I AM to speak of Ruskin both as an art critic and a moral teacher, but I shall interweave one or two reminiscences which are now, alas! among the distant proeterita.
I shall deal with general characteristics rather than details, and try and give you a few photographs of character. But since I place Ruskin so high amongst the teachers of the Nineteenth Centuryindeed very near the summit-levelthe language of praise must give place to a strictly judicial estimate. We are all of us the richer because he lived and taught; we should therefore be able to answer the questions, what is it that we owe to him ? and what is the measure of our debt ?
In answer to these questions, it may be said first of all that no one ever emphasized more clearly than Ruskin did the distinction between the provinces of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good; whether on the map of human knowledge, or in the realm of appreciation and attainment. No one has shewn so well their inner affinities, and the ties which bind them together. He could never have written, as Keats did,
Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty,that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
To a dictum so one-sided, he would have re-plied by a direct negative; and both in writing and in conversation, from first to last, he unfolded the distinction between the two provinces, clearly and unmistakably. But he also knew their correspondences; and shewed us how to pass from the one to the other with ease, adroitness, and inevitableness. He unfoldedas I think few, if any, have done so welltheir inner relationships, their underlying unity, and abiding harmony. This gave precision, as well as breadth and comprehensiveness, to his teaching. I may even say of it that it was ultimately compacted” to others, by “that which every joint supplied” to himself.
Mention should next be made of his unique gift of varied intuition ; in other words, his power of getting at once, and without effort, below the
surface of thingsdiscarding their conventional aspects, and discerning deep principles underneath. Take this in connection with the growth of his character, the unfolding of his genius in many different directions, and the consequent changes which occurred in his point of, view. You will find the germ of his latest teaching within some of his earliest opinions, and fragments of his youthful judgments surviving in his final sayings as to Nature and Man; but all of them expanded, modified, at times transfigured. So that, what a surface critic deems (and often calls) an inconsistencyin matters of Art, Religion, or Politicsis really a sign of its opposite, with the added evidence of development. As one of the best of our recent writers has said, “The highest consistency is inconsistent. The greatest teacher cannot write twice alike; because, from his second point of view he sees more, and has more to say.”
Some persons have thought that Ruskin’s utterances-both on Art, and Political Economy are dogmatic and dictatorial, having about them an infallibilist air. It may be so; but should we wonder at it ? It is a characteristic of all strong men that they speak with confidence of the conclusions that they have reached, and the principles ‘they hold. And we should test all that Ruskin (more, perhaps, than any of his contemporaries) has said in the light of its evolution; of the opinions that originated, and the circumstances that gave it shape. A knowledge of his career, especially as unfolded in his own fragments of autobiographyin Proeterita, Fors
Clavigera, the Arrows of the Chase, and Hortus Inclususwill illustrate this.
As I have alluded to his views on Political Economy, it may be added that his teaching on this subjectstripped of a few extravagancesis really very simple, and at its root may be indorsed by those who cannot follow him in all his inferences and practical schemes. The following are a few of his sentences on the subject:
“As Domestic Economy regulates the arts and habits of a household, Political Economy regulates those of a Society or State. It is neither an art, nor a science, but a system of conduct and legislature.” * * “The great law which is to govern the production and distribution of wealth is the law of Co-operation.” * * “Government and Co-operation are the laws of life; anarchy and competition the laws of death.” * * “When I use the word `Co-operation,’ I use it as opposed not to masterhood, but to competition.”
The following sentences may not be so universally endorsed, but they are no less true; and if adopted, and acted out beneficently, they would revolutionize our commerce, and raise the whole tone of our social and national life : “Masters are not to undersell each other, nor seek each to get the other’s business, but are all to form one Society, selling under a severe penalty for unjust dealing, and at an established price.” “And I mean by Co-operation not only fellowship between trading firms, but between trading nations.”
