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Title: Selections From the Works of John Ruskin
Author: Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
Language: English
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Riverside College Classics





_Professor of English in Yale College_

The Riverside Press Cambridge




The Riverside Press


In making the following selections, I have tried to avoid the
appearance of such a volume as used to be entitled _Elegant Extracts_.
Wherever practicable, entire chapters or lectures are given, or at
least passages of sufficient length to insure a correct notion of the
general complexion of Ruskin's work. The text is in all cases that of
the first editions, unless these were later revised by Ruskin himself.
The original spelling and punctuation are preserved, but a few minor
changes have been made for the sake of uniformity among the various
extracts. For similar reasons, Ruskin's numbering of paragraphs is
dispensed with.

I have aimed not to multiply notes. Practically all Ruskin's own
annotation is given, with the exception of one or two very long and
somewhat irrelevant notes from _Stones of Venice_. It has not been
deemed necessary to give the dates of every painter or to explain
every geographical reference. On the other hand, the sources of most
of the quotations are indicated. In the preparation of these notes,
the magnificent library edition of Messrs. Cook and Wedderburn has
inevitably been of considerable assistance; but all their references
have been verified, many errors have been corrected, and much has of
course been added.

In closing I wish to express my obligation to my former colleague, Dr.
Lucius H. Holt, without whose assistance this volume would never have
appeared. He wrote a number of the notes, including the short prefaces
to the various selections, and prepared the manuscript for the


_September, 1908_.


    The Life of Ruskin
    The Unity of Ruskin's Writings
    Ruskin's Style

    The Earth-Veil
    The Mountain Glory
    Sunrise on the Alps
    The Grand Style
    Of Realization
    Of the Novelty of Landscape
    Of the Pathetic Fallacy
    Of Classical Landscape
    Of Modern Landscape
    The Two Boyhoods

    The Throne
    St. Mark's
    Characteristics of Gothic Architecture

    The Lamp of Memory
    The Lamp of Obedience

    The Relation of Art to Morals
    The Relation of Art to Use








[Sidenote: Two conflicting tendencies in Ruskin.]

It is distinctive of the nineteenth century that in its passion for
criticising everything in heaven and earth it by no means spared to
criticise itself. Alike in Carlyle's fulminations against its
insincerity, in Arnold's nice ridicule of Philistinism, and in
Ruskin's repudiation of everything modern, we detect that fine
dissatisfaction with the age which is perhaps only proof of its
idealistic trend. For the various ills of society, each of these men
had his panacea. What Carlyle had found in hero-worship and Arnold in
Hellenic culture, Ruskin sought in the study of art; and it is of the
last importance to remember that throughout his work he regarded
himself not merely as a writer on painting or buildings or myths or
landscape, but as the appointed critic of the age. For there existed
in him, side by side with his consuming love of the beautiful, a
rigorous Puritanism which was constantly correcting any tendency
toward a mere cult of the aesthetic. It is with the interaction of
these two forces that any study of the life and writings of Ruskin
should be primarily concerned.



[Sidenote: Ancestry.]

It is easy to trace in the life of Ruskin these two forces tending
respectively toward the love of beauty and toward the contempt of mere
beauty. They are, indeed, present from the beginning. He inherited
from his Scotch parents that upright fearlessness which has always
characterized the race. His stern mother "devoted him to God before he
was born,"[1] and she guarded her gift with unremitting but perhaps
misguided caution. The child was early taught to find most of his
entertainment within himself, and when he did not, he was whipped. He
had no playmates and few toys. His chief story-book was the Bible,
which he read many times from cover to cover at his mother's knee.
His father, the "perfectly honest wine-merchant," seems to have been
the one to foster the boy's aesthetic sense; he was in the habit of
reading aloud to his little family, and his son's apparently genuine
appreciation of Scott, Pope, and Homer dates from the incredibly early
age of five. It was his father, also, to whom he owed his early
acquaintance with the finest landscape, for the boy was his companion
in yearly business trips about Britain, and later visited, in his
parents' company, Belgium, western Germany, and the Alps.

[Sidenote: Early education.]

All this of course developed the child's precocity. He was early
suffered and even encouraged to compose verses;[2] by ten he had
written a play, which has unfortunately been preserved. The hot-house
rearing which his parents believed in, and his facility in teaching
himself, tended to make a regular course of schooling a mere
annoyance; such schooling as he had did not begin till he was fifteen,
and lasted less than two years, and was broken by illness. But the
chief effect of the sheltered life and advanced education to which he
was subjected was to endow him with depth at the expense of breadth,
and to deprive him of a possibly vulgar, but certainly healthy,
contact with his kind, which, one must believe, would have checked a
certain disposition in him to egotism, sentimentality, and dogmatic
vehemence. "The bridle and blinkers were never taken off me," he

[Sidenote: Student at Oxford.]

[Sidenote: Traveling in Europe.]

At Oxford--whither his cautious mother pursued him--Ruskin seems to
have been impressed in no very essential manner by curriculum or
college mates. With learning _per se_ he was always dissatisfied and
never had much to do; his course was distinguished not so much by
erudition as by culture. He easily won the Newdigate prize in poetry;
his rooms in Christ Church were hung with excellent examples of
Turner's landscapes,--the gift of his art-loving father,--of which he
had been an intimate student ever since the age of thirteen. But his
course was interrupted by an illness, apparently of a tuberculous
nature, which necessitated total relaxation and various trips in Italy
and Switzerland, where he seems to have been healed by walking among
his beloved Alps. For many years thereafter he passed months of his
time in these two countries, accompanied sometimes by his parents and
sometimes rather luxuriously, it seems, by valet and guide.

[Sidenote: Career as an author begins.]

Meanwhile he had commenced his career as author with the first volume
of _Modern Painters_, begun, the world knows, as a short defense of
Turner, originally intended for nothing more than a magazine article.
But the role of art-critic and law-giver pleased the youth,--he was
only twenty-four when the volume appeared,--and having no desire to
realize the ambition of his parents and become a bishop, and even less
to duplicate his father's career as vintner, he gladly seized the
opportunity thus offered him to develop his aesthetic vein and to
redeem the public mind from its vulgar apathy thereby. He continued
his work on _Modern Painters_, with some intermissions, for eighteen
years, and supplemented it with the equally famous _Seven Lamps of
Architecture_ in 1849, and _The Stones of Venice_ in 1853.

[Sidenote: Domestic troubles.]

This life of zealous work and brilliant recognition was interrupted in
1848 by Ruskin's amazing marriage to Miss Euphemia Gray, a union into
which he entered at the desire of his parents with a docility as
stupid as it was stupendous. Five years later the couple were quietly
divorced, that Mrs. Ruskin might marry Millais. All the author's
biographers maintain an indiscreet reserve in discussing the affair,
but there can be no concealment of the fact that its effect upon
Ruskin was profound in its depression. Experiences like this and his
later sad passion for Miss La Touche at once presage and indicate his
mental disorder, and no doubt had their share--a large one--in
causing Ruskin's dissatisfaction with everything, and above all with
his own life and work. Be this as it may, it is at this time in the
life of Ruskin that we must begin to reckon with the decline of his
aesthetic and the rise of his ethical impulse; his interest passes
from art to conduct. It is also the period in which he began his
career as lecturer, his chief interest being the social life of his

[Sidenote: Ruskin's increasing interest in social questions.]

By 1860, he was publishing the papers on political economy, later
called _Unto this Last_, which roused so great a storm of protest
when they appeared in the _Cornhill Magazine_ that their publication
had to be suspended. The attitude of the public toward such works
as these,--its alternate excitement and apathy,--the death of his
parents, combined with the distressing events mentioned above,
darkened Ruskin's life and spoiled his interest in everything that
did not tend to make the national life more thoughtfully solemn.

    "It seems to me that now ... the thoughts of the true nature of
    our life, and of its powers and responsibilities should present
    themselves with absolute sadness and sternness."[4]

His lectures as Slade Professor of Art at Oxford, a post which he
held at various times from 1870 to 1883, failed to re-establish his
undistracted interest in things beautiful.

[Sidenote: Triumph of the reformer over the art-critic.]

The complete triumph of the reformer over the art-critic is marked by
_Fors Clavigera_, a series of letters to workingmen, begun New Year's
Day, 1871, in which it was proposed to establish a model colony of
peasants, whose lives should be made simple, honest, happy, and even
cultured, by a return to more primitive methods of tilling the soil
and of making useful and beautiful objects. The Guild of St. George,
established to "slay the dragon of industrialism," to dispose of
machinery, slums, and discontent, consumed a large part of Ruskin's
time and money. He had inherited a fortune of approximately a million
dollars, and he now began to dispose of it in various charitable
schemes,--establishing tea-shops, supporting young painters, planning
model tenements, but, above all, in elaborating his ideas for the
Guild. The result of it all--whatever particular reforms were effected
or manual industries established--was, to Ruskin's view, failure, and
his mind, weakening under the strain of its profound disappointments,
at last crashed in ruin.

[Sidenote: Death in 1900.]

It is needless to follow the broken author through the desolation
of his closing years to his death in 1900. Save for his charming
reminiscences, _Præterita_, his work was done; the long struggle was
over, the struggle of one man to reduce the complexities of a national
life to an apostolic simplicity, to make it beautiful and good,

    Till the high God behold it from beyond,
    And enter it.

  [1] _Præterita_. He was born February 8, 1819.

  [2] Ruskin himself quotes a not very brilliant specimen in _Modern
  Painters_, III, in "Moral of Landscape."

  [3] _Præterita_, § 53.

  [4] _The Mystery of Life._



[Sidenote: Diversity of his writings.]

Ruskin is often described as an author of bewildering variety, whose
mind drifted waywardly from topic to topic--from painting to political
economy, from architecture to agriculture--with a license as
illogical as it was indiscriminating. To this impression, Ruskin
himself sometimes gave currency. He was, for illustration, once
announced to lecture on crystallography, but, as we are informed by
one present,[5] he opened by asserting that he was really about to
lecture on Cistercian architecture; nor did it greatly matter what the
title was; "for," said he, "if I had begun to speak about Cistercian
abbeys, I should have been sure to get on crystals presently; and if
I had begun upon crystals, I should soon have drifted into
architecture." Those who conceive of Ruskin as being thus a kind of
literary Proteus like to point to the year 1860, that of the
publication of his tracts on economics, as witnessing the greatest
and suddenest of his changes, that from reforming art to reforming
society; and it is true that this year affords a simple dividing-line
between Ruskin's earlier work, which is sufficiently described by the
three titles, _Modern Painters, The Seven Lamps of Architecture_, and
_The Stones of Venice_, and his later work, chiefly on social subjects
such as are discussed in _Unto This Last, The Crown of Wild Olive_,
and _Fors Clavigera_. And yet we cannot insist too often on the
essential unity of this work, for, viewed in the large, it betrays one
continuous development. The seeds of _Fors_ are in _The Stones of

[Sidenote: Underlying idea in all his works.]

The governing idea of Ruskin's first published work, _Modern Painters,
Volume I_, was a moral idea. The book was dedicated to the principle
that that art is greatest which deals with the greatest number of
greatest ideas,--those, we learn presently, which reveal divine
truth; the office of the painter, we are told,[6] is the same as that
of the preacher, for "the duty of both is to take for each discourse
one essential truth." As if recalling this argument that the painter
is a preacher, Carlyle described _The Stones of Venice_ as a "sermon
in stones." In the idea that all art, when we have taken due account
of technique and training, springs from a moral character, we find the
unifying principle of Ruskin's strangely diversified work. The very
title _The Seven Lamps of Architecture_, with its chapters headed
"Sacrifice," "Obedience," etc., is a sufficient illustration of
Ruskin's identification of moral principles with aesthetic principles.
A glance at the following pages of this book will show how Ruskin is
for ever halting himself to demand the moral significance of some fair
landscape, gorgeous painting, heaven-aspiring cathedral. In "Mountain
Glory," for example, he refers to the mountains as "kindly in simple
lessons to the workman," and inquires later at what times mankind has
offered worship in these mountain churches; of the English cathedral
he says, "Weigh the influence of those dark towers on all who have
passed through the lonely square at their feet for centuries";[7] of
St. Mark's, "And what effect has this splendour on those who pass
beneath it?"--and it will be noticed on referring to "The Two
Boyhoods," that, in seeking to define the difference between Giorgione
and Turner, the author instinctively has recourse to distinguishing
the _religious_ influences exerted on the two in youth.

[Sidenote: Underlying idea a moral one.]

Now it is clear that a student of the relation of art to life, of work
to the character of the workman and of his nation, may, and in fact
inevitably must, be led in time to attend to the producer rather than
to the product, to the cause rather than to the effect; and if we
grant, with Ruskin, that the sources of art, namely, the national
life, are denied, it will obviously be the part, not only of humanity
but of common sense, for such a student to set about purifying the
social life of the nation. Whether the reformation proposed by Ruskin
be the proper method of attack is not the question we are here
concerned with; our only object at present being to call attention to
the fact that such a lecture as that on "Traffic" in _The Crown of
Wild Olive_ is the logical outgrowth of such a chapter as "Ideas of
Beauty" in the first volume of _Modern Painters_. Between the author
who wrote in 1842, of the necessity of revealing new truths in
painting, "This, if it be an honest work of art, it must have done,
for no man ever yet worked honestly without giving some such help to
his race. God appoints to every one of his creatures a separate
mission, and if they discharge it honourably ... there will assuredly
come of it such burning as, in its appointed mode and measure, shall
shine before men, and be of service constant and holy,"[8] and the
author who wrote, "That country is the richest which nourishes the
greatest number of noble and happy human beings,"[9] or, "The
beginning of art is in getting our country clean, and our people
beautiful,"[10]--between these two, I say, there is no essential
difference. They are not contradictory but consistent.

[Sidenote: Art dependent upon personal and national greatness.]

Amidst the maze of subjects, then, which Ruskin, with kaleidoscopic
suddenness and variety, brings before the astonished gaze of his
readers, let them confidently hold this guiding clue. They will find
that Ruskin's "facts" are often not facts at all; they will discover
that many of Ruskin's choicest theories have been dismissed to the
limbo of exploded hypotheses; but they will seek long before they find
a more eloquent and convincing plea for the proposition that all great
art reposes upon a foundation of personal and national greatness.
Critics of Ruskin will show you that he began _Modern Painters_ while
he was yet ignorant of the classic Italians; that he wrote _The Stones
of Venice_ without realizing the full indebtedness of the Venetian to
the Byzantine architecture; that he proposed to unify the various
religious sects although he had no knowledge of theology; that he
attempted a reconstruction of society though he had had no scientific
training in political economy; but in all this neglect of mere fact
the sympathetic reader will discover that contempt for the letter
of the law which was characteristic of the nineteenth-century
prophet,--of Carlyle, of Arnold, and of Emerson,--and which, if it
be blindness, is that produced by an excess of light.

  [5] See Harrison's _Life_, p. 111. Cf. the opening of _The Mystery
  of Life_.

  [6] Part 2, sec. 1, chap. 4.

  [7] See p. 159.

  [8] _Modern Painters_, vol. 1, part 2, sec. 1, chap. 7.

  [9] _Unto This Last_.

  [10] See p. 262.



[Sidenote: Sensuousness of his style.]

Many people regard the style of Ruskin as his chief claim to
greatness. If the time ever come when men no longer study him for
sermons in stones, they will nevertheless turn to his pages to enjoy
one of the most gorgeous prose styles of the nineteenth century. For a
parallel to the sensuous beauties of Ruskin's essays on art, one turns
instinctively to poetry; and of all the poets Ruskin is perhaps likest
Keats. His sentences, like the poet's, are thick-set with jeweled
phrases; they are full of subtle harmonies that respond, like a
Stradivarius, to the player's every mood. In its ornateness Ruskin's
style is like his favorite cathedral of Amiens, in the large stately,
in detail exquisite, profuse, and not without a touch of the
grotesque. It is the style of an artist.

[Sidenote: Ruskin's method of construction in description.]

A critical fancy may even discover in the construction of his finest
descriptions a method not unlike that of a painter at work upon his
canvas. He blocks them out in large masses, then sketches and colors
rapidly for general effects, treating detail at first more or less
vaguely and collectively, but passing in the end to the elaboration of
detail in the concrete, touching the whole with an imaginative gleam
that lends a momentary semblance of life to the thing described, after
the manner of the "pathetic fallacy." Thus it is in the famous
description of St. Mark's:[11] we are given first the largest general
impression, the "long, low pyramid of coloured light," which the
artist proceeds to "hollow beneath into five great vaulted porches,"
whence he leads the eye slowly upwards amidst a mass of bewildering
detail--"a confusion of delight"--from which there slowly emerge those
concrete details with which the author particularly wishes to impress
us, "the breasts of the Greek horses blazing in their breadth of
golden strength and St. Mark's lion lifted on a blue field covered
with stars." In lesser compass we are shown the environs of Venice,[12]
the general impression of the "long, low, sad-coloured line," being
presently broken by the enumeration of unanalyzed detail, "tufted
irregularly with brushwood and willows," and passing to concrete
detail in the hills of Arqua, "a dark cluster of purple pyramids." In
the still more miniature description of the original site of Venice[13]
we have the same method:

    "The black desert of their shore lies in its nakedness beneath
    the night, pathless, comfortless, infirm, lost in dark languor
    and fearful silence, except where the salt runlets plash into the
    tideless pools and the sea-birds flit from their margins with a
    questioning cry."

[Sidenote: His love of color.]

Equally characteristic of the painter is the ever-present use of
color. It is interesting merely to count the number and variety of
colors used in the descriptions. It will serve at least to call the
reader's attention to the felicitous choice of words used in
describing the opalescence of St. Mark's or the skillful combination
of the colors characteristic of the great Venetians in such a sentence
as, "the low bronzed gleaming of sea-rusted armor shot angrily under
their blood-red mantle-folds"[14]--a glimpse of a Giorgione.

[Sidenote: His love of prose rhythm.]

He is even more attentive to the ear than to the eye. He loves the
sentence of stately rhythms and long-drawn harmonies, and he omits no
poetic device that can heighten the charm of sound,--alliteration, as
in the famous description of the streets of Venice,

    "Far as the eye could reach, still the soft moving of stainless
    waters proudly pure; as not the flower, so neither the thorn nor
    the thistle could grow in those glancing fields";[15]

the balanced close for some long period,

    "to write her history on the white scrolls of the sea-surges and
    to word it in their thunder, and to gather and give forth, in the
    world-wide pulsation, the glory of the West and of the East, from
    the burning heart of her Fortitude and splendour";[16]

and the tendency, almost a mannerism, to add to the music of his own
rhythm, the deep organ-notes of Biblical text and paraphrase. But if
we wish to see how aptly Ruskin's style responds to the tone of his
subject, we need but remark the rich liquid sentence descriptive of
Giorgione's home,

    "brightness out of the north and balm from the south, and the stars
    of evening and morning clear in the limitless light of arched
    heaven and circling sea,"[17]

which he has set over against the harsh explosiveness of

    "Near the south-west corner of Covent Garden, a square brick pit
    or wall is formed by a close-set block of house to the back
    windows of which it admits a few rays of light--"

the birthplace of Turner.

[Sidenote: His beauty of style often distracts from the thought.]

But none knew better than Ruskin that a style so stiff with ornament
was likely to produce all manner of faults. In overloading his
sentences with jewelry he frequently obscures the sense; his beauties
often degenerate into mere prettiness; his sweetness cloys. His free
indulgence of the emotions, often at the expense of the intellect,
leads to a riotous extravagance of superlative. But, above all, his
richness distracts attention from matter to manner. In the case of an
author so profoundly in earnest, this could not but be unfortunate;
nothing enraged him more than to have people look upon the beauties of
his style rather than ponder the substance of his book. In a passage
of complacent self-scourging he says:

    "For I have had what, in many respects, I boldly call the
    misfortune, to set my words sometimes prettily together; not
    without a foolish vanity in the poor knack that I had of doing
    so, until I was heavily punished for this pride by finding that
    many people thought of the words only, and cared nothing for their
    meaning. Happily, therefore, the power of using such language--if
    indeed it ever were mine--is passing away from me; and whatever I
    am now able to say at all I find myself forced to say with great

[Sidenote: His picturesque extravagance of style.]

But Ruskin's decision to speak with "great plainness" by no means made
the people of England attend to what he said rather than the way he
said it. He could be, and in his later work he usually was, strong
and clear; but the old picturesqueness and exuberance of passion were
with him still. The public discovered that it enjoyed Ruskin's
denunciations of machinery much as it had enjoyed his descriptions of
mountains, and, without obviously mending its ways, called loudly for
more. Lecture-rooms were crowded and editions exhausted by the ladies
and gentlemen of England, whose nerves were pleasantly thrilled with a
gentle surprise on being told that they had despised literature, art,
science, nature, and compassion, and that what they thought upon any
subject was "a matter of no serious importance"; that they could not
be said to have any thoughts at all--indeed, no right to think.[19]
The fiercer his anathemas, the greater the applause; the louder he
shouted, the better he pleased. Let him split the ears of the
groundlings, let him out-Herod Herod,--the judicious might grieve, but
all would be excitedly attentive. Their Jeremiah seemed at times like
to become a jester,--there was a suggestion of the ludicrous in the
sudden passage from birds to Greek coins, to mills, to Walter Scott,
to millionaire malefactors,--a suggestion of acrobatic tumbling and
somersault; but he always got a hearing. In lecturing to the students
of a military academy he had the pleasing audacity to begin:

    "Young soldiers, I do not doubt but that many of you came
    unwillingly to-night, and many of you in merely contemptuous
    curiosity, to hear what a writer on painting could possibly say,
    or would venture to say, respecting your great art of war";[20]

after which stinging challenge, one has no doubt, any feeling of
offense was swallowed up in admiration of the speaker's physical

[Sidenote: Influence of Carlyle upon Ruskin.]

[Sidenote: The unity of Ruskin's style.]

There can be little doubt that this later manner in which Ruskin
allowed his Puritan instincts to defeat his aestheticism, and indulged
to an alarming degree his gift of vituperation, was profoundly
influenced by his "master," Carlyle, who had long since passed into
his later and raucous manner. Carlyle's delight in the disciple's
diatribes probably encouraged the younger man in a vehemence of
invective to which his love of dogmatic assertion already rendered
him too prone. At his best, Ruskin, like Carlyle, reminds us of a
major prophet; at his worst he shrieks and heats the air. His high
indignations lead him into all manner of absurdity and self-contradiction.
An amusing instance of this may be given from _Sesame and Lilies_. In
the first lecture, which, it will be recalled, was given in aid of a
library fund, we find[21] the remark, "We are filthy and foolish enough
to thumb one another's books out of circulating libraries." His friends
and his enemies, the clergy (who "teach a false gospel for hire") and
the scientists, the merchants and the universities, Darwin and Dante,
all had their share in the indignant lecturer's indiscriminate abuse.
And yet in all the tropical luxuriance of his inconsistency, one can
never doubt the man's sincerity. He never wrote for effect. He may
dazzle us, but his fire is never pyrotechnical; it always springs from
the deep volcanic heart of him. His was a fervor too easily stirred and
often ill-directed, but its wild brilliance cannot long be mistaken for
the sky-rocket's; it flares madly in all directions, now beautifying,
now appalling, the night, the fine ardor of the painter passing into
the fierce invective of the prophet. But in the end it is seen that
Ruskin's style, like his subject-matter, is a unity,--an emanation from
a divine enthusiasm making for "whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report."

  [11] See p. 162.

  [12] See p. 139.

  [13] See p. 147.

  [14] See p. 121.

  [15] See p. 122.

  [16] See p. 149.

  [17] See p. 122.

  [18] _The Mystery of Life_.

  [19] _Sesame and Lilies_, "Kings' Treasuries," §§ 25, 31.

  [20] _The Crown of Wild Olive_, "War."

  [21] "Kings' Treasuries," § 32.


The five volumes of _Modern Painters_ appeared at various intervals
between 1843 and 1860, from the time Ruskin was twenty-four until he
was forty. The first volume was published in May, 1843; the second, in
April, 1846; the third, January 15, 1856; the fourth, April 14, 1856;
the last, in June, 1860. As his knowledge of his subject broadened and
deepened, we find the later volumes differing greatly in viewpoint
and style from the earlier; but, as stated in the preface to the last
volume, "in the main aim and principle of the book there is no
variation, from its first syllable to its last." Ruskin himself
maintained that the most important influence upon his thought in
preparation for his work in _Modern Painters_ was not from his "love
of art, but of mountains and seas"; and all the power of judgment he
had obtained in art, he ascribed to his "steady habit of always
looking for the subject principally, and for the art only as the means
of expressing it." The first volume was published as the work of "a
graduate of Oxford," Ruskin "fearing that I might not obtain fair
hearing if the reader knew my youth." The author's proud father did
not allow the secret to be kept long. The title Ruskin originally
chose for the volume was _Turner and the Ancients_. To this Smith,
Elder & Co., his publishers, objected, and the substitution of _Modern
Painters_ was their suggestion The following is the title-page of the
first volume in the original edition:

                    MODERN PAINTERS:
                  _Their Superiority_
          _In the Art of Landscape Painting_
                       _To_ all
                 _The Ancient Masters_
                 proved by examples of
     The True, the Beautiful, and the Intellectual,
                       From the
          Works of Modern Artists, especially
        From those of J.M.W. Turner, Esq., R.A.
                By a Graduate of Oxford
              (Quotation from Wordsworth)
        London: Smith, Elder & Co., 65 Cornhill.



"To dress it and to keep it."[22]

That, then, was to be our work. Alas! what work have we set ourselves
upon instead! How have we ravaged the garden instead of kept
it--feeding our war-horses with its flowers, and splintering its trees
into spear-shafts!

"And at the East a flaming sword."[22]

Is its flame quenchless? and are those gates that keep the way indeed
passable no more? or is it not rather that we no more desire to enter?
For what can we conceive of that first Eden which we might not yet win
back, if we chose? It was a place full of flowers, we say. Well: the
flowers are always striving to grow wherever we suffer them; and the
fairer, the closer. There may, indeed, have been a Fall of Flowers, as
a Fall of Man; but assuredly creatures such as we are can now fancy
nothing lovelier than roses and lilies, which would grow for us side
by side, leaf overlapping leaf, till the Earth was white and red with
them, if we cared to have it so. And Paradise was full of pleasant
shades and fruitful avenues. Well: what hinders us from covering as
much of the world as we like with pleasant shade, and pure blossom,
and goodly fruit? Who forbids its valleys to be covered over with corn
till they laugh and sing? Who prevents its dark forests, ghostly and
uninhabitable, from being changed into infinite orchards, wreathing
the hills with frail-floreted snow, far away to the half-lighted
horizon of April, and flushing the face of all the autumnal earth with
glow of clustered food? But Paradise was a place of peace, we say, and
all the animals were gentle servants to us. Well: the world would yet
be a place of peace if we were all peacemakers, and gentle service
should we have of its creatures if we gave them gentle mastery. But so
long as we make sport of slaying bird and beast, so long as we choose
to contend rather with our fellows than with our faults, and make
battlefield of our meadows instead of pasture--so long, truly, the
Flaming Sword will still turn every way, and the gates of Eden remain
barred close enough, till we have sheathed the sharper flame of our
own passions, and broken down the closer gates of our own hearts.

I have been led to see and feel this more and more, as I consider the
service which the flowers and trees, which man was at first appointed
to keep, were intended to render to him in return for his care; and
the services they still render to him, as far as he allows their
influence, or fulfils his own task towards them. For what infinite
wonderfulness there is in this vegetation, considered, as indeed it
is, as the means by which the earth becomes the companion of man--his
friend and his teacher! In the conditions which we have traced in its
rocks, there could only be seen preparation for his existence;--the
characters which enable him to live on it safely, and to work with it
easily--in all these it has been inanimate and passive; but vegetation
is to it as an imperfect soul, given to meet the soul of man. The
earth in its depths must remain dead and cold, incapable except of
slow crystalline change; but at its surface, which human beings look
upon and deal with, it ministers to them through a veil of strange
intermediate being: which breathes, but has no voice; moves, but
cannot leave its appointed place; passes through life without
consciousness, to death without bitterness; wears the beauty of youth,
without its passion; and declines to the weakness of age, without its

And in this mystery of intermediate being, entirely subordinate to us,
with which we can deal as we choose, having just the greater power as
we have the less responsibility for our treatment of the unsuffering
creature, most of the pleasures which we need from the external world
are gathered, and most of the lessons we need are written, all kinds
of precious grace and teaching being united in this link between the
Earth and Man; wonderful in universal adaptation to his need, desire,
and discipline; God's daily preparation of the earth for him, with
beautiful means of life. First, a carpet to make it soft for him;
then, a coloured fantasy of embroidery thereon; then, tall spreading
of foliage to shade him from sun heat, and shade also the fallen rain;
that it may not dry quickly back into the clouds, but stay to nourish
the springs among the moss. Stout wood to bear this leafage: easily to
be cut, yet tough and light, to make houses for him, or instruments
(lance-shaft, or plough-handle, according to his temper); useless, it
had been, if harder; useless, if less fibrous; useless, if less
elastic. Winter comes, and the shade of leafage falls away, to let the
sun warm the earth; the strong boughs remain, breaking the strength of
winter winds. The seeds which are to prolong the race, innumerable
according to the need, are made beautiful and palatable, varied into
infinitude of appeal to the fancy of man, or provision for his
service: cold juice, or glowing spice, or balm, or incense, softening
oil, preserving resin, medicine of styptic, febrifuge, or lulling
charm: and all these presented in forms of endless change. Fragility
or force, softness and strength, in all degrees and aspects; unerring
uprightness, as of temple pillars, or unguided wandering of feeble
tendrils on the ground; mighty resistances of rigid arm and limb to
the storms of ages, or wavings to and fro with faintest pulse of
summer streamlet. Roots cleaving the strength of rock, or binding the
transience of the sand; crests basking in sunshine of the desert, or
hiding by dripping spring and lightless cave; foliage far tossing in
entangled fields beneath every wave of ocean--clothing, with
variegated, everlasting films, the peaks of the trackless mountains,
or ministering at cottage doors to every gentlest passion and simplest
joy of humanity.

Being thus prepared for us in all ways, and made beautiful, and good
for food, and for building, and for instruments in our hands, this
race of plants, deserving boundless affection and admiration from us,
becomes, in proportion to their obtaining it, a nearly perfect test of
our being in right temper of mind and way of life; so that no one can
be far wrong in either who loves the trees enough, and every one is
assuredly wrong in both who does not love them, if his life has
brought them in his way. It is clearly possible to do without them,
for the great companionship of the sea and sky are all that sailors
need; and many a noble heart has been taught the best it had to learn
between dark stone walls. Still if human life be cast among trees at
all, the love borne to them is a sure test of its purity. And it is a
sorrowful proof of the mistaken ways of the world that the "country,"
in the simple sense of a place of fields and trees, has hitherto been
the source of reproach to its inhabitants, and that the words
"countryman, rustic, clown, paysan, villager," still signify a rude
and untaught person, as opposed to the words "townsman" and "citizen".
We accept this usage of words, or the evil which it signifies,
somewhat too quietly; as if it were quite necessary and natural that
country-people should be rude, and townspeople gentle. Whereas I
believe that the result of each mode of life may, in some stages of
the world's progress, be the exact reverse; and that another use of
words may be forced upon us by a new aspect of facts, so that we may
find ourselves saying: "Such and such a person is very gentle and
kind--he is quite rustic; and such and such another person is very
rude and ill-taught--he is quite urbane."

At all events, cities have hitherto gained the better part of their
good report through our evil ways of going on in the world generally;
chiefly and eminently through our bad habit of fighting with each
other. No field, in the Middle Ages, being safe from devastation, and
every country lane yielding easier passage to the marauders,
peacefully-minded men necessarily congregated in cities, and walled
themselves in, making as few cross-country roads as possible: while
the men who sowed and reaped the harvests of Europe were only the
servants or slaves of the barons. The disdain of all agricultural
pursuits by the nobility, and of all plain facts by the monks, kept
educated Europe in a state of mind over which natural phenomena could
have no power; body and intellect being lost in the practice of war
without purpose, and the meditation of words without meaning. Men
learned the dexterity with sword and syllogism, which they mistook for
education, within cloister and tilt-yard; and looked on all the broad
space of the world of God mainly as a place for exercise of horses, or
for growth of food.

There is a beautiful type of this neglect of the perfectness of the
Earth's beauty, by reason of the passions of men, in that picture of
Paul Uccello's of the battle of Sant' Egidio,[23] in which the armies
meet on a country road beside a hedge of wild roses; the tender red
flowers tossing above the helmets, and glowing beneath the lowered
lances. For in like manner the whole of Nature only shone hitherto for
man between the tossing of helmet-crests; and sometimes I cannot but
think of the trees of the earth as capable of a kind of sorrow, in
that imperfect life of theirs, as they opened their innocent leaves in
the warm springtime, in vain for men; and all along the dells of
England her beeches cast their dappled shade only where the outlaw
drew his bow, and the king rode his careless chase; and by the sweet
French rivers their long ranks of poplar waved in the twilight, only
to show the flames of burning cities on the horizon, through the
tracery of their stems; amidst the fair defiles of the Apennines, the
twisted olive-trunks hid the ambushes of treachery; and on their
valley meadows, day by day, the lilies which were white at the dawn
were washed with crimson at sunset.

And indeed I had once purposed, in this work, to show what kind of
evidence existed respecting the possible influence of country life on
men; it seeming to me, then, likely that here and there a reader would
perceive this to be a grave question, more than most which we contend
about, political or social, and might care to follow it out with me

The day will assuredly come when men will see that it _is_ a
grave question; at which period, also, I doubt not, there will arise
persons able to investigate it. For the present, the movements of the
world seem little likely to be influenced by botanical law; or by any
other considerations respecting trees, than the probable price of
timber. I shall limit myself, therefore, to my own simple woodman's
work, and try to hew this book into its final shape, with the limited
and humble aim that I had in beginning it, namely, to prove how far
the idle and peaceable persons, who have hitherto cared about leaves
and clouds, have rightly seen, or faithfully reported of them.

  [22] _Genesis_ ii, 15; iii 24.

  [23] "In our own National Gallery. It is quaint and imperfect, but
  of great interest." [Ruskin.] Paolo Uccello (c. 1397-1475), a
  Florentine painter of the Renaissance, the first of the naturalists.
  His real name was Paolo di Dono, but he was called Uccello from his
  fondness for birds.



I have dwelt, in the foregoing chapter, on the sadness of the hills
with the greater insistence that I feared my own excessive love for
them might lead me into too favourable interpretation of their
influences over the human heart; or, at least, that the reader might
accuse me of fond prejudice, in the conclusions to which, finally, I
desire to lead him concerning them. For, to myself, mountains are the
beginning and the end of all natural scenery; in them, and in the
forms of inferior landscape that lead to them, my affections are
wholly bound up; and though I can look with happy admiration at the
lowland flowers, and woods, and open skies, the happiness is tranquil
and cold, like that of examining detached flowers in a conservatory,
or reading a pleasant book; and if the scenery be resolutely level,
insisting upon the declaration of its own flatness in all the detail
of it, as in Holland, or Lincolnshire, or Central Lombardy, it appears
to me like a prison, and I cannot long endure it. But the slightest
rise and fall in the road,--a mossy bank at the side of a crag of
chalk, with brambles at its brow, overhanging it,--a ripple over three
or four stones in the stream by the bridge,--above all, a wild bit of
ferny ground under a fir or two, looking as if, possibly, one might
see a hill if one got to the other side of the trees, will instantly
give me intense delight, because the shadow, or the hope, of the hills
is in them.

And thus, although there are few districts of Northern Europe, however
apparently dull or tame, in which I cannot find pleasure, though the
whole of Northern France (except Champagne), dull as it seems to most
travellers, is to me a perpetual Paradise; and, putting Lincolnshire,
Leicestershire, and one or two such other perfectly flat districts
aside, there is not an English county which I should not find
entertainment in exploring the cross-roads of, foot by foot; yet all
my best enjoyment would be owing to the imagination of the hills,
colouring, with their far-away memories, every lowland stone and herb.
The pleasant French coteau, green in the sunshine, delights me, either
by what real mountain character it has in itself (for in extent and
succession of promontory the flanks of the French valleys have quite
the sublimity of true mountain distances), or by its broken ground
and rugged steps among the vines, and rise of the leafage above,
against the blue sky, as it might rise at Vevay or Como. There is not
a wave of the Seine but is associated in my mind with the first rise
of the sandstones and forest pines of Fontaine-bleau; and with the
hope of the Alps, as one leaves Paris with the horses' heads to the
south-west, the morning sun flashing on the bright waves at Charenton.
If there be _no_ hope or association of this kind, and if I cannot
deceive myself into fancying that perhaps at the next rise of the road
there may be seen the film of a blue hill in the gleam of sky at the
horizon, the landscape, however beautiful, produces in me even a kind
of sickness and pain; and the whole view from Richmond Hill or Windsor
Terrace,--nay, the gardens of Alcinous, with their perpetual
summer,--or of the Hesperides (if they were flat, and not close to
Atlas), golden apples and all,--I would give away in an instant, for
one mossy granite stone a foot broad, and two leaves of lady-fern.[24]

I know that this is in great part idiosyncrasy; and that I must not
trust to my own feelings, in this respect, as representative of the
modern landscape instinct: yet I know it is not idiosyncrasy, in so
far as there may be proved to be indeed an increase of the absolute
beauty of all scenery in exact proportion to its mountainous
character, providing that character be _healthily_ mountainous. I do
not mean to take the Col de Bonhomme as representative of hills, any
more than I would take Romney Marsh as representative of plains; but
putting Leicestershire or Staffordshire fairly beside Westmoreland,
and Lombardy or Champagne fairly beside the Pays de Vaud or the Canton
Berne, I find the increase in the calculable sum of elements of beauty
to be steadily in proportion to the increase of mountainous character;
and that the best image which the world can give of Paradise is in the
slope of the meadows, orchards, and corn-fields on the sides of a
great Alp, with its purple rocks and eternal snows above; this
excellence not being in any wise a matter referable to feeling, or
individual preferences, but demonstrable by calm enumeration of the
number of lovely colours on the rocks, the varied grouping of the
trees, and quantity of noble incidents in stream, crag, or cloud,
presented to the eye at any given moment.

For consider, first, the difference produced in the whole tone of
landscape colour by the introductions of purple, violet, and deep
ultramarine blue, which we owe to mountains. In an ordinary lowland
landscape we have the blue of the sky; the green of grass, which I
will suppose (and this is an unnecessary concession to the lowlands)
entirely fresh and bright; the green of trees; and certain elements of
purple, far more rich and beautiful than we generally should think, in
their bark and shadows (bare hedges and thickets, or tops of trees, in
subdued afternoon sunshine, are nearly perfect purple, and of an
exquisite tone), as well as in ploughed fields, and dark ground in
general. But among mountains, in _addition_ to all this, large
unbroken spaces of pure violet and purple are introduced in their
distances; and even near, by films of cloud passing over the darkness
of ravines or forests, blues are produced of the most subtle
tenderness; these azures and purples[25] passing into rose-colour of
otherwise wholly unattainable delicacy among the upper summits, the
blue of the sky being at the same time purer and deeper than in the
plains. Nay, in some sense, a person who has never seen the
rose-colour of the rays of dawn crossing a blue mountain twelve or
fifteen miles away, can hardly be said to know what _tenderness_ in
colour means at all; _bright_ tenderness he may, indeed, see in the
sky or in a flower, but this grave tenderness of the far-away
hill-purples he cannot conceive.

Together with this great source of pre-eminence in _mass_ of colour,
we have to estimate the influence of the finished inlaying and
enamel-work of the colour-jewellery on every stone; and that of the
continual variety in species of flower; most of the mountain flowers
being, besides, separately lovelier than the lowland ones. The wood
hyacinth and wild rose are, indeed, the only _supreme_ flowers that
the lowlands can generally show; and the wild rose is also a
mountaineer, and more fragrant in the hills, while the wood hyacinth,
or grape hyacinth, at its best cannot match even the dark
bell-gentian, leaving the light-blue star-gentian in its uncontested
queenliness, and the Alpine rose and Highland heather wholly without
similitude. The violet, lily of the valley, crocus, and wood anemone
are, I suppose, claimable partly by the plains as well as the hills;
but the large orange lily and narcissus I have never seen but on hill
pastures, and the exquisite oxalisis pre-eminently a mountaineer.[26]

To this supremacy in mosses and flowers we have next to add an
inestimable gain in the continual presence and power of water. Neither
in its clearness, its colour, its fantasy of motion, its calmness of
space, depth, and reflection, or its wrath, can water be conceived by
a lowlander, out of sight of sea. A sea wave is far grander than any
torrent--but of the sea and its influences we are not now speaking;
and the sea itself, though it _can_ be clear, is never calm, among our
shores, in the sense that a mountain lake can be calm. The sea seems
only to pause; the mountain lake to sleep, and to dream. Out of sight
of the ocean a lowlander cannot be considered ever to have seen water
at all. The mantling of the pools in the rock shadows, with the golden
flakes of light sinking down through them like falling leaves, the
ringing of the thin currents among the shallows, the flash and the
cloud of the cascade, the earthquake and foam-fire of the cataract,
the long lines of alternate mirror and mist that lull the imagery of
the hills reversed in the blue of morning,--all these things belong to
those hills as their undivided inheritance.

To this supremacy in wave and stream is joined a no less manifest
pre-eminence in the character of trees. It is possible among plains,
in the species of trees which properly belong to them, the poplars of
Amiens, for instance, to obtain a serene simplicity of grace, which,
as I said, is a better help to the study of gracefulness, as such,
than any of the wilder groupings of the hills; so, also, there are
certain conditions of symmetrical luxuriance developed in the park and
avenue, rarely rivalled in their way among mountains; and yet the
mountain superiority in foliage is, on the whole, nearly as complete
as it is in water: for exactly as there are some expressions in the
broad reaches of a navigable lowland river, such as the Loire or
Thames, not, in their way, to be matched among the rock rivers, and
yet for all that a lowlander cannot be said to have truly seen the
element of water at all; so even in the richest parks and avenues he
cannot be said to have truly seen trees. For the resources of trees
are not developed until they have difficulty to contend with; neither
their tenderness of brotherly love and harmony, till they are forced
to choose their ways of various life where there is contracted room
for them, talking to each other with their restrained branches. The
various action of trees rooting themselves in inhospitable rocks,
stooping to look into ravines, hiding from the search of glacier
winds, reaching forth to the rays of rare sunshine, crowding down
together to drink at sweetest streams, climbing hand in hand among the
difficult slopes, opening in sudden dances round the mossy knolls,
gathering into companies at rest among the fragrant fields, gliding in
grave procession over the heavenward ridges--nothing of this can be
conceived among the unvexed and unvaried felicities of the lowland
forest: while to all these direct sources of greater beauty are added,
first the power of redundance,--the mere quantity of foliage visible
in the folds and on the promontories of a single Alp being greater
than that of an entire lowland landscape (unless a view from some
cathedral tower); and to this charm of redundance, that of clearer
_visibility_,--tree after tree being constantly shown in successive
height, one behind another, instead of the mere tops and flanks of
masses, as in the plains; and the forms of multitudes of them
continually defined against the clear sky, near and above, or against
white clouds entangled among their branches, instead of being confused
in dimness of distance.

Finally, to this supremacy in foliage we have to add the still less
questionable supremacy in clouds. There is no effect of sky possible
in the lowlands which may not in equal perfection be seen among the
hills; but there are effects by tens of thousands, for ever invisible
and inconceivable to the inhabitant of the plains, manifested among
the hills in the course of one day. The mere power of familiarity with
the clouds, of walking with them and above them, alters and renders
clear our whole conception of the baseless architecture of the sky;
and for the beauty of it, there is more in a single wreath of early
cloud, pacing its way up an avenue of pines, or pausing among the
points of their fringes, than in all the white heaps that fill the
arched sky of the plains from one horizon to the other. And of the
nobler cloud manifestations,--the breaking of their troublous seas
against the crags, their black spray sparkling with lightning; or the
going forth of the morning[27] along their pavements of moving marble,
level-laid between dome and dome of snow;--of these things there can
be as little imagination or understanding in an inhabitant of the
plains as of the scenery of another planet than his own.

And, observe, all these superiorities are matters plainly measurable
and calculable, not in any wise to be referred to estimate of
_sensation_. Of the grandeur or expression of the hills I have not
spoken; how far they are great, or strong, or terrible, I do not for
the moment consider, because vastness, and strength, and terror, are
not to all minds subjects of desired contemplation. It may make no
difference to some men whether a natural object be large or small,
whether it be strong or feeble. But loveliness of colour, perfectness
of form, endlessness of change, wonderfulness of structure, are
precious to all undiseased human minds; and the superiority of the
mountains in all these things to the lowland is, I repeat, as
measurable as the richness of a painted window matched with a white
one, or the wealth of a museum compared with that of a simply
furnished chamber. They seem to have been built for the human race, as
at once their schools and cathedrals; full of treasures of illuminated
manuscript for the scholar, kindly in simple lessons to the worker,
quiet in pale cloisters for the thinker, glorious in holiness for the
worshipper. And of these great cathedrals of the earth, with their
gates of rock, pavements of cloud, choirs of stream and stone, altars
of snow, and vaults of purple traversed by the continual stars,--of
these, as we have seen,[28] it was written, nor long ago, by one of the
best of the poor human race for whom they were built, wondering in
himself for whom their Creator _could_ have made them, and thinking to
have entirely discerned the Divine intent in them--"They are inhabited
by the Beasts."[29]

Was it then indeed thus with us, and so lately? Had mankind offered no
worship in their mountain churches? Was all that granite sculpture and
floral painting done by the angels in vain?

Not so. It will need no prolonged thought to convince us that in the
hills the purposes of their Maker have indeed been accomplished in
such measure as, through the sin or folly of men, He ever permits them
to be accomplished. It may not seem, from the general language held
concerning them, or from any directly traceable results, that
mountains have had serious influence on human intellect; but it will
not, I think, be difficult to show that their occult influence has
been both constant and essential to the progress of the race.

  [24] In tracing the _whole_ of the deep enjoyment to mountain
  association, I of course except whatever feelings are connected with
  the observance of rural life, or with that of architecture. None of
  these feelings arise out of the landscape properly so called: the
  pleasure with which we see a peasant's garden fairly kept, or a
  ploughman doing his work well, or a group of children playing at a
  cottage door, being wholly separate from that which we find in the
  fields or commons around them; and the beauty of architecture, or the
  associations connected with it, in like manner often ennobling the
  most tame scenery;--yet not so but that we may always distinguish
  between the abstract character of the unassisted landscape, and the
  charm which it derives from the architecture. Much of the majesty of
  French landscape consists in its grand and grey village churches and
  turreted farmhouses, not to speak of its cathedrals, castles, and
  beautifully placed cities. [Ruskin.]

  [25] One of the principal reasons for the false supposition that
  Switzerland is not picturesque, is the error of most sketchers and
  painters in representing pine forest in middle distance as dark green,
  or grey green, whereas its true colour is always purple, at distances
  of even two or three miles. Let any traveller coming down the
  Montanvert look for an aperture, three or four inches wide, between
  the near pine branches, through which, standing eight or ten feet
  from it, he can see the opposite forests on the Breven or Flegère.
  Those forests are not above two or two and a half miles from him;
  but he will find the aperture is filled by a tint of nearly pure
  azure or purple, not by green. [Ruskin.]

  [26] The Savoyard's name for its flower, "Pain du Bon Dieu," is very
  beautiful; from, I believe, the supposed resemblance of its white
  and scattered blossom to the fallen manna, [Ruskin.]

  [27] _Ezekiel_ vii, 10; _Hosea_ vi, 3.

  [28] In "The Mountain Gloom," the chapter immediately preceding.

  [29] Ruskin refers to _The Fulfilling of the Scripture_, a book by
  Robert Fleming [1630-94].



Stand upon the peak of some isolated mountain at daybreak, when the
night mists first rise from off the plains, and watch their white and
lake-like fields, as they float in level bays and winding gulfs about
the islanded summits of the lower hills, untouched yet by more than
dawn, colder and more quiet than a windless sea under the moon of
midnight; watch when the first sunbeam is sent upon the silver
channels, how the foam of their undulating surface parts and passes
away, and down under their depths the glittering city and green
pasture lie like Atlantis,[31] between the white paths of winding
rivers; the flakes of light falling every moment faster and broader
among the starry spires, as the wreathed surges break and vanish above
them, and the confused crests and ridges of the dark hills shorten
their grey shadows upon the plain.... Wait a little longer, and you
shall see those scattered mists rallying in the ravines, and floating
up towards you, along the winding valleys, till they crouch in quiet
masses, iridescent with the morning light,[32] upon the broad breasts
of the higher hills, whose leagues of massy undulation will melt back
and back into that robe of material light, until they fade away, lost
in its lustre, to appear again above, in the serene heaven, like a
wild, bright, impossible dream, foundationless and inaccessible, their
very bases vanishing in the unsubstantial and mocking blue of the deep
lake below.[33]... Wait yet a little longer, and you shall see those
mists gather themselves into white towers, and stand like fortresses
along the promontories, massy and motionless, only piled with every
instant higher and higher into the sky, and casting longer shadows
athwart the rocks; and out of the pale blue of the horizon you will
see forming and advancing a troop of narrow, dark, pointed vapours,
which will cover the sky, inch by inch, with their grey network, and
take the light off the landscape with an eclipse which will stop the
singing of the birds and the motion of the leaves, together; and then
you will see horizontal bars of black shadow forming under them, and
lurid wreaths create themselves, you know not how, along the shoulders
of the hills; you never see them form, but when you look back to a
place which was clear an instant ago, there is a cloud on it, hanging
by the precipices, as a hawk pauses over his prey.... And then you
will hear the sudden rush of the awakened wind, and you will see those
watch-towers of vapour swept away from their foundations, and waving
curtains of opaque rain let down to the valleys, swinging from the
burdened clouds in black bending fringes, or pacing in pale columns
along the lake level, grazing its surface into foam as they go. And
then, as the sun sinks, you shall see the storm drift for an instant,
from off the hills, leaving their broad sides smoking, and loaded yet
with snow-white, torn, steam-like rags of capricious vapour, now gone,
now gathered again; while the smouldering sun, seeming not far away,
but burning like a red-hot ball beside you, and as if you could reach
it, plunges through the rushing wind and rolling cloud with headlong
fall, as if it meant to rise no more, dyeing all the air about it with
blood.... And then you shall hear the fainting tempest die in the
hollow of the night, and you shall see a green halo kindling on the
summit of the eastern hills, brighter--brighter yet, till the large
white circle of the slow moon is lifted up among the barred clouds,
step by step, line by line; star after star she quenches with her
kindling light, setting in their stead an army of pale, penetrable,
fleecy wreaths in the heaven, to give light upon the earth, which move
together, hand in hand, company by company, troop by troop, so
measured in their unity of motion, that the whole heaven seems to roll
with them, and the earth to reel under them.... And then wait yet for
one hour, until the east again becomes purple, and the heaving
mountains, rolling against it in darkness, like waves of a wild sea,
are drowned one by one in the glory of its burning: watch the white
glaciers blaze in their winding paths about the mountains, like mighty
serpents with scales of fire: watch the columnar peaks of solitary
snow, kindling downwards, chasm by chasm, each in itself a new
morning; their long avalanches cast down in keen streams brighter than
the lightning, sending each his tribute of driven snow, like
altar-smoke, up to the heaven; the rose-light of their silent domes
flushing that heaven about them and above them, piercing with purer
light through its purple lines of lifted cloud, casting a new glory on
every wreath as it passes by, until the whole heaven, one scarlet
canopy, is interwoven with a roof of waving flame, and tossing, vault
beyond vault, as with the drifted wings of many companies of angels:
and then, when you can look no more for gladness, and when you are
bowed down with fear and love of the Maker and Doer of this, tell me
who has best delivered this His message unto men![34]

  [30] Some sentences of an argumentative nature have been omitted from
  this selection.

  [31] A mythical island in the Atlantic.

  [32] I have often seen the white, thin, morning cloud, edged with
  the seven colours of the prism. I am not aware of the cause of this
  phenomenon, for it takes place not when we stand with our backs to
  the sun, but in clouds near the sun itself, irregularly and over
  indefinite spaces, sometimes taking place in the body of the cloud.
  The colours are distinct and vivid, but have a kind of metallic
   lustre upon them. [Ruskin.]

  [33] Lake Lucerne. [Ruskin.]

  [34] The implication is that Turner has best delivered it.



In taking up the clue of an inquiry, now intermitted for nearly ten
years, it may be well to do as a traveller would, who had to
recommence an interrupted journey in a guideless country; and,
ascending, as it were, some little hill beside our road, note how far
we have already advanced, and what pleasantest ways we may choose for
farther progress.

I endeavoured, in the beginning of the first volume, to divide the
sources of pleasure open to us in Art into certain groups, which might
conveniently be studied in succession. After some preliminary
discussion, it was concluded that these groups were, in the main,
three; consisting, first, of the pleasures taken in perceiving simple
resemblance to Nature (Ideas of Truth); secondly, of the pleasures
taken in the beauty of the things chosen to be painted (Ideas of
Beauty); and, lastly, of pleasures taken in the meanings and relations
of these things (Ideas of Relation).

The first volume, treating of the ideas of Truth, was chiefly occupied
with an inquiry into the various success with which different artists
had represented the facts of Nature,--an inquiry necessarily conducted
very imperfectly, owing to the want of pictorial illustration.

The second volume merely opened the inquiry into the nature of ideas
of Beauty and Relation, by analysing (as far as I was able to do so)
the two faculties of the human mind which mainly seized such ideas;
namely, the contemplative and imaginative faculties.

It remains for us to examine the various success of artists,
especially of the great landscape-painter whose works have been
throughout our principal subject, in addressing these faculties of the
human mind, and to consider who among them has conveyed the noblest
ideas of beauty, and touched the deepest sources of thought.

I do not intend, however, now to pursue the inquiry in a method so
laboriously systematic; for the subject may, it seems to me, be more
usefully treated by pursuing the different questions which rise out of
it just as they occur to us, without too great scrupulousness in
marking connections, or insisting on sequences. Much time is wasted by
human beings, in general, on establishment of systems; and it often
takes more labour to master the intricacies of an artificial
connection, than to remember the separate facts which are so carefully
connected. I suspect that system-makers, in general, are not of much
more use, each in his own domain, than, in that of Pomona, the old
women who tie cherries upon sticks, for the more convenient
portableness of the same. To cultivate well, and choose well, your
cherries, is of some importance; but if they can be had in their own
wild way of clustering about their crabbed stalk, it is a better
connection for them than any other; and, if they cannot, then, so that
they be not bruised, it makes to a boy of a practical disposition not
much difference whether he gets them by handfuls, or in beaded
symmetry on the exalting stick. I purpose, therefore, henceforward to
trouble myself little with sticks or twine, but to arrange my chapters
with a view to convenient reference, rather than to any careful
division of subjects, and to follow out, in any by-ways that may open,
on right hand or left, whatever question it seems useful at any moment
to settle.

And, in the outset, I find myself met by one which I ought to have
touched upon before--one of especial interest in the present state of
the Arts. I have said that the art is greatest which includes the
greatest ideas; but I have not endeavoured to define the nature of
this greatness in the ideas themselves. We speak of great truths, of
great beauties, great thoughts. What is it which makes one truth
greater than another, one thought greater than another? This question
is, I repeat, of peculiar importance at the present time; for, during
a period now of some hundred and fifty years, all writers on Art who
have pretended to eminence, have insisted much on a supposed
distinction between what they call the Great and the Low Schools;
using the terms "High Art," "Great or Ideal Style," and other such, as
descriptive of a certain noble manner of painting, which it was
desirable that all students of Art should be early led to reverence
and adopt; and characterizing as "vulgar," or "low," or "realist,"
another manner of painting and conceiving, which it was equally
necessary that all students should be taught to avoid.

But lately this established teaching, never very intelligible, has
been gravely called in question. The advocates and self-supposed
practisers of "High Art" are beginning to be looked upon with doubt,
and their peculiar phraseology to be treated with even a certain
degree of ridicule. And other forms of Art are partly developed among
us, which do not pretend to be high, but rather to be strong, healthy,
and humble. This matter of "highness" in Art, therefore, deserves our
most careful consideration. Has it been, or is it, a true highness, a
true princeliness, or only a show of it, consisting in courtly manners
and robes of state? Is it rocky height or cloudy height, adamant or
vapour, on which the sun of praise so long has risen and set? It will
be well at once to consider this.

And first, let us get, as quickly as may be, at the exact meaning with
which the advocates of "High Art" use that somewhat obscure and
figurative term.

I do not know that the principles in question are anywhere more
distinctly expressed than in two papers in the _Idler_, written by Sir
Joshua Reynolds, of course under the immediate sanction of Johnson;
and which may thus be considered as the utterance of the views then
held upon the subject by the artists of chief skill, and critics of
most sense, arranged in a form so brief and clear as to admit of their
being brought before the public for a morning's entertainment. I
cannot, therefore, it seems to me, do better than quote these two
letters, or at least the important parts of them, examining the exact
meaning of each passage as it occurs. There are, in all, in the
_Idler_ three letters on painting, Nos. 76, 79, and 82; of these,
the first is directed only against the impertinences of pretended
connoisseurs, and is as notable for its faithfulness as for its wit in
the description of the several modes of criticism in an artificial and
ignorant state of society: it is only, therefore, in the two last
papers that we find the expression of the doctrines which it is our
business to examine.

