually inside 
the door of Danieli's hotel. Exquisite sensation for 
Master John Ruskin ! Of the approach to the city he 
has left us his impressions in one of those long, deliberate 
passages minute but never tedious in which he plays 
the cunning cicerone, who withholds and withholds, 
until his hearer is ripe for the effect. Sometimes it 
comes with a gorgeous blaze of colour. Not so at the 
Vestibule of Venice. 

He leads us out on an autumnal morning from the 
dark eastern gateway of Padua, and so on for hours 

1 " A stand for hackney-coaches, cigars, spitting and harlot- 
planned fineries." Students of Fors Clavigera will recall in that 
last phrase of censure the fierce old man's plain words on the 
provenance of high-heeled shoes. 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 55 

through flat lands, past the tall white tower of Dolo, 
until we come among the divided waters of the Brenta. 
Then at Mestre appears the extremity of a canal, black, 
it seems, with stagnation; but no, it is covered with 
the black boats of Venice. Enter one, to try if they 
be real boats or not, and glide across the yielding water, 
that seems to let the boat sink into soft vacancy, noting 
as you go (for your guide is the hill- man Ruskin) how 
all round the horizon lie the Alps of Bassano. Out of 
the water before you rises at last what seems to be the 
suburb of an English manufacturing town "four or 
five domes, a sullen cloud of smoke issuing from the 
belfry of a church. 

" It is Venice." 

Thus quietly, with an intentional hint of anti- climax, 
he approaches "The Throne," where there is no stint 
of glories. He shows us the Adriatic, a sea with the 
bleak power of our own Northern waves, changing her 
angry pallor to a field of burnished gold about the feet 
of St. George of the Seaweed; the shadowy Rialto 
throws its colossal curve slowly forth from behind the 
Palace of the Camerlenghi, and the Ducal Palace, 
"flushed with its sanguined veins, looks to the snowy 
dome of our Lady of Salvation." 

But we must beware. This is a Venice that Enrico 
Dandolo or Francis Foscari would not know. Their 
Venice lies hidden away in many a grass-grown court 
and silent pathway and lightless canal. And the 
Venice to which Ruskin came first had been created 
for him, as for Turner, by Byron. That Venice is 



56 JOHN RUSKIN 

a mere stage dream, a thing of falsities and anach- 
ronisms, against which he was to wage a long war. 
For when in 1849 Ruskin came, with much material 
already collected, to write "The Stones of Venice," 
he discovered that her history would have to be ex- 
amined anew ; for even the accepted authorities could 
not agree within a hundred years as to the dates of 
her chief monuments. He must question them, stone 
by stone. Patiently he set himself to read the riddle 
of the Ducal Palace and of St. Mark's, and at last 
he could say that what he had found was truth. 

St. Mark's he interpreted as a piece of jewel- 
work on the grand scale, in the sense of art: in the 
light of his inevitable ethics, "No city had such a 
Bible." It is a mighty humanity, perfect and proud, 
hiding no weakness beneath the mantle, gaining no 
greatness from the diadem. All that he said of it 
in the earlier volumes he would have set aside in 
later days for the more condensed study, " St. Mark's 
Rest," but those who care most for his writings have 
not agreed with this judgment. Yet it is well not to 
neglect " St. Mark's Rest," were it only for the hints 
of compensation that came to Ruskin amid a ruined 
and desolated Venice, as she seemed to him then. 

There in later days he fell in love with Carpaccio's 
St. Ursula, worshipping her, someone has finely said, 
as a sincere Athenian might have worshipped the 
Queen of the Air. And in this temper, which one 
may perhaps call Ruskin's meteoric mood, he had 
new visions of Venetian history, not in her painting 




C o ? i S f o n OJ c*. f e 
*""* ttvt Old ^> 



. 

- 

f " ..~ ~ 

s^-':'?:'"^- . 

,.v&&"'- - '- 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 57 

only but in her buildings. Take, as a single instance, 
his interpretation of the dream of Magnus of Altinum ; 
that quaint scripture telling how Messer Jesus Christ 
Our Lord showed that where a red cloud rested 
there men should build the Church of St. Salvador, 
and where a white cloud gleamed Our Lady foretold 
that there should rise St. Mary the Beautiful. It 
is a subject fitted to the hand of the true air-man 
Ruskin, he who in " Modern Painters " taught the 
ways of the Cloud Flocks, and in the " Queen of the 
Air " pleaded jealously for unsullied skies. It is well 
that he did not see the " air-man " of to-day. But 
to return to our Venetian cloud myth and Ruskin's 
commentary : 

" None cares to-day whether any God-given cloud 
is white or red, yet a perception lingers in the old 
fisherman's eyes of the difference between white nebbia 
on the morning sea and red clouds in the evening 
twilight. And the Stella Maris comes in the sea 
cloud; Leucothea: but the Son of Man on the 
jasper throne." 

