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Upper: Steel-plate engraving of Ruskin as a young man, made circa 1845, scanned from print made circa 1895.
Middle: Ruskin in middle-age, as Slade Professor of Art at Oxford (1869–1879). Scanned from 1879 book.
Bottom: John Ruskin in old age, 1894, by photographer Frederick Hollyer. 1894 print.
John Ruskin painted by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais at Glenfinlas, Scotland, (1853–54).[1]

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was an English art critic and social thinker, also remembered as a poet and artist. His essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Ruskin first came to widespread attention for his support for the work of J. M. W. Turner and his defence of naturalism in art. He subsequently put his weight behind the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His later writings turned increasingly to complex and personal explorations of the interconnection of cultural social and moral issues, and were influential on the development of Christian socialism.



Early life and education

Ruskin was born in London and raised in South London, the only child of a wine importer who co-founded the company that became Allied Domecq. He was educated at home and went on to study at King's College London and Christ Church, Oxford. At Oxford, he enrolled as a "gentleman-commoner", a class of students who were not expected to pursue a full course of study. His own studies were erratic, and he was often absent. However, he impressed the scholars of Christ Church after he won the Newdigate prize for poetry, his earliest interest. In consequence and despite a protracted period of serious illness, Oxford awarded him an honorary fourth-class degree.

First publications

Ruskin's first published prose work came in 1834 when, at age 15, he began writing a series of articles for Loudon's Magazine of Natural History. In 1836-37, he wrote The Poetry of Architecture, serialised in Loudon's Architectural Magazine, under the pen name "Kata Phusin" (Greek for "according to Nature"). This was a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings which centered around a Wordsworthian argument that buildings should be sympathetic to local environments, and should use local materials. Soon afterward, in 1839, he published, in Transactions of the Meteorological Society (pages 56–59), his "Remarks on the present state of meteorological science".

Modern Painters (1843)

He went on to publish the first volume of one of his major works, Modern Painters, in 1843, under the anonymous identity "An Oxford Graduate". This work argued that modern landscape painters — and in particular J. M. W. Turner— were superior to the so-called "Old Masters" of the post-Renaissance period. Such a claim was controversial, especially as Turner's semi-abstract late works were being denounced by some critics as meaningless daubs. The degree to which Ruskin reversed an anti-Turnerian tide may have been overemphasised in the past, as Turner was a renowned and major figure in the early Victorian art world and a prominent member of the Royal Academy. Ruskin's criticism of Old Masters like Gaspard Dughet (Gaspar Poussin), Claude Lorrain, and Salvator Rosa, was much more controversial, given the immense respect they held at the time. The attack on the old masters centred on what Ruskin perceived as their lack of attention to natural truth. Rather than 'going to nature', as Turner did, the old masters, 'composed' or invented their landscapes in their studios. For Ruskin, modern painters like Turner and James Duffield Harding (Ruskin's art tutor) showed a much more profound understanding of nature, observing the 'truths' of water, air, clouds, stones, and vegetation.

Ruskin considered some Renaissance masters, notably Titian and Dürer, to have shown similar devotion to nature, but he attacked even Michelangelo as a corrupting influence on art. The second half of Modern Painters I consists of detailed observations by Ruskin of exactly how clouds move, how seas appear at different times of day, or how trees grow, followed by examples of error or truth from various artists.

Ruskin had already met and befriended Turner, and eventually became one of the executors of his will. Many long believed that, as an executor, Ruskin took it upon himself in 1858 to destroy a large number of Turner's sketches because of their 'pornographic' subject matter but more recent discoveries cast doubt on this idea (see below).

Ruskin followed Modern Painters I with a second volume, developing his ideas about symbolism in art. He then turned to architecture, writing The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, both of which argued that architecture cannot be separated from morality, and that the "Decorated Gothic" style was the highest form of architecture yet achieved.[2]

By this time, Ruskin was writing in his own name and had become the most famous cultural theorist of his day.

Marriage to Effie Gray

Ambrotype photograph by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) from July 21, 1865 depicting Effie Millais, John Everett Millais, and their daughters Effie and Mary at 7 Cromwell Place, signed "Effie C. Millais".

In 1848, he married Effie Gray, for whom he wrote the early fantasy novel The King of the Golden River. Their marriage was notoriously unhappy, eventually being annulled in 1854 on grounds of his "incurable impotency,"[3] a charge Ruskin later disputed, even going so far as to offer to prove his virility at the court's request[4]. In court, the Ruskin family counter-attacked Effie as being mentally unbalanced. Effie later married the artist John Everett Millais, who had been Ruskin's protegé, in July 1855.

Pre-Raphaelite painters

Ruskin came into contact with Millais following the controversy over Millais's painting Christ in the House of His Parents, which was considered blasphemous at the time. Millais, with his colleagues William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had established the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelites were influenced by Ruskin's theories. As a result, the critic wrote letters to The Times defending their work, later meeting them. Initially, he favoured Millais, who travelled to Scotland with Ruskin and Effie to paint Ruskin's portrait. Effie's increasing attachment to Millais, among other reasons (including Ruskin's non-Consummation of the marriage[5]) created a crisis, leading Effie to leave Ruskin, which caused a public scandal. Millais abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite style after his marriage, and Ruskin often savagely attacked his later works. Ruskin continued to support Hunt and Rossetti. He also provided independent funds to encourage the art of Rossetti's wife Elizabeth Siddal. Other artists influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites also received both written and financial support from him, including John Brett, Burne-Jones. and John William Inchbold. In 1858 he also opened the School of Art in Sidney Street, Cambridge, laying the foundation for what is now Anglia Ruskin University.

During this period Ruskin wrote regular reviews of the annual exhibitions at the Royal Academy under the title Academy Notes. His reviews were so influential and so judgmental that he alienated many artists, leading to much comment. For example, Punch published a comic poem about a victim of the critic, which contained the lines, "I paints and paints, hears no complaints...then savage Ruskin sticks his tusk in and nobody will buy."

Ruskin also sought to encourage new architecture based on his theories. He was friendly with Sir Henry Acland, who supported his attempts to get the new Oxford University Museum of Natural History built as a model of modern Gothic. Ruskin also inspired other architects to adapt the Gothic style for modern culture. These buildings created what has been called a distinctive "Ruskinian Gothic" style.[6]

Later life

Following a crisis of religious belief, and under the influence of his great friend Thomas Carlyle, Ruskin abandoned art criticism at the end of the 1850s, moving towards commentary on politics. In Unto This Last, he expounded theories about social justice, which influenced the development of the British Labour party and Christian socialism. On his father's death, Ruskin declared it was not possible to be a rich socialist, and gave away most of his inheritance. He founded the charity known as the Guild of St George in the 1870s, and endowed it with large sums of money and a remarkable art collection. He gave money to enable Octavia Hill to begin her practical campaign of housing reform. He attempted to reach a wide readership with his pamphlets Fors Clavigera, aimed at the "working men of England". He taught at the Working Men's College, London, and was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford, from 1869 to 1879. His lectures were so popular that they had to be given twice — once for the students, and again for the public. Ruskin College, Oxford is named after him.

While at Oxford, Ruskin became friendly with Lewis Carroll, another don, who photographed him. After Carroll parted with Alice Liddell, she and her sisters pursued a similar relationship with Ruskin, according to his autobiography, Praeterita.

Rose la Touche, as sketched by Ruskin

During this period Ruskin became enamoured of Rose la Touche, an intensely religious girl, whom he met through his patronage of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, a talented watercolourist. He was introduced to Rose in 1858, when she was only ten years old, proposed to her eight years later, and was finally rejected in 1872. She died soon afterward. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to bouts of mental illness. He suffered from a number of breakdowns and delirious visions.

In 1878, he published a scathing review of paintings by James McNeill Whistler exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. He found particular fault with Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, and accused Whistler of "ask[ing] two hundred guineas for throwing a pot of paint in the public's face." [7] Whistler filed a libel suit against Ruskin. Whistler won the case, but the jury awarded him only one farthing for damages; it split court costs between Ruskin and Whistler. The episode tarnished Ruskin's reputation, and may have accelerated his mental decline.

The emergence of the Aesthetic movement and Impressionism alienated Ruskin from the art world, and his later writings were increasingly seen as irrelevant, especially as he seemed to be more interested in book illustrators such as Kate Greenaway than in modern art. He continued to support philanthropic movements such as the Home Arts and Industries Association

Much of his later life was spent at a house called Brantwood, on the shores of Coniston Water located in the Lake District of England. His assistant W. G. Collingwood, the author, artist and antiquarian lived nearby and in 1901 established the Ruskin Museum in Coniston as a memorial to Ruskin.


Ruskin's range was vast. He wrote over 250 works which started from art history, but expanded to cover topics ranging over science, geology, ornithology, literary criticism, the environmental effects of pollution, and mythology. After his death Ruskin's works were collected together in a massive "library edition", completed in 1912 by his friends Edward Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. Its index is famously elaborate, attempting to articulate the complex interconnectedness of his thought.

Art and design criticism

Ruskin based his early work in defense of Turner on a belief that art communicated an understanding of nature, and that authentic artists should reject inherited conventions, and study and appreciate effects of form and colour by direct observation. His most famous dictum was "go to nature in all singleness of heart, rejecting nothing and selecting nothing." He later believed that the Pre-Raphaelites formed "a new and noble school" of art that would provide a basis for a thoroughgoing reform of the art world. For Ruskin, art should communicate truth above all things. However, he believed this was not revealed by mere display of skill, but the expression of the artist's whole moral outlook. Ruskin rejected the work of Whistler because he considered it to epitomise a reductive mechanisation of art.

Ruskin's famous diatribe rejecting Classical tradition in The Stones of Venice—one of the nineteenth century's most influential books—embodies the inextricable mix of aesthetics and morality in his thought:

"Pagan in its origin, proud and unholy in its revival, paralysed in its old age... an architecture invented, as it seems, to make plagiarists of its architects, slaves of its workmen, and sybarites of its inhabitants; an architecture in which intellect is idle, invention impossible, but in which all luxury is gratified and all insolence fortified."[8]

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a building designed with Ruskin's collaboration as an experiment in modern Gothic.
Sage Hall at Cornell, an example of the "faux-Gothic" adaptation of Ruskinian principles of architecture.

