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Lot 320
RUSKIN, JOHN (1819-1900, art critic, author, poet, artist and social reformer)
Sold for £2,280 (US$ 3,509) inc. premium

Lot Details
RUSKIN, JOHN (1819-1900, art critic, author, poet, artist and social reformer)
LONG UNPUBLISHED AUTOGRAPH LETTER, valediction and signature cut away from the last leaf, to his former tutor at Christ Church, Oxford, the Rev. [Walter Lucas] Brown, then staying at Ruskin's family home in Denmark Hill ('...How do you like the pencil sketches of religious subjects on the fireplace wall of my room?...') while Ruskin was recuperating at Dr Jephson's clinic in Leamington, where he was for six weeks; despite his condition, he writes this letter nine pages in length ('...I will take care, God willing, not to get into such a nervous state again. Even, yet - very little excitement is enough to keep me awake at night...'), reflecting on the fact that he had received 'permanent moral good' from an exhibition in Pisa, but as much and more good in a country church, proposing that 'any faculty given to men is meant to be cultivated in its proper place & degree and that its proper field of culture & place of service is that in which its greatest strength can be developed', and continuing with the ideas that the production of beautiful objects have been best employed in religious subjects and service and that every capacity of man may be brought into the service or contemplation of the Deity, though the modes of worship will differ among individuals and nations; he concludes, however, that he himself is wanting in profound analytical knowledge of history and sense of religion, so in his work he will not touch on such questions, 'limiting the enquiry to the essence and usual every day functions & power of the Beautiful', while reading both history and divinity together, but he emphasises that he feels 'almost uncharitable contempt for the kind of mind which is influenced by such outward matters in its choice or understanding of doctrines ('...I have no patience with the "from Oxford to Rome" - no tolerance of choice of churches by the hems of their garments...'), 8½ pages, octavo, Leamington, 'Sunday', no date [but summer 1841]

Footnotes

  • While Ruskin was at Jephson's clinic, out of boredom he wrote what was to be the most popular of his books, the short story for children called The King of the Golden River, 'a fairly good imitation of Grimm and Dickens, mixed with a little true Alpine feeling of my own', written in fulfilment of a promise to a little girl, Effie Gray, who seven years later was to become his wife. After he left Dr Jephson's care he went to visit the Rev. W. L. Brown at his parish in Wendlebury, to talk about his religious vocation, the question of whether he should take orders being pressing. He left Wendlebury doubting his suitability for a life in the Church (Tim Hilton, John Ruskin; the Early Years, 1985). The present letter shows that Ruskin was exercised about these matters while at Leamington, but his decision seems already to have been made..

    This letter has remained unpublished: not in E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Library Edition of The Works of John Ruskin, 39 volumes, 1903-1912, nor has it been found published elsewhere.
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