That use of Leucothea "the white goddess" 
is overwhelming. Ruskin the etymologist was not 
always to be trusted, but here his genius prevailed. 
Note, too, the student of jewels and rock-crystals rising 
for a moment skyward to find in the red cloud a 
throne of jasper. 

Such, then, was that notable though lightly es- 
teemed bye-work. 



58 JOHN RUSKIN 

But Venice meant more to Ruskin than even 
this. He was to make known her painters: in her 
Scuola di San Rocco he found assurance of his own 
real vocation. With that crucial incident this less 
than outline of his Venetian experience must end. 
One day during the tour of 1845, Ruskin and J. D. 
Harding entered for the first time the School of 
St. Roch. There the sight of Tintoret's "Cruci- 
fixion" took the strength out of them. Harding 
felt like a whipped schoolboy ; not so Ruskin. 
He writes in the Epilogue to "Modern Painters," 
vol. ii. : 

" I felt only that a new world was opened to 
me, that I had seen that day the Art of Man in its 
full majesty for the first time ; and that there was 
also a strange and precious gift in myself enabling 
me to recognise it, and therein ennobling, not crush- 
ing me." 

It has already been noted that to the number of 
his teachers Ruskin added, as an afterthought, Verona, 
representative, to him, of the fate and the beauty 
of Italy. His memorable up-gathering of all that 
Verona suggested must be read at length in the 
lecture he delivered to the Royal Institution in 1870. 
In its beautiful opening every side of his own interests 
and character is reflected the worshipper of moun- 
tains, the patient geologist and botanist, the historian, 
the artist, the poet, and, needless to say, the moralist. 
Taking his hearers to a height overlooking the city, 



FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 59 

he shows them, in a moment of time, all that Italy 
meant for him. He points out the gateway of the 
Goths, the valleys of the Inn and of the Adige; he 
pauses to analyse the structure of the promontory 
whence he looks down on all the plain between Alp 
and Apennine how it hardens from limestone, with 
knots of splendid brown jasper, into the peach-blossom 
marble of Verona. In the moat of the city he traces 
the cradle of modern geological science (for in its 
trenching Leonardo first suggested the true nature 
of fossils) ; in its walls, the cradle of civic life ; in its 
round tower, the first ever embrasured for artillery 
constructed against artillery the cradle of modern war, 
the beginning of the end of all fortification, "of a 
system that costs millions a year and leaves England 
without defence." There speaks the political philoso- 
pher, but in the main his reflections are less prosaic. 
Twelve miles away is Mantua; 1 beyond its fretted 
outline, Parma ; to the left, at the feet of the 
Eugansean Hills, rests Padua ; in the gleam of the 
horizon beyond Venice. And at our feet Verona, 
with the Scaligers' bridge, the church of San Zeno, 
the remnants of the Palace of Theodoric Dietrich 
of Berne. 

This is but a maimed paraphrase of a picture 
suggested, in slow detail, with wonderful gleams of 
colour the Alps of Friuli touched by the sunset " into 
a crown of strange rubies," bright flowing Adige, blue 

1 Actually, a good twenty miles. ED. 



60 JOHN EUSKIN 

Lombard plain. The scene being set, Ruskin gathers 
all its meaning into this : 

" Now I do not think that there is any other rock 
in all the world, from which the places, and monuments, 
of so complex and deep a fragment of the history of its 
ages can be visible, as from this piece of crag with its 
blue and prickly weeds. For you have thus beneath 
you at once the birthplaces of Virgil and Livy, the 
homes of Dante and Petrarch, and the source of the 
most sweet and pathetic inspiration of your own Shake- 
speare ; the spot where the civilisation of the Gothic 
kingdoms was founded on the throne of Theodoric, 
and where whatever was strongest in the Italian race 
redeemed itself into life by its leagues against Bar- 
barossa. You have the cradle of natural science and 
medicine in the schools of Padua ; the central light of 
Italian chivalry in the power of the Scaligers ; the chief 
stain of Italian cruelty in that of Ezzelin ; and lastly, 
the birthplace of the highest art ; for among these hills, 
or by this very Adige bank, were born Mantegna, 
Titian, Correggio, and Veronese." 

" The only mischief of the place," he wrote in June 
1869 that late visit paid just in time to save a record 
of the Castelbarco monument before it was "restored " 
" the only mischief is its being too rich, a history to 
every foot of ground and a picture on every foot of 
wall, frescoes fading away in the neglected streets like 
the colours of a dolphin." 

During this visit, one May morning, while Ruskin 
was sketching under a quiet Italian light in the 





> ' :> * 




FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, ITALY 61 

beautiful square of Verona, Longfellow and his little 
daughter came up and talked with him as he worked. 
He hoped it was not very vain of him to wish that 
if a photograph could have been taken of the scene, 
some people both in England and America would have 
liked copies of it. But of the meeting of two famous 
men in the meeting-place of so much history, Ruskin's 
own words remain the only record, more enduring 
than any sun-picture. 



CHAPTER VII 

OXFORD ONCE MORE: THE SLADE PROFESSOR 

FOR nine years before his appointment to the Slade 
Professorship of Fine Art at Oxford, Ruskin had 
ceased to write directly on Art. It gave him a text, 
certainly, but everything now was subordinated to his 
teaching of moral and political philosophy. In " Unto 
this Last " he had, in striving to give a logical defini- 
tion of wealth, spoken words that a materialistic and 
money-grubbing age could not understand, or refused to 
understand. The latter is possibly nearer the mark. A 
system of political economy that scrupled not to call 
the art of making oneself rich the art of making some 
one else poor, that postulated upright and clean dealing, 
the production of only true and honest work, and a just 
reward for the labourer, who was to have means to 
command for himself as much labour as he had ex- 
pended, could not hope to win popular success. We 
have seen the^ g,te of these papers in the Cornhill, 
and of their successors in Fraser^s. 

What Ruskin sought was to point the way to a 
complete reform of the social system, and he was re- 
ceived as every new Gospeller is received. For the 
best part of a decade he lived much in solitude, at 
Mornex on the Saleve and at Chamouni, wrestling, 



OXFORD ONCE MORE 63 

often in deep gloom of spirit, with a froward world. 
He had passed away from all orthodoxy ; old friends 
misunderstood him ; to his parents his new views were 
a sorrow. But his heterodoxy won him the friendship 
and sympathy of Carlyle, who might have said to 
Ruskin, " Thy-doxy is my-doxy." 

The Oxford appointment did not win him back from 
heresy; but it brought him, with better heart, once 
more among the throngs of men. He took up his 
duties in no perfunctory spirit, and completely rewrote 
in a maturer form all his teaching on Art, qualified, of 
necessity, with his now inevitable ethics. His first 
lecture, delivered on his birthday, February 8, 1870, 
was an event in the history of the University. The 
crowd was so great that the Slade Professor's lecture- 
room could not hold a tenth part, and the audience 
adjourned to the Sheldonian Theatre, where, amid en- 
thusiasm, Ruskin gave a new direction to work that 
has had permanent and far-reaching effects upon his 
countrymen. Of his influence the proof is our wonder 
nowadays that he should have required, in "Modern 
Painters" and elsewhere, to do so much clearing of 
the ground. His introduction, then requiring proof 
step by step, has for many of us become axiomatic. 

Very soon he recognised that merely theoretical 
teaching could be of little use unless it were reinforced 
by the practical, and to this end he founded the Oxford 
School of Drawing, to which came a fair number of 
the more enthusiastic spirits. The Professor was him- 
self the drawing-master, and he enriched his school 



64 JOHN RUSKIN 

with many gifts his own sketches, a few examples of 
Tintoret, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Holman Hunt. 
Later he endowed the school with a gift of 5000. 
In spite of antagonisms, there can be no doubt that 
in his Oxford work Ruskin found pleasure, if not 
happiness. He became the centre of an interesting 
circle of young men, who were influenced by his 
teaching, ethical as well as artistic, and if enthusiasm 
sometimes led them into Quixotism, well, then, their 
state was the more gracious. 

Quaintest of all the experiments in practising what 
they preached was the endeavour of Ruskin and his 
disciples to mend with their own hands a villainous 
piece of road at Hincksey. The fame of that gallant 
deed reverberated amid much kindly laughter into after- 
times. The present writer, one of a far later brood of 
undergraduates, remembers an afternoon at Hincksey, 
when he chanced in miry November weather upon a 
fearful Slough of Despond, that might by courtesy have 
been called a highway. " That," said a cynical senior 
man, " is the Ruskin Road." Many picks were broken 
in the work, and one vigorous but unwary devotee, 
it is said, drove the other end of the pick through 
his back, and was, alas ! injured for life. But they 
claimed to have put the road into decent order, at least 
for the time. It was no part of their scheme to take 
that or any other bad piece off the Surveyor's hands. 
Enemies said that the farmers laughed the undertak- 
ing to scorn : the truth is, they gave the workmen a 
vote of thanks and made known certain privileges of 






OXFORD ONCE MORE 65 

grazing rights which accrued to those who kept up 
the road. So that even an imperfect feudal system 
had provided some sort of proper equivalent in kind 
as the labourer's reward. It was, as it were, an in- 
stalment of the Ruskin theory of wages. 