No. 79 (Saturday, October 20, 1759) begins, after a short preamble,
with the following passage:--

"Amongst the Painters, and the writers on Painting, there is one maxim
universally admitted and continually inculcated. _Imitate nature_
is the invariable rule; but I know none who have explained in what
manner this rule is to be understood; the consequence of which is,
that everyone takes it in the most obvious sense--that objects are
represented naturally, when they have such relief that they seem real.
It may appear strange, perhaps, to hear this sense of the rule
disputed; but it must be considered, that, if the excellency of a
Painter consisted only in this kind of imitation, Painting must lose
its rank, and be no longer considered as a liberal art, and sister to
Poetry: this imitation being merely mechanical, in which the slowest
intellect is always sure to succeed best; for the Painter of genius
cannot stoop to drudgery, in which the understanding has no part; and
what pretence has the Art to claim kindred with Poetry but by its
power over the imagination? To this power the Painter of genius
directs him; in this sense he studies Nature, and often arrives at his
end, even by being unnatural in the confined sense of the word.

"The grand style of Painting requires this minute attention to be
carefully avoided, and must be kept as separate from it as the style
of Poetry from that of History. (Poetical ornaments destroy that air
of truth and plainness which ought to characterize History; but the
very being of Poetry consists in departing from this plain narrative,
and adopting every ornament that will warm the imagination.)[36] To
desire to see the excellences of each style united--to mingle the
Dutch with the Italian school, is to join contrarieties which cannot
subsist together, and which destroy the efficacy of each other."

We find, first, from this interesting passage, that the writer
considers the Dutch and Italian masters as severally representative of
the low and high schools; next, that he considers the Dutch painters
as excelling in a mechanical imitation, "in which the slowest
intellect is always sure to succeed best"; and, thirdly, that he
considers the Italian painters as excelling in a style which
corresponds to that of imaginative poetry in literature, and which has
an exclusive right to be called the grand style.

I wish that it were in my power entirely to concur with the writer,
and to enforce this opinion thus distinctly stated. I have never been
a zealous partisan of the Dutch School, and should rejoice in claiming
Reynolds's authority for the assertion, that their manner was one "in
which the slowest intellect is always sure to succeed best." But
before his authority can be so claimed, we must observe exactly the
meaning of the assertion itself, and separate it from the company of
some others not perhaps so admissible. First, I say, we must observe
Reynolds's exact meaning, for (though the assertion may at first
appear singular) a man who uses accurate language is always more
liable to misinterpretation than one who is careless in his
expressions. We may assume that the latter means very nearly what we
at first suppose him to mean, for words which have been uttered
without thought may be received without examination. But when a writer
or speaker may be fairly supposed to have considered his expressions
carefully, and, after having revolved a number of terms in his mind,
to have chosen the one which _exactly_ means the thing he intends
to say, we may be assured that what costs him time to select, will
require from us time to understand, and that we shall do him wrong,
unless we pause to reflect how the word which he has actually employed
differs from other words which it seems he _might_ have employed.
It thus constantly happens that persons themselves unaccustomed to
think clearly, or speak correctly, misunderstand a logical and careful
writer, and are actually in more danger of being misled by language
which is measured and precise, than by that which is loose and

Now, in the instance before us, a person not accustomed to good
writing might very rashly conclude that when Reynolds spoke of the
Dutch School as one "in which the slowest intellect was sure to
succeed best," he meant to say that every successful Dutch painter was
a fool. We have no right to take his assertion in that sense. He says,
the _slowest_ intellect. We have no right to assume that he meant
the _weakest_. For it is true, that in order to succeed in the
Dutch style, a man has need of qualities of mind eminently deliberate
and sustained. He must be possessed of patience rather than of power;
and must feel no weariness in contemplating the expression of a single
thought for several months together. As opposed to the changeful
energies of the imagination, these mental characters may be properly
spoken of as under the general term--slowness of intellect. But it by
no means follows that they are necessarily those of weak or foolish

We observe, however, farther, that the imitation which Reynolds
supposes to be characteristic of the Dutch School is that which gives
to objects such relief that they seem real, and that he then speaks of
this art of realistic imitation as corresponding to _history_ in

Reynolds, therefore, seems to class these dull works of the Dutch
School under a general head, to which they are not commonly
referred--that of _historical_ painting; while he speaks of the works
of the Italian School not as historical, but as _poetical_ painting.
His next sentence will farther manifest his meaning.

"The Italian attends only to the invariable, the great and general
ideas which are fixed and inherent in universal Nature; the Dutch, on
the contrary, to literal truth and a minute exactness in the detail,
as I may say, of Nature modified by accident. The attention to these
petty peculiarities is the very cause of this naturalness so much
admired in the Dutch pictures, which, if we suppose it to be a beauty,
is certainly of a lower order, which ought to give place to a beauty
of a superior kind, since one cannot be obtained but by departing from
the other.

"If my opinion was asked concerning the works of Michael Angelo,
whether they would receive any advantage from possessing this
mechanical merit, I should not scruple to say, they would not only
receive no advantage, but would lose, in a great measure, the effect
which they now have on every mind susceptible of great and noble
ideas. His works may be said to be all genius and soul; and why should
they be loaded with heavy matter, which can only counteract his
purpose by retarding the progress of the imagination?"

Examining carefully this and the preceding passage, we find the
author's unmistakable meaning to be, that Dutch painting is _history_;
attending to literal truth and "minute exactness in the details of
nature modified by accident." That Italian painting is _poetry_,
attending only to the invariable; and that works which attend only to
the invariable are full of genius and soul; but that literal truth and
exact detail are "heavy matter which retards the progress of the

This being then indisputably what Reynolds means to tell us, let us
think a little whether he is in all respects right. And first, as he
compares his two kinds of painting to history and poetry, let us see
how poetry and history themselves differ, in their use of _variable_
and _invariable_ details. I am writing at a window which commands a
view of the head of the Lake of Geneva; and as I look up from my
paper, to consider this point, I see, beyond it, a blue breadth of
softly moving water, and the outline of the mountains above Chillon,
bathed in morning mist. The first verses which naturally come into my
mind are--

    A thousand feet in depth below
    The massy waters meet and flow;
    So far the fathom line was sent
    From Chillon's snow-white battlement.[37]

Let us see in what manner this poetical statement is distinguished
from a historical one.

It is distinguished from a truly historical statement, first, in being
simply false. The water under the Castle of Chillon is not a thousand
feet deep, nor anything like it.[38] Herein, certainly, these lines
fulfil Reynolds's first requirement in poetry, "that it should be
inattentive to literal truth and minute exactness in detail." In
order, however, to make our comparison more closely in other points,
let us assume that what is stated is indeed a fact, and that it was to
be recorded, first historically, and then poetically.

Historically stating it, then, we should say: "The lake was sounded
from the walls of the Castle of Chillon, and found to be a thousand
feet deep."

Now, if Reynolds be right in his idea of the difference between
history and poetry, we shall find that Byron leaves out of this
statement certain _un_necessary details, and retains only the
invariable,--that is to say, the points which the Lake of Geneva and
Castle of Chillon have in common with all other lakes and castles.

Let us hear, therefore.

    A thousand feet in depth below.

"Below"? Here is, at all events, a word added (instead of anything
being taken away); invariable, certainly in the case of lakes, but not
absolutely necessary.

    The massy waters meet and flow.

"Massy"! why massy? Because deep water is heavy. The word is a good
word, but it is assuredly an added detail, and expresses a character,
not which the Lake of Geneva has in common with all other lakes, but
which it has in distinction from those which are narrow, or shallow.

"Meet and flow." Why meet and flow? Partly to make up a rhyme; partly
to tell us that the waters are forceful as well as massy, and
changeful as well as deep. Observe, a farther addition of details, and
of details more or less peculiar to the spot, or, according to
Reynolds's definition, of "heavy matter, retarding the progress of the

    So far the fathom line was sent.

Why fathom line? All lines for sounding are not fathom lines. If the
lake was ever sounded from Chillon, it was probably sounded in mètres,
not fathoms. This is an addition of another particular detail, in
which the only compliance with Reynolds's requirement is, that there
is some chance of its being an inaccurate one.

    From Chillon's snow-white battlement.

Why snow-white? Because castle battlements are not usually snow-white.
This is another added detail, and a detail quite peculiar to Chillon,
and therefore exactly the most striking word in the whole passage.

"Battlement"! Why battlement? Because all walls have not battlements,
and the addition of the term marks the castle to be not merely a
prison, but a fortress.

This is a curious result. Instead of finding, as we expected, the
poetry distinguished from the history by the omission of details, we
find it consist entirely in the _addition_ of details; and instead of
being characterized by regard only of the invariable, we find its
whole power to consist in the clear expression of what is singular and

The reader may pursue the investigation for himself in other
instances. He will find in every case that a poetical is distinguished
from a merely historical statement, not by being more vague, but more
specific; and it might, therefore, at first appear that our author's
comparison should be simply reversed, and that the Dutch School should
be called poetical, and the Italian historical. But the term poetical
does not appear very applicable to the generality of Dutch painting;
and a little reflection will show us, that if the Italians represent
only the invariable, they cannot be properly compared even to
historians. For that which is incapable of change has no history, and
records which state only the invariable need not be written, and could
not be read.

It is evident, therefore, that our author has entangled himself in
some grave fallacy, by introducing this idea of invariableness as
forming a distinction between poetical and historical art. What the
fallacy is, we shall discover as we proceed; but as an invading army
should not leave an untaken fortress in its rear, we must not go on
with our inquiry into the views of Reynolds until we have settled
satisfactorily the question already suggested to us, in what the
essence of poetical treatment really consists. For though, as we have
seen, it certainly involves the addition of specific details, it
cannot be simply that addition which turns the history into poetry.
For it is perfectly possible to add any number of details to a
historical statement, and to make it more prosaic with every added
word. As, for instance, "The lake was sounded out of a flat-bottomed
boat, near the crab-tree at the corner of the kitchen-garden, and was
found to be a thousand feet nine inches deep, with a muddy bottom." It
thus appears that it is not the multiplication of details which
constitutes poetry; nor their subtraction which constitutes history,
but that there must be something either in the nature of the details
themselves, or the method of using them, which invests them with
poetical power or historical propriety.

It seems to me, and may seem to the reader, strange that we should
need to ask the question, "What is poetry?" Here is a word we have
been using all our lives, and, I suppose, with a very distinct idea
attached to it; and when I am now called upon to give a definition of
this idea, I find myself at a pause. What is more singular, I do not
at present recollect hearing the question often asked, though surely
it is a very natural one; and I never recollect hearing it answered,
or even attempted to be answered. In general, people shelter
themselves under metaphors, and while we hear poetry described as an
utterance of the soul, an effusion of Divinity, or voice of nature, or
in other terms equally elevated and obscure, we never attain anything
like a definite explanation of the character which actually
distinguishes it from prose.

I come, after some embarrassment, to the conclusion, that poetry is
"the suggestion, by the imagination, of noble grounds for the noble
emotions."[39] I mean, by the noble emotions, those four principal
sacred passions--Love, Veneration, Admiration, and Joy (this latter
especially, if unselfish); and their opposites--Hatred, Indignation
(or Scorn), Horror, and Grief,--this last, when unselfish, becoming
Compassion. These passions in their various combinations constitute
what is called "poetical feeling," when they are felt on noble
grounds, that is, on great and true grounds. Indignation, for
instance, is a poetical feeling, if excited by serious injury; but it
is not a poetical feeling if entertained on being cheated out of a
small sum of money. It is very possible the manner of the cheat may
have been such as to justify considerable indignation; but the feeling
is nevertheless not poetical unless the grounds of it be large as well
as just. In like manner, energetic admiration may be excited in
certain minds by a display of fireworks, or a street of handsome
shops; but the feeling is not poetical, because the grounds of it are
false, and therefore ignoble. There is in reality nothing to deserve
admiration either in the firing of packets of gunpowder, or in the
display of the stocks of warehouses. But admiration excited by the
budding of a flower is a poetical feeling, because it is impossible
that this manifestation of spiritual power and vital beauty can ever
be enough admired.

Farther, it is necessary to the existence of poetry that the grounds
of these feelings should be _furnished by the imagination_. Poetical
feeling, that is to say, mere noble emotion, is not poetry. It is
happily inherent in all human nature deserving the name, and is found
often to be purest in the least sophisticated. But the power of
assembling, by _the help of the imagination_, such images as will
excite these feelings, is the power of the poet or literally of the

Now this power of exciting the emotions depends of course on the
richness of the imagination, and on its choice of those images which,
in combination, will be most effective, or, for the particular work to
be done, most fit. And it is altogether impossible for a writer not
endowed with invention to conceive what tools a true poet will make
use of, or in what way he will apply them, or what unexpected results
he will bring out by them; so that it is vain to say that the details
of poetry ought to possess, or ever do possess, any _definite_
character. Generally speaking, poetry runs into finer and more
delicate details than prose; but the details are not poetical because
they are more delicate, but because they are employed so as to bring
out an affecting result. For instance, no one but a true poet would
have thought of exciting our pity for a bereaved father by describing
his way of locking the door of his house:

    Perhaps to himself at that moment he said,
    The key I must take, for my Ellen is dead;
    But of this in my ears not a word did he speak;
    And he went to the chase with a tear on his cheek.[41]

In like manner, in painting, it is altogether impossible to say
beforehand what details a great painter may make poetical by his use
of them to excite noble emotions: and we shall, therefore, find
presently that a painting is to be classed in the great or inferior
schools, not according to the kind of details which it represents, but
according to the uses for which it employs them.

It is only farther to be noticed, that infinite confusion has been
introduced into this subject by the careless and illogical custom of
opposing painting to poetry, instead of regarding poetry as consisting
in a noble use, whether of colours or words. Painting is properly to
be opposed to _speaking_ or _writing_, but not to _poetry_. Both
painting and speaking are methods of expression. Poetry is the
employment of either for the noblest purposes.

This question being thus far determined, we may proceed with our paper
in the _Idler_.

"It is very difficult to determine the exact degree of enthusiasm that
the arts of Painting and Poetry may admit. There may, perhaps, be too
great indulgence as well as too great a restraint of imagination; if
the one produces incoherent monsters, the other produces what is full
as bad, lifeless insipidity. An intimate knowledge of the passions,
and good sense, but not common sense, must at last determine its
limits. It has been thought, and I believe with reason, that Michael
Angelo sometimes transgressed those limits; and, I think, I have seen
figures of him of which it was very difficult to determine whether
they were in the highest degree sublime or extremely ridiculous. Such
faults may be said to be the ebullitions of genius; but at least he
had this merit, that he never was insipid; and whatever passion his
works may excite, they will always escape contempt.

"What I have had under consideration is the sublimest style,
particularly that of Michael Angelo, the Homer of painting. Other
kinds may admit of this naturalness, which of the lowest kind is the
chief merit; but in painting, as in poetry, the highest style has the
least of common nature."

From this passage we gather three important indications of the
supposed nature of the Great Style. That it is the work of men in a
state of enthusiasm. That it is like the writing of Homer; and that it
has as little as possible of "common nature" in it.

First, it is produced by men in a state of enthusiasm. That is, by men
who feel _strongly_ and _nobly_; for we do not call a strong feeling
of envy, jealousy, or ambition, enthusiasm. That is, therefore, by men
who feel poetically. This much we may admit, I think, with perfect
safety. Great art is produced by men who feel acutely and nobly; and
it is in some sort an expression of this personal feeling. We can
easily conceive that there may be a sufficiently marked distinction
between such art, and that which is produced by men who do not feel at
all, but who reproduce, though ever so accurately, yet coldly, like
human mirrors, the scenes which pass before their eyes.

Secondly, Great Art is like the writing of Homer, and this chiefly
because it has little of "common nature" in it. We are not clearly
informed what is meant by common nature in this passage. Homer seems
to describe a great deal of what is common:--cookery, for instance,
very carefully in all its processes.[42] I suppose the passage in the
_Iliad_ which, on the whole, has excited most admiration, is that
which describes a wife's sorrow at parting from her husband, and a
child's fright at its father's helmet;[43] and I hope, at least, the
former feeling may be considered "common nature." But the true
greatness of Homer's style is, doubtless, held by our author to
consist in his imaginations of things not only uncommon but impossible
(such as spirits in brazen armour, or monsters with heads of men and
bodies of beasts), and in his occasional delineations of the human
character and form in their utmost, or heroic, strength and beauty. We
gather then on the whole, that a painter in the Great Style must be
enthusiastic, or full of emotion, and must paint the human form in its
utmost strength and beauty, and perhaps certain impossible forms
besides, liable by persons not in an equally enthusiastic state of
mind to be looked upon as in some degree absurd. This I presume to be
Reynolds's meaning, and to be all that he intends us to gather from
his comparison of the Great Style with the writings of Homer. But if
that comparison be a just one in all respects, surely two other
corollaries ought to be drawn from it, namely,--first, that these
Heroic or Impossible images are to be mingled with others very
unheroic and very possible; and, secondly, that in the representation
of the Heroic or Impossible forms, the greatest care must be taken in
_finishing the details_, so that a painter must not be satisfied with
painting well the countenance and the body of his hero, but ought to
spend the greatest part of his time (as Homer the greatest number of
verses) in elaborating the sculptured pattern on his shield.

Let us, however, proceed with our paper.

"One may very safely recommend a little more enthusiasm to the modern
Painters; too much is certainly not the vice of the present age. The
Italians seem to have been continually declining in this respect, from
the time of Michael Angelo to that of Carlo Maratti,[44] and from
thence to the very bathos of insipidity to which they are now sunk; so
that there is no need of remarking, that where I mentioned the Italian
painters in opposition to the Dutch, I mean not the moderns, but the
heads of the old Roman and Bolognian schools; nor did I mean to
include, in my idea of an Italian painter, the Venetian school, _which
may be said to be the Dutch part of the Italian genius_. I have only
to add a word of advice to the Painters,--that, however excellent they
may be in painting naturally, they would not flatter themselves very
much upon it; and to the Connoisseurs, that when they see a cat or a
fiddle painted so finely, that, as the phrase is, it looks as if you
could take it up, they would not for that reason immediately compare
the Painter to Raffaelle and Michael Angelo."

In this passage there are four points chiefly to be remarked. The
first, that in the year 1759 the Italian painters were, in our
author's opinion, sunk in the very bathos of insipidity. The second,
that the Venetian painters, _i.e._ Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese,
are, in our author's opinion, to be classed with the Dutch; that is to
say, are painters in a style "in which the slowest intellect is always
sure to succeed best." Thirdly, that painting naturally is not a
difficult thing, nor one on which a painter should pride himself. And,
finally, that connoisseurs, seeing a cat or a fiddle successfully
painted, ought not therefore immediately to compare the painter to
Raphael or Michael Angelo.

Yet Raphael painted fiddles very carefully in the foreground of his
St. Cecilia,--so carefully, that they quite look as if they might be
taken up. So carefully, that I never yet looked at the picture without
wishing that somebody _would_ take them up, and out of the way. And I
am under a very strong persuasion that Raphael did not think painting
"naturally" an easy thing. It will be well to examine into this point
a little; and for the present, with the reader's permission, we will
pass over the first two statements in this passage (touching the
character of Italian art in 1759, and of Venetian art in general), and
immediately examine some of the evidence existing as to the real
dignity of "natural" painting--that is to say, of painting carried to
the point at which it reaches a deceptive appearance of reality.

  [35] The full title of this chapter is "Of the Received Opinions
  touching the 'Grand Style.'"

  [36] I have put this sentence in a parenthesis, because it is
  inconsistent with the rest of the statement, and with the general
  teaching of the paper; since that which "attends only to the
  invariable" cannot certainly adopt "every ornament that will warm
  the imagination." [Ruskin.]

  [37] Stanza 6 of Byron's _Prisoner of Chillon_, quoted with a slight

  [38] "Messrs. Mallet and Pictet, being on the lake, in front of the
  Castle of Chillon, on August 6, 1774, sunk a thermometer to the
  depth of 312 feet." ... --SAUSSURE, _Voyages dans les Alpes_, chap.
  ii, § 33. It appears from the next paragraph, that the thermometer
  was at the bottom of the lake. [Ruskin, altered.]

  [39] Ruskin later wrote: "It leaves out rhythm, which I now consider
  a defect in said definition; otherwise good."

  [40] Take, for instance, the beautiful stanza in the _Affliction of

    I look for ghosts, but none will force
      Their way to me. 'T is falsely said
    That ever there was intercourse
      Between the living and the dead;
    For, surely, then, I should have sight
    Of him I wait for, day and night.
    With love and longing infinite.

  This we call Poetry, because it is invented or _made_ by the writer,
  entering into the mind of a supposed person. Next, take an instance
  of the actual feeling truly experienced and simply expressed by a
  real person.

  "Nothing surprised me more than a woman of Argentière, whose
  cottage I went into to ask for milk, as I came down from the
  glacier of Argentière, in the month of March, 1764. An epidemic
  dysentery had prevailed in the village, and, a few months before,
  had taken away from her, her father, her husband, and her
  brothers, so that she was left alone, with three children in the
  cradle. Her face had something noble in it, and its expression
  bore the seal of a calm and profound sorrow. After having given me
  milk, she asked me whence I came, and what I came there to do, so
  early in the year. When she knew that I was of Geneva, she said to
  me, 'she could not believe that all Protestants were lost souls;
  that there were many honest people among us, and that God was too
  good and too great to condemn all without distinction.' Then,
  after a moment of reflection, she added, in shaking her head, 'But
  that which is very strange is that of so many who have gone away,
  none have ever returned. I,' she added, with an expression of
  grief, 'who have so mourned my husband and my brothers, who have
  never ceased to think of them, who every night conjure them with
  beseechings to tell me where they are, and in what state they are!
  Ah, surely, if they lived anywhere, they would not leave me thus!
  But, perhaps,' she added, 'I am not worthy of this kindness,
  perhaps the pure and innocent spirits of these children,' and she
  looked at the cradle, 'may have their presence, and the joy which
  is denied to _me_.'"--SAUSSURE, _Voyages dans les Alpes_, chap.

  This we do not call Poetry, merely because it is not invented, but
  the true utterance of a real person. [Ruskin.]

  [41] The closing lines of Wordsworth's _Childless Father_.

  [42] _Iliad_, 1. 463 ff., 2. 425 ff.; _Odyssey_, 3. 455 ff., etc.

  [43] _Iliad_, 6. 468 ff.

  [44] 1625-1713. Known also as Carlo delle Madonne.



In the outset of this inquiry, the reader must thoroughly understand
that we are not now considering _what_ is to be painted, but _how far_
it is to be painted. Not whether Raphael does right in representing
angels playing upon violins, or whether Veronese does right in
allowing cats and monkeys to join the company of kings: but whether,
supposing the subjects rightly chosen, they ought on the canvas to
look like real angels with real violins, and substantial cats looking
at veritable kings; or only like imaginary angels with soundless
violins, ideal cats, and unsubstantial kings.

Now, from the first moment when painting began to be a subject of
literary inquiry and general criticism, I cannot remember any writer,
not professedly artistical, who has not, more or less, in one part of
his book or another, countenanced the idea that the great end of art
is to produce a deceptive resemblance of reality. It may be, indeed,
that we shall find the writers, through many pages, explaining
principles of ideal beauty, and professing great delight in the
evidences of imagination. But whenever a picture is to be definitely
described,--whenever the writer desires to convey to others some
impression of an extraordinary excellence, all praise is wound up with
some such statements as these: "It was so exquisitely painted that you
expected the figures to move and speak; you approached the flowers to
enjoy their smell, and stretched your hand towards the fruit which had
fallen from the branches. You shrunk back lest the sword of the
warrior should indeed descend, and turned away your head that you
might not witness the agonies of the expiring martyr."

In a large number of instances, language such as this will be found to
be merely a clumsy effort to convey to others a sense of the
admiration, of which the writer does not understand the real cause in
himself. A person is attracted to a picture by the beauty of its
colour, interested by the liveliness of its story, and touched by
certain countenances or details which remind him of friends whom he
loved, or scenes in which he delighted. He naturally supposes that
what gives him so much pleasure must be a notable example of the
painter's skill; but he is ashamed to confess, or perhaps does not
know, that he is so much a child as to be fond of bright colours and
amusing incidents; and he is quite unconscious of the associations
which have so secret and inevitable a power over his heart. He casts
about for the cause of his delight, and can discover no other than
that he thought the picture like reality.

In another, perhaps, a still larger number of cases, such language
will be found to be that of simple ignorance--the ignorance of persons
whose position in life compels them to speak of art, without having
any real enjoyment of it. It is inexcusably required from people of
the world, that they should see merit in Claudes[45] and Titians; and
the only merit which many persons can either see or conceive in them
is, that they must be "like nature."

In other cases, the deceptive power of the art is really felt to be a
source of interest and amusement. This is the case with a large number
of the collectors of Dutch pictures. They enjoy seeing what is flat
made to look round, exactly as a child enjoys a trick of legerdemain:
they rejoice in flies which the spectator vainly attempts to brush
away,[46] and in dew which he endeavours to dry by putting the picture
in the sun. They take it for the greatest compliment to their
treasures that they should be mistaken for windows; and think the
parting of Abraham and Hagar adequately represented if Hagar seems to
be really crying.[47]

It is against critics and connoisseurs of this latter stamp (of whom,
in the year 1759, the juries of art were for the most part composed)
that the essay of Reynolds, which we have been examining, was justly
directed. But Reynolds had not sufficiently considered that neither
the men of this class, nor of the two other classes above described,
constitute the entire body of those who praise Art for its
realization; and that the holding of this apparently shallow and
vulgar opinion cannot, in all cases, be attributed to the want either
of penetration, sincerity, or sense. The collectors of Gerard Dows and
Hobbimas may be passed by with a smile; and the affectations of
Walpole and simplicities of Vasari[48] dismissed with contempt or with
compassion. But very different men from these have held precisely the
same language; and, one amongst the rest, whose authority is
absolutely, and in all points, overwhelming.

There was probably never a period in which the influence of art over
the minds of men seemed to depend less on its merely _imitative_
power, than the close of the thirteenth century. No painting or
sculpture at that time reached more than a rude resemblance of
reality. Its despised perspective, imperfect chiaroscuro, and
unrestrained flights of fantastic imagination, separated the artist's
work from nature by an interval which there was no attempt to
disguise, and little to diminish. And yet, at this very period, the
greatest poet of that, or perhaps of any other age, and the attached
friend of its greatest painter,[49] who must over and over again have
held full and free conversation with him respecting the objects of his
art, speaks in the following terms of painting, supposed to be carried
to its highest perfection:

  Qual di pennel fu maestro, e di stile
    Che ritraesse l'ombre, e i tratti, chi' ivi
    Mirar farieno uno ingegno sottile?
  Morti li morti, e i vivi parean vivi:
    Non vide me' di me, chi vide il vero,
    Quant' io calcai, fin che chinato givi.

  DANTE, _Purgatorio_, canto xii. 1. 64.

  What master of the pencil, or the style,
  Had traced the shades and lines that might have made
  The subtlest workman wonder? _Dead, the dead,_
  _The living seemed alive; with clearer view_
  _His eye beheld not, who beheld the truth_,
  Than mine what I did tread on, while I went
  Low bending.


Dante has here clearly no other idea of the highest art than that it
should bring back, as in a mirror or vision, the aspect of things passed
or absent. The scenes of which he speaks are, on the pavement, for ever
represented by angelic power, so that the souls which traverse this
circle of the rock may see them, as if the years of the world had been
rolled back, and they again stood beside the actors in the moment of
action. Nor do I think that Dante's authority is absolutely necessary
to compel us to admit that such art as this _might_, indeed, be the
highest possible. Whatever delight we may have been in the habit of
taking in pictures, if it were but truly offered to us, to remove at
our will the canvas from the frame, and in lieu of it to behold, fixed
for ever, the image of some of those mighty scenes which it has been
our way to make mere themes for the artist's fancy; if, for instance,
we could again behold the Magdalene receiving her pardon at Christ's
feet, or the disciples sitting with Him at the table of Emmaus; and
this not feebly nor fancifully, but as if some silver mirror that had
leaned against the wall of the chamber, had been miraculously commanded
to retain for ever the colours that had flashed upon it for an
instant,--would we not part with our picture--Titian's or Veronese's
though it might be?

Yes, the reader answers, in the instance of such scenes as these, but
not if the scene represented were uninteresting. Not, indeed, if it
were utterly vulgar or painful; but we are not yet certain that the
art which represents what is vulgar or painful is itself of much
value; and with respect to the art whose aim is beauty, even of an
inferior order, it seems that Dante's idea of its perfection has still
much evidence in its favour. For among persons of native good sense,
and courage enough to speak their minds, we shall often find a
considerable degree of doubt as to the use of art, in consequence of
their habitual comparison of it with reality. "What is the use, to me,
of the painted landscape?" they will ask: "I see more beautiful and
perfect landscapes every day of my life in my forenoon walk." "What is
the use, to me, of the painted effigy of hero or beauty? I can see a
stamp of higher heroism, and light of purer beauty, on the faces round
me, utterly inexpressible by the highest human skill." Now, it is
evident that to persons of this temper the only valuable picture
would, indeed, be _mirrors_, reflecting permanently the images of the
things in which they took delight, and of the faces that they loved.
"Nay," but the reader interrupts (if he is of the Idealist school), "I
deny that more beautiful things are to be seen in nature than in art;
on the contrary, everything in nature is faulty, and art represents
nature as perfected." Be it so. Must, therefore, this perfected nature
be imperfectly represented? Is it absolutely required of the painter,
who has conceived perfection, that he should so paint it as to look
only like a picture? Or is not Dante's view of the matter right even
here, and would it not be well that the perfect conception of Pallas
should be so given as to look like Pallas herself, rather than merely
like the picture of Pallas?[50]

It is not easy for us to answer this question rightly, owing to the
difficulty of imagining any art which should reach the perfection
supposed. Our actual powers of imitation are so feeble that wherever
deception is attempted, a subject of a comparatively low or confined
order must be chosen. I do not enter at present into the inquiry how
far the powers of imitation extend; but assuredly up to the present
period they have been so limited that it is hardly possible for us to
conceive a deceptive art embracing a high range of subject. But let
the reader make the effort, and consider seriously what he would give
at any moment to have the power of arresting the fairest scenes, those
which so often rise before him only to vanish; to stay the cloud in
its fading, the leaf in its trembling, and the shadows in their
changing; to bid the fitful foam be fixed upon the river, and the
ripples be everlasting upon the lake; and then to bear away with him
no darkened or feeble sun-stain (though even that is beautiful), but a
counterfeit which should seem no counterfeit-the true and perfect
image of life indeed. Or rather (for the full majesty of such a power
is not thus sufficiently expressed) let him consider that it would be
in effect nothing else than a capacity of transporting himself at any
moment into any scene--a gift as great as can be possessed by a
disembodied spirit: and suppose, also, this necromancy embracing not
only the present but the past, and enabling us seemingly to enter into
the very bodily presence of men long since gathered to the dust; to
behold them in act as they lived, but--with greater privilege than
ever was granted to the companions of those transient acts of life--to
see them fastened at our will in the gesture and expression of an
instant, and stayed, on the eve of some great deed, in immortality of
burning purpose. Conceive, so far as it is possible, such power as
this, and then say whether the art which conferred it is to be spoken
lightly of, or whether we should not rather reverence, as half divine,
a gift which would go so far as to raise us into the rank, and invest
us with the felicities, of angels?

Yet such would imitative art be in its perfection. Not by any means an
easy thing, as Reynolds supposes it. Far from being easy, it is so
utterly beyond all human power that we have difficulty even in
conceiving its nature or results--the best art we as yet possess comes
so far short of it.

But we must not rashly come to the conclusion that such art would,
indeed, be the highest possible. There is much to be considered
hereafter on the other side; the only conclusion we are as yet
warranted in forming is, that Reynolds had no right to speak lightly
or contemptuously of imitative art; that in fact, when he did so, he
had not conceived its entire nature, but was thinking of some vulgar
conditions of it, which were the only ones known to him, and that,
therefore, his whole endeavour to explain the difference between great
and mean art has been disappointed; that he has involved himself in a
crowd of theories, whose issue he had not foreseen, and committed
himself to conclusions which, he never intended. There is an
instinctive consciousness in his own mind of the difference between
high and low art; but he is utterly incapable of explaining it, and
every effort which he makes to do so involves him in unexpected
fallacy and absurdity. It is _not_ true that Poetry does not concern
herself with minute details. It is _not_ true that high art seeks only
the Invariable. It is _not_ true that imitative art is an easy thing.
It is _not_ true that the faithful rendering of nature is an
employment in which "the slowest intellect is likely to succeed best."
All these successive assertions are utterly false and untenable, while
the plain truth, a truth lying at the very door, has all the while
escaped him,--that which was incidentally stated in the preceding
chapter,--namely, that the difference between great and mean art lies,
not in definable methods of handling, or styles of representation, or
choices of subjects, but wholly in the nobleness of the end to which
the effort of the painter is addressed. We cannot say that a painter
is great because he paints boldly, or paints delicately; because he
generalizes or particularizes; because he loves detail, or because he
disdains it. He is great if, by any of these means, he has laid open
noble truths, or aroused noble emotions. It does not matter whether he
paint the petal of a rose, or the chasms of a precipice, so that Love
and Admiration attend him as he labours, and wait for ever upon his
work. It does not matter whether he toil for months upon a few inches
of his canvas, or cover a palace front with colour in a day, so only
that it be with a solemn purpose that he has filled his heart with
patience, or urged his hand to haste. And it does not matter whether
he seek for his subjects among peasants or nobles, among the heroic or
the simple, in courts or in fields, so only that he behold all things
with a thirst for beauty, and a hatred of meanness and vice. There
are, indeed, certain methods of representation which are usually
adopted by the most active minds, and certain characters of subject
usually delighted in by the noblest hearts; but it is quite possible,
quite easy, to adopt the manner of painting without sharing the
activity of mind, and to imitate the choice of subject without
possessing the nobility of spirit; while, on the other hand, it is
altogether impossible to foretell on what strange objects the strength
of a great man will sometimes be concentrated, or by what strange
means he will sometimes express himself. So that true criticism of art
never can consist in the mere application of rules; it can be just
only when it is founded on quick sympathy with the innumerable
instincts and changeful efforts of human nature, chastened and guided
by unchanging love of all things that God has created to be beautiful,
and pronounced to be good.

  [45] Claude Gelée [1600-82], usually called Claude Lorrain, a French
  landscape painter and etcher.

  [46] Vasari, in his _Lives of the Painters_, tells how Giotto,
  when a student under Cimabue, once painted a fly on the nose of a
  figure on which the master was working, the fly being so realistic
  that Cimabue on returning to the painting attempted to brush it

  [47] Guercino's Hagar in the Brera gallery in Milan.

  [48] Gerard Dow [1613-75], a Dutch genre painter; Hobbima [1638-1709],
  a Dutch landscape painter; Walpole [1717-97], a famous English
  litterateur; Vasari [1511-74], an Italian painter, now considered
  full of mannerisms and without originality, mainly famous as author
  of _The Lives of the Painters_.

  [49] Giotto.

  [50] _Purgatorio_, 12. 31.



Having now obtained, I trust, clear ideas, up to a certain point, of
what is generally right and wrong in all art, both in conception and
in workmanship, we have to apply these laws of right to the particular
branch of art which is the subject of our present inquiry, namely,
landscape-painting. Respecting which, after the various meditations
into which we have been led on the high duties and ideals of art, it
may not improbably occur to us first to ask,--whether it be worth
inquiring about at all.

That question, perhaps the reader thinks, should have been asked and
answered before I had written, or he read, two volumes and a half
about it. So I _had_ answered it, in my own mind; but it seems time
now to give the grounds for this answer. If, indeed, the reader has
never suspected that landscape-painting was anything but good, right,
and healthy work, I should be sorry to put any doubt of its being so
into his mind; but if, as seems to me more likely, he, living in this
busy and perhaps somewhat calamitous age, has some suspicion that
landscape-painting is but an idle and empty business, not worth all
our long talk about it, then, perhaps, he will be pleased to have such
suspicion done away, before troubling himself farther with these

I should rather be glad, than otherwise, that he _had_ formed some
suspicion on this matter. If he has at all admitted the truth of
anything hitherto said respecting great art, and its choices of
subject, it seems to me he ought, by this time, to be questioning with
himself whether road-side weeds, old cottages, broken stones, and such
other materials, be worthy matters for grave men to busy themselves in
the imitation of. And I should like him to probe this doubt to the
deep of it, and bring all his misgivings out to the broad light, that
we may see how we are to deal with them, or ascertain if indeed they
are too well founded to be dealt with.

And to this end I would ask him now to imagine himself entering, for
the first time in his life, the room of the Old Water-Colour
Society:[51] and to suppose that he has entered it, not for the sake of
a quiet examination of the paintings one by one, but in order to seize
such ideas as it may generally suggest respecting the state and
meaning of modern, as compared with elder, art. I suppose him, of
course, that he may be capable of such a comparison, to be in some
degree familiar with the different forms in which art has developed
itself within the periods historically known to us; but never, till
that moment, to have seen any completely modern work. So prepared, and
so unprepared, he would, as his ideas began to arrange themselves, be
first struck by the number of paintings representing blue mountains,
clear lakes, and ruined castles or cathedrals, and he would say to
himself: "There is something strange in the mind of these modern
people! Nobody ever cared about blue mountains before, or tried to
paint the broken stones of old walls." And the more he considered the
subject, the more he would feel the peculiarity; and, as he thought
over the art of Greeks and Romans, he would still repeat, with
increasing certainty of conviction: "Mountains! I remember none. The
Greeks did not seem, as artists, to know that such things were in the
world. They carved, or variously represented, men, and horses, and
beasts, and birds, and all kinds of living creatures,--yes, even down
to cuttle-fish; and trees, in a sort of way; but not so much as the
outline of a mountain; and as for lakes, they merely showed they knew
the difference between salt and fresh water by the fish they put into
each." Then he would pass on to mediæval art; and still he would be
obliged to repeat: "Mountains! I remember none. Some careless and
jagged arrangements of blue spires or spikes on the horizon, and, here
and there, an attempt at representing an overhanging rock with a hole
through it; but merely in order to divide the light behind some human
figure. Lakes! No, nothing of the kind,--only blue bays of sea put in
to fill up the background when the painter could not think of anything
else. Broken-down buildings! No; for the most part very complete and
well-appointed buildings, if any; and never buildings at all, but to
give place or explanation to some circumstance of human conduct." And
then he would look up again to the modern pictures, observing, with an
increasing astonishment, that here the human interest had, in many
cases, altogether disappeared. That mountains, instead of being used
only as a blue ground for the relief of the heads of saints, were
themselves the exclusive subjects of reverent contemplation; that
their ravines, and peaks, and forests, were all painted with an
appearance of as much enthusiasm as had formerly been devoted to the
dimple of beauty, or the frowns of asceticism; and that all the living
interest which was still supposed necessary to the scene, might be
supplied by a traveller in a slouched hat, a beggar in a scarlet
cloak, or, in default of these, even by a heron or a wild duck.

And if he could entirely divest himself of his own modern habits of
thought, and regard the subjects in question with the feelings of a
knight or monk of the Middle Ages, it might be a question whether
those feelings would not rapidly verge towards contempt. "What!" he
might perhaps mutter to himself, "here are human beings spending the
whole of their lives in making pictures of bits of stone and runlets
of water, withered sticks and flying fogs, and actually not a picture
of the gods or the heroes! none of the saints or the martyrs! none of
the angels and demons! none of councils or battles, or any other
single thing worth the thought of a man! Trees and clouds indeed! as
if I should not see as many trees as I cared to see, and more, in the
first half of my day's journey to-morrow, or as if it mattered to any
man whether the sky were clear or cloudy, so long as his armour did
not get too hot in the sun!"

There can be no question that this would have been somewhat the tone
of thought with which either a Lacedæmonian, a soldier of Rome in her
strength, or a knight of the thirteenth century, would have been apt
to regard these particular forms of our present art. Nor can there be
any question that, in many respects, their judgment would have been
just. It is true that the indignation of the Spartan or Roman would
have been equally excited against any appearance of luxurious
industry; but the mediæval knight would, to the full, have admitted
the nobleness of art; only he would have had it employed in decorating
his church or his prayer-book, not in imitating moors and clouds. And
the feelings of all the three would have agreed in this,--that their
main ground of offence must have been the want of _seriousness_ and
_purpose_ in what they saw. They would all have admitted the nobleness
of whatever conduced to the honour of the gods, or the power of the
nation; but they would not have understood how the skill of human life
could be wisely spent in that which did no honour either to Jupiter or
to the Virgin; and which in no wise tended, apparently, either to the
accumulation of wealth, the excitement of patriotism, or the
advancement of morality.

And exactly so far forth their judgment would be just, as the
landscape-painting could indeed be shown, for others as well as for
them, to be art of this nugatory kind; and so far forth unjust, as
that painting could be shown to depend upon, or cultivate, certain
sensibilities which neither the Greek nor mediæval knight possessed,
and which have resulted from some extraordinary change in human nature
since their time. We have no right to assume, without very accurate
examination of it, that this change has been an ennobling one. The
simple fact, that we are, in some strange way, different from all the
great races that have existed before us, cannot at once be received as
the proof of our own greatness; nor can it be granted, without any
question, that we have a legitimate subject of complacency in being
under the influence of feelings, with which neither Miltiades nor the
Black Prince, neither Homer nor Dante, neither Socrates nor St.
Francis, could for an instant have sympathized.

Whether, however, this fact be one to excite our pride or not, it is
assuredly one to excite our deepest interest. The fact itself is
certain. For nearly six thousand years the energies of man have
pursued certain beaten paths, manifesting some constancy of feeling
throughout all that period, and involving some fellowship at heart,
among the various nations who by turns succeeded or surpassed each
other in the several aims of art or policy. So that, for these
thousands of years, the whole human race might be to some extent
described in general terms. Man was a creature separated from all
others by his instinctive sense of an Existence superior to his own,
invariably manifesting this sense of the being of a God more strongly
in proportion to his own perfectness of mind and body; and making
enormous and self-denying efforts, in order to obtain some persuasion
of the immediate presence or approval of the Divinity. So that, on the
whole, the best things he did were done as in the presence, or for the
honour, of his gods; and, whether in statues, to help him to imagine
them, or temples raised to their honour, or acts of self-sacrifice
done in the hope of their love, he brought whatever was best and
skilfullest in him into their service, and lived in a perpetual
subjection to their unseen power. Also, he was always anxious to know
something definite about them; and his chief books, songs, and
pictures were filled with legends about them, or specially devoted to
illustration of their lives and nature.

Next to these gods, he was always anxious to know something about his
human ancestors; fond of exalting the memory, and telling or painting
the history of old rulers and benefactors; yet full of an enthusiastic
confidence in himself, as having in many ways advanced beyond the best
efforts of past time; and eager to record his own doings for future
fame. He was a creature eminently warlike, placing his principal pride
in dominion; eminently beautiful, and having great delight in his own
beauty; setting forth this beauty by every species of invention in
dress, and rendering his arms and accoutrements superbly decorative of
his form. He took, however, very little interest in anything but what
belonged to humanity; caring in no wise for the external world, except
as it influenced his own destiny; honouring the lightning because it
could strike him, the sea because it could drown him, the fountains
because they gave him drink, and the grass because it yielded him
seed; but utterly incapable of feeling any special happiness in the
love of such things, or any earnest emotion about them, considered as
separate from man; therefore giving no time to the study of
them;--knowing little of herbs, except only which were hurtful and
which healing; of stones, only which would glitter brightest in a
crown, or last the longest in a wall: of the wild beasts, which were
best for food, and which the stoutest quarry for the hunter;--thus
spending only on the lower creatures and inanimate things his waste
energy, his dullest thoughts, his most languid emotions, and reserving
all his acuter intellect for researches into his own nature and that
of the gods; all his strength of will for the acquirement of political
or moral power; all his sense of beauty for things immediately
connected with his own person and life; and all his deep affections
for domestic or divine companionship.

Such, in broad light and brief terms, was man for five thousand years.
Such he is no longer. Let us consider what he is now, comparing the
descriptions clause by clause.

I. He _was_ invariably sensible of the existence of gods, and went about
all his speculations or works holding this as an acknowledged fact, making
his best efforts in their service. _Now_ he is capable of going through
life with hardly any positive idea on this subject,--doubting, fearing,
suspecting, analyzing,--doing everything, in fact, _but_ believing;
hardly ever getting quite up to that point which hitherto was wont to be
the starting-point for all generations. And human work has accordingly
hardly any reference to spiritual beings, but is done either from a
patriotic or personal interest,--either to benefit mankind, or reach
some selfish end, not (I speak of human work in the broad sense) to
please the gods.

II. He _was_ a beautiful creature, setting forth this beauty by all
means in his power, and depending upon it for much of his authority
over his fellows. So that the ruddy cheek of David, and the ivory skin
of Atrides, and the towering presence of Saul, and the blue eyes of
Coeur de Lion, were among chief reasons why they should be kings; and
it was one of the aims of all education, and of all dress, to make the
presence of the human form stately and lovely. _Now_ it has become the
task of grave philosophy partly to depreciate or conceal this bodily
beauty; and even by those who esteem it in their hearts, it is not
made one of the great ends of education; man has become, upon the
whole, an ugly animal, and is not ashamed of his ugliness.

III. He _was_ eminently warlike. He is _now_ gradually becoming more
and more ashamed of all the arts and aims of battle. So that the
desire of dominion, which was once frankly confessed or boasted of as
a heroic passion, is now sternly reprobated or cunningly disclaimed.

IV. He _used_ to take no interest in anything but what immediately
concerned himself. _Now_, he has deep interest in the abstract nature
of things, inquires as eagerly into the laws which regulate the
economy of the material world, as into those of his own being, and
manifests a passionate admiration of inanimate objects, closely
resembling, in its elevation and tenderness, the affection which he
bears to those living souls with which he is brought into the nearest

It is this last change only which is to be the subject of our present
inquiry; but it cannot be doubted that it is closely connected with
all the others, and that we can only thoroughly understand its nature
by considering il in this connection. For, regarded by itself, we
might perhaps, too rashly assume it to be a natural consequence of the
progress of the race. There appears to be a diminution of selfishness
in it, and a more extended and heartfelt desire of understanding the
manner of God's working; and this the more, because one of the
permanent characters of this change is a greater accuracy in the
statement of external facts. When the eyes of men were fixed first
upon themselves, and upon nature solely and secondarily as bearing
upon their interests, it was of less consequence to them what the
ultimate laws of nature were, than what their immediate effects were
upon human beings. Hence they could rest satisfied with phenomena
instead of principles, and accepted without scrutiny every fable which
seemed sufficiently or gracefully to account for those phenomena. But
so far as the eyes of men are now withdrawn from themselves, and
turned upon the inanimate things about them, the results cease to be
of importance, and the laws become essential.

In these respects, it might easily appear to us that this change was
assuredly one of steady and natural advance. But when we contemplate
the others above noted, of which it is clearly one of the branches or
consequences, we may suspect ourselves of over-rashness in our
self-congratulation, and admit the necessity of a scrupulous analysis
both of the feeling itself and of its tendencies.

Of course a complete analysis, or anything like it, would involve a
treatise on the whole history of the world. I shall merely endeavour
to note some of the leading and more interesting circumstances bearing
on the subject, and to show sufficient practical ground for the
conclusion, that landscape-painting is indeed a noble and useful art,
though one not long known by man. I shall therefore examine, as best I
can, the effect of landscape, 1st, on the Classical mind; 2dly, on the
Mediæval mind; and lastly, on the Modern mind. But there is one point
of some interest respecting the effect of it on _any mind_, which must
be settled first; and this I will endeavour to do in the next chapter.

  [51] The Society of Painters in Water-Colours, often referred to as
  the Old Water-Colour Society. Ruskin was elected an honorary member
  in 1873.



Now, therefore, putting these tiresome and absurd words[52] quite
out of our way, we may go on at our ease to examine the point in
question,--namely, the difference between the ordinary, proper, and
true appearances of things to us; and the extraordinary, or false
appearances, when we are under the influence of emotion, or
contemplative fancy; false appearances, I say, as being entirely
unconnected with any real power or character in the object, and only
imputed to it by us.

For instance--

    The spendthrift crocus, bursting through the mould
    Naked and shivering, with his cup of gold.[53]

This is very beautiful, and yet very untrue. The crocus is not a
spendthrift, but a hardy plant; its yellow is not gold, but saffron.
How is it that we enjoy so much the having it put into our heads that
it is anything else than a plain crocus?

It is an important question. For, throughout our past reasonings about
art, we have always found that nothing could be good or useful, or
ultimately pleasurable, which was untrue. But here is something
pleasurable in written poetry which is nevertheless _un_true. And what
is more, if we think over our favourite poetry, we shall find it full
of this kind of fallacy, and that we like it all the more for being

It will appear also, on consideration of the matter, that this fallacy
is of two principal kinds. Either, as in this case of the crocus, it
is the fallacy of wilful fancy, which involves no real expectation
that it will be believed; or else it is a fallacy caused by an excited
state of the feelings, making us, for the time, more or less
irrational. Of the cheating of the fancy we shall have to speak
presently; but, in this chapter, I want to examine the nature of the
other error, that which the mind admits when affected strongly by
emotion. Thus, for instance, in _Alton Locke_,--

    They rowed her in across the rolling foam--
    The cruel, crawling foam.[54]

The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of mind which
attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which
the reason is unhinged by grief. All violent feelings have the same
effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of
external things, which I would generally characterize as the "pathetic

Now we are in the habit of considering this fallacy as eminently a
character of poetical description, and the temper of mind in which we
allow it, as one eminently poetical, because passionate. But I
believe, if we look well into the matter, that we shall find the
greatest poets do not often admit this kind of falseness,--that it is
only the second order of poets who much delight in it.[55]

Thus, when Dante describes the spirits falling from the bank of
Acheron "as dead leaves flutter from a bough,"[56] he gives the most
perfect image possible of their utter lightness, feebleness,
passiveness, and scattering agony of despair, without, however, for an
instant losing his own clear perception that _these_ are souls, and
_those_ are leaves; he makes no confusion of one with the other. But
when Coleridge speaks of

    The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
    That dances as often as dance it can,[57]

he has a morbid, that is to say, a so far false, idea about the leaf;
he fancies a life in it, and will, which there are not; confuses its
powerlessness with choice, its fading death with merriment, and the
wind that shakes it with music. Here, however, there is some beauty,
even in the morbid passage; but take an instance in Homer and Pope.
Without the knowledge of Ulysses, Elpenor, his youngest follower, has
fallen from an upper chamber in the Circean palace, and has been left
dead, unmissed by his leader or companions, in the haste of their
departure. They cross the sea to the Cimmerian land; and Ulysses
summons the shades from Tartarus. The first which appears is that of
the lost Elpenor. Ulysses, amazed, and in exactly the spirit of bitter
and terrified lightness which is seen in Hamlet,[58] addresses the
spirit with the simple, startled words:--

"Elpenor! How camest thou under the shadowy darkness? Hast thou come
faster on foot than I in my black ship?"[59]

Which Pope renders thus:--

    O, say, what angry power Elpenor led
    To glide in shades, and wander with the dead?
    How could thy soul, by realms and seas disjoined,
    Outfly the nimble sail, and leave the lagging wind?

I sincerely hope the reader finds no pleasure here, either in the
nimbleness of the sail, or the laziness of the wind! And yet how is it
that these conceits are so painful now, when they have been pleasant
to us in the other instances?

For a very simple reason. They are not a _pathetic_ fallacy at all,
for they are put into the mouth of the wrong passion--a passion which
never could possibly have spoken them--agonized curiosity. Ulysses
wants to know the facts of the matter; and the very last thing his
mind could do at the moment would be to pause, or suggest in anywise
what was _not_ a fact. The delay in the first three lines, and conceit
in the last, jar upon us instantly like the most frightful discord in
music. No poet of true imaginative power could possibly have written
the passage.[60]

Therefore we see that the spirit of truth must guide us in some sort,
even in our enjoyment of fallacy. Coleridge's fallacy has no discord
in it, but Pope's has set our teeth on edge. Without farther
questioning, I will endeavour to state the main bearings of this

The temperament which admits the pathetic fallacy, is, as I said
above, that of a mind and body in some sort too weak to deal fully
with what is before them or upon them; borne away, or over-clouded,
or over-dazzled by emotion; and it is a more or less noble state,
according to the force of the emotion which has induced it. For it
is no credit to a man that he is not morbid or inaccurate in his
perceptions, when he has no strength of feeling to warp them; and it
is in general a sign of higher capacity and stand in the ranks of
being, that the emotions should be strong enough to vanquish, partly,
the intellect, and make it believe what they choose. But it is still a
grander condition when the intellect also rises, till it is strong
enough to assert its rule against, or together with, the utmost
efforts of the passions; and the whole man stands in an iron glow,
white hot, perhaps, but still strong, and in no wise evaporating; even
if he melts, losing none of his weight.

So, then, we have the three ranks: the man who perceives rightly,
because he does not feel, and to whom the primrose is very accurately
the primrose,[61] because he does not love it. Then, secondly, the man
who perceives wrongly, because he feels, and to whom the primrose is
anything else than a primrose: a star, or a sun, or a fairy's shield,
or a forsaken maiden. And then, lastly, there is the man who perceives
rightly in spite of his feelings, and to whom the primrose is for ever
nothing else than itself--a little flower apprehended in the very
plain and leafy fact of it, whatever and how many soever the
associations and passions may be that crowd around it. And, in
general, these three classes may be rated in comparative order, as the
men who are not poets at all, and the poets of the second order, and
the poets of the first; only however great a man may be, there are
always some subjects which _ought_ to throw him off his balance; some,
by which his poor human capacity of thought should be conquered, and
brought into the inaccurate and vague state of perception, so that the
language of the highest inspiration becomes broken, obscure, and wild
in metaphor, resembling that of the weaker man, overborne by weaker

And thus, in full, there are four classes: the men who feel nothing,
and therefore see truly; the men who feel strongly, think weakly, and
see untruly (second order of poets); the men who feel strongly, think
strongly, and see truly (first order of poets); and the men who,
strong as human creatures can be, are yet submitted to influences
stronger than they, and see in a sort untruly, because what they see
is inconceivably above them. This last is the usual condition of
prophetic inspiration.

I separate these classes, in order that their character may be clearly
understood; but of course they are united each to the other by
imperceptible transitions, and the same mind, according to the
influences to which it is subjected, passes at different times into
the various states. Still, the difference between the great and less
man is, on the whole, chiefly in this point of _alterability_. That is
to say, the one knows too much, and perceives and feels too much of
the past and future, and of all things beside and around that which
immediately affects him, to be in any wise shaken by it. His mind is
made up; his thoughts have an accustomed current; his ways are
stedfast; it is not this or that new sight which will at once
unbalance him. He is tender to impression at the surface, like a rock
with deep moss upon it; but there is too much mass of him to be moved.
The smaller man, with the same degree of sensibility, is at once
carried off his feet; he wants to do something he did not want to do
before; he views all the universe in a new light through his tears; he
is gay or enthusiastic, melancholy or passionate, as things come and
go to him. Therefore the high creative poet might even be thought, to
a great extent, impassive (as shallow people think Dante stern),
receiving indeed all feelings to the full, but having a great centre
of reflection and knowledge in which he stands serene, and watches the
feeling, as it were, from far off.

Dante, in his most intense moods, has entire command of himself, and
can look around calmly, at all moments, for the image or the word that
will best tell what he sees to the upper or lower world. But Keats and
Tennyson, and the poets of the second order, are generally themselves
subdued by the feelings under which they write, or, at least, write as
choosing to be so; and therefore admit certain expressions and modes
of thought which are in some sort diseased or false.

Now so long as we see that the _feeling_ is true, we pardon, or are
even pleased by, the confessed fallacy of sight which it induces: we
are pleased, for instance, with those lines of Kingsley's above quoted,
not because they fallaciously describe foam, but because they faithfully
describe sorrow. But the moment the mind of the speaker becomes cold,
that moment every such expression becomes untrue, as being for ever
untrue in the external facts. And there is no greater baseness in
literature than the habit of using these metaphorical expressions in
cool blood. An inspired writer, in full impetuosity of passion, may
speak wisely and truly of "raging waves of the sea foaming out their
own shame";[62] but it is only the basest writer who cannot speak of
the sea without talking of "raging waves," "remorseless floods,"
"ravenous billows," etc.; and it is one of the signs of the highest
power in a writer to check all such habits of thought, and to keep his
eyes fixed firmly on the _pure fact_, out of which if any feeling
conies to him or his reader, he knows it must be a true one.

To keep to the waves, I forget who it is who represents a man in
despair desiring that his body may be cast into the sea,

    _Whose changing mound, and foam that passed away_,
    Might mock the eye that questioned where I lay.

Observe, there is not a single false, or even overcharged, expression.
"Mound" of the sea wave is perfectly simple and true; "changing" is as
familiar as may be; "foam that passed away," strictly literal; and the
whole line descriptive of the reality with a degree of accuracy which
I know not any other verse, in the range of poetry, that altogether
equals. For most people have not a distinct idea of the clumsiness and
massiveness of a large wave. The word "wave" is used too generally of
ripples and breakers, and bendings in light drapery or grass: it does
not by itself convey a perfect image. But the word "mound" is heavy,
large, dark, definite; there is no mistaking the kind of wave meant,
nor missing the sight of it. Then the term "changing" has a peculiar
force also. Most people think of waves as rising and falling. But if
they look at the sea carefully, they will perceive that the waves do
not rise and fall. They change. Change both place and form, but they
do not fall; one wave goes on, and on, and still on; now lower, now
higher, now tossing its mane like a horse, now building itself
together like a wall, now shaking, now steady, but still the same
wave, till at last it seems struck by something, and changes, one
knows not how,--becomes another wave.

