The Life of John Ruskin eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 364 pages of information about The Life of John Ruskin.
nothing else in it,—­and there are all manner of things.  In power of expression I pronounce it to be supreme; never did anybody who had such things to explain explain them better.  And the bit of Egypt’n mythology, the cunning Dreams ab’t Pthah, Neith, etc., apart from their elucidative quality, wh’h is exquisite, have in them a poetry that might fill any Tennyson with despair.  You are very dramatic too; nothing wanting in the stage-direct’ns, in the pretty little indicat’ns:  a very pretty stage and dramatis personae altogeth’r.  Such is my first feeling ab’t y’r Book, dear R.—­Come soon, and I will tell you all the faults of it, if I gradually discover a great many.  In fact, come at any rate!

     “Y’rs ever,

     “T.  CARLYLE.”

The Real Little Housewives, to whom the book was dedicated, were not quite delighted—­at least, they said they were not—­at the portraits drawn of them, in their pinafores, so to speak, with some little hints at failings and faults which they recognised through the mask of dramatis personae. Miss “Kathleen” disclaimed the singing of “Vilikins and his Dinah,” and so on.  It is difficult to please everybody.  The public did not care about the book; the publisher hoped Mr. Ruskin would write no more dialogues:  and so it remained, little noticed, for twelve years.  In 1877 it was republished and found to be interesting, and in 1905 the 31st thousand (authorised English edition) had been issued.  At that time, however, Sesame and Lilies had run to 160,000 copies.

Winnington Hall, the scene of these pastimes, is now, I understand, used by Messrs. Brunner, Mond & Co. as a commonroom or clubhouse for the staff in their great scientific industry.



Mention has been made of an address to working men at the Camberwell Institute, January 24th, 1865.  This lecture was published in 1866, together with two others,[11] under the title of “The Crown of Wild Olive”—­that is to say, the reward of human work, a reward “which should have been of gold, had not Jupiter been so poor,” as Aristophanes said.

[Footnote 11:  Republished in 1873, with a fourth lecture added, and a Preface and notes on the political growth of Prussia, from Carlyle’s “Frederick.”]

True work, he said, meant the production (taking the word production in a broad sense) of the means of life; every one ought to take some share in it, according to his powers:  some working with the head, some with the hands; but all acknowledging idleness and slavery to be alike immoral.  And, as to the remuneration, he said, as he had said before in “Unto this Last,” Justice demands that equal energy expended should bring equal reward.  He did not consider it justice to cry out for the equalization of incomes, for some are sure to be more diligent and saving than others; some work involves a great preliminary expenditure of energy in qualifying the worker, as contrasted with unskilled labour.  But he did not allow that the possession of capital entitled a man to unearned increment; and he thought that, in a community where a truly civilized morality was highly developed, the general sense of society would recognise an average standard of work and an average standard of pay for each class.

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The Life of John Ruskin from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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