I do not need to expound his Political Economy any farther; except to say this, that it is not only based upon, but that it overflows into, Ethics ; and is everywhere interpenetrated by moral truth. For example, in dealing with the true nature of Possession, he teaches that we possess only when we beneficially use what we have for the benefit of others as well as ourselves; and furthermoreparadoxical as it may seemwe continue to possess the best part of what we have, after we have given it away. No one understood better than Ruskin did the truth which lies within the apostolic paradox, “Having nothing, and yet possessing all things;” and his unparalleled philanthropy not only to individuals, but to Institutions, Societies and Guilds, reacted on himself. It made him feel a richer man than the nominal possessor of things, with which mere wealth may load the millionaire ; who has neither the wit to understand, nor the sympathy to enjoy them. His founding of Museums and creation of Industries, his gifts to Colleges and Schools, are proof of this. The Oxford Drawing School, the Museum at Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, his gifts to Whitelands Women’s College, and to the Working Men’s College in London; those to the girls’ school in the city of Cork, the institution of the St. George’s Guild, and the subsequent work of the Langdale Linen Industry and the Keswick Art School are its farther developments and outcome. These most munificent gifts have given rise to a multitude of others, of which time would fail me to tell you. Glass industries in London, silver ones at Chipping Hampden, others near Birmingham. But above all William Morris’s work and art industries. I need not at-tempt an inventory of them, but the one thing to be noted is that the founders, and subsequent workers cared nothing for practical return in the way of income, in comparison with turning out good and beautiful work. They have all caught their inspiration from Ruskin. They are his spiritual children. During his lifetime Ruskin gifted the most of the fortune which his father left him, £157,000, to public objects and ends; and no modern Englishman has more fully under-stood, and acted out, the meaning of the motto which became the title of one of George Frederick Watts’ most famous pictures, “What I spent, I had; what I saved, I lost; what I gave, I have.”
And now (as perhaps you are not all familiar with it) I quote the noble confession of faith which the members of the St. George’s Guildwhich Ruskin foundedare asked to make (omitting only its eighth and final section) :
“I.–I trust in the living God, Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things and creatures, visible and invisible. I trust in the kindness of His law, and the goodness of His work and I will strive to love Him and to keep His law, that I may see His work while I live.
II.I trust in the nobleness of human nature in the majesty of its faculties, and the joy of its love. I will strive to love my neighbour as myself; and, even when I cannot, I will act as if I did.
III.I will labour, with such strength and opportunity as God gives me, for my daily bread; and all that my hand finds to do, I will do it with my might.
IV.I will not deceive, or cause to be deceived, any human being, for my gain or pleasure; nor hurt, nor cause to be hurt, any human being for my gain or pleasure; nor rob, nor cause to be robbed, any human being for my gain or pleasure.
V.I will not hurt any living creature needlessly, nor destroy any beautiful thing; but will strive to save and comfort all gentle life, and guard and perfect all natural beauty upon the earth.
VI.I will strive to raise my own body and soul daily into higher powers of duty and happiness; not in rivalship or contention with others, but for the help, delight and honour of others, and for the joy and peace of my own life.
VII.I will obey all the laws of my country faithfully; and the orders of its monarch, so far as such laws and commands are consistent with what I suppose to be the law of God; and when they are not so, or seem in any wise to need change, I will oppose them loyally and deliberatelynot with malicious, concealed or disorderly violence.”
I maintain that Ruskin was as great (perhaps a greater) philosophical moralist, than he was a teacher and interpreter of the Beautiful; but he would never have become the ethical teacher he was, had he not exercised his function, through the channel of art-criticism. All that life-long appraisal, that deft art-judgment of his, subserved an ethical end, and was meant to work towards a moral purpose; not explicitly, seldom directly or ostensibly; but always implicitly, indirectly, and thus the more unerringly. He could not speak of a forgotten artist, or deal with a great picture-whether well or little knownwithout introducing this. And so, in season and out of season, all life-long, he threw emphasis on the value of patient toil, of conscientious and honest labour, according to one’s highest light. He believed in the everlastingness of all that was good and true, its endurance in the lives of others; a transmitted power sent forth from the worker when his work was done. He affirmed the supremacy and immortality of goodness. Art was nothing to him if it was not an aid to a refined and noble life. Thus his aim was to be an interpreter of the laws of conduct, more than an appraiser of things beautiful, and his passionate desire was to succeed in this.
Over and over again he said to us that a well-built character was the greatest of all possible human treasures; and that the supreme question for all of us was not “what do we possess ?” but “what do our possessions do for us ? not “how much have they cost us ?, but “how do they benefit others ?” If you carefully read Modern Painters, The Stones of Venice, Fors Clavigera, and Unto this Last, you hear throughout these volumes the voice of the prophet, the seer, the moralist of all time, the teacher and interpreter of conduct. It is in this sense that I affirm that he was a great philosopher, not, observe, a mere lover of wisdom, but one who lived and moved and had his being in it; and it is for this reason that his writings contain so much “fine gold.” Who, I ask, has unfolded the laws of the world in which we live, in relation to human action, more clearly, adequately, fully; or given us a better key by which we may for ourselves unlock its more hidden treasures ? Wordsworth did this in many wonderful ways; but, as a teacher who has helped to adjust for us the harmony between Man and Nature, to bring the inner world of feeling imagination thought and conduct into continuous and wise rapport with the external world in which we live, I consider that Ruskin has done us a still greater service.
In the mere recital, and portrayal, of the glories of the outer Universein mountains, clouds, seas, rivers, woods, meadows, and flowersdisclosing this in magnificent and lordly prose, he touches the inner springs of life (because the two realms are fundamentally kindred), bringing us out of the artificiality in which we get so often entangled by trifles, befogged by prejudice, or become the slaves of fashion. Ruskin has helped us to apprehend the abiding reality of things, and has taught us farther what to see in age with the bright keen eye of youth, and the joyous intuitive apprehension of little children. It is true that Wordsworth explained (I quote from his preface to The Excursions)
How exquisitely the individual mind * * * to the external world Is fitted, and how exquisitely, too, The external world is fitted to the mind.
and again, in the poem on Tintern Abbey, he pleads with us:
to recognize In Nature, and the language of the sense The anchor of our purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of the heart, and soul Of all our moral being,
But I think we may describe Ruskin’s teachings as to the influence of Nature over man in the language which Wordsworth used of his wonderful Sister’s influence:
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears, And humble hopes and delicate fears, A heart, the fountain of sweet tears, And love, and hope, and joy.
He taught us that, in order to understand Nature aright, we must become as little children. We must approach her with reverent wistfulness, with thankful joyousness, and in a “wise passiveness.” We must come to her trustfully yet enquiringly, with tranquil solicitude and a glad receptiveness.
Then, further, while the main or central truths which he teaches are as simple as they are profound, and can be easily apprehended by any-one who is docile and unsophisticated, because they “lie foursquare to all the winds that blow,” there is perhaps no writer on Art whose casual remarks, and passing commentary, or obiter dicta are so suggestive, illuminative, and inspiring.
It is a notable thing in Ruskin’s career that beginning as a student of Art, he soon sawas few have donethat initiation into its true principles will lead us far beyond it; that it con-ducts, and must conduct, to the central principles of morality. I give you a list of these as I used to put them before the students of philosophy at St. Andrews: truthfulness, sincerity, honesty, elevation, nobleness, reverence, reticence, admiration, magnanimity, piety, obedience. Take the last of these. I ask who outside the roll of Palestinian seers has taught us better, or so well, the grand virtue of obedience to law and order ? Who has emphasized more clearly the joy of such submission and fealty ? Perpetual self-assertion of our ambitious littleness tempts many of us to rise in insurrection against the gracious limits of that order, and leads others to rebel against the primary laws of conduct, listening to siren voices, and yielding to the bribe, “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” :But the glad surrender of self to a law that is higher than we are, joyous obedience to it, glorying in being its servant, thataccording to Ruskin-is the pathway to felicity for each individual man, woman, and child. Nay, more, it is the royal road to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, in the highest degree, and for the longest time, if only our political economists would let them know it!
Along with this, there is another duty on which he lays emphasis, viz.: a cheerful recognition of the fact that others around us are achieving what we can never accomplish, that they are now above us and will remain above us; and therefore that our business is not to envy themfar less to try vainly to outstrip and dislodge them from their pre-eminence, or put in a claim to be as good as they are-but simply to look with unenvious eye on their achievements, to be taught by their successes, and to rejoice in them even more than in our own. Were such a spirit realized in practice, would not this be a better world to live in, than that of jostling competition, of feverish struggle, of rival interests, and insane conflict ?
I think I am right in saying that, in respect to these things, the influence of Ruskin is now greater than it was while he lived. He has stirred up hundreds and thousands of young men and maidens, of old men and children, to rejoice in their work, finding it “a joy for ever;” he taught his contemporaries, and he is now teaching his successors, the blessedness of self-forgetful labour; he has cut out from the ambition of scores of people the sordid craving for accumulation, the love of mere display, the longing to be “in the swim,” whether of fashion or frivolity; he has broken up their chase of illusive good. And so, his whole life being a protest against the current materialism of his time, he has put a new meaning into the words of a predecessor,
we live by admiration, hope, and love.
As to his influence as a teacher in the realm of Art, it is enough to say that he inaugurated a new era of criticism. He succeeded in banishing the old canons of taste; he revolutionized the judgments and sympathies of his fellow countrymen; he taught them that Art has a mission as great as Philosophy, Science, and the Belles-Lettres; that its function is to educate as well as to delight, and to delight by educating. He thus shews us that all noble Art is a portrayal less or more of the inherent truth of things, of that vital strength and beauty which underlie appearances. He has taught us that when we apprehend the ideal within the actual, or beyond and above it, we ascend to what Tennyson calls “the roof and crown of things;” orto put it otherwisewe pass into the Temple’s inner shrine. Furthermore that, while the perception of Beauty elicits admiration, it should lead on to homage, and end in worship ; because, as he put it, “all great Art is praise.
I shall say nothing about his poems; but, as a writer of the most poetic prose, he was certainly the chief Englishman of the nineteenth century, far superior, for example, to De Quincey. Mr. Mather has said, truly as well as beautifully, that “as a writer, strength and beauty are in his right hand.” Mr. Spillman and Mr. Frederic Harrison both speak of him as the chief wielder of our English prose. It is true that he had notable masters, and many sources of inspiration; the English Bible, with our noble Anglo-Saxon Prayer-book, Homer, Hooker, Scott, Carlyle; but his own style is unique and unborrowed from anyone. It is the outcome, of spirit-vision, the language of a soul on fire, the clear, indubious utterance of one who felt the truth of the saying, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification,” of a spirit familiar with many an apocalypse of the Beautiful. His winged words were the inevitable outcome of his “open vision.” Ruskin’s language is lucid, because his thought was always clear. Had the latter been obscure or clouded, the former would have been intricate, perplexed, or halting. But in all his writings the seer, the artist, and the poet combined to make the stylist. He used to lament that people cared more for the form than for the substance of his teaching. “All my life,” he said, “I have been talking to the people; and they care not for the matter, but only for the manner of my words. I find I have been talking too much, and doing too little.” And he was so modest as to his success in writing descriptive prose that he said Tennyson had beaten him entirely as a delineator, or “illustrator of natural beauty.”
Mr. Frederic Harrison has directed our special attention to the right noble description of the Old Tower of Calais Church in the fourth volume of Modern Painters, which is certainly one of the grandest things Ruskin ever wrote. I shall not quote it, but ratherwith the same end in view as Mr. Harrison’sread you part of a letter written from Laon in the north of France, and descriptive of it, which I am sure you have never heard, as it has not been printed. It is, I think, equal to the best that has seen the light of day; and it is also a good example of the length of his sentences, which do not seem. long, and which could with difficulty be shortened. You are perhaps aware that there is a sentence in Modern Painters, in which there are 628 words, with 73 commas and semicolons! What I am going to read is not of that portentous length, but it was written at a single sitting, and it is an instance of his earlier style surviving in later years.
“Laon, August 12, 1882.
“We had a hardish day from Calais here, and did not get in till supper time. Clean beds, and windows looking out on the country, freshened us for early coffee; and we have been out from half past seven till half past ten, exploring in real French morning sunshine. Except Assissi, I never saw a place like it; cathedral, for that mat-ter, out and out grander than Assissi would be without the supporting terraces; instead of them it has avenues of plane trees, above a sloping garden of mixed vineyard and flowers; and the towncheerfully old-fashioned, and lively, yet contentedwith the quaintest pepper-boxes, and cruets, and cats-ears of ins and outs on roofs, and ups and downs in walls; and on the really old outside walls, the houses mixed up among the buttresses and towers; with a window here, and a balcony there ; and a bit of arch built in, and a bit of bow built out; and a peep-hole in the roof, and a secret stair in the corner; and nooks, and crooks, and outlooks, and sidelooks; and beautiful bits of garden kept gay, but not trim; and vines, and pear-trees drooping all over with big pears; and lovely moss and ivy, and feathery green, and house-leek, and everything that ever grew on walls, or in chinks; and every now and then a cluster of spring bluebells, rooted on a buttress angle and seven feet high themselves, like fox-gloves made saints of, and going off into raptures of chime; and little wells dripping into cisterns, and recesses with steps down and roofs over; for all the world like Siena, with sweet gush and tinkle and gleam of running surface, and presently all ,aglow again with marigolds and purple clematis, and scarlet geraniums, and blue distance seen all beyond.
“Yours, John Ruskin.”
This letter may be followed by two passages from Modern Painters. The first is his description of the Roman Campagna :
“Perhaps there is no more impressive scene on earth than the solitary extent of the Campagna of Rome under evening light. Let the reader imagine himself for the moment with-drawn from the sounds and motion of the living world, and sent forth alone into this wild and wasted plain. The earth yields and crumbles beneath his foot, tread he never so lightly; for its substance is white, hollow, and carious, like the dusty wreck of the bones of men. The long, knotted grass waves and tosses feebly in the evening wind, and the shadows of its motion shake feverishly along the banks of ruin that lift themselves to the sunlight. Hillocks of mouldering earth heave around him, as if the dead beneath were struggling in their sleep. Scattered blocks of black stone, four-square remnants of mighty edifices, not one left upon another, lie upon them, to keep them down. A dull purple poisonous haze stretches level along the desert, veiling its spectral wrecks of many ruins, on whose rents the red light rests, like dying fire on defiled altars; the blue ridge of the Alban Mount lifts itself against a solemn space of green, clear, quiet sky; watch towers of dark clouds stand steadfastly along the promontories of the Apennines; from the plain to the mountains, the shattered aqueducts, pier beyond pier, melt into the darkness like shadowy and countless troops of funeral mourners, passing from a nation’s grave.” (From the Preface to Modern Painters, 1843.)
One instinctively compares this with Browning’s characterization of the Campagna in one of his lyrics. His poem is entitled Two in the Campagna, of which the following are three stanzas:
I wonder do you feel to-day As I have felt, since hand in hand, We sat down on the grass, to stray In spirit better through the land, This morn of Rome and May?
The Champaign with its endless fleece Of feathery grasses everywhere! Silence and passion, joy and peace, An everlasting wash of air Rome’s ghost since her decease.
Such life there, through such length of hours, Such miracles performed in play, Such primal naked forms of flowers, Such letting nature have her way, While Heaven looks from its towers!
