In February or March, 1839, Mr. Domecq died. The Maisons came to England, and the marriage was proposed. Adele stayed at Chelmsford until September, when he wrote the long poem of “Farewell,” dated the eve of their last meeting and parting.
At twenty young men do not die of love; but I find that a fortnight after writing this he was taken seriously ill. During the winter of 1839-40 the negotiations for the marriage in Paris went on. It took place in March. They kept the news from him as long as they could, for he was in the schools next Easter term, and Mr. Brown (his college tutor) had seemed to hope he would get a First, so his mother wrote to her husband. In May he was pronounced consumptive, and had to give up Oxford, and all hope of the distinction for which he had laboured, and with that any plans that might have been entertained for his distinction in the Church. And his parents’ letters of the period put it beyond a doubt that this first great calamity of his life was the direct consequence of that unfortunate matchmaking.
For nearly two years he was dragged about from place to place, and from doctor to doctor, in search of health. Thanks partly to wise treatment, more to new faces, and most to a plucky determination to employ himself usefully with his pen and his pencil, he gradually freed himself from the spell, and fifty years afterwards could look back upon the story as a pretty comedy of his youthful days.
“KATA PHUSIN” (1837-1838)
Devoted as she was to her husband, Mrs. Ruskin felt bound to watch over her son at Oxford. It was his health she was always anxious about; doctoring was her forte. He had suffered from pleurisy; caught cold easily; was feared to be weak in the lungs; and nobody but his mother understood him. So taking Mary Richardson, she went up with him (January, 1837), and settled in lodgings at Adams’ in the High. Her plan was to make no intrusion on his college life, but to require him to report himself every day to her. She would not be dull; she could drive about and see the country, and to that end took her own carriage to Oxford, the “fly” which had been set up two years before. John had been rather sarcastic about its genteel appearance. “No one,” he said, “would sit down to draw the form of it.” However, she and Mary drove to Oxford, and reckoned that it would only mean fifteen months’ absence from home altogether, great part of which deserted papa would spend in travelling.
John went into residence in Peckwater. At first he spent every evening with his mother and went to bed, as Mr. Dale had told him, at ten. After a few days Professor Powell asked him to a musical evening; he excused himself, and explained why. The Professor asked to be introduced, whereupon says his mother, “I shall return the call, but make no visiting acquaintances.”