The close of the line insists on this image, and paints it still more
perfectly,--"foam that passed away." Not merely melting, disappearing,
but passing on, out of sight, on the career of the wave. Then, having
put the absolute ocean fact as far as he may before our eyes, the poet
leaves us to feel about it as we may, and to trace for ourselves the
opposite fact,--the image of the green mounds that do not change, and
the white and written stones that do not pass away; and thence to
follow out also the associated images of the calm life with the quiet
grave, and the despairing life with the fading foam--

    Let no man move his bones.

As for Samaria, her king is cut off like the foam upon the water.[63]

But nothing of this is actually told or pointed out, and the
expressions, as they stand, are perfectly severe and accurate, utterly
uninfluenced by the firmly governed emotion of the writer. Even the
word "mock" is hardly an exception, as it may stand merely for
"deceive" or "defeat," without implying any impersonation of the

It may be well, perhaps, to give one or two more instances to show the
peculiar dignity possessed by all passages, which thus limit their
expression to the pure fact, and leave the hearer to gather what he
can from it. Here is a notable one from the _Iliad_. Helen, looking
from the Scæan gate of Troy over the Grecian host, and telling Priam
the names of its captains, says at last:--

    "I see all the other dark-eyed Greeks; but two I cannot
    see,--Castor and Pollux,--whom one mother bore with me. Have they
    not followed from fair Lacedæmon, or have they indeed come in
    their sea-wandering ships, but now will not enter into the battle
    of men, fearing the shame and the scorn that is in Me?"

Then Homer:--

    "So she spoke. But them, already, the life-giving earth possessed,
    there in Lacedæmon, in the dear fatherland."[64]

Note, here, the high poetical truth carried to the extreme. The poet
has to speak of the earth in sadness, but he will not let that sadness
affect or change his thoughts of it. No; though Castor and Pollux be
dead, yet the earth is our mother still, fruitful, life-giving. These
are the facts of the thing. I see nothing else than these. Make what
you will of them.

Take another very notable instance from Casimir de la Vigne's terrible
ballad, "La Toilette de Constance." I must quote a few lines out of it
here and there, to enable the reader who has not the book by him, to
understand its close.

        "Vite, Anna! vite; au miroir!
           Plus vite, Anna. L'heure s'avance,
         Et je vais au bal ce soir
           Chez l'ambassadeur de France.

    "Y pensez-vous? ils sont fanés, ces noeuds;
      Ils sont d'hier; mon Dieu, comme tout passe!
    Que du réseau qui retient mes cheveux
      Les glands d'azur retombent avec grâce.
    Plus haut! Plus bas! Vous ne comprenez rien!
      Que sur mon front ce saphir étincelle:
    Vous me piquez, maladroite. Ah, c'est bien,
      Bien,--chère Anna! Je t'aime, je suis belle."

    "Celui qu'en vain je voudrais oublier ...
      (Anna, ma robe) il y sera, j'espère.
    (Ah, fi! profane, est-ce là mon collier?
      Quoi! ces grains d'or bénits par le Saint-Père!)
    II y sera; Dieu, s'il pressait ma main,
      En y pensant à peine je respire:
    Frère Anselmo doit m'entendre demain,
      Comment ferai-je, Anna, pour tout lui dire?...

        "Vite! un coup d'oeil au miroir,
           Le dernier.--J'ai l'assurance
        Qu'on va m'adorer ce soir
           Chez l'ambassadeur de France."

    Pres du foyer, Constance s'admirait.
      Dieu! sur sa robe il vole une étincelle!
    Au feu! Courez! Quand l'espoir l'enivrait,
      Tout perdre ainsi! Quoi! Mourir,--et si belle!
    L'horrible feu ronge avec volupté
      Ses bras, son sein, et l'entoure, et s'élève,
    Et sans pitié dévore sa beauté,
      Ses dix-huit ans, hélas, et son doux rêve!

        Adieu, bal, plaisir, amour!
           On disait, Pauvre Constance!
        Et l'on dansa, jusqu'au jour,
           Chez l'ambassadeur de France.[65]

Yes, that is the fact of it. Right or wrong, the poet does not say.
What you may think about it, he does not know. He has nothing to do
with that. There lie the ashes of the dead girl in her chamber. There
they danced, till the morning, at the Ambassador's of France. Make
what you will of it.

If the reader will look through the ballad, of which I have quoted
only about the third part, he will find that there is not, from
beginning to end of it, a single poetical (so called) expression,
except in one stanza. The girl speaks as simple prose as may be; there
is not a word she would not have actually used as she was dressing.
The poet stands by, impassive as a statue, recording her words just as
they come. At last the doom seizes her, and in the very presence of
death, for an instant, his own emotions conquer him. He records no
longer the facts only, but the facts as they seem to him. The fire
gnaws with _voluptuousness_--_without pity_. It is soon past. The fate
is fixed for ever; and he retires into his pale and crystalline
atmosphere of truth. He closes all with the calm veracity,

    They said, "Poor Constance!"

Now in this there is the exact type of the consummate poetical
temperament. For, be it clearly and constantly remembered, that the
greatness of a poet depends upon the two faculties, acuteness of
feeling, and command of it. A poet is great, first in proportion to
the strength of his passion, and then, that strength being granted, in
proportion to his government of it; there being, however, always a
point beyond which it would be inhuman and monstrous if he pushed this
government, and, therefore, a point at which all feverish and wild
fancy becomes just and true. Thus the destruction of the kingdom of
Assyria cannot be contemplated firmly by a prophet of Israel. The fact
is too great, too wonderful. It overthrows him, dashes him into a
confused element of dreams. All the world is, to his stunned thought,
full of strange voices. "Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee, and the
cedars of Lebanon, saying. 'Since thou art gone down to the grave, no
feller is come up against us.'"[66] So, still more, the thought of the
presence of Deity cannot be borne without this great astonishment.
"The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into
singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."[67]

But by how much this feeling is noble when it is justified by the
strength of its cause, by so much it is ignoble when there is not
cause enough for it; and beyond all other ignobleness is the mere
affectation of it, in hardness of heart. Simply bad writing may almost
always, as above noticed, be known by its adoption of these fanciful
metaphorical expressions as a sort of current coin; yet there is even
a worse, at least a more harmful condition of writing than this, in
which such expressions are not ignorantly and feelinglessly caught up,
but, by some master, skilful in handling, yet insincere, deliberately
wrought out with chill and studied fancy; as if we should try to make
an old lava-stream look red-hot again, by covering it with dead
leaves, or white-hot, with hoar-frost.

When Young is lost in veneration, as he dwells on the character of a
truly good and holy man, he permits himself for a moment to be
overborne by the feeling so far as to exclaim--

    Where shall I find him? angels, tell me where.
    You know him; he is near you; point him out.
    Shall I see glories beaming from his brow,
    Or trace his footsteps by the rising flowers?[68]

This emotion has a worthy cause, and is thus true and right. But now
hear the cold-hearted Pope say to a shepherd girl--

    Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade;
    Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade;
    Your praise the birds shall chant in every grove,
    And winds shall waft it to the powers above.
    But would you sing, and rival Orpheus' strain,
    The wondering forests soon should dance again;
    The moving mountains hear the powerful call,
    And headlong streams hang, listening, in their fall.[69]

This is not, nor could it for a moment be mistaken for, the language
of passion. It is simple falsehood, uttered by hypocrisy; definite
absurdity, rooted in affectation, and coldly asserted in the teeth of
nature and fact. Passion will indeed go far in deceiving itself; but
it must be a strong passion, not the simple wish of a lover to tempt
his mistress to sing. Compare a very closely parallel passage in
Wordsworth, in which the lover has lost his mistress:--

    Three years had Barbara in her grave been laid,
    When thus his moan he made:--

    "Oh, move, thou cottage, from behind yon oak,
      Or let the ancient tree uprooted lie,
    That in some other way yon smoke
      May mount into the sky.
    If still behind yon pine-tree's ragged bough,
      Headlong, the waterfall must come,
      Oh, let it, then, be dumb--
    Be anything, sweet stream, but that which thou art now."[70]

Here is a cottage to be moved, if not a mountain, and a water-fall to
be silent, if it is not to hang listening: but with what different
relation to the mind that contemplates them! Here, in the extremity of
its agony, the soul cries out wildly for relief, which at the same
moment it partly knows to be impossible, but partly believes possible,
in a vague impression that a miracle _might_ be wrought to give relief
even to a less sore distress,--that nature is kind, and God is kind,
and that grief is strong; it knows not well what _is_ possible to such
grief. To silence a stream, to move a cottage wall,--one might think
it could do as much as that!

I believe these instances are enough to illustrate the main point I
insist upon respecting the pathetic fallacy,--that so far as it is a
fallacy, it is always the sign of a morbid state of mind, and
comparatively of a weak one. Even in the most inspired prophet it is a
sign of the incapacity of his human sight or thought to bear what has
been revealed to it. In ordinary poetry, if it is found in the
thoughts of the poet himself, it is at once a sign of his belonging to
the inferior school; if in the thoughts of the characters imagined by
him, it is right or wrong according to the genuineness of the emotion
from which it springs; always, however, implying necessarily _some_
degree of weakness in the character.

Take two most exquisite instances from master hands. The Jessy of
Shenstone, and the Ellen of Wordsworth, have both been betrayed and
deserted. Jessy, in the course of her most touching complaint says:--

    If through the garden's flowery tribes I stray,
      Where bloom the jasmines that could once allure,
    "Hope not to find delight in us," they say,
      "For we are spotless, Jessy; we are pure."[71]

Compare with this some of the words of Ellen:--

    "Ah, why," said Ellen, sighing to herself,
    "Why do not words, and kiss, and solemn pledge,
    And nature, that is kind in woman's breast,
    And reason, that in man is wise and good,
    And fear of Him who is a righteous Judge,--
    Why do not these prevail for human life,
    To keep two hearts together, that began
    Their springtime with one love, and that have need
    Of mutual pity and forgiveness sweet
    To grant, or be received; while that poor bird--
    O, come and hear him! Thou who hast to me
    Been faithless, hear him;--though a lowly creature,
    One of God's simple children that yet know not
    The Universal Parent, _how_ he sings!
    As if he wished the firmament of heaven
    Should listen, and give back to him the voice
    Of his triumphant constancy and love;
    The proclamation that he makes, how far
    His darkness doth transcend our fickle light."[72]

The perfection of both these passages, as far as regards truth and
tenderness of imagination in the two poets, is quite insuperable. But
of the two characters imagined, Jessy is weaker than Ellen, exactly in
so far as something appears to her to be in nature which is not. The
flowers do not really reproach her. God meant them to comfort her, not
to taunt her; they would do so if she saw them rightly.

Ellen, on the other hand, is quite above the slightest erring emotion.
There is not the barest film of fallacy in all her thoughts. She
reasons as calmly as if she did not feel. And, although the singing of
the bird suggests to her the idea of its desiring to be heard in
heaven, she does not for an instant admit any veracity in the thought.
"As if," she says,--"I know he means nothing of the kind; but it does
verily seem as if." The reader will find, by examining the rest of the
poem, that Ellen's character is throughout consistent in this clear
though passionate strength.[73]

It then being, I hope, now made clear to the reader in all respects
that the pathetic fallacy is powerful only so far as it is pathetic,
feeble so far as it is fallacious, and, therefore, that the dominion
of Truth is entire, over this, as over every other natural and just
state of the human mind, we may go on to the subject for the dealing
with which this prefatory inquiry became necessary; and why necessary,
we shall see forthwith.

  [52] Three short sections discussing the use of the terms "Objective"
  and "Subjective" have been omitted from the beginning of this chapter.

  [53] Holmes (Oliver Wendell), quoted by Miss Mitford in her
  _Recollections of a Literary Life_. [Ruskin.] From _Astræa, a Poem
  delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Yale College_. The
  passage in which these lines are found was later published as

  [54] Kingsley's _Alton Locke_, chap. 26.

  [55] I admit two orders of poets, but no third; and by these two
  orders I mean the creative (Shakspere, Homer, Dante), and
  Reflective or Perceptive (Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson). But both of
  these must be _first_-rate in their range, though their range is
  different; and with poetry second-rate in _quality_ no one ought to
  be allowed to trouble mankind. There is quite enough of the
  best,--much more than we can ever read or enjoy in the length of a
  life; and it is a literal wrong or sin in any person to encumber us
  with inferior work. I have no patience with apologies made by young
  pseudo-poets, "that they believe there is _some_ good in what they
  have written: that they hope to do better in time," etc. _Some_
  good! If there is not _all_ good, there is no good. If they ever
  hope to do better, why do they trouble us now? Let them rather
  courageously burn all they have done, and wait for the better days.
  There are few men, ordinarily educated, who in moments of strong
  feeling could not strike out a poetical thought, and afterwards
  polish it so as to be presentable. But men of sense know better
  than so to waste their time; and those who sincerely love poetry,
  know the touch of the master's hand on the chords too well to
  fumble among them after him. Nay, more than this, all inferior
  poetry is an injury to the good, inasmuch as it takes away the
  freshness of rhymes, blunders upon and gives a wretched commonalty
  to good thoughts; and, in general, adds to the weight of human
  weariness in a most woful and culpable manner. There are few
  thoughts likely to come across ordinary men, which have not already
  been expressed by greater men in the best possible way; and it is a
  wiser, more generous, more noble thing to remember and point out
  the perfect words, than to invent poorer ones, wherewith to
  encumber temporarily the world. [Ruskin.]

  [56] _Inferno_, 3. 112.

  [57] _Christabel_, 1. 49-50.

  [58] "Well said, old mole! can'st work i' the ground so

  [59] _Odyssey_, 11. 57-58.

  [60] It is worth while comparing the way a similar question is put
  by the exquisite sincerity of Keats:--

      He wept, and his bright tears
  Went trickling down the golden bow he held.
  Thus, with half-shut, suffused eyes, he stood;
  While from beneath some cumbrous boughs hard by
  With solemn step an awful goddess came,
  And there was purport in her looks for him,
  Which he with eager guess began to read
  Perplex'd, the while melodiously he said,
  _"How cam'st thou over the unfooted sea?"_

                             _Hyperion_, 3. 42.--[Ruskin.]

  [61] See Wordsworth's _Peter Bell_, Part I:--

  A primrose by a river's brim
  A yellow primrose was to him,
  And it was nothing more.

  [62] _Jude_ 13.

  [63] _Kings_ xxiii, 18, and _Hosea_ x, 7.

  [64] _Iliad_, 3. 243. In the MS. Ruskin notes, "The insurpassably
  tender irony in the epithet--'life-giving earth'--of the grave";
  and then adds another illustration:--"Compare the hammer-stroke at
  the close of the [32d] chapter of _Vanity Fair_--'The darkness came
  down on the field and city, and Amelia was praying for George, who
  was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart. A
  great deal might have been said about it. The writer is very sorry
  for Amelia, neither does he want faith in prayer. He knows as well
  as any of us that prayer must be answered in some sort; but those
  are the facts. The man and woman sixteen miles apart---one on her
  knees on the floor, the other on his face in the clay. So much love
  in her heart, so much lead in his. Make what you can of it." [Cook
  and Wedderburn.]

  [65] The poem may be crudely paraphrased as follows:--

  "Quick, Anna, quick! to the mirror! It is late,
  And I'm to dance at the ambassador's ...
  I'm going to the ball ...

                            "They're faded, see,
  These ribbons--they belong to yesterday.
  Heavens, how all things pass! Now gracefully hang
  The blue tassels from the net that holds my hair.

  "Higher!--no, lower!--you get nothing right!...
  Now let this sapphire sparkle on my brow.
  You're pricking me, you careless
  thing! That's good!
  I love you, Anna dear. How fair I am....

  "I hope he'll be there, too--the one I've tried
  To forget! no use! (Anna, my gown!) he too ...
  (O fie, you wicked girl! my necklace, _this?_
  These golden beads the Holy Father blessed?)

  "He'll be there--Heavens! suppose he takes my hand
  --I scarce can draw my breath for thinking of it!
  And I confess to Father Anselmo
  To-morrow--how can I ever tell him _all_?...
  One last glance at the mirror.
  O, I'm sure That they'll adore me at the ball to-night."

  Before the fire she stands admiringly.
  O God! a spark has leapt into her gown.
  Fire, fire!--O run!--Lost thus when mad with hope?
  What, die? and she so fair? The hideous flames
  Rage greedily about her arms and breast,
  Envelop her, and leaping ever higher,
  Swallow up all her beauty, pitiless--
  Her eighteen years, alas! and her sweet dream.

  Adieu to ball, to pleasure, and to love!
  "Poor Constance!" said the dancers at the ball,
  "Poor Constance!"--and they danced till break of day.

  [66] _Isaiah_ xiv, 8.

  [67] _Isaiah_ lv, 12.

  [68] _Night Thoughts_, 2. 345.

  [69] Pastorals: _Summer, or Alexis_, 73 ff., with the omission of
  two couplets after the first.

  [70] From the poem beginning _'T is said that some have died for
  love_, Ruskin evidently quoted from memory, for there are several
  verbal slips in the passage quoted.

  [71] Stanza 16, of Shenstone's twenty-sixth Elegy.

  [72] _The Excursion_, 6. 869 ff.

  [73] I cannot quit this subject without giving two more instances,
  both exquisite, of the pathetic fallacy, which I have just come
  upon, in Maud:--

                    For a great speculation had fail'd;
  And ever he mutter'd and madden'd, and ever wann'd with despair;
  And out he walk'd, when the wind like a broken worldling wail'd,
  And the _flying gold of the ruin'd woodlands drove thro' the air._

      There has fallen a splendid tear
        From the passion-flower at the gate.
      _The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near!"
        And the white rose weeps, "She is late."
      The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear!"
        And the lily whispers, "I wait."_          [Ruskin.]



My reason for asking the reader to give so much of his time to the
examination of the pathetic fallacy was, that, whether in literature
or in art, he will find it eminently characteristic of the modern
mind; and in the landscape, whether of literature or art, he will also
find the modern painter endeavouring to express something which he, as
a living creature imagines in the lifeless object, while the classical
and mediæval painters were content with expressing the unimaginary and
actual qualities of the object itself. It will be observed that,
according to the principle stated long ago, I use the words painter
and poet quite indifferently, including in our inquiry the landscape
of literature, as well as that of painting; and this the more because
the spirit of classical landscape has hardly been expressed in any
other way than by words.

Taking, therefore, this wide field, it is surely a very notable
circumstance, to begin with, that this pathetic fallacy is eminently
characteristic of modern painting. For instance, Keats, describing a
wave breaking out at sea, says of it:--

    Down whose green back the short-lived foam, all hoar,
    Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.[74]

That is quite perfect, as an example of the modern manner. The idea
of the peculiar action with which foam rolls down a long, large wave
could not have been given by any other words so well as by this
"wayward indolence." But Homer would never have written, never thought
of, such words. He could not by any possibility have lost sight of
the great fact that the wave, from the beginning to the end of it, do
what it might, was still nothing else than salt water; and that salt
water could not be either wayward or indolent. He will call the
waves "over-roofed," "full-charged," "monstrous," "compact-black,"
"dark-clear," "violet-coloured," "wine-coloured," and so on. But
every one of these epithets is descriptive of pure physical nature.
"Over-roofed" is the term he invariably uses of anything--rock, house,
or wave--that nods over at the brow; the other terms need no
explanation; they are as accurate and intense in truth as words can
be, but they never show the slightest feeling of anything animated in
the ocean. Black or clear, monstrous or violet-coloured, cold salt
water it is always, and nothing but that.

"Well, but the modern writer, by his admission of the tinge of
fallacy, has given an idea of something in the action of the wave
which Homer could not, and surely, therefore, has made a step in
advance? Also there appears to be a degree of sympathy and feeling in
the one writer, which there is not in the other; and as it has been
received for a first principle that writers are great in, proportion
to the intensity of their feelings, and Homer seems to have no
feelings about the sea but that it is black and deep, surely in this
respect also the modern writer is the greater?"

Stay a moment. Homer _had_ some feeling about the sea; a faith in the
animation of it much stronger than Keats's. But all this sense of
something living in it, he separates in his mind into a great abstract
image of a Sea Power. He never says the waves rage, or the waves are
idle. But he says there is somewhat in, and greater than, the waves,
which rages, and is idle, and _that_ he calls a god.

I do not think we ever enough endeavour to enter into what a Greek's
real notion of a god was. We are so accustomed to the modern mockeries
of the classical religion, so accustomed to hear and see the Greek
gods introduced as living personages, or invoked for help, by men who
believe neither in them nor in any other gods, that we seem to have
infected the Greek ages themselves with the breath, and dimmed them
with the shade, of our hypocrisy; and are apt to think that Homer, as
we know that Pope, was merely an ingenious fabulist; nay, more than
this, that all the nations of past time were ingenious fabulists also,
to whom the universe was a lyrical drama, and by whom whatsoever was
said about it was merely a witty allegory, or a graceful lie, of which
the entire upshot and consummation was a pretty statue in the middle
of the court, or at the end of the garden.

This, at least, is one of our forms of opinion about Greek faith; not,
indeed, possible altogether to any man of honesty or ordinary powers
of thought; but still so venomously inherent in the modern philosophy
that all the pure lightning of Carlyle cannot as yet quite burn it out
of any of us. And then, side by side with this mere infidel folly,
stands the bitter short-sightedness of Puritanism, holding the
classical god to be either simply an idol,--a block of stone
ignorantly, though sincerely, worshipped--or else an actual diabolic
or betraying power, usurping the place of God.

Both these Puritanical estimates of Greek deity are of course to some
extent true. The corruption of classical worship is barren idolatry;
and that corruption was deepened, and variously directed to their own
purposes, by the evil angels. But this was neither the whole, nor the
principal part, of Pagan worship. Pallas was not, in the pure Greek
mind, merely a powerful piece of ivory in a temple at Athens; neither
was the choice of Leonidas between the alternatives granted him by the
oracle, of personal death, or ruin to his country, altogether a work
of the Devil's prompting.

What, then, was actually the Greek god? In what way were these two
ideas of human form, and divine power, credibly associated in the
ancient heart, so as to become a subject of true faith irrespective
equally of fable, allegory, superstitious trust in stone, and
demoniacal influence?

It seems to me that the Greek had exactly the same instinctive feeling
about the elements that we have ourselves; that to Homer, as much as
to Casimir de la Vigne,[75] fire seemed ravenous and pitiless; to
Homer, as much as to Keats, the sea-wave appeared wayward or idle, or
whatever else it may be to the poetical passion. But then the Greek
reasoned upon this sensation, saying to himself: "I can light the
fire, and put it out; I can dry this water up, or drink it. It cannot
be the fire or the water that rages, or that is wayward. But it must
be something _in_ this fire and _in_ the water, which I cannot destroy
by extinguishing the one, or evaporating the other, any more than I
destroy myself by cutting off my finger; _I_ was _in_ my
finger,--something of me at least was; I had a power over it and felt
pain in it, though I am still as much myself when it is gone. So there
may be a power in the water which is not water, but to which the water
is as a body;--which can strike with it, move in it, suffer in it, yet
not be destroyed with it. This something, this Great Water Spirit, I
must not confuse with the waves, which are only its body. _They_ may
flow hither and thither, increase or diminish. _That_ must be
invisible--imperishable--a god. So of fire also; those rays which I
can stop, and in the midst of which I cast a shadow, cannot be divine,
nor greater than I. They cannot feel, but there may be something in
them that feels,--a glorious intelligence, as much nobler and more
swift than mine, as these rays, which are its body, are nobler and
swifter than my flesh;--the spirit of all light, and truth, and
melody, and revolving hours."

It was easy to conceive, farther, that such spirits should be able to
assume at will a human form, in order to hold intercourse with men, or
to perform any act for which their proper body, whether of fire,
earth, or air, was unfitted. And it would have been to place them
beneath, instead of above, humanity, if, assuming the form of man,
they could not also have tasted his pleasures. Hence the easy step to
the more or less material ideas of deities, which are apt at first to
shock us, but which are indeed only dishonourable so far as they
represent the gods as false and unholy. It is not the materialism, but
the vice, which degrades the conception; for the materialism itself is
never positive or complete. There is always some sense of exaltation
in the spiritual and immortal body; and of a power proceeding from the
visible form through all the infinity of the element ruled by the
particular god. The precise nature of the idea is well seen in the
passage of the _Iliad_ which describes the river Scamander defending
the Trojans against Achilles.[76] In order to remonstrate with the
hero, the god assumes a human form, which nevertheless is in some way
or other instantly recognized by Achilles as that of the river-god: it
is addressed at once as a river, not as a man; and its voice is the
voice of a river "out of the deep whirlpools."[77] Achilles refuses to
obey its commands; and from the human form it returns instantly into
its natural or divine one, and endeavours to overwhelm him with waves.
Vulcan defends Achilles, and sends fire against the river, which
suffers in its water-body, till it is able to bear no more. At last
even the "nerve of the river," or "strength of the river" (note the
expression), feels the fire, and this "strength of the river"
addresses Vulcan in supplications for respite. There is in this
precisely the idea of a vital part of the river-body, which acted and
felt, and which, if the fire reached, it was death, just as would be
the case if it touched a vital part of the human body. Throughout the
passage the manner of conception is perfectly clear and consistent;
and if, in other places, the exact connection between the ruling
spirit and the thing ruled is not so manifest, it is only because it
is almost impossible for the human mind to dwell long upon such
subjects without falling into inconsistencies, and gradually
slackening its effort to grasp the entire truth; until the more
spiritual part of it slips from its hold, and only the human form of
the god is left, to be conceived and described as subject to all the
errors of humanity. But I do not believe that the idea ever weakens
itself down to mere allegory. When Pallas is said to attack and strike
down Mars, it does not mean merely that Wisdom at that moment
prevailed against Wrath. It means that there are, indeed, two great
spirits, one entrusted to guide the human soul to wisdom and chastity,
the other to kindle wrath and prompt to battle. It means that these
two spirits, on the spot where, and at the moment when, a great
contest was to be decided between all that they each governed in man,
then and there (assumed) human form, and human weapons, and did verily
and materially strike at each other, until the Spirit of Wrath was
crushed. And when Diana is said to hunt with her nymphs in the woods,
it does not mean merely, as Wordsworth puts it,[78] that the poet or
shepherd saw the moon and stars glancing between the branches of the
trees, and wished to say so figuratively. It means that there is a
living spirit, to which the light of the moon is a body; which takes
delight in glancing between the clouds and following the wild beasts
as they wander through the night; and that this spirit sometimes
assumes a perfect human form, and in this form, with real arrows,
pursues and slays the wild beasts, which with its mere arrows of
moonlight it could not slay; retaining, nevertheless, all the while,
its power and being in the moonlight, and in all else that it

There is not the smallest inconsistency or unspirituality in this
conception. If there were, it would attach equally to the appearance
of the angels to Jacob, Abraham, Joshua, or Manoah.[79] In all those
instances the highest authority which governs our own faith requires
us to conceive divine power clothed with a human form (a form so real
that it is recognized for superhuman only by its "doing wondrously"),
and retaining, nevertheless, sovereignty and omnipresence in all the
world. This is precisely, as I understand it, the heathen idea of a
God; and it is impossible to comprehend any single part of the Greek
mind until we grasp this faithfully, not endeavouring to explain it
away in any wise, but accepting, with frank decision and definition,
the tangible existence of its deities;--blue-eyed--white-fleshed--
human-hearted,--capable at their choice of meeting man absolutely in
his own nature--feasting with him--talking with him--fighting with
him, eye to eye, or breast to breast, as Mars with Diomed;[80] or else,
dealing with him in a more retired spirituality, as Apollo sending the
plague upon the Greeks,[81] when his quiver rattles at his shoulders as
he moves, and yet the darts sent forth of it strike not as arrows, but
as plague; or, finally, retiring completely into the material universe
which they properly inhabit, and dealing with man through that, as
Scamander with Achilles, through his waves.

Nor is there anything whatever in the various actions recorded of the
gods, however apparently ignoble, to indicate weakness of belief in
them. Very frequently things which appear to us ignoble are merely the
simplicities of a pure and truthful age. When Juno beats Diana about
the ears with her own quiver,[82] for instance, we start at first, as
if Homer could not have believed that they were both real goddesses.
But what should Juno have done? Killed Diana with a look? Nay, she
neither wished to do so, nor could she have done so, by the very faith
of Diana's goddess-ship. Diana is as immortal as herself. Frowned
Diana into submission? But Diana has come expressly to try conclusions
with her, and will by no means be frowned into submission. Wounded her
with a celestial lance? That sounds more poetical, but it is in
reality partly more savage and partly more absurd, than Homer. More
savage, for it makes Juno more cruel, therefore less divine; and more
absurd, for it only seems elevated in tone, because we use the word
"celestial," which means nothing. What sort of a thing is a "celestial"
lance? Not a wooden one. Of what then? Of moonbeams, or clouds, or
mist. Well, therefore, Diana's arrows were of mist too; and her
quiver, and herself, and Juno, with her lance, and all, vanish into
mist. Why not have said at once, if that is all you mean, that two
mists met, and one drove the other back? That would have been rational
and intelligible, but not to talk of celestial lances. Homer had no
such misty fancy; he believed the two goddesses were there in true
bodies, with true weapons, on the true earth; and still I ask, what
should Juno have done? Not beaten Diana? No; for it is unlady-like.
Un-English-lady-like, yes; but by no means un-Greek-lady-like, nor
even un-natural-lady-like. If a modern lady does _not_ beat her
servant or her rival about the ears, it is oftener because she is too
weak, or too proud, than because she is of purer mind than Homer's
Juno. She will not strike them; but she will overwork the one or
slander the other without pity; and Homer would not have thought that
one whit more goddess-like than striking them with her open hand.

If, however, the reader likes to suppose that while the two goddesses
in personal presence thus fought with arrow and quiver, there was also
a broader and vaster contest supposed by Homer between the elements
they ruled; and that the goddess of the heavens, as she struck the
goddess of the moon on the flushing cheek, was at the same instant
exercising omnipresent power in the heavens themselves, and gathering
clouds, with which, filled with the moon's own arrows or beams, she
was encumbering and concealing the moon; he is welcome to this out
carrying of the idea, provided that he does not pretend to make it an
interpretation instead of a mere extension, nor think to explain away
my real, running, beautiful beaten Diana, into a moon behind

It is only farther to be noted, that the Greek conception of Godhead,
as it was much more real than we usually suppose, so it was much more
bold and familiar than to a modern mind would be possible. I shall
have something more to observe, in a little while, of the danger of
our modern habit of endeavouring to raise ourselves to something like
comprehension of the truth of divinity, instead of simply believing
the words in which the Deity reveals Himself to us. The Greek erred
rather on the other side, making hardly any effort to conceive divine
mind as above the human; and no more shrinking from frank intercourse
with a divine being, or dreading its immediate presence, than that of
the simplest of mortals. Thus Atrides, enraged at his sword's breaking
in his hand upon the helmet of Paris, after he had expressly invoked
the assistance of Jupiter, exclaims aloud, as he would to a king who
had betrayed him, "Jove, Father, there is not another god more
evil-minded than thou!"[84] and Helen, provoked at Paris's defeat, and
oppressed with pouting shame both for him and for herself, when Venus
appears at her side, and would lead her back to the delivered Paris,
impatiently tells the goddess to "go and take care of Paris

The modern mind is naturally, but vulgarly and unjustly, shocked by
this kind of familiarity. Rightly understood, it is not so much a sign
of misunderstanding of the divine nature as of good understanding of
the human. The Greek lived, in all things, a healthy, and, in a
certain degree, a perfect life. He had no morbid or sickly feeling of
any kind. He was accustomed to face death without the slightest
shrinking, to undergo all kinds of bodily hardship without complaint,
and to do what he supposed right and honourable, in most cases, as a
matter of course. Confident of his own immortality, and of the power
of abstract justice, he expected to be dealt with in the next world as
was right, and left the matter much in his god's hands; but being thus
immortal, and finding in his own soul something which it seemed quite
as difficult to master, as to rule the elements, he did not feel that
it was an appalling superiority in those gods to have bodies of water,
or fire, instead of flesh, and to have various work to do among the
clouds and waves, out of his human way; or sometimes, even in a sort
of service to himself. Was not the nourishment of herbs and flowers a
kind of ministering to his wants; were not the gods in some sort his
husbandmen, and spirit-servants? Their mere strength or omnipresence
did not seem to him a distinction absolutely terrific. It might be the
nature of one being to be in two places at once, and of another to be
only in one; but that did not seem of itself to infer any absolute
lordliness of one nature above the other, any more than an insect must
be a nobler creature than a man, because it can see on four sides of
its head, and the man only in front. They could kill him or torture
him, it was true; but even that not unjustly, or not for ever. There
was a fate, and a Divine Justice, greater than they; so that if they
did wrong, and he right, he might fight it out with them, and have the
better of them at last. In a general way, they were wiser, stronger,
and better than he; and to ask counsel of them, to obey them, to
sacrifice to them, to thank them for all good, this was well: but to
be utterly downcast before them, or not to tell them his mind in plain
Greek if they seemed to him to be conducting themselves in an ungodly
manner--this would not be well.

Such being their general idea of the gods, we can now easily
understand the habitual tone of their feelings towards what was
beautiful in nature. With us, observe, the idea of the Divinity is apt
to get separated from the life of nature; and imagining our God upon a
cloudy throne, far above the earth, and not in the flowers or waters,
we approach those visible things with a theory that they are dead;
governed by physical laws, and so forth. But coming to them, we find
the theory fail; that they are not dead; that, say what we choose
about them, the instinctive sense of their being alive is too strong
for us; and in scorn of all physical law, the wilful fountain sings,
and the kindly flowers rejoice. And then, puzzled, and yet happy;
pleased, and yet ashamed of being so; accepting sympathy from nature
which we do not believe it gives, and giving sympathy to nature, which
we do not believe it receives,--mixing, besides, all manner of
purposeful play and conceit with these involuntary fellowships,--we
fall necessarily into the curious web of hesitating sentiment,
pathetic fallacy, and wandering fancy, which form a great part of our
modern view of nature. But the Greek never removed his god out of
nature at all; never attempted for a moment to contradict his
instinctive sense that God was everywhere. "The tree _is_ glad," said
he, "I know it is; I can cut it down: no matter, there was a nymph in
it. The water _does_ sing," said he; "I can dry it up; but no matter,
there was a naiad in it." But in thus clearly defining his belief,
observe, he threw it entirely into a human form, and gave his faith to
nothing but the image of his own humanity. What sympathy and
fellowship he had, were always for the spirit _in_ the stream, not for
the stream; always for the dryad _in_ the wood, not for the wood.
Content with this human sympathy, he approached the actual waves and
woody fibres with no sympathy at all. The spirit that ruled them, he
received as a plain fact. Them, also, ruled and material, he received
as plain facts; they, without their spirit, were dead enough. A rose
was good for scent, and a stream for sound and coolness; for the rest,
one was no more than leaves, the other no more than water; he could
not make anything else of them; and the divine power, which was
involved in their existence, having been all distilled away by him
into an independent Flora or Thetis, the poor leaves or waves were
left, in mere cold corporealness, to make the most of their being
discernibly red and soft, clear and wet, and unacknowledged in any
other power whatsoever.

Then, observe farther, the Greeks lived in the midst of the most
beautiful nature, and were as familiar with blue sea, clear air, and
sweet outlines of mountain, as we are with brick walls, black smoke,
and level fields. This perfect familiarity rendered all such scenes of
natural beauty unexciting, if not indifferent to them, by lulling and
overwearying the imagination as far as it was concerned with such
things; but there was another kind of beauty which they found it
required effort to obtain, and which, when thoroughly obtained, seemed
more glorious than any of this wild loveliness--the beauty of the
human countenance and form. This, they perceived, could only be
reached by continual exercise of virtue; and it was in Heaven's sight,
and theirs, all the more beautiful because it needed this self-denial
to obtain it. So they set themselves to reach this, and having gained
it, gave it their principal thoughts, and set it off with beautiful
dress as best they might. But making this their object, they were
obliged to pass their lives in simple exercise and disciplined
employments. Living wholesomely, giving themselves no fever fits,
either by fasting or over-eating, constantly in the open air, and full
of animal spirit and physical power, they became incapable of every
morbid condition of mental emotion. Unhappy love, disappointed
ambition, spiritual despondency, or any other disturbing sensation,
had little power over the well-braced nerves, and healthy flow of the
blood; and what bitterness might yet fasten on them was soon boxed or
raced out of a boy, and spun or woven out of a girl, or danced out of
both. They had indeed their sorrows, true and deep, but still, more
like children's sorrows than ours, whether bursting into open cry of
pain, or hid with shuddering under the veil, still passing over the
soul as clouds do over heaven, not sullying it, not mingling with
it;--darkening it perhaps long or utterly, but still not becoming one
with it, and for the most part passing away in dashing rain of tears,
and leaving the man unchanged; in no wise affecting, as our sorrow
does, the whole tone of his thought and imagination thenceforward.

How far our melancholy may be deeper and wider than theirs in its
roots and view, and therefore nobler, we shall consider presently; but
at all events, they had the advantage of us in being entirely free
from all those dim and feverish sensations which result from unhealthy
state of the body. I believe that a large amount of the dreamy and
sentimental sadness, tendency to reverie, and general patheticalness
of modern life results merely from derangement of stomach; holding to
the Greek life the same relation that the feverish night of an adult
does to a child's sleep.

Farther. The human beauty, which, whether in its bodily being or in
imagined divinity, had become, for the reasons we have seen, the
principal object of culture and sympathy to these Greeks, was, in its
perfection, eminently orderly, symmetrical, and tender. Hence,
contemplating it constantly in this state, they could not but feel a
proportionate fear of all that was disorderly, unbalanced, and rugged.
Having trained their stoutest soldiers into a strength so delicate and
lovely, that their white flesh, with their blood upon it, should look
like ivory stained with purple;[86] and having always around them, in
the motion and majesty of this beauty, enough for the full employment
of their imagination, they shrank with dread or hatred from all the
ruggedness of lower nature,--from the wrinkled forest bark, the jagged
hill-crest, and irregular, inorganic storm of sky; looking to these
for the most part as adverse powers, and taking pleasure only in such
portions of the lower world as were at once conducive to the rest and
health of the human frame, and in harmony with the laws of its gentler

Thus, as far as I recollect, without a single exception, every Homeric
landscape, intended to be beautiful, is composed of a fountain, a
meadow, and a shady grove. This ideal is very interestingly marked, as
intended for a perfect one, in the fifth book of the _Odyssey_; when
Mercury himself stops for a moment, though on a message, to look at a
landscape "which even an immortal might be gladdened to behold."[87]
This landscape consists of a cave covered with a running vine, all
blooming into grapes, and surrounded by a grove of alder, poplar, and
sweet-smelling cypress. Four fountains of white (foaming) water,
springing _in succession_ (mark the orderliness), and close to one
another, flow away in different directions, through a meadow full of
violets and parsley (parsley, to mark its moisture, being elsewhere
called "marsh-nourished," and associated with the lotus[88]); the air
is perfumed not only by these violets, and by the sweet cypress, but
by Calypso's fire of finely chopped cedar-wood, which sends a smoke,
as of incense, through the island; Calypso herself is singing; and
finally, upon the trees are resting, or roosting, owls, hawks, and
"long-tongued sea-crows." Whether these last are considered as a part
of the ideal landscape, as marine singing birds, I know not; but the
approval of Mercury appears to be elicited chiefly by the fountains
and violet meadow.

Now the notable things in this description are, first, the evident
subservience of the whole landscape to human comfort, to the foot, the
taste, or the smell; and, secondly, that throughout the passage there
is not a single figurative word expressive of the things being in any
wise other than plain grass, fruit, or flower. I have used the term
"spring" of the fountains, because, without doubt, Homer means that
they sprang forth brightly, having their source at the foot of the
rocks (as copious fountains nearly always have); but Homer does not
say "spring," he says simply flow, and uses only one word for "growing
softly," or "richly," of the tall trees, the vine, and the violets.
There is, however, some expression of sympathy with the sea-birds; he
speaks of them in precisely the same terms, as in other places of
naval nations, saying they "have care of the works of the sea."

If we glance through the references to pleasant landscape which occur
in other parts of the _Odyssey_, we shall always be struck by this
quiet subjection of their every feature to human service, and by the
excessive similarity in the scenes. Perhaps the spot intended, after
this, to be most perfect, may be the garden of Alcinous, where the
principal ideas are, still more definitely, order, symmetry and
fruitfulness;[89] the beds being duly ranged between rows of vines,
which, as well as the pear, apple, and fig trees, bear fruit
continually, some grapes being yet sour, while others are getting
black; there are plenty of "_orderly_ square beds of herbs," chiefly
leeks, and two fountains, one running through the garden, and one
under the pavement of the palace to a reservoir for the citizens.
Ulysses, pausing to contemplate this scene, is described nearly in the
same terms as Mercury pausing to contemplate the wilder meadow; and it
is interesting to observe, that, in spite of all Homer's love of
symmetry, the god's admiration is excited by the free fountains, wild
violets, and wandering vine; but the mortal's, by the vines in rows,
the leeks in beds, and the fountains in pipes.

Ulysses has, however, one touching reason for loving vines in rows.
His father had given him fifty rows for himself, when he was a boy,
with corn between them (just as it now grows in Italy). Proving his
identity afterwards to his father, whom he finds at work in his
garden, "with thick gloves on, to keep his hands from the thorns," he
reminds him of these fifty rows of vines, and of the "thirteen
pear-trees and ten apple-trees" which he had given him: and Laertes
faints upon his neck.[90]

If Ulysses had not been so much of a gardener, it might have been
received as a sign of considerable feeling for landscape beauty, that,
intending to pay the very highest possible compliment to the Princess
Nausicaa (and having, indeed, the moment before gravely asked her
whether she was a goddess or not), he says that he feels, at seeing
her, exactly as he did when he saw the young palm tree growing at
Apollo's shrine at Delos.[91] But I think the taste for trim hedges
and upright trunks has its usual influence over him here also, and
that he merely means to tell the princess that she is delightfully
tall and straight.

The princess is, however, pleased by his address, and tells him to
wait outside the town, till she can speak to her father about him. The
spot to which she directs him is another ideal piece of landscape,
composed of a "beautiful grove of aspen poplars, a fountain, and a
meadow,"[92] near the road-side: in fact, as nearly as possible such a
scene as meets the eye of the traveller every instant on the
much-despised lines of road through lowland France; for instance, on
the railway between Arras and Amiens;--scenes, to my mind, quite
exquisite in the various grouping and grace of their innumerable
poplar avenues, casting sweet, tremulous shadows over their level
meadows and labyrinthine streams. We know that the princess means
aspen poplars, because soon afterwards we find her fifty maid-servants
at the palace, all spinning and in perpetual motion, compared to the
"leaves of the tall poplar"; and it is with exquisite feeling that it
is made afterwards[93] the chief tree in the groves of Proserpine; its
light and quivering leafage having exactly the melancholy expression
of fragility, faintness, and inconstancy which the ancients attributed
to the disembodied spirit.[94] The likeness to the poplars by the
streams of Amiens is more marked still in the _Iliad_, where the young
Simois, struck by Ajax, falls to the earth "like an aspen that has
grown in an irrigated meadow, smooth-trunked, the soft shoots
springing from its top, which some coach-making man has cut down with
his keen iron, that he may fit a wheel of it to a fair chariot, and it
lies parching by the side of the stream."[95] It is sufficiently
notable that Homer, living in mountainous and rocky countries, dwells
thus delightedly on all the _flat_ bits; and so I think invariably the
inhabitants of mountain countries do, but the inhabitants of the
plains do not, in any similar way, dwell delightedly on mountains. The
Dutch painters are perfectly contented with their flat fields and
pollards;[96] Rubens, though he had seen the Alps, usually composes
his landscapes of a hayfield or two, plenty of pollards and willows, a
distant spire, a Dutch house with a moat about it, a windmill, and a
ditch. The Flemish sacred painters are the only ones who introduce
mountains in the distance, as we shall see presently; but rather in a
formal way than with any appearance of enjoyment. So Shakspere never
speaks of mountains with the slightest joy, but only of lowland
flowers, flat fields, and Warwickshire streams. And if we talk to the
mountaineer, he will usually characterize his own country to us as a
"pays affreux," or in some equivalent, perhaps even more violent,
German term: but the lowland peasant does not think his country
frightful; he either will have no ideas beyond it, or about it; or
will think it a very perfect country, and be apt to regard any
deviation from its general principle of flatness with extreme
disfavour; as the Lincolnshire farmer in _Alton Locke_: "I'll shaw 'ee
some'at like a field o' beans, I wool--none o' this here darned ups
and downs o' hills, to shake a body's victuals out of his inwards--all
so vlat as a barn's vloor, for vorty mile on end--there's the country
to live in!"[97]

I do not say whether this be altogether right (though certainly not
wholly wrong), but it seems to me that there must be in the simple
freshness and fruitfulness of level land, in its pale upright trees,
and gentle lapse of silent streams, enough for the satisfaction of the
human mind in general; and I so far agree with Homer, that, if I had
to educate an artist to the full perception of the meaning of the word
"gracefulness" in landscape, I should send him neither to Italy nor to
Greece, but simply to those poplar groves between Arras and Amiens.

But to return more definitely to our Homeric landscape. When it is
perfect, we have, as in the above instances, the foliage and meadows
together; when imperfect, it is always either the foliage or the
meadow; pre-eminently the meadow, or arable field. Thus, meadows of
asphodel are prepared for the happier dead; and even Orion, a hunter
among the mountains in his lifetime, pursues the ghosts of beasts in
these asphodel meadows after death.[98] So the sirens sing in a
meadow; [99] and throughout the _Odyssey_ there is a general tendency
to the depreciation of poor Ithaca, because it is rocky, and only fit
for goats, and has "no meadows";[100] for which reason Telemachus
refuses Atrides's present of horses, congratulating the Spartan king
at the same time on ruling over a plain which has "plenty of lotus in
it, and rushes," with corn and barley. Note this constant dwelling on
the marsh plants, or, at least, those which grow in flat and
well-irrigated land, or beside streams: when Scamander, for instance,
is restrained by Vulcan, Homer says, very sorrowfully, that "all his
lotus, and reeds, and rushes were burnt";[101] and thus Ulysses, after
being shipwrecked and nearly drowned, and beaten about the sea for
many days and nights, on raft and mast, at last getting ashore at the
mouth of a large river, casts himself down first upon its _rushes_,
and then, in thankfulness, kisses the "corn-giving land," as most
opposed, in his heart, to the fruitless and devouring sea.[102]

In this same passage, also, we find some peculiar expressions of the
delight which the Greeks had in trees; for, when Ulysses first comes
in sight of land, which gladdens him "as the reviving of a father from
his sickness gladdens his children," it is not merely the sight of the
land itself which gives him such pleasure, but of the "land and
_wood_." Homer never throws away any words, at least in such a place
as this; and what in another poet would have been merely the filling
up of the deficient line with an otherwise useless word, is in him the
expression of the general Greek sense, that land of any kind was in no
wise grateful or acceptable till there was _wood_ upon it (or corn;
but the corn, in the flats, could not be seen so far as the black
masses of forest on the hill sides), and that, as in being rushy and
corn-giving, the low land, so in being woody, the high land was most
grateful to the mind of the man who for days and nights had been
wearied on the engulphing sea. And this general idea of wood and corn,
as the types of the fatness of the whole earth, is beautifully marked
in another place of the _Odyssey_,[103] where the sailors in a desert
island, having no flour of corn to offer as a meat offering with their
sacrifices, take the leaves of the trees, and scatter them over the
burnt offering instead.

But still, every expression of the pleasure which Ulysses has in this
landing and resting, contains uninterruptedly the reference to the
utility and sensible pleasantness of all things, not to their beauty.
After his first grateful kiss given to the corn-growing land, he
considers immediately how he is to pass the night; for some minutes
hesitating whether it will be best to expose himself to the misty
chill from the river, or run the risk of wild beasts in the wood. He
decides for the wood, and finds in it a bower formed by a sweet and a
wild olive tree, interlacing their branches, or--perhaps more
accurately translating Homer's intensely graphic expression--"changing
their branches with each other" (it is very curious how often, in an
entanglement of wood, one supposes the branches to belong to the wrong
trees) and forming a roof penetrated by neither rain, sun, nor wind.
Under this bower Ulysses collects the "_vain_ (or _frustrate_)
outpouring of the dead leaves"--another exquisite expression, used
elsewhere of useless grief or shedding of tears;--and, having got
enough together, makes his bed of them, and goes to sleep, having
covered himself up with them, "as embers are covered up with

Nothing can possibly be more intensely possessive of the _facts_ than
this whole passage: the sense of utter deadness and emptiness, and
frustrate fall in the leaves; of dormant life in the human body,--the
fire, and heroism, and strength of it, lulled under the dead brown
heap, as embers under ashes, and the knitting of interchanged and
close strength of living boughs above. But there is not the smallest
apparent sense of there being _beauty_ elsewhere than in the human
being. The wreathed wood is admired simply as being a perfect roof for
it; the fallen leaves only as being a perfect bed for it; and there is
literally no more excitement of emotion in Homer, as he describes
them, nor does he expect us to be more excited or touched by hearing
about them, than if he had been telling us how the chambermaid at the
Bull aired the four-poster, and put on two extra blankets.

Now, exactly this same contemplation of subservience to human use
makes the Greek take some pleasure in _rocks_, when they assume one
particular form, but one only--that of a _cave_. They are evidently
quite frightful things to him under any other condition, and most of
all if they are rough and jagged; but if smooth, looking "sculptured,"
like the sides of a ship, and forming a cave or shelter for him, he
begins to think them endurable. Hence, associating the ideas of rich
and sheltering wood, sea, becalmed and made useful as a port by
protecting promontories of rock, and smoothed caves or grottoes in the
rocks themselves, we get the pleasantest idea which the Greek could
form of a landscape, next to a marsh with poplars in it; not, indeed,
if possible, ever to be without these last; thus, in commending the
Cyclops' country as one possessed of every perfection, Homer erst
says: "They have soft _marshy_ meadows near the sea, and good, rich,
crumbling, ploughing-land, giving fine deep crops, and vines always
giving fruit"; then, "a port so quiet, that they have no need of
cables in it; and at the head of the port, a beautiful clear spring
just _under a cave_, and _aspen poplars all round it_."[105]

This, it will be seen, is very nearly Homer's usual "ideal"; but,
going into the middle of the island, Ulysses comes on a rougher and
less agreeable bit, though still fulfilling certain required
conditions of endurableness; a "cave shaded with laurels,"[106] which,
having no poplars about it, is, however, meant to be somewhat
frightful, and only fit to be inhabited by a Cyclops. So in the
country of the Læstrygons, Homer, preparing his reader gradually for
something very disagreeable, represents the rocks as bare and "exposed
to the sun";[107] only with some smooth and slippery roads over them,
by which the trucks bring down wood from the higher hills. Any one
familiar with Swiss slopes of hills must remember how often he has
descended, sometimes faster than was altogether intentional, by these
same slippery woodman's truck roads.

And thus, in general, whenever the landscape is intended to be lovely,
it verges towards the ploughed lands and poplars; or, at worst, to
_woody_ rocks; but, if intended to be painful, the rocks are bare and
"sharp." This last epithet, constantly used by Homer for mountains,
does not altogether correspond, in Greek, to the English term, nor is
it intended merely to characterize the sharp mountain summits; for it
never would be applied simply to the edge or point of a sword, but
signifies rather "harsh," "bitter," or "painful," being applied
habitually to fate, death, and in _Odyssey_ xi. 333, to a halter; and,
as expressive of general objectionableness and unpleasantness, to all
high, dangerous, or peaked mountains, as the Maleian promontory (a
much-dreaded one), the crest of Parnassus, the Tereian mountain, and a
grim or untoward, though, by keeping off the force of the sea,
protective, rock at the mouth of the Jardanus; as well as habitually
to inaccessible or impregnable fortresses built on heights.

In all this I cannot too strongly mark the utter absence of any
trace of the feeling for what we call the picturesque, and the
constant dwelling of the writer's mind on what was available,
pleasant, or useful: his ideas respecting all landscape being not
uncharacteristially summed, finally, by Pallas herself; when, meeting
Ulysses, who after his long wandering does not recognize his own
country, and meaning to describe it as politely and soothingly as
possible, she says:[108]--"This Ithaca of ours is, indeed, a rough
country enough, and not good for driving in; but, still, things might
be worse: it has plenty of corn, and good wine, and _always rain_,
and soft nourishing dew; and it has good feeding for goats and oxen,
and all manner of wood, and springs fit to drink at all the year

We shall see presently how the blundering, pseudo-picturesque,
pseudo-classical minds of Claude and the Renaissance landscape-painters,
wholly missing Homer's practical common sense, and equally incapable
of feeling the quiet natural grace and sweetness of his asphodel
meadows, tender aspen poplars, or running vines,--fastened on his
_ports_ and _caves_, as the only available features of his scenery;
and appointed the type of "classical landscape" thenceforward to
consist in a bay of insipid sea, and a rock with a hole through

It may indeed be thought that I am assuming too hastily that this was
the general view of the Greeks respecting landscape, because it was
Homer's. But I believe the true mind of a nation, at any period, is
always best ascertainable by examining that of its greatest men; and
that simpler and truer results will be attainable for us by simply
comparing Homer, Dante, and Walter Scott, than by attempting (what my
limits must have rendered absurdly inadequate, and in which, also,
both my time and knowledge must have failed me) an analysis of the
landscape in the range of contemporary literature. All that I can do,
is to state the general impression, which has been made upon me by my
desultory reading, and to mark accurately the grounds for this
impression in the works of the greatest men. Now it is quite true that
in others of the Greeks, especially in Æschylus and Aristophanes,
there is infinitely more of modern feeling, of pathetic fallacy, love
of picturesque or beautiful form, and other such elements, than there
is in Homer; but then these appear to me just the parts of them which
were not Greek, the elements of their minds by which (as one division
of the human race always must be with subsequent ones) they are
connected with the mediævals and moderns. And without doubt, in his
influence over future mankind, Homer is eminently the Greek of Greeks:
if I were to associate any one with him it would be Herodotus, and I
believe all I have said of the Homeric landscape will be found equally
true of the Herodotean, as assuredly it will be of the Platonic;--the
contempt, which Plato sometimes expresses by the mouth of Socrates,
for the country in general, except so far as it is shady, and has
cicadas and running streams to make pleasant noises in it, being
almost ludicrous. But Homer is the great type, and the more notable
one because of his influence on Virgil, and, through him, on Dante,
and all the after ages: and, in like manner, if we can get the
abstract of mediæval landscape out of Dante, it will serve us as well
as if we had read all the songs of the troubadours, and help us to the
farther changes in derivative temper, down to all modern time.

I think, therefore, the reader may safely accept the conclusions about
Greek landscape which I have got for him out of Homer; and in these he
will certainly perceive something very different from the usual
imaginations we form of Greek feelings. We think of the Greeks as
poetical, ideal, imaginative, in the way that a modern poet or
novelist is; supposing that their thoughts about their mythology and
world were as visionary and artificial as ours are: but I think the
passages I have quoted show that it was not so, although it may be
difficult for us to apprehend the strange minglings in them of the
elements of faith, which, in our days, have been blended with other
parts of human nature in a totally different guise. Perhaps the Greek
mind may be best imagined by taking, as its groundwork, that of a
good, conscientious, but illiterate Scotch Presbyterian Border farmer
of a century or two back, having perfect faith in the bodily
appearances of Satan and his imps; and in all kelpies, brownies, and
fairies. Substitute for the indignant terrors in this man's mind, a
general persuasion of the _Divinity_, more or less beneficent, yet
faultful, of all these beings; that is to say, take away his belief in
the demoniacal malignity of the fallen spiritual world, and lower, in
the same degree, his conceptions of the angelical, retaining for him
the same firm faith in both; keep his ideas about flowers and
beautiful scenery much as they are,--his delight in regular ploughed
land and meadows, and a neat garden (only with rows of gooseberry
bushes instead of vines), being, in all probability, about accurately
representative of the feelings of Ulysses; then, let the military
spirit that is in him, glowing against the Border forager, or the foe
of old Flodden and Chevy-Chase,[110] be made more principal, with a
higher sense of nobleness in soldiership, not as a careless
excitement, but a knightly duty; and increased by high cultivation of
every personal quality, not of mere shaggy strength, but graceful
strength, aided by a softer climate, and educated in all proper
harmony of sight and sound: finally, instead of an informed Christian,
suppose him to have only the patriarchal Jewish knowledge of the
Deity, and even this obscured by tradition, but still thoroughly
solemn and faithful, requiring his continual service as a priest of
burnt sacrifice and meat offering; and I think we shall get a pretty
close approximation to the vital being of a true old Greek; some
slight difference still existing in a feeling which the Scotch farmer
would have of a pleasantness in blue hills and running streams, wholly
wanting in the Greek mind; and perhaps also some difference of views
on the subjects of truth and honesty. But the main points, the easy,
athletic, strongly logical and argumentative, yet fanciful and
credulous, characters of mind, would be very similar in both; and the
most serious change in the substance of the stuff among the
modifications above suggested as necessary to turn the Scot into the
Greek, is that effect of softer climate and surrounding luxury,
inducing the practice of various forms of polished art,--the more
polished, because the practical and realistic tendency of the Hellenic
mind (if my interpretation of it be right) would quite prevent it from
taking pleasure in any irregularities of form, or imitations of the
weeds and wildnesses of that mountain nature with which it thought
itself born to contend. In its utmost refinement of work, it sought
eminently for orderliness; carried the principle of the leeks in
squares, and fountains in pipes, perfectly out in its streets and
temples; formalized whatever decoration it put into its minor
architectural mouldings, and reserved its whole heart and power to
represent the action of living men, or gods, though not unconscious,
meanwhile, of

    The simple, the sincere delight;
    The habitual scene of hill and dale;
    The rural herds, the vernal gale;
    The tangled vetches' purple bloom;
    The fragrance of the bean's perfume,--
    Theirs, theirs alone, who cultivate the soil,
    And drink the cup of thirst, and eat the bread of toil.[111]

  [74] _Endymion_, 2. 349-350.