Mr. Ruskin's breakfasts at Corpus were famous for 
their flow of soul, and one wishes that the Oxford of 
a more recent day had had anything as vital and in- 
teresting to offer. Among the young men who came 
under the Slade Professor's immediate influence, two 
of the most notable were Mr. W. H. Mallock and 
the late Arnold Toynbee, the latter of whom gave the 
Ruskin doctrine practical expression through his social 
work in the East End of London. With Prince 
Leopold, Ruskin also formed a warm friendship. 

Of his later Oxford life Ruskin has left one very 
amiable glimpse in Prceterita. He reveals himself as 
unconquerably shy amid the distinguished company 
into which from time to time he was thrust by his 
fame. For that he blames his want of early training 
in the mere amenities of society. It is a story within 
a story, beginning with a dinner at Christ Church, 
given by the Dean and Mrs. Liddell during the visit 
of the Princess of Wales. Disraeli and Ruskin were 
among the guests invited to meet her Royal Highness. 
" I knew no more how to behave," says the Slade 
Professor, " than a marmot pup." Very soon Ruskin 
\< -,'inied by intuition that a ripple of brighter conversa- 
tion running round the table concerned himself, and 
a glance from the Princess confirmed his suspicion. 



66 JOHN RUSKIN 

Some one had told a pleasant story at his expense : 
how, an evening or two before, the gay Professor, 
knowing that Mr. and Mrs. Liddell were to dine at 
Blenheim, entered into a plot with the Liddell girls 
to steal round from Corpus to the Deanery, where 
there was to be tea and a little singing or the like. 
Through blinding snow the Professor kept his tryst, 
and a delightful evening was just beginning, when, lo 1 
re-enter the Dean and Mrs. Liddell, whose carriage 
could not get farther than the Parks, owing to the 
drifts. " How sorry you must be to see us, Mr. 
Ruskin!" said Mrs. Liddell; to which he replied, "I 
never was more so." The Dean kindly promised not 
to interrupt the symposium, but the spell was broken, 
and Ruskin returned to Corpus disconsolate. 

This was matter after Dizzy's own heart, and in 
ten minutes he had every detail perfect, for future 
deadly use. 

But before the Minister could strike, Ruskin had 
to run the gauntlet of a talk with the Princess, while 
"the attendant stars and terrestrial beings round, 
listened, to hear what the marmot pup had to say for 
himself." 

" In the space of, say, a minute and a half, I had 
told the Princess that landscape painting had been 
little cultivated by the Heads of Colleges, that it 
had been still less cultivated by the Undergraduates, 
and that my young lady pupils always expected 
me to teach them how to paint like Turner in six 
lessons/' 



OXFORD ONCE MORE 67 

Difficulties assailed Princess and Professor. Her 
Royal Highness bowed courteously and passed on to 
the next Professor. "A blank space," says Ruskin, 
" formed itself round me," when suddenly there entered, 
in full dress, Miss Rhoda Liddell, " as exquisite a little 
spray of rhododendron ferrugineum as ever sparkled 
in Alpine dew." 

" Disraeli saw his opening in an instant. Drawing 
himself to his full height, he advanced to meet Rhoda. 
The whole room became all eyes and ears. Bowing 
with kindly reverence, he waved his hand and intro- 
duced her to the world. ' This is, I understand, the 
young lady in whose art education Professor Ruskin 
is so deeply interested ! ' 

"And there was nothing for me but simple ex- 
tinction, for I had never given Rhoda a lesson in my 
life. ... 1 could only bow as well as a marmot might, 
in imitation of the Minister, and get at once away to 
Corpus, out of human ken." 

One more glimpse may be given of those Oxford 
days, or rather evenings. As far as I am aware, it has 
never been made public, and it may, I trust, be set 
down without offence, almost exactly as it occurs in 
one of my old diaries, with only some identifying and 
too intimate details omitted : 

To-night when I took my usual verses to Mr. 

I found him reading by the light of two wax 
candles one long, the other short. "Look," 
he said, "that is how Ruskin will always have 



68 JOHN RUSKIN 

it. He says it is the perfect light for the 
student. He told me so one evening when 
I called on him in Christ Church. I had gone 
in fulfilment of a promise to show him the 
silver pen with which Sir Walter wrote the 
Waverley Novels. When I entered, Ruskin 
was reading one of the original manuscripts of 
the Waverley series. He took the pen, and 
laying it reverently on the page, said, * Ah, they 
should never be parted.' And during the whole 
of that visit to Oxford, and indeed for some 
time afterwards, I had to allow him to keep 
the pen." 

The sequel is perhaps rather more humorous and 
characteristic than the part of the story here set 
down, but the time has not yet come to tell the 
whole of the little comedy. What would have 
happened, one wonders, had my tutor suggested that 
the MS. should go with the pen, and not the pen 
with the MS. ! 

During this period a note of warmer regard for 
Oxford may be traced in Ruskin's words, but it is 
chiefly the Cathedral Church of Christ that has his 
affection. Personally he was beloved, and his work 
was valued, and there were many testimonies that 
he had not toiled fruitlessly. But that could not 
prevent his resignation of his Chair, when the Museum 
permitted vivisection. And so for conscience' sake, 
sadly convinced that he had laboured in vain for an 
age that took no heed of his teaching, he parted 






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OXFORD ONCE MORE 69 

company with his University. That was in 1884. 
The date somewhat anticipates the course of this 
narrative. During the greater part of his tenure of 
the Slade Professorship Ruskin's home had been at 
Brantwood, near Coniston. Thither we must now 
turn, to note the close of his work and of his life. 

But a word may be said here on the permanence 
or otherwise of his teaching. In political economy 
he is still a force, but in Art the times seem to have 
moved far away from Ruskin. To-day we are im- 
pressionists, and even post-impressionists, and those 
who know how to qualify aright the opinions of both 
the later schools, qualify also Ruskin's dogmatic ad- 
herence to literal truth, and recognise that in his 
intolerance of Whistler he missed the sublimation of 
literal truth wherein that master's work is great. The 
sanest criticism of the present day is that which holds 
a balance between the jarring sects. It owes much 
to Ruskin as an initial force, but the narrowness of his 
creed has mulcted him, as Art Critic, in the inevitable 
penalty of the bigot. 



CHAPTER VIII 

GATES OF THE HILLS 

AMID the peace of the Lakes, Ruskin made his home 
during the last and stormiest period of his life, and 
there through much suffering he fought his way back 
to some reassurance of spirit. His conflicts can be 
traced only in the barest outline here ; but first a 
word must be said in description of the Prophet's 
retreat at Coniston. 

On the margin of Coniston Water, Brantwood 
stands solitary among its dark firs and larches, remote 
by a lengthy drive from the village. It is a plain 
house, still declaring its cottage origin, and with no 
outward ornament save its turret-room, once the 
master's own. For the house beautiful, in what 
Ruskin called the vulgarly aesthetic sense, he took 
no care. He was not disturbed by a wall-paper or 
by early Victorian furniture. The old family things 
served him until the end, to the grief of worshippers 
who sought Brantwood in the spirit of Bunthorne 
and Grosvenor. To such he made his position bluntly 
clear in the preface to the rearranged edition of 
"Modern Painters" (1883): 

" I am entirely independent for daily happiness upon 

70 



GATES OF THE HILLS 71 

the sensual qualities of form and colour ; when I want 
them I take them either from the sky or the fields, 
not from my walls, which might be either whitewashed 
or painted like a harlequin's jacket for aught I care ; 
but the slightest incident which interrupts the harmony 
of feeling and association in a landscape, destroys it 
all to me, poisoning the entire faculty of contempla- 
tion. From my dining-room, I am happy in the 
view of the lower reach of Coniston Water, not 
because it is particularly beautiful, but because it is 
entirely pastoral and pure. Were a single point of 
chimney of the Barrow ironworks to show itself over 
the green ridge of the hill, I should never care to 
look at it more." 



To be fastidious about household gods while out- 
side lay a miserable world, seemed to Ruskin mere 
fiddling while Rome was burning. 

Within Brantwood all was solid, old-fashioned 
comfort, and, while the master's strength endured, a 
wonderfully busy life. A company of young people 
helped Ruskin in his manifold works : and the even- 
ings were merry in a fashion that some would have 
called Philistine. Nigger melodies were not discour- 
aged, and there was no pose of cleverness in the 
conversation. Down on the lake Brantwood had its 
own little harbour and fleet of boats. The afternoons 
were often spent in wood-chopping expeditions. 