Rejection of mechanisation and standardisation also informed Ruskin's theories of architecture, and his emphasis on the importance of the Medieval Gothic style. He praised the Gothic style for what he saw as its reverence for nature and natural forms; the free, unfettered expression of artisans constructing and decorating buildings; and for the organic relationship he posited between worker and guild, worker and community, worker and natural environment, and between worker and God. Nineteenth century attempts to reproduce Gothic form (pointed arches, etc.) were not enough to make these buildings expressions of what Ruskin (however erroneously, perhaps) saw as true Gothic feeling, faith, and organicism.

For Ruskin, the Gothic style embodied the same moral truths he sought in art. It expressed the 'meaning' of architecture—as a combination of the values of strength, solidity and aspiration—all written, as it were, in stone. For Ruskin, creating true Gothic architecture involved the whole community, and expressed the full range of human emotions, from the sublime effects of soaring spires to the comically ridiculous carved grotesques and gargoyles. Even its crude and "savage" aspects were proof of "the liberty of every workman who struck the stone; a freedom of thought, and rank in scale of being, such as no laws, no charters, no charities can secure."[9] Classical architecture, in contrast, expressed a morally vacuous repressive standardisation. Ruskin associated Classical values with modern developments, in particular with demoralising consequences of the industrial revolution, resulting in buildings such as The Crystal Palace, which he despised as an oversized greenhouse. Although Ruskin wrote about architecture in many works over the course of his career, his much-anthologised essay "The Nature of Gothic" from the second volume of The Stones of Venice (1853) is widely considered to be one of his most important and evocative discussions of his central argument.

Ruskin's arguments encouraged a revival of Gothic styles, but Ruskin himself was often dissatisfied with the results. He objected that forms of mass-produced faux Gothic did not exemplify his principles, but showed disregard for the true meaning of the style. Even the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a building designed with Ruskin's collaboration, met with his disapproval. The O'Shea brothers, freehand stone carvers chosen to revive the creative "freedom of thought" of Gothic craftsmen, disappointed him by their lack of reverence for the task.

Ruskin's distaste for oppressive standardisation led to later works attacking Laissez-faire capitalism, which influenced many trade union leaders of the Victorian era. He also was an inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Movement, the founding of the National Trust, the National Art Collections Fund, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

John Ruskin's Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlas, 1853. Pen and ink and wash with Chinese ink on paper, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.

Ruskin's views on art, wrote Kenneth Clark, "cannot be made to form a logical system, and perhaps owe to this fact a part of their value." Ruskin's accounts of art are descriptions of a superior type that conjure images vividly in the mind's eye.[10] Certain principles, however, remain consistent throughout his work, which Clark summarised as:

  1. Art is not a matter of taste, but involves the whole man. Whether in making or perceiving a work of art, we bring to bear on it feeling, intellect, morals, knowledge, memory, and every other human capacity, all focused in a flash on a single point. Aesthetic man is a concept as false and dehumanizing as economic man.
  2. Even the most superior mind and the most powerful imagination must found itself on facts, which must be recognized for what they are. The imagination will often reshape them in a way which the prosaic mind cannot understand; but this recreation will be based on facts, not on formulas or illusions.
  3. These facts must be perceived by the senses, or felt; not learnt.
  4. The greatest artists and schools of art have believed it their duty to impart vital truths, not only about the facts of vision, but about religion and the conduct of life.
  5. Beauty of form is revealed in organisms which have developed perfectly according to their laws of growth, and so give, in his own words, 'the appearance of felicitous fulfillment of function.'
  6. This fulfillment of function depends on all parts of an organism cohering and cooperating. This was what he called the 'Law of Help,' one of Ruskin's fundamental beliefs, extending from nature and art to society.
  7. Good art is done with enjoyment. The artist must feel that, within certain reasonable limits, he is free, that he is wanted by society, and that the ideas he is asked to express are true and important.
  8. Great art is the expression of epochs where people are united by a common faith and a common purpose, accept their laws, believe in their leaders, and take a serious view of human destiny.[11]

Historic preservation

Ruskin's belief in preservation of ancient buildings had a significant influence on later thinking about the distinction between conservation and restoration of old buildings. Ruskin was a strong proponent of the former, while his contemporary, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, advocated for the latter. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Ruskin writes:

Neither by the public, nor by those who have the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word restoration understood. It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture.[12]

This abhorrence for restoration is in marked contrast to Viollet-le-Duc, who wrote that restoration is a "means to reestablish [a building] to a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time."[13]

Ruskin had a deep respect for Gothic architecture and old buildings in general. To him, the building's age was the most important aspect of its preservation: "For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, not in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.” [14]

Social theory

Cannery operation in the Ruskin Cooperative, 1896

Ruskin's pioneering of ideas that helped lead to the Arts and Crafts movement was related to the growth of Christian socialism, an outlook that he helped formulate in his book Unto This Last, in which he attacked capitalism on the ground that it failed to acknowledge complexities of human desires and motivations. Ruskin believed that jobs should be paid at a fixed rate, so that the best workmen got employed, instead of those that offered to do the job at a lower price:

"Nay, but I choose my physician and my clergyman, thus indicating my sense of the quality of their work. By all means, also, choose your bricklayer; that is the proper reward of the good workman, to be "chosen." The natural and right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate, but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed. The false, unnatural, and destructive system is when the bad workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, and either take the place of the good, or force him by his competition to work for an inadequate sum."

He argued that the State should intervene to regulate the economy in the service of such higher values. These ideas were closely related to those of Thomas Carlyle, but whereas Carlyle emphasised the need for strong leadership, Ruskin emphasised what later evolved into the concept of "social economy" — networks of charitable, co-operative and other non-governmental organisations.

In The Stones of Venice, the previously mentioned chapter "The Nature of Gothic" attacked the division of labour, which Adam Smith advocated in the early books of The Wealth of Nations. Ruskin believed the division of labour to be the main cause of the unhappiness of the poor. Ruskin argued that the rich had never been so generous in the past, but the poor's hatred of the rich was at its greatest point. This was because the poor were now unsatisfied by monotonous work that used them as a tool, instead of a person. These ideas later influenced William Morris.


Though he never exhibited his paintings, Ruskin's own work was very distinctive. He created many careful studies of natural forms, adapting the style of Turner to detailed botanical, geological and architectural observation. He also painted a decorative floral border in the central room of Wallington Hall in Northumberland, home of his friend Pauline Trevelyan. The stained glass window in the Little Church of St Francis Funtley, Fareham, Hampshire is reputed to have been designed by him. Originally placed in the St. Peter's Church Duntisbourne Abbots near Cirencester, the window depicts the Ascension and the Nativity.[15]

The fantasy novel

Ruskin's fantasy novelette The King of the Golden River (1841) prepared the ground for the major fantasy novels of his close friend George MacDonald, who in 1858 wrote what may be the first fantasy novel for adults, Phantastes. The manner in which Ruskin wrote The King of the Golden River—as a gift to the twelve year old Effie Gray—is remarkably parallel to Lewis Carroll's later work, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which Carroll wrote for Alice Liddell and later revised and published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Ruskin also contributed to the scholarship on this newly emerging genre later in his life, defining the aims of fantasy literature in his lecture "Fairy Land" (in The Art of England, 1884).


John Ruskin Street in Walworth, London

Ruskin's influence extends far beyond the field of art history. The author Leo Tolstoy described him as, "one of those rare men who think with their heart." Marcel Proust was a Ruskin enthusiast and helped translate his works into French. Mahatma Gandhi quoted Ruskin's Unto this last frequently, and even translated the work into Gujarati, calling it Sarvodaya. He spoke often of the influence Ruskin had on his philosophy.[16] Ruskin's views also attracted Oscar Wilde's imagination in the late 19th century.

A number of Utopian socialist "Ruskin Colonies" attempted to put his political ideals into practice. These communities included Ruskin, Nebraska; Ruskin, Florida; Ruskin, British Columbia; and the Ruskin Commonwealth Association, a colony which existed in Dickson County, Tennessee from 1894 to 1899. Ruskin's ideas also influenced the development of the British Labour Party. In Britain, many streets, places and colleges are named after Ruskin.

Ruskin College, Oxford, founded as a working men's college is named after him. Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford and Cambridge also bears his name: the university traces its origins to the Cambridge School of Art, which Ruskin founded in 1858. John Ruskin College, South Croydon, is also named after him after originally being called John Ruskin Grammar School when it opened in 1945.

The Ruskin Literary and Debating Society was founded in February 1900 in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). This organisation, named in John Ruskin's honour, promotes the development of literary knowledge and public speaking skills in its member and continues to thirve in Toronto to this day.

Professor George Landow of Brown University has classified Ruskin as a sage writer, based on his voluminous output and authoritative tone.


Turner erotic drawings

Until 2005, biographies of both J. M. W. Turner and Ruskin had claimed that in 1858 Ruskin burned bundles of erotic paintings and drawings by Turner to protect Turner's posthumous reputation. Ruskin's friend Ralph Nicholson Wornum, who was Keeper of the National Gallery was said to have colluded in the alleged destruction of Turner's works. In 2005, these works, which form part of the Turner Bequest held at Tate Britain, were re-appraised by Turner Curator Ian Warrell, who concluded that Ruskin did not destroy them.[17]


Ruskin's sexuality has led to much speculation and critical comment. His one marriage, to Effie Gray, was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. His wife, in a letter to her parents, claimed that he found her "person" (meaning her body) repugnant. "He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April." Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings. "It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."[18]

The cause of this mysterious "disgust" has led to much speculation. Ruskin's biographer, Mary Lutyens, suggested that he rejected Effie because he was horrified by the sight of her pubic hair. Lutyens argued that Ruskin must have known the female form only through Greek statues and paintings of the nude lacking pubic hair and found the reality shocking.[19] This speculation has been repeated by later biographers and essayists and it is now something that "everyone knows" about Ruskin.[20] However, there is no proof for this, and some disagree. Peter Fuller in his book Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace writes, "It has been said that he was frightened on the wedding night by the sight of his wife's pubic hair; more probably, he was perturbed by her menstrual blood.".[21] Ruskin's biographers Tim Hilton and John Batchelor also take the view that menstruation is the more likely explanation, though Batchelor also suggests that body-odour may have been the problem.

