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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120: Geniuses

Fine Folks,

In our last post, (#119), I expressed my enthusiasm for a new (old), very little, Ruskin compendium collected by Rose Porter, Bits of Burnished Gold.  Then, for examples, I reproduced a page containing two of these bits, both of which Ruskin, at different moments in his didactic life, intended to inspire those listening to or reading him to be and do better during our days.

Today I offer another pair of bits from the same source. Like those in our last offering, these come from a single page our editor has created so that, read together, they will have better effect.

In the first, Ruskin is describing one of the characteristics of those few who have great genius. Surely when he set down these words he was thinking of Turner and Dante and Tennyson and Scott and Veronese–and a handful of others. However, as I read it, knowing him as well as I do, it seemed to me that he was also, without conscious awareness, talking of himself:

The whole difference between a man of genius and other men is that the first remains in great part a child, seeing with the large eyes of children, in perpetual wonder. Not conscious of much knowledge; conscious, rather, of infinite ignorance, and yet infinite power; a fountain of eternal admiration, delight, and creative force within him meeting the ocean of visible and governable things around him.

In the second bit, he is speaking about the rest of us, we who, despite the fact that, we possess more pedestrian souls, yet have our own good work to do as we face the things hard and soft, loving and less so, which inevitably come our way:

All men are to be men of genius in their degree…rivulets or rivers, it does not matter, so that their souls be clear and pure [and that they do their work with all their might, power, and love].

At the end of the last post, I mentioned that I did not know where Porter’s two bits resided within Ruskin’s vast reservoir of words. I don’t know where these come from either! However, not long after that earlier admission, David Valenta wrote to tell me that they came from one of Ruskin’s book of collected lectures, Sesame and Lilies. That mystery solved, maybe David, or another of you can solve the present one?

By the way, good Rose Porter has proved very elusive. I haven’t been able to find much about her on the web, a rarity these days. I have learned that she was an American, that she edited and wrote many books during her time, most of these about women and women’s issues, and that she lived between 1845 and 1906. But no other details have emerged from the historical mists and no picture has emerged that I can be sure is her. If anyone wants to have a hunt for more news of her, I’d be delighted.

Until then, we have these four wonderful bits of burnished gold, each a reflection of Ruskin’s genius and, collectively, of ours.

Be well out there!

🙂

Jim

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