Welcome to “Why Ruskin”

The intent of this website is to introduce its readers to the remarkable thought of the great 19th Century British Art and Social Critic, John Ruskin. Even though his is hardly a household name these days, it is my deep and enduring belief that Ruskin’s brilliant thought and carefully worked out ideas (always encased in glorious prose) still retain great relevancy for our modern days, offering new ways of thinking about and, quite possibly, if put into practice, alleviating or lessening many of the troubles which still beset us. But there is second level to Ruskin’s genius, his unparalleled ability to make the beauty of this world and life come alive. I am hopeful that, after reading some of the posts that follow you might be inclined to agree with these assessments.

If you are a First Time Visitor, I recommend you begin by reading the First Post: “An Introduction to this Site” (just click on this link). Using a number of Ruskin’s best quotes, this initial offering outlines the site’s history and goals. If, after reading it, you’d like to read other Posts, scroll up to the top of this screen and, under the banner, chose the Page, “Previous Posts in Sequence.” This will bring you to a list of all the site’s posts; chick on any one and you will be taken to it. The other Pages listed under the banner, “Writing Ruskin,” “Talks and Walks,” “Ruskin Resources,” and “Ruskin’s Life: A Radical Revision” will be self-explanatory as you open them.

The ten most recently published Posts can always be found in the right hand column. Click on any one and you will be taken to it. If you’d like to be notified of  new Posts as they publish, as I hope you will, click on the “FOLLOW” button at the top of the column and just type in your email address. (Questions, suggestions, or comments always welcome.) Also in the right column you will find a feature that allows you to view “Previous Posts by Topic,” and a very useful search engine (type in a word or phrase you are interested in).

If you’d like to read an overview explaining how I came to admire Ruskin as much as I do, complete with examples showing why I think that judgment is sound, you can have a look at my essay,  “Why Ruskin?”  The lovely drawing below–there are hundreds more (many are reproduced in the following Posts)!–is Ruskin’s


Posted in Welcome Message | 1 Comment

247: Furious Ruskin

Reading our last post (#246), some readers may have been surprised at the intensely of Ruskin’s negative assessment of the architects of his day. Always, as one of the indices of his remarkable character, he was willing “to talk truth to power,” had the courage to criticize directly, often vehemently, the elites of any walk of life for what he saw as their falling short of the principal qualities or clear understandings required to help human beings navigate their path in life. Such frank views and pronouncements got him into a lot of trouble as you might imagine, particularly his critiques of the laissez-faire capitalist ethos which dominated his age (and ours). His readers often took serious umbrage when they read his words and resented him for having had the temerity to publicly voice them.

However, such critiques on the page are at marked variance with virtually everyone’s experiences of him in face-to-face interaction. Recollections innumerable tell us that, when Ruskin was with others, whether he agreed with them and their views on life, work, business or not, he was invariably gentle, kind, and, perhaps most importantly, solicitous. He truly wanted to know what you really thought about the subject of that particular moment and, always, would listen patiently as you expressed your views. Very often he would disagree with you, but, even if that were the case, he would never “call you out” on your “misunderstanding.” He was, almost all agreed, a nice person.

However, when it came to the printed page, things were different. There, he was expressing his views based on his careful study of this matter or that. In some cases, such views were the product of years of assiduous study. Very early in his authorial career, he decided that he would never publish anything unless he knew it to be true, knew it to be beyond dispute as a statement about how the world really worked in a particular manner. If, when writing, he had not yet drilled down to the complete essence of a subject, he would inform his readers that what he was saying was only his understanding as far as he had worked it out this point. To do differently would be to betray his responsibility as a writer, a practice he knew many less responsible authors were happily willing to indulge.

Inn our previous post, we saw his disdain for the architects of his time on full, unvarnished, display. As he saw it, most had abrogated their responsibility to study to their essential core the very things they had assumed responsibility for mastering.–gaining the unchallengeable knowledge of how to create wonderful buildings for use in life –either because they had become slaves to the building fashions of the times or because, in their desire to be “well paid,” of their fear of offending those who had hired them–even when they were fully aware that such employers, not being architects, did not know what they were doing when they demanded that certain qualities must be encased in their buildings.

In even less generous moments than those on display in the last post, his irritation was elevated because he regarded such practitioners as “blockheads,” as living instances of a general philosophy he would, later in life, designate as ‘blockheadism.” Of course they hated him (as he knew they would), for such frankness and honesty, and such expressions went no small distance toward curtailing purchases of his books and erasing any royalties he would have made from such purchases. He was, in short–and intentionally–for the sake of principle, “biting the hand hat fed him.”

Nowhere, as I mentioned above, was his disdain for incompetence and greed on better display than in his critiques of the economic practices of his (our) time. In a relatively early lecture on the matter, later collected in a small book entitled The Two Paths (1858), he attacked those who were consciously exploiting the poor by appealing o our passion for a “bargain,” thus:

He doth ravish the poor when he getteth him into his net.” (Psalm 10).”Note that this is literally and simply what we do whenever we buy, or try to buy, cheap goods – goods offered at a price which we know cannot be remunerative for the labor involved in them [today, we call such options, “Sales”]. Whenever we buy such goods, remember we are stealing somebody’s labor. Don’t let us mince the matter. I say– in plain Saxon–STEALING: taking from him the proper reward of his work, and putting it into our own pockets.

Until next time, good folks, do please continue well out there!



Posted in Society, Truths | Tagged | Leave a comment