  [75] See p. 68.

  [76] _Iliad_, 21. 212-360.

  [77] Compare _Lay of the Last Minstrel_, canto i. stanza 15, and
  canto v. stanza 2. In the first instance, the river-spirit is
  accurately the Homeric god, only Homer would have believed in
  it,--Scott did not, at least not altogether. [Ruskin.]

  [78] _The Excursion_, 4. 861-871.

  [79] _Genesis_ xxviii, 12; xxxii, 1; xxii, 11; _Joshua_ v, 13 ff.;
  _Judges_ xiii, 3 ff.

  [80] _Iliad_, 5. 846.

  [81] _Iliad_, 1. 43.

  [82] _Iliad_, 21. 489 ff.

  [83] Compare the exquisite lines of Longfellow on the sunset in
  _The Golden Legend_:--

  The day is done; and slowly from the scene
  The stooping sun up-gathers his spent shafts.
  And puts them back into his golden quiver. [Ruskin.]

  [84] _Iliad_, 3. 365.

  [85] _Iliad_, 3. 406 ff.

  [86] _Iliad_, 4. 141. [Ruskin.]

  [87] _Odyssey_, 5. 63-74.

  [88] _Iliad_, 2. 776. [Ruskin.]

  [89] _Odyssey_ 7. 112-132.

  [90] _Odyssey_, 24. 334 ff.

  [91] _Odyssey_, 6. 162.

  [92] _Odyssey_, 6. 291-292.

  [93] _Odyssey_, 10. 510. [Ruskin.]

  [94] Compare the passage in Dante referred to above, p. 60.

  [95] _Iliad_, 4. 482-487.

  [96] Pollards, trees polled or cut back at some height above the
  ground, producing a thick growth of young branches in a rounded

  [97] Quoted, with some omission, from chapter 12.

  [98] _Odyssey_, 11. 572; 24. 13. The couch of Ceres, with Homer's
  usual faithfulness, is made of a _ploughed_ field, 5. 127.

  [99] _Odyssey_, 12. 45.

  [100] _Odyssey_, 4. 605.

  [101] _Iliad_, 21. 351.

  [102] _Odyssey_, 5. 398, 463. [Ruskin.]

  [103] _Odyssey_, 12. 357. [Ruskin.]

  [104] _Odyssey_, 5. 481-493.

  [105] _Odyssey_, 9. 132, etc. Hence Milton's

  From haunted spring, and dale, Edged with poplar pale. [Ruskin.]

  _Hymn on The Morning of Christ's Nativity_, 184-185.

  [106] _Odyssey_, 9. 182.

  [107] _Odyssey_, 10. 87-88.

  [108] _Odyssey_, 13. 236, etc. [Ruskin.]

  [109] Educated, as we shall see hereafter, first in this school.
  Turner gave the hackneyed composition a strange power and
  freshness, in his Glaucus and Scylla. [Ruskin.]

  [110] Flodden, Flodden Field, a plain in Northumberland, famous as
  the battlefield where James IV of Scotland was defeated by an
  English army under the Earl of Surrey, Sept. 9, 1513. The sixth
  canto of Scott's _Marmion_ gives a fairly accurate description of
  the action.

  _Chevy-Chase_, a famous old English ballad recounting the incidents
  of the battle of Otterburn [Aug. 19, 1388] in which the Scots under
  the Earl of Douglas defeated the English under the Percies.

  [111] Shenstone's _Rural Elegance_, 201 ff., quoted with some
  slight inaccuracies.



We turn our eyes, therefore, as boldly and as quickly as may be, from
these serene fields and skies of mediæval art, to the most
characteristic examples of modern landscape. And, I believe, the first
thing that will strike us, or that ought to strike us, is _their

Out of perfect light and motionless air, we find ourselves on a sudden
brought under sombre skies, and into drifting wind; and, with fickle
sunbeams flashing in our face, or utterly drenched with sweep of rain,
we are reduced to track the changes of the shadows on the grass, or
watch the rents of twilight through angry cloud. And we find that
whereas all the pleasure of the mediæval was in _stability,
definiteness_, and _luminousness_, we are expected to rejoice in
darkness, and triumph in mutability; to lay the foundation of
happiness in things which momentarily change or fade; and to expect
the utmost satisfaction and instruction from what it is impossible to
arrest, and difficult to comprehend.

We find, however, together with this general delight in breeze and
darkness, much attention to the real form of clouds, and careful
drawing of effects of mist; so that the appearance of objects, as seen
through it, becomes a subject of science with us; and the faithful
representation of that appearance is made of primal importance, under
the name of aërial perspective. The aspects of sunset and sunrise,
with all their attendant phenomena of cloud and mist, are watchfully
delineated; and in ordinary daylight landscape, the sky is considered
of so much importance, that a principal mass of foliage, or a whole
foreground, is unhesitatingly thrown into shade merely to bring out
the form of a white cloud. So that, if a general and characteristic
name were needed for modern landscape art, none better could be
invented than "the service of clouds."

And this name would, unfortunately, be characteristic of our art in
more ways than one. In the last chapter, I said that all the Greeks
spoke kindly about the clouds, except Aristophanes; and he, I am sorry
to say (since his report is so unfavourable), is the only Greek who
had studied them attentively. He tells us, first, that they are "great
goddesses to idle men"; then, that they are "mistresses of disputings,
and logic, and monstrosities, and noisy chattering"; declares that
whoso believes in their divinity must first disbelieve in Jupiter, and
place supreme power in the hands of an unknown god "Whirlwind"; and,
finally, he displays their influence over the mind of one of their
disciples, in his sudden desire "to speak ingeniously concerning

There is, I fear, an infinite truth in this Aristophanic judgment
applied to our modern cloud-worship. Assuredly, much of the love of
mystery in our romances, our poetry, our art, and, above all, in our
metaphysics, must come under that definition so long ago given by the
great Greek, "speaking ingeniously concerning smoke." And much of the
instinct, which, partially developed in painting, may be now seen
throughout every mode of exertion of mind,--the easily encouraged
doubt, easily excited curiosity, habitual agitation, and delight in
the changing and the marvellous, as opposed to the old quiet serenity
of social custom and religious faith,--is again deeply defined in
those few words, the "dethroning of Jupiter," the "coronation of the

Nor of whirlwind merely, but also of darkness or ignorance respecting
all stable facts. That darkening of the foreground to bring out the
white cloud, is, in one aspect of it, a type of the subjection of all
plain and positive fact, to what is uncertain and unintelligible. And,
as we examine farther into the matter, we shall be struck by another
great difference between the old and modern landscape, namely, that in
the old no one ever thought of drawing anything but as well _as he
could_. That might not be _well_, as we have seen in the case of
rocks; but it was as well as he _could_, and always distinctly. Leaf,
or stone, or animal, or man, it was equally drawn with care and
clearness, and its essential characters shown. If it was an oak tree,
the acorns were drawn; if a flint pebble, its veins were drawn; if an
arm of the sea, its fish were drawn; if a group of figures, their
faces and dresses were drawn--to the very last subtlety of expression
and end of thread that could be got into the space, far off or near.
But now our ingenuity is all "concerning smoke." Nothing is truly
drawn but that; all else is vague, slight, imperfect; got with as
little pains as possible. You examine your closest foreground, and
find no leaves; your largest oak, and find no acorns; your human
figure, and find a spot of red paint instead of a face; and in all
this, again and again, the Aristophanic words come true, and the
clouds seem to be "great goddesses to idle men."

The next thing that will strike us, after this love of clouds, is the
love of liberty. Whereas the mediæval was always shutting himself into
castles, and behind fosses, and drawing brickwork neatly, and beds of
flowers primly, our painters delight in getting to the open fields and
moors; abhor all hedges and moats; never paint anything but free-growing
trees, and rivers gliding "at their own sweet will"; eschew formality
down to the smallest detail; break and displace the brickwork which
the mediæval would have carefully cemented; leave unpruned the
thickets he would have delicately trimmed; and, carrying the love of
liberty even to license, and the love of wildness even to ruin, take
pleasure at last in every aspect of age and desolation which emancipates
the objects of nature from the government of men;--on the castle wall
displacing its tapestry with ivy, and spreading, through the garden,
the bramble for the rose.

Connected with this love of liberty we find a singular manifestation
of love of mountains, and see our painters traversing the wildest
places of the globe in order to obtain subjects with craggy foregrounds
and purple distances. Some few of them remain content with pollards
and flat land; but these are always men of third-rate order; and the
leading masters, while they do not reject the beauty of the low
grounds, reserve their highest powers to paint Alpine peaks or Italian
promontories. And it is eminently noticeable, also, that this pleasure
in the mountains is never mingled with fear, or tempered by a spirit
of meditation, as with the mediæval; but it is always free and
fearless, brightly exhilarating, and wholly unreflective; so that the
painter feels that his mountain foreground may be more consistently
animated by a sportsman than a hermit; and our modern society in
general goes to the mountains, not to fast, but to feast, and leaves
their glaciers covered with chicken-bones and egg-shells.

Connected with this want of any sense of solemnity in mountain
scenery, is a general profanity of temper in regarding all the rest of
nature; that is to say, a total absence of faith in the presence of
any deity therein. Whereas the mediæval never painted a cloud, but
with the purpose of placing an angel in it; and a Greek never entered
a wood without expecting to meet a god in it; we should think the
appearance of an angel in the cloud wholly unnatural, and should be
seriously surprised by meeting a god anywhere. Our chief ideas about
the wood are connected with poaching. We have no belief that the
clouds contain more than so many inches of rain or hail, and from our
ponds and ditches expect nothing more divine than ducks and

Finally: connected with this profanity of temper is a strong tendency
to deny the sacred element of colour, and make our boast in blackness.
For though occasionally glaring or violent, modern colour is on the
whole eminently sombre, tending continually to grey or brown, and by
many of our best painters consistently falsified, with a confessed
pride in what they call chaste or subdued tints; so that, whereas a
mediæval paints his sky bright blue and his foreground bright green,
gilds the towers of his castles, and clothes his figures with purple
and white, we paint our sky grey, our foreground black, and our
foliage brown, and think that enough is sacrificed to the sun in
admitting the dangerous brightness of a scarlet cloak or a blue

These, I believe, are the principal points which would strike us
instantly, if we were to be brought suddenly into an exhibition of
modern landscapes out of a room filled with mediæval work. It is
evident that there are both evil and good in this change; but how much
evil, or how much good, we can only estimate by considering, as in the
former divisions of our inquiry, what are the real roots of the habits
of mind which have caused them.

And first, it is evident that the title "Dark Ages," given to the
mediæval centuries, is, respecting art, wholly inapplicable. They
were, on the contrary, the bright ages; ours are the dark ones. I do
not mean metaphysically, but literally. They were the ages of gold;
ours are the ages of umber.

This is partly mere mistake in us; we build brown brick walls, and
wear brown coats, because we have been blunderingly taught to do so,
and go on doing so mechanically. There is, however, also some cause
for the change in our own tempers. On the whole, these are much
_sadder_ ages than the early ones; not sadder in a noble and deep way,
but in a dim wearied way,--the way of ennui, and jaded intellect, and
uncomfortableness of soul and body. The Middle Ages had their wars and
agonies, but also intense delights. Their gold was dashed with blood;
but ours is sprinkled with dust. Their life was inwoven with white and
purple: ours is one seamless stuff of brown. Not that we are without
apparent festivity, but festivity more or less forced, mistaken,
embittered, incomplete--not of the heart. How wonderfully, since
Shakspere's time, have we lost the power of laughing at bad jests! The
very finish of our wit belies our gaiety.

The profoundest reason of this darkness of heart is, I believe, our
want of faith. There never yet was a generation of men (savage or
civilized) who, taken as a body, so wofully fulfilled the words
"having no hope, and without God in the world,"[113] as the present
civilized European race. A Red Indian or Otaheitan savage has more
sense of a Divine existence round him, or government over him, than
the plurality of refined Londoners and Parisians: and those among us
who may in some sense be said to believe, are divided almost without
exception into two broad classes, Romanist and Puritan; who, but for
the interference of the unbelieving portions of society, would, either
of them, reduce the other sect as speedily as possible to ashes; the
Romanist having always done so whenever he could, from the beginning
of their separation, and the Puritan at this time holding himself in
complacent expectation of the destruction of Rome by volcanic fire.
Such division as this between persons nominally of one religion, that
is to say, believing in the same God, and the same Revelation, cannot
but become a stumbling-block of the gravest kind to all thoughtful and
far-sighted men,--a stumbling-block which they can only surmount under
the most favourable circumstances of early education. Hence, nearly
all our powerful men in this age of the world are unbelievers; the
best of them in doubt and misery; the worst in reckless defiance; the
plurality, in plodding hesitation, doing, as well as they can, what
practical work lies ready to their hands. Most of our scientific men
are in this last class; our popular authors either set themselves
definitely against all religious form, pleading for simple truth and
benevolence (Thackeray, Dickens), or give themselves up to bitter and
fruitless statement of facts (De Balzac), or surface-painting (Scott),
or careless blasphemy, sad or smiling (Byron, Béranger). Our earnest
poets and deepest thinkers are doubtful and indignant (Tennyson,
Carlyle); one or two, anchored, indeed, but anxious or weeping
(Wordsworth, Mrs. Browning); and of these two, the first is not so
sure of his anchor, but that now and then it drags with him, even to
make him cry out,--

                  Great God, I had rather be
    A Pagan suckled in some creed outworn;
      So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.[114]

In politics, religion is now a name; in art, a hypocrisy or affectation.
Over German religious pictures the inscription, "See how Pious I am,"
can be read at a glance by any clear-sighted person. Over French and
English religious pictures the inscription, "See how Impious I am," is
equally legible. All sincere and modest art is, among us, profane.[115]

This faithlessness operates among us according to our tempers,
producing either sadness or levity, and being the ultimate root alike
of our discontents and of our wantonnesses. It is marvellous how full
of contradiction it makes us: we are first dull, and seek for wild and
lonely places because we have no heart for the garden; presently we
recover our spirits, and build an assembly room among the mountains,
because we have no reverence for the desert. I do not know if there be
game on Sinai, but I am always expecting to hear of some one's shooting
over it.

There is, however, another, and a more innocent root of our delight in
wild scenery.

All the Renaissance principles of art tended, as I have before often
explained, to the setting Beauty above Truth, and seeking for it
always at the expense of truth. And the proper punishment of such
pursuit--the punishment which all the laws of the universe rendered
inevitable--was, that those who thus pursued beauty should wholly lose
sight of beauty. All the thinkers of the age, as we saw previously,
declared that it did not exist. The age seconded their efforts, and
banished beauty, so far as human effort could succeed in doing so,
from the face of the earth, and the form of man. To powder the hair,
to patch the cheek, to hoop the body, to buckle the foot, were all
part and parcel of the same system which reduced streets to brick
walls, and pictures to brown stains. One desert of Ugliness was extended
before the eyes of mankind; and their pursuit of the beautiful, so
recklessly continued, received unexpected consummation in high-heeled
shoes and periwigs,--Gower Street, and Gaspar Poussin.[116]

Reaction from this state was inevitable, if any true life was left in
the races of mankind; and, accordingly, though still forced, by rule
and fashion, to the producing and wearing all that is ugly, men steal
out, half-ashamed of themselves for doing so, to the fields and
mountains; and, finding among these the colour, and liberty, and
variety, and power, which are for ever grateful to them, delight in
these to an extent never before known; rejoice in all the wildest
shattering of the mountain side, as an opposition to Gower Street,
gaze in a rapt manner at sunsets and sunrises, to see there the blue,
and gold, and purple, which glow for them no longer on knight's armour
or temple porch; and gather with care out of the fields, into their
blotted herbaria, the flowers which the five orders of architecture
have banished from their doors and casements.

The absence of care for personal beauty, which is another great
characteristic of the age, adds to this feeling in a twofold way:
first, by turning all reverent thoughts away from human nature; and
making us think of men as ridiculous or ugly creatures, getting
through the world as well as they can, and spoiling it in doing so;
not ruling it in a kingly way and crowning all its loveliness. In the
Middle Ages hardly anything but vice could be caricatured, because
virtue was always visibly and personally noble: now virtue itself is
apt to inhabit such poor human bodies, that no aspect of it is
invulnerable to jest; and for all fairness we have to seek to the
flowers, for all sublimity, to the hills.

The same want of care operates, in another way, by lowering the
standard of health, increasing the susceptibility to nervous or
sentimental impressions, and thus adding to the other powers of nature
over us whatever charm may be felt in her fostering the melancholy
fancies of brooding idleness.

It is not, however, only to existing inanimate nature that our want of
beauty in person and dress has driven us. The imagination of it, as it
was seen in our ancestors, haunts us continually; and while we yield
to the present fashions, or act in accordance with the dullest modern
principles of economy and utility, we look fondly back to the manners
of the ages of chivalry, and delight in painting, to the fancy, the
fashions we pretend to despise, and the splendours we think it wise to
abandon. The furniture and personages of our romance are sought, when
the writer desires to please most easily, in the centuries which we
profess to have surpassed in everything; the art which takes us into
the present times is considered as both daring and degraded; and while
the weakest words please us, and are regarded as poetry, which recall
the manners of our forefathers, or of strangers, it is only as
familiar and vulgar that we accept the description of our own.

In this we are wholly different from all the races that preceded us.
All other nations have regarded their ancestors with reverence as
saints or heroes; but have nevertheless thought their own deeds and
ways of life the fitting subjects for their arts of painting or of
verse. We, on the contrary, regard our ancestors as foolish and
wicked, but yet find our chief artistic pleasures in descriptions of
their ways of life.

The Greeks and mediævals honoured, but did not imitate their
forefathers; we imitate, but do not honour.

With this romantic love of beauty, forced to seek in history, and in
external nature, the satisfaction it cannot find in ordinary life, we
mingle a more rational passion, the due and just result of newly
awakened powers of attention. Whatever may first lead us to the
scrutiny of natural objects, that scrutiny never fails of its reward.
Unquestionably they are intended to be regarded by us with both
reverence and delight; and every hour we give to them renders their
beauty more apparent, and their interest more engrossing. Natural
science--which can hardly be considered to have existed before modern
times--rendering our knowledge fruitful in accumulation, and exquisite
in accuracy, has acted for good or evil, according to the temper of
the mind which received it; and though it has hardened the
faithlessness of the dull and proud, has shown new grounds for
reverence to hearts which were thoughtful and humble. The neglect of
the art of war, while it has somewhat weakened and deformed the
body,[117] has given us leisure and opportunity for studies to which,
before, time and space were equally wanting; lives which once were
early wasted on the battle-field are now passed usefully in the study;
nations which exhausted themselves in annual warfare now dispute with
each other the discovery of new planets; and the serene philosopher
dissects the plants, and analyzes the dust, of lands which were of old
only traversed by the knight in hasty march, or by the borderer in
heedless rapine.

The elements of progress and decline being thus strangely mingled in
the modern mind, we might beforehand anticipate that one of the
notable characters of our art would be its inconsistency; that efforts
would be made in every direction, and arrested by every conceivable
cause and manner of failure; that in all we did, it would become next
to impossible to distinguish accurately the grounds for praise or for
regret; that all previous canons of practice and methods of thought
would be gradually overthrown, and criticism continually defied by
successes which no one had expected, and sentiments which no one could

Accordingly, while, in our inquiries into Greek and mediæval art, I
was able to describe, in general terms, what all men did or felt, I
find now many characters in many men; some, it seems to me, founded on
the inferior and evanescent principles of modernism, on its
recklessness, impatience, or faithlessness; others founded on its
science, its new affection for nature, its love of openness and
liberty. And among all these characters, good or evil, I see that
some, remaining to us from old or transitional periods, do not
properly belong to us, and will soon fade away, and others, though not
yet distinctly developed, are yet properly our own, and likely to grow
forward into greater strength.

For instance: our reprobation of bright colour is, I think, for the
most part, mere affectation, and must soon be done away with.
Vulgarity, dulness, or impiety, will indeed always express themselves
through art in brown and grey, as in Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and
Salvator; but we are not wholly vulgar, dull, or impious; nor, as
moderns, are we necessarily obliged to continue so in any wise. Our
greatest men, whether sad or gay, still delight, like the great men of
all ages, in brilliant hues. The colouring of Scott and Byron is full
and pure; that of Keats and Tennyson rich even to excess. Our
practical failures in colouring are merely the necessary consequences
of our prolonged want of practice during the periods of Renaissance
affectation and ignorance; and the only durable difference between old
and modern colouring, is the acceptance of certain hues, by the
modern, which please him by expressing that melancholy peculiar to his
more reflective or sentimental character, and the greater variety of
them necessary to express his greater science.

Again: if we ever become wise enough to dress consistently and
gracefully, to make health a principal object in education, and to
render our streets beautiful with art, the external charm of past
history will in great measure disappear. There is no essential reason,
because we live after the fatal seventeenth century, that we should
never again be able to confess interest in sculpture, or see
brightness in embroidery; nor, because now we choose to make the night
deadly with our pleasures, and the day with our labours, prolonging
the dance till dawn, and the toil to twilight, that we should never
again learn how rightly to employ the sacred trusts of strength,
beauty, and time. Whatever external charm attaches itself to the past,
would then be seen in proper subordination to the brightness of
present life; and the elements of romance would exist, in the earlier
ages, only in the attraction which must generally belong to whatever
is unfamiliar; in the reverence which a noble nation always pays to
its ancestors; and in the enchanted light which races, like
individuals, must perceive in looking back to the days of their

Again: the peculiar levity with which natural scenery Is regarded by a
large number of modern minds cannot be considered as entirely
characteristic of the age, inasmuch as it never can belong to its
greatest intellects. Men of any high mental power must be serious,
whether in ancient or modern days: a certain degree of reverence for
fair scenery is found in all our great writers without exception,--even
the one who has made us laugh oftenest, taking us to the valley of
Chamouni, and to the sea beach, there to give peace after suffering,
and change revenge into pity.[118] It is only the dull, the uneducated,
or the worldly, whom it is painful to meet on the hillsides; and
levity, as a ruling character, cannot be ascribed to the whole nation,
but only to its holiday-making apprentices, and its House of Commons.

We need not, therefore, expect to find any single poet or painter
representing the entire group of powers, weaknesses, and inconsistent
instincts which govern or confuse our modern life. But we may expect
that in the man who seems to be given by Providence as the type of the
age (as Homer and Dante were given, as the types of classical and
mediæval mind), we shall find whatever is fruitful and substantial to
be completely present, together with those of our weaknesses, which
are indeed nationally characteristic, and compatible with general
greatness of mind, just as the weak love of fences, and dislike of
mountains, were found compatible with Dante's greatness in other

Farther: as the admiration of mankind is found, in our times, to have
in great part passed from men to mountains, and from human emotion to
natural phenomena, we may anticipate that the great strength of art
will also be warped in this direction; with this notable result for
us, that whereas the greatest painters or painter of classical and
mediæval periods, being wholly devoted to the representation of
humanity, furnished us with but little to examine in landscape, the
greatest painters or painter of modern times will in all probability
be devoted to landscape principally: and farther, because in
representing human emotion words surpass painting, but in representing
natural scenery painting surpasses words, we may anticipate also that
the painter and poet (for convenience' sake I here use the words in
opposition) will somewhat change their relations of rank in
illustrating the mind of the age; that the painter will become of more
importance, the poet of less; and that the relations between the men
who are the types and firstfruits of the age in word and work,--namely,
Scott and Turner,--will be, in many curious respects, different from
those between Homer and Phidias, or Dante and Giotto.[119]

  [112] _Clouds_, 316-318; 380 ff.; 320-321.

  [113] _Ephesians_ ii, 12.

  [114] Wordsworth's "The world is too much with us."

  [115] Pre-Raphaelitism, of course, excepted, which is a new phase
  of art, in no wise considered in this chapter. Blake was sincere,
  but full of wild creeds, and somewhat diseased in brain. [Ruskin.]

  [116] Gower Street, a London street selected as typical of modern

  Gaspar Poussin [1613-75], a French landscape painter, of the
  pseudo-classical school.

  [117] Of course this is meant only of the modern citizen or
  country-gentleman, as compared with a citizen of Sparta or old
  Florence. I leave it to others to say whether the "neglect of the
  art of war" may or may not, in a yet more fatal sense, be predicated
  of the English nation. War, _without_ art, we seem, with God's help,
  able still to wage nobly. [Ruskin.]

  [118] See _David Copperfield_, chap. 55 and 58. [Ruskin.]

  [119] Ruskin proceeds to discuss Scott as he has discussed Homer.
  The chapter on Turner that follows here is an almost equally good
  illustration of Ruskin's ideas.



Born half-way between the mountains and the sea--that young George of
Castelfranco--of the Brave Castle:--Stout George they called him,
George of Georges, so goodly a boy he was--Giorgione.[120]

Have you ever thought what a world his eyes opened on--fair, searching
eyes of youth? What a world of mighty life, from those mountain roots
to the shore;--of loveliest life, when he went down, yet so young, to
the marble city--and became himself as a fiery heart to it?

A city of marble, did I say? nay, rather a golden city, paved with
emerald. For truly, every pinnacle and turret glanced or glowed,
overlaid with gold, or bossed with jasper. Beneath, the unsullied sea
drew in deep breathing, to and fro, its eddies of green wave.
Deep-hearted, majestic, terrible as the sea,--the men of Venice moved
in sway of power and war; pure as her pillars of alabaster, stood her
mothers and maidens; from foot to brow, all noble, walked her knights;
the low bronzed gleaming of sea-rusted armour shot angrily under their
blood-red mantle-folds. Fearless, faithful, patient, impenetrable,
implacable,--every word a fate--sate her senate. In hope and honour,
lulled by flowing of wave around their isles of sacred sand, each with
his name written and the cross graved at his side, lay her dead. A
wonderful piece of world. Rather, itself a world. It lay along the face
of the waters, no larger, as its captains saw it from their masts at
evening, than a bar of sunset that could not pass away; but for its
power, it must have seemed to them as if they were sailing in the
expanse of heaven, and this a great planet, whose orient edge widened
through ether. A world from which all ignoble care and petty thoughts
were banished, with all the common and poor elements of life. No
foulness, nor tumult, in those tremulous streets, that filled, or fell,
beneath the moon; but rippled music of majestic change, or thrilling
silence. No weak walls could rise above them; no low-roofed cottage,
nor straw-built shed. Only the strength as of rock, and the finished
setting of stones most precious. And around them, far as the eye could
reach, still the soft moving of stainless waters, proudly pure; as not
the flower, so neither the thorn nor the thistle, could grow in the
glancing fields. Ethereal strength of Alps, dreamlike, vanishing in
high procession beyond the Torcellan shore; blue islands of Paduan
hills, poised in the golden west. Above, free winds and fiery clouds
ranging at their will;--brightness out of the north, and balm from the
south, and the stars of the evening and morning clear in the limitless
light of arched heaven and circling sea.

Such was Giorgione's school--such Titian's home.

Near the south-west corner of Covent Garden, a square brick pit or well
is formed by a close-set block of houses, to the back windows of which
it admits a few rays of light. Access to the bottom of it is obtained
out of Maiden Lane, through a low archway and an iron gate; and if you
stand long enough under the archway to accustom your eyes to the
darkness you may see on the left hand a narrow door, which formerly
gave quiet access to a respectable barber's shop, of which the front
window, looking into Maiden Lane, is still extant, filled, in this year
(1860), with a row of bottles, connected, in some defunct manner, with
a brewer's business. A more fashionable neighbourhood, it is said,
eighty years ago than now--never certainly a cheerful one--wherein a
boy being born on St. George's day, 1775, began soon after to take
interest in the world of Covent Garden, and put to service such
spectacles of life as it afforded.

No knights to be seen there, nor, I imagine, many beautiful ladies;
their costume at least disadvantageous, depending much on incumbency of
hat and feather, and short waists; the majesty of men founded similarly
on shoebuckles and wigs;--impressive enough when Reynolds will do his
best for it; but not suggestive of much ideal delight to a boy.

"Bello ovile dov' io dormii agnello";[121] of things beautiful, besides
men and women, dusty sunbeams up or down the street on summer mornings;
deep furrowed cabbage-leaves at the greengrocer's; magnificence of
oranges in wheelbarrows round the corner; and Thames' shore within
three minutes' race.

None of these things very glorious; the best, however, that England, it
seems, was then able to provide for a boy of gift: who, such as they
are, loves them--never, indeed, forgets them. The short waists modify
to the last his visions of Greek ideal. His foregrounds had always a
succulent cluster or two of greengrocery at the corners. Enchanted
oranges gleam in Covent Gardens of the Hesperides; and great ships go
to pieces in order to scatter chests of them on the waves.[122] That mist
of early sunbeams in the London dawn crosses, many and many a time, the
clearness of Italian air; and by Thames' shore, with its stranded
barges and glidings of red sail, dearer to us than Lucerne lake or
Venetian lagoon,--by Thames' shore we will die.

With such circumstance round him in youth, let us note what necessary
effects followed upon the boy. I assume him to have had Giorgione's
sensibility (and more than Giorgione's, if that be possible) to colour
and form. I tell you farther, and this fact you may receive trustfully,
that his sensibility to human affection and distress was no less keen
than even his sense for natural beauty--heart-sight deep as eyesight.

Consequently, he attaches himself with the faithfullest child-love to
everything that bears an image of the place he was born in. No matter
how ugly it is,--has it anything about it like Maiden Lane, or like
Thames' shore? If so, it shall be painted for their sake. Hence, to the
very close of life, Turner could endure ugliness which no one else, of
the same sensibility, would have borne with for an instant. Dead brick
walls, blank square windows, old clothes, market-womanly types of
humanity--anything fishy and muddy, like Billingsgate or Hungerford
Market, had great attraction for him; black barges, patched sails, and
every possible condition of fog.

You will find these tolerations and affections guiding or sustaining
him to the last hour of his life; the notablest of all such endurances
being that of dirt. No Venetian ever draws anything foul; but Turner
devoted picture after picture to the illustration of effects of
dinginess, smoke, soot, dust, and dusty texture; old sides of boats,
weedy roadside vegetation, dunghills, straw-yards, and all the soilings
and stains of every common labour.

And more than this, he not only could endure, but enjoyed and looked
for _litter_, like Covent Garden wreck after the market. His pictures
are often full of it, from side to side; their foregrounds differ from
all others in the natural way that things have of lying about in them.
Even his richest vegetation, in ideal work, is confused; and he
delights in shingle, debris, and heaps of fallen stones. The last words
he ever spoke to me about a picture were in gentle exultation about his
St. Gothard: "that _litter_ of stones which I endeavoured to

The second great result of this Covent Garden training was understanding
of and regard for the poor, whom the Venetians, we saw, despised; whom,
contrarily, Turner loved, and more than loved--understood. He got no
romantic sight of them, but an infallible one, as he prowled about the
end of his lane, watching night effects in the wintry streets; nor
sight of the poor alone, but of the poor in direct relations with the
rich. He knew, in good and evil, what both classes thought of, and how
they dwelt with, each other.

Reynolds and Gainsborough, bred in country villages, learned there the
country boy's reverential theory of "the squire," and kept it. They
painted the squire and the squire's lady as centres of the movements of
the universe, to the end of their lives. But Turner perceived the
younger squire in other aspects about his lane, occurring prominently
in its night scenery, as a dark figure, or one of two, against the
moonlight. He saw also the working of city commerce, from endless
warehouse, towering over Thames, to the back shop in the lane, with its
stale herrings--highly interesting these last; one of his father's best
friends, whom he often afterwards visited affectionately at Bristol,
being a fishmonger and glue-boiler; which gives us a friendly turn of
mind towards herring-fishing, whaling, Calais poissardes, and many
other of our choicest subjects in after life; all this being connected
with that mysterious forest below London Bridge on one side;--and, on
the other, with these masses of human power and national wealth which
weigh upon us, at Covent Garden here, with strange compression, and
crush us into narrow Hand Court.

"That mysterious forest below London Bridge"--better for the boy than
wood of pine, or grove of myrtle. How he must have tormented the
watermen, beseeching them to let him crouch anywhere in the bows,
quiet as a log, so only that he might get floated down there among the
ships, and round and round the ships, and with the ships, and by the
ships, and under the ships, staring, and clambering;--these the only
quite beautiful things he can see in all the world, except the sky;
but these, when the sun is on their sails, filling or falling,
endlessly disordered by sway of tide and stress of anchorage,
beautiful unspeakably; which ships also are inhabited by glorious
creatures--red-faced sailors, with pipes, appearing over the gunwales,
true knights, over their castle parapets--the most angelic beings in
the whole compass of London world. And Trafalgar happening long before
we can draw ships, we, nevertheless, coax all current stories out of
the wounded sailors, do our best at present to show Nelson's funeral
streaming up the Thames; and vow that Trafalgar shall have its tribute
of memory some day. Which, accordingly, is accomplished--once, with
all our might, for its death; twice, with all our might, for its
victory; thrice, in pensive farewell to the old Téméraire, and, with
it, to that order of things.[123]

Now this fond companying with sailors must have divided his time, it
appears to me, pretty equally between Covent Garden and Wapping
(allowing for incidental excursions to Chelsea on one side, and
Greenwich on the other), which time he would spend pleasantly, but not
magnificently, being limited in pocket-money, and leading a kind of
"Poor-Jack" life on the river.

In some respects, no life could be better for a lad. But it was not
calculated to make his ear fine to the niceties of language, nor form
his moralities on an entirely regular standard. Picking up his first
scraps of vigorous English chiefly at Deptford and in the markets, and
his first ideas of female tenderness and beauty among nymphs of the
barge and the barrow,--another boy might, perhaps, have become what
people usually term "vulgar." But the original make and frame of
Turner's mind being not vulgar, but as nearly as possible a combination
of the minds of Keats and Dante, joining capricious waywardness, and
intense openness to every fine pleasure of sense, and hot defiance of
formal precedent, with a quite infinite tenderness, generosity, and
desire of justice and truth--this kind of mind did not become vulgar,
but very tolerant of vulgarity, even fond of it in some forms; and on
the outside, visibly infected by it, deeply enough; the curious result,
in its combination of elements, being to most people wholly
incomprehensible. It was as if a cable had been woven of blood-crimson
silk, and then tarred on the outside. People handled it, and the tar
came off on their hands; red gleams were seen through the black,
underneath, at the places where it had been strained. Was it
ochre?--said the world--or red lead?

Schooled thus in manners, literature, and general moral principles at
Chelsea and Wapping, we have finally to inquire concerning the most
important point of all. We have seen the principal differences between
this boy and Giorgione, as respects sight of the beautiful,
understanding of poverty, of commerce, and of order of battle; then
follows another cause of difference in our training--not slight,--the
aspect of religion, namely, in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden. I
say the aspect; for that was all the lad could judge by. Disposed, for
the most part, to learn chiefly by his eyes, in this special matter he
finds there is really no other way of learning. His father had taught
him "to lay one penny upon another." Of mother's teaching, we hear of
none; of parish pastoral teaching, the reader may guess how much.

I chose Giorgione rather than Veronese to help me in carrying out this
parallel; because I do not find in Giorgione's work any of the early
Venetian monarchist element. He seems to me to have belonged more to an
abstract contemplative school. I may be wrong in this; it is no
matter;--suppose it were so, and that he came down to Venice somewhat
recusant, or insentient, concerning the usual priestly doctrines of his
day,--how would the Venetian religion, from an outer intellectual
standing-point, have _looked_ to him?

He would have seen it to be a religion indisputably powerful in human
affairs; often very harmfully so; sometimes devouring widows'
houses,[124] and consuming the strongest and fairest from among the
young; freezing into merciless bigotry the policy of the old: also, on
the other hand, animating national courage, and raising souls,
otherwise sordid, into heroism: on the whole, always a real and great
power; served with daily sacrifice of gold, time, and thought; putting
forth its claims, if hypocritically, at least in bold hypocrisy, not
waiving any atom of them in doubt or fear; and, assuredly, in large
measure, sincere, believing in itself, and believed: a goodly system,
moreover, in aspect; gorgeous, harmonious, mysterious;--a thing which
had either to be obeyed or combated, but could not be scorned. A
religion towering over all the city--many-buttressed--luminous in
marble stateliness, as the dome of our Lady of Safety[125] shines over
the sea; many-voiced also, giving, over all the eastern seas, to the
sentinel his watchword, to the soldier his war-cry; and, on the lips of
all who died for Venice, shaping the whisper of death.

I suppose the boy Turner to have regarded the religion of his city also
from an external intellectual standing-point.

What did he see in Maiden Lane?

Let not the reader be offended with me; I am willing to let him
describe, at his own pleasure, what Turner saw there; but to me, it
seems to have been this. A religion maintained occasionally, even the
whole length of the lane, at point of constable's staff; but, at other
times, placed under the custody of the beadle, within certain black and
unstately iron railings of St. Paul's, Covent Garden. Among the
wheelbarrows and over the vegetables, no perceptible dominance of
religion; in the narrow, disquieted streets, none; in the tongues,
deeds, daily ways of Maiden Lane, little. Some honesty, indeed, and
English industry, and kindness of heart, and general idea of justice;
but faith, of any national kind, shut up from one Sunday to the next,
not artistically beautiful even in those Sabbatical exhibitions; its
paraphernalia being chiefly of high pews, heavy elocution, and cold
grimness of behaviour.

What chiaroscuro belongs to it--(dependent mostly on candlelight),--we
will, however, draw considerately; no goodliness of escutcheon, nor
other respectability being omitted, and the best of their results
confessed, a meek old woman and a child being let into a pew, for whom
the reading by candlelight will be beneficial.[126]

For the rest, this religion seems to him
discreditable--discredited--not believing in itself; putting forth its
authority in a cowardly way, watching how far it might be tolerated,
continually shrinking, disclaiming, fencing, finessing; divided against
itself, not by stormy rents, but by thin fissures, and splittings of
plaster from the walls. Not to be either obeyed, or combated, by an
ignorant, yet clear-sighted youth: only to be scorned. And scorned not
one whit the less, though also the dome dedicated to it looms high over
distant winding of the Thames; as St. Mark's campanile rose, for goodly
landmark, over mirage of lagoon. For St. Mark ruled over life; the
Saint of London over death; St. Mark over St. Mark's Place, but St.
Paul over St. Paul's Churchyard.

Under these influences pass away the first reflective hours of life,
with such conclusion as they can reach. In consequence of a fit of
illness, he was taken--I cannot ascertain in what year[127]--to live with
an aunt, at Brentford; and here, I believe, received some schooling,
which he seems to have snatched vigorously; getting knowledge, at least
by translation, of the more picturesque classical authors, which he
turned presently to use, as we shall see. Hence also, walks about
Putney and Twickenham in the summer time acquainted him with the look
of English meadow-ground in its restricted states of paddock and park;
and with some round-headed appearances of trees, and stately entrances
to houses of mark: the avenue at Bushy, and the iron gates and carved
pillars of Hampton,[128] impressing him apparently with great awe and
admiration; so that in after life his little country house is,--of all
places in the world,--at Twickenham! Of swans and reedy shores he now
learns the soft motion and the green mystery, in a way not to be

And at last fortune wills that the lad's true life shall begin; and one
summer's evening, after various wonderful stage-coach experiences on
the north road, which gave him a love of stage-coaches ever after, he
finds himself sitting alone among the Yorkshire hills.[129] For the
first time, the silence of Nature round him, her freedom sealed to him,
her glory opened to him. Peace at last; no roll of cart-wheel, nor
mutter of sullen voices in the back shop; but curlew-cry in space of
heaven, and welling of bell-toned streamlet by its shadowy rock.
Freedom at last. Dead-wall, dark railing, fenced field, gated garden,
all passed away like the dream, of a prisoner; and behold, far as foot
or eye can race or range, the moor, and cloud. Loveliness at last. It
is here, then, among these deserted vales! Not among men. Those pale,
poverty-struck, or cruel faces;--that multitudinous, marred
humanity--are not the only things that God has made. Here is something
He has made which no one has marred. Pride of purple rocks, and river
pools of blue, and tender wilderness of glittering trees, and misty
lights of evening on immeasurable hills.

Beauty, and freedom, and peace; and yet another teacher, graver than
these. Sound preaching at last here, in Kirkstall crypt, concerning
fate and life. Here, where the dark pool reflects the chancel pillars,
and the cattle lie in unhindered rest, the soft sunshine on their
dappled bodies, instead of priests' vestments; their white furry hair
ruffled a little, fitfully, by the evening wind deep-scented from the
meadow thyme.

Consider deeply the import to him of this, his first sight of ruin, and
compare it with the effect of the architecture that was around
Giorgione. There were indeed aged buildings, at Venice, in his time,
but none in decay. All ruin was removed, and its place filled as
quickly as in our London; but filled always by architecture loftier and
more wonderful than that whose place it took, the boy himself happy to
work upon the walls of it; so that the idea of the passing away of the
strength of men and beauty of their works never could occur to him
sternly. Brighter and brighter the cities of Italy had been rising and
broadening on hill and plain, for three hundred years. He saw only
strength and immortality, could not but paint both; conceived the form
of man as deathless, calm with power, and fiery with life.

Turner saw the exact reverse of this. In the present work of men,
meanness, aimlessness, unsightliness: thin-walled, lath-divided,
narrow-garreted houses of clay; booths of a darksome Vanity Fair,
busily base.

But on Whitby Hill, and by Bolton Brook,[130] remained traces of other
handiwork. Men who could build had been there; and who also had
wrought, not merely for their own days. But to what purpose? Strong
faith, and steady hands, and patient souls--can this, then, be all you
have left! this the sum of your doing on the earth!--a nest whence the
night-owl may whimper to the brook, and a ribbed skeleton of consumed
arches, looming above the bleak banks of mist, from its cliff to the

As the strength of men to Giorgione, to Turner their weakness and
vileness, were alone visible. They themselves, unworthy or ephemeral;
their work, despicable, or decayed. In the Venetian's eyes, all beauty
depended on man's presence and pride; in Turner's, on the solitude he
had left, and the humiliation he had suffered.

And thus the fate and issue of all his work were determined at once. He
must be a painter of the strength of nature, there was no beauty
elsewhere than in that; he must paint also the labour and sorrow and
passing away of men: this was the great human truth visible to him.

Their labour, their sorrow, and their death. Mark the three. Labour; by
sea and land, in field and city, at forge and furnace, helm and plough.
No pastoral indolence nor classic pride shall stand between him and the
troubling of the world; still less between him and the toil of his
country,--blind, tormented, unwearied, marvellous England.

Also their Sorrow; Ruin of all their glorious work, passing away of
their thoughts and their honour, mirage of pleasure, FALLACY OF HOPE;
gathering of weed on temple step; gaining of wave on deserted strand;
weeping of the mother for the children, desolate by her breathless
first-born in the streets of the city,[131] desolate by her last sons
slain, among the beasts of the field.[132]

And their Death. That old Greek question again;--yet unanswered. The
unconquerable spectre still flitting among the forest trees at
twilight; rising ribbed out of the sea-sand;--white, a strange
Aphrodite,--out of the sea-foam; stretching its grey, cloven wings
among the clouds; turning the light of their sunsets into blood. This
has to be looked upon, and in a more terrible shape than ever Salvator
or Dürer saw it.[133] The wreck of one guilty country does not infer the
ruin of all countries, and need not cause general terror respecting the
laws of the universe. Neither did the orderly and narrow succession of
domestic joy and sorrow in a small German community bring the question
in its breadth, or in any unresolvable shape, before the mind of Dürer.
But the English death--the European death of the nineteenth
century--was of another range and power; more terrible a thousandfold
in its merely physical grasp and grief; more terrible, incalculably, in
its mystery and shame. What were the robber's casual pang, or the range
of the flying skirmish, compared to the work of the axe, and the sword,
and the famine, which was done during this man's youth on all the hills
and plains of the Christian earth, from Moscow to Gibraltar? He was
eighteen years old when Napoleon came down on Arcola. Look on the map
of Europe and count the blood-stains on it, between Arcola and

Not alone those blood-stains on the Alpine snow, and the blue of the
Lombard plain. The English death was before his eyes also. No decent,
calculable, consoled dying; no passing to rest like that of the aged
burghers of Nuremberg town. No gentle processions to churchyards among
the fields, the bronze crests bossed deep on the memorial tablets, and
the skylark singing above them from among the corn. But the life
trampled out in the slime of the street, crushed to dust amidst the
roaring of the wheel, tossed countlessly away into howling winter wind
along five hundred leagues of rock-fanged shore. Or, worst of all,
rotted down to forgotten graves through years of ignorant patience, and
vain seeking for help from man, for hope in God--infirm, imperfect
yearning, as of motherless infants starving at the dawn; oppressed
royalties of captive thought, vague ague-fits of bleak, amazed despair.

A goodly landscape this, for the lad to paint, and under a goodly
light. Wide enough the light was, and clear; no more Salvator's lurid
chasm on jagged horizon, nor Dürer's spotted rest of sunny gleam on
hedgerow and field; but light over all the world. Full shone now its
awful globe, one pallid charnel-house,--a ball strewn bright with human
ashes, glaring in poised sway beneath the sun, all blinding-white with
death from pole to pole,--death, not of myriads of poor bodies only,
but of will, and mercy, and conscience; death, not once inflicted on
the flesh, but daily, fastening on the spirit; death, not silent or
patient, waiting his appointed hour, but voiceful, venomous; death with
the taunting word, and burning grasp, and infixed sting.

"Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe."[135] The word is spoken
in our ears continually to other reapers than the angels,--to the busy
skeletons that never tire for stooping. When the measure of iniquity is
full, and it seems that another day might bring repentance and
redemption,--"Put ye in the sickle." When the young life has been
wasted all away, and the eyes are just opening upon the tracks of ruin,
and faint resolution rising in the heart for nobler things,--"Put ye in
the sickle." When the roughest blows of fortune have been borne long
and bravely, and the hand is just stretched to grasp its goal,--"Put ye
in the sickle." And when there are but a few in the midst of a nation,
to save it, or to teach, or to cherish; and all its life is bound up in
those few golden ears,--"Put ye in the sickle, pale reapers, and pour
hemlock for your feast of harvest home."

This was the sight which opened on the young eyes, this the watchword
sounding within the heart of Turner in his youth.

So taught, and prepared for his life's labour, sate the boy at last
alone among his fair English hills; and began to paint, with cautious
toil, the rocks, and fields, and trickling brooks, and soft white
clouds of heaven.

  [120] c. 1478-1511.

  [121] Dante, alluding to Florence, _Paradiso_, 25. 5. "From the
  fair sheepfold, where a lamb I slumbered." Longfellow's tr.

  [122] Allusions to pictures by Turner, The Garden of the
  Hesperides, and The Meuse: Orange-Merchantman going to pieces on
  the Bar.

  [123] The pictures referred to are: The Death of Nelson, The Battle
  of Trafalgar, and The Fighting Téméraire being towed to its Last
  Berth (see cut). The first and third are in the National Gallery,

  [124] _Matthew_ xxiii, 14.

  [125] Santa Maria della Salute, a church conspicuously situated at
  the junction of the Grand Canal and the Giudecca.

  [126] _Liber Studiorum_. "Interior of a church." It is worthy of
  remark that Giorgione and Titian are always delighted to have an
  opportunity of drawing priests. The English Church may, perhaps,
  accept it as matter of congratulation that this is the only
  instance in which Turner drew a clergyman. [Ruskin.]

  [127] 1785.

  [128] Wolsey's famous palace, twelve miles from London.

  [129] I do not mean that this is his first acquaintance with the
  country, but the first impressive and touching one, after his mind
  was formed. The earliest sketches I found in the National
  Collection are at Clifton and Bristol; the next, at Oxford.

  [130] The reference is to the two famous ruined abbeys of
  Yorkshire--Whitby and Bolton.

  [131] The Tenth Plague of Egypt. [Ruskin.]

  [132] Rizpah, the Daughter of Aiah. [Ruskin.]

  [133] Dürer [1471-1528], German painter, engraver, and designer.
  Salvator [1615-73], Italian painter, etcher, satirical poet, and
  musical composer.

  [134] _I.e._, between November 17, 1796, and June 18, 1815.

  [135] _Joel_ iii, 13.



The first volume of _The Stones of Venice_ appeared in March, 1851; the
first day of May of the same year we find the following entry in
Ruskin's diary: "About to enter on the true beginning of the second
part of my Venetian work. May God help me to finish it--to His glory,
and man's good." The main part of the volume was composed at Venice in
the winter of 1851-52, though it did not appear until the end of July,
1853. His work on architecture, including _The Seven Lamps_, it will be
noted, intervenes between the composition of the second and third
volumes of _Modern Painters_; and Ruskin himself always looked upon
the work as an interlude, almost as an interruption. But he also came
to believe that this digression had really led back to the heart of
the truth for all art. Its main theme, as in _The Seven Lamps of
Architecture_, is its illustration of the principle that architecture
expresses certain states in the moral temper of the people by and for
whom it is produced. It may surprise us to-day to know that when Ruskin
wrote of the glories of Venetian architecture, the common "professional
opinion was that St. Mark's and the Ducal Palace were as ugly and
repulsive as they were contrary to rule and order." In a private letter
Gibbon writes of the Square of St. Mark's as "a large square decorated
with the worst architecture I ever saw." The architects of his own time
regarded Ruskin's opinions as dictated by wild caprice, and almost
evincing an unbalanced mind. Probably the core of all this
architectural work is to be found in his chapter "On the Nature of
Gothic," in the main reproduced in this volume. And we find here again
a point of fundamental significance--that his artistic analysis led him
inevitably on to social inquiries. He proved to himself that the main
virtue of Gothic lay in the unrestricted play of the individual
imagination; that the best results were produced when every artist was
a workman and every workman an artist. Twenty years after the
publication of this book, he wrote in a private letter that his main
purpose "was to show the dependence of (architectural) beauty on the
happiness and fancy of the workman, and to show also that no architect
could claim the title to authority of _Magister_ unless he himself
wrought at the head of his men, captain of manual skill, as the best
knight is captain of armies." He himself called the chapter "precisely
and accurately the most important in the whole book." Mr. Frederic
Harrison says that in it is "the creed, if it be not the origin, of a
new industrial school of thought."



In the olden days of travelling, now to return no more, in which
distance could not be vanquished without toil, but in which that toil
was rewarded, partly by the power of deliberate survey of the countries
through which the journey lay, and partly by the happiness of the
evening hours, when from the top of the last hill he had surmounted,
the traveller beheld the quiet village where he was to rest, scattered
among the meadows beside its valley stream; or, from the long hoped for
turn in the dusty perspective of the causeway, saw, for the first time,
the towers of some famed city, faint in the rays of sunset--hours of
peaceful and thoughtful pleasure, for which the rush of the arrival in
the railway station is perhaps not always, or to all men, an
equivalent,--in those days, I say, when there was something more to be
anticipated and remembered in the first aspect of each successive
halting-place, than a new arrangement of glass roofing and iron girder,
there were few moments of which the recollection was more fondly
cherished by the traveller, than that which, as I endeavoured to
describe in the close of the last chapter, brought him within sight of
Venice, as his gondola shot into the open lagoon from the canal of
Mestre. Not but that the aspect of the city itself was generally the
source of some slight disappointment, for, seen in this direction, its
buildings are far less characteristic than those of the other great
towns of Italy; but this inferiority was partly disguised by distance,
and more than atoned for by the strange rising of its walls and towers
out of the midst, as it seemed, of the deep sea, for it was impossible
that the mind or the eye could at once comprehend the shallowness of
the vast sheet of water which stretched away in leagues of rippling
lustre to the north and south, or trace the narrow line of islets
bounding it to the east. The salt breeze, the white moaning sea-birds,
the masses of black weed separating and disappearing gradually, in
knots of heaving shoal, under the advance of the steady tide, all
proclaimed it to be indeed the ocean on whose bosom the great city
rested so calmly; not such blue, soft, lake-like ocean as bathes the
Neapolitan promontories, or sleeps beneath the marble rocks of Genoa,
but a sea with the bleak power of our own northern waves, yet subdued
into a strange spacious rest, and changed from its angry pallor into a
field of burnished gold, as the sun declined behind the belfry tower of
the lonely island church, fitly named "St. George of the Seaweed." As
the boat drew nearer to the city, the coast which the traveller had
just left sank behind him into one long, low, sad-coloured line, tufted
irregularly with brushwood and willows: but, at what seemed its
northern extremity, the hills of Arqua rose in a dark cluster of purple
pyramids, balanced on the bright mirage of the lagoon; two or three
smooth surges of inferior hill extended themselves about their roots,
and beyond these, beginning with the craggy peaks above Vicenza, the
chain of the Alps girded the whole horizon to the north--a wall of
jagged blue, here and there showing through its clefts a wilderness of
misty precipices, fading far back into the recesses of Cadore, and
itself rising and breaking away eastward, where the sun struck opposite
upon its snow, into mighty fragments of peaked light, standing up
behind the barred clouds of evening, one after another, countless, the
crown of the Adrian Sea, until the eye turned back from pursuing them,
to rest upon the nearer burning of the campaniles of Murano, and on the
great city, where it magnified itself along the waves, as the quick
silent pacing of the gondola drew nearer and nearer. And at last, when
its walls were reached, and the outmost of its untrodden streets was
entered, not through towered gate or guarded rampart, but as a deep
inlet between two rocks of coral in the Indian sea; when first upon the
traveller's sight opened the long ranges of columned palaces,--each
with its black boat moored at the portal,--each with its image cast
down, beneath its feet, upon that green pavement which every breeze
broke into new fantasies of rich tessellation; when first, at the
extremity of the bright vista, the shadowy Rialto threw its colossal
curve slowly forth from behind the palace of the Camerlenghi;[136] that
strange curve, so delicate, so adamantine, strong as a mountain cavern,
graceful as a bow just bent; when first, before its moonlike
circumference was all risen, the gondolier's cry, "Ah! Stalì,"[137]
struck sharp upon the ear, and the prow turned aside under the mighty
cornices that half met over the narrow canal, where the splash of the
water followed close and loud, ringing along the marble by the boat's
side; and when at last that boat darted forth upon the breadth of
silver sea, across which the front of the Ducal Palace, flushed with
its sanguine veins, looks to the snowy dome of Our Lady of
Salvation,[138] it was no marvel that the mind should be so deeply
entranced by the visionary charm of a scene so beautiful and so
strange, as to forget the darker truths of its history and its being.
Well might it seem that such a city had owed her existence rather to
the rod of the enchanter, than the fear of the fugitive; that the
waters which encircled her had been chosen for the mirror of her state,
rather than the shelter of her nakedness; and that all which in nature
was wild or merciless,--Time and Decay, as well as the waves and
tempests,--had been won to adorn her instead of to destroy, and might
still spare, for ages to come, that beauty which seemed to have fixed
for its throne the sands of the hour-glass as well as of the sea.

And although the last few eventful years, fraught with change to the
face of the whole earth, have been more fatal in their influence on
Venice than the five hundred that preceded them; though the noble
landscape of approach to her can now be seen no more, or seen only by a
glance, as the engine slackens its rushing on the iron line; and though
many of her palaces are for ever defaced, and many in desecrated ruins,
there is still so much of magic in her aspect, that the hurried
traveller, who must leave her before the wonder of that first aspect
has been worn away, may still be led to forget the humility of her
origin, and to shut his eyes to the depth of her desolation. They, at
least, are little to be envied, in whose hearts the great charities of
the imagination lie dead, and for whom the fancy has no power to
repress the importunity of painful impressions, or to raise what is
ignoble, and disguise what is discordant, in a scene so rich in its
remembrances, so surpassing in its beauty. But for this work of the
imagination there must be no permission during the task which is before
us. The impotent feelings of romance, so singularly characteristic of
this century, may indeed gild, but never save, the remains of those
mightier ages to which they are attached like climbing flowers; and
they must be torn away from the magnificent fragments, if we would see
them as they stood in their own strength. Those feelings, always as
fruitless as they are fond, are in Venice not only incapable of
protecting, but even of discerning, the objects to which they ought to
have been attached. The Venice of modern fiction and drama is a thing
of yesterday, a mere efflorescence of decay, a stage dream which the
first ray of daylight must dissipate into dust. No prisoner, whose name
is worth remembering, or whose sorrow deserved sympathy, ever crossed
that "Bridge of Sighs," which is the centre of the Byronic ideal of
Venice;[139] no great merchant of Venice ever saw that Rialto under which
the traveller now passes with breathless interest: the statue which
Byron makes Faliero address as of one of his great ancestors was
erected to a soldier of fortune a hundred and fifty years after
Faliero's death;[140] and the most conspicuous parts of the city have
been so entirely altered in the course of the last three centuries,
that if Henry Dandolo or Francis Foscari[141] could be summoned from
their tombs, and stood each on the deck of his galley at the entrance
of the Grand Canal, that renowned entrance, the painter's favourite
subject, the novelist's favourite scene, where the water first narrows
by the steps of the Church of La Salute,--the mighty Doges would not
know in what part of the world they stood, would literally not
recognize one stone of the great city, for whose sake, and by whose
ingratitude, their grey hairs had been brought down with bitterness to
the grave. The remains of _their_ Venice lie hidden behind the cumbrous
masses which were the delight of the nation in its dotage; hidden in
many a grass-grown court, and silent pathway, and lightless canal,
where the slow waves have sapped their foundations for five hundred
years, and must soon prevail over them for ever. It must be our task to
glean and gather them forth, and restore out of them some faint image
of the lost city; more gorgeous a thousandfold than that which now
exists, yet not created in the day-dream of the prince, nor by the
ostentation of the noble, but built by iron hands and patient hearts,
contending against the adversity of nature and the fury of man, so that
its wonderfulness cannot be grasped by the indolence of imagination,
but only after frank inquiry into the true nature of that wild and
solitary scene, whose restless tides and trembling sands did indeed
shelter the birth of the city, but long denied her dominion.

When the eye falls casually on a map of Europe, there is no feature by
which it is more likely to be arrested than the strange sweeping loop
formed by the junction of the Alps and Apennines, and enclosing the
great basin of Lombardy. This return of the mountain chain upon itself
causes a vast difference in the character of the distribution of its
debris on its opposite sides. The rock fragments and sediment which the
torrents on the other side of the Alps bear into the plains are
distributed over a vast extent of country, and, though here and there
lodged in beds of enormous thickness, soon permit the firm substrata to
appear from underneath them; but all the torrents which descend from
the southern side of the High Alps, and from the northern slope of the
Apennines, meet concentrically in the recess or mountain bay which the
two ridges enclose; every fragment which thunder breaks out of their
battlements, and every grain of dust which the summer rain washes from
their pastures, is at last laid at rest in the blue sweep of the
Lombardic plain; and that plain must have risen within its rocky
barriers as a cup fills with wine, but for two contrary influences
which continually depress, or disperse from its surface, the
accumulation of the ruins of ages.

I will not tax the reader's faith in modern science by insisting on the
singular depression of the surface of Lombardy, which appears for many
centuries to have taken place steadily and continually; the main fact
with which we have to do is the gradual transport, by the Po and its
great collateral rivers, of vast masses of the finer sediment to the
sea. The character of the Lombardic plains is most strikingly expressed
by the ancient walls of its cities, composed for the most part of large
rounded Alpine pebbles alternating with narrow courses of brick; and
was curiously illustrated in 1848, by the ramparts of these same
pebbles thrown up four or five feet high round every field, to check
the Austrian cavalry in the battle under the walls of Verona.[142] The
finer dust among which these pebbles are dispersed is taken up by the
rivers, fed into continual strength by the Alpine snow, so that,
however pure their waters may be when they issue from the lakes at the
foot of the great chain, they become of the colour and opacity of clay
before they reach the Adriatic; the sediment which they bear is at once
thrown down as they enter the sea, forming a vast belt of low land
along the eastern coast of Italy. The powerful stream of the Po of
course builds forward the fastest; on each side of it, north and south,
there is a tract of marsh, fed by more feeble streams, and less liable
to rapid change than the delta of the central river. In one of these
tracts is built RAVENNA, and in the other VENICE.

What circumstances directed the peculiar arrangement of this great belt
of sediment in the earliest times, it is not here the place to inquire.
It is enough for us to know that from the mouths of the Adige to those
of the Piave there stretches, at a variable distance of from three to
five miles from the actual shore, a bank of sand, divided into long
islands by narrow channels of sea. The space between this bank and the
true shore consists of the sedimentary deposits from these and other
rivers, a great plain of calcareous mud, covered, in the neighbourhood
of Venice, by the sea at high water, to the depth in most places of a
foot or a foot and a half, and nearly everywhere exposed at low tide,
but divided by an intricate network of narrow and winding channels,
from which the sea never retires. In some places, according to the run
of the currents, the land has risen into marshy islets, consolidated,
some by art, and some by time, into ground firm enough to be built
upon, or fruitful enough to be cultivated: in others, on the contrary,
it has not reached the sea level; so that, at the average low water,
shallow lakelets glitter among its irregularly exposed fields of
seaweed. In the midst of the largest of these, increased in importance
by the confluence of several large river channels towards one of the
openings in the sea bank, the city of Venice itself is built, on a
crowded cluster of islands; the various plots of higher ground which
appear to the north and south of this central cluster, have at
different periods been also thickly inhabited, and now bear, according
to their size, the remains of cities, villages, or isolated convents
and churches, scattered among spaces of open ground, partly waste and
encumbered by ruins, partly under cultivation for the supply of the

The average rise and fall of the tide is about three feet (varying
considerably with the seasons); but this fall, on so flat a shore, is
enough to cause continual movement in the waters, and in the main
canals to produce a reflux which frequently runs like a mill stream. At
high water no land is visible for many miles to the north or south of
Venice, except in the form of small islands crowned with towers or
gleaming with villages: there is a channel, some three miles wide,
between the city and the mainland, and some mile and a half wide
between it and the sandy breakwater called the Lido, which divides the
lagoon from the Adriatic, but which is so low as hardly to disturb the
impression of the city's having been built in the midst of the ocean,
although the secret of its true position is partly, yet not painfully,
betrayed by the clusters of piles set to mark the deepwater channels,
which undulate far away in spotty chains like the studded backs of huge
sea-snakes, and by the quick glittering of the crisped and crowded
waves that flicker and dance before the strong winds upon the uplifted
level of the shallow sea. But the scene is widely different at low
tide. A fall of eighteen or twenty inches is enough to show ground over
the greater part of the lagoon; and at the complete ebb the city is
seen standing in the midst of a dark plain of sea-weed, of gloomy
green, except only where the larger branches of the Brenta and its
associated streams converge towards the port of the Lido. Through this
salt and sombre plain the gondola and the fishing-boat advance by
tortuous channels, seldom more than four or five feet deep, and often
so choked with slime that the heavier keels furrow the bottom till
their crossing tracks are seen through the clear sea water like the
ruts upon a wintry road, and the oar leaves blue gashes upon the ground
at every stroke, or is entangled among the thick weed that fringes the
banks with the weight of its sullen waves, leaning to and fro upon the
uncertain sway of the exhausted tide. The scene is often profoundly
oppressive, even at this day, when every plot of higher ground bears
some fragment of fair building: but, in order to know what it was once,
let the traveller follow in his boat at evening the windings of some
unfrequented channel far into the midst of the melancholy plain; let
him remove, in his imagination, the brightness of the great city that
still extends itself in the distance, and the walls and towers from the
islands that are near; and so wait, until the bright investiture and
sweet warmth of the sunset are withdrawn from the waters, and the black
desert of their shore lies in its nakedness beneath the night,
pathless, comfortless, infirm, lost in dark languor and fearful
silence, except where the salt runlets plash into the tideless pools,
or the sea-birds flit from their margins with a questioning cry; and he
will be enabled to enter in some sort into the horror of heart with
which this solitude was anciently chosen by man for his habitation.
They little thought, who first drove the stakes into the sand, and
strewed the ocean reeds for their rest, that their children were to be
the princes of that ocean, and their palaces its pride; and yet, in the
great natural laws that rule that sorrowful wilderness, let it be
remembered what strange preparation had been made for the things which
no human imagination could have foretold, and how the whole existence
and fortune of the Venetian nation were anticipated or compelled, by
the setting of those bars and doors to the rivers and the sea. Had
deeper currents divided their islands, hostile navies would again and
again have reduced the rising city into servitude; had stronger surges
beaten their shores, all the richness and refinement of the Venetian
architecture must have been exchanged for the walls and bulwarks of an
ordinary sea-port. Had there been no tide, as in other parts of the
Mediterranean, the narrow canals of the city would have become noisome,
and the marsh in which it was built pestiferous. Had the tide been only
a foot or eighteen inches higher in its rise, the water-access to the
doors of the palaces would have been impossible: even as it is, there
is sometimes a little difficulty, at the ebb, in landing without
setting foot upon the lower and slippery steps; and the highest tides
sometimes enter the courtyards, and overflow the entrance halls.
Eighteen inches more of difference between the level of the flood and
ebb would have rendered the doorsteps of every palace, at low water, a
treacherous mass of weeds and limpets, and the entire system of
water-carriage for the higher classes, in their easy and daily
intercourse, must have been done away with. The streets of the city
would have been widened, its network of canals filled up, and all the
peculiar character of the place and the people destroyed.

The reader may perhaps have felt some pain in the contrast between this
faithful view of the site of the Venetian Throne, and the romantic
conception of it which we ordinarily form; but this pain, if he have
felt it, ought to be more than counterbalanced by the value of the
instance thus afforded to us at once of the inscrutableness and the
wisdom of the ways of God. If, two thousand years ago, we had been
permitted to watch the slow settling of the slime of those turbid
rivers into the polluted sea, and the gaining upon its deep and fresh
waters of the lifeless, impassable, unvoyageable plain, how little
could we have understood the purpose with which those islands were
shaped out of the void, and the torpid waters enclosed with their
desolate walls of sand! How little could we have known, any more than
of what now seems to us most distressful, dark, and objectless, the
glorious aim which was then in the mind of Him in whose hand are all
the corners of the earth! how little imagined that in the laws which
were stretching forth the gloomy margins of those fruitless banks, and
feeding the bitter grass among their shallows, there was indeed a
preparation, and _the only preparation possible_, for the founding of a
city which was to be set like a golden clasp on the girdle of the
earth, to write her history on the white scrolls of the sea-surges, and
to word it in their thunder, and to gather and give forth, in
world-wide pulsation, the glory of the West and of the East, from the
burning heart of her Fortitude and Splendour.

  [136] The palace of the Camerlenghi, beside the Rialto, is a
  graceful work of the early Renaissance (1525) passing into Roman
  Renaissance. [Adapted from Ruskin.]

  [137] Signifying approximately "Keep to the right."

  [138] See note 1, p. 129.

  [139] _Childe Harold_, 4. 1.

  [140] _Marino Faliero_, 3. 1. 22 ff.

  [141] Dandolo [c. 1108-1205] and Foscari [1372-1457] were among the
  most famous of Venetian Doges.

  [142] In the battle of Custozza, 1848, the Austrians defeated the



"And so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus." If as the shores
of Asia lessened upon his sight, the spirit of prophecy had entered
into the heart of the weak disciple who had turned back when his hand
was on the plough, and who had been judged, by the chiefest of Christ's
captains, unworthy thenceforward to go forth with him to the work,[143]
how wonderful would he have thought it, that by the lion symbol in
future ages he was to be represented among men! how woful, that the
war-cry of his name should so often reanimate the rage of the soldier,
on those very plains where he himself had failed in the courage of the
Christian, and so often dye with fruitless blood that very Cypriot Sea,
over whose waves, in repentance and shame, he was following the Son of

That the Venetians possessed themselves of his body in the ninth
century, there appears no sufficient reason to doubt, nor that it was
principally in consequence of their having done so, that they chose him
for their patron saint. There exists, however, a tradition that before
he went into Egypt he had founded the church at Aquileia, and was thus
in some sort the first bishop of the Venetian isles and people. I
believe that this tradition stands on nearly as good grounds as that of
St. Peter having been the first bishop of Rome[144]; but, as usual, it is
enriched by various later additions and embellishments, much resembling
the stories told respecting the church of Murano. Thus we find it
recorded by the Santo Padre who compiled the _Vife de' Santi spettanti
alle Chiese di Venezia_,[145] that "St. Mark having seen the people of
Aquileia well grounded in religion, and being called to Rome by St.
Peter, before setting off took with him the holy bishop Hermagoras, and
went in a small boat to the marshes of Venice. There were at that
period some houses built upon a certain high bank called Rialto, and
the boat being driven by the wind was anchored in a marshy place, when
St. Mark, snatched into ecstasy, heard the voice of an angel saying to
him: 'Peace be to thee, Mark; here shall thy body rest.'" The angel
goes on to foretell the building of "una stupenda, ne più veduta
Città"[146]; but the fable is hardly ingenious enough to deserve farther

But whether St. Mark was first bishop of Aquileia or not, St. Theodore
was the first patron of the city; nor can he yet be considered as
having entirely abdicated his early right, as his statue, standing on a
crocodile, still companions the winged lion on the opposing pillar of
the piazzetta. A church erected to this Saint is said to have occupied,
before the ninth century, the site of St. Mark's; and the traveller,
dazzled by the brilliancy of the great square, ought not to leave it
without endeavouring to imagine its aspect in that early time, when it
was a green field cloister-like and quiet,[147] divided by a small canal,
with a line of trees on each side; and extending between the two
churches of St. Theodore and St. Gemanium, as the little piazza of
Torcello lies between its "palazzo" and cathedral.

But in the year 813, when the seat of government was finally removed to
the Rialto, a Ducal Palace, built on the spot where the present one
stands, with a Ducal Chapel beside it,[148] gave a very different
character to the Square of St. Mark; and fifteen years later, the
acquisition of the body of the Saint, and its deposition in the Ducal
Chapel, perhaps not yet completed, occasioned the investiture of that
chapel with all possible splendour. St. Theodore was deposed from his
patronship, and his church destroyed, to make room for the
aggrandizement of the one attached to the Ducal Palace, and
thenceforward known as "St. Mark's."[149]

This first church was however destroyed by fire, when the Ducal Palace
was burned in the revolt against Candiano, in 976. It was partly
rebuilt by his successor, Pietro Orseolo, on a larger scale; and, with
the assistance of Byzantine architects, the fabric was carried on under
successive Doges for nearly a hundred years; the main building being
completed in 1071, but its incrustation with marble not till
considerably later. It was consecrated on the 8th of October, 1085,[150]
according to Sansovino and the author of the _Chiesa Ducale di S.
Marco_, in 1094 according to Lazari, but certainly between 1084 and
1096, those years being the limits of the reign of Vital Falier; I
incline to the supposition that it was soon after his accession to the
throne in 1085, though Sansovino writes, by mistake, Ordelafo instead
of Vital Falier. But, at all events, before the close of the eleventh
century the great consecration of the church took place. It was again
injured by fire in 1106, but repaired; and from that time to the fall
of Venice there was probably no Doge who did not in some slight degree
embellish or alter the fabric, so that few parts of it can be
pronounced boldly to be of any given date. Two periods of interference
are, however, notable above the rest: the first, that in which the
Gothic school had superseded the Byzantine towards the close of the
fourteenth century, when the pinnacles, upper archivolts, and window
traceries were added to the exterior, and the great screen with various
chapels and tabernacle-work, to the interior; the second, when the
Renaissance school superseded the Gothic, and the pupils of Titian
and Tintoret substituted, over one half of the church, their own
compositions for the Greek mosaics with which it was originally
decorated;[151] happily, though with no good will, having left enough
to enable us to imagine and lament what they destroyed. Of this
irreparable loss we shall have more to say hereafter; meantime, I wish
only to fix in the reader's mind the succession of periods of
alterations as firmly and simply as possible.

We have seen that the main body of the church may be broadly stated to
be of the eleventh century, the Gothic additions of the fourteenth, and
the restored mosaics of the seventeenth. There is no difficulty in
distinguishing at a glance the Gothic portions from the Byzantine; but
there is considerable difficulty in ascertaining how long, during the
course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, additions were made to
the Byzantine church, which cannot be easily distinguished from the
work of the eleventh century, being purposely executed in the same
manner. Two of the most important pieces of evidence on this point are,
a mosaic in the south transept, and another over the northern door of
the façade; the first representing the interior, the second the
exterior, of the ancient church.

It has just been stated that the existing building was consecrated by
the Doge Vital Falier. A peculiar solemnity was given to that act of
consecration, in the minds of the Venetian people, by what appears to
have been one of the best arranged and most successful impostures ever
attempted by the clergy of the Romish church. The body of St. Mark had,
without doubt, perished in the conflagration of 976; but the revenues
of the church depended too much upon the devotion excited by these
relics to permit the confession of their loss. The following is the
account given by Corner, and believed to this day by the Venetians, of
the pretended miracle by which it was concealed.

"After the repairs undertaken by the Doge Orseolo, the place in which
the body of the holy Evangelist rested had been altogether forgotten;
so that the Doge Vital Falier was entirely ignorant of the place of the
venerable deposit. This was no light affliction, not only to the pious
Doge, but to all the citizens and people; so that at last, moved by
confidence in the Divine mercy, they determined to implore, with prayer
and fasting, the manifestation of so great a treasure, which did not
now depend upon any human effort. A general fast being therefore
proclaimed, and a solemn procession appointed for the 25th day of June,
while the people assembled in the church interceded with God in fervent
prayers for the desired boon, they beheld, with as much amazement as
joy, a slight shaking in the marbles of a pillar (near the place where
the altar of the Cross is now), which, presently falling to the earth,
exposed to the view of the rejoicing people the chest of bronze in
which the body of the Evangelist was laid."

Of the main facts of this tale there is no doubt. They were embellished
afterwards, as usual, by many fanciful traditions; as, for instance,
that, when the sarcophagus was discovered, St. Mark extended his hand
out of it, with a gold ring on one of the fingers, which he permitted a
noble of the Dolfin family to remove; and a quaint and delightful story
was further invented of this ring, which I shall not repeat here, as it
is now as well known as any tale of the Arabian Nights. But the fast
and the discovery of the coffin, by whatever means effected, are facts;
and they are recorded in one of the best-preserved mosaics of the
north[152] transept, executed very certainly not long after the event
had taken place, closely resembling in its treatment that of the Bayeux
tapestry, and showing, in a conventional manner, the interior of the
church, as it then was, filled by the people, first in prayer, then in
thanksgiving, the pillar standing open before them, and the Doge, in
the midst of them, distinguished by his crimson bonnet embroidered with
gold, but more unmistakably by the inscription "Dux" over his head, as
uniformly is the case in the Bayeux tapestry, and most other pictorial
works of the period. The church is, of course, rudely represented, and
the two upper stories of it reduced to a small scale in order to form a
background to the figures; one of those bold pieces of picture history
which we in our pride of perspective, and a thousand things besides,
never dare attempt. We should have put in a column or two, of the real
or perspective size, and subdued it into a vague background: the old
workman crushed the church together that he might get it all in, up to
the cupolas; and has, therefore, left us some useful notes of its
ancient form, though any one who is familiar with the method of drawing
employed at the period will not push the evidence too far. The two
pulpits are there, however, as they are at this day, and the fringe of
mosaic flowerwork which then encompassed the whole church, but which
modern restorers have destroyed, all but one fragment still left in the
south aisle. There is no attempt to represent the other mosaics on the
roof, the scale being too small to admit of their being represented
with any success; but some at least of those mosaics had been executed
at that period, and their absence in the representation of the entire
church is especially to be observed, in order to show that we must not
trust to any negative evidence in such works. M. Lazari has rashly
concluded that the central archivolt of St. Mark's _must_ be posterior
to the year 1205, because it does not appear in the representation of
the exterior of the church over the northern door;[153] but he justly
observes that this mosaic (which is the other piece of evidence we
possess respecting the ancient form of the building) cannot itself be
earlier than 1205, since it represents the bronze horses which were
brought from Constantinople in that year. And this one fact renders it
very difficult to speak with confidence respecting the date of any part
of the exterior of St. Mark's; for we have above seen that it was
consecrated in the eleventh century, and yet here is one of its most
important exterior decorations assuredly retouched, if not entirely
added, in the thirteenth, although its style would have led us to
suppose it had been an original part of the fabric. However, for all
our purposes, it will be enough for the reader to remember that the
earliest parts of the building belong to the eleventh, twelfth, and
first part of the thirteenth century; the Gothic portions to the
fourteenth; some of the altars and embellishments to the fifteenth and
sixteenth; and the modern portion of the mosaics to the seventeenth.

This, however, I only wish him to recollect in order that I may speak
generally of the Byzantine architecture of St. Mark's, without leading
him to suppose the whole church to have been built and decorated by
Greek artists. Its later portions, with the single exception of the
seventeenth-century mosaics, have been so dexterously accommodated to
the original fabric that the general effect is still that of a
Byzantine building; and I shall not, except when it is absolutely
necessary, direct attention to the discordant points, or weary the
reader with anatomical criticism. Whatever in St. Mark's arrests the
eye, or affects the feelings, is either Byzantine, or has been modified
by Byzantine influence; and our inquiry into its architectural merits
need not therefore be disturbed by the anxieties of antiquarianism, or
arrested by the obscurities of chronology.

And now I wish that the reader, before I bring him into St. Mark's
Place, would imagine himself for a little time in a quiet English
cathedral town, and walk with me to the west front of its cathedral.
Let us go together up the more retired street, at the end of which we
can see the pinnacles of one of the towers, and then through the low
grey gateway, with its battlemented top and small latticed window in
the centre, into the inner private-looking road or close, where nothing
goes in but the carts of the tradesmen who supply the bishop and the
chapter, and where there are little shaven grass-plots, fenced in by
neat rails, before old-fashioned groups of somewhat diminutive and
excessively trim houses, with little oriel and bay windows jutting out
here and there, and deep wooden cornices and eaves painted cream colour
and white, and small porches to their doors in the shape of
cockle-shells, or little, crooked, thick, indescribable wooden gables
warped a little on one side; and so forward till we come to larger
houses, also old-fashioned, but of red brick, and with gardens behind
them, and fruit walls, which show here and there, among the nectarines,
the vestiges of an old cloister arch or shaft, and looking in front on
the cathedral square itself, laid out in rigid divisions of smooth
grass and gravel walk, yet not uncheerful, especially on the sunny
side, where the canons' children are walking with their nursery-maids.
And so, taking care not to tread on the grass, we will go along the
straight walk to the west front, and there stand for a time, looking up
at its deep-pointed porches and the dark places between their pillars
where there were statues once, and where the fragments, here and there,
of a stately figure are still left, which has in it the likeness of a
king, perhaps indeed a king on earth, perhaps a saintly king long ago
in heaven; and so higher and higher up to the great mouldering wall of
rugged sculpture and confused arcades, shattered, and grey, and grisly
with heads of dragons and mocking fiends, worn by the rain and swirling
winds into yet unseemlier shape, and coloured on their stony scales by
the deep russet-orange lichen, melancholy gold; and so, higher still,
to the bleak towers, so far above that the eye loses itself among the
bosses of their traceries, though they are rude and strong, and only
sees like a drift of eddying black points, now closing, now scattering,
and now settling suddenly into invisible places among the bosses and
flowers, the crowd of restless birds that fill the whole square with
that strange clangour of theirs, so harsh and yet so soothing, like the
cries of birds on a solitary coast between the cliffs and sea.

Think for a little while of that scene, and the meaning of all its
small formalisms, mixed with its serene sublimity. Estimate its
secluded, continuous, drowsy felicities, and its evidence of the sense
and steady performance of such kind of duties as can be regulated by
the cathedral clock; and weigh the influence of those dark towers on
all who have passed through the lonely square at their feet for
centuries, and on all who have seen them rising far away over the
wooded plain, or catching on their square masses the last rays of the
sunset, when the city at their feet was indicated only by the mist at
the bend of the river. And then let us quickly recollect that we are in
Venice, and land at the extremity of the Calla Lunga San Moisè, which
may be considered as there answering to the secluded street that led us
to our English cathedral gateway.

We find ourselves in a paved alley, some seven feet wide where it is
widest, full of people, and resonant with cries of itinerant
salesmen,--a shriek in their beginning, and dying away into a kind of
brazen ringing, all the worse for its confinement between the high
houses of the passage along which we have to make our way. Over-head,
an inextricable confusion of rugged shutters, and iron balconies and
chimney flues, pushed out on brackets to save room, and arched windows
with projecting sills of Istrian stone, and gleams of green leaves here
and there where a fig-tree branch escapes over a lower wall from some
inner cortile, leading the eye up to the narrow stream of blue sky high
over all. On each side, a row of shops, as densely set as may be,
occupying, in fact, intervals between the square stone shafts, about
eight feet high, which carry the first floors: intervals of which one
is narrow and serves as a door; the other is, in the more respectable
shops, wainscotted to the height of the counter and glazed above, but
in those of the poorer tradesmen left open to the ground, and the wares
laid on benches and tables in the open air, the light in all cases
entering at the front only, and fading away in a few feet from the
threshold into a gloom which the eye from without cannot penetrate, but
which is generally broken by a ray or two from a feeble lamp at the
back of the shop, suspended before a print of the Virgin. The less
pious shopkeeper sometimes leaves his lamp unlighted, and is contented
with a penny print; the more religious one has his print coloured and
set in a little shrine with a gilded or figured fringe, with perhaps a
faded flower or two on each side, and his lamp burning brilliantly.
Here, at the fruiterer's, where the dark-green water-melons are heaped
upon the counter like cannon balls, the Madonna has a tabernacle of
fresh laurel leaves; but the pewterer next door has let his lamp out,
and there is nothing to be seen in his shop but the dull gleam of the
studded patterns on the copper pans, hanging from his roof in the
darkness. Next comes a "Vendita Frittole e Liquori,"[154] where the
Virgin, enthroned in a very humble manner beside a tallow candle on a
back shelf, presides over certain ambrosial morsels of a nature too
ambiguous to be defined or enumerated. But a few steps farther on, at
the regular wine-shop of the calle, where we are offered "Vino
Nostrani a Soldi 28-32," the Madonna is in great glory, enthroned above
ten or a dozen large red casks of three-year-old vintage, and flanked
by goodly ranks of bottles of Maraschino, and two crimson lamps; and
for the evening, when the gondoliers will come to drink out, under her
auspices, the money they have gained during the day, she will have a
whole chandelier.

A yard or two farther, we pass the hostelry of the Black Eagle, and,
glancing as we pass through the square door of marble, deeply moulded,
in the outer wall, we see the shadows of its pergola of vines resting
on an ancient well, with a pointed shield carved on its side; and so
presently emerge on the bridge and Campo San Moisè, whence to the
entrance into St. Mark's Place, called the Bocca di Piazza (mouth of
the square), the Venetian character is nearly destroyed, first by the
frightful facade of San Moisè, which we will pause at another time to
examine, and then by the modernizing of the shops as they near the
piazza, and the mingling with the lower Venetian populace of lounging
groups of English and Austrians. We will push fast through them into
the shadow of the pillars at the end of the "Bocca di Piazza," and then
we forget them all; for between those pillars there opens a great
light, and, in the midst of it, as we advance slowly, the vast tower of
St. Mark seems to lift itself visibly forth from the level field of
chequered stones; and, on each side, the countless arches prolong
themselves into ranged symmetry, as if the rugged and irregular houses
that pressed together above us in the dark alley had been struck back
into sudden obedience and lovely order, and all their rude casements
and broken walls had been transformed into arches charged with goodly
sculpture, and fluted shafts of delicate stone.

And well may they fall back, for beyond those troops of ordered arches
there rises a vision out of the earth, and all the great square seems
to have opened from it in a kind of awe, that we may see it far
away;--a multitude of pillars and white domes, clustered into a long
low pyramid of coloured light; a treasure-heap, it seems, partly of
gold, and partly of opal and mother-of-pearl, hollowed beneath into
five great vaulted porches, ceiled with fair mosaic, and beset with
sculpture of alabaster, clear as amber and delicate as ivory,--sculpture
fantastic and involved, of palm leaves and lilies, and grapes and
pomegranates, and birds clinging and fluttering among the branches, all
twined together into an endless network of buds and plumes; and, in the
midst of it, the solemn forms of angels, sceptred, and robed to the
feet, and leaning to each other across the gates, their figures
indistinct among the gleaming of the golden ground through the leaves
beside them, interrupted and dim, like the morning light as it faded
back among the branches of Eden, when first its gates were
angel-guarded long ago. And round the walls of the porches there are
set pillars of variegated stones, jasper and porphyry, and deep-green
serpentine spotted with flakes of snow, and marbles, that half refuse
and half yield to the sunshine, Cleopatra-like, "their bluest veins to
kiss"[155]--the shadow, as it steals back from them, revealing line
after line of azure undulation, as a receding tide leaves the waved
sand; their capitals rich with interwoven tracery, rooted knots of
herbage, and drifting leaves of acanthus and vine, and mystical signs,
all beginning and ending in the Cross; and above them, in the broad
archivolts, a continuous chain of language and of life--angels, and the
signs of heaven, and the labours of men, each in its appointed season
upon the earth; and above these, another range of glittering pinnacles,
mixed with white arches edged with scarlet flowers,--a confusion of
delight, amidst which the breasts of the Greek horses are seen blazing
in their breadth of golden strength, and the St. Mark's Lion, lifted on
a blue field covered with stars, until at last, as if in ecstasy, the
crests of the arches break into a marble foam, and toss themselves far
into the blue sky in flashes and wreaths of sculptured spray, as if the
breakers on the Lido shore had been frost-bound before they fell, and
the sea-nymphs had inlaid them with coral and amethyst.

Between that grim cathedral of England and this, what an interval!
There is a type of it in the very birds that haunt them; for, instead
of the restless crowd, hoarse-voiced and sable-winged, drifting on the
bleak upper air, the St. Mark's porches are full of doves, that nestle
among the marble foliage, and mingle the soft iridescence of their
living plumes, changing at every motion, with the tints, hardly less
lovely, that have stood unchanged for seven hundred years.

And what effect has this splendour on those who pass beneath it? You
may walk from sunrise to sunset, to and fro, before the gateway of St.
Mark's, and you will not see an eye lifted to it, nor a countenance
brightened by it. Priest and layman, soldier and civilian, rich and
poor, pass by it alike regardlessly. Up to the very recesses of the
porches, the meanest tradesmen of the city push their counters; nay,
the foundations of its pillars are themselves the seats--not "of them
that sell doves"[156] for sacrifice, but of the vendors of toys and
caricatures. Round the whole square in front of the church there is
almost a continuous line of cafés, where the idle Venetians of the
middle classes lounge, and read empty journals; in its centre the
Austrian bands play during the time of vespers, their martial music
jarring with the organ notes,--the march drowning the miserere, and the
sullen crowd thickening round them,--a crowd, which, if it had its
will, would stiletto every soldier that pipes to it. And in the
recesses of the porches, all day long, knots of men of the lowest
classes, unemployed and listless, lie basking in the sun like lizards;
and unregarded children,--every heavy glance of their young eyes full
of desperation and stony depravity, and their throats hoarse with
cursing,--gamble, and fight, and snarl, and sleep, hour after hour,
clashing their bruised centesimi upon the marble ledges of the church
porch. And the images of Christ and His angels look down upon it

  [143] _Acts_ xiii, 13 and xv, 38, 39. [Ruskin.]

  [144] The reader who desires to investigate it may consult
  Galliciolli, _Delle Memorie Venete_ (Venice, 1795), tom. 2, p. 332,
  and the authorities quoted by him. [Ruskin.]

  [145] _Venice_, 1761 tom. 1, p. 126. [Ruskin.]

  [146] A wonderful City, such as was never seen before.

  [147] St. Mark's Place, "partly covered by turf, and planted with a
  few trees; and on account of its pleasant aspect called Brollo or
  Broglio, that is to say, Garden." The canal passed through it, over
  which is built the bridge of the Malpassi. Galliciolli, lib. I,
  cap. viii. [Ruskin.]

  [148] My authorities for this statement are given below, in the
  chapter on the Ducal Palace. [Ruskin.]

  [149] In the Chronicles, _Sancti Marci Ducalis Cappdla_. [Ruskin.]

  [150] "To God the Lord, the glorious Virgin Annunciate, and the
  Protector St. Mark."--Corner, p. 14. It is needless to trouble the
  reader with the various authorities for the above statements: I
  have consulted the best. The previous inscription once existing on
  the church itself:

    Anno milleno transacto bisque trigeno Desuper undecimo fuit facta

  is no longer to be seen, and is conjectured by Corner, with much
  probability, to have perished "in qualche ristauro." [Ruskin.]

  [151] Signed Bartolomeus Bozza, 1634, 1647, 1656, etc. [Ruskin.]

  [152] An obvious slip. The mosaic is on the west wall of the south
  transept. [Cook and Wedderburn.]

  [153] _Guida di Venezia_, p. 6. [Ruskin.]

  [154] Fritters and liquors for sale.

  [155] _Antony and Cleopatra_, 2. 5. 29.

  [156] Matthew xxi, 12 and _John_ ii, 16.



I believe, then, that the characteristic or moral elements of Gothic
are the following, placed in the order of their importance:

  1. Savageness.
  2. Changefulness.
  3. Naturalism.
  4. Grotesqueness.
  5. Rigidity.
  6. Redundance.

These characters are here expressed as belonging to the building; as
belonging to the builder, they would be expressed thus:--1. Savageness,
or Rudeness. 2. Love of Change. 3. Love of Nature. 4. Disturbed
Imagination. 5. Obstinacy. 6. Generosity. And I repeat, that the
withdrawal of any one, or any two, will not at once destroy the Gothic
character of a building, but the removal of a majority of them will. I
shall proceed to examine them in their order.

1. SAVAGENESS. I am not sure when the word "Gothic" was first
generically applied to the architecture of the North; but I presume
that, whatever the date of its original usage, it was intended to imply
reproach, and express the barbaric character of the nations among whom
that architecture arose. It never implied that they were literally of
Gothic lineage, far less that their architecture had been originally
invented by the Goths themselves; but it did imply that they and their
buildings together exhibited a degree of sternness and rudeness, which,
in contradistinction to the character of Southern and Eastern nations,
appeared like a perpetual reflection of the contrast between the Goth
and the Roman in their first encounter. And when that fallen Roman, in
the utmost impotence of his luxury, and insolence of his guilt, became
the model for the imitation of civilized Europe, at the close of the
so-called Dark Ages, the word Gothic became a term of unmitigated
contempt, not unmixed with aversion. From that contempt, by the
exertion of the antiquaries and architects of this century, Gothic
architecture has been sufficiently vindicated; and perhaps some among
us, in our admiration of the magnificent science of its structure, and
sacredness of its expression, might desire that the term of ancient
reproach should be withdrawn, and some other, of more apparent
honourableness, adopted in its place. There is no chance, as there is
no need, of such a substitution. As far as the epithet was used
scornfully, it was used falsely; but there is no reproach in the word,
rightly understood; on the contrary, there is a profound truth, which
the instinct of mankind almost unconsciously recognizes. It is true,
greatly and deeply true, that the architecture of the North is rude and
wild; but it is not true, that, for this reason, we are to condemn it,
or despise. Far otherwise: I believe it is in this very character that
it deserves our profoundest reverence.

The charts of the world which have been drawn up by modern science have
thrown into a narrow space the expression of a vast amount of
knowledge, but I have never yet seen any one pictorial enough to enable
the spectator to imagine the kind of contrast in physical character
which exists between Northern and Southern countries. We know the
differences in detail, but we have not that broad glance and grasp
which would enable us to feel them in their fulness. We know that
gentians grow on the Alps, and olives on the Apennines; but we do not
enough conceive for ourselves that variegated mosaic of the world's
surface which a bird sees in its migration, that difference between the
district of the gentian and of the olive which the stork and the
swallow see far off, as they lean upon the sirocco wind. Let us, for a
moment, try to raise ourselves even above the level of their flight,
and imagine the Mediterranean lying beneath us like an irregular lake,
and all its ancient promontories sleeping in the sun: here and there an
angry spot of thunder, a grey stain of storm, moving upon the burning
field; and here and there a fixed wreath of white volcano smoke,
surrounded by its circle of ashes; but for the most part a great
peacefulness of light, Syria and Greece, Italy and Spain, laid like
pieces of a golden pavement into the sea-blue, chased, as we stoop
nearer to them, with bossy beaten work of mountain chains, and glowing
softly with terraced gardens, and flowers heavy with frankincense,
mixed among masses of laurel, and orange, and plumy palm, that abate
with their grey-green shadows the burning of the marble rocks, and of
the ledges of porphyry sloping under lucent sand. Then let us pass
farther towards the north, until we see the orient colours change
gradually into a vast belt of rainy green, where the pastures of
Switzerland, and poplar valleys of France, and dark forests of the
Danube and Carpathians stretch from the mouths of the Loire to those of
the Volga, seen through clefts in grey swirls of rain-cloud and flaky
veils of the mist of the brooks, spreading low along the pasture lands:
and then, farther north still, to see the earth heave into mighty
masses of leaden rock and heathy moor, bordering with a broad waste of
gloomy purple that belt of field and wood, and splintering into
irregular and grisly islands amidst the northern seas, beaten by storm,
and chilled by ice-drift, and tormented by furious pulses of contending
tide, until the roots of the last forests fail from among the hill
ravines, and the hunger of the north wind bites their peaks into
barrenness; and, at last, the wall of ice, durable like iron, sets,
deathlike, its white teeth against us out of the polar twilight. And,
having once traversed in thought this gradation of the zoned iris of
the earth in all its material vastness, let us go down nearer to it,
and watch the parallel change in the belt of animal life; the
multitudes of swift and brilliant creatures that glance in the air and
sea, or tread the sands of the southern zone; striped zebras and
spotted leopards, glistening serpents, and birds arrayed in purple and
scarlet. Let us contrast their delicacy and brilliancy of colour, and
swiftness of motion, with the frost-cramped strength, and shaggy
covering, and dusky plumage of the northern tribes; contrast the
Arabian horse with the Shetland, the tiger and leopard with the wolf
and bear, the antelope with the elk, the bird of paradise with the
osprey: and then, submissively acknowledging the great laws by which
the earth and all that it bears are ruled throughout their being. Let
us not condemn, but rejoice in the expression by man of his own rest in
the statutes of the lands that gave him birth. Let us watch him with
reverence as he sets side by side the burning gems, and smooths with
soft sculpture the jasper pillars, that are to reflect a ceaseless
sunshine, and rise into a cloudless sky: but not with less reverence
let us stand by him, when, with rough strength and hurried stroke, he
smites an uncouth animation out of the rocks which he has torn from
among the moss of the moorland, and heaves into the darkened air the
pile of iron buttress and rugged wall, instinct with work of an
imagination as wild and wayward as the northern sea; creations of
ungainly shape and rigid limb, but full of wolfish life; fierce as the
winds that beat, and changeful as the clouds that shade them.

There is, I repeat, no degradation, no reproach in this, but all
dignity and honourableness: and we should err grievously in refusing
either to recognize as an essential character of the existing
architecture of the North, or to admit as a desirable character in that
which it yet may be, this wildness of thought, and roughness of work;
this look of mountain brotherhood between the cathedral and the Alp;
this magnificence of sturdy power, put forth only the more
energetically because the fine finger-touch was chilled away by the
frosty wind, and the eye dimmed by the moor-mist, or blinded by the
hail; this outspeaking of the strong spirit of men who may not gather
redundant fruitage from the earth, nor bask in dreamy benignity of
sunshine, but must break the rock for bread, and cleave the forest for
fire, and show, even in what they did for their delight, some of the
hard habits of the arm and heart that grew on them as they swung the
axe or pressed the plough.

If, however, the savageness of Gothic architecture, merely as an
expression of its origin among Northern nations, may be considered, in
some sort, a noble character, it possesses a higher nobility still,
when considered as an index, not of climate, but of religious

In the 13th and 14th paragraphs of Chapter XXL of the first volume of
this work, it was noticed that the systems of architectural ornament,
properly so called, might be divided into three:--1. Servile ornament,
in which the execution or power of the inferior workman is entirely
subjected to the intellect of the higher;--2. Constitutional ornament,
in which the executive inferior power is, to a certain point,
emancipated and independent, having a will of its own, yet confessing
its inferiority and rendering obedience to higher powers;--and 3.
Revolutionary ornament, in which no executive inferiority is admitted
at all. I must here explain the nature of these divisions at somewhat
greater length.

Of Servile ornament, the principal schools are the Greek, Ninevite, and
Egyptian; but their servility is of different kinds. The Greek
master-workman was far advanced in knowledge and power above the
Assyrian or Egyptian. Neither he nor those for whom he worked could
endure the appearance of imperfection in anything; and, therefore, what
ornament he appointed to be done by those beneath him was composed of
mere geometrical forms,--balls, ridges, and perfectly symmetrical
foliage,--which could be executed with absolute precision by line and
rule, and were as perfect in their way, when completed, as his own
figure sculpture. The Assyrian and Egyptian, on the contrary, less
cognizant of accurate form in anything, were content to allow their
figure sculpture to be executed by inferior workmen, but lowered the
method of its treatment to a standard which every workman could reach,
and then trained him by discipline so rigid, that there was no chance
of his falling beneath the standard appointed. The Greek gave to the
lower workman no subject which he could not perfectly execute. The
Assyrian gave him subjects which he could only execute imperfectly, but
fixed a legal standard for his imperfection. The workman was, in both
systems, a slave.[157]

But in the mediæval, or especially Christian, system of ornament, this
slavery is done away with altogether; Christianity having recognized,
in small things as well as great, the individual value of every soul.
But it not only recognizes its value; it confesses its imperfection, in
only bestowing dignity upon the acknowledgment of unworthiness. That
admission of lost power and fallen nature, which the Greek or Ninevite
felt to be intensely painful, and, as far as might be, altogether
refused, the Christian makes daily and hourly contemplating the fact of
it without fear, as tending, in the end, to God's greater glory.
Therefore, to every spirit which Christianity summons to her service,
her exhortation is: Do what you can, and confess frankly what you are
unable to do; neither let your effort be shortened for fear of failure,
nor your confession silenced for fear of shame. And it is, perhaps, the
principal admirableness of the Gothic schools of architecture, that
they thus receive the results of the labour of inferior minds; and out
of fragments full of imperfection, and betraying that imperfection in
every touch, indulgently raise up a stately and unaccusable whole.

But the modern English mind has this much in common with that of the
Greek, that it intensely desires, in all things, the utmost completion
or perfection compatible with their nature. This is a noble character
in the abstract, but becomes ignoble when it causes us to forget the
relative dignities of that nature itself, and to prefer the perfectness
of the lower nature to the imperfection of the higher; not considering
that as, judged by such a rule, all the brute animals would be
preferable to man, because more perfect in their functions and kind,
and yet are always held inferior to him, so also in the works of man,
those which are more perfect in their kind are always inferior to those
which are, in their nature, liable to more faults and shortcomings. For
the finer the nature, the more flaws it will show through the clearness
of it; and it is a law of this universe, that the best things shall be
seldomest seen in their best form. The wild grass grows well and
strongly, one year with another; but the wheat is, according to the
greater nobleness of its nature, liable to the bitterer blight. And
therefore, while in all things that we see or do, we are to desire
perfection, and strive for it, we are nevertheless not to set the
meaner thing, in its narrow accomplishment, above the nobler thing, in
its mighty progress; not to esteem smooth minuteness above shattered
majesty; not to prefer mean victory to honourable defeat; not to lower
the level of our aim, that we may the more surely enjoy the complacency
of success. But, above all, in our dealings with the souls of other
men, we are to take care how we check, by severe requirement or narrow
caution, efforts which might otherwise lead to a noble issue; and,
still more, how we withhold our admiration from great excellencies,
because they are mingled with rough faults. Now, in the make and nature
of every man, however rude or simple, whom we employ in manual labour,
there are some powers for better things: some tardy imagination, torpid
capacity of emotion, tottering steps of thought, there are, even at the
worst; and in most cases it is all our own fault that they are tardy or
torpid. But they cannot be strengthened, unless we are content to take
them in their feebleness, and unless we prize and honour them in their
imperfection above the best and most perfect manual skill. And this is
what we have to do with all our labourers; to look for the _thoughtful_
part of them, and get that out of them, whatever we lose for it,
whatever faults and errors we are obliged to take with it. For the best
that is in them cannot manifest itself, but in company with much error.
Understand this clearly; You can teach a man to draw a straight line,
and to cut one; to strike a curved line, and to carve it; and to copy
and carve any number of given lines or forms, with admirable speed and
perfect precision; and you find his work perfect of its kind: but if
you ask him to think about any of those forms, to consider if he cannot
find any better in his own head, he stops; his execution becomes
hesitating; he thinks, and ten to one he thinks wrong; ten to one he
makes a mistake in the first touch he gives to his work as a thinking
being. But you have made a man of him for all that. He was only a
machine before, an animated tool.

And observe, you are put to stern choice in this matter. You must
either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him. You cannot make
both. Men were not intended to work with the accuracy of tools, to be
precise and perfect in all their actions. If you will have that
precision out of them, and make their fingers measure degrees like
cog-wheels, and their arms strike curves like compasses, you must
unhumanize them. All the energy of their spirits must be given to make
cogs and compasses of themselves. All their attention and strength must
go to the accomplishment of the mean act. The eye of the soul must be
bent upon the finger-point, and the soul's force must fill all the
invisible nerves that guide it, ten hours a day, that it may not err
from its steely precision, and so soul and sight be worn away, and the
whole human being be lost at last--a heap of sawdust, so far as its
intellectual work in this world is concerned; saved only by its Heart,
which cannot go into the form of cogs and compasses, but expands, after
the ten hours are over, into fireside humanity. On the other hand, if
you will make a man of the working creature, you cannot make a tool.
Let him but begin to imagine, to think, to try to do anything worth
doing; and the engine-turned precision is lost at once. Out come all
his roughness, all his dulness, all his incapability; shame upon shame,
failure upon failure, pause after pause: but out comes the whole
majesty of him also; and we know the height of it only when we see the
clouds settling upon him. And, whether the clouds be bright or dark,
there will be transfiguration behind and within them.

And now, reader, look round this English room of yours, about which you
have been proud so often, because the work of it was so good and
strong, and the ornaments of it so finished. Examine again all those
accurate mouldings, and perfect polishings, and unerring adjustments of
the seasoned wood and tempered steel. Many a time you have exulted over
them, and thought how great England was, because her slightest work was
done so thoroughly. Alas! if read rightly, these perfectnesses are
signs of a slavery in our England a thousand times more bitter and more
degrading than that of the scourged African, or helot Greek. Men may be
beaten, chained, tormented, yoked like cattle, slaughtered like summer
flies, and yet remain in one sense, and the best sense, free. But to
smother their souls within them, to blight and hew into rotting
pollards the suckling branches of their human intelligence, to make the
flesh and skin which, after the worm's work on it, is to see God,[158]
into leathern thongs to yoke machinery with,--this it is to be
slave-masters indeed; and there might be more freedom in England,
though her feudal lords' lightest words were worth men's lives, and
though the blood of the vexed husbandman dropped in the furrows of her
fields, than there is while the animation of her multitudes is sent
like fuel to feed the factory smoke, and the strength of them is given
daily to be wasted into the fineness of a web, or racked into the
exactness of a line.

And, on the other hand, go forth again to gaze upon the old cathedral
front, where you have smiled so often at the fantastic ignorance of the
old sculptors: examine once more those ugly goblins, and formless
monsters, and stern statues, anatomiless and rigid; but do not mock at
them, for they are signs of the life and liberty of every workman who
struck the stone; a freedom of thought, and rank in scale of being,
such as no laws, no charters, no charities can secure; but which it
must be the first aim of all Europe at this day to regain for her

Let me not be thought to speak wildly or extravagantly. It is verily
this degradation of the operative into a machine, which, more than any
other evil of the times, is leading the mass of the nations everywhere
into vain, incoherent, destructive struggling for a freedom of which
they cannot explain the nature to themselves. Their universal outcry
against wealth, and against nobility, is not forced from them either by
the pressure of famine, or the sting of mortified pride. These do much,
and have done much in all ages; but the foundations of society were
never yet shaken as they are at this day. It is not that men are ill
fed, but that they have no pleasure in the work by which they make
their bread, and therefore look to wealth as the only means of
pleasure. It is not that men are pained by the scorn of the upper
classes, but they cannot endure their own; for they feel that the kind
of labour to which they are condemned is verily a degrading one, and
makes them less than men. Never had the upper classes so much sympathy
with the lower, or charity for them, as they have at this day, and yet
never were they so much hated by them: for, of old, the separation
between the noble and the poor was merely a wall built by law; now it
is a veritable difference in level of standing, a precipice between
upper and lower grounds in the field of humanity, and there is
pestilential air at the bottom of it. I know not if a day is ever to
come when the nature of right freedom will be understood, and when men
will see that to obey another man, to labour for him, yield reverence
to him or to his place, is not slavery. It is often the best kind of
liberty,--liberty from care. The man who says to one, Go, and he goeth,
and to another, Come, and he cometh,[159] has, in most cases, more sense
of restraint and difficulty than the man who obeys him. The movements
of the one are hindered by the burden on his shoulder; of the other, by
the bridle on his lips: there is no way by which the burden may be
lightened; but we need not suffer from the bridle if we do not champ at
it. To yield reverence to another, to hold ourselves and our lives at
his disposal, is not slavery; often it is the noblest state in which a
man can live in this world. There is, indeed, a reverence which is
servile, that is to say irrational or selfish: but there is also noble
reverence, that is to say, reasonable and loving; and a man is never so
noble as when he is reverent in this kind; nay, even if the feeling
pass the bounds of mere reason, so that it be loving, a man is raised
by it. Which had, in reality, most of the serf nature in him,--the
Irish peasant who was lying in wait yesterday for his landlord, with
his musket muzzle thrust through the ragged hedge; or that old mountain
servant, who 200 years ago, at Inverkeithing, gave up his own life and
the lives of his seven sons for his chief?--as each fell, calling forth
his brother to the death, "Another for Hector!"[160] And therefore, in
all ages and all countries, reverence has been paid and sacrifice made
by men to each other, not only without complaint, but rejoicingly; and
famine, and peril, and sword, and all evil, and all shame, have been
borne willingly in the causes of masters and kings; for all these gifts
of the heart ennobled the men who gave not less than the men who
received them, and nature prompted, and God rewarded the sacrifice. But
to feel their souls withering within them, unthanked, to find their
whole being sunk into an unrecognized abyss, to be counted off into a
heap of mechanism, numbered with its wheels, and weighed with its
hammer strokes;--this nature bade not,--this God blesses not,--this
humanity for no long time is able to endure.

We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the great civilized
invention of the division of labour; only we give it a false name. It
is not, truly speaking; the labour that is divided; but the
men:--Divided into mere segments of men--broken into small fragments
and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that
is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts
itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail. Now it is a
good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins in a day; but if we
could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished,--sand
of human soul, much to be magnified before it can be discerned for what
it is,--we should think there might be some loss in it also. And the
great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than
their furnace blast, is all in very deed for this,--that we manufacture
everything there except men; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel,
and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, to strengthen, to
refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters into our
estimate of advantages. And all the evil to which that cry is urging
our myriads can be met only in one way: not by teaching nor preaching,
for to teach them is but to show them their misery, and to preach to
them, if we do nothing more than preach, is to mock at it. It can be
met only by a right understanding, on the part of all classes, of what
kinds of labour are good for men, raising them, and making them happy;
by a determined sacrifice of such convenience, or beauty, or cheapness
as is to be got only by the degradation of the workman; and by equally
determined demand for the products and results of healthy and ennobling

And how, it will be asked, are these products to be recognized, and
this demand to be regulated? Easily: by the observance of three broad
and simple rules:

  1. Never encourage the manufacture of any article not absolutely
  necessary, in the production of which _Invention_ has no share.

  2. Never demand an exact finish for its own sake, but only for some
  practical or noble end.

  3. Never encourage imitation or copying of any kind, except for the
  sake of preserving record of great works.

The second of these principles is the only one which directly rises out
of the consideration of our immediate subject; but I shall briefly
explain the meaning and extent of the first also, reserving the
enforcement of the third for another place.

  1. Never encourage the manufacture of anything not necessary, in the
  production of which invention has no share.

For instance. Glass beads are utterly unnecessary, and there is no
design or thought employed in their manufacture. They are formed by
first drawing out the glass into rods; these rods are chopped up into
fragments of the size of beads by the human hand, and the fragments are
then rounded in the furnace. The men who chop up the rods sit at their
work all day, their hands vibrating with a perpetual and exquisitely
timed palsy, and the beads dropping beneath their vibration like hail.
Neither they, nor the men who draw out the rods or fuse the fragments,
have the smallest occasion for the use of any single human faculty; and
every young lady, therefore, who buys glass beads is engaged in the
slave-trade, and in a much more cruel one than that which we have so
long been endeavouring to put down.

But glass cups and vessels may become the subjects of exquisite
invention; and if in buying these we pay for the invention, that is to
say for the beautiful form, or colour, or engraving, and not for mere
finish of execution, we are doing good to humanity.

So, again, the cutting of precious stones, in all ordinary cases,
requires little exertion of any mental faculty; some tact and judgment
in avoiding flaws, and so on, but nothing to bring out the whole mind.
Every person who wears cut jewels merely for the sake of their value
is, therefore, a slave-driver.

But the working of the goldsmith, and the various designing of grouped
jewellery and enamel-work, may become the subject of the most noble
human intelligence. Therefore, money spent in the purchase of
well-designed plate, of precious engraved vases, cameos, or enamels,
does good to humanity; and, in work of this kind, jewels may be
employed to heighten its splendour; and their cutting is then a price
paid for the attainment of a noble end, and thus perfectly allowable.

I shall perhaps press this law farther elsewhere, but our immediate
concern is chiefly with the second, namely, never to demand an exact
finish, when it does not lead to a noble end. For observe, I have only
dwelt upon the rudeness of Gothic, or any other kind of imperfectness,
as admirable, where it was impossible to get design or thought without
it. If you are to have the thought of a rough and untaught man, you
must have it in a rough and untaught way; but from an educated man, who
can without effort express his thoughts in an educated way, take the
graceful expression, and be thankful. Only _get_ the thought, and do
not silence the peasant because he cannot speak good grammar, or until
you have taught him his grammar. Grammar and refinement are good
things, both, only be sure of the better thing first. And thus in art,
delicate finish is desirable from the greatest masters, and is always
given by them. In some places Michael Angelo, Leonardo, Phidias,
Perugino, Turner, all finished with the most exquisite care; and the
finish they give always leads to the fuller accomplishment of their
noble purpose. But lower men than these cannot finish, for it requires
consummate knowledge to finish consummately, and then we must take
their thoughts as they are able to give them. So the rule is simple:
Always look for invention first, and after that, for such execution as
will help the invention, and as the inventor is capable of without
painful effort, and _no more_. Above all, demand no refinement of
execution where there is no thought, for that is slaves' work,
unredeemed. Rather choose rough work than smooth work, so only that the
practical purpose be answered, and never imagine there is reason to be
proud of anything that may be accomplished by patience and sand-paper.

I shall only give one example, which however will show the reader what
I mean, from the manufacture already alluded to, that of glass. Our
modern glass is exquisitely clear in its substance, true in its form,
accurate in its cutting. We are proud of this. We ought to be ashamed
of it. The old Venice glass was muddy, inaccurate in all its forms, and
clumsily cut, if at all. And the old Venetian was justly proud of it.
For there is this difference between the English and Venetian workman,
that the former thinks only of accurately matching his patterns, and
getting his curves perfectly true and his edges perfectly sharp, and
becomes a mere machine for rounding curves and sharpening edges; while
the old Venetian cared not a whit whether his edges were sharp or not,
but he invented a new design for every glass that he made, and never
moulded a handle or a lip without a new fancy in it. And therefore,
though some Venetian glass is ugly and clumsy enough when made by
clumsy and uninventive workmen, other Venetian glass is so lovely in
its forms that no price is too great for it; and we never see the same
form in it twice. Now you cannot have the finish and the varied form
too. If the workman is thinking about his edges, he cannot be thinking
of his design; if of his design, he cannot think of his edges. Choose
whether you will pay for the lovely form or the perfect finish, and
choose at the same moment whether you will make the worker a man or a

Nay, but the reader interrupts me,--"If the workman can design
beautifully, I would not have him kept at the furnace. Let him be taken
away and made a gentleman, and have a studio, and design his glass
there, and I will have it blown and cut for him by common workmen, and
so I will have my design and my finish too."

All ideas of this kind are founded upon two mistaken suppositions: the
first, that one man's thoughts can be, or ought to be, executed by
another man's hands; the second, that manual labour is a degradation,
when it is governed by intellect.

On a large scale, and in work determinable by line and rule, it is
indeed both possible and necessary that the thoughts of one man should
be carried out by the labour of others; in this sense I have already
defined the best architecture to be the expression of the mind of
manhood by the hands of childhood. But on a smaller scale, and in a
design which cannot be mathematically defined, one man's thoughts can
never be expressed by another: and the difference between the spirit of
touch of the man who is inventing, and of the man who is obeying
directions, is often all the difference between a great and a common
work of art. How wide the separation is between original and
second-hand execution, I shall endeavour to show elsewhere; it is not
so much to our purpose here as to mark the other and more fatal error
of despising manual labour when governed by intellect; for it is no
less fatal an error to despise it when thus regulated by intellect,
than to value it for its own sake. We are always in these days
endeavouring to separate the two; we want one man to be always
thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a
gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often
to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be
gentlemen, in the best sense. As it is, we make both ungentle, the one
envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is
made up of morbid thinkers, and miserable workers. Now it is only by
labour that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that
labour can be made happy, and the two cannot be separated with
impunity. It would be well if all of us were good handicraftsmen in
some kind, and the dishonour of manual labour done away with
altogether; so that though there should still be a trenchant
distinction of race between nobles and commoners, there should not,
among the latter, be a trenchant distinction of employment, as between
idle and working men, or between men of liberal and illiberal
professions. All professions should be liberal, and there should be
less pride felt in peculiarity of employment, and more in excellence of
achievement. And yet more, in each several profession, no master should
be too proud to do its hardest work. The painter should grind his own
colours; the architect work in the mason's yard with his men; the
master-manufacturer be himself a more skilful operative than any man in
his mills; and the distinction between one man and another be only in
experience and skill, and the authority and wealth which these must
naturally and justly obtain.

I should be led far from the matter in hand, if I were to pursue this
interesting subject. Enough, I trust, has been said to show the reader
that the rudeness or imperfection which at first rendered the term
"Gothic" one of reproach is indeed, when rightly understood, one of the
most noble characters of Christian architecture, and not only a noble
but an _essential_ one. It seems a fantastic paradox, but it is
nevertheless a most important truth, that no architecture can be truly
noble which is not imperfect. And this is easily demonstrable. For
since the architect, whom we will suppose capable of doing all in
perfection, cannot execute the whole with his own hands, he must either
make slaves of his workmen in the old Greek, and present English
fashion, and level his work to a slave's capacities, which is to
degrade it; or else he must take his workmen as he finds them, and let
them show their weaknesses together with their strength, which will
involve the Gothic imperfection, but render the whole work as noble as
the intellect of the age can make it.

But the principle may be stated more broadly still. I have confined the
illustration of it to architecture, but I must not leave it as if true
of architecture only. Hitherto I have used the words imperfect and
perfect merely to distinguish between work grossly unskilful, and work
executed with average precision and science; and I have been pleading
that any degree of unskilfulness should be admitted, so only that the
labourer's mind had room for expression. But, accurately speaking, no
good work whatever can be perfect, and _the demand for perfection is
always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art_.

This for two reasons, both based on everlasting laws. The first, that
no great man ever stops working till he has reached his point of
failure: that is to say, his mind is always far in advance of his
powers of execution, and the latter will now and then give way in
trying to follow it; besides that he will always give to the inferior
portions of his work only such inferior attention as they require; and
according to his greatness he becomes so accustomed to the feeling of
dissatisfaction with the best he can do, that in moments of lassitude
or anger with himself he will not care though the beholder be
dissatisfied also. I believe there has only been one man who would not
acknowledge this necessity, and strove always to reach perfection,
Leonardo; the end of his vain effort being merely that he would take
ten years to a picture and leave it unfinished. And therefore, if we
are to have great men working at all, or less men doing their best, the
work will be imperfect, however beautiful. Of human work none but what
is bad can be perfect, in its own bad way.[161]

The second reason is, that imperfection is in some sort essential to
all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that
is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or
can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent. The
foxglove blossom,--a third part bud, a third part past, a third part in
full bloom,--is a type of the life of this world. And in all things
that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are
not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. No human face is exactly
the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no
branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularity as they imply change;
and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion,
to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and
more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed,
that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human
judgment, Mercy.

Accept this then for a universal law, that neither architecture nor any
other noble work of man can be good unless it be imperfect; and let us
be prepared for the otherwise strange fact, which we shall discern
clearly as we approach the period of the Renaissance, that the first
cause of the fall of the arts of Europe was a relentless requirement of
perfection, incapable alike either of being silenced by veneration for
greatness, or softened into forgiveness of simplicity.

Thus far then of the Rudeness or Savageness, which is the first mental
element of Gothic architecture. It is an element in many other healthy
architectures also, as in Byzantine and Romanesque; but true Gothic
cannot exist without it.

The second mental element above named was CHANGEFULNESS, or Variety.

I have already enforced the allowing independent operation to the
inferior workman, simply as a duty _to him_, and as ennobling the
architecture by rendering it more Christian. We have now to consider
what reward we obtain for the performance of this duty, namely, the
perpetual variety of every feature of the building.

Wherever the workman is utterly enslaved, the parts of the building
must of course be absolutely like each other; for the perfection of his
execution can only be reached by exercising him in doing one thing, and
giving him nothing else to do. The degree in which the workman is
degraded may be thus known at a glance, by observing whether the
several parts of the building are similar or not; and if, as in Greek
work, all the capitals are alike, and all the mouldings unvaried, then
the degradation is complete; if, as in Egyptian or Ninevite work,
though the manner of executing certain figures is always the same, the
order of design is perpetually varied, the degradation is less total;
if, as in Gothic work, there is perpetual change both in design and
execution, the workman must have been altogether set free.

How much the beholder gains from the liberty of the labourer may
perhaps be questioned in England, where one of the strongest instincts
in nearly every mind is that Love of Order which makes us desire that
our house windows should pair like our carriage horses, and allows us
to yield our faith unhesitatingly to architectural theories which fix a
form for everything, and forbid variation from it. I would not impeach
love of order: it is one of the most useful elements of the English
mind; it helps us in our commerce and in all purely practical matters;
and it is in many cases one of the foundation stones of morality. Only
do not let us suppose that love of order is love of art. It is true
that order, in its highest sense, is one of the necessities of art,
just as time is a necessity of music; but love of order has no more to
do with our right enjoyment of architecture or painting, than love of
punctuality with the appreciation of an opera. Experience, I fear,
teaches us that accurate and methodical habits in daily life are seldom
characteristic of those who either quickly perceive, or richly possess,
the creative powers of art; there is, however, nothing inconsistent
between the two instincts, and nothing to hinder us from retaining our
business habits, and yet fully allowing and enjoying the noblest gifts
of Invention. We already do so, in every other branch of art except
architecture, and we only do _not_ so there because we have been taught
that it would be wrong. Our architects gravely inform us that, as there
are four rules of arithmetic, there are five orders of architecture;
we, in our simplicity, think that this sounds consistent, and believe
them. They inform us also that there is one proper form for Corinthian
capitals, another for Doric, and another for Ionic. We, considering
that there is also a proper form for the letters A, B, and C, think
that this also sounds consistent, and accept the proposition.
Understanding, therefore, that one form of the said capitals is proper,
and no other, and having a conscientious horror of all impropriety, we
allow the architect to provide us with the said capitals, of the proper
form, in such and such a quantity, and in all other points to take care
that the legal forms are observed; which having done, we rest in forced
confidence that we are well housed.

But our higher instincts are not deceived. We take no pleasure in the
building provided for us, resembling that which we take in a new book
or a new picture. We may be proud of its size, complacent in its
correctness, and happy in its convenience. We may take the same
pleasure in its symmetry and workmanship as in a well-ordered room, or
a skilful piece of manufacture. And this we suppose to be all the
pleasure that architecture was ever intended to give us. The idea of
reading a building as we would read Milton or Dante, and getting the
same kind of delight out of the stones as out of the stanzas, never
enters our minds for a moment. And for good reason;--There is indeed
rhythm in the verses, quite as strict as the symmetries or rhythm of
the architecture, and a thousand times more beautiful, but there is
something else than rhythm. The verses were neither made to order, nor
to match, as the capitals were; and we have therefore a kind of
pleasure in them other than a sense of propriety. But it requires a
strong effort of common sense to shake ourselves quit of all that we
have been taught for the last two centuries, and wake to the perception
of a truth just as simple and certain as it is new: that great art,
whether expressing itself in words, colours, or stones, does _not_ say
the same thing over and over again; that the merit of architectural, as
of every other art, consists in its saying new and different things;
that to repeat itself is no more a characteristic of genius in marble
than it is of genius in print; and that we may, without offending any
laws of good taste, require of an architect, as we do of a novelist,
that he should be not only correct, but entertaining.

Yet all this is true, and self-evident; only hidden from us, as many
other self-evident things are, by false teaching. Nothing is a great
work of art, for the production of which either rules or models can be
given. Exactly so far as architecture works on known rules, and from
given models, it is not an art, but a manufacture; and it is, of the
two procedures, rather less rational (because more easy) to copy
capitals or mouldings from Phidias, and call ourselves architects, than
to copy heads and hands from Titian, and call ourselves painters.

Let us then understand at once that change or variety is as much a
necessity to the human heart and brain in buildings as in books; that
there is no merit, though there is some occasional use, in monotony;
and that we must no more expect to derive either pleasure or profit
from an architecture whose ornaments are of one pattern, and whose
pillars are of one proportion, than we should out of a universe in
which the clouds were all of one shape, and the trees all of one size.

And this we confess in deeds, though not in words. All the pleasure
which the people of the nineteenth century take in art, is in pictures,
sculpture, minor objects of virtù, or mediæval architecture, which we
enjoy under the term picturesque: no pleasure is taken anywhere in
modern buildings, and we find all men of true feeling delighting to
escape out of modern cities into natural scenery: hence, as I shall
hereafter show, that peculiar love of landscape, which is
characteristic of the age. It would be well, if, in all other matters,
we were as ready to put up with what we dislike, for the sake of
compliance with established law, as we are in architecture.

How so debased a law ever came to be established, we shall see when we
come to describe the Renaissance schools; here we have only to note, as
the second most essential element of the Gothic spirit, that it broke
through that law wherever it found it in existence; it not only dared,
but delighted in, the infringement of every servile principle; and
invented a series of forms of which the merit was, not merely that they
were new, but that they were _capable of perpetual novelty_. The
pointed arch was not merely a bold variation from the round, but it
admitted of millions of variations in itself; for the proportions of a
pointed arch are changeable to infinity, while a circular arch is
always the same. The grouped shaft was not merely a bold variation from
the single one, but it admitted of millions of variations in its
grouping, and in the proportions resultant from its grouping. The
introduction of tracery was not only a startling change in the
treatment of window lights, but admitted endless changes in the
interlacement of the tracery bars themselves. So that, while in all
living Christian architecture the love of variety exists, the Gothic
schools exhibited that love in culminating energy; and their influence,
wherever it extended itself, may be sooner and farther traced by this
character than by any other; the tendency to the adoption of Gothic
types being always first shown by greater irregularity, and richer
variation in the forms of the architecture it is about to supersede,
long before the appearance of the pointed arch or of any other
recognizable _outward_ sign of the Gothic mind.

We must, however, herein note carefully what distinction there is
between a healthy and a diseased love of change; for as it was in
healthy love of change that the Gothic architecture rose, it was partly
in consequence of diseased love of change that it was destroyed. In
order to understand this clearly, it will be necessary to consider the
different ways in which change and monotony are presented to us in
nature; both having their use, like darkness and light, and the one
incapable of being enjoyed without the other: change being most
delightful after some prolongation of monotony, as light appears most
brilliant after the eyes have been for some time closed.

I believe that the true relations of monotony and change may be most
simply understood by observing them in music. We may therein notice
first, that there is a sublimity and majesty in monotony, which there
is not in rapid or frequent variation. This is true throughout all
nature. The greater part of the sublimity of the sea depends on its
monotony; so also that of desolate moor and mountain scenery; and
especially the sublimity of motion, as in the quiet, unchanged fall and
rise of an engine beam. So also there is sublimity in darkness which
there is not in light.

Again, monotony after a certain time, or beyond a certain degree,
becomes either uninteresting or intolerable, and the musician is
obliged to break it in one or two ways: either while the air or passage
is perpetually repeated, its notes are variously enriched and
harmonized; or else, after a certain number of repeated passages, an
entirely new passage is introduced, which is more or less delightful
according to the length of the previous monotony. Nature, of course,
uses both these kinds of variation perpetually. The sea-waves,
resembling each other in general mass, but none like its brother in
minor divisions and curves, are a monotony of the first kind; the great
plain, broken by an emergent rock or clump of trees, is a monotony of
the second.

Farther: in order to the enjoyment of the change in either case, a
certain degree of patience is required from the hearer or observer. In
the first case, he must be satisfied to endure with patience the
recurrence of the great masses of sound or form, and to seek for
entertainment in a careful watchfulness of the minor details. In the
second case, he must bear patiently the infliction of the monotony for
some moments, in order to feel the full refreshment of the change. This
is true even of the shortest musical passage in which the element of
monotony is employed. In cases of more majestic monotony, the patience
required is so considerable that it becomes a kind of pain,--a price
paid for the future pleasure.

Again: the talent of the composer is not in the monotony, but in the
changes: he may show feeling and taste by his use of monotony in
certain places or degrees; that is to say, by his _various_ employment
of it; but it is always in the new arrangement or invention that his
intellect is shown, and not in the monotony which relieves it.

Lastly: if the pleasure of change be too often repeated, it ceases to
be delightful, for then change itself becomes monotonous, and we are
driven to seek delight in extreme and fantastic degrees of it. This is
the diseased love of change of which we have above spoken.

From these facts we may gather generally that monotony is, and ought to
be, in itself painful to us, just as darkness is; that an architecture
which is altogether monotonous is a dark or dead architecture; and of
those who love it, it may be truly said, "they love darkness rather
than light." But monotony in certain measure, used in order to give
value to change, and above all, that _transparent_ monotony, which,
like the shadows of a great painter, suffers all manner of dimly
suggested form to be seen through the body of it, is an essential in
architectural as in all other composition; and the endurance of
monotony has about the same place in a healthy mind that the endurance
of darkness has: that is to say, as a strong intellect will have
pleasure in the solemnities of storm and twilight, and in the broken
and mysterious lights that gleam among them, rather than in mere
brilliancy and glare, while a frivolous mind will dread the shadow and
the storm; and as a great man will be ready to endure much darkness of
fortune in order to reach greater eminence of power or felicity, while
an inferior man will not pay the price; exactly in like manner a great
mind will accept, or even delight in, monotony which would be wearisome
to an inferior intellect, because it has more patience and power of
expectation, and is ready to pay the full price for the great future
pleasure of change. But in all cases it is not that the noble nature
loves monotony, anymore than it loves darkness or pain. But it can bear
with it, and receives a high pleasure in the endurance or patience, a
pleasure necessary to the well-being of this world; while those who
will not submit to the temporary sameness, but rush from one change to
another, gradually dull the edge of change itself, and bring a shadow
and weariness over the whole world from which there is no more escape.

From these general uses of variety in the economy of the world, we may
at once understand its use and abuse in architecture. The variety of
the Gothic schools is the more healthy and beautiful, because in many
cases it is entirely unstudied, and results, not from the mere love of
change, but from practical necessities. For in one point of view Gothic
is not only the best, but the _only rational_ architecture, as being
that which can fit itself most easily to all services, vulgar or noble.
Undefined in its slope of roof, height of shaft, breadth of arch, or
disposition of ground plan, it can shrink into a turret, expand into a
hall, coil into a staircase, or spring into a spire, with undegraded
grace and unexhausted energy; and whenever it finds occasion for change
in its form or purpose, it submits to it without the slightest sense of
loss either to its unity or majesty,--subtle and flexible like a fiery
serpent, but ever attentive to the voice of the charmer. And it is one
of the chief virtues of the Gothic builders, that they never suffered
ideas of outside symmetries and consistencies to interfere with the
real use and value of what they did. If they wanted a window, they
opened one; a room, they added one; a buttress, they built one; utterly
regardless of any established conventionalities of external appearance,
knowing (as indeed it always happened) that such daring interruptions
of the formal plan would rather give additional interest to its
symmetry than injure it. So that, in the best times of Gothic, a
useless window would rather have been opened in an unexpected place for
the sake of the surprise, than a useful one forbidden for the sake of
symmetry. Every successive architect, employed upon a great work, built
the pieces he added in his own way, utterly regardless of the style
adopted by his predecessors; and if two towers were raised in nominal
correspondence at the sides of a cathedral front, one was nearly sure
to be different from the other, and in each the style at the top to be
different from the style at the bottom.

These marked variations were, however, only permitted as part of the
great system of perpetual change which ran through every member of
Gothic design, and rendered it as endless a field for the beholder's
inquiry as for the builder's imagination: change, which in the best
schools is subtle and delicate, and rendered more delightful by
intermingling of a noble monotony; in the more barbaric schools is
somewhat fantastic and redundant; but, in all, a necessary and constant
condition of the life of the school. Sometimes the variety is in one
feature, sometimes in another; it may be in the capitals or crockets,
in the niches or the traceries, or in all together, but in some one or
other of the features it will be found always. If the mouldings are
constant, the surface sculpture will change; if the capitals are of a
fixed design, the traceries will change; if the traceries are
monotonous, the capitals will change; and if even, as in some fine
schools, the early English for example, there is the slightest
approximation to an unvarying type of mouldings, capitals, and floral
decoration, the variety is found in the disposition of the masses, and
in the figure sculpture.

I must now refer for a moment, before we quit the consideration of
this, the second mental element of Gothic, to the opening of the third
chapter of the _Seven Lamps of Architecture_, in which the distinction
was drawn (§ 2) between man gathering and man governing; between his
acceptance of the sources of delight from nature, and his development
of authoritative or imaginative power in their arrangement: for the two
mental elements, not only of Gothic, but of all good architecture,
which we have just been examining, belong to it, and are admirable in
it, chiefly as it is, more than any other subject of art, the work of
man, and the expression of the average power of man. A picture or poem
is often little more than a feeble utterance of man's admiration of
something out of himself; but architecture approaches more to a
creation of his own, born of his necessities, and expressive of his
nature. It is also, in some sort, the work of the whole race, while the
picture or statue are the work of one only, in most cases more highly
gifted than his fellows. And therefore we may expect that the first two
elements of good architecture should be expressive of some great truths
commonly belonging to the whole race, and necessary to be understood or
felt by them in all their work that they do under the sun. And observe
what they are: the confession of Imperfection, and the confession of
Desire of Change. The building of the bird and the bee needs not
express anything like this. It is perfect and unchanging. But just
because we are something better than birds or bees, our building must
confess that we have not reached the perfection we can imagine, and
cannot rest in the condition we have attained. If we pretend to have
reached either perfection or satisfaction, we have degraded ourselves
and our work. God's work only may express that; but ours may never have
that sentence written upon it,--"And behold, it was very good." And,
observe again, it is not merely as it renders the edifice a book of
various knowledge, or a mine of precious thought, that variety is
essential to its nobleness. The vital principle is not the love of
_Knowledge_, but the love of _Change_. It is that strange _disquietude_
of the Gothic spirit that is its greatness; that restlessness of the
dreaming mind, that wanders hither and thither among the niches, and
flickers feverishly around the pinnacles, and frets and fades in
labyrinthine knots and shadows along wall and roof, and yet is not
satisfied, nor shall be satisfied. The Greek could stay in his triglyph
furrow, and be at peace; but the work of the Gothic heart is fretwork
still, and it can neither rest in, nor from, its labour, but must pass
on, sleeplessly, until its love of change shall be pacified for ever in
the change that must come alike on them that wake and them that

Last, because the least essential, of the constituent elements of this
noble school, was placed that of REDUNDANCE,--the uncalculating
bestowal of the wealth of its labour. There is, indeed, much Gothic,
and that of the best period, in which this element is hardly traceable,
and which depends for its effect almost exclusively on loveliness of
simple design and grace of uninvolved proportion; still, in the most
characteristic buildings, a certain portion of their effect depends
upon accumulation of ornament; and many of those which have most
influence on the minds of men, have attained it by means of this
attribute alone. And although, by careful study of the school, it is
possible to arrive at a condition of taste which shall be better
contented by a few perfect lines than by a whole façade covered with
fretwork, the building which only satisfies such a taste is not to be
considered the best. For the very first requirement of Gothic
architecture being, as we saw above, that it shall both admit the aid,
and appeal to the admiration, of the rudest as well as the most refined
minds, the richness of the work is, paradoxical as the statement may
appear, a part of its humility. No architecture is so haughty as that
which is simple; which refuses to address the eye, except in a few
clear and forceful lines; which implies, in offering so little to our
regards, that all it has offered is perfect; and disdains, either by
the complexity of the attractiveness of its features, to embarrass our
investigation, or betray us into delight. That humility, which is the
very life of the Gothic school, is shown not only in the imperfection,
but in the accumulation, of ornament. The inferior rank of the workman
is often shown as much in the richness, as the roughness, of his work;
and if the co-operation of every hand, and the sympathy of every heart,
are to be received, we must be content to allow the redundance which
disguises the failure of the feeble, and wins the regard of the
inattentive. There are, however, far nobler interests mingling, in the
Gothic heart, with the rude love of decorative accumulation: a
magnificent enthusiasm, which feels as if it never could do enough to
reach the fulness of its ideal; an unselfishness of sacrifice, which
would rather cast fruitless labour before the altar than stand idle in
the market; and, finally, a profound sympathy with the fulness and
wealth of the material universe, rising out of that Naturalism whose
operation we have already endeavoured to define. The sculptor who
sought for his models among the forest leaves, could not but quickly
and deeply feel that complexity need not involve the loss of grace, nor
richness that of repose; and every hour which he spent in the study of
the minute and various work of Nature, made him feel more forcibly the
barrenness of what was best in that of man: nor is it to be wondered
at, that, seeing her perfect and exquisite creations poured forth in a
profusion which conception could not grasp nor calculation sum, he
should think that it ill became him to be niggardly of his own rude
craftsmanship; and where he saw throughout the universe a faultless
beauty lavished on measureless spaces of broidered field and blooming
mountain, to grudge his poor and imperfect labour to the few stones
that he had raised one upon another, for habitation or memorial. The
years of his life passed away before his task was accomplished; but
generation succeeded generation with unwearied enthusiasm, and the
cathedral front was at last lost in the tapestry of its traceries, like
a rock among the thickets and herbage of spring.

  [157] The third kind of ornament, the Renaissance, is that in which
  the inferior detail becomes principal, the executor of every minor
  portion being required to exhibit skill and possess knowledge as
  great as that which is possessed by the master of the design; and
  in the endeavour to endow him with this skill and knowledge, his
  own original power is overwhelmed, and the whole building becomes a
  wearisome exhibition of well-educated imbecility. We must fully
  inquire into the nature of this form of error, when we arrive at
  the examination of the Renaissance schools. [Ruskin.]

  [158] Job xix, 26.

  [159] _Matthew_ viii, 9.

  [160] Vide Preface to _Fair Maid of Perth_. [Ruskin.]

  [161] The Elgin marbles are supposed by many persons to be "perfect".
  In the most important portions they indeed approach perfection,
  but only there. The draperies are unfinished, the hair and wool
  of the animals are unfinished, and the entire bas-reliefs of the
  frieze are roughly cut. [Ruskin.]


    This book began to assume shape in Ruskin's mind as early as 1846;
    he actually wrote it in the six months between November, 1848, and
    April, 1849. It is the first of five illustrated volumes embodying
    the results of seven years devoted to the study of the principles
    and ideals of Gothic Architecture, the other volumes being _The
    Stones of Venice_ and _Examples of the Architecture of Venice_
    (1851). In the first edition of _The Seven Lamps_ the plates were
    not only all drawn but also etched by his own hand. Ruskin at a
    later time wrote that the purpose of _The Seven Lamps_ was "to
    show that certain right states of temper and moral feeling were
    the magic powers by which all good architecture had been
    produced." He is really applying here the same tests of truth and
    sincerity that he employed in _Modern Painters_. Chronologically,
    this volume and the others treating of architecture come between
    the composition of Volumes II and III of _Modern Painters_.
    Professor Charles Eliot Norton writes that the _Seven Lamps_ is
    "the first treatise in English to teach the real significance of
    architecture as the most trustworthy record of the life and faith
    of nations." The following selections form the closing chapters of
    the volume, and have a peculiar interest as anticipating the
    social and political ideas which came to colour all his later


Among the hours of his life to which the writer looks back with
peculiar gratitude, as having been marked by more than ordinary fulness
of joy or clearness of teaching, is one passed, now some years ago,
near time of sunset, among the broken masses of pine forest which skirt
the course of the Ain, above the village of Champagnole, in the Jura.
It is a spot which has all the solemnity, with none of the savageness,
of the Alps; where there is a sense of a great power beginning to be
manifested in the earth, and of a deep and majestic concord in the rise
of the long low lines of piny hills; the first utterance of those
mighty mountain symphonies, soon to be more loudly lifted and wildly
broken along the battlements of the Alps. But their strength is as yet
restrained; and the far reaching ridges of pastoral mountain succeed
each other, like the long and sighing swell which moves over quiet
waters from some far off stormy sea. And there is a deep tenderness
pervading that vast monotony. The destructive forces and the stern
expression of the central ranges are alike withdrawn. No
frost-ploughed, dust-encumbered paths of ancient glacier fret the soft
Jura pastures; no splintered heaps of ruin break the fair ranks of her
forest; no pale, defiled, or furious rivers rend their rude and
changeful ways among her rocks. Patiently, eddy by eddy, the clear
green streams wind along their well-known beds; and under the dark
quietness of the undisturbed pines, there spring up, year by year, such
company of joyful flowers as I know not the like of among all the
blessings of the earth. It was spring time, too; and all were coming
forth in clusters crowded for very love; there was room enough for all,
but they crushed their leaves into all manner of strange shapes only to
be nearer each other. There was the wood anemone, star after star,
closing every now and then into nebulae; and there was the oxalis,
troop by troop, like virginal processions of the Mois de Marie,[162] the
dark vertical clefts in the limestone choked up with them as with heavy
snow, and touched with ivy on the edges--ivy as light and lovely as the
vine; and, ever and anon, a blue gush of violets, and cowslip bells in
sunny places; and in the more open ground, the vetch, and comfrey, and
mezereon, and the small sapphire buds of the Polygala Alpina, and the
wild strawberry, just a blossom or two all showered amidst the golden
softness of deep, warm, amber-coloured moss. I came out presently on
the edge of the ravine: the solemn murmur of its waters rose suddenly
from beneath, mixed with the singing of the thrushes among the pine
boughs; and, on the opposite side of the valley, walled all along as it
was by grey cliffs of limestone, there was a hawk sailing slowly off
their brow, touching them nearly with his wings, and with the shadows
of the pines flickering upon his plumage from above; but with the fall
of a hundred fathoms under his breast, and the curling pools of the
green river gliding and glittering dizzily beneath him, their foam
globes moving with him as he flew. It would be difficult to conceive a
scene less dependent upon any other interest than that of its own
secluded and serious beauty; but the writer well remembers the sudden
blankness and chill which were cast upon it when he endeavoured, in
order more strictly to arrive at the sources of its impressiveness, to
imagine it, for a moment, a scene in some aboriginal forest of the New
Continent. The flowers in an instant lost their light, the river its
music; the hills became oppressively desolate; a heaviness in the
boughs of the darkened forest showed how much of their former power had
been dependent upon a life which was not theirs, how much of the glory
of the imperishable, or continually renewed, creation is reflected from
things more precious in their memories than it, in its renewing. Those
ever springing flowers and ever flowing streams had been dyed by the
deep colours of human endurance, valour, and virtue; and the crests of
the sable hills that rose against the evening sky received a deeper
worship, because their far shadows fell eastward over the iron wall of
Joux, and the four-square keep of Granson.

It is as the centralization and protectress of this sacred influence,
that Architecture is to be regarded by us with the most serious
thought. We may live without her, and worship without her, but we
cannot remember without her. How cold is all history, how lifeless all
imagery, compared to that which the living nation writes, and the
uncorrupted marble bears!--how many pages of doubtful record might we
not often spare, for a few stones left one upon another! The ambition
of the old Babel builders was well directed for this world:[163] there
are but two strong conquerors of the forgetfulness of men, Poetry and
Architecture; and the latter in some sort includes the former, and is
mightier in its reality: it is well to have, not only what men have
thought and felt, but what their hands have handled, and their strength
wrought, and their eyes beheld, all the days of their life. The age of
Homer is surrounded with darkness, his very personality with doubt. Not
so that of Pericles: and the day is coming when we shall confess, that
we have learned more of Greece out of the crumbled fragments of her
sculpture than even from her sweet singers or soldier historians. And
if indeed there be any profit in our knowledge of the past, or any joy
in the thought of being remembered hereafter, which can give strength
to present exertion, or patience to present endurance, there are two
duties respecting national architecture whose importance it is
impossible to overrate: the first, to render the architecture of the
day, historical; and, the second, to preserve, as the most precious of
inheritances, that of past ages.

It is in the first of these two directions that Memory may truly be
said to be the Sixth Lamp of Architecture; for it is in becoming
memorial or monumental that a true perfection is attained by civil and
domestic buildings; and this partly as they are, with such a view,
built in a more stable manner, and partly as their decorations are
consequently animated by a metaphorical or historical meaning.

As regards domestic buildings, there must always be a certain
limitation to views of this kind in the power, as well as in the
hearts, of men; still I cannot but think it an evil sign of a people
when their houses are built to last for one generation only. There is a
sanctity in a good man's house which cannot be renewed in every
tenement that rises on its ruins: and I believe that good men would
generally feel this; and that having spent their lives happily and
honourably, they would be grieved, at the close of them, to think that
the place of their earthly abode, which had seen, and seemed almost to
sympathize in, all their honour, their gladness, or their
suffering,--that this, with all the record it bare of them, and of all
material things that they had loved and ruled over, and set the stamp
of themselves upon--was to be swept away, as soon as there was room
made for them in the grave; that no respect was to be shown to it, no
affection felt for it, no good to be drawn from it by their children;
that though there was a monument in the church, there was no warm
monument in the hearth and house to them; that all that they ever
treasured was despised, and the places that had sheltered and comforted
them were dragged down to the dust. I say that a good man would fear
this; and that, far more, a good son, a noble descendant, would fear
doing it to his father's house. I say that if men lived like men
indeed, their houses would be temples--temples which we should hardly
dare to injure, and in which it would make us holy to be permitted to
live; and there must be a strange dissolution of natural affection, a
strange unthankfulness for all that homes have given and parents
taught, a strange consciousness that we have been unfaithful to our
fathers' honour, or that our own lives are not such as would make our
dwellings sacred to our children, when each man would fain build to
himself, and build for the little revolution of his own life only.
And I look upon those pitiful concretions of lime and clay which spring
up, in mildewed forwardness, out of the kneaded fields about our
capital--upon those thin, tottering, foundationless shells of splintered
wood and imitated stone--upon those gloomy rows of formalized
minuteness, alike without difference and without fellowship, as
solitary as similar--not merely with the careless disgust of an
offended eye, not merely with sorrow for a desecrated landscape, but
with a painful foreboding that the roots of our national greatness must
be deeply cankered when they are thus loosely struck in their native
ground; that those comfortless and unhonoured dwellings are the signs
of a great and spreading spirit of popular discontent; that they mark
the time when every man's aim is to be in some more elevated sphere
than his natural one, and every man's past life is his habitual scorn;
when men build in the hope of leaving the places they have built, and
live in the hope of forgetting the years that they have lived; when the
comfort, the peace, the religion of home have ceased to be felt; and
the crowded tenements of a struggling and restless population differ
only from the tents of the Arab or the Gipsy by their less healthy
openness to the air of heaven, and less happy choice of their spot of
earth; by their sacrifice of liberty without the gain of rest, and of
stability without the luxury of change.

This is no slight, no consequenceless evil; it is ominous, infectious,
and fecund of other fault and misfortune. When men do not love their
hearths, nor reverence their thresholds, it is a sign that they have
dishonoured both, and that they have never acknowledged the true
universality of that Christian worship which was indeed to supersede
the idolatry, but not the piety, of the pagan. Our God is a household
God, as well as a heavenly one; He has an altar in every man's
dwelling; let men look to it when they rend it lightly and pour out its
ashes. It is not a question of mere ocular delight, it is no question
of intellectual pride, or of cultivated and critical fancy, how, and
with what aspect of durability and of completeness, the domestic
buildings of a nation shall be raised. It is one of those moral duties,
not with more impunity to be neglected because the perception of them
depends on a finely toned and balanced conscientiousness, to build our
dwellings with care, and patience, and fondness, and diligent
completion, and with a view to their duration at least for such a
period as, in the ordinary course of national revolutions, might be
supposed likely to extend to the entire alteration of the direction of
local interests. This at the least; but it would be better if, in every
possible instance, men built their own houses on a scale commensurate
rather with their condition at the commencement, than their attainments
at the termination, of their worldly career; and built them to stand as
long as human work at its strongest can be hoped to stand; recording to
their children what they had been, and from what, if so it had been
permitted them, they had risen. And when houses are thus built, we may
have that true domestic architecture, the beginning of all other, which
does not disdain to treat with respect and thoughtfulness the small
habitation as well as the large, and which invests with the dignity of
contented manhood the narrowness of worldly circumstance.

I look to this spirit of honourable, proud, peaceful self-possession,
this abiding wisdom of contented life, as probably one of the chief
sources of great intellectual power in all ages, and beyond dispute as
the very primal source of the great architecture of old Italy and
France. To this day, the interest of their fairest cities depends, not
on the isolated richness of palaces, but on the cherished and exquisite
decoration of even the smallest tenements of their proud periods. The
most elaborate piece of architecture in Venice is a small house at the
head of the Grand Canal, consisting of a ground floor with two storeys
above, three windows in the first, and two in the second. Many of the
most exquisite buildings are on the narrower canals, and of no larger
dimensions. One of the most interesting pieces of fifteenth-century
architecture in North Italy, is a small house in a back street, behind
the market-place of Vicenza; it bears date 1481, and the motto, _Il.
n'est. rose. sans. épine_; it has also only a ground floor and two
storeys, with three windows in each, separated by rich flower-work, and
with balconies, supported, the central one by an eagle with open wings,
the lateral ones by winged griffins standing on cornucopiæ. The idea
that a house must be large in order to be well built, is altogether of
modern growth, and is parallel with the idea, that no picture can be
historical, except of a size admitting figures larger than life.

I would have, then, our ordinary dwelling-houses built to last, and
built to be lovely; as rich and full of pleasantness as may be, within
and without; with what degree of likeness to each other in style and
manner, I will say presently, under another head;[164] but, at all
events, with such differences as might suit and express each man's
character and occupation, and partly his history. This right over the
house, I conceive, belongs to its first builder, and is to be respected
by his children; and it would be well that blank stones should be left
in places, to be inscribed with a summary of his life and of its
experience, raising thus the habitation into a kind of monument, and
developing, into more systematic instructiveness, that good custom
which was of old universal, and which still remains among some of the
Swiss and Germans, of acknowledging the grace of God's permission to
build and possess a quiet resting-place, in such sweet words as may
well close our speaking of these things. I have taken them from the
front of a cottage lately built among the green pastures which descend
from the village of Grindelwald to the lower glacier:--

    Mit herzlichem Vertrauen
    Hat Johannes Mooter und Maria Rubi
    Dieses Haus bauen lassen.
    Der liebe Gott woll uns bewahren
    Vor allem Unglück und Gefahren,
    Und es in Segen lassen stehn
    Auf der Reise durch diese Jammerzeit
    Nach dem himmlischen Paradiese,
    Wo alle Frommen wohnen,
    Da wird Gott sie belohnen
    Mil der Friedenskrone
        Zu alle Ewigkeit.[165]

In public buildings the historical purpose should be still more
definite. It is one of the advantages of Gothic architecture,--I use
the word Gothic in the most extended sense as broadly opposed to
classical,--that it admits of a richness of record altogether
unlimited. Its minute and multitudinous sculptural decorations afford
means of expressing, either symbolically or literally, all that need be
known of national feeling or achievement. More decoration will, indeed,
be usually required than can take so elevated a character; and much,
even in the most thoughtful periods, has been left to the freedom of
fancy, or suffered to consist of mere repetitions of some national
bearing or symbol. It is, however, generally unwise, even in mere
surface ornament, to surrender the power and privilege of variety which
the spirit of Gothic architecture admits; much more in important
features--capitals of columns or bosses, and string-courses, as of
course in all confessed has-reliefs. Better the rudest work that tells
a story or records a fact, than the richest without meaning. There
should not be a single ornament put upon great civic buildings, without
some intellectual intention. Actual representation of history has in
modern times been checked by a difficulty, mean indeed, but steadfast;
that of unmanageable costume: nevertheless, by a sufficiently bold
imaginative treatment, and frank use of symbols, all such obstacles may
be vanquished; not perhaps in the degree necessary to produce sculpture
in itself satisfactory, but at all events so as to enable it to become
a grand and expressive element of architectural composition. Take, for
example, the management of the capitals of the ducal palace at Venice.
History, as such, was indeed entrusted to the painters of its interior,
but every capital of its arcades was filled with meaning. The large
one, the corner stone of the whole, next the entrance, was devoted to
the symbolization of Abstract Justice; above it is a sculpture of the
Judgment of Solomon, remarkable for a beautiful subjection in its
treatment to its decorative purpose. The figures, if the subject had
been entirely composed of them, would have awkwardly interrupted the
line of the angle, and diminished its apparent strength; and therefore
in the midst of them, entirely without relation to them, and indeed
actually between the executioner and interceding mother, there rises
the ribbed trunk of a massy tree, which supports and continues the
shaft of the angle, and whose leaves above overshadow and enrich the
whole. The capital below bears among its leafage a throned figure of
Justice, Trajan doing justice to the widow, Aristotle "che die legge,"
and one or two other subjects now unintelligible from decay. The
capitals next in order represent the virtues and vices in succession,
as preservative or destructive of national peace and power, concluding
with Faith, with the inscription "Fides optima in Deo est." A figure is
seen on the opposite side of the capital, worshipping the sun. After
these, one or two capitals are fancifully decorated with birds, and
then come a series representing, first the various fruits, then the
national costumes, and then the animals of the various countries
subject to Venetian rule.

Now, not to speak of any more important public building, let us imagine
our own India House adorned in this way, by historical or symbolical
sculpture: massively built in the first place; then chased with
has-reliefs of our Indian battles, and fretted with carvings of
Oriental foliage, or inlaid with Oriental stones; and the more
important members of its decoration composed of groups of Indian life
and landscape, and prominently expressing the phantasms of Hindoo
worship in their subjection to the Cross. Would not one such work be
better than a thousand histories? If, however, we have not the
invention necessary for such efforts, or if, which is probably one of
the most noble excuses we can offer for our deficiency in such matters,
we have less pleasure in talking about ourselves, even in marble, than
the Continental nations, at least we have no excuse for any want of
care in the points which insure the building's endurance. And as this
question is one of great interest in its relations to the choice of
various modes of decoration, it will be necessary to enter into it at
some length.

The benevolent regards and purposes of men in masses seldom can be
supposed to extend beyond their own generation. They may look to
posterity as an audience, may hope for its attention, and labour for
its praise: they may trust to its recognition of unacknowledged merit,
and demand its justice for contemporary wrong. But all this is mere
selfishness, and does not involve the slightest regard to, or
consideration of, the interest of those by whose numbers we would fain
swell the circle of our flatterers, and by whose authority we would
gladly support our presently disputed claims. The idea of self-denial
for the sake of posterity, of practising present economy for the sake
of debtors yet unborn, of planting forests that our descendants may
live under their shade, or of raising cities for future nations to
inhabit, never, I suppose, efficiently takes place among publicly
recognized motives of exertion. Yet these are not the less our duties;
nor is our part fitly sustained upon the earth, unless the range of our
intended and deliberate usefulness include, not only the companions but
the successors, of our pilgrimage. God has lent us the earth for our
life; it is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are to come
after us, and whose names are already written in the book of creation,
as to us; and we have no right, by anything that we do or neglect, to
involve them in unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits
which it was in our power to bequeath. And this the more, because it is
one of the appointed conditions of the labour of men that, in
proportion to the time between the seed-sowing and the harvest, is the
fulness of the fruit; and that generally, therefore, the farther off we
place our aim, and the less we desire to be ourselves the witnesses of
what we have laboured for, the more wide and rich will be the measure
of our success. Men cannot benefit those that are with them as they can
benefit those who come after them; and of all the pulpits from which
human voice is ever sent forth, there is none from which it reaches so
far as from the grave.

Nor is there, indeed, any present loss, in such respect for futurity.
Every human action gains in honour, in grace, in all true magnificence,
by its regard to things that are to come. It is the far sight, the
quiet and confident patience, that, above all other attributes,
separate man from man, and near him to his Maker; and there is no
action nor art, whose majesty we may not measure by this test.
Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it
not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such
work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay
stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held
sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as
they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, "See! this our
fathers did for us." For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is
not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in
that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious
sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls
that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in
their lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the
transitional character of all things, in the strength which, through
the lapse of seasons and times, and the decline and birth of dynasties,
and the changing of the face of the earth, and of the limits of the
sea, maintains its sculptured shapeliness for a time insuperable,
connects forgotten and following ages with each other, and half
constitutes the identity, as it concentrates the sympathy, of nations:
it is in that golden stain of time, that we are to look for the real
light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture; and it is not
until a building has assumed this character, till it has been entrusted
with the fame, and hallowed by the deeds of men, till its walls have
been witnesses of suffering, and its pillars rise out of the shadows of
death, that its existence, more lasting as it is than that of the
natural objects of the world around it, can be gifted with even so much
as these possess, of language and of life.

For that period, then, we must build; not, indeed, refusing to
ourselves the delight of present completion, nor hesitating to follow
such portions of character as may depend upon delicacy of execution to
the highest perfection of which they are capable, even although we may
know that in the course of years such details must perish; but taking
care that for work of this kind we sacrifice no enduring quality, and
that the building shall not depend for its impressiveness upon anything
that is perishable. This would, indeed, be the law of good composition
under any circumstances, the arrangement of the larger masses being
always a matter of greater importance than the treatment of the
smaller; but in architecture there is much in that very treatment which
is skilful or otherwise in proportion to its just regard to the
probable effects of time: and (which is still more to be considered)
there is a beauty in those effects themselves, which nothing else can
replace, and which it is our wisdom to consult and to desire. For
though, hitherto, we have been speaking of the sentiment of age only,
there is an actual beauty in the marks of it, such and so great as to
have become not unfrequently the subject of especial choice among
certain schools of art, and to have impressed upon those schools the
character usually and loosely expressed by the term "picturesque."....

Now, to return to our immediate subject, it so happens that, in
architecture, the superinduced and accidental beauty is most commonly
inconsistent with the preservation of original character, and the
picturesque is therefore sought in ruin, and supposed to consist in
decay. Whereas, even when so sought, it consists in the mere sublimity
of the rents, or fractures, or stains, or vegetation, which assimilate
the architecture with the work of Nature, and bestow upon it those
circumstances of colour and form which are universally beloved by the
eye of man. So far as this is done, to the extinction of the true
characters of the architecture, it is picturesque, and the artist who
looks to the stem of the ivy instead of the shaft of the pillar, is
carrying out in more daring freedom the debased sculptor's choice of
the hair instead of the countenance. But so far as it can be rendered
consistent with the inherent character, the picturesque or extraneous
sublimity of architecture has just this of nobler function in it than
that of any other object whatsoever, that it is an exponent of age, of
that in which, as has been said, the greatest glory of the building
consists; and, therefore, the external signs of this glory, having
power and purpose greater than any belonging to their mere sensible
beauty, may be considered as taking rank among pure and essential
characters; so essential to my mind, that I think a building cannot be
considered as in its prime until four or five centuries have passed
over it; and that the entire choice and arrangement of its details
should have reference to their appearance after that period, so that
none should be admitted which would suffer material injury either by
the weather-staining, or the mechanical degradation which the lapse of
such a period would necessitate.

It is not my purpose to enter into any of the questions which the
application of this principle involves. They are of too great interest
and complexity to be even touched upon within my present limits, but
this is broadly to be noticed, that those styles of architecture which
are picturesque in the sense above explained with respect to sculpture,
that is to say, whose decoration depends on the arrangement of points
of shade rather than on purity of outline, do not suffer, but commonly
gain in richness of effect when their details are partly worn away;
hence such styles, pre-eminently that of French Gothic, should always
be adopted when the materials to be employed are liable to degradation,
as brick, sandstone, or soft limestone; and styles in any degree
dependent on purity of line, as the Italian Gothic, must be practised
altogether in hard and undecomposing materials, granite, serpentine, or
crystalline marbles. There can be no doubt that the nature of the
accessible materials influenced the formation of both styles; and it
should still more authoritatively determine our choice of either.

It does not belong to my present plan to consider at length the second
head of duty of which I have above spoken; the preservation of the
architecture we possess: but a few words may be forgiven, as especially
necessary in modern times. Neither by the public, nor by those who have
the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word
_restoration_ understood. It means the most total destruction which a
building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be
gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing
destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it
is _impossible_, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore
anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture. That
which I have above insisted upon as the life of the whole, that spirit
which is given only by the hand and eye of the workman, never can be
recalled. Another spirit may be given by another time, and it is then a
new building; but the spirit of the dead workman cannot be summoned up,
and commanded to direct other hands, and other thoughts. And as for
direct and simple copying, it is palpably impossible. What copying can
there be of surfaces that have been worn half an inch down? The whole
finish of the work was in the half inch that is gone; if you attempt to
restore that finish, you do it conjecturally; if you copy what is left,
granting fidelity to be possible (and what care, or watchfulness, or
cost can secure it,) how is the new work better than the old? There was
yet in the old _some_ life, some mysterious suggestion of what it had
been, and of what it had lost; some sweetness in the gentle lines which
rain and sun had wrought. There can be none in the brute hardness of
the new carving. Look at the animals which I have given in Plate XIV.,
as an instance of living work, and suppose the markings of the scales
and hair once worn away, or the wrinkles of the brows, and who shall
ever restore them? The first step to restoration, (I have seen it, and
that again and again--seen it on the Baptistery of Pisa, seen it on
the Casa d'Oro at Venice, seen it on the Cathedral of Lisieux,) is to
dash the old work to pieces; the second is usually to put up the
cheapest and basest imitation which can escape detection, but in all
cases, however careful, and however laboured, an imitation still, a
cold model of such parts as _can_ be modelled, with conjectural
supplements; and my experience has as yet furnished me with only one
instance, that of the Palais de Justice at Rouen, in which even this,
the utmost degree of fidelity which is possible, has been attained, or
even attempted.[166]

Do not let us talk then of restoration. The thing is a Lie from
beginning to end. You may make a model of a building as you may of a
corpse, and your model may have the shell of the old walls within it as
your cast might have the skeleton, with what advantage I neither see
nor care: but the old building is destroyed, and that more totally and
mercilessly than if it had sunk into a heap of dust, or melted into a
mass of clay: more has been gleaned out of desolated Nineveh than ever
will be out of re-built Milan. But, it is said, there may come a
necessity for restoration! Granted. Look the necessity full in the
face, and understand it on its own terms. It is a necessity for
destruction. Accept it as such, pull the building down, throw its
stones into neglected corners, make ballast of them, or mortar, if you
will; but do it honestly, and do not set up a Lie in their place. And
look that necessity in the face before it comes, and you may prevent
it. The principle of modern times, (a principle which, I believe, at
least in France, to be _systematically acted on by the masons_, in
order to find themselves work, as the abbey of St. Ouen was pulled down
by the magistrates of the town by way of giving work to some vagrants,)
is to neglect buildings first, and restore them afterwards. Take proper
care of your monuments, and you will not need to restore them. A few
sheets of lead put in time upon the roof, a few dead leaves and sticks
swept in time out of a water-course, will save both roof and walls from
ruin. Watch an old building with an anxious care; guard it as best you
may, and at _any_ cost, from every influence of dilapidation. Count its
stones as you would jewels of a crown; set watches about it as if at
the gates of a besieged city; bind it together with iron where it
loosens; stay it with timber where it declines; do not care about the
unsightliness of the aid: better a crutch than a lost limb; and do this
tenderly, and reverently, and continually, and many a generation will
still be born and pass away beneath its shadow. Its evil day must come
at last; but let it come declaredly and openly, and let no dishonouring
and false substitute deprive it of the funeral offices of memory.

Of more wanton or ignorant ravage it is vain to speak; my words will
not reach those who commit them, and yet, be it heard or not, I must
not leave the truth unstated, that it is again no question of
expediency or feeling whether we shall preserve the buildings of past
times or not. _We have no right whatever to touch them_. They are not
ours. They belong partly to those who built them, and partly to all the
generations of mankind who are to follow us. The dead have still their
right in them: that which they laboured for, the praise of achievement
or the expression of religious feeling, or whatsoever else it might be
which in those buildings they intended to be permanent, we have no
right to obliterate. What we have ourselves built, we are at liberty to
throw down; but what other men gave their strength and wealth and life
to accomplish, their right over does not pass away with their death;
still less is the right to the use of what they have left vested in us
only. It belongs to all their successors. It may hereafter be a subject
of sorrow, or a cause of injury, to millions, that we have consulted
our present convenience by casting down such buildings as we choose to
dispense with. That sorrow, that loss, we have no right to inflict. Did
the cathedral of Avranches[167] belong to the mob who destroyed it, any
more than it did to us, who walk in sorrow to and fro over its
foundation? Neither does any building whatever belong to those mobs who
do violence to it. For a mob it is, and must be always; it matters not
whether enraged, or in deliberate folly; whether countless, or sitting
in committees; the people who destroy anything causelessly are a mob,
and Architecture is always destroyed causelessly. A fair building is
necessarily worth the ground it stands upon, and will be so until
Central Africa and America shall have become as populous as Middlesex:
nor is any cause whatever valid as a ground for its destruction. If
ever valid, certainly not now, when the place both of the past and
future is too much usurped in our minds by the restless and
discontented present. The very quietness of nature is gradually
withdrawn from us; thousands who once in their necessarily prolonged
travel were subjected to an influence, from the silent sky and
slumbering fields, more effectual than known or confessed, now bear
with them even there the ceaseless fever of their life; and along the
iron veins that traverse the frame of our country, beat and flow the
fiery pulses of its exertion, hotter and faster every hour. All
vitality is concentrated through those throbbing arteries into the
central cities; the country is passed over like a green sea by narrow
bridges, and we are thrown back in continually closer crowds upon the
city gates. The only influence which can in any wise _there_ take the
place of that of the woods and fields, is the power of ancient
Architecture. Do not part with it for the sake of the formal square, or
of the fenced and planted walk, nor of the goodly street nor opened
quay. The pride of a city is not in these. Leave them to the crowd; but
remember that there will surely be some within the circuit of the
disquieted walls who would ask for some other spots than these wherein
to walk; for some other forms to meet their sight familiarly: like
him[168] who sat so often where the sun struck from the west to watch the
lines of the dome of Florence drawn on the deep sky, or like those, his
Hosts, who could bear daily to behold, from their palace chambers, the
places where their fathers lay at rest, at the meeting of the dark
streets of Verona.

  [162] May-day processions in honour of the Virgin.

  [163] _Genesis_ xi, 4.

  [164] See pp. 225 ff.

  [165] In heartfelt trust Johannes Mooter and Maria Rubi had this
  house erected. May dear God shield us from all perils and
  misfortune; and let His blessing rest upon it during the journey
  through this wretched life up to heavenly Paradise where the pious
  dwell. There will God reward them with the Crown of Peace to all

  [166] Baptistery of Pisa, circular, of marble, with dome two
  hundred feet high, embellished with numerous columns, is a notable
  work of the twelfth century. The pulpit is a masterpiece of Nicola
  Pisano. Casa d'Oro at Venice is noted for its elegance. It was
  built in the fourteenth century. The Cathedral of Lisieux dates
  chiefly from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and contains
  many works of art. The Palais de Justice is of the fifteenth
  century. It was built for the Parliament of the Province.

  [167] This cathedral, destroyed in 1799, was one of the most
  beautiful in all Normandy.

  [168] Dante.


It has been my endeavour to show in the preceding pages how every form
of noble architecture is in some sort the embodiment of the Polity,
Life, History, and Religious Faith of nations. Once or twice in doing
this, I have named a principle to which I would now assign a definite
place among those which direct that embodiment; the last place, not
only as that to which its own humility would incline, but rather as
belonging to it in the aspect of the crowning grace of all the rest;
that principle, I mean, to which Polity owes its stability, Life its
happiness, Faith its acceptance, Creation its continuance,--Obedience.

Nor is it the least among the sources of more serious satisfaction
which I have found in the pursuit of a subject that at first appeared
to bear but slightly on the grave interests of mankind, that the
conditions of material perfection which it leads me in conclusion to
consider, furnish a strange proof how false is the conception, how
frantic the pursuit, of that treacherous phantom which men call
Liberty: most treacherous, indeed, of all phantoms; for the feeblest
ray of reason might surely show us, that not only its attainment, but
its being, was impossible. There is no such thing in the universe.
There can never be. The stars have it not; the earth has it not; the
sea has it not; and we men have the mockery and semblance of it only
for our heaviest punishment.

In one of the noblest poems[169] for its imagery and its music belonging
to the recent school of our literature, the writer has sought in the
aspect of inanimate nature the expression of that Liberty which, having
once loved, he had seen among men in its true dyes of darkness. But
with what strange fallacy of interpretation! since in one noble line of
his invocation he has contradicted the assumptions of the rest, and
acknowledged the presence of a subjection, surely not less severe
because eternal. How could he otherwise? since if there be any one
principle more widely than another confessed by every utterance, or
more sternly than another imprinted on every atom, of the visible
creation, that principle is not Liberty, but Law.

The enthusiast would reply that by Liberty he meant the Law of Liberty.
Then why use the single and misunderstood word? If by liberty you mean
chastisement of the passions, discipline of the intellect, subjection
of the will; if you mean the fear of inflicting, the shame of
committing, a wrong; if you mean respect for all who are in authority,
and consideration for all who are in dependence; veneration for the
good, mercy to the evil, sympathy with the weak; if you mean
watchfulness over all thoughts, temperance in all pleasures, and
perseverance in all toils; if you mean, in a word, that Service which
is defined in the liturgy of the English church to be perfect Freedom,
why do you name this by the same word by which the luxurious mean
license, and the reckless mean change; by which the rogue means rapine,
and the fool, equality; by which the proud mean anarchy, and the
malignant mean violence? Call it by any name rather than this, but its
best and truest, is Obedience. Obedience is, indeed, founded on a kind
of freedom, else it would become mere subjugation, but that freedom is
only granted that obedience may be more perfect; and thus, while a
measure of license is necessary to exhibit the individual energies of
things, the fairness and pleasantness and perfection of them all
consist in their Restraint. Compare a river that has burst its banks
with one that is bound by them, and the clouds that are scattered over
the face of the whole heaven with those that are marshalled into ranks
and orders by its winds. So that though restraint, utter and
unrelaxing, can never be comely, this is not because it is in itself an
evil, but only because, when too great, it overpowers the nature of the
thing restrained, and so counteracts the other laws of which that
nature is itself composed. And the balance wherein consists the
fairness of creation is between the laws of life and being in the
things governed, and the laws of general sway to which they are
subjected; and the suspension or infringement of either, kind of law,
or, literally, disorder, is equivalent to, and synonymous with,
disease; while the increase of both honour and beauty is habitually on
the side of restraint (or the action of superior law) rather than of
character (or the action of inherent law). The noblest word in the
catalogue of social virtue is "Loyalty," and the sweetest which men
have learned in the pastures of the wilderness is "Fold."

Nor is this all; but we may observe, that exactly in proportion to the
majesty of things in the scale of being, is the completeness of their
obedience to the laws that are set over them. Gravitation is less
quietly, less instantly obeyed by a grain of dust than it is by the sun
and moon; and the ocean falls and flows under influences which the lake
and river do not recognize. So also in estimating the dignity of any
action or occupation of men, there is perhaps no better test than the
question "are its laws strait?" For their severity will probably be
commensurate with the greatness of the numbers whose labour it
concentrates or whose interest it concerns.

This severity must be singular, therefore, in the case of that art,
above all others, whose productions are the most vast and the most
common; which requires for its practice the co-operation of bodies of
men, and for its perfection the perseverance of successive generations.
And, taking into account also what we have before so often observed of
Architecture, her continual influence over the emotions of daily life,
and her realism, as opposed to the two sister arts which are in
comparison but the picturing of stories and of dreams, we might
beforehand expect that we should find her healthy state and action
dependent on far more severe laws than theirs: that the license which
they extend to the workings of individual mind would be withdrawn by
her; and that, in assertion of the relations which she holds with all
that is universally important to man, she would set forth, by her own
majestic subjection, some likeness of that on which man's social
happiness and power depend. We might, therefore, without the light of
experience, conclude, that Architecture never could flourish except
when it was subjected to a national law as strict and as minutely
authoritative as the laws which regulate religion, policy, and social
relations; nay, even more authoritative than these, because both
capable of more enforcement, as over more passive matter; and needing
more enforcement, as the purest type not of one law nor of another, but
of the common authority of all. But in this matter experience speaks
more loudly than reason. If there be any one condition which, in
watching the progress of architecture, we see distinct and general; if,
amidst the counter-evidence of success attending opposite accidents of
character and circumstance, any one conclusion may be constantly and
indisputably drawn, it is this; that the architecture of a nation is
great only when it is as universal and as established as its language;
and when provincial differences of style are nothing more than so many
dialects. Other necessities are matters of doubt: nations have been
alike successful in their architecture in times of poverty and of
wealth; in times of war and of peace; in times of barbarism and of
refinement; under governments the most liberal or the most arbitrary;
but this one condition has been constant, this one requirement clear in
all places and at all times, that the work shall be that of a _school_,
that no individual caprice shall dispense with, or materially vary,
accepted types and customary decorations; and that from the cottage to
the palace, and from the chapel to the basilica, and from the garden
fence to the fortress wall, every member and feature of the
architecture of the nation shall be as commonly current, as frankly
accepted, as its language or its coin.

A day never passes without our hearing our English architects called
upon to be original, and to invent a new style: about as sensible and
necessary an exhortation as to ask of a man who has never had rags
enough on his back to keep out cold, to invent a new mode of cutting a
coat. Give him a whole coat first, and let him concern himself about
the fashion of it afterwards. We want no new style of architecture. Who
wants a new style of painting or sculpture? But we want some style. It
is of marvellously little importance, if we have a code of laws and
they be good laws, whether they be new or old, foreign or native, Roman
or Saxon, or Norman, or English laws. But it is of considerable
importance that we should have a code of laws of one kind or another,
and that code accepted and enforced from one side of the island to
another, and not one law made ground of judgment at York and another in
Exeter. And in like manner it does not matter one marble splinter
whether we have an old or new architecture, but it matters everything
whether we have an architecture truly so called or not; that is,
whether an architecture whose laws might be taught at our schools from
Cornwall to Northumberland, as we teach English spelling and English
grammar, or an architecture which is to be invented fresh every time we
build a workhouse or a parish school. There seems to me to be a
wonderful misunderstanding among the majority of architects at the
present day as to the very nature and meaning of Originality, and of
all wherein it consists. Originality in expression does not depend on
invention of new words; nor originality in poetry on invention of new
measures; nor, in painting, on invention of new colours, or new modes
of using them. The chords of music, the harmonies of colour, the
general principles of the arrangement of sculptural masses, have been
determined long ago, and, in all probability, cannot be added to any
more than they can be altered. Granting that they may be, such
additions or alterations are much more the work of time and of
multitudes than of individual inventors. We may have one Van Eyck,[170]
who will be known as the introducer of a new style once in ten
centuries, but he himself will trace his invention to some accidental
by-play or pursuit; and the use of that invention will depend
altogether on the popular necessities or instincts of the period.
Originality depends on nothing of the kind. A man who has the gift,
will take up any style that is going, the style of his day, and will
work in that, and be great in that, and make everything that he does in
it look as fresh as if every thought of it had just come down from
heaven. I do not say that he will not take liberties with his
materials, or with his rules: I do not say that strange changes will
not sometimes be wrought by his efforts, or his fancies, in both. But
those changes will be instructive, natural, facile, though sometimes
marvellous; they will never be sought after as things necessary to his
dignity or to his independence; and those liberties will be like the
liberties that a great speaker takes with the language, not a defiance
of its rules for the sake of singularity; but inevitable, uncalculated,
and brilliant consequences of an effort to express what the language,
without such infraction, could not. There may be times when, as I have
above described, the life of an art is manifested in its changes, and
in its refusal of ancient limitations: so there are in the life of an
insect; and there is great interest in the state of both the art and
the insect at those periods when, by their natural progress and
constitutional power, such changes are about to be wrought. But as that
would be both an Uncomfortable and foolish caterpillar which, instead
of being contented with a caterpillar's life and feeding on
caterpillar's food, was always striving to turn itself into a
chrysalis; and as that would be an unhappy chrysalis which should lie
awake at night and roll restlessly in its cocoon, in efforts to turn
itself prematurely into a moth; so will that art be unhappy and
unprosperous which, instead of supporting itself on the food, and
contenting itself with the customs, which have been enough for the
support and guidance of other arts before it and like it, is struggling
and fretting under the natural limitations of its existence, and
striving to become something other than it is. And though it is the
nobility of the highest creatures to look forward to, and partly to
understand the changes which are appointed for them, preparing for them
beforehand; and if, as is usual with _appointed_ changes, they be into
a higher state, even desiring them, and rejoicing in the hope of them,
yet it is the strength of every creature, be it changeful or not, to
rest for the time being, contented with the conditions of its
existence, and striving only to bring about the changes which it
desires, by fulfilling to the uttermost the duties for which its
present state is appointed and continued.

Neither originality, therefore, nor change, good though both may be,
and this is commonly a most merciful and enthusiastic supposition with
respect to either, is ever to be sought in itself, or can ever be
healthily obtained by any struggle or rebellion against common laws. We
want neither the one nor the other. The forms of architecture already
known are good enough for us, and for far better than any of us: and it
will be time enough to think of changing them for better when we can
use them as they are. But there are some things which we not only want,
but cannot do without; and which all the struggling and raving in the
world, nay more, which all the real talent and resolution in England,
will never enable us to do without: and these are Obedience, Unity,
Fellowship, and Order. And all our schools of design, and committees of
taste; all our academies and lectures, and journalisms, and essays; all
the sacrifices which we are beginning to make, all the truth which
there is in our English nature, all the power of our English will, and
the life of our English intellect, will in this matter be as useless as
efforts and emotions in a dream, unless we are contented to submit
architecture and all art, like other things, to English law.

I say architecture and all art; for I believe architecture must be the
beginning of arts, and that the others must follow her in their time
and order; and I think the prosperity of our schools of painting and
sculpture, in which no one will deny the life, though many the health,
depends upon that of our architecture. I think that all will languish
until that takes the lead, and (this I do not _think_, but I proclaim,
as confidently as I would assert the necessity, for the safety of
society, of an understood and strongly administered legal government)
our architecture _will_ languish, and that in the very dust, until the
first principle of common sense be manfully obeyed, and an universal
system of form and workmanship be everywhere adopted and enforced. It
may be said that this is impossible. It may be so--I fear it is so: I
have nothing to do with the possibility or impossibility of it; I
simply know and assert the necessity of it. If it be impossible,
English art is impossible. Give it up at once. You are wasting time,
and money, and energy upon it, and though you exhaust centuries and
treasures, and break hearts for it, you will never raise it above the
merest dilettanteism. Think not of it. It is a dangerous vanity, a mere
gulph in which genius after genius will be swallowed up, and it will
not close. And so it will continue to be, unless the one bold and broad
step be taken at the beginning. We shall not manufacture art out of
pottery and printed stuffs; we shall not reason out art by our
philosophy; we shall not stumble upon art by our experiments, nor
create it by our fancies: I do not say that we can even build it out of
brick and stone; but there is a chance for us in these, and there is
none else; and that chance rests on the bare possibility of obtaining
the consent, both of architects and of the public, to choose a style,
and to use it universally.

How surely its principles ought at first to be limited, we may easily
determine by the consideration of the necessary modes of teaching any
other branch of general knowledge. When we begin to teach children
writing, we force them to absolute copyism, and require absolute
accuracy in the formation of the letters; as they obtain command of the
received modes of literal expression, we cannot prevent their falling
into such variations as are consistent with their feeling, their
circumstances, or their characters. So, when a boy is first taught to
write Latin, an authority is required of him for every expression he
uses; as he becomes master of the language he may take a license, and
feel his right to do so without any authority, and yet write better
Latin than when he borrowed every separate expression. In the same way
our architects would have to be taught to write the accepted style. We
must first determine what buildings are to be considered Augustan in
their authority; their modes of construction and laws of proportion are
to be studied with the most penetrating care; then the different forms
and uses of their decorations are to be classed and catalogued, as a
German grammarian classes the powers of prepositions; and under this
absolute, irrefragable authority, we are to begin to work; admitting
not so much as an alteration in the depth of a cavetto,[171] or the
breadth of a fillet. Then, when our sight is once accustomed to the
grammatical forms and arrangements, and our thoughts familiar with the
expression of them all; when we can speak this dead language naturally,
and apply it to whatever ideas we have to render, that is to say, to
every practical purpose of life; then, and not till then, a license
might be permitted, and individual authority allowed to change or to
add to the received forms, always within certain limits; the
decorations, especially, might be made subjects of variable fancy, and
enriched with ideas either original or taken from other schools. And
thus, in process of time and by a great national movement, it might
come to pass that a new style should arise, as language itself changes;
we might perhaps come to speak Italian instead of Latin, or to speak
modern instead of old English; but this would be a matter of entire
indifference, and a matter, besides, which no determination or desire
could either hasten or prevent. That alone which it is in our power to
obtain, and which it is our duty to desire, is an unanimous style of
some kind, and such comprehension and practice of it as would enable us
to adapt its features to the peculiar character of every several
building, large or small, domestic, civil or ecclesiastical.

  [169] Coleridge's _Ode to France_.

  [170] Hubert Van Eyck [1366-1440]. The great Flemish master.

  [171] A hollowed moulding. [New Eng. Dict.]


    Ruskin was first elected to the Slade Professorship of Fine Art in
    Oxford in 1869, and held the chair continuously until 1878, when
    he resigned because of ill-health, and again from 1883 to 1885.
    The _Lectures on Art_ were announced in the _Oxford University
    Gazette_ of January 28, 1870, the general subject of the course
    being "The Limits and Elementary Practice of Art," with Leonardo's
    _Trattato della Pittura_ as the text-book. The lectures were
    delivered between February 8 and March 23, 1870. They appeared in
    book form in July of the same year. These lectures contain much of
    his best and most mature thought, of his most painstaking research
    and keenest analysis. Talking with a friend in later years, he
    said: "I have taken more pains with the Oxford Lectures than with
    anything else I have ever done": and in the preface to the edition
    of 1887 he began: "The following lectures were the most important
    piece of my literary work, done with unabated power, best motive,
    and happiest concurrence of circumstance." Ruskin took his
    professorship very seriously. He spent almost infinite labour in
    composing his more formal lectures, and during the eight years
    in which he held the chair he published six volumes of them, not
    to mention three Italian guide-books, which came under his
    interpretation of his professional duties;--"the real duty
    involved in my Oxford Professorship cannot be completely done by
    giving lectures in Oxford only, but ... I ought also to give what
    guidance I may to travellers in Italy." Not only by lecturing and
    writing did he fill the chair, but he taught individuals, founded
    and endowed a Drawing mastership, and presented elaborately
    catalogued collections to illustrate his subject. His lecture
    classes were always large, and his work had a marked influence in
    the University.


We see lately a most powerful impulse given to the production of
costly works of art by the various causes which promote the sudden
accumulation of wealth in the hands of private persons. We have thus a
vast and new patronage, which, in its present agency, is injurious to
our schools; but which is nevertheless in a great degree earnest and
conscientious, and far from being influenced chiefly by motives of
ostentation. Most of our rich men would be glad to promote the true
interests of art in this country; and even those who buy for vanity,
found their vanity on the possession of what they suppose to be best.

It is therefore in a great measure the fault of artists themselves if
they suffer from this partly unintelligent, but thoroughly
well-intended patronage. If they seek to attract it by eccentricity,
to deceive it by superficial qualities, or take advantage of it by
thoughtless and facile production, they necessarily degrade themselves
and it together, and have no right to complain afterwards that it will
not acknowledge better-grounded claims. But if every painter of real
power would do only what he knew to be worthy of himself, and refuse
to be involved in the contention for undeserved or accidental success,
there is indeed, whatever may have been thought or said to the
contrary, true instinct enough in the public mind to follow such firm
guidance. It is one of the facts which the experience of thirty years
enables me to assert without qualification, that a really good picture
is ultimately always approved and bought, unless it is wilfully
rendered offensive to the public by faults which the artist has been
either too proud to abandon or too weak to correct.

The development of whatever is healthful and serviceable in the two
modes of impulse which we have been considering, depends however,
ultimately, on the direction taken by the true interest in art which
has lately been aroused by the great and active genius of many of our
living, or but lately lost, painters, sculptors, and architects. It
may perhaps surprise, but I think it will please you to hear me, or
(if you will forgive me, in my own Oxford, the presumption of fancying
that some may recognize me by an old name) to hear the author of
_Modern Painters_ say, that his chief error in earlier days was not in
over-estimating, but in too slightly acknowledging the merit of living
men. The great painter whose power, while he was yet among us, I was
able to perceive,[172] was the first to reprove me for my disregard of
the skill of his fellow-artists; and, with this inauguration of the
study of the art of all time,--a study which can only by true modesty
end in wise admiration,--it is surely well that I connect the record
of these words of his, spoken then too truly to myself, and true
always more or less for all who are untrained in that toil,--"You
don't know how difficult it is."

You will not expect me, within the compass of this lecture, to give
you any analysis of the many kinds of excellent art (in all the three
great divisions) which the complex demands of modern life, and yet
more varied instincts of modern genius, have developed for pleasure or
service. It must be my endeavour, in conjunction with my colleagues in
other Universities, hereafter to enable you to appreciate these
worthily; in the hope that also the members of the Royal Academy, and
those of the Institute of British Architects, may be induced to
assist, and guide, the efforts of the Universities, by organizing such
a system of art education for their own students, as shall in future
prevent the waste of genius in any mistaken endeavours; especially
removing doubt as to the proper substance and use of materials; and
requiring compliance with certain elementary principles of right, in
every picture and design exhibited with their sanction. It is not
indeed possible for talent so varied as that of English artists to be
compelled into the formalities of a determined school; but it must
certainly be the function of every academical body to see that their
younger students are guarded from what must in every school be error;
and that they are practised in the best methods of work hitherto
known, before their ingenuity is directed to the invention of others.

I need scarcely refer, except for the sake of completeness in my
statement, to one form of demand for art which is wholly
unenlightened, and powerful only for evil;--namely, the demand of the
classes occupied solely in the pursuit of pleasure, for objects and
modes of art that can amuse indolence or excite passion. There is no
need for any discussion of these requirements, or of their forms of
influence, though they are very deadly at present in their operation
on sculpture, and on jewellers' work. They cannot be checked by blame,
nor guided by instruction; they are merely the necessary results of
whatever defects exist in the temper and principles of a luxurious
society; and it is only by moral changes, not by art-criticism, that
their action can be modified.

Lastly, there is a continually increasing demand for popular art,
multipliable by the printing-press, illustrative of daily events, of
general literature, and of natural science. Admirable skill, and some
of the best talent of modern times, are occupied in supplying this
want; and there is no limit to the good which may be effected by
rightly taking advantage of the powers we now possess of placing good
and lovely art within the reach of the poorest classes. Much has been
already accomplished; but great harm has been done also,--first, by
forms of art definitely addressed to depraved tastes; and, secondly,
in a more subtle way, by really beautiful and useful engravings which
are yet not good enough to retain their influence on the public
mind;--which weary it by redundant quantity of monotonous average
excellence, and diminish or destroy its power of accurate attention to
work of a higher order.

Especially this is to be regretted in the effect produced on the
schools of line engraving, which had reached in England an executive
skill of a kind before unexampled, and which of late have lost much of
their more sterling and legitimate methods. Still, I have seen plates
produced quite recently, more beautiful, I think, in some qualities
than anything ever before attained by the burin:[173] and I have not the
slightest fear that photography, or any other adverse or competitive
operation, will in the least ultimately diminish,--I believe they will,
on the contrary, stimulate and exalt--the grand old powers of the wood
and the steel.

Such are, I think, briefly the present conditions of art with which
we have to deal; and I conceive it to be the function of this
Professorship, with respect to them, to establish both a practical and
critical school of fine art for English gentlemen: practical, so that,
if they draw at all, they may draw rightly; and critical, so that,
being first directed to such works of existing art as will best reward
their study, they may afterwards make their patronage of living
artists delightful to themselves in their consciousness of its
justice, and, to the utmost, beneficial to their country, by being
given only to the men who deserve it; in the early period of their
lives, when they both need it most and can be influenced by it to the
best advantage.

And especially with reference to this function of patronage, I believe
myself justified in taking into account future probabilities as to the
character and range of art in England; and I shall endeavour at once to
organize with you a system of study calculated to develope chiefly the
knowledge of those branches in which the English schools have shown,
and are likely to show, peculiar excellence.

Now, in asking your sanction both for the nature of the general plans I
wish to adopt, and for what I conceive to be necessary limitations of
them, I wish you to be fully aware of my reasons for both: and I will
therefore risk the burdening of your patience while I state the
directions of effort in which I think English artists are liable to
failure, and those also in which past experience has shown they are
secure of success.

I referred, but now, to the effort we are making to improve the designs
of our manufactures. Within certain limits I believe this improvement
may indeed take effect: so that we may no more humour momentary
fashions by ugly results of chance instead of design; and may produce
both good tissues, of harmonious colours, and good forms and substance
of pottery and glass. But we shall never excel in decorative design.
Such design is usually produced by people of great natural powers of
mind, who have no variety of subjects to employ themselves on, no
oppressive anxieties, and are in circumstances either of natural
scenery or of daily life, which cause pleasurable excitement. _We_
cannot design because we have too much to think of, and we think of it
too anxiously. It has long been observed how little real anxiety exists
in the minds of the partly savage races which excel in decorative art;
and we must not suppose that the temper of the middle ages was a
troubled one, because every day brought its dangers or its changes. The
very eventfulness of the life rendered it careless, as generally is
still the case with soldiers and sailors. Now, when there are great
powers of thought, and little to think of, all the waste energy and
fancy are thrown into the manual work, and you have as much intellect
as would direct the affairs of a large mercantile concern for a day,
spent all at once, quite unconsciously, in drawing an ingenious spiral.

Also, powers of doing fine ornamental work are only to be reached by a
perpetual discipline of the hand as well as of the fancy; discipline as
attentive and painful as that which a juggler has to put himself
through, to overcome the more palpable difficulties of his profession.
The execution of the best artists is always a splendid tour-de-force,
and much that in painting is supposed to be dependent on material is
indeed only a lovely and quite inimitable legerdemain. Now, when powers
of fancy, stimulated by this triumphant precision of manual dexterity,
descend uninterruptedly from generation to generation, you have at
last, what is not so much a trained artist as a new species of animal,
with whose instinctive gifts you have no chance of contending. And thus
all our imitations of other peoples' work are futile. We must learn
first to make honest English wares, and afterward to decorate them as
may please the then approving Graces.

Secondly--and this is an incapacity of a graver kind, yet having its
own good in it also--we shall never be successful in the highest fields
of ideal or theological art.

For there is one strange, but quite essential, character in us--ever
since the Conquest, if not earlier:--a delight in the forms of burlesque
which are connected in some degree with the foulness in evil. I think
the most perfect type of a true English mind in its best possible
temper, is that of Chaucer; and you will find that, while it is for
the most part full of thoughts of beauty, pure and wild like that of
an April morning, there are, even in the midst of this, sometimes
momentarily jesting passages which stoop to play with evil--while the
power of listening to and enjoying the jesting of entirely gross
persons, whatever the feeling may be which permits it, afterwards
degenerates into forms of humour which render some of quite the
greatest, wisest, and most moral of English writers now almost useless
for our youth. And yet you will find that whenever Englishmen are
wholly without this instinct, their genius is comparatively weak and

Now, the first necessity for the doing of any great work in ideal art,
is the looking upon all foulness with horror, as a contemptible though
dreadful enemy. You may easily understand what I mean, by comparing
the feelings with which Dante regards any form of obscenity or of base
jest, with the temper in which the same things are regarded by
Shakspere. And this strange earthly instinct of ours, coupled as it
is, in our good men, with great simplicity and common sense, renders
them shrewd and perfect observers and delineators of actual nature,
low or high; but precludes them from that speciality of art which is
properly called sublime. If ever we try anything in the manner of
Michael Angelo or of Dante, we catch a fall, even in literature, as
Milton in the battle of the angels, spoiled from Hesiod:[174] while in
art, every attempt in this style has hitherto been the sign either of
the presumptuous egotism of persons who had never really learned to be
workmen, or it has been connected with very tragic forms of the
contemplation of death,--it has always been partly insane, and never
once wholly successful.

But we need not feel any discomfort in these limitations of our
capacity. We can do much that others cannot, and more than we have
ever yet ourselves completely done. Our first great gift is in the
portraiture of living people--a power already so accomplished in both
Reynolds and Gainsborough, that nothing is left for future masters but
to add the calm of perfect workmanship to their vigour and felicity of
perception. And of what value a true school of portraiture may become
in the future, when worthy men will desire only to be known, and
others will not fear to know them, for what they truly were, we cannot
from any past records of art influence yet conceive. But in my next
address it will be partly my endeavour to show you how much more
useful, because more humble, the labour of great masters might have
been, had they been content to bear record of the souls that were
dwelling with them on earth, instead of striving to give a deceptive
glory to those they dreamed of in heaven.

Secondly, we have an intense power of invention and expression in
domestic drama; (King Lear and Hamlet being essentially domestic in
their strongest motives of interest). There is a tendency at this
moment towards a noble development of our art in this direction,
checked by many adverse conditions, which may be summed in one,--the
insufficiency of generous civic or patriotic passion in the heart of
the English people; a fault which makes its domestic affections
selfish, contracted, and, therefore, frivolous.

Thirdly, in connection with our simplicity and good-humour, and partly
with that very love of the grotesque which debases our ideal, we have a
sympathy with the lower animals which is peculiarly our own; and which,
though it has already found some exquisite expression in the works of
Bewick and Landseer, is yet quite undeveloped. This sympathy, with the
aid of our now authoritative science of physiology, and in association
with our British love of adventure, will, I hope, enable us to give to
the future inhabitants of the globe an almost perfect record of the
present forms of animal life upon it, of which many are on the point of
being extinguished....

While I myself hold this professorship, I shall direct you in these
exercises very definitely to natural history, and to landscape; not
only because in these two branches I am probably able to show you
truths which might be despised by my successors; but because I think
the vital and joyful study of natural history quite the principal
element requiring introduction, not only into University, but into
national, education, from highest to lowest; and I even will risk
incurring your ridicule by confessing one of my fondest dreams, that I
may succeed in making some of you English youths like better to look at
a bird than to shoot it; and even desire to make wild creatures tame,
instead of tame creatures wild. And for the study of landscape, it is,
I think, now calculated to be of use in deeper, if not more important
modes, than that of natural science, for reasons which I will ask you
to let me state at some length.

Observe first;--no race of men which is entirety bred in wild country,
far from cities, ever enjoys landscape. They may enjoy the beauty of
animals, but scarcely even that: a true peasant cannot see the beauty
of cattle; but only the qualities expressive of their serviceableness.
I waive discussion of this to-day; permit my assertion of it, under my
confident guarantee of future proof. Landscape can only be enjoyed by
cultivated persons; and it is only by music, literature, and painting,
that cultivation can be given. Also, the faculties which are thus
received are hereditary; so that the child of an educated race has an
innate instinct for beauty, derived from arts practised hundreds of
years before its birth. Now farther note this, one of the loveliest
things in human nature. In the children of noble races, trained by
surrounding art, and at the same time in the practice of great deeds,
there is an intense delight in the landscape of their country as
_memorial_; a sense not taught to them, nor teachable to any others;
but, in them, innate; and the seal and reward of persistence in great
national life;--the obedience and the peace of ages having extended
gradually the glory of the revered ancestors also to the ancestral
land; until the Motherhood of the dust, the mystery of the Demeter from
whose bosom we came, and to whose bosom we return, surrounds and
inspires, everywhere, the local awe of field and fountain; the
sacredness of landmark that none may remove, and of wave that none may
pollute; while records of proud days, and of dear persons, make every
rock monumental with ghostly inscription, and every path lovely with
noble desolateness.

Now, however checked by lightness of temperament, the instinctive love
of landscape in us has this deep root, which, in your minds, I will
pray you to disencumber from whatever may oppress or mortify it, and to
strive to feel with all the strength of your youth that a nation is
only worthy of the soil and the scenes that it has inherited, when,
by all its acts and arts, it is making them more lovely for its

But if either our work, or our inquiries, are to be indeed successful
in their own field, they must be connected with others of a sterner
character. Now listen to me, if I have in these past details lost or
burdened your attention; for this is what I have chiefly to say to you.
The art of any country _is the exponent of its social and political
virtues_. I will show you that it is so in some detail, in the second
of my subsequent course of lectures; meantime accept this as one of the
things, and the most important of all things, I can positively declare
to you. The art, or general productive and formative energy, of any
country, is an exact exponent of its ethical life. You can have noble
art only from noble persons, associated under laws fitted to their time
and circumstances. And the best skill that any teacher of art could
spend here in your help, would not end in enabling you even so much as
rightly to draw the water-lilies in the Cherwell (and though it did,
the work when done would not be worth the lilies themselves) unless
both he and you were seeking, as I trust we shall together seek, in the
laws which regulate the finest industries, the clue to the laws which
regulate all industries, and in better obedience to which we shall
actually have henceforward to live: not merely in compliance with our
own sense of what is right, but under the weight of quite literal
necessity. For the trades by which the British people has believed it
to be the highest of destinies to maintain itself, cannot now long
remain undisputed in its hands; its unemployed poor are daily becoming
more violently criminal; and a certain distress in the middle classes,
arising, _partly from their vanity in living always up to their
incomes, and partly from, their folly in imagining that they can
subsist in idleness upon usury_, will at last compel the sons and
daughters of English families to acquaint themselves with the
principles of providential economy; and to learn that food can only be
got out of the ground, and competence only secured by frugality; and
that although it is not possible for all to be occupied in the highest
arts, nor for any, guiltlessly, to pass their days in a succession of
pleasures, the most perfect mental culture possible to men is founded
on their useful energies, and their best arts and brightest happiness
are consistent, and consistent only, with their virtue.

This, I repeat, gentlemen, will soon become manifest to those among us,
and there are yet many, who are honest-hearted. And the future fate of
England depends upon the position they then take, and on their courage
in maintaining it.

There is a destiny now possible to us--the highest ever set before a
nation to be accepted or refused. We are still undegenerate in race; a
race mingled of the best northern blood. We are not yet dissolute in
temper, but still have the firmness to govern, and the grace to obey.
We have been taught a religion of pure mercy, which we must either now
betray, or learn to defend by fulfilling. And we are rich in an
inheritance of honour, bequeathed to us through a thousand years of
noble history, which it should be our daily thirst to increase with
splendid avarice, so that Englishmen, if it be a sin to covet honour,
should be the most offending souls alive.[175] Within the last few years
we have had the laws of natural science opened to us with a rapidity
which has been blinding by its brightness; and means of transit and
communication given to us, which have made but one kingdom of the
habitable globe. One kingdom;--but who is to be its king? Is there to
be no king in it, think you, and every man to do that which is right in
his own eyes? Or only kings of terror, and the obscene empires of
Mammon and Belial? Or will you, youths of England, make your country
again a royal throne of kings; a sceptred isle, for all the world a
source of light, a centre of peace; mistress of Learning and of the
Arts;--faithful guardian of great memories in the midst of irreverent
and ephemeral visions;--faithful servant of time-tried principles,
under temptation from fond experiments and licentious desires; and
amidst the cruel and clamorous jealousies of the nations, worshipped in
her strange valour of goodwill toward men?[176]

"Vexilla regis prodeunt."[177] Yes, but of which king? There are the
two oriflammes; which shall we plant on the farthest islands--the one
that floats in heavenly fire, or that hangs heavy with foul tissue of
terrestrial gold? There is indeed a course of beneficent glory open to
us, such as never was yet offered to any poor group of mortal souls.
But it must be--it _is_ with us, now. "Reign or Die." And if it shall
be said of this country, "Fece per viltate, il gran rifiuto,"[178]
that refusal of the crown will be, of all yet recorded in history,
the shamefullest and most untimely.

And this is what she must either do, or perish: she must found
colonies as fast and as far as she is able, formed of her most
energetic and worthiest men;--seizing every piece of fruitful waste
ground she can set her foot on, and there teaching these her
colonists that their chief virtue is to be fidelity to their country,
and that their first aim is to be to advance the power of England by
land and sea: and that, though they live on a distant plot of ground,
they are no more to consider themselves therefore disfranchised from
their native land, than the sailors of her fleets do, because they
float on distant waves. So that literally, these colonies must be
fastened fleets; and every man of them must be under authority of
captains and officers, whose better command is to be over fields and
streets instead of ships of the line; and England, in these her
motionless navies (or, in the true and mightiest sense, motionless
_churches_, ruled by pilots on the Galilean lake[179] of all the
world), is to "expect every man to do his duty";[180] recognizing
that duty is indeed possible no less in peace than war; and that if we
can get men, for little pay, to cast themselves against cannon-mouths
for love of England, we may find men also who will plough and sow for
her, who will behave kindly and righteously for her, who will bring up
their children to love her, and who will gladden themselves in the
brightness of her glory, more than in all the light of tropic skies.

But that they may be able to do this, she must make her own majesty
stainless; she must give them thoughts of their home of which they can
be proud. The England who is to be mistress of half the earth, cannot
remain herself a heap of cinders, trampled by contending and miserable
crowds; she must yet again become the England she was once, and in all
beautiful ways,--more: so happy, so secluded, and so pure, that in her
sky--polluted by no unholy clouds--she may be able to spell rightly of
every star that heaven doth show; and in her fields, ordered and wide
and fair, of every herb that sips the dew;[181] and under the green
avenues of her enchanted garden, a sacred Circe, true Daughter of the
Sun, she must guide the human arts, and gather the divine knowledge, of
distant nations, transformed from savageness to manhood, and redeemed
from despairing into Peace.

You think that an impossible ideal. Be it so; refuse to accept it if
you will; but see that you form your own in its stead. All that I ask
of you is to have a fixed purpose of some kind for your country and
yourselves; no matter how restricted, so that it be fixed and
unselfish. I know what stout hearts are in you, to answer acknowledged
need; but it is the fatallest form of error in English youth to hide
their hardihood till it fades for lack of sunshine, and to act in
disdain of purpose, till all purpose is vain. It is not by deliberate,
but by careless selfishness; not by compromise with evil, but by dull
following of good, that the weight of national evil increases upon us
daily. Break through at least this pretence of existence; determine
what you will be, and what you would win. You will not decide wrongly
if you resolve to decide at all. Were even the choice between lawless
pleasure and loyal suffering, you would not, I believe, choose basely.
But your trial is not so sharp. It is between drifting in confused
wreck among the castaways of Fortune, who condemns to assured ruin
those who know not either how to resist her, or obey; between this, I
say, and the taking of your appointed part in the heroism of Rest; the
resolving to share in the victory which is to the weak rather than the
strong; and the binding yourselves by that law, which, thought on
through lingering night and labouring day, makes a man's life to be as
a tree planted by the water-side, that bringeth forth his fruit in his


  [172] Turner.

  [173] The tool of the engraver on copper.

  [174] See _Paradise Lost_, 6. 207 ff., and Hesiod's _Theogony_, 676 ff.

  [175] _Henry V_, 4. 3. 29.

  [176] _Luke_ ii, 14.

  [177] "Forward go the banners of the King," or more commonly, "The
  royal banners forward go." One of the seven great hymns of the Church.
  See the Episcopal Hymnal, 94.

  [178] Dante, _Inferno_, 3. 60. "Who made through cowardice the great
  refusal." Longfellow's tr.

  [179] _Lyridas_, 109.

  [180] Nelson's famous signal at Trafalgar.

  [181] Milton's _Il Penseroso_, 170 ff.

  [182] _Psalms_ i, 3.


And now I pass to the arts with which I have special concern, in
which, though the facts are exactly the same, I shall have more
difficulty in proving my assertion, because very few of us are as
cognizant of the merit of painting as we are of that of language; and
I can only show you whence that merit springs, after having thoroughly
shown you in what it consists. But, in the meantime, I have simply to
tell you, that the manual arts are as accurate exponents of ethical
state, as other modes of expression; first, with absolute precision,
of that of the workman; and then with precision, disguised by many
distorting influences, of that of the nation to which it belongs.

And, first, they are a perfect exponent of the mind of the workman:
but, being so, remember, if the mind be great or complex, the art is
not an easy book to read; for we must ourselves possess all the mental
characters of which we are to read the signs. No man can read the
evidence of labour who is not himself laborious, for he does not know
what the work cost: nor can he read the evidence of true passion if he
is not passionate; nor of gentleness if he is not gentle: and the most
subtle signs of fault and weakness of character he can only judge by
having had the same faults to fight with. I myself, for instance, know
impatient work, and tired work, better than most critics, because I am
myself always impatient, and often tired:--so also, the patient and
indefatigable touch of a mighty master becomes more wonderful to me
than to others. Yet, wonderful in no mean measure it will be to you
all, when I make it manifest;--and as soon as we begin our real work,
and you have learned what it is to draw a true line, I shall be able
to make manifest to you,--and undisputably so,--that the day's work of
a man like Mantegna or Paul Veronese consists of an unfaltering,
uninterrupted, succession of movements of the hand more precise than
those of the finest fencer: the pencil leaving one point and arriving
at another, not only with unerring precision at the extremity of the
line, but with an unerring and yet varied course--sometimes over
spaces a foot or more in extent--yet a course so determined everywhere
that either of these men could, and Veronese often does, draw a
finished profile, or any other portion of the contour of the face,
with one line, not afterwards changed. Try, first, to realize to
yourselves the muscular precision of that action, and the intellectual
strain of it; for the movement of a fencer is perfect in practised
monotony; but the movement of the hand of a great painter is at every
instant governed by direct and new intention. Then imagine that
muscular firmness and subtlety, and the instantaneously selective and
ordinant energy of the brain, sustained all day long, not only without
fatigue, but with a visible joy in the exertion, like that which an
eagle seems to take in the wave of his wings; and this all life long,
and through long life, not only without failure of power, but with
visible increase of it, until the actually organic changes of old age.
And then consider, so far as you know anything of physiology, what
sort of an ethical state of body and mind that means!--ethic through
ages past! what fineness of race there must be to get it, what
exquisite balance and symmetry of the vital powers! And then, finally,
determine for yourselves whether a manhood like that is consistent
with any viciousness of soul, with any mean anxiety, any gnawing lust,
any wretchedness of spite or remorse, any consciousness of rebellion
against law of God or man, or any actual, though unconscious violation
of even the least law to which obedience is essential for the glory of
life, and the pleasing of its Giver.

It is, of course, true that many of the strong masters had deep faults
of character, but their faults always show in their work. It is true
that some could not govern their passions; if so, they died young, or
they painted ill when old. But the greater part of our misapprehension
in the whole matter is from our not having well known who the great
painters were, and taking delight in the petty skill that was bred in
the fumes of the taverns of the North, instead of theirs who breathed
empyreal air, sons of the morning, under the woods of Assisi and the
crags of Cadore.

It is true however also, as I have pointed out long ago, that the
strong masters fall into two great divisions, one leading simple and
natural lives, the other restrained in a Puritanism of the worship of
beauty; and these two manners of life you may recognize in a moment
by their work. Generally the naturalists are the strongest; but there
are two of the Puritans, whose work if I can succeed in making
clearly understandable to you during my three years[183] here, it is
all I need care to do. But of these two Puritans one I cannot name
to you, and the other I at present will not. One I cannot, for no one
knows his name, except the baptismal one, Bernard, or "dear little
Bernard"--Bernardino, called from his birthplace, (Luino, on the Lago
Maggiore,) Bernard of Luino. The other is a Venetian, of whom many of
you probably have never heard, and of whom, through me, you shall not
hear, until I have tried to get some picture by him over to England.

Observe then, this Puritanism in the worship of beauty, though
sometimes weak, is always honourable and amiable, and the exact
reverse of the false Puritanism, which consists in the dread or
disdain of beauty. And in order to treat my subject rightly, I ought
to proceed from the skill of art to the choice of its subject, and
show you how the moral temper of the workman is shown by his seeking
lovely forms and thoughts to express, as well as by the force of his
hand in expression. But I need not now urge this part of the proof on
you, because you are already, I believe, sufficiently conscious of the
truth in this matter, and also I have already said enough of it in my
writings; whereas I have not at all said enough of the infallibleness
of fine technical work as a proof of every other good power. And
indeed it was long before I myself understood the true meaning of the
pride of the greatest men in their mere execution, shown for a
permanent lesson to us, in the stories which, whether true or not,
indicate with absolute accuracy the general conviction of great
artists;--the stories of the contest of Apelles and Protogenes[184] in
a line only, (of which I can promise you, you shall know the meaning
to some purpose in a little while),--the story of the circle of
Giotto,[185] and especially, which you may perhaps not have observed,
the expression of Dürer in his inscription on the drawings sent him by
Raphael. These figures, he says, "Raphael drew and sent to Albert
Dürer in Nurnberg, to show him"--What? Not his invention, nor his
beauty of expression, but "sein Hand zu weisen," "to show him his
_hand_." And you will find, as you examine farther, that all inferior
artists are continually trying to escape from the necessity of sound
work, and either indulging themselves in their delights in subject, or
pluming themselves on their noble motives for attempting what they
cannot perform; (and observe, by the way, that a great deal of what is
mistaken for conscientious motive is nothing but a very pestilent,
because very subtle, condition of vanity); whereas the great men
always understand at once that the first morality of a painter, as of
everybody else, is to know his business; and so earnest are they in
this, that many, whose lives you would think, by the results of their
work, had been passed in strong emotion, have in reality subdued
themselves, though capable of the very strongest passions, into a calm
as absolute as that of a deeply sheltered mountain lake, which
reflects every agitation of the clouds in the sky, and every change of
the shadows on the hills, but AS itself motionless.

Finally, you must remember that great obscurity has been brought upon
the truth in this matter by the want of integrity and simplicity in
our modern life. I mean integrity in the Latin sense, wholeness.
Everything is broken up, and mingled in confusion, both in our habits
and thoughts; besides being in great part imitative: so that you not
only cannot tell what a man is, but sometimes you cannot tell whether
he _is_, at all!--whether you have indeed to do with a spirit, or
only with an echo. And thus the same inconsistencies appear now,
between the work of artists of merit and their personal characters, as
those which you find continually disappointing expectation in the
lives of men of modern literary power;--the same conditions of society
having obscured or misdirected the best qualities of the imagination,
both in our literature and art. Thus there is no serious question with
any of us as to the personal character of Dante and Giotto, of
Shakespeare and Holbein; but we pause timidly in the attempt to
analyze the moral laws of the art skill in recent poets, novelists,
and painters.

Let me assure you once for all, that as you grow older, if you enable
yourselves to distinguish by the truth of your own lives, what is true
in those of other men, you will gradually perceive that all good has
its origin in good, never in evil; that the fact of either literature
or painting being truly fine of their kind, whatever their mistaken
aim, or partial error, is proof of their noble origin: and that, if
there is indeed sterling value in the thing done, it has come of a
sterling worth in the soul that did it, however alloyed or defiled by
conditions of sin which are sometimes more appalling or more strange
than those which all may detect in their own hearts, because they are
part of a personality altogether larger than ours, and as far beyond
our judgment in its darkness as beyond our following in its light. And
it is sufficient warning against what some might dread as the probable
effect of such a conviction on your own minds, namely, that you might
permit yourselves in the weaknesses which you imagined to be allied to
genius, when they took the form of personal temptations;--it is
surely, I say, sufficient warning against so mean a folly, to discern,
as you may with little pains, that, of all human existences, the lives
of men of that distorted and tainted nobility of intellect are
probably the most miserable.

I pass to the second, and for us the more practically important
question, What is the effect of noble art upon other men; what has it
done for national morality in time past: and what effect is the
extended knowledge or possession of it likely to have upon us now?
And here we are at once met by the facts, which are as gloomy as
indisputable, that, while many peasant populations, among whom
scarcely the rudest practice of art has ever been attempted, have
lived in comparative innocence, honour, and happiness, the worst
foulness and cruelty of savage tribes have been frequently associated
with fine ingenuities of decorative design; also, that no people has
ever attained the higher stages of art skill, except at a period of
its civilization which was sullied by frequent, violent, and even
monstrous crime; and, lastly, that the attaining of perfection in art
power, has been hitherto, in every nation, the accurate signal of the
beginning of its ruin.

Respecting which phenomena, observe first, that although good never
springs out of evil, it is developed to its highest by contention with
evil. There are some groups of peasantry, in far-away nooks of
Christian countries, who are nearly as innocent as lambs; but the
morality which gives power to art is the morality of men, not of

Secondly, the virtues of the inhabitants of many country districts are
apparent, not real; their lives are indeed artless, but not innocent;
and it is only the monotony of circumstances, and the absence of
temptation, which prevent the exhibition of evil passions not less
real because often dormant, nor less foul because shown only in petty
faults, or inactive malignities.

But you will observe also that _absolute_ artlessness, to men in any
kind of moral health, is impossible; they have always, at least, the
art by which they live--agriculture or seamanship; and in these
industries, skilfully practised, you will find the law of their moral
training; while, whatever the adversity of circumstances, every
rightly-minded peasantry, such as that of Sweden, Denmark, Bavaria, or
Switzerland, has associated with its needful industry a quite studied
school of pleasurable art in dress; and generally also in song, and
simple domestic architecture.

Again, I need not repeat to you here what I endeavoured to explain in
the first lecture in the book I called _The Two Paths_, respecting the
arts of savage races: but I may now note briefly that such arts are
the result of an intellectual activity which has found no room to
expand, and which the tyranny of nature or of man has condemned to
disease through arrested growth. And where neither Christianity, nor
any other religion conveying some moral help, has reached, the animal
energy of such races necessarily flames into ghastly conditions of
evil, and the grotesque or frightful forms assumed by their art are
precisely indicative of their distorted moral nature.

But the truly great nations nearly always begin from a race possessing
this imaginative power; and for some time their progress is very slow,
and their state not one of innocence, but of feverish and faultful
animal energy. This is gradually subdued and exalted into bright human
life; the art instinct purifying itself with the rest of the nature,
until social perfectness is nearly reached; and then comes the period
when conscience and intellect are so highly developed, that new forms
of error begin in the inability to fulfil the demands of the one, or
to answer the doubts of the other. Then the wholeness of the people is
lost; all kinds of hypocrisies and oppositions of science develope
themselves; their faith is questioned on one side, and compromised
with on the other; wealth commonly increases at the same period to a
destructive extent; luxury follows; and the ruin of the nation is then
certain: while the arts, all this time, are simply, as I said at first,
the exponents of each phase of its moral state, and no more control it
in its political career than the gleam of the firefly guides its
oscillation. It is true that their most splendid results are usually
obtained in the swiftness of the power which is hurrying to the
precipice; but to lay the charge of the catastrophe to the art by
which it is illumined, is to find a cause for the cataract in the hues
of its iris. It is true that the colossal vices belonging to periods
of great national wealth (for wealth, you will find, is the real root
of all evil)[186] can turn every good gift and skill of nature or of
man to evil purpose. If, in such times, fair pictures have been
misused, how much more fair realities? And if Miranda is immoral to
Caliban is that Miranda's fault?

  [183] As Slade Professor, Ruskin held a three years' appointment at

  [184] This story comes from Pliny, _Natural History_, 35. 36; the
  two rival painters alternately showing their skill by the drawing
  of lines of increasing fineness.

  [185] This story comes from Vasari's _Lives of the Painters_. See
  Blashfield and Hopkins's ed. vol. 1, p. 61. Giotto was asked by a
  messenger of the Pope for a specimen of his work, and sent a perfect
  circle, drawn free hand.

  [186] _Timothy_ vi, 10.


Our subject of inquiry to-day, you will remember, is the mode in
which fine art is founded upon, or may contribute to, the practical
requirements of human life.

Its offices in this respect are mainly twofold: it gives Form to
knowledge, and Grace to utility; that is to say, it makes permanently
visible to us things which otherwise could neither be described by
our science, nor retained by our memory; and it gives delightfulness
and worth to the implements of daily use, and materials of dress,
furniture and lodging. In the first of these offices it gives
precision and charm to truth; in the second it gives precision and
charm to service. For, the moment we make anything useful thoroughly,
it is a law of nature that we shall be pleased with ourselves, and
with the thing we have made; and become desirous therefore to adorn
or complete it, in some dainty way, with finer art expressive of our

And the point I wish chiefly to bring before you today is this close
and healthy connection of the fine arts with material use; but I must
first try briefly to put in clear light the function of art in giving
Form to truth.

Much that I have hitherto tried to teach has been disputed on the
ground that I have attached too much importance to art as representing
natural facts, and too little to it as a source of pleasure. And I
wish, in the close of these four prefatory lectures, strongly to
assert to you, and, so far as I can in the time, convince you, that
the entire vitality of art depends upon its being either full of
truth, or full of use; and that, however pleasant, wonderful, or
impressive it may be in itself, it must yet be of inferior kind, and
tend to deeper inferiority, unless it has clearly one of these main
objects,--either to _state a true thing_, or to _adorn a serviceable
one_. It must never exist alone,--never for itself; it exists rightly
only when it is the means of knowledge, or the grace of agency for

Now, I pray you to observe--for though I have said this often before,
I have never yet said it clearly enough--every good piece of art, to
whichever of these ends it may be directed, involves first essentially
the evidence of human skill, and the formation of an actually
beautiful thing by it.

Skill and beauty, always, then; and, beyond these, the formative arts
have always one or other of the two objects which I have just defined
to you--truth, or serviceableness; and without these aims neither
the skill nor their beauty will avail; only by these can either
legitimately reign. All the graphic arts begin in keeping the outline
of shadow that we have loved, and they end in giving to it the aspect
of life; and all the architectural arts begin in the shaping of the
cup and the platter, and they end in a glorified roof.

Therefore, you see, in the graphic arts you have Skill, Beauty, and
Likeness; and in the architectural arts Skill, Beauty, and Use: and
you _must_ have the three in each group, balanced and co-ordinate; and
all the chief errors of art consist in losing or exaggerating one of
these elements.

For instance, almost the whole system and hope of modern life are
founded on the notion that you may substitute mechanism for skill,
photograph for picture, cast-iron for sculpture. That is your main
nineteenth-century faith, or infidelity. You think you can get
everything by grinding--music, literature, and painting. You will find
it grievously not so; you can get nothing but dust by mere grinding.
Even to have the barley-meal out of it, you must have the barley
first; and that comes by growth, not grinding. But essentially, we
have lost our delight in Skill; in that majesty of it which I was
trying to make clear to you in my last address, and which long
ago[187] I tried to express, under the head of ideas of power. The
entire sense of that, we have lost, because we ourselves do not take
pains enough to do right, and have no conception of what the right
costs; so that all the joy and reverence we ought to feel in looking
at a strong man's work have ceased in us. We keep them yet a little in
looking at a honeycomb or a bird's-nest; we understand that these
differ, by divinity of skill, from a lump of wax or a cluster of
sticks. But a picture, which is a much more wonderful thing than a
honeycomb or a bird's-nest,--have we not known people, and sensible
people too, who expected to be taught to produce that, in six lessons?

Well, you must have the skill, you must have the beauty, which is the
highest moral element; and then, lastly, you must have the verity or
utility, which is not the moral, but the vital element; and this
desire for verity and use is the one aim of the three that always
leads in great schools, and in the minds of great masters, without any
exception. They will permit themselves in awkwardness, they will
permit themselves in ugliness;--but they will never permit themselves
in uselessness or in unveracity.

And farther, as their skill increases, and as their grace, so much
more their desire for truth. It is impossible to find the three
motives in fairer balance and harmony than in our own Reynolds. He
rejoices in showing you his skill; and those of you who succeed in
learning what painters' work really is, will one day rejoice also,
even to laughter--that highest laughter which springs of pure delight,
in watching the fortitude and the fire of a hand which strikes forth
its will upon the canvas as easily as the wind strikes it on the sea.
He rejoices in all abstract beauty and rhythm and melody of design; he
will never give you a colour that is not lovely, nor a shade that is
unnecessary, nor a line that is ungraceful. But all his power and all
his invention are held by him subordinate,--and the more obediently
because of their nobleness,-to his true leading purpose of setting
before you such likeness of the living presence of an English
gentleman or an English lady, as shall be worthy of being looked upon
for ever.

But farther, you remember, I hope--for I said it in a way that I
thought would shock you a little, that you might remember it--my
statement, that art had never done more than this, never more than
given the likeness of a noble human being. Not only so, but it very
seldom does so much as this, and the best pictures that exist of the
great schools are all portraits, or groups of portraits, often of very
simple and nowise noble persons. You may have much more brilliant and
impressive qualities in imaginative pictures; you may have figures
scattered like clouds, or garlanded like flowers; you may have light
and shade as of a tempest, and colour, as of the rainbow; but all that
is child's play to the great men, though it is astonishment to us.
Their real strength is tried to the utmost, and as far as I know, it
is never elsewhere brought out so thoroughly, as in painting one man
or woman, and the soul that was in them; nor that always the highest
soul, but often only a thwarted one that was capable of height; or
perhaps not even that, but faultful and poor, yet seen through, to the
poor best of it, by the masterful sight. So that in order to put
before you in your Standard series the best art possible, I am
obliged, even from the very strongest men, to take the portraits,
before I take the idealism. Nay, whatever is best in the great
compositions themselves has depended on portraiture; and the study
necessary to enable you to understand invention will also convince you
that the mind of man never invented a greater thing than the form of
man, animated by faithful life. Every attempt to refine or exalt such
healthy humanity has weakened or caricatured it; or else consists only
in giving it, to please our fancy, the wings of birds, or the eyes of
antelopes. Whatever is truly great in either Greek or Christian art,
is also restrictedly human; and even the raptures of the redeemed
souls who enter "celestemente ballando,"[188] the gate of Angelico's
Paradise, were seen first in the terrestrial, yet most pure, mirth of
Florentine maidens.

I am aware that this cannot but at present appear gravely questionable
to those of my audience who are strictly cognizant of the phases of
Greek art; for they know that the moment of its decline is accurately
marked, by its turning from abstract form to portraiture. But the
reason of this is simple. The progressive course of Greek art was in
subduing monstrous conceptions to natural ones; it did this by general
laws; it reached absolute truth of generic human form, and if its
ethical force had remained, would have advanced into healthy
portraiture. But at the moment of change the national life ended in
Greece; and portraiture, there, meant insult to her religion, and
flattery to her tyrants. And her skill perished, not because she
became true in sight, but because she became vile in heart....

But I have told you enough, it seems to me, at least to-day, of this
function of art in recording fact; let me now finally, and with all
distinctness possible to me, state to you its main business of
all;--its service in the actual uses of daily life.

You are surprised, perhaps, to hear me call this its main business.
That is indeed so, however. The giving brightness to picture is much,
but the giving brightness to life more. And remember, were it as
patterns only, you cannot, without the realities, have the pictures.
_You cannot have a landscape by Turner without a country for him to
paint; you cannot have a portrait by Titian, without a man to be
pourtrayed_. I need not prove that to you, I suppose, in these short
terms; but in the outcome I can get no soul to believe that the
beginning of art _is in getting our country clean, and our people
beautiful_. I have been ten years trying to get this very plain
certainty--I do not say believed--but even thought of, as anything but
a monstrous proposition. To get your country clean, and your people
lovely;--I assure you that is a necessary work of art to begin with!
There has indeed been art in countries where people lived in dirt to
serve God, but never in countries where they lived in dirt to serve
the devil. There has indeed been art where the people were not all
lovely,--where even their lips were thick--and their skins black,
because the sun had looked upon them;[189] but never in a country
where the people were pale with miserable toil and deadly shade, and
where the lips of youth, instead of being full with blood, were
pinched by famine, or warped with poison. And now, therefore, note
this well, the gist of all these long prefatory talks. I said that the
two great moral instincts were those of Order and Kindness. Now, all
the arts are founded on agriculture by the hand, and on the graces and
kindness of feeding, and dressing, and lodging your people. Greek art
begins in the gardens of Alcinous--perfect order, leeks in beds, and
fountains in pipes.[190] And Christian art, as it arose out of
chivalry, was only possible so far as chivalry compelled both kings
and knights to care for the right personal training of their people;
it perished utterly when those kings and knights became [Greek:
daemoboroi], devourers of the people. And it will become possible
again only, when, literally, the sword is beaten into the
ploughshare,[191] when your St. George of England shall justify his
name,[192] and Christian art shall be known as its Master was, in
breaking of bread.[193]

Now look at the working out of this broad principle in minor detail;
observe how, from highest to lowest, health of art has first depended
on reference to industrial use. There is first the need of cup and
platter, especially of cup; for you can put your meat on the
Harpies',[194] or any other, tables; but you must have your cup to
drink from. And to hold it conveniently, you must put a handle to it;
and to fill it when it is empty you must have a large pitcher of some
sort; and to carry the pitcher you may most advisably have two
handles. Modify the forms of these needful possessions according to
the various requirements of drinking largely and drinking delicately;
of pouring easily out, or of keeping for years the perfume in; of
storing in cellars, or bearing from fountains; of sacrificial
libation, of Pan-athenaic treasure of oil, and sepulchral treasure of
ashes,--and you have a resultant series of beautiful form and
decoration, from the rude amphora of red earth up to Cellini's vases
of gems and crystal, in which series, but especially in the more
simple conditions of it, are developed the most beautiful lines and
most perfect types of severe composition which have yet been attained
by art.

But again, that you may fill your cup with pure water, you must go to
the well or spring; you need a fence round the well; you need some
tube or trough, or other means of confining the stream at the spring.
For the conveyance of the current to any distance you must build
either enclosed or open aqueduct; and in the hot square of the city
where you set it free, you find it good for health and pleasantness to
let it leap into a fountain. On these several needs you have a school
of sculpture founded; in the decoration of the walls of wells in level
countries, and of the sources of springs in mountainous ones, and
chiefly of all, where the women of household or market meet at the
city fountain.

There is, however, a farther reason for the use of art here than in
any other material service, so far as we may, by art, express our
reverence or thankfulness. Whenever a nation is in its right mind, it
always has a deep sense of divinity in the gift of rain from heaven,
filling its heart with food and gladness;[195] and all the more when
that gift becomes gentle and perennial in the flowing of springs. It
literally is not possible that any fruitful power of the Muses should
be put forth upon a people which disdains their Helicon; still less is
it possible that any Christian nation should grow up "tanquam lignum
quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum,"[196] which cannot recognize
the lesson meant in their being told of the places where Rebekah was
met;--where Rachel,--where Zipporah,--and she who was asked for water
under Mount Gerizim by a Stranger, weary, who had nothing to draw

And truly, when our mountain springs are set apart in vale or craggy
glen, or glade of wood green through the drought of summer, far from
cities, then, it is best let them stay in their own happy peace; but
if near towns, and liable therefore to be defiled by common usage, we
could not use the loveliest art more worthily than by sheltering the
spring and its first pools with precious marbles: nor ought anything
to be esteemed more important, as a means of healthy education, than
the care to keep the streams of it afterwards, to as great a distance
as possible, pure, full of fish, and easily accessible to children.
There used to be, thirty years ago, a little rivulet of the Wandel,
about an inch deep, which ran over the carriage-road and under a
footbridge just under the last chalk hill near Croydon. Alas! men came
and went; and it--did _not_ go on for ever. It has long since been
bricked over by the parish authorities; but there was more education
in that stream with its minnows than you could get out of a thousand
pounds spent yearly in the parish schools, even though you were to
spend every farthing of it in teaching the nature of oxygen and
hydrogen, and the names, and rate per minute, of all the rivers in
Asia and America.

Well, the gist of this matter lies here then. Suppose we want a school
of pottery again in England, all we poor artists are ready to do the
best we can, to show you how pretty a line may be that is twisted first
to one side, and then to the other; and how a plain household-blue will
make a pattern on white; and how ideal art may be got out of the
spaniel's colours of black and tan. But I tell you beforehand, all that
we can do will be utterly useless, unless you teach your peasant to say
grace, not only before meat, but before drink; and having provided him
with Greek cups and platters, provide him also with something that is
not poisoned to put into them.

There cannot be any need that I should trace for you the conditions of
art that are directly founded on serviceableness of dress, and of
armour; but it is my duty to affirm to you, in the most positive
manner, that after recovering, for the poor, wholesomeness of food,
your next step toward founding schools of art in England must be in
recovering, for the poor, decency and wholesomeness of dress;
thoroughly good in substance, fitted for their daily work, becoming to
their rank in life, and worn with order and dignity. And this order
and dignity must be taught them by the women of the upper and middle
classes, whose minds can be in nothing right, as long as they are so
wrong in this matter us to endure the squalor of the poor, while they
themselves dress gaily. And on the proper pride and comfort of both
poor and rich in dress, must be founded the true arts of dress;
carried on by masters of manufacture no less careful of the
perfectness and beauty of their tissues, and of all that in substance
and in design can be bestowed upon them, than ever the armourers of
Milan and Damascus were careful of their steel.

Then, in the third place, having recovered some wholesome habits of
life as to food and dress, we must recover them as to lodging. I said
just now that the best architecture was but a glorified roof. Think of
it. The dome of the Vatican, the porches of Rheims or Chartres, the
vaults and arches of their aisles, the canopy of the tomb, and the
spire of the belfry, are all forms resulting from the mere requirement
that a certain space shall be strongly covered from heat and rain.
More than that--as I have tried all through _The Stones of Venice_ to
show--the lovely forms of these were every one of them developed in
civil and domestic building, and only after their invention employed
ecclesiastically on the grandest scale. I think you cannot but have
noticed here in Oxford, as elsewhere, that our modern architects never
seem to know what to do with their roofs. Be assured, until the roofs
are right, nothing else will be; and there are just two ways of
keeping them right. Never build them of iron, but only of wood or
stone; and secondly, take care that in every town the little roofs are
built before the large ones, and that everybody who wants one has got
one. And we must try also to make everybody want one. That is to say,
at some not very advanced period of life, men should desire to have a
home, which they do not wish to quit any more, suited to their habits
of life, and likely to be more and more suitable to them until their
death. And men must desire to have these their dwelling-places built
as strongly as possible, and furnished and decorated daintily, and set
in pleasant places, in bright light, and good air, being able to
choose for themselves that at least as well as swallows. And when the
houses are grouped together in cities, men must have so much civic
fellowship as to subject their architecture to a common law, and so
much civic pride as to desire that the whole gathered group of human
dwellings should be a lovely thing, not a frightful one, on the face
of the earth. Not many weeks ago an English clergyman,[198] a master of
this University, a man not given to sentiment, but of middle age, and
great practical sense, told me, by accident, and wholly without
reference to the subject now before us, that he never could enter
London from his country parsonage but with closed eyes, lest the sight
of the blocks of houses which the railroad intersected in the suburbs
should unfit him, by the horror of it, for his day's work.

Now, it is not possible--and I repeat to you, only in more deliberate
assertion, what I wrote just twenty-two years ago in the last chapter
of the _Seven Lamps of Architecture_--it is not possible to have any
right morality, happiness, or art, in any country where the cities are
thus built, or thus, let me rather say, clotted and coagulated; spots
of a dreadful mildew, spreading by patches and blotches over the
country they consume. You must have lovely cities, crystallized, not
coagulated, into form; limited in size, and not casting out the scum
and scurf of them into an encircling eruption of shame, but girded
each with its sacred pomoerium, and with garlands of gardens full of
blossoming trees and softly guided streams.

  [187] In _Modern Painters_, vol. 1.

  [188] The quotation is from Vasari's account of Angelico's Last
  Judgment (now in the Accademia at Florence). [Cook and Wedderbum.]

