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.

To explain the design of the Oxford Museum and to enlist support, he wrote two letters to Dr. Acland (May 25th, 1858, and January 20th, 1859), which formed part of a small book, reporting its aims and progress, illustrated with an engraving of one of the workmen’s capitals.  Ruskin himself contributed both time and money to the work, and his assistance was not unrecognised.  In 1858 “Honorary Studentships” (i.e., fellowships) were created at Christ Church by the Commissioners’ ordinances.  At the first election held, December 6th, 1858, there were chosen for the compliment Ruskin, Gladstone, Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, Dr.  (Sir) H.W.  Acland, and Sir F.H.  Gore Ouseley.  At the second, December 15th, 1858, were elected Henry Hallam, the Earl of Stanhope, the Earl of Elgin, the Marquis of Dalhousie and Viscount Canning.

Parallel with this movement for educating the “working-class,” there was the scheme for the improvement of middle-class education, which was then going on at Oxford—­the beginning of University Extension—­supported by the Rev. F. Temple (later Archbishop of Canterbury), and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Thomas Dyke Acland.  Ruskin was heartily for them; and in a letter on the subject, he tried to show how the teaching of Art might be made to work in with the scheme.  He did not think that in this plan, any more than at the Working Men’s College, there need be an attempt to teach drawing with a view to forming artists; but there were three objects they might hold in view:  the first, to give every student the advantage of the happiness and knowledge which the study of Art conveys; the next, to enforce some knowledge of Art amongst those who were likely to become patrons or critics; and the last, to leave no Giotto lost among hill shepherds.



Oxford and old friends did not monopolise Ruskin’s attention:  he was soon seen at Cambridge—­on the same platform with Richard Redgrave, R.A., the representative of Academicism and officialism—­at the opening of the School of Art for workmen on October 29th, 1858.  His Inaugural Address struck a deeper note, a wider chord, than previous essays; it was the forecast of the last volume of “Modern Painters,” and it sketched the train of thought into which he had been led during his tour abroad, that summer.

The battles between faith and criticism, between the historical and the scientific attitudes, which had been going on in his mind, were taking a new form.  At the outset, we saw, naturalism overpowered respect for tradition—­in the first volume of “Modern Painters;” then the historical tendency won the day, in the second volume.  Since that time, the critical side had been gathering strength, by his alliance with liberal movements and by his gradual detachment from associations that held him to the older order of thought.  As in his lonely journey of 1845 he first took independent ground upon questions of religion and social life, so in 1858, once more travelling alone, he was led by his meditations,—­freed from the restraining presence of his parents—­to conclusions which he had been all these years evading, yet finding at last inevitable.

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