Ruskin's later relationship with Rose la Touche has also led to claims that he was a paedophile, on the grounds that he stated that he fell in love with her when he met her at the age of nine.[22] In fact he did not approach her as a suitor until she was seventeen, and he repeatedly proposed to her for as long as she lived. Ruskin is not known to have had any other romantic liaisons or sexual intimacies. However, during an episode of mental derangement after Rose died he wrote a letter in which he insisted that Rose's spirit had instructed him to marry a girl who was visiting him at the time.[23] Letters from Ruskin to Kate Greenaway also exist, in which he repeatedly asks her to draw her "girlies" (as he called her child figures) without clothing:

Will you – (it’s all for your own good – !) make her stand up and then draw her for me without a cap – and, without her shoes, – (because of the heels) and without her mittens, and without her – frock and frills? And let me see exactly how tall she is – and – how – round. It will be so good of and for you – And to and for me.[24]

Ruskin's biographers disagree about the allegation of paedophilia. Hilton, in his two-volume biography, boldly asserts that "he was a paedophile", while Batchelor argues that the term is inappropriate because his behaviour does not "fit the profile"[25]. Others also point to a definite pattern of "nympholeptic" behaviour with regards to his interactions with girls at a boarding school.[26]


The defining work on Ruskin for the 20th century was The Darkening Glass (Columbia UP, 1960) by Columbia professor John D. Rosenberg, backed by his ubiquitous paperback anthology, The Genius of John Ruskin (1963). Neither book has ever been out of print. A definitive two-volume biography by Tim Hilton appeared as John Ruskin: The Early Years (Yale University Press, 1985) and John Ruskin: The Later Years (Yale University Press, 2000).


Coloured engraving of Ruskin

Ruskin coined quite a few distinctive terms, some of which the Nuttall Encyclopedia has collected:

Pathetic Fallacy
He invented this term to describe the ascription of human emotions to impersonal natural forces, as in "the wind sighed".
Fors Clavigera
Ruskin gave this name to a series of letters he wrote to workmen during the 1870s. The phrase was intended to designate three great powers which go to fashion human destiny. These were: Force, symbolised by the club (clava) of Hercules; Fortitude, symbolised by the key (clavis) of Ulysses; and Fortune, symbolised by the nail (clavus) of Lycurgus. These three powers (the "fors") together represent human talents and abilities to choose the right moment and then to strike with energy. The concept is derived from Shakespeare's phrase "There is a tide in the affairs of men/ Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune". Ruskin believed that the letters were inspired by the Third Fors: striking out at the right moment.
Modern Atheism
Ruskin applied this label to the unfortunate persistence of the clergy in teaching children what they cannot understand, and in employing young consecrate persons to assert in pulpits what they do not know.
The Want of England
"England needs," says Ruskin, "examples of people who, leaving Heaven to decide whether they are to rise in the world, decide for themselves that they will be happy in it, and have resolved to seek, not greater wealth, but simpler pleasures; not higher fortune, but deeper felicity; making the first of possessions self-possession, and honouring themselves in the harmless pride and calm pursuits of peace."
Used by and after Ruskin as the reverse of wealth in the sense of ‘well-being’: Ill-being. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Partial bibliography

  • Poems (1835-1846)
  • The Poetry of Architecture: Cottage, Villa, etc., to Which Is Added Suggestions on Works of Art (1837-1838)
  • The King of the Golden River, or The Black Brothers (1841)
  • Modern Painters
    • Part I. Of General Principles (1843-1844)
    • Part II. Of Truth (1843-1846)
    • Part III. Of Ideas of Beauty (1846)
    • Part IV. Of Many Things (1856)
    • Part V. Mountain Beauty (1856)
    • Part VI. Of Leaf Beauty (1860)
    • Part VII. Of Cloud Beauty (1860)
    • Part VIII. Of Ideas of Relation: – I. Of Invention Formal (1860)
    • Part IX. Of Ideas of Relation: – II. Of Invention Spiritual (1860)
  • Review of Lord Lindsay's "Sketches of the History of Christian Art" (1847)
  • The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849)
  • Letters to the Times in Defense of Hunt and Millais (1851)
  • Pre-Raphaelitism (1851)
  • The Stones of Venice
    • Volume I. The Foundations (1851)
    • Volume II. The Sea–Stories (1853)
    • Volume III. The Fall (1853)
  • Lectures on Architecture and Painting, Delivered at Edinburgh, in November, 1853
  • Architecture and Painting (1854)
  • The True and the Beautiful in Nature, Art, Morals and Religion (1858)
  • Letters to the Times in Defense of Pre-Raphaelite Painting (1854)
  • Academy Notes: Annual Reviews of the June Royal Academy Exhibitions (1855-1859 / 1875)
  • The Harbours of England (1856)
  • "A Joy Forever" and Its Price in the Market, or The Political Economy of Art (1857 / 1880)
  • The Elements of Drawing, in Three Letters to Beginners (1857)
  • The Two Paths: Being Lectures on Art, and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture, Delivered in 1858–9
  • The Elements of Perspective, Arranged for the Use of Schools and Intended to be Read in Connection with the First Three Books of Euclid (1859)
  • "Unto This Last": Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy (1860)
  • Munera Pulveris: Essays on Political Economy (1862-1863 / 1872)
  • Cestus of Aglaia (1864)
  • Sesame and Lilies (1864-1865) (lectures given at Rusholme, Nanchester)
  • The Ethics of the Dust: Ten Lectures to Little Housewives on the Elements of Chrystallisation (1866)
  • The Crown of Wild Olive: Three Lectures on Work, Traffic and War (1866)
  • Time and Tide by Weare and Tyne: Twenty-five Letters to a Working Man of Sunderland on the Laws of Work (1867)
  • The Flamboyant Architecture of the Somme (1869)
  • The Queen of the Air: Being a Study of the Greek Myths of Cloud and Storm (1869)
  • Verona and its Rivers (1870)
  • Lectures on Art, Delivered before the University of Oxford in Hilary Term, 1870
  • Aratra Pentelici: Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture Given before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870
  • Lectures on Sculpture, Delivered at Oxford, 1870–1871
  • Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain
    • Volume I. (1871)
    • Volume II.
    • Volume III.
    • Volume IV. (1880)
  • The Eagle's Nest: Ten Lectures on the Relation of Natural Science to Art, Given before the University of Oxford in Lent Term, 1872
  • Love's Meinie (1873)
  • Ariadne Florentia: Six Lectures on Wood and Metal Engraving, with Appendix, Given before the University of Oxford, in Michaelmas Term, 1872
  • Val d’Arno: Ten Lectures on the Tuscan Art antecedent to the Florentine Year of Victories, given before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1872
  • Mornings in Florence (1877)
  • Pearls for Young Ladies (1878)
  • Review of Paintings by James McNeill Whistler (1878)
  • Fiction, Fair and Foul (1880)
  • Deucalion: Collected Studies of the Lapse of Waves and Life of Stones (1883)
  • The Art of England: Lectures Given at the University of Oxford (1883-1884)
  • St Mark's Rest (1884)
  • The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century (1884)
  • The Pleasures of England: Lectures Given at the University of Oxford (1884-1885)
  • Bible of Amiens (1885)
  • Proserpina: Studies of Wayside Flowers while the Air was Yet Pure among the Alps and in the Scotland and England Which My Father Knew (1886)
  • Præterita: Outlines of Scenes and Thoughts Perhaps Worthy of Memory in My Past Life (1885-1889)
  • Dilecta
  • Giotto and His Works in Padua: Being an Explanatory Notice of the Series of Woodcuts Executed for the Arundel Society after the Frescoes in the Arena Chapel
  • Hortus Inclusus
  • In Montibus Sanctis
  • Cœli Enarrant
  • Notes on Samuel Prout and William Hunt
  • Guide to the Principal Pictures of the Venice Academy of Fine Arts
  • Catalogue of the Drawings and Sketches of J. M. W. Turner
  • An Inquiry into Some of the Conditions at Present Affecting "The Study of Architecture" in our Schools

Fictional portrayals of Ruskin

Aspects of Ruskin's life have been altered or incorporated into works of fiction on several occasions. Most of these concentrate on his marriage. Examples include:

See also

John Ruskin


  1. ^ Ruskin and Millais at Glenfinlas, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 138, No. 1117, pages 228–234, April 1996. (Accessed via JSTOR, UK.)
  2. ^ Jonathan Smith, Architecture and Induction: Whewell and Ruskin on Gothic A talk presented at "Science and British Culture in the 1830s," Trinity College, Cambridge, July 1994.
  3. ^ Sir William James, The Order of Release, the story of John Ruskin, Effie Gray and John Everett Millais, 1946, p.237
  4. ^ Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, 1983, p. 87
  5. ^ Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, 1983, pp.49-94
  6. ^ See Crook, J. Mordaunt. "Ruskinian Gothic." The Ruskin Polygon: Essays on the Imagination of John Ruskin. Ed. John Dixon Hunt and Faith M. Holland. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1982. 65-93.
  7. ^ Linda Merrill, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin. — book review, Art in America, January 1993, by Wendy Steiner.
  8. ^ Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, iii, ch. iv,§35.
  9. ^ John Unrau, Ruskin, the Workman and the Savageness of Gothic, in New Approaches to Ruskin, ed Robert Hewison, 1981,pp.33-50
  10. ^ Fowler, Alastair (1989). The History of English Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 245. ISBN 0-674-39664-2.  
  11. ^ Kenneth Clark, "A Note on Ruskin's Writings on Art and Architecture," from Ruskin Today 1964
  12. ^ John Ruskin. ([1880] 1989). The seven lamps of architecture. New York: Dover Publications. P. 194
  13. ^ Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. ([1854] 1990). The foundations of architecture. New York: George Braziller. P. 195. (Translated by Kenneth D. Whitehead from the original French.)
  14. ^ John Ruskin. ([1880] 1989). The seven lamps of architecture. New York: Dover Publications. P. 186
  15. ^ Malcolm Low & Julie Graham, The stained glass window of the Little Church of St. Francis, private publication Aug 2002 & April 2006, for viewing Fareham Library reference Section or the Westbury Manor Museum Ref: section Fareham, hants; The stained glass window of the Church of St. Francis. Funtley, Fareham, Hampshire
  16. ^ Gandhi's Human Touch
  17. ^ The Guardian report on the discovery of Turner's drawings. Also see Warrell 'Exploring the "Dark Side": Ruskin and the Problem of Turner's Erotica', British Art Journal, vol. IV, no. 1, Spring 2003, pp.15-46.
  18. ^ Lutyens, M., Millais and the Ruskins, p.191
  19. ^ Lutyens, M., Millais and the Ruskins, p.156
  20. ^ For example Gene Weingarten comments on the marriage in his book I'm with Stupid (2004) "Ruskin had it annulled [sic] because he was horrified to behold upon his bride a thatch of hair, rough and wild, similar to a man's. He thought her a monster." p.150-1
  21. ^ Peter Fuller, Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace, Chatto & Windus, 1988, p.11-12
  22. ^ Current evidence suggests that she was ten when they met, but Ruskin states in his autobiography that she was only nine. Hewison, R, John Ruskin, the Argument of the Eye, p.160; The Guardian, review of Batchelor, J., John Ruskin: No Wealth but Life, 2000
  23. ^ Hilton, T. John Ruskin: The Later Years, p. 553, "absolutely under her [Rose's] orders I have asked Tenny Watson to marry me and come abroad with her father."
  24. ^ Lurie, Alison Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
  25. ^ Hilton, T, John Ruskin: A Life, vol. 1, p. 253-4; Batchelor, J, John Ruskin: No Wealth but Life. p.202.
  26. ^ ,Wolfgang Kemp and Jan Van Heurck, The Desire of My Eyes: The Life & Work of John Ruskin , p. 288.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

In painting as in eloquence, the greater your strength, the quieter your manner.

John Ruskin (1819-02-081900-01-20) was an English author, poet and artist, most famous for his work as art critic and social critic.



Time is scytheless and toothless; it is we who gnaw like the worm — we who smite like the scythe.
What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.
When we are interested in the beauty of a thing, the oftener we can see it the better...
My entire delight was in observing without being myself noticed,— if I could have been invisible, all the better. ... this was the essential love of Nature in me, this the root of all that I have usefully become, and the light of all that I have rightly learned.
  • No small misery is caused by overworked and unhappy people, in the dark views which they necessarily take up themselves, and force upon others, of work itself.
    • Pre-Raphaelitism, section 1 (1851)
  • You talk of the scythe of Time, and the tooth of Time: I tell you, Time is scytheless and toothless; it is we who gnaw like the worm — we who smite like the scythe. It is ourselves who abolish — ourselves who consume: we are the mildew, and the flame.
    • A Joy for Ever, lecture II, section 74 (1857)
  • For certainly it is excellent discipline for an author to feel that he must say all he has to say in the fewest possible words, or his reader is sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words, or his reader will certainly misunderstand them.
    • A Joy for Ever, note 6 (1857)
  • Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.
    • The Two Paths, Lecture II: The Unity of Art, section 54 (1859)
  • The greatest efforts of the race have always been traceable to the love of praise, as its greatest catastrophes to the love of pleasure.
    • Sesame and Lilies, lecture I: Of Kings' Treasures, section 3 (1864-1865)
  • There is but one question ultimately to be asked respecting every line you draw, Is it right or wrong? If right, it most assuredly is not a "free" line, but an intensely continent, restrained and considered line; and the action of the hand in laying it is just as decisive, and just as "free" as the hand of a first-rate surgeon in a critical incision.
    • Cestus of Aglaia, chapter VI, section 72 (1865-66)
  • Ask a great money-maker what he wants to do with his money, — he never knows. He doesn't make it to do anything with it. He gets it only that he may get it. "What will you make of what you have got?" you ask. "Well, I'll get more," he says. Just as at cricket, you get more runs. There's no use in the runs, but to get more of them than other people is the game. So all that great foul city of London there, — rattling, growling, smoking, stinking, — a ghastly heap of fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore, — you fancy it is a city of work? Not a street of it! It is a great city of play; very nasty play and very hard play, but still play.
    • The Crown of Wild Olive, lecture I: Work, sections 23-24 (1866)
  • A little group of wise hearts is better than a wilderness full of fools.
    • The Crown of Wild Olive, lecture III: War, section 114 (1866)
  • What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.
    • The Crown of Wild Olive, lecture IV: The Future of England, section 151 (1866)
  • For when we are interested in the beauty of a thing, the oftener we can see it the better; but when we are interested only by the story of a thing, we get tired of hearing the same tale told over and over again, and stopping always at the same point — we want a new story presently, a newer and better one — and the picture of the day, and novel of the day, become as ephemeral as the coiffure or the bonnet of the day. Now this spirit is wholly adverse to the existence of any lovely art. If you mean to throw it aside to-morrow, you can never have it to-day.
    • On the Condition of Modern Art, lecture (1867)
  • Labour without joy is base. Labour without sorrow is base. Sorrow without labour is base. Joy without labour is base.
    • Time and Tide, letter V (1867)
  • Your honesty is not to be based either on religion or policy. Both your religion and policy must be based on it. Your honesty must be based, as the sun is, in vacant heaven; poised, as the lights in the firmament, which have rule over the day and over the night.
    • Time and Tide, letter VIII (1867)
  • Punishment is the last and least effective instrument in the hands of the legislator for the prevention of crime.
    • Notes on the General Principles of Employment for the Destitute and Criminal Classes (1868)
  • Engraving is, in brief terms, the Art of Scratch.
    • Ariadne Florentina: Six Lectures on Wood and Metal Engraving, with Appendix, lecture I: Definition of the Art of Engraving, section 34 (1872)
  • In great states, children are always trying to remain children, and the parents wanting to make men and women of them. In vile states, the children are always wanting to be men and women, and the parents to keep them children.
    • Mornings in Florence, part III, section 49 (1875)
  • Of all the bête, clumsy, blundering, boggling, baboon-blooded stuff I ever saw on a human stage, that thing last night beat — as far as the acting and story went — and of all the affected, sapless, soulless, beginningless, endless, topless, bottomless, topsiturviest, tuneless and scrannelpipiest — tongs and boniest — doggerel of sounds I ever endured the deadliness of, that eternity of nothing was the deadliest, so far as the sound went. I never was so relieved, so far as I can remember in my life, by the stopping of any sound — not excepting railway whistles — as I was by the cessation of the cobbler’s bellowing.
  • My entire delight was in observing without being myself noticed,— if I could have been invisible, all the better. I was absolutely interested in men and their ways, as I was interested in marmots and chamois, in tomtits and trout. If only they would stay still and let me look at them, and not get into their holes and up their heights! The living inhabitation of the world — the grazing and nesting in it, — the spiritual power of the air, the rocks, the waters, to be in the midst of it, and rejoice and wonder at it, and help it if I could, — happier if it needed no help of mine, — this was the essential love of Nature in me, this the root of all that I have usefully become, and the light of all that I have rightly learned.
    • Praeterita, volume I, chapter IX (1885-1889)
  • There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849)

When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
  • It is the glistening and softly spoken lie; the amiable fallacy; the patriotic lie of the historian, the provident lie of the politician, the zealous lie of the partisan, the merciful lie of the friend, and the careless lie of each man to himself, that cast that black mystery over humanity, through which we thank any man who pierces, as we would thank one who dug a well in a desert.
    • Chapter II: The Lamp of Truth, section 1
  • I do not believe that ever any building was truly great, unless it had mighty masses, vigorous and deep, of shadow mingled with its surface.
    • Chapter III: The Lamp of Power, section 13
  • Work first and then rest. Work first, and then gaze, but do not use golden ploughshares, nor bind ledgers in enamel.
    • Chapter IV: The Lamp of Beauty, section 19
  • When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
    • Chapter VI: The Lamp of Memory, section 10
  • How false is the conception, how frantic the pursuit, of that treacherous phantom which men call Liberty.
    • Chapter VII: The Lamp of Obedience, section 1

The Stones of Venice (1853)

Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peacocks and lilies, for instance.
We blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, to strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters into our estimate of advantages.
  • You were made for enjoyment, and the world was filled with things which you will enjoy, unless you are too proud to be pleased with them, or too grasping to care for what you cannot turn to other account than mere delight. Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peacocks and lilies, for instance.
    • Volume I, chapter II, section 17
  • In old times, men used their powers of painting to show the objects of faith; in later times, they used the objects of faith that they might show their powers of painting.
    • Volume II, chapter IV, section 103
  • Of all God's gifts to the sight of man, colour is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.
    • Volume II, chapter V, section 30
  • You must either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him. You cannot make both. Men were not intended to work with the accuracy of tools, to be precise and perfect in all their actions. If you will have that precision out of them, and make their fingers measure degrees like cog-wheels, and their arms strike curves like compasses, you must unhumanize them. All the energy of their spirits must be given to make cogs and compasses of themselves….On the other hand, if you will make a man of the working creature, you cannot make him a tool. Let him but begin to imagine, to think, to try to do anything worth doing; and the engine-turned precision is lost at once. Out come all his roughness, all his dulness, all his incapability; shame upon shame, failure upon failure, pause after pause: but out comes the whole majesty of him also; and we know the height of it only when we see the clouds settling upon him.
    • Volume II, chapter VI, section 12
  • We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the great civilized invention of the division of labour; only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that it divided; but the men: — Divided into mere segments of men — broken into small fragments and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail. Now it is a good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins in a day; but if we could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished, — sand of human soul, much to be magnified before it can be discerned for what it is — we should think that there might be some loss in it also. And the great cry that rises from our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all in very deed for this, — that we manufacture everything there except men; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, to strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters into our estimate of advantages. And all the evil to which that cry is urging our myriads can be met only in one way: not by teaching nor preaching, for to teach them is but to show them their misery, and to preach at them, if we do nothing more than preach, is to mock at it. It can only be met by a right understanding, on the part of all classes, of what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them, and making them happy; by a determined sacrifice of such convenience or beauty, or cheapness as is to be got only by the degradation of the workman; and by equally determined demand for the products and results of healthy and ennobling labour.
    • Volume II, chapter VI, section 16
  • We are to remember, in the first place, that the arrangement of colours and lines is an art analogous to the composition of music, and entirely independent of the representation of facts. Good colouring does not necessarily convey the image of anything but itself. It consists of certain proportions and arrangements of rays of light, but not in likeness to anything. A few touches of certain greys and purples laid by a master's hand on white paper will be good colouring; as more touches are added beside them, we may find out that they were intended to represent a dove's neck, and we may praise, as the drawing advances, the perfect imitation of the dove's neck. But the good colouring does not consist in that imitation, but in the abstract qualities and relations of the grey and purple.
    • Volume II, chapter VI, section 42
  • The world is full of vulgar Purists, who bring discredit on all selection by the silliness of their choice; and this the more, because the very becoming a Purist is commonly indicative of some slight degree of weakness, readiness to be offended, or narrowness of understanding of the ends of things.
    • Volume II, chapter VI, section 62
  • The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances, and demonstrations for impressions.
    • Volume III
  • He who has the truth at his heart need never fear the want of persuasion on his tongue.
    • Volume III, chapter II, section 99

