Ruskin’s later works are often overlooked because of a fairly widespread belief that they have little of the genius of his prime and because they are thought to be tainted in some way by his on-again, off-again attacks of mental illness. My reading of all the works of this period, basically those written between 1878 and 1890, doesn’t convince me of either argument, as this remarkable passage from a later series of Oxford lectures called The Art of England (1884) shows.
We talked not long ago of the importance of work (#43). Always, for all of us, our work carries with its hopes, pleasures, complexities–and frustrations. These never go away unless we are the lucky of the lucky (and even that presumably desirable state may not be so lucky if it occurs)! In which context, here are, to my mind, some very useful thoughts about how we might best approach that which we all must and should do.
If you are minded thus to try, begin each day with [King] Alfred’s prayer–fiat voluntas tua, resolving that you will stand to it and that nothing that happens in the course of the day shall displease you. Then set to any work you have in hand with the sifted and purified resolution that ambition shall not mix with it, nor love of gain, nor desire of pleasure more than is appointed you, and that no anxiety shall touch you as to its issue, nor any impatience nor regret if it fail. Imagine that the thing is being done through you, not by you, that the good of it may never be known, but that, at least, unless by your rebellion or foolishness, there can come no evil into it, nor wrong chance to it. Resolve also with steady industry to do what you can for the help of your country and its honor, and the honor of its God, and that you will not join hands in its iniquity, nor turn aside from its misery… Live thus, and believe, and with swiftness of answer proportioned to the frankness of the trust, most surely the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in believing.
What do you think?
In the meantime, once again, it is back to work!
Be well out there!!