“ETHICS OF THE DUST” (1865)
Writing to his father from Manchester about the lecture of February 22, 1859—“The Unity of Art”—Ruskin mentions, among various people of interest whom he was meeting, such as Sir Elkanah Armitage and Mrs. Gaskell, how “Miss Bell and four young ladies came from Chester to hear me, and I promised to pay them a visit on my way home, to their apparent great contentment.”
The visit was paid on his way back from Yorkshire. He wrote:
“WINNINGTON, NORTHWICH, CHESHIRE.
“12 March, 1859.
“This is such a nice place that I am going to stay till Monday: an enormous old-fashioned house—full of galleries and up and down stairs—but with magnificently large rooms where wanted: the drawing-room is a huge octagon—I suppose at least forty feet high—like the tower of a castle (hung half way up all round with large and beautiful Turner and Raphael engravings) and with a baronial fireplace:—and in the evening, brightly lighted, with the groups of girls scattered round it, it is a quite beautiful scene in its way. Their morning chapel, too, is very interesting:—though only a large room, it is nicely fitted with reading desk and seats like a college chapel, and two pretty and rich stained-glass windows—and well-toned organ. They have morning prayers with only one of the lessons—and without the psalms: but singing the Te Deum or the other hymn—and other choral parts: and as out of the thirty-five or forty girls perhaps twenty-five or thirty have really available voices, well trained and divided, it was infinitely more beautiful than any ordinary church service—like the Trinita di Monte Convent service more than anything else, and must be very good for them, quite different in its effect on their minds from our wretched penance of college chapel.
“The house stands in a superb park, full of old trees and sloping down to the river; with a steep bank of trees on the other side; just the kind of thing Mrs. Sherwood likes to describe;—and the girls look all healthy and happy as can be, down to the little six-years-old ones, who I find know me by the fairy tale as the others do by my large books:—so I am quite at home.
“They have my
portrait in the library with three others—Maurice,
the Bp. of Oxford, and Archdeacon Hare,—so that I can’t but stay
with them over the Sunday.”
The principles of Winnington were advanced; the theology—Bishop Colenso’s daughter was among the pupils; the Bishop of Oxford had introduced Ruskin to the managers, who were pleased to invite the celebrated art-critic to visit whenever he travelled that way, whether to lecture at provincial towns, or to see his friends in the north, as he often used. And so between March 1859 and May 1868, after which the school was removed, he was a frequent visitor; and not only he, but other lions whom the ladies entrapped:—mention has been made in print (in “The Queen of the Air”) of Charles Halle, whom Ruskin met there in 1863, and greatly admired.