Modern Painters (1843-1860)

The infinity of God is not mysterious, it is only unfathomable; not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure unsearchable sea.
The word "Blue" does not mean the sensation caused by a gentian on the human eye; but it means the power of producing that sensation: and this power is always there, in the thing, whether we are there to experience it or not...
All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the "Pathetic Fallacy."
To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one.
Be a plain topographer if you possibly can; if Nature meant you to be anything else, she will force you to it; but never try to be a prophet.
  • He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the sum of his works, the greatest number of the greatest ideas.
    • Volume I, part I, chapter II, section 9 (1843)
  • The infinity of God is not mysterious, it is only unfathomable; not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure unsearchable sea.
    • Volume II, part III, chapter V (1846)
  • There is never vulgarity in a whole truth, however commonplace. It may be unimportant or painful. It cannot be vulgar. Vulgarity is only in concealment of truth, or in affectation.
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter VII (1856)
  • The word "Blue" does not mean the sensation caused by a gentian on the human eye; but it means the power of producing that sensation: and this power is always there, in the thing, whether we are there to experience it or not, and would remain there though there were not a man left on the face of the earth.
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter XII (1856)
  • All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the "Pathetic Fallacy."
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter XII (1856)
  • And thus, in full, there are four classes: the men who feel nothing, and therefore see truly; the men who feel strongly, think weakly, and see untruly (second order of poets); the men who feel strongly, think strongly, and see truly (first order of poets); and the men who, strong as human creatures can be, are yet submitted to influences stronger than they, and see in a sort untruly, because what they see is inconceivably above them. This last is the usual condition of prophetic inspiration.
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter XII (1856)
  • It is only the basest writer who cannot speak of the sea without talking of "raging waves," "remorseless floods," "ravenous billows," etc.; and it is one of the signs of the highest power in a writer to check all such habits of thought, and to keep his eyes fixed firmly on the pure fact, out of which if any feeling comes to him or his reader, he knows it must be a true one.
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter XII (1856)
  • The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one.
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter XVI (1856)
  • To invent a story, or admirably and thoroughly tell any part of a story, it is necessary to grasp the entire mind of every personage concerned in it, and know precisely how they would be affected by what happens; which to do requires a colossal intellect: but to describe a separate emotion delicately, it is only needed that one should feel it oneself; and thousands of people are capable of feeling this or that noble emotion, for one who is able to enter into all the feelings of someone sitting on the other side of the table.
    • Volume III, part IV, chapter XVI (1856)
  • In general, when the imagination is at all noble, it is irresistible, and therefore those who can at all resist it ought to resist it. Be a plain topographer if you possibly can; if Nature meant you to be anything else, she will force you to it; but never try to be a prophet.
    • Volume III, part V, chapter II (1856)
  • It is not possible to find a landscape, which if painted precisely as it is, will not make an impressive picture. No one knows, till he has tried, what strange beauty and subtle composition is prepared to his hand by Nature.
    • Volume III, part V, chapter II (1856)
  • In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.
    • Volume IV, part V, chapter III, section 22 (1856)
  • All true opinions are living, and show their life by being capable of nourishment; therefore of change. But their change is that of a tree — not of a cloud.
    • Volume V, Preface (1860)
  • Expression, sentiment, truth to nature, are essential: but all those are not enough. I never care to look at a picture again, if it be ill composed; and if well composed I can hardly leave off looking at it.
    • Volume V, part VIII, chapter I, section 2 (1860)
  • The power which causes the several portions of the plant to help each other, we call life. Much more is this so in an animal. We may take away the branch of a tree without much harm to it; but not the animal's limb. Thus, intensity of life is also intensity of helpfulness — completeness of depending of each part on all the rest. The ceasing of this help is what we call corruption; and in proportion to the perfectness of the help, is the dreadfulness of the loss. The more intense the life has been, the more terrible is its corruption.
    • Volume V, part VIII, chapter 1, section 4 (1860)
  • In painting as in eloquence, the greater your strength, the quieter your manner.
    • Volume V, part VIII, chapter III (1860)
  • Other men used their effete faiths and mean faculties with a high moral purpose. The Venetian gave the most earnest faith, and the lordliest faculty, to gild the shadows of an antechamber, or heighten the splendours of a holiday.
    • Volume V, part IX, chapter III, section 52 (1860)
  • A monk of La Trappe, a French soldier of the Imperial Guard, and a thriving mill-owner, supposing each a type, and no more than a type, of his class, are all interesting specimens of humanity, but narrow ones, — so narrow that even all the three together would not make up a perfect man.
    • Volume V, part IX, chapter XI (1860)
  • There are, indeed, two forms of discontent: one laborious, the other indolent and complaining. We respect the man of laborious desire, but let us not suppose that his restlessness is peace, or his ambition meekness. It is because of the special connection of meekness with contentment that it is promised that the meek shall "inherit the earth." Neither covetous men, nor the Grave, can inherit anything; they can but consume. Only contentment can possess.
    • Volume V, part IX, chapter XI (1860)

Unto This Last (1860)

That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings...
  • “I choose my physician and my clergyman, thus indicating my sense of the quality of their work.” By all means, also, choose your bricklayer; that is the proper reward of the good workman, to be “chosen.” The natural and right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate, but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed. The false, unnatural, and destructive system is when the bad workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, and either take the place of the good, or force him by his competition to work for an inadequate sum.
    • Essay I: "The Roots of Honour," section 29
  • Suppose any person to be put in possession of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants? In order that he may be able to have servants, some one in his neighbourhood must be poor, and in want of his gold — or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and forced to content himself with a poor man's portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert of waste land, trampled by wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock at himself by calling "his own."
    • Essay II: "The Veins of Wealth," section 29
  • Inequalities of wealth, unjustly established, have assuredly injured the nation in which they exist during their establishment; and, unjustly directed, they injure it yet more during their existence. But inequalities of wealth justly established, benefit the nation in the course of their establishment; and, nobly used, aid it yet more by their existence.
    • Essay II: page 280.
  • And with respect to the mode in which these general principles affect the secure possession of property, so far am I from invalidating such security, that the whole gist of these papers will be found ultimately to aim at an extension in its range; and whereas it has long been known and declared that the poor have no right to the property of the rich, I wish it also to be known and declared that the rich have no right to the property of the poor.
    • Essay III: "Qui Judicatis Terram," section 54
  • There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.
    • Essay IV: "Ad Valorem," section 77

Lectures on Art (1870)

Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.
  • Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.
    • Lecture III
  • The secret of language is the secret of sympathy and its full charm is possible only to the gentle.
    • Lecture III
  • The entire vitality of art depends upon its being either full of truth, or full of use; and that, however pleasant, wonderful, or impressive it may be in itself, it must yet be of inferior kind, and tend to deeper inferiority, unless it has clearly one of these main objects, — either to state a true thing, or to adorn a serviceable one.
    • Lecture IV

The Eagle's Nest (1872)

  • In all base schools of art, the craftsman is dependent for his bread on originality; that is to say, on finding in himself some fragment of isolated faculty, by which his work may be distinct from that of other men. We are ready enough to take delight in our little doings, without any such stimulus; — what must be the effect of the popular applause which continually suggests that the little thing we can separately do is as excellent as it is singular; and what the effect of the bribe, held out to us through the whole of life, to produce — it being also in our peril not to produce — something different from the work of our neighbors?
    • Lecture II, section 32
  • We shall be remembered in history as the most cruel, and therefore the most unwise, generation of men that ever yet troubled the earth: — the most cruel in proportion to their sensibility, — the most unwise in proportion to their science. No people, understanding pain, ever inflicted so much: no people, understanding facts, ever acted on them so little.
    • Lecture II, section 35
  • What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures.
    • Lecture V, section 82
  • Ignorance, which is contented and clumsy, will produce what is imperfect, but not offensive. But ignorance discontented and dexterous, learning what it cannot understand, and imitating what it cannot enjoy, produces the most loathsome forms of manufacture that can disgrace or mislead humanity.
    • Lecture V, section 88

Fors Clavigera (1871-1878 and 1880-1884)

I am far more provoked at being thought foolish by foolish people, than pleased at being thought sensible by sensible people; and the average proportion of the numbers of each is not to my advantage.
  • You think it a great triumph to make the sun draw brown landscapes for you! That was also a discovery, and some day may be useful. But the sun had drawn landscapes before for you, not in brown, but in green, and blue, and all imaginable colours, here in England. Not one of you ever looked at them, then; not one of you cares for the loss of them, now, when you have shut the sun out with smoke, so that he can draw nothing more, except brown blots through a hole in a box. There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the vale of Tempe; you might have seen the Gods there morning and evening, — Apollo and all the sweet Muses of the Light — walking in fair procession on the lawns of it, and to and fro among the pinnacles of its crags. You cared neither for Gods nor grass, but for cash (which you did not know the way to get); you thought you could get it by what the Times calls "Railroad Enterprise." You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley — you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange — you Fools Everywhere.
  • An unimaginative person can neither be reverent nor kind.
    • Fors Clavigera, letter xxxiv (October 1873)
  • I am far more provoked at being thought foolish by foolish people, than pleased at being thought sensible by sensible people; and the average proportion of the numbers of each is not to my advantage.
    • Fors Clavigera, letter xxxvii, (1874-01-01)
  • Human work must be done thoroughly and honourably because we are now men; whether we ever expect to be angels, or ever were slugs, being practically no matter.


  • There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.
    • According to Ruskin scholar George P. Landow, there is no evidence that this quotation or its variants can be found in any of Ruskin's works. [1]
  • It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.

