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Lot 325
RUSKIN, JOHN (1819-1900, art critic, author, poet, artist and social reformer)
Sold for £2,640 (US$ 4,376) inc. premium
Lot Details
RUSKIN, JOHN (1819-1900, art critic, author, poet, artist and social reformer)
PARTLY UNPUBLISHED AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ('JRuskin'), to his former tutor at Christ Church, Oxford, [Walter Lucas] Brown, expressing the fear that 'the world becomes a mere board & lodging house' and that he had lost the love of nature that had so inspired him [when writing Modern Painters] ('...You say, in losing the delight I once had in nature I am coming down more to fellowship with others - Yes - but I feel it is a fellowship of blindness - I may be able to get hold of peoples hands better in the dark - but of what use is that - when I have no where to lead them - but into the ditch...'), discussing at length the question of 'the use, nature and propriety of ideal treatment' in a painting, with detailed references to different depictions of St. Jerome and The Madonna ('...to my mind the merit is all the greater because there is no tradition about it...'), telling him that he has come to Folkestone to recover from 'the nervous excitement brought on by late hours last winter - and exhaustion in hot weather in Italy', and assuring him that he has not forgotten about carbolic acid, 5 pages, octavo, Pavilion Hotel, Folkestone, 27 November [1847]

Footnotes

  • '...surely it is not right to parallel the pleasures of emotion & imagination with the mere exaggerations of first impressions. I think there is no tendency in pure imagination to exaggerate at all and it often exerts itself powerfully upon things small and close at hand incapable of exaggeration - flowers - stones - low sounds &c - its essence being not increasing the thing itself - but in understanding more from it...the sea by whose side I am writing was once to me a friend - companion - master - teacher - now it is salt-water - and salt water only. Is this an increase - or withdrawal of truth - I did not before - lose hold on a sight of the fact of its being saltwater - I could consider it so - if I chose - my perceiving and feeling it to be more than this was a possession of higher truth which did not interfere with my hold of the physical one...'

    At the time of writing this letter Ruskin was suffering a mild depression, according to Tim Hilton, almost certainly brought on by his plans to marry Effie Gray and the efforts he had put in when writing his account of Charles Eastlake's Materials for the History of Oil Painting. It is possible that Ruskin had in mind the caution his mother had just sent him in a letter to Folkestone: '...as you say you love her more the oftener you write to her may you not be in some degree surrounding her with imaginary charms'.

    THE LAST PAGE OF THIS LETTER HAS REMAINED UNPUBLISHED; the first four only were published by E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Library Edition of The Works of John Ruskin, 39 volumes, 1903-1912, volume XXXVI, pp. 83-84.
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