Again take what Ruskin wrote about the clouds of the sky. “It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is the part of creation in which Nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her. Every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as we know, be answered, if once in three days or thereabouts, a great, ugly black rain-cloud were brought up over the blue, and everything well watered, and so all left blue again till next time, with perhaps a film of morning and evening mist for dew. And, instead of this, there is not a moment of any day of our lives when Nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty; and it is quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure. And every man, wherever placed, however far from other scources of interest or beauty, has this being done for him constantly. The sky is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for the soothing of it, and purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two moments together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity.”
Again this is the way in which he describes a cliff : “A group of trees changes the colour of its leafage from week to week, and its position from day to day; it is sometimes languid with heat, and sometimes heavy with rain; the torrent swells or falls in shower or sun; the best leaves of the foreground may be dined upon by cattle, or trampled by unwelcome investigators of the chosen scene. But the cliff can neither be eaten nor trampled down; neither bowed by the shad-ow, nor withered by the heat; it is always ready for us, when we are inclined to labour; will al-ways wait for us, when we would rest; and, what is best of all, will always talk to us when we are inclined to converse. With its own patient and victorious presence, cleaving daily through cloud after cloud, and reappearing still through the tempest drift, lofty and serene through the passing rents of blue, it seems partly to rebuke, and partly to guard, and partly to calm and chasten, the agitations of the feeble human soul that watches it; and that must be indeed a dark perplexity, or a grievous pain, which will not be in some degree enlightened or relieved by the vision of it, when the evening shadows are blue on its foundation, and the last rays of the sunset resting on the fair height of its golden fortitude.”
These will suffice as examples of Ruskin’s prose style. Returning now to his teaching, to re-emphasize some of its features.
It may be said that Ruskin was as notable a missionary as ever lived, pleading all his life, by speech and writing, for the union of the true, the beautiful and the good; but he often felt that he was only a herald, preparing the way for a con-summation and result which he himself would never see fulfilled. He once said to me that his was “the voice of one crying in wilderness,” and that he could not even say that “the kingdom,” of which he desired the advent, was “at hand.” But think what we owe to him, as the appraiser of works by the forgotten dead, the interpreter and eulogist of artists disesteemed in the past; Tintoret, Botticelli, Carpaccio, Luini, Verrocchio, Donatello, and many another down to Turner.
He said he was satisfied with appraising the work of others, disinterring buried reputations; but how did he teach us of this ? As George Eliot said, “with the inspiration of the Hebrew prophets.” And so, the dignity of labour, the blessedness of honest toil, were taught anew. “Work, work, work; ’tis better than what you work to get,” wrote `Mrs. Browning, and Ruskin’s whole life was an illustration of it. He was by far the most voluminous and versatile English writer of the nineteenth centuryand no one has done so much as he did by his writings to raise the tone of feeling and judgment as to the Beautiful within the Anglo-Saxon race. No one has done so much to shew what it is, and where it is to be found; what fosters, and what retards it; giving us almost a new reading and commentary on its laws. It is not too much to say that, from the date of the publication of Modern Painters on-ward, his two dicta that “all great Art is a Rev-elation,” and that “all great Art is Praise,” have been attested by results.
Grant that he occasionally pushed the truths he taught too far. All who originate new departures do that. They cannot help doing it, and they would not effect a change in the current ideas of their time if they did not do it, if they did not overstep the via media, or juste milieu. No one ever starts a fresh movement without carrying it at first too far; especially if he is a many-sided genius. Now note the range of the subjects which Ruskin has studied, and on which he has written to purpose ; philosophy, especially that of ethics, theology, political economy, history, architecture, painting, sculpture, en-graving, agriculture, education, sociology, the sciences of mineralogy, geology and botany, music, mythology, prosody, criticism, topography, etc., etc. He was almost as encyclopedic as Aristotle. Then note his varied work as a practical reformer. Not content with merely preaching his evangel, he formed a Society for the spread of these ideas, which he felt to be fundamentally true, and yet were disesteemed. That Society he has helped by numerous gifts. No teacher has ever been so lavish of gifts to contemporaries, and to posterity.