Quotes about Ruskin

  • The truth of infinite value that he teaches is realism — the doctrine that all truth and beauty are to be attained by a humble and faithful study of nature, and not by substituting vague forms, bred by imagination on the mists of feeling, in place of definite, substantial reality. The thorough acceptance of this doctrine would remould our life; and he who teaches its application to any one department of human activity with such power as Mr Ruskin's, is a prophet for his generation.
  • Ruskin's special gift was the feeling for beauty, in nature as in art. It was in Beauty that his nature led him to seek reality, and his entirely religious life received from it an entirely aesthetic use. But this Beauty to which he thus happened to dedicate his life was not conceived by him as an object of enjoyment made to charm, but as a reality infinitely more important than life, for which he would have given his own life. From this, as you will see, the whole aesthetic system of Ruskin follows. First, you will understand that the years when he became acquainted with a new school of architecture or of painting were the principal landmarks in the development of his ethics. He would speak of the years when Gothic art presented itself to him with the same gravity, the same emotional nostalgia, the same serenity with which a Christian speaks of the day the truth was revealed to him.
    • Marcel Proust, preface to La Bible d'Amiens (1904), Proust's translation of Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens; from Marcel Proust: On Reading Ruskin (Yale University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-300-04503-4), trans. Jean Autret and Philip J. Wolfe, pp. 33-34
  • As an artist in prose he is one of the most miraculous products of the extremely poetical genius of England. The length of a Ruskin sentence is like that length in the long arrow that was boasted of by the drawers of the bow. He draws, not a cloth-yard shaft but a long lance to his ear: he shoots a spear. But the whole goes light as a bird and straight as a bullet.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913), ch. I: The Victorian Compromise and Its Enemies
  • The point and stab of his challenge still really stands and sticks, like a dagger in a dead man.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913), ch. I: The Victorian Compromise and Its Enemies
  • I cannot therefore claim much book knowledge. However, I believe I have not lost much because of this enforced restraint. On the contrary, the limited reading may be said to have enabled me thoroughly to digest what I did read. Of these books, the one that brought about an instantaneous and practical transformation in my life was Unto This Last. I translated it later into Gujarati, entitling it Sarvodaya (the welfare of all). I believe that I discovered some of my deepest convictions reflected in this great book of Ruskin, and that is why it so captured me and made me transform my life. A poet is one who can call forth the good latent in the human breast. Poets do not influence all alike, for everyone is not evolved in a equal measure. The teaching of Unto This Last I understood to be:

    1. That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.
    2. That a lawyer's work has the same value as the barber's inasmuch as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work.
    3. That a life of labour, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.

    The first of these I knew. The second I had dimly realized. The third had never occurred to me. Unto This Last made it as clear as daylight for me that the second and the third were contained in the first. I arose with the dawn, ready to reduce these principles to practice.

  • The style in which page after page of Modern Painters is written takes our breath away. We find ourselves marvelling at the words, as if all the fountains of the English language had been set playing in the sunlight for our pleasure, but it seems scarcely fitting to ask what meaning they have for us. After a time, falling into a passion with this indolent pleasure-loving temper in his readers, Ruskin checked his fountains, and curbed his speech to the very spirited, free and almost colloquial English in which Fors Clavigera and Praeterita are written. In these changes, and in the restless play of his mind upon one subject after another, there is something, we scarcely know how to define it, of the wealthy and cultivated amateur, full of fire and generosity and brilliance, who would give all he possesses of wealth and brilliance to be taken seriously, but who is fated to remain for ever an outsider.
    • Virginia Woolf, "Ruskin," from The Captain's Death Bed and Other Essays (1950)
  • Changes in the structure of society are not brought about solely by massive engines of doctrine. The first flash of insight which persuades human beings to change their basic assumptions is usually contained in a few phrases. Poets may not be "the unacknowledged legislators of the world"; but Ruskin, like Rousseau, changed the world by a vision which has the intensity and innocence of poetry.
    • Kenneth Clark, Ruskin Today (1964), section 5: A Note on Ruskin's Writings on Society and Economics

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN RUSKIN (1819-1900), English writer and critic, was born in London, at Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, on the 8th of February 1819, being the only child of John James Ruskin and Margaret Cox. They were Scots, first cousins, the grandchildren of a certain John Ruskin of Edinburgh (1732-1780). In Praeterita the author professes small knowledge of his ancestry. But the memoirs published on the authority of the family trace their descent to the Adairs and Agnews of Galloway. In this family tree are men famous in arms and in the public service: Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw, Admiral Sir John Ross, Field-Marshal Sir Hew Dalrymple Ross, Dr John Adair, in whose arms Wolfe died at Quebec, and the Rev. W. Tweddale of Glenluce, to whom the original Covenant, now in the Glasgow Museum, had been confided. The name Ruskin is said to be a variant of Erskine, or Roskeen, or Rogerkin, and even Roughskin. It is more probably Rusking, an Anglian family, which passed northwards and became Ruskyn, Rusken and Ruskin.

John Ruskin, the author's grandfather, a handsome lad of twenty, ran away with Catherine Tweddale, daughter of the Covenanting minister and of Catherine Adair, then a beautiful girl of sixteen. He settled in Edinburgh and engaged in the wine trade, lived liberally in the cultivated society of the city, lost his health and his fortune, and ended his days in debt. His son, John James Ruskin (1785-1864), father of the author, was sent to the High School at Edinburgh under Dr A. Adam, received a sound classical education, and was well advised by his friend Dr Thomas Brown, the eminent metaphysician. When of age, John James was sent to London to enter the wine trade. There, in 1809, he founded the sherry business of Ruskin, Telford & Domecq; Domecq being proprietor of a famous vineyard in Spain, Telford contributing the capital of the firm, and Ruskin having sole control of the business. John James Ruskin, a typical Scot, of remarkable energy, probity and foresight, built up a great business, paid off his father's debts, formed near London a most hospitable and cultured home, where he maintained his taste for literature and art, and lived and died, as his son proudly wrote upon his tomb, "an entirely honest merchant." He was also a man of strong brain, generous nature and fine taste. After a delay of nine years, having at last obtained an adequate income, he married his cousin, Margaret Cox, who had already lived for eighteen years with his mother, the widow of John Ruskin of Edinburgh. When this marriage of the two cousins, who had known each other all their lives, took place in 1818, neither of them was young. John James was thirty-three and Margaret was thirty-seven. In the following year (8th February 1819) their only child, John, was born in Hunter Street, London.

Margaret Ruskin, the author's mother, was a handsome,. strong, stern, able, devoted woman of the old Puritan school, Calvinist in religion, unsparing of herself and others, rigid in her ideas of duty, proud, reserved and ungracious. She was the daughter of Captain Cox, of Yarmouth, master mariner in the herring fishery, who died young; whereupon his widow maintained herself as landlady of the King's Head Inn at Croydon. Her younger daughter married Mr Richardson, a baker, of Croydon; the elder, Margaret, married John James Ruskin. Jessie, a sister of John James, married Peter Richardson, a tanner, of Perth, so that the author had cousins of two Richardson families, unconnected with each other. In his own memoirs he speaks much more of these than of any Ruskins, Tweddales, Adairs or Agnews. The child was brought up under a rigid system of nursing, physical, moral and intellectual; kept without toys, not seldom whipped, watched day and night, but trained from infancy in music, drawing, reading aloud and observation of natural objects. When. he was four the family removed to a house on Herne Hill, then a country village, with a garden and rural surroundings. The father, who made long tours on business, took his wife, child and nurse year after year across England as far as Cumberland and Scotland, visiting towns, cathedrals, castles, colleges, parks, mountains and lakes. At five the child was taken to Keswick; at six to Paris, Brussels and Waterloo; at seven to Perthshire. At fourteen he was taken through Flanders, along the Rhine, and through the Black Forest to Switzerland, where he first imbibed his dominant passion for the Alps. His youth was largely passed in systematic travelling in search of everything beautiful in nature or in art. And to one so precocious, stimulated by a parent of much culture, ample means and great ambition, this resulted in an almost unexampled aesthetic education. In childhood also he began a systematic practice of composition, both in prose and verse. His mother trained him in reading the Bible, of which he read through every chapter of every book year by year; and to this study he justly attributes his early command of language and his pure sense of style. His father read to him Shakespeare, Scott, Don Quixote, Pope and Byron, and most of the great. English classics; and his attention was especially turned to the formation of sentences and to the rhythm of prose. He began to compose both in prose and verse as soon as he had learned to read and write, both of which arts he taught himself by the eye.

His first letter is dated 1823, when he was only four. In it he corrects his aunt, who had put up the wooden pillars of his Waterloo bridge "upside down." At five he was a bookworm. At seven he began a work in four volumes, with "copper-plates printed and composed by a little boy, and also drawn." His first poem, correct in rhyme and form,, was written before he was seven. At nine he began "Eudosia, a poem of the Universe." From that year until his Newdigate Prize, at the age of twenty, he wrote enormous quantities. of verse, and began dramas, romances and imitations of Byron, Pope, Scott and Shelley. What remain of these effusions have no special quality except good sense, refined feeling, accuracy of phrase, and a curious correctness of accent and rhythm. Of true poetry in the higher sense there is hardly a single line.

His schooling was irregular and not successful. At the age of eleven he was taught Latin and Greek by Dr Andrews, a scholar of Glasgow University. About the same time he had lessons in drawing and in oil painting from Runciman. French and Euclid were taught by Rowbotham. At fifteen he was sent for two years to the day-school of the Rev. T. Dale of Peckham, and at seventeen he attended some courses in_ literature at King's College, London. In painting he had lessons from Copley Fielding and afterwards from J. D. Harding. But in the incessant travelling, drawing, collecting specimens and composition in prose and verse he had gained but a very moderate classical and mathematical knowledge when he matriculated at Oxford; nor could he ever learn to write tolerable Latin. As a boy he was active, lively and docile; a good walker, but ignorant of all boyish games, as naïf and as innocent as a child; and he never could learn to dance or to ride. He was only saved by his intellect and his fine nature from turning out an arrant prig. He was regarded by his parents, and seems to have regarded himself, as a genius. As a child he had been "a savant in petticoats"; as a boy he was a poet in breeches. At the age of seventeen he saw Adele, the French daughter of Monsieur Domecq, Mr Ruskin's partner, a lovely girl of fifteen. John fell rapturously in love with her; and, it seems, the two fathers seriously contemplated their marriage. The young poet wooed the girl with poems, romances, dramas and mute worship, but received nothing except chilling indifference and lively ridicule. To the gay young beauty, familiar with Parisian society, the raw and serious youth was not a possible parti. She was sent to an English school, and he occasionally saw her. His unspoken passion lasted about three years, when she married the Baron Duquesne. Writing as an old man, long after her death, Ruskin speaks of his early love without any sort of rapture. But it is clear that it deeply coloured his life, and led to the dangerous illness which for some two years interrupted his studies and made him a wanderer over Europe.

