Welcome to “Why Ruskin”

The goal of this website is to introduce 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 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, alleviating or lessening many of the troubles which continue to beset us. But there is another level to Ruskin’s genius, his unparalleled ability to make the beauty of this world and life come alive in his paragraphs. I am hopeful that, after reading some of the posts here, you might come to agree with both assessments.

If you are a First Time Visitor, I recommend that you start by reading the First Post: “An Introduction to this Site” (to do so, click on the underlined passage). Using a number of Ruskin’s best quotes, this offering explains the site’s history and goals. Then, if you’d like to read other Posts, slide your cursor to the right hand side of this page and click on the Drop Down for “Previous Posts by Topic,” select a “Category,” click on it, following which which all Posts relevant to that topic–“Nature” or “Society,” say–will appear on the screen in the sequence of their posting. More information about Ruskin and myself can be found in the Pages listed in the navigation bar under the banner photographs above. If you’d like to be notified of  subsequent Posts as they publish, click on the “FOLLOW” button at the top of the right hand column. The most recent Post on the site can always be read below this “Welcome” note (just scroll down). Questions, suggestions, or comments are always welcome.  The lovely drawing–there are many more–of a peacock and a falcon feather is Ruskin’s.

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85: The Music

Folks,

For another reason,  yesterday I returned to Ruskin’s little book of 1866, The Ethics of the Dust. It was an experiment. He was fresh from re-reading the Greek classics, a great many of which, as you know, took the form of dialogues. So he thought to try the genre, imagining himself as an “Old Lecturer” and his interlocutors as a group of students at a girls’ “finishing school” in the north of England. The imagining wasn’t so far from reality, as, throughout the 1860s, Ruskin taught (sporadically) at just such a school, Winnington Hall, in Northwich. (One of the greatest collections of Ruskin’s deeply thought-provoking and beautiful letters is The Winnington Letters of John Ruskin, edited by Van Akin Burd; still available on the web–but getting scarcer!)

There’s a lot to say about The Ethics… but I’ll let all that go for the moment and, instead, just type out a couple of wonderful lines I came across as I was (re)turning the pages of this unique little book. Encountering them, I  immediately knew that they pertained to me. Maybe they will resonate with some of you too.

In the fourth “lecture” of The Ethics…, the Old Lecturer is asking the girls if they have been diligently practicing their music. Some say yes with enthusiasm, others, hanging their heads and suddenly looking into vacant corners of the room, remain silent in chagrin. The Lecturer, knowing Isabel to be a particularly enthusiastic music lover, asks:

Can you play a Mozart sonata yet, Isabel?

(Isabel sadly shakes her head. To which, the Lecturer replies:)

The more need to practice then! All one’s life is a music–if one touches the notes rightly–and in time. But there must be no hurry!

Be well out there!

🙂

Jim

P.S.: Someplace in the vast cache which comprises Ruskin’s writings and letters, he remarks that Mozart has written the laws of melody for all time. 🙂

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