From the earliest light, and sometimes even before 
the dawn, Ruskin, who went to bed at half-past ten, 
was at work in his study. It is a long room, once, 



72 



JOHN BUSKIN 



too, hung with Turners and papered with a design 
taken from Marco Marziale's "Circumcision" in the 
National Gallery. The furniture was red mahogany, 
the upholstery bright-green leather. It was not the 
least beautiful, but in this very place he could write 
that loveliest and most melodious of his briefer prose 
passages, beginning : " Morning breaks as I write, along 
these Coniston Fells " It is familiar to everybody, 
and, alas! now grown somewhat too hackneyed to 
quote in full. Thus, under the shadow of Coniston 
Old Man, the prophet lived and worked and fought, 
and at length laid down his armour. 

He saw himself in these days "a man clothed 
in soft raiment a reed shaken by the wind ! " The 
words bring us to those remarkable volumes containing 
the final results of his life's thought and teaching, Fors 
Clavigera. The mystical title, explained in a true 
Ruskin etymology, laborious, minute, and fanciful, sig- 
nifies " the Fate or Force that bears the Club, or Key, 
or Nail : that is, in three aspects as Following, or Fore- 
ordaining, Deed (or Courage), and Patience, and Laws, 
known and unknown, of Nature and life ; the Deed of 
Hercules, the Patience of Ulysses, the Law of Lycur- 
gus." These letters to the workmen and labourers of 
Great Britain were begun in 1871, the year before 
Ruskin settled at Brantwood, and they were continued, 
as occasion and health served, through seven years. 
The publication was in parts, issued through the post, 
at sevenpence, later tenpence, by Mr. George Allen for 
Mr. Ruskin. He did not advertise his curious magazine, 






GATES OF THE HILLS 73 

trusting, as he said, to the public's long nose ; and the 
public, getting wind of the affair, came to buy. " Words 
winged with Empyrean wisdom, piercing as lightning 
and which I do not really remember to have heard 
the like of," was Carlyle's verdict. " To read Fors" 
says Mr. Collingwood, " is like being out in a thunder- 
storm." Opinion was certainly tempestuous enough, 
as the scheme of these reforming papers gradually 
unfolded itself. Some said the sage was mad, as he 
brought out of his storehouse things new and old 
pastoral, comical, historical, tragical the ripe experi- 
ence of fifty years. The world did ill to mock ; for 
never was it so generously taken into confidence by 
any man of genius. Ruskin withheld nothing that he 
thought would serve his countrymen. Bitterer than 
all to him, the working men of Britain sent Ruskin no 
word of reply, and at last he ceased to address them as 
" My Friends." 

In this place it is impossible to indicate all the bright 
and sombre threads of that wonderful web, but the 
central purpose must be outlined. It was the founding 
of a practical scheme of social regeneration, through 
the agency of St. George's Company, afterwards called 
the Guild of St. George. Ruskin, Master of the Guild, 
invited disciples to devote to the work a tithe of their 
means. He himself led the way with a tenth of his 
remaining fortune, once 200,000. This man clothed 
in soft raiment was exercised in his mind as to the 
example of St. Francis, and set about shedding his 
wealth. Land was bought for the agricultural members 



74 JOHN RUSKIN 

of the Guild to cultivate ; mills and factories were to 
be started or acquired for the encouragement of labour 
that should be, for choice, manual, although machinery 
was not wholly forbidden. Recreation and instruction 
were to be provided; a coinage and a costume were 
contemplated, but never realised. Ruskin framed the 
Laws, on the fair old model of fourteenth-century 
Florence ; you may read them in the " Laws of Fesole." 
It was not Utopian, except in so far as all such dreams 
must be Utopian in this present world. 

It may not be too fanciful to find the sum and 
substance of all Ruskin's economic teaching in that 
inscription which it was the " pride of his life " to have 
discovered on San Giorgio di Rialto. This, " the first 
word Venice ever speaks aloud," runs : " Around this 
temple let the merchant's laws be just, his weights true, 
and his covenants faithful." 

Some part of Fors* design came into actual being 
the Sheffield Museum is to-day its most enduring 
memorial; but trials and disappointments waited on 
the work, and brought the Master untold bitterness. 
In 1877, what he considered the treachery of a friend 
so dejected him that he all but lost heart. There is of 
that hard period one curious documentary memorial, 
which, by the kindness of a friend, is here reproduced for 
the first time in facsimile, although the letter itself has 
been printed in "Arrows of the Chace." Every new 
year, Ruskin used to send a message of good-will to 
a correspondent, Mr. John Leith of Aberdeen, to be 
read to his class for Scripture study. For 1878 there 



76 JOHN RUSKIN 

was no cheerful word; only two lines from Horace: 
Epistles I. 4, 12-13. 

" Inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras 
Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum." 

("Amid hope and sorrow, amid fears and wrath, 
believe every day that has dawned upon thee to be 
thy last.") 

He must have been deeply distressed not to have 
cared to catch even the qualified optimism of Horace's 
very next line 

" Grata superveniet quae noil sperabitur hora." 

(" Pleasant the advent of the unhoped-for hour.") 

Trials drew close about Ruskin in that year, and at 
length ill-health compelled him to resign his Professor- 
ship, to which he had been re-elected in 1873. Pars, 
the Slade lectures, and a multitude of other interests 
had claimed his unremitting care, and the result was a 
new and most important body of literature. For the 
sake of keeping the record, the chief works may be 
merely named under their years, together with an 
indication of Ruskin's later journeys at home and 
abroad. 

In 1873 a lecture, "Nature and Authority," was 
delivered at the Grosvenor Hotel; "Robin, Swallow, 
and Chough," at Oxford and Eton. The Slade course 
for the year was the exquisite " Val d' Arno," studies in 
Tuscan Art and Florentine History. In 1874 Ruskin 
revisited Rome, and went on to Sicily. His Slade course 



GATES OF THE HILLS 77 

included " Alps and Jura " and " Schools of Floren- 
tine Art." At Eton he lectured on Botticelli. In 
1875 he gave the Royal Institution his lecture on 
" Glacial Action." The Slade course was " Sir Joshua 
Reynolds." At Eton he delivered the " Spanish 
Chapel." In 1876 he lectured at Christ's Hospital on 
"Precious Stones," and at Woolwich on "Minerals." 
The same year he made posting tours in England and 
revisited Switzerland. Part of 1877 was devoted to a 
study of Carpaccio at Venice. He lectured at Kendal 
on " Yewdale and its Streamlets." The Slade course 
was " Readings in Modern Painters." " Streams of 
Westmorland" was given at Eton. In 1878 Ruskin 
visited Prince Leopold, then very ill, at Windsor. At 
Hawarden he came to a better understanding of Mr. 
Gladstone, an incident generously recorded in Fors, 
and later in a reprint, when the space formerly contain- 
ing some hard words was left forever blank and marked 
" A memorial of rash judgment." This was the year of 
the Turner Exhibition in Bond Street, for which Ruskin 
wrote a catalogue, interrupted by terrible illness, brought 
on by innumerable worries. On his recovery he had 
to face another ordeal the libel action brought by 
Whistler for Fors' remarks on impressionism. Whistler 
received a farthing damages, and an inspiration, de- 
veloped later in his " Gentle Art of Making Enemies." 
For a considerable time Ruskin had to take life as 
easily as he might, but he was not idle. " Deucalion," 
studies of crystals, and " Proserpina," an original system 
of botany, came to birth in 1879. 1880 saw "A Can- 



78 JOHN RUSKIN 

tion to Snakes," suggested by Huxley's lecture on the 
evolution of reptiles. Ruskin's treatment of the subject 
was artistic and ethical. He wrote also his " Bible of 
Amiens," part of his unfinished project " Our Fathers 
have Told Us," and crossed swords with the Bishop of 
Manchester on the question of usury. The same year 
he revisited Abbeville, Amiens, Beauvais, Chartres, and 
Rouen. France and Italy were in the itinerary of 1882, 
and he gave his " Cistercian Architecture " before the 
Royal Institution. Next year he was invited to return 
to his Professorship, and delivered the " Art of Eng- 
land." This year he made his last tour in Scotland. 
The Slade course for 1884, the " Pleasures of England," 
marked his final work in Oxford. He got through it 
without the disaster his friends dreaded, and was per- 
suaded to cancel certain lectures containing deep cen- 
sure of the times. His lecture the " Storm-Cloud," 
given at the London Institution, was ominous in its 
title. For a time clouds and darkness closed about the 
mind of the foremost thinker of his age foremost in 
every sense; for it was his mere outrunning of his 
own times that so set men against his teaching. 

Gradually he recovered, and set to work again, 
writing at intervals from 1885 to 1888 his incom- 
parable autobiography, Prceterita, which he intended 
to bring down to the year 1879. But his work was 
done. At length he acknowledged that the task was 
beyond his powers, and with one final effort, his beauti- 
ful tribute to his cousin, Mrs. Arthur Severn, who had 
been his mother's companion in her last years, and who 



GATES OF THE HILLS 79 

was to watch over his own long passage towards those 
" Gates of the hills, whence one returns not," Ruskin 
laid down his pen forever. 