As the father was resolved that John should have everything that money and pains could give, and was one day to be a bishop at least, he entered him at Christ Church, Oxford, as a gentleman-commoner - then an order reserved for men of wealth and rank. Ruskin's Oxford career, broken by the two years passed abroad, was not very full of incident or of usefulness. Though he never became either a scholar or a mathematician, he did enough accurate work to be placed in the honorary fourth class both in classics and in mathematics. By the young bloods of the "House" he was treated pleasantly as a raw outsider of genius. By some of the students and tutors, by Liddell, Newton, Acland and others, he was regarded as a youth of rare promise, and he made some lifelong friendships with men of mark and of power. Both he and his college took kindly the amazing proceeding of his mother, who left her husband and her home to reside in Oxford, that she might watch over her son's health. The one success of his Oxford career was the winning the Newdigate Prize by his poem "Salsette and Elephanta," which he recited in the Sheldonian Theatre (June 1839). Two years of ill-health and absence from home ensued. And he did not become "a Graduate of Oxford" until 1842, in his twenty-fourth year, five years after his first entrance at the university. In fact, his desultory school and college life had been little more than an interruption and hindrance to his real education - the study of nature, of art and of literature. Long before Ruskin published books he had appeared in print. In March 1834, when he was but fifteen, Loudon's Magazine of Natural History published an essay of his on the strata of mountains and an inquiry as to the colour of the Rhine. He then wrote for Loudon's Magazine of Architecture, and verses of his were inserted in Messrs Smith & Elder's Friendship's Of f ering, by the editor, T. Pringle, who took the lad to see the poet Rogers. At seventeen he wrote for Blackwood a defence of Turner, which the painter, to whom it was first submitted, did not take the trouble to forward to the magazine. At eighteen he wrote a series of papers, signed Kata Phusin, i.e. " after Nature," for Loudon's Magazine, on "The Poetry of Architecture." In 1838 (he was then nineteen) Mr Loudon wrote to the father, "Your son is the greatest natural genius that ever it has been my fortune to become acquainted with." Having recovered his health and spirits by care and foreign travel, and having taken his degree and left Oxford, Ruskin set to work steadily at Herne Hill on the more elaborate defence of Turner, which was to become his first work. Modern Painters, vol. i., by "a Graduate of Oxford," was published May 1843, when the author was little more than twenty-four. It produced a great and immediate sensation. It was vehemently attacked by the critics, and coolly received by the painters. Even Turner was somewhat disconcerted; but the painter was now known to both Ruskins, and they freely bought his pictures. The family then went again to the Alps, that John might study mountain formation and "Truth" in landscape. In 1845 he was again abroad in Italy, working on his Modern Painters, the second volume of which appeared in 1846. He had now plunged into the study of Bellini and the Venetian school, Fra Angelico and the early Tuscans, and he visited Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Padua, Verona and Venice, passionately devoting himself to architecture, sculpture and painting in each city of north Italy. He wrote a few essays for the Quarterly Review and other periodicals, and in 184 9 (aet. 30) he published The Seven Lamps of Architecture, with his own etchings, which greatly increased the reputation acquired by his Modern Painters. On the 10th of April 1848, a day famous in the history of Chartism, Ruskin was married at Perth to Euphemia Chalmers Gray, a lady of great beauty, of a family long intimate with the Ruskins. The marriage, we are told, was arranged by the parents of the pair, and was a somewhat hurried act. It was evidently ill-assorted, and brought no happiness to either. They travelled, lived in London, saw society, and attended a "Drawing-room" at Buckingham Palace. But Ruskin, immersed in various studies and projects, was no husband for a brilliant woman devoted to society. No particulars of their life have been made public. In 1854 his wife left him, obtained a nullification of the marriage under Scots law, and ultimately became the wife of John Everett Millais. John Ruskin returned to his parents, with whom he resided till their death; and neither his marriage nor the annulling of it seems to have affected seriously his literary career.

Ruskin's architectural studies, of which The Seven Lamps was the first fruit, turned him from Turner and Modern Painters. He planned a book about Venice in 1845, and The Stones of Venice was announced in 1849 as in preparation. After intense study in Italy and at home, early in 1851 (the year of the Great Exhibition in London) the first volume of The Stones of Venice appeared (aet. 32). It was by no means a mere antiquarian and artistic study. It was a concrete expansion of the ideas of The Seven Lamps - that the buildings and art of a people are the expression of their religion, their morality, their national aspirations and social habits. It was, as Carlyle wrote to the author, "a sermon in stones," "a singular sign of the times," "a new Renaissance." It appeared in the same year with the Construction of Sheepfolds - a plea for the reunion of Christian churches - in the same year with the essay on Pre-Raphaelitism, the year of Turner's death (19th December). The Stones of Venice was illustrated with engravings by some of the most refined artists of his time. The author spent a world of pains in having these brought up to the highest perfection of the reproductive art, and began the system of exquisite illustration, and those facsimiles of his own and other sketches, which make his works rank so high in the catalogues and price-lists of collectors. This delicate art was carried even farther in the later volumes of Modern Painters by the school of engravers whom Ruskin inspired and gathered round him. And these now rare and coveted pieces remain to rebuke us for our modern preference for the mechanical and unnatural chiaroscuro of photogravure - the successor and destroyer of the graver's art. Although Ruskin was practised in drawing from the time that he could hold a pencil, and had lessons in painting from some eminent artists, he at no time attempted to paint pictures. He said himself that he was unable to compose a picture, and he never sought to produce anything that he would call a work of original art. His drawings, of which he produced an enormous quantity, were always intended by himself to be studies or memoranda of buildings or natural objects precisely as they appeared to his eye. Clouds, mountains, landscapes, towers, churches, trees, flowers and herbs were drawn with wonderful precision, minuteness of detail and delicacy of hand, solely to recall some specific aspect of nature or art, of which he wished to retain a record. In his gift for recording the most subtle characters of architectural carvings and details, Ruskin has hardly been surpassed by the most distinguished painters.

In 1853 The Stones of Venice was completed at Herne Hill, and he began a series of Letters and Notes on pictures and architecture. In this year (aet. 34) he opened the long series of public lectures wherein he came forward as an oral teacher and preacher, not a little to the alarm of his parents and amidst a storm of controversy. The Edinburgh Lectures (November 1853) treated Architecture, Turner, and Pre-Raphaelitism. The Manchester Lectures (July 1857) treated the moral and social uses of art, now embodied in A Joy for Ever. Some other lectures are reprinted in On the Old Road and The Two Paths (1859). These lectures did not prevent the issue of various Notes on the Royal Academy pictures and the Turner collections; works on the Harbours of England (1856); on the Elements of Drawing (18J7); the Elements of Perspective (1859); and at last, after prolonged labour, the fifth and final volume of Modern Painters was published in 1860 (aet. 41). This marks an epoch in the career of John Ruskin; and the year 1860 closed the series of his works on art strictly so called; indeed, this was the last of his regular works in substantial form. The last forty years of his life .. were devoted to expounding his views, or rather his doctrines, on social and industrial problems, on education, morals and religion, wherein art becomes an incidental and instrumental means to a higher and more spiritual life. And his teaching was embodied in an enormous series of Lectures, Letters, Articles, Selections and serial pamphlets. These are now collected in upwards of thirty volumes in the final edition. The entire set of Ruskin's publications amounts to more than fifty works having distinctive titles. For some years before 1860 Ruskin had been deeply stirred by reflecting on the condition of all industrial work and the evils of modern society. His lectures on art had dealt bitterly with the mode in which buildings and other works were produced. In 1854 he joined Mr F. D. Maurice, Mr T. Hughes, and several of the new school of painters, in teaching classes at the Working Men's College. But it was not until 1860 that he definitely began to propound a new social scheme, denouncing the dogmas of political economy. Four lectures on this topic appeared in the Cornhill Magazine until the public disapproval led the editor, then W. M. Thackeray, to close the series. They were published in 1862 as Unto this Last. In the same year he wrote four papers in the same sense in Fraser's Magazine, then edited by J. A. Froude; but he in turn was compelled to suspend the issue. They were completed and ultimately issued under the title Munera Pulveris. These two small books contain the earliest and most systematic of all Ruskin's efforts to depict a new social Utopia: they contain a vehement repudiation of the orthodox formulas of the economists; and they are for the most part written in a trenchant but simple style, in striking contrast to the florid and discursive form of his works on art.

In 1864 Ruskin's father died, at the age of 79, leaving his son a large fortune and a fine property at Denmark Hill. John still lived there with his mother, aged 83, infirm, and failing in sight, to whom came as a companion their cousin, Joanna Ruskin Agnew, afterwards Mrs Arthur Severn. At the end of the year 1864 Ruskin delivered at Manchester a new series of lectures - not on art, but on reading, education, woman's work and social morals - the expansion of his earlier treatises on economic sophisms. This afterwards was included with a Dublin lecture of 1868 under the fantastic title of Sesame and Lilies (perhaps the most popular of his social essays), of which 44,000 copies were issued down to 1900. He made this, in 1871, the first volume of his collected lectures and essays, the more popular and didactic form of his new Utopia of human life. It contains, with Fors, the most complete sketch of his conception of the place of woman in modern society. In the very characteristic preface to the new edition of 1871 he proposes never to reprint his earlier works on art; disclaims many of the views they contained, and much in their literary form; and specially regrets the narrow Protestantism by which they were pervaded. In the year 1866 he published a little book about girls, and written for girls, a mixture of morals, theology, economics and geology, under the title of Ethics of the Dust; and this was followed by a more important and popular work, The Crown of Wild Olive. This in its ultimate form contained lectures on "Work," "Traffic," "War," and the "Future of England." It was one of his most trenchant utterances, full of fancy, wit, eloquence and elevated thought. But a more serious volume was Time and Tide (1867), a series of twenty-five letters to a workman of Sunderland, upon various points in the Ruskinian Utopia. This little collection of "Thoughts," written with wonderful vivacity, ingenuity and fervour, is the best summary of the author's social and economic programme, and contains some of his wisest and finest thoughts in the purest and most masculine English that he had at his command. In 1869 he issued the Queen of the Air, lectures on Greek myths, a subject he now took up, with some aid from the late Sir C. Newton. It was followed by some other occasional pieces; and in the same year he was elected Slade professor of art in the university of Oxford. He now entered on his professorial career, which continued with some intervals down to 1884, and occupied a large part of his energies. His lectures began in February 1870, and were so crowded that they had to be given in the Sheldonian Theatre, and frequently were repeated to a second audience. He was made honorary fellow of Corpus Christi, and occupied rooms in the college. In 1871 his mother died, at the age of 90, and his cousin, Miss Agnew, married Mr Arthur Severn. In that year he bought from Mr Linton, Brantwood, an old cottage and property on Coniston Lake, a lovely spot facing the mountain named the Old Man. He added greatly to the house and property, and lived in it continuously until his death in 1900. In 1871, one of the most eventful years of his life, be began Fors Clavigera, a small serial addressed to the working men of England, and published only by Mr George Allen, engraver, at Keston, in Kent, at 7d., and afterwards at 10d., but without discount, and not through the trade. This was a medley of social, moral and religious reflections interspersed with casual thoughts about persons, events and art. Fors means alternatively Fate, Force or Chance, bearing the Clavis, Club, Key or Nail, i.e. power, patience and law. It was a desultory exposition of the Ruskinian ideal of life, manners and society, full of wit, play, invective and sermons on things in general. It was continued with intervals down to 1884, and contained ninety-six letters or pamphlets, partly illustrated, which originally filled eight volumes and are now reduced to four.