There is no doubt that many of his works will live as long as the English language is spoken ; and it is note-worthy that in them all, while there is much trenchant criticism, there is nothing selfish or sinister, or envious, or cruel. Severe as was his wrath against all that degrades human nature, he never wrote a sentence which he afterwards regretted; although he outgrewand acknowledged that he outgrewhis earlier opinions, and his juvenile way of stating things. It was said by him and by Matthew Arnold (whom we may bracket together in this respect) that they never wrote a sentence which they wished to hide from the light of day, or desired the recording angel to erase. Ruskin once wrote to our common friend, James Smetham, “I never wrote a private letter to any human being which I would not let a bill-sticker chalk up six feet high on Hyde Park wall, and stand myself in Piccadilly and say `I did it!’ And his published letters, multitudinous as they arein the Arrows of the Chase, Hortus Inclusus, etc.- are not a tithe of the number which he wrote.
On the 24th December 1899, I visited Brant-wood for the last time during Ruskin’s life, less than a month before he died., I hardly expected to see him, as he could not walk, or even speak much; but, with the same kindliness he shewed in former years, he asked me to come up, and I spent some time in the delightful turret-room, so well known to all his visitors, whence the view of Coniston Lake and the mountains beyond it is so grand. His favourite birds were at his window, andas by some subtile affinitysoothed him by their presence, and consoled him by their twittering song; while the gracious silence of old age was, in some respects, more impressive than the many-sided speech of earlier years had been. I was told to continue talking, though he responded little, for he asked to listen, when he could not speak. His face,’ his most impressive hands, his wonderful eyes, and every motion of his frame were expressive beyond measure. I knew it was a farewell meeting, but there was no sorrow, only a sense of tranquillity and peace.
Three weeks -afterward he had an attack of influenza, and passed from the land of the living. I went up to the funeral at Coniston. So soon as I knew that he had died, I sent to Florence for a “crown of wild olive” to lay upon his tomb. It did not arrive on the burial day, and I had to content myself with writing that motto on a sheet of cardboard, along with “Unto this Last,” which was laid with many another offering on his grave. It was a rainy, wintry, day; Wetherlam, and the surrounding mountains being all wreathed with January mist. The coffin had been brought round from Brantwood on the previous evening, that his remains might lie in the church for twenty hours before interment; and those of us who arrived early saw the catafalque with violets and lilies of the valley round the head, the body covered with wreaths of the yellow and red roses he loved so well, and surrounded with many other decorative winter flowers. A Westmoreland lady-friend sang the burial hymns; amongst them one by Canon Rawnsley, who has written nothing better in verse than the memorial lines called forth on that occasion. The service ended, his body was borne reverently to its last resting place, and lowered noiselessly”earth to earth, dust todust”in a sort of cryptic columbarium, its sides lined with polished stones of white marble. It is close to the graves of the three sistersMargaret, Mary, and Susanah Beaver,to whom we owe the Frondes Agrestes and Hortus I Hortus Inclusus. Year by year, in their old age, when they could no longer visit Brantwood, Ruskin used to send down one of his Turner drawings to be kept by them as long as they liked, and then ex-changed for another, just to give pleasure to the young old ladies of the Thwaite.” At the funeral were many representatives of those who owed so much to himworking-men, and working-women, members of the guilds and societies he had called into being; and they realized at his graveas perhaps never beforethe significance of the words, “Blessed are the dead.”
Certainly, “being dead” Ruskin “yet speaketh.” He has spoken many words that cannot die, gracious household words, bringing out of his treasury things new and old. His mind and heart were ever opulent, populous with thought. They were also marvellously opalescent, and
Caught at every turn The colours of the sun.
Still more especially, as some one has said, “his life was as a tree planted by the water-side, that bringeth forth its fruit in due season.”
Et folium ejus non defluit, Et omnia quaecunque facial; prosperabuntur.