But the pilgrimage had still twelve years to run. 
It is a period of which none should write save those 
who loved and watched over Ruskin in his declin- 
ing days at Brantwood. From Mr. Collingwood, his 
secretary, one word may perhaps be borrowed here, so 
fitly does it sum up all that a writer from the outside 
world may dare to say : 

" ' Datur Hora Quieti ' : there is more work to do, 
but not to-day. The plough stands in the furrow; 
and the labourer passes peacefully from his toil, home- 
wards." 

On the 20th of January 1900 the end came, with- 
out pain or farewell. He had wished, should he die 
at Brantwood, to be buried in Coniston Churchyard; 
and there he rests, his grave marked by a sculptured 
cross, of native stone, symbolically wrought by his own 
artificers to commemorate his life-work. There is no 
written epitaph, merely his name and the years of his 
coming and going. 

Westminster Abbey would have opened her doors 
to receive his dust, but when the Dean offered a grave, 
the honour was declined. John Ruskin's true resting- 
place is by the Gates of the Hills. 



INDEX 



Andrews, Dr., 16 

Brantwood, 44, 70 

Cambridge, 42 

Carlyle, Thomas, 41, 63 

Chamouni, 20, 42, 49 

Christ Church, Oxford, 24 

Coniston, 15, 44, 70 

Cox, Margaret, afterwards Mrs. J. J. 
Buskin, 5 

Denmark Hill, home at, 38 

Dijon, 48 

Disraeli, 66 

Domecq, Miss, 29 

Dulwich, 7 

Edinburgh, 41 

Florence, 53 

Fors Clavigera, 43, 72 

France, sojourns in, 46 

Friar's Crag, Derwentwater, 15 

Friendship's Offering, young Ruskin con- 
tributes to, 22 

Geneva, 46, 49 

Geological studies, 21 

Herne Hill, Ruskin's early home at, 9 

High Street, Oxford, 26 

Hincksey, 64 

Hunter Street, Ruskin's early home, 6 

Italy, first visit to, 20 ; second visit, 32 ; 
later visits, 40, 42, 43, 46 

Keswick, 15 

Maurice, F. D., 41 

" Modern Painters," 34-36, 40 

Oxford University, Ruskin goes up, 23 ; 
life there, 24; "Modern Painters," 
35 ; Slade Professor, 62 

Peckham, at school at, 21 

Perth, 8, 15, 16 

Pisa, 46 

Prceterita, 65, 78 

Richardson, Jessie, Ruskin's aunt, 8 
Mary, Ruskin's cousin, 16 



Rogers, Samuel, 22 

Rogers' " Italy," 18, 20 

Rouen, 46 

Runciman, Ruskin's first drawing- 
master, 18 

Ruskin, John, birth and early years, 1 ; 
lineage, 4 ; his sense of form and 
colour, 7 ; visits Perth, 8 ; goes to 
live at Herne Hill, 9 ; discipline, 10 ; 
early artistic efforts, 11, 13 ; tours in 
England with his parents, 14 ; on the 
Continent, 15; learns Latin, 15, Greek, 
17 ; learns drawing under Mr. Runci- 
man, 18; visits Switzerland, 19, Italy, 
20; geological studies, 21 ; contributes 
to Friendship's Offering, 22 ; champions 
Turner, 22 ; goes to Oxford, 23, ex- 
periences there, 23, illness, 29, gradu- 
ates, 31 ; activities at Denmark Hill, 
38; "Modern Painters," 40, other 
works, 42 ; lecturing, 43 ; Fors Clavi- 
gera, 43; marriage, 40; Brantwood, 
44 ; in France, Italy, and Switzerland, 
46 ; Professor at Oxford, 62 ; at Brant- 
wood, 72 

Ruskin, John James, 1,4, 11, 14, 24 
Margaret, 1, 11, 14, 26, 44 

St. Mark's, Venice, 56 

Schaffhausen, 19 

Slade Lectures, 44, 62 

" Stones of Venice," 40, 44 

Switzerland, first visit to, 21; later 
visits, 41, 42, 43, 46 

Turner, Ruskin's first acquaintance with 
his work, 18 ; his admiration for, 20 ; 
champions him, 22; acquaintance 
with, 32 

" Unto this Last," 42, 62 

Venice, 46, 49, 54 

Verona, 46 

Whistler, J. M., 76 



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