It is interesting to note how closely the views of the Prince agreed with those of John Ruskin in matters of art and literature. Ruskin declared that it was the greatest misfortune of the age that, owing to the wholesale introduction of machinery, the designer and maker were nearly always different people instead of being one and the same person. He declared that no work of art could really be ‘living’ or capable of moving us to admiration as did the masterpieces of the Middle Ages unless the maker had thought out and designed it himself.
It was largely owing to his teachings that the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement under William Morris and Walter Crane arose—a movement which has since that time spread over the whole civilized world.
In 1862, together with some of his friends, Morris formed a company to encourage the use of beautiful furniture and to introduce ’Art in the House.’ Morris himself had learnt to be a practical carpet-weaver and dyer, and had founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
All the work of this firm was done by hand as far as possible; only the best materials were to be used and designs were to be original. They manufactured stained glass, wall paper, tapestry, tiles, embroidery, carpets, etc., and many of the designs were undertaken by Edward Burne-Jones.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the poet-painter, Holman Hunt (best remembered by his famous picture “The Light of the World “) and others, formed what was known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, to instruct public taste in creative work in art and literature. At the Kelmscott Press some of the most beautiful printed books of their kind were produced under the direction of Morris.
Ruskin, like so many others of his time, was greatly influenced by Carlyle, and his views on the ‘condition of England’ question were practically the same. He bewailed the waste of work and of life, the poverty and the ‘sweating.’ He urged employers to win the goodwill of those who worked for them as the best means of producing the best work. He preached the ‘rights’ of Labour—that high wages for good work was the truest economy in the end, and that beating down the wages of workers does not pay in the long run. He declared that the only education worth having was a ‘humane’ education—that is, first of all, the building of character and the cultivation of wholesome feelings. “You do not educate a man by telling him what he knew not, but by making him what he was not,” was the theory which he endeavoured to put into practice by experiments such as an attempt to teach every one to “learn to do something well and accurately with his hands.”
In common with Wordsworth Ruskin held that the love of Nature was the greatest of educators. He believed that
The world is too much with
us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
The beauty and the everlasting marvel of Nature’s works were, to him as to the poet of the Lakes, the real road to knowledge: