In children he took a warm and openly-expressed interest. He used to visit the school often, and delighted to give them a treat. On January 13th, 1881, he gave a dinner to 315 Coniston youngsters, and the tone of his address to his young guests is noteworthy as taken in connection with the drift of his religious tendency during this period. He dwelt on a verse of the Sunday School hymn they had been singing: “Jesu, here from sin deliver.” “That is what we want,” he said; “to be delivered from our sins. We must look to the Saviour to deliver us from our sin. It is right we should be punished for the sins which we have done; but God loves us, and wishes to be kind to us, and to help us, that we may not wilfully sin.”
At this time he used to take the family prayers himself at Brantwood: preparing careful notes for a Bible-reading, which sometimes, indeed, lasted longer than was convenient to the household; and writing collects for the occasion, still existing in manuscript, and deeply interesting as the prayers of a man who had passed through so many wildernesses of thought and doubt, and had returned at last—not to the fold of the Church, but to the footstool of the Father.
THE RECALL TO OXFORD (1882-1883)
This Brantwood life came to an end with the end of 1881. Early in the next year he went for change of scene to stay with the Severns at his old home on Herne Hill. He seemed much better, and ventured to reappear in public. On March 3rd he went to the National Gallery to sketch Turner’s Python. On the unfinished drawing is written: “Bothered away from it, and never went again. No light to work by in the next month.” An artist in the Gallery had been taking notes of him for a surreptitious portrait—an embarrassing form of flattery.
He wrote: “No—I won’t believe any stories about overwork. It’s impossible, when one’s in good heart and at really pleasant things. I’ve a lot of nice things to do, but the heart fails—after lunch, particularly!” Heart and head did, however, fail again; and another attack of brain fever followed. Sir William Gull brought him through, and won his praise as a doctor and esteem as a friend. Ruskin took it as a great compliment when Sir William, in acknowledging his fee, wrote that he should keep the cheque as an autograph.