The early years of his Oxford professorship were occupied by severe labour, sundry travels, attacks of illness and another cruel disappointment in love. In spite of this, he lectured, founded a museum of art, to which he gave pictures and drawings and £5000; he sought to form at Oxford a school of drawing;. he started a model shop for the sale of tea, and model lodgings. in Marylebone for poor tenants. At Oxford he set his pupils to work on making roads to improve the country. He now founded "St George's Guild," himself contributing £7000, the object of which was to form a model industrial and social movement, to buy lands, mills and factories, and to start a model industry on co-operative or Socialist lines. In connexion with this was a museum for the study of art and science at Sheffield. Ruskin himself endowed the museum with works of art and money; a full account of it has been given in Mr E. T. Cook's Studies in Ruskin (1890), which contains the particulars of his university lectures and of his economic and social experiments. It is unnecessary to follow out the history of these somewhat unpromising attempts. None of them came to much good, except the Sheffield museum, which is an established success, and is now transferred to the town. In Fors, which was continued month by month for seven years, Ruskin poured out his thoughts, proposals and rebukes on society and persons with inexhaustible fancy, wit, eloquence and freedom, until he was attacked with a violent brain malady in the spring of 1878 (aet. 59); and, although he recovered in a few months sufficiently to do some occasional work, he resigned his professorship early in 1879. The next three years he spent at Brantwood, mainly in retirement, and unhappy in finding nearly all his labours interrupted by his broken health. In 1880 he was able to travel in northern France, and began the Bible of Amiens, finished in 1885; and he issued occasional numbers of Fors, the last of which appeared at Christmas 1884. In 1882 he had another serious illness, with inflammation of the brain; but he recovered sufficiently to travel to his old haunts in France and Italy - his last visit. And in the following year he was re-elected professor at Oxford and resumed his lectures; but increasing brain excitement, and indignation at the establishment of a laboratory to which vivisection was admitted, led him to resign his Oxford career, and he retired in 1884 to Brantwood, which he never left. He now suffered from frequent attacks of brain irritation and exhaustion, and had many causes of sorrow and disappointment. His lectures were published at intervals from 1870 to 1885 in Aratra Pentelici, The Eagle's Nest, Love's Heinle, Ariadne Florentina, Val d'Arno, Proserpina, Deucalion, The Laws of Fesole, The Bible of Amiens, The Art of England and The Pleasures of England, together with a series of pamphlets, letters, articles, notes, catalogues and circulars.

In the retirement of Brantwood he began his last work, Praeterita, a desultory autobiography with personal anecdotes and reminiscences. He was again attacked with the same mental malady in 1885, which henceforth left him fit only for occasional letters and notes. In 1887 it was found that he had exhausted (spent, and given away) the whole of the fortune he had received from his father, amounting, it is said, to something like £200,000; and he was dependent on the vast and increasing sale of his works, which produced an average income of £4000 a year, and at times on the sale of his pictures and realizable property. In 1872 a correspondent had remonstrated with him in vain as to taking "usury," i.e. interest on capital lent to others for use. In 1874 Ruskin himself had begun to doubt its lawfulness. In 1876 he fiercely assailed the practice of receiving interest or rent, and he henceforth lived on his capital, which he gave freely to friends, dependants, public societies, charitable and social objects. The course of his opinions and his practice is fully explained in successive letters in Fors. Until 1889 he continued to write chapters of Praeterita, which was designed to record memories of his life down to the year 1875 (aet. 56). It was, in fact, only completed in regular series down to 1858 (aet. 39), with a separate chapter as to Mrs Arthur Severn, and a fragment called Dilecta, containing letters and early recollections of friends, especially of Turner. These two books were published between 1885 and 1889; and except for occasional letters, notes and prefaces, they form the last writings of the author of Modern Painters. His literary career thus extends over fifty years. But he has left nothing more graceful, naïve and pathetic than his early memories in Praeterita - a book which must rank with the most famous "Confessions" in any literature. The last ten years of his life were passed in complete retirement at Brantwood, in the loving care of the Severn family, to whom the estate was transferred, with occasional visits from friends, but with no sustained work beyond correspondence, the revision of his works, and a few notes and prefatory words to the books of others. He wished to withdraw his early art writings from circulation, but the public demand made this practically impossible. And now the whole of his writings are under the control of Mr George Allen, in several forms and prices, including a cheap series at 5s. per volume.

The close of his life was one of entire peace and honour. He was loaded with the degrees of the universities and membership of numerous societies and academies. "Ruskin Societies" were founded in many parts of the kingdom. His works were translated and read abroad, and had an enormous circulation in Great Britain and the United States. Many volumes about his career and opinions were issued in his lifetime both at home and abroad. His Both birthday, 8th February 1899, was celebrated by a burst of congratulations and addresses, both public and private. His strength failed gradually: his mind remained feeble but unclouded, and his spirit serene. An attack of influenza struck him down, and carried him off suddenly after only two days' illness, 10th January 1900. Hewas buried in Coniston churchyard by his own express wish, the family refusing.the offer of a grave in Westminster Abbey.

Ruskin's literary life may be arranged in three divisions. From. 1837 to 1860 (aet. 18 to 41) he was occupied mainly with the arts. From 1860 to 1871 (aet. 41 to 52) he was principally occupied with social problems. From 1871 to 1885 (aet. 52 to 66) he was again drawn back largely to art by his lectures as professor, whilst prosecuting his social Utopia by speech, pen, example and purse. But the essential break in his life was in 1860, which marks the close of his main works on art and the opening of his attempt found a new social gospel. With regard to his views of art, he himself modified and revised them from time to time; and it is admitted that some of his judgments are founded on imperfect study and personal bias. But the essence of his teaching has triumphed in effect, and has profoundly modified the views of artists, critics and the public, although it is but rarely accepted as complete or final. The moral of his teaching - that all living art requires truth, nature, purity, earnestness - has now become the axiom of all aesthetic work or judgment. John Ruskin founded the Reformation in Art.

With regard to his economic and social ideas there is far less. general concurrence, though the years that have passed since Unto this Last appeared have seen the practical overthrow of the rigid plutonomy which he denounced. So, too, the vague and sentimental socialism which pervades Munera Pulveris, Time and Tide and Fors is now very much in the air, and represents the aspirations of many energetic reformers. But the negative part of Ruskin's teaching on economics, social and political problems, has been much more effective than the positive part of his teaching. It must be admitted that nearly the whole of his practical experiments to realize his dreams have come to nothing, which is not. unnatural, seeing his defiance of the ordinary habits and standards of the world. A more serious defect was his practice of violently assailing philosophers, economists and men of science, of whom he knew almost nothing, and whom he perversely misunderstood: men such as Adam Smith, Comte, Mill, Spencer, Darwin and all who followed them. In art, Ruskin had enjoyed an unexampled training, which made him a consummate expert. In philosophy and science he was an amateur, seeking to found a new sociology and a Utopian polity out of his own inner consciousness and study of nature, of poetry and the Bible. It is not wonderful if, in doing this, he poured forth a quantity of crude conceits and some glaring blunders. But in the most Quixotic of his schemes, and the most Laputan of his theories, his pure and chivalrous nature, his marvellous insight into the heart of things and men, and his.. genius to seize on all that is true, real and noble in life, made his most startling proposals pregnant with meaning, and even his. casual play full of fascination and moral suggestion.

In mastery of prose language he has never been surpassed, when he chose to curb his florid imagination and his discursive eagerness of soul. The beauty and gorgeous imagery of his art works bore away the public from the first, in spite of their heretical dogmatism and their too frequent extravagance of rhetoric. But his later economic and social pieces, such as Unto this Last, Time and Tide, Sesame and Lilies, are composed in the purest and most lucid of English styles. And many of his simply technical and explanatory notes have the same quality. Towards the close of his life, in. Fors and in Praeterita, will be found passages of tenderness, charm and subtlety which have never been surpassed in our language.

Ruskin's life and writings have been the subject of many works composed by friends, disciples and admirers. The principal is the Life, by W. G. Collingwood, his friend, neighbour and secretary (1900). His pupil, Mr E. T. Cook, published his Studies in Ruskin in 1890, with full details of his career as professor. Mr J. A. Hobson, in John Ruskin, Social Reformer (2nd ed., 1899), has elaborately discussed his social and economic teaching, and claims him as "the greatest social teacher of his age." An analysis of his works has been written by Mrs Meynell (1900). His art theories have been discussed by Professor Charles Waldstein of Cambridge in The Work of John Ruskin (1894), by Robert de la Sizeranne in Ruskin et la religion de la beaute (1897), and by Professor H. J. Brunhes of Fribourg in Ruskin et la Bible (1901). The monumental "library edition" of Ruskin's works (begun in 1903), prepared by Mr E. T. Cook, with Mr A. Wedderburn, is the greatest of all the tributes. of literary admiration. (F. HA.)

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