  [189] _Song of Solomon_ i, 6.

  [190] Cf. _Classical Landscape_, pp. 92-93.

  [191] _Isaiah_, ii, 4; _Micah_ iv, 3; _Joel_ iii, 10.

  [192] The name of St. George, the "Earthworker," or "Husbandman."

  [193] _Luke_ xxiv, 35.

  [194] Virgil, _Æneid_, 3, 209. _seqq_. [Ruskin.]

  [195] _Acts_ xiv, 17.

  [196] _Psalms_ i, 3.

  [197] _Genesis_ xxiv, 15, 16 and xxix, 10; _Exodus_ ii, 16; _John_
  iv, 11.

  [198] Osborne Gordon. [Ruskin.]



    This short selection is taken from the volume entitled _The Queen
    of the Air_, in which Ruskin, fascinated by the deep significance
    of the Greek myths and realizing the religious sincerity
    underlying them, attempts to interpret those that cluster about
    Athena. The book was published June 22, 1869. It is divided into
    three "Lectures," parts of which actually were delivered as
    lectures on different occasions, entitled respectively "Athena
    Chalinitis" (Athena in the Heavens), "Athena Keramitis" (Athena
    in the Earth), "Athena Ergane" (Athena in the Heart). The first
    lecture is the only one which keeps to the title of the book; in
    the others the legend is used merely as a starting-point for the
    expression of various pregnant ideas on social and historical
    problems. The book as a whole abounds in flashes of inspiration
    and insight, and is a favourite with many readers of Ruskin.
    Carlyle, in a letter to Froude, wrote: "Passages of that last
    book, _Queen of the Air_, went into my heart like arrows."

In different places of my writings, and through many years of
endeavour to define the laws of art, I have insisted on this Tightness
in work, and on its connection with virtue of character, in so many
partial ways, that the impression left on the reader's mind--if,
indeed, it was ever impressed at all--has been confused and uncertain.
In beginning the series of my corrected works, I wish this principle
(in my own mind the foundation of every other) to be made plain, if
nothing else is: and will try, therefore, to make it so, so far as, by
any effort, I can put it into unmistakable words. And, first, here is
a very simple statement of it, given lately in a lecture on the
Architecture of the Valley of the Somme,[199] which will be better read
in this place than in its incidental connection with my account of the
porches of Abbeville.

I had used, in a preceding part of the lecture, the expression, "by
what faults" this Gothic architecture fell. We continually speak thus
of works of art. We talk of their faults and merits, as of virtues and
vices. What do we mean by talking of the faults of a picture, or the
merits of a piece of stone?

The faults of a work of art are the faults of its workman, and its
virtues his virtues.

Great art is the expression of the mind of a great man, and mean art,
that of the want of mind of a weak man. A foolish person builds
foolishly, and a wise one, sensibly; a virtuous one, beautifully; and
a vicious one, basely. If stone work is well put together, it means
that a thoughtful man planned it, and a careful man cut it, and an
honest man cemented it. If it has too much ornament, it means that its
carver was too greedy of pleasure; if too little, that he was rude, or
insensitive, or stupid, and the like. So that when once you have
learned how to spell these most precious of all legends,--pictures
and buildings,--you may read the characters of men, and of nations, in
their art, as in a mirror;--nay, as in a microscope, and magnified a
hundredfold; for the character becomes passionate in the art, and
intensifies itself in all its noblest or meanest delights. Nay, not
only as in a microscope, but as under a scalpel, and in dissection;
for a man may hide himself from you, or misrepresent himself to you,
every other way; but he cannot in his work: there, be sure, you have
him to the inmost. All that he likes, all that he sees,--all that he
can do,--his imagination, his affections, his perseverance, his
impatience, his clumsiness, cleverness, everything is there. If the
work is a cobweb, you know it was made by a spider; if a honeycomb, by
a bee; a worm-cast is thrown up by a worm, and a nest wreathed by a
bird; and a house built by a man, worthily, if he is worthy, and
ignobly, if he is ignoble.

And always, from the least to the greatest, as the made thing is good
or bad, so is the maker of it.

You all use this faculty of judgment more or less, whether you
theoretically admit the principle or not. Take that floral gable;[200]
you don't suppose the man who built Stonehenge could have built that,
or that the man who built that, _would_ have built Stonehenge? Do you
think an old Roman would have liked such a piece of filigree work? or
that Michael Angelo would have spent his time in twisting these stems
of roses in and out? Or, of modern handicraftsmen, do you think a
burglar, or a brute, or a pickpocket could have carved it? Could Bill
Sykes have done it? or the Dodger, dexterous with finger and tool? You
will find in the end, that _no man could have done it but exactly the
man who did it_; and by looking close at it, you may, if you know your
letters, read precisely the manner of man he was.

Now I must insist on this matter, for a grave reason. Of all facts
concerning art, this is the one most necessary to be known, that,
while manufacture is the work of hands only, art is the work of the
whole spirit of man; and as that spirit is, so is the deed of it: and
by whatever power of vice or virtue any art is produced, the same vice
or virtue it reproduces and teaches. That which is born of evil begets
evil; and that which is born of valour and honour, teaches valour and
honour. Al art is either infection or education. It _must_ be one or
other of these.

This, I repeat, of all truths respecting art, is the one of which
understanding is the most precious, and denial the most deadly. And I
assert it the more, because it has of late been repeatedly, expressly,
and with contumely denied; and that by high authority: and I hold it
one of the most sorrowful facts connected with the decline of the arts
among us, that English gentlemen, of high standing as scholars and
artists, should have been blinded into the acceptance, and betrayed
into the assertion of a fallacy which only authority such as theirs
could have rendered for an instant credible. For the contrary of it is
written in the history of all great nations; it is the one sentence
always inscribed on the steps of their thrones; the one concordant
voice in which they speak to us out of their dust.

All such nations first manifest themselves as a pure and beautiful
animal race, with intense energy and imagination. They live lives of
hardship by choice, and by grand instinct of manly discipline: they
become fierce and irresistible soldiers; the nation is always its own
army, and their king, or chief head of government, is always their
first soldier. Pharaoh, or David, or Leonidas, or Valerius, or
Barbarossa, or Coeur de Lion, or St. Louis, or Dandolo, or Frederick
the Great:--Egyptian, Jew, Greek, Roman, German, English, French,
Venetian,--that is inviolable law for them all; their king must be
their first soldier, or they cannot be in progressive power. Then,
after their great military period, comes the domestic period; in
which, without betraying the discipline of war, they add to their
great soldiership the delights and possessions of a delicate and
tender home-life: and then, for all nations, is the time of their
perfect art, which is the fruit, the evidence, the reward of their
national ideal of character, developed by the finished care of the
occupations of peace. That is the history of all true art that ever
was, or can be: palpably the history of it,--unmistakably,--written on
the forehead of it in letters of light,--in tongues of fire, by which
the seal of virtue is branded as deep as ever iron burnt into a
convict's flesh the seal of crime. But always, hitherto, after the
great period, has followed the day of luxury, and pursuit of the arts
for pleasure only. And all has so ended.

Thus far of Abbeville building. Now I have here asserted two
things,--first, the foundation of art in moral character; next, the
foundation of moral character in war. I must make both these
assertions clearer, and prove them.

First, of the foundation of art in moral character. Of course art-gift
and amiability of disposition are two different things. A good man is
not necessarily a painter, nor does an eye for colour necessarily
imply an honest mind. But great art implies the union of both powers:
it is the expression, by an art-gift, of a pure soul. If the gift is
not there, we can have no art at all; and if the soul--and a right
soul too--is not there, the art is bad, however dexterous.

But also, remember, that the art-gift itself is only the result of the
moral character of generations. A bad woman may have a sweet voice;
but that sweetness of voice comes of the past morality of her race.
That she can sing with it at all, she owes to the determination of
laws of music by the morality of the past. Every act, every impulse,
of virtue and vice, affects in any creature, face, voice, nervous
power, and vigour and harmony of invention, at once. Perseverance in
rightness of human conduct, renders, after a certain number of
generations, human art possible; every sin clouds it, be it ever so
little a one; and persistent vicious living and following of pleasure
render, after a certain number of generations, all art impossible. Men
are deceived by the long-suffering of the laws of nature; and mistake,
in a nation, the reward of the virtue of its sires for the issue of
its own sins. The time of their visitation will come, and that
inevitably; for, it is always true, that if the fathers have eaten sour
grapes, the children's teeth are set on edge.[201] And for the
individual, as soon as you have learned to read, you may, as I have
said, know him to the heart's core, through his art. Let his art-gift
be never so great, and cultivated to the height by the schools of a
great race of men; and it is still but a tapestry thrown over his own
being and inner soul; and the bearing of it will show, infallibly,
whether it hangs on a man, or on a skeleton. If you are dim-eyed, you
may not see the difference in the fall of the folds at first, but
learn how to look, and the folds themselves will become transparent,
and you shall see through them the death's shape, or the divine one,
making the tissue above it as a cloud of light, or as a winding-sheet.

Then farther, observe, I have said (and you will find it true, and
that to the uttermost) that, as all lovely art is rooted in virtue, so
it bears fruit of virtue, and is didactic in its own nature. It is
often didactic also in actually expressed thought, as Giotto's,
Michael Angelo's, Dürer's, and hundreds more; but that is not its
special function,--it is didactic chiefly by being beautiful; but
beautiful with haunting thought, no less than with form, and full of
myths that can be read only with the heart.

For instance, at this moment there is open beside me as I write, a
page of Persian manuscript, wrought with wreathed azure and geld, and
soft green, and violet, and ruby and scarlet, into one field of pure
resplendence. It is wrought to delight the eyes only; and does delight
them; and the man who did it assuredly had eyes in his head; but not
much more. It is not didactic art, but its author was happy: and it
will do the good, and the harm, that mere pleasure can do. But,
opposite me, is an early Turner drawing of the lake of Geneva, taken
about two miles from Geneva, on the Lausanne road, with Mont Blanc in
the distance. The old city is seen lying beyond the waveless waters,
veiled with a sweet misty veil of Athena's weaving: a faint light of
morning, peaceful exceedingly, and almost colourless, shed from behind
the Voirons, increases into soft amber along the slope of the Salève,
and is just seen, and no more, on the fair warm fields of its summit,
between the folds of a white cloud that rests upon the grass, but
rises, high and towerlike, into the zenith of dawn above.

There is not as much colour in that low amber light upon the hill-side
as there is in the palest dead leaf. The lake is not blue, but grey in
mist, passing into deep shadow beneath the Voirons' pines; a few dark
clusters of leaves, a single white flower--scarcely seen--are all the
gladness given to the rocks of the shore. One of the ruby spots of the
eastern manuscript would give colour enough for all the red that is in
Turner's entire drawing. For the mere pleasure of the eye, there is
not so much in all those lines of his, throughout the entire
landscape, as in half an inch square of the Persian's page. What made
him take pleasure in the low colour that is only like the brown of a
dead leaf? in the cold grey of dawn--in the one white flower among the
rocks--in these--and no more than these?

He took pleasure in them because he had been bred among English fields
and hills; because the gentleness of a great race was in his heart,
and its power of thought in his brain; because he knew the stories of
the Alps, and of the cities at their feet; because he had read the
Homeric legends of the clouds, and beheld the gods of dawn, and the
givers of dew to the fields; because he knew the faces of the crags,
and the imagery of the passionate mountains, as a man knows the face
of his friend; because he had in him the wonder and sorrow concerning
life and death, which are the inheritance of the Gothic soul from the
days of its first sea kings; and also the compassion and the joy that
are woven into the innermost fabric of every great imaginative spirit,
born now in countries that have lived by the Christian faith with any
courage or truth. And the picture contains also, for us, just this
which its maker had in him to give; and can convey it to us, just so
far as we are of the temper in which it must be received. It is
didactic if we are worthy to be taught, no otherwise. The pure heart,
it will make more pure; the thoughtful, more thoughtful. It has in it
no words for the reckless or the base.

  [199] _The Flamboyant Architecture of the Valley of the Somme_, a
  lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, January 29, 1869.

  [200] The elaborate pediment above the central porch at the west
  end of Rouen Cathedral, pierced into a transparent web of tracery,
  and enriched with a border of "twisted eglantine." [Ruskin.]

  [201] _Jeremiah_ xxxi, 29.


    "Traffic" is the second of the three lectures published May, 1866,
    in the volume entitled _The Crown of Wild Olive_. All these
    lectures were delivered in the years 1864 and 1865, but the one
    here printed was earliest. The occasion on which Ruskin addressed
    the people of Bradford is made sufficiently clear from the opening
    sentences. The lecture is important as emphasizing in a popular
    way some of his most characteristic economic theories.


My good Yorkshire friends, you asked me down here among your hills
that I might talk to you about this Exchange you are going to build:
but, earnestly and seriously asking you to pardon me, I am going to do
nothing of the kind. I cannot talk, or at least can say very little,
about this same Exchange. I must talk of quite other things, though
not willingly;--I could not deserve your pardon, if, when you invited
me to speak on one subject, I _wilfully_ spoke on another. But I
cannot speak, to purpose, of anything about which I do not care; and
most simply and sorrowfully I have to tell you, in the outset, that I
do _not_ care about this Exchange of yours.

If, however, when you sent me your invitation, I had answered, "I
won't come, I don't care about the Exchange of Bradford," you would
have been justly offended with me, not knowing the reasons of so blunt
a carelessness. So I have come down, hoping that you will patiently
let me tell you why, on this, and many other such occasions, I now
remain silent, when formerly I should have caught at the opportunity
of speaking to a gracious audience.

In a word, then, I do not care about this Exchange--because _you_
don't; and because you know perfectly well I cannot make you. Look at
the essential conditions of the case, which you, as business men, know
perfectly well, though perhaps you think I forget them. You are going
to spend £30,000, which to you, collectively, is nothing; the buying a
new coat is, as to the cost of it, a much more important matter of
consideration to me, than building a new Exchange is to you. But you
think you may as well have the right thing for your money. You know
there are a great many odd styles of architecture about; you don't
want to do anything ridiculous; you hear of me, among others, as a
respectable architectural man-milliner; and you send for me, that I
may tell you the leading fashion; and what is, in our shops, for the
moment, the newest and sweetest thing in pinnacles.

Now, pardon me for telling you frankly, you cannot have good
architecture merely by asking people's advice on occasion. All good
architecture is the expression of national life and character, and it
is produced by a prevalent and eager national taste, or desire for
beauty. And I want you to think a little of the deep significance of
this word "taste"; for no statement of mine has been more earnestly or
oftener controverted than that good taste is essentially a moral
quality. "No," say many of my antagonists, "taste is one thing,
morality is another. Tell us what is pretty: we shall be glad to know
that; but we need no sermons--even were you able to preach them, which
may be doubted."

Permit me, therefore, to fortify this old dogma of mine somewhat.
Taste is not only a part and an index of morality;--it is the ONLY
morality. The first, and last, and closest trial question to any
living creature is, "What do you like?" Tell me what you like, and
I'll tell you what you are. Go out into the street, and ask the first
man or woman you meet, what their "taste" is; and if they answer
candidly, you know them, body and soul. "You, my friend in the rags,
with the unsteady gait, what do _you_ like?" "A pipe and a quartern of
gin." I know you. "You, good woman, with the quick step and tidy
bonnet, what do you like?" "A swept hearth, and a clean tea-table; and
my husband opposite me, and a baby at my breast." Good, I know you
also. "You, little girl with the golden hair and the soft eyes, what
do you like?" "My canary, and a run among the wood hyacinths." "You,
little boy with the dirty hands, and the low forehead, what do you
like?" "A shy at the sparrows, and a game at pitch farthing." Good; we
know them all now. What more need we ask?

"Nay," perhaps you answer; "we need rather to ask what these people
and children do, than what they like. If they do right, it is no
matter that they like what is wrong; and if they _do_ wrong, it is no
matter that they like what is right. Doing is the great thing; and it
does not matter that the man likes drinking, so that he does not
drink; nor that the little girl likes to be kind to her canary, if she
will not learn her lessons; nor that the little boy likes throwing
stones at the sparrows, if he goes to the Sunday school." Indeed, for
a short time, and in a provisional sense, this is true. For if,
resolutely, people do what is right, in time they come to like doing
it. But they only are in a right moral state when they _have_ come to
like doing it; and as long as they don't like it, they are still in a
vicious state. The man is not in health of body who is always thinking
of the bottle in the cupboard, though he bravely bears his thirst; but
the man who heartily enjoys water in the morning, and wine in the
evening, each in its proper quantity and time. And the entire object
of true education is to make people not merely _do_ the right things,
but _enjoy_ the right things:--not merely industrious, but to love
industry--not merely learned, but to love knowledge--not merely pure,
but to love purity--not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after

But you may answer or think, "Is the liking for outside
ornaments,--for pictures, or statues, or furniture, or
architecture,--a moral quality?" Yes, most surely, if a rightly set
liking. Taste for _any_ pictures or statues is not a moral quality,
but taste for good ones is. Only here again we have to define the word
"good." I don't mean by "good," clever--or learned--or difficult in
the doing. Take a picture by Teniers, of sots quarrelling over their
dice; it is an entirely clever picture; so clever that nothing in its
kind has ever been done equal to it; but it is also an entirely base
and evil picture. It is an expression of delight in the prolonged
contemplation of a vile thing, and delight in that is an "unmannered,"
or "immoral" quality. It is "bad taste" in the profoundest sense--it
is the taste of the devils. On the other hand, a picture of Titian's,
or a Greek statue, or a Greek coin, or a Turner landscape, expresses
delight in the perpetual contemplation of a good and perfect thing.
That is an entirely moral quality--it is the taste of the angels And
all delight in art, and all love of it, resolve themselves into simple
love of that which deserves love. That deserving is the quality which
we call "loveliness"--(we ought to have an opposite word, hateliness,
to be said of the things which deserve to be hated); and it is not an
indifferent nor optional thing whether we love this or that; but it is
just the vital function of all our being. What we _like_ determines
what we _are_, and is the sign of what we are; and to teach taste is
inevitably to form character.

As I was thinking over this, in walking up Fleet Street the other day,
my eye caught the title of a book standing open in a bookseller's
window. It was--"On the necessity of the diffusion of taste among all
classes." "Ah," I thought to myself, "my classifying friend, when you
have diffused your taste, where will your classes be? The man who
likes what you like, belongs to the same class with you, I think.
Inevitably so. You may put him to other work if you choose; but, by
the condition you have brought him into, he will dislike the other
work as much as you would yourself. You get hold of a scavenger or a
costermonger, who enjoyed the Newgate Calendar for literature, and
'Pop goes the Weasel' for music. You think you can make him like Dante
and Beethoven? I wish you joy of your lessons; but if you do, you have
made a gentleman of him:--he won't like to go back to his

And so completely and unexceptionally is this so, that, if I had time
to-night, I could show you that a nation cannot be affected by any
vice, or weakness, without expressing it, legibly, and for ever,
either in bad art, or by want of art; and that there is no national
virtue, small or great, which is not manifestly expressed in all the
art which circumstances enable the people possessing that virtue to
produce. Take, for instance, your great English virtue of enduring and
patient courage. You have at present in England only one art of any
consequence--that is, iron-working. You know thoroughly well how to
cast and hammer iron. Now, do you think, in those masses of lava which
you build volcanic cones to melt, and which you forge at the mouths of
the Infernos you have created; do you think, on those iron plates,
your courage and endurance are not written for ever,--not merely with
an iron pen, but on iron parchment? And take also your great English
vice--European vice--vice of all the world--vice of all other worlds
that roll or shine in heaven, bearing with them yet the atmosphere of
hell--the vice of jealousy, which brings competition into your
commerce, treachery into your councils, and dishonour into your
wars--that vice which has rendered for you, and for your next
neighbouring nation, the daily occupations of existence no longer
possible, but with the mail upon your breasts and the sword loose in
its sheath; so that at last, you have realized for all the multitudes
of the two great peoples who lead the so-called civilization of the
earth,--you have realized for them all, I say, in person and in
policy, what was once true only of the rough Border riders of your
Cheviot hills--

    They carved at the meal
    With gloves of steel,

And they drank the red wine through the helmet barr'd;[204] do you
think that this national shame and dastardliness of heart are not
written as legibly on every rivet of your iron armour as the strength
of the right hands that forged it?

Friends, I know not whether this thing be the more ludicrous or the
more melancholy. It is quite unspeakably both. Suppose, instead of
being now sent for by you, I had been sent for by some private
gentleman, living in a suburban house, with his garden separated only
by a fruit wall from his next door neighbour's; and he had called me
to consult with him on the furnishing of his drawing-room. I begin
looking about me, and find the walls rather bare; I think such and
such a paper might be desirable--perhaps a little fresco here and
there on the ceiling--a damask curtain or so at the windows. "Ah,"
says my employer, "damask curtains, indeed! That's all very fine, but
you know I can't afford that kind of thing just now!" "Yet the world
credits you with a splendid income!" "Ah, yes," says my friend, "but
do you know, at present I am obliged to spend it nearly all in
steel-traps?" "Steel-traps! for whom?" "Why, for that fellow on the
other side the wall, you know: we're very good friends, capital
friends; but we are obliged to keep our traps set on both sides of the
wall; we could not possibly keep on friendly terms without them, and
our spring guns. The worst of it is, we are both clever fellows
enough; and there's never a day passes that we don't find out a new
trap, or a new gun-barrel, or something; we spend about fifteen
millions a year each in our traps, take it altogether; and I don't see
how we're to do with less." A highly comic state of life for two
private gentlemen! but for two nations, it seems to me, not wholly
comic. Bedlam would be comic, perhaps, if there were only one madman
in it; and your Christmas pantomime is comic, when there is only one
clown in it; but when the whole world turns clown, and paints itself
red with its own heart's blood instead of vermilion, it is something
else than comic, I think.

Mind, I know a great deal of this is play, and willingly allow for
that. You don't know what to do with yourselves for a sensation:
fox-hunting and cricketing will not carry you through the whole of
this unendurably long mortal life: you liked pop-guns when you were
schoolboys, and rifles and Armstrongs are only the same things better
made: but then the worst of it is, that what was play to you when
boys, was not play to the sparrows; and what is play to you now, is
not play to the small birds of State neither; and for the black
eagles, you are somewhat shy of taking shots at them, if I mistake

I must get back to the matter in hand, however. Believe me, without
further instance, I could show you, in all time, that every nation's
vice, or virtue, was written in its art: the soldiership of early
Greece; the sensuality of late Italy; the visionary religion of
Tuscany; the splendid human energy and beauty of Venice. I have no
time to do this to-night (I have done it elsewhere before now);[206]
but I proceed to apply the principle to ourselves in a more searching

I notice that among all the new buildings that cover your once wild
hills, churches and schools are mixed in due, that is to say, in large
proportion, with your mills and mansions; and I notice also that the
churches and schools are almost always Gothic, and the mansions and
mills are never Gothic. Will you allow me to ask precisely the meaning
of this? For, remember, it is peculiarly a modern phenomenon. When
Gothic was invented, houses were Gothic as well as churches; and when
the Italian style superseded the Gothic, churches were Italian as well
as houses. If there is a Gothic spire to the cathedral of Antwerp,
there is a Gothic belfry to the Hotel de Ville at Brussels; if Inigo
Jones builds an Italian Whitehall, Sir Christopher Wren builds an
Italian St. Paul's.[207] But now you live under one school of
architecture, and worship under another. What do you mean by doing
this? Am I to understand that you are thinking of changing your
architecture back to Gothic; and that you treat your churches
experimentally, because it does not matter what mistakes you make in a
church? Or am I to understand that you consider Gothic a pre-eminently
sacred and beautiful mode of building, which you think, like the fine
frankincense, should be mixed for the tabernacle only, and reserved
for your religious services? For if this be the feeling, though it may
seem at first as if it were graceful and reverent, you will find that,
at the root of the matter, it signifies neither more nor less than
that you have separated your religion from your life.

For consider what a wide significance this fact has: and remember that
it is not you only, but all the people of England, who are behaving
thus, just now.

You have all got into the habit of calling the church "the house of
God." I have seen, over the doors of many churches, the legend
actually carved, "_This_ is the house of God and this is the gate of
heaven."[208] Now, note where that legend comes from, and of what
place it was first spoken. A boy leaves his father's house to go on a
long journey on foot, to visit his uncle: he has to cross a wild
hill-desert; just as if one of your own boys had to cross the wolds to
visit an uncle at Carlisle. The second or third day your boy finds
himself somewhere between Hawes and Brough, in the midst of the moors,
at sunset. It is stony ground, and boggy; he cannot go one foot
further that night. Down he lies, to sleep, on Wharnside, where best
he may, gathering a few of the stones together to put under his
head;--so wild the place is, he cannot get anything but stones. And
there, lying under the broad night, he has a dream; and he sees a
ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reaches to heaven, and
the angels of God are ascending and descending upon it. And when he
wakes out of his sleep, he says, "How dreadful is this place; surely
this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of
heaven." This PLACE, observe; not this church; not this city; not this
stone, even, which he puts up for a memorial--the piece of flint on
which his head has lain. But this _place_; this windy slope of
Wharnside; this moorland hollow, torrent-bitten, snow-blighted! this
_any_ place where God lets down the ladder. And how are you to know
where that will be? or how are you to determine where it may be, but
by being ready for it always? Do you know where the lightning is to
fall next? You _do_ know that, partly; you can guide the lightning;
but you cannot guide the going forth of the Spirit, which is that
lightning when it shines from the east to the west.[209]

But the perpetual and insolent warping of that strong verse to serve a
merely ecclesiastical purpose is only one of the thousand instances in
which we sink back into gross Judaism. We call our churches "temples."
Now, you know perfectly well they are _not_ temples. They have never
had, never can have, anything whatever to do with temples. They are
"synagogues"--"gathering places"--where you gather yourselves together
as an assembly; and by not calling them so, you again miss the force
of another mighty text--"Thou, when thou prayest, shalt not be as the
hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the churches" [we
should translate it], "that they may be seen of men. But thou, when
thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door,
pray to thy Father"--which is, not in chancel nor in aisle, but "in

Now, you feel, as I say this to you--I know you feel--as if I were
trying to take away the honour of your churches. Not so; I am trying
to prove to you the honour of your houses and your hills; not that the
Church is not sacred--but that the whole Earth is. I would have you
feel, what careless, what constant, what infectious sin there is in
all modes of thought, whereby, in calling your churches only "holy,"
you call your hearths and homes "profane"; and have separated
yourselves from the heathen by casting all your household gods to the
ground, instead of recognizing, in the place of their many and feeble
Lares, the presence of your One and Mighty Lord and Lar.

"But what has all this to do with our Exchange?" you ask me,
impatiently. My dear friends, it has just everything to do with it; on
these inner and great questions depend all the outer and little ones;
and if you have asked me down here to speak to you, because you had
before been interested in anything I have written, you must know that
all I have yet said about architecture was to show this. The book I
called _The Seven Lamps_ was to show that certain right states of
temper and moral feeling were the magic powers by which all good
architecture, without exception, had been produced. _The Stones of
Venice_ had, from beginning to end, no other aim than to show that the
Gothic architecture of Venice had arisen out of, and indicated in all
its features, a state of pure national faith, and of domestic virtue;
and that its Renaissance architecture had arisen out of, and in all
its features indicated, a state of concealed national infidelity, and
of domestic corruption. And now, you ask me what style is best to
build in, and how can I answer, knowing the meaning of the two styles,
but by another question--do you mean to build as Christians or as
Infidels? And still more--do you mean to build as honest Christians or
as honest Infidels? as thoroughly and confessedly either one or the
other? You don't like to be asked such rude questions. I cannot help
it; they are of much more importance than this Exchange business; and
if they can be at once answered, the Exchange business settles itself
in a moment. But before I press them farther, I must ask leave to
explain one point clearly.

In all my past work, my endeavour has been to show that good
architecture is essentially religious--the production of a faithful
and virtuous, not of an infidel and corrupted people. But in the
course of doing this, I have had also to show that good architecture
is not _ecclesiastical_. People are so apt to look upon religion as
the business of the clergy, not their own, that the moment they hear
of anything depending on "religion," they think it must also have
depended on the priesthood; and I have had to take what place was to
be occupied between these two errors, and fight both, often with
seeming contradiction. Good architecture is the work of good and
believing men; therefore, you say, at least some people say, "Good
architecture must essentially have been the work of the clergy, not of
the laity." No--a thousand times no; good architecture[211] has always
been the work of the commonalty, _not_ of the clergy. "What," you say,
"those glorious cathedrals--the pride of Europe--did their builders
not form Gothic architecture?" No; they corrupted Gothic architecture.
Gothic was formed in the baron's castle, and the burgher's street. It
was formed by the thoughts, and hands, and powers of labouring
citizens and warrior kings. By the monk it was used as an instrument
for the aid of his superstition; when that superstition became a
beautiful madness, and the best hearts of Europe vainly dreamed and
pined in the cloister, and vainly raged and perished in the
crusade,--through that fury of perverted faith and wasted war, the
Gothic rose also to its loveliest, most fantastic, and, finally, most
foolish dreams; and in those dreams, was lost.

I hope, now, that there is no risk of your misunderstanding me when I
come to the gist of what I want to say to-night;--when I repeat, that
every great national architecture has been the result and exponent of
a great national religion. You can't have bits of it here, bits
there--you must have it everywhere or nowhere. It is not the monopoly
of a clerical company--it is not the exponent of a theological
dogma--it is not the hieroglyphic writing of an initiated priesthood;
it is the manly language of a people inspired by resolute and common
purpose, and rendering resolute and common fidelity to the legible
laws of an undoubted God.

Now, there have as yet been three distinct schools of European
architecture. I say, European, because Asiatic and African
architectures belong so entirely to other races and climates, that
there is no question of them here; only, in passing, I will simply
assure you that whatever is good or great in Egypt, and Syria, and
India, is just good or great for the same reasons as the buildings on
our side of the Bosphorus. We Europeans, then, have had three great
religions: the Greek, which was the worship of the God of Wisdom and
Power; the Mediæval, which was the worship of the God of Judgment and
Consolation; the Renaissance, which was the worship of the God of
Pride and Beauty: these three we have had--they are past,--and now, at
last, we English have got a fourth religion, and a God of our own,
about which I want to ask you. But I must explain these three old ones

I repeat, first, the Greeks essentially worshipped the God of Wisdom;
so that whatever contended against their religion,--to the Jews a
stumbling-block,--was, to the Greeks--_Foolishness_.[212]

The first Greek idea of deity was that expressed in the word, of which
we keep the remnant in our words "_Di_-urnal" and "_Di_-vine"--the god
of _Day_, Jupiter the revealer. Athena is his daughter, but especially
daughter of the Intellect, springing armed from the head. We are only
with the help of recent investigation beginning to penetrate the depth
of meaning couched under the Athenaic symbols: but I may note rapidly,
that her ægis, the mantle with the serpent fringes, in which she
often, in the best statues, is represented as folding up her left
hand, for better guard; and the Gorgon, on her shield, are both
representative mainly of the chilling horror and sadness (turning men
to stone, as it were), of the outmost and superficial spheres of
knowledge--that knowledge which separates, in bitterness, hardness,
and sorrow, the heart of the full-grown man from the heart of the
child. For out of imperfect knowledge spring terror, dissension,
danger, and disdain; but from perfect knowledge, given by the
full-revealed Athena, strength and peace, in sign of which she is
crowned with the olive spray, and bears the resistless spear.[213]

This, then, was the Greek conception of purest Deity; and every habit
of life, and every form of his art developed themselves from the
seeking this bright, serene, resistless wisdom; and setting himself,
as a man, to do things evermore rightly and strongly;[214] not with
any ardent affection or ultimate hope; but with a resolute and
continent energy of will, as knowing that for failure there was no
consolation, and for sin there was no remission. And the Greek
architecture rose unerring, bright, clearly defined, and

Next followed in Europe the great Christian faith, which was
essentially the religion of Comfort. Its great doctrine is the
remission of sins; for which cause, it happens, too often, in certain
phases of Christianity, that sin and sickness themselves are partly
glorified, as if, the more you had to be healed of, the more divine
was the healing. The practical result of this doctrine, in art, is a
continual contemplation of sin and disease, and of imaginary states of
purification from them; thus we have an architecture conceived in a
mingled sentiment of melancholy and aspiration, partly severe, partly
luxuriant, which will bend itself to every one of our needs, and every
one of our fancies, and be strong or weak with us, as we are strong or
weak ourselves. It is, of all architecture, the basest, when base
people build it--of all, the noblest, when built by the noble.

And now note that both these religions--Greek and Mediæval--perished
by falsehood in their own main purpose. The Greek religion of Wisdom
perished in a false philosophy--"Oppositions of science, falsely so
called." The Mediæval religion of Consolation perished in false
comfort; in remission of sins given lyingly. It was the selling of
absolution that ended the Mediæval faith; and I can tell you more, it
is the selling of absolution which, to the end of time, will mark
false Christianity. Pure Christianity gives her remission of sins only
by _ending_ them; but false Christianity gets her remission of sins by
_compounding for_ them. And there are many ways of compounding for
them. We English have beautiful little quiet ways of buying
absolution, whether in low Church or high, far more cunning than any
of Tetzel's trading.[215]

Then, thirdly, there followed the religion of Pleasure, in which all
Europe gave itself to luxury, ending in death. First, _bals masqués_
in every saloon, and then guillotines in every square. And all these
three worships issue in vast temple building. Your Greek worshipped
Wisdom, and built you the Parthenon--the Virgin's temple. The Mediæval
worshipped Consolation, and built you Virgin temples also--but to our
Lady of Salvation. Then the Revivalist worshipped beauty, of a sort,
and built you Versailles and the Vatican. Now, lastly, will you tell
me what _we_ worship, and what _we_ build?

You know we are speaking always of the real, active, continual,
national worship; that by which men act, while they live; not that
which they talk of, when they die. Now, we have, indeed, a nominal
religion, to which we pay tithes of property and sevenths of time; but
we have also a practical and earnest religion, to which we devote
nine-tenths of our property and sixth-sevenths of our time. And we
dispute a great deal about the nominal religion: but we are all
unanimous about this practical one; of which I think you will admit
that the ruling goddess may be best generally described as the
"Goddess of Getting-on," or "Britannia of the Market." The Athenians
had an "Athena Agoraia," or Athena of the Market; but she was a
subordinate type of their goddess, while our Britannia Agoraia is the
principal type of ours. And all your great architectural works are, of
course, built to her. It is long since you built a great cathedral;
and how you would laugh at me if I proposed building a cathedral on
the top of one of these hills of yours, taking it for an Acropolis!
But your railroad mounds, vaster than the walls of Babylon; your
railroad stations, vaster than the temple of Ephesus, and innumerable;
your chimneys, how much more mighty and costly than cathedral spires!
your harbour-piers; your warehouses; your exchanges!--all these are
built to your great Goddess of "Getting-on"; and she has formed, and
will continue to form your architecture, as long as you worship her;
and it is quite vain to ask me to tell you how to build to _her_; you
know far better than I.

There might, indeed, on some theories, be a conceivably good
architecture for Exchanges--that is to say, if there were any heroism
in the fact or deed of exchange which might be typically carved on the
outside of your building. For, you know, all beautiful architecture
must be adorned with sculpture or painting; and for sculpture or
painting, you must have a subject. And hitherto it has been a received
opinion among the nations of the world that the only right subjects
for either, were _heroisms_ of some sort. Even on his pots and his
flagons, the Greek put a Hercules slaying lions, or an Apollo slaying
serpents, or Bacchus slaying melancholy giants, and earthborn
despondencies. On his temples, the Greek put contests of great
warriors in founding states, or of gods with evil spirits. On his
houses and temples alike, the Christian put carvings of angels
conquering devils; or of hero-martyrs exchanging this world for
another: subject inappropriate, I think, to our manner of exchange
here. And the Master of Christians not only left His followers without
any orders as to the sculpture of affairs of exchange on the outside
of buildings, but gave some strong evidence of His dislike of affairs
of exchange within them.[216] And yet there might surely be a heroism
in such affairs; and all commerce become a kind of selling of doves,
not impious. The wonder has always been great to me, that heroism has
never been supposed to be in any wise consistent with the practice of
supplying people with food, or clothes; but rather with that of
quartering one's self upon them for food, and stripping them of their
clothes. Spoiling of armour is an heroic deed in all ages; but the
selling of clothes, old, or new, has never taken any colour of
magnanimity. Yet one does not see why feeding the hungry and clothing
the naked should ever become base businesses, even when engaged in on
a large scale. If one could contrive to attach the notion of conquest
to them anyhow! so that, supposing there were anywhere an obstinate
race, who refused to be comforted, one might take some pride in giving
them compulsory comfort! and, as it were, "_occupying_ a country" with
one's gifts, instead of one's armies? If one could only consider it as
much a victory to get a barren field sown, as to get an eared field
stripped; and contend who should build villages, instead of who should
"carry" them! Are not all forms of heroism conceivable in doing these
serviceable deeds? You doubt who is strongest? It might be ascertained
by push of spade, as well as push of sword. Who is wisest? There are
witty things to be thought of in planning other business than
campaigns. Who is bravest? There are always the elements to fight
with, stronger than men; and nearly as merciless.

The only absolutely and unapproachably heroic element in the soldier's
work seems to be--that he is paid little for it--and regularly: while
you traffickers, and exchangers, and others occupied in presumably
benevolent business, like to be paid much for it--and by chance. I
never can make out how it is that a _knight_-errant does not expect to
be paid for his trouble, but a _pedlar_-errant always does;--that
people are willing to take hard knocks for nothing, but never to sell
ribands cheap; that they are ready to go on fervent crusades, to
recover the tomb of a buried God, but never on any travels to fulfil
the orders of a living one;--that they will go anywhere barefoot to
preach their faith, but must be well bribed to practise it, and are
perfectly ready to give the Gospel gratis, but never the loaves and

If you chose to take the matter up on any such soldierly principle; to
do your commerce, and your feeding of nations, for fixed salaries; and
to be as particular about giving people the best food, and the best
cloth, as soldiers are about giving them the best gunpowder, I could
carve something for you on your exchange worth looking at. But I can
only at present suggest decorating its frieze with pendant purses; and
making its pillars broad at the base, for the sticking of bills. And
in the innermost chambers of it there might be a statue of Britannia
of the Market, who may have, perhaps advisably, a partridge for her
crest, typical at once of her courage in fighting for noble ideas, and
of her interest in game; and round its neck, the inscription in golden
letters, "Perdix fovit quæ non peperit."[217] Then, for her spear, she
might have a weaver's beam; and on her shield, instead of St. George's
Cross, the Milanese boar, semi-fleeced, with the town of Gennesaret
proper, in the field; and the legend, "In the best market,"[218] and
her corslet, of leather, folded over her heart in the shape of a
purse, with thirty slits in it, for a piece of money to go in at, on
each day of the month. And I doubt not but that people would come to
see your exchange, and its goddess, with applause.

Nevertheless, I want to point out to you certain strange characters in
this goddess of yours. She differs from the great Greek and Mediæval
deities essentially in two things--first, as to the continuance of her
presumed power; secondly, as to the extent of it.

1st, as to the Continuance.

The Greek Goddess of Wisdom gave continual increase of wisdom, as the
Christian Spirit of Comfort (or Comforter) continual increase of
comfort. There was no question, with these, of any limit or cessation
of function. But with your Agora Goddess, that is just the most
important question. Getting on--but where to? Gathering together--but
how much? Do you mean to gather always--never to spend? If so, I wish
you joy of your goddess, for I am just as well off as you, without the
trouble of worshipping her at all. But if you do not spend, somebody
else will--somebody else must. And it is because of this (among many
other such errors) that I have fearlessly declared your so-called
science of Political Economy to be no science; because, namely, it has
omitted the study of exactly the most important branch of the
business--the study of _spending_. For spend you must, and as much as
you make, ultimately. You gather corn:--will you bury England under a
heap of grain; or will you, when you have gathered, finally eat? You
gather gold:--will you make your house-roofs of it, or pave your
streets with it? That is still one way of spending it. But if you keep
it, that you may get more, I'll give you more; I'll give you all the
gold you want--all you can imagine--if you can tell me what you'll do
with it. You shall have thousands of gold-pieces;--thousands of
thousands--millions--mountains, of gold: where will you keep them?
Will you put an Olympus of silver upon a golden Pelion--make Ossa like
a wart?[219] Do you think the rain and dew would then come down to
you, in the streams from such mountains, more blessedly than they will
down the mountains which God has made for you, of moss and whinstone?
But it is not gold that you want to gather! What is it? greenbacks?
No; not those neither. What is it then--is it ciphers after a capital
I? Cannot you practise writing ciphers, and write as many as you want?
Write ciphers for an hour every morning, in a big book, and say every
evening, I am worth all those noughts more than I was yesterday. Won't
that do? Well, what in the name of Plutus is it you want? Not gold,
not greenbacks, not ciphers after a capital I? You will have to
answer, after all, "No; we want, somehow or other, money's _worth_."
Well, what is that? Let your Goddess of Getting-on discover it, and
let her learn to stay therein.

2d. But there is yet another question to be asked respecting this
Goddess of Getting-on. The first was of the continuance of her power;
the second is of its extent.

Pallas and the Madonna were supposed to be all the world's Pallas, and
all the world's Madonna. They could teach all men, and they could
comfort all men. But, look strictly into the nature of the power of
your Goddess of Getting-on; and you will find she is the Goddess--not
of everybody's getting on--but only of somebody's getting on. This is
a vital, or rather deathful, distinction. Examine it in your own ideal
of the state of national life which this Goddess is to evoke and
maintain. I asked you what it was, when I was last here;--you have
never told me.[220] Now, shall I try to tell you?

Your ideal of human life then is, I think, that it should be passed in
a pleasant undulating world, with iron and coal everywhere underneath
it. On each pleasant bank of this world is to be a beautiful mansion,
with two wings; and stables, and coach-houses; a moderately-sized
park; a large garden and hot-houses; and pleasant carriage drives
through the shrubberies In this mansion are to live the favoured
votaries of the Goddess; the English gentleman, with his gracious
wife, and his beautiful family; always able to have the boudoir and
the jewels for the wife, and the beautiful ball dresses for the
daughters, and hunters for the sons, and a shooting in the Highlands
for himself. At the bottom of the bank, is to be the mill; not less
than a quarter of a mile long, with a steam engine at each end, and
two in the middle, and a chimney three hundred feet high. In this mill
are to be in constant employment from eight hundred to a thousand
workers, who never drink, never strike, always go to church on Sunday,
and always express themselves in respectful language.

Is not that, broadly, and in the main features, the kind of thing you
propose to yourselves? It is very pretty indeed seen from above; not
at all so pretty, seen from below. For, observe, while to one family
this deity is indeed the Goddess of Getting-on, to a thousand families
she is the Goddess of _not_ Getting-on. "Nay," you say, "they have all
their chance." Yes, so has every one in a lottery, but there must
always be the same number of blanks. "Ah! but in a lottery it is not
skill and intelligence which take the lead, but blind chance." What
then! do you think the old practice, that "they should take who have
the power, and they should keep who can,"[221] is less iniquitous,
when the power has become power of brains instead of fist? and that,
though we may not take advantage of a child's or a woman's weakness,
we may of a man's foolishness? "Nay, but finally, work must be done,
and some one must be at the top, some one at the bottom." Granted, my
friends. Work must always be, and captains of work must always be; and
if you in the least remember the tone of any of my writings, you must
know that they are thought unfit for this age, because they are always
insisting on need of government, and speaking with scorn of liberty.
But I beg you to observe that there is a wide difference between being
captains or governors of work, and taking the profits of it. It does
not follow, because you are general of an army, that you are to take
all the treasure, or land, it wins; (if it fight for treasure or
land;) neither, because you are king of a nation, that you are to
consume all the profits of the nation's work. Real kings, on the
contrary, are known invariably by their doing quite the reverse of
this,--by their taking the least possible quantity of the nation's
work for themselves. There is no test of real kinghood so infallible
as that. Does the crowned creature live simply, bravely,
unostentatiously? probably he _is_ a King. Does he cover his body with
jewels, and his table with delicates? in all probability he is _not_ a
King. It is possible he may be, as Solomon was; but that is when the
nation shares his splendour with him. Solomon made gold, not only to
be in his own palace as stones, but to be in Jerusalem as stones.[222]
But, even so, for the most part, these splendid kinghoods expire in
ruin, and only the true king-hoods live, which are of royal labourers
governing loyal labourers; who, both leading rough lives, establish
the true dynasties. Conclusively you will find that because you are
king of a nation, it does not follow that you are to gather for
yourself all the wealth of that nation; neither, because you are king
of a small part of the nation, and lord over the means of its
maintenance--over field, or mill, or mine,--are you to take all the
produce of that piece of the foundation of national existence for

You will tell me I need not preach against these things, for I cannot
mend them. No, good friends, I cannot; but you can, and you will; or
something else can and will. Even good things have no abiding
power--and shall these evil things persist in victorious evil? All
history shows, on the contrary, that to be the exact thing they never
can do. Change _must_ come; but it is ours to determine whether change
of growth, or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be in ruins on its
rock, and Bolton priory[223] in its meadow, but these mills of yours
be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be
as the wheels of eternity? Think you that "men may come, and men may
go," but--mills--go on for ever?[224] Not so; out of these, better or
worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which.

I know that none of this wrong is done with deliberate purpose. I
know, on the contrary, that you wish your workmen well; that you do
much for them, and that you desire to do more for them, if you saw
your way to such benevolence safely. I know that even all this wrong
and misery are brought about by a warped sense of duty, each of you
striving to do his best; but, unhappily, not knowing for whom this
best should be done. And all our hearts have been betrayed by the
plausible impiety of the modern economist, telling us that, "To do the
best for ourselves, is finally to do the best for others." Friends,
our great Master said not so; and most absolutely we shall find this
world is not made so. Indeed, to do the best for others, is finally to
do the best for ourselves; but it will not do to have our eyes fixed
on that issue. The Pagans had got beyond that. Hear what a Pagan says
of this matter; hear what were, perhaps, the last written words of
Plato,--if not the last actually written (for this we cannot know),
yet assuredly in fact and power his parting words--in which,
endeavouring to give full crowning and harmonious close to all his
thoughts, and to speak the sum of them by the imagined sentence of the
Great Spirit, his strength and his heart fail him, and the words
cease, broken off for ever. They are at the close of the dialogue
called _Critias_, in which he describes, partly from real tradition,
partly in ideal dream, the early state of Athens; and the genesis, and
order, and religion, of the fabled isle of Atlantis; in which genesis
he conceives the same first perfection and final degeneracy of man,
which in our own Scriptural tradition is expressed by saying that the
Sons of God inter-married with the daughters of men,[225] for he
supposes the earliest race to have been indeed the children of God;
and to have corrupted themselves, until "their spot was not the spot
of his children."[226] And this, he says, was the end; that indeed
"through many generations, so long as the God's nature in them yet was
full, they were submissive to the sacred laws, and carried themselves
lovingly to all that had kindred with them in divineness; for their
uttermost spirit was faithful and true, and in every wise great; so
that, in _all meekness of wisdom, they dealt with each other_, and
took all the chances of life; and despising all things except virtue,
they cared little what happened day by day, and _bore lightly the
burden_ of gold and of possessions; for they saw that, if _only their
common love and virtue increased, all these things would be increased
together with them_; but to set their esteem and ardent pursuit upon
material possession would be to lose that first, and their virtue and
affection together with it. And by such reasoning, and what of the
divine nature remained in them, they gained all this greatness of
which we have already told; but when the God's part of them faded and
became extinct, being mixed again and again, and effaced by the
prevalent mortality; and the human nature at last exceeded, they then
became unable to endure the courses of fortune; and fell into
shapelessness of life, and baseness in the sight of him who could see,
having lost everything that was fairest of their honour; while to the
blind hearts which could not discern the true life, tending to
happiness, it seemed that they were then chiefly noble and happy,
being filled with an iniquity of inordinate possession and power.
Whereupon, the God of Gods, whose Kinghood is in laws, beholding a
once just nation thus cast into misery, and desiring to lay such
punishment upon them as might make them repent into restraining,
gathered together all the gods into his dwelling-place, which from
heaven's centre overlooks whatever has part in creation; and having
assembled them, he said "--

The rest is silence. Last words of the chief wisdom of the heathen,
spoken of this idol of riches; this idol of yours; this golden image,
high by measureless cubits, set up where your green fields of England
are furnace-burnt into the likeness of the plain of Dura:[227] this
idol, forbidden to us, first of all idols, by our own Master and
faith; forbidden to us also by every human lip that has ever, in any
age or people, been accounted of as able to speak according to the
purposes of God. Continue to make that forbidden deity your principal
one, and soon no more art, no more science, no more pleasure will be
possible. Catastrophe will come; or, worse than catastrophe, slow
mouldering and withering into Hades. But if you can fix some
conception of a true human state of life to be striven for--life, good
for all men, as for yourselves; if you can determine some honest and
simple order of existence; following those trodden ways of wisdom,
which are pleasantness,[228] and seeking her quiet and withdrawn
paths, which are peace;--then, and so sanctifying wealth into
"commonwealth," all your art, your literature, your daily labours,
your domestic affection, and citizen's duty, will join and increase
into one magnificent harmony. You will know then how to build, well
enough; you will build with stone well, but with flesh better; temples
not made with hands,[229] but riveted of hearts; and that kind of
marble, crimson-veined, is indeed eternal.

  [202] Delivered in the Town Hall, Bradford, April 21, 1864.

  [203] _Matthew_ v, 6.

  [204] Scott's _Lay of the Last Minstrel_, canto 1, stanza 4.

  [205] The reference was to the reluctance of this country to take
  arms in defence of Denmark against Prussia and Austria. [Cook and

  [206] See, e.g., pp. 167 ff. and 270 ff.

  [207] Inigo Jones [1573-1652] and Sir Christopher Wren [1632-1723]
  were the best known architects of their respective generations.

  [208] _Genesis_ xxviii, 17.

  [209] _Matthew_ xxiv, 27.

  [210] _Matthew_ vi, 6.

  [211] And all other arts, for the most part; even of incredulous
  and secularly-minded commonalties. [Ruskin.]

  [212] 1 _Corinthians_ i, 23.

  [213] For further interpretation of Greek mythology see Ruskin's
  _Queen of the Air_.

  [214] It is an error to suppose that the Greek worship, or seeking,
  was chiefly of Beauty. It was essentially of Rightness and
  Strength, founded on Forethought: the principal character of Greek
  art is not beauty, but design: and the Dorian Apollo-worship and
  Athenian Virgin-worship are both expressions of adoration of divine
  wisdom and purity. Next to these great deities, rank, in power over
  the national mind, Dionysus and Ceres, the givers of human strength
  and life; then, for heroic example, Hercules. There is no
  Venus-worship among the Greeks in the great times: and the Muses
  are essentially teachers of Truth, and of its harmonies. [Ruskin.]

  [215] Tetzel's trading in Papal indulgences aroused Luther to the
  protest which ended in the Reformation.

  [216] _Matthew_ xxi, 12.

  [217] _Jeremiah_ xvii, 11 (best in Septuagint and Vulgate). "As the
  partridge, fostering what she brought not forth, so he that getteth
  riches not by right shall leave them in the midst of his days, and
  at his end shall be a fool." [Ruskin.]

  [218] Meaning, fully, "We have brought our pigs to it." [Ruskin.]

  [219] Cf. _Hamlet_, 5. 1. 306.

  [220] Referring to a lecture on _Modern Manufacture and Design_,
  delivered at Bradford, March 1, 1859 published later as Lecture III
  in _The Two Paths_.

  [221] See Wordsworth's _Rob Roy's Grave_, 39-40.

  [222] 1 Kings x, 27.

  [223] A beautiful ruin in Yorkshire.

  [224] Cf. Tennyson's _The Brook_.

  [225] _Genesis_ vi, 2.

  [226] _Deuteronomy_ xxxii, 5.

  [227] _Daniel_ iii, 1.

  [228] _Proverbs_ iii, 17.

  [229] _Acts_ vii, 48.


    This lecture, the full title of which is "The Mystery of Life and
    its Arts," was delivered in Dublin on May 13, 1868. It composed
    one of a series of afternoon lectures on various subjects,
    religion excepted, arranged by some of the foremost residents in
    Dublin. The latter half of the lecture is included in the present
    volume of selections. The first publication of the lecture was as
    an additional part to a revised edition of _Sesame and Lilies_ in
    1871. Ruskin took exceptional care in writing "The Mystery of
    Life": he once said in conversation, "I put into it all that I
    know," and in the preface to it when published he tells us that
    certain passages of it "contain the best expression I have yet
    been able to put in words of what, so far as is within my power, I
    mean henceforward both to do myself, and to plead with all over
    whom I have any influence to do according to their means." Sir
    Leslie Stephen says this "is, to my mind, the most perfect of his
    essays." In later editions of _Sesame and Lilies_ this lecture was
    withdrawn. At the time the lecture was delivered its tone was
    characteristic of Ruskin's own thought and of the attitude he then
    took toward the public.

We have sat at the feet of the poets who sang of heaven, and they have
told us their dreams. We have listened to the poets who sang of earth,
and they have chanted to us dirges and words of despair. But there is
one class of men more:--men, not capable of vision, nor sensitive to
sorrow, but firm of purpose--practised in business; learned in all
that can be, (by handling,) known. Men, whose hearts and hopes are
wholly in this present world, from whom, therefore, we may surely
learn, at least, how, at present, conveniently to live in it. What
will _they_ say to us, or show us by example? These kings--these
councillors--these statesmen and builders of kingdoms--these
capitalists and men of business, who weigh the earth, and the dust of
it, in a balance.[230] They know the world, surely; and what is the
mystery of life to us, is none to them. They can surely show us how to
live, while we live, and to gather out of the present world what is

I think I can best tell you their answer, by telling you a dream I had
once. For though I am no poet, I have dreams sometimes:--I dreamed I
was at a child's May-day party, in which every means of entertainment
had been provided for them, by a wise and kind host. It was in a
stately house, with beautiful gardens attached to it; and the children
had been set free in the rooms and gardens, with no care whatever but
how to pass their afternoon rejoicingly. They did not, indeed, know
much about what was to happen next day; and some of them, I thought,
were a little frightened, because there was a chance of their being
sent to a new school where there were examinations; but they kept the
thoughts of that out of their heads as well as they could, and
resolved to enjoy themselves. The house, I said, was in a beautiful
garden, and in the garden were all kinds of flowers; sweet, grassy
banks for rest; and smooth lawns for play; and pleasant streams and
woods; and rocky places for climbing. And the children were happy for
a little while, but presently they separated themselves into parties;
and then each party declared it would have a piece of the garden for
its own, and that none of the others should have anything to do with
that piece. Next, they quarrelled violently which pieces they would
have; and at last the boys took up the thing, as boys should do,
"practically," and fought in the flower-beds till there was hardly a
flower left standing; then they trampled down each other's bits of the
garden out of spite; and the girls cried till they could cry no more;
and so they all lay down at last breathless in the ruin, and waited
for the time when they were to be taken home in the evening.[231]

Meanwhile, the children in the house had been making themselves happy
also in their manner. For them, there had been provided every kind of
in-door pleasure: there was music for them to dance to; and the
library was open, with all manner of amusing books; and there was a
museum full of the most curious shells, and animals, and birds; and
there was a workshop, with lathes and carpenters' tools, for the
ingenious boys; and there were pretty fantastic dresses, for the girls
to dress in; and there were microscopes, and kaleidoscopes; and
whatever toys a child could fancy; and a table, in the dining-room,
loaded with everything nice to eat.

But, in the midst of all this, it struck two or three of the more
"practical" children, that they would like some of the brass-headed
nails that studded the chairs; and so they set to work to pull them
out. Presently, the others, who were reading, or looking at shells,
took a fancy to do the like; and, in a little while, all the children,
nearly, were spraining their fingers, in pulling out brass-headed
nails. With all that they could pull out, they were not satisfied; and
then, everybody wanted some of somebody else's. And at last, the
really practical and sensible ones declared, that nothing was of any
real consequence, that afternoon, except to get plenty of brass-headed
nails; and that the books, and the cakes, and the microscopes were of
no use at all in themselves, but only, if they could be exchanged for
nail-heads. And at last they began to fight for nail-heads, as the
others fought for the bits of garden. Only here and there, a despised
one shrank away into a corner, and tried to get a little quiet with a
book, in the midst of the noise; but all the practical ones thought of
nothing else but counting nail-heads all the afternoon--even though
they knew they would not be allowed to carry so much as one brass knob
away with them. But no--it was--"who has most nails? I have a hundred,
and you have fifty; or, I have a thousand, and you have two. I must
have as many as you before I leave the house, or I cannot possibly go
home in peace." At last, they made so much noise that I awoke, and
thought to myself, "What a false dream that is, of _children!_" The
child is the father of the man;[232] and wiser. Children never do such
foolish things. Only men do.

But there is yet one last class of persons to be interrogated. The
wise religious men we have asked in vain; the wise contemplative men,
in vain; the wise worldly men, in vain. But there is another group
yet. In the midst of this vanity of empty religion--of tragic
contemplation--of wrathful and wretched ambition, and dispute for
dust, there is yet one great group of persons, by whom all these
disputers live--the persons who have determined, or have had it by a
beneficent Providence determined for them, that they will do something
useful; that whatever may be prepared for them hereafter, or happen to
them here, they will, at least, deserve the food that God gives them
by winning it honourably: and that, however fallen from the purity, or
far from the peace, of Eden, they will carry out the duty of human
dominion, though they have lost its felicity; and dress and keep the
wilderness,[233] though they no more can dress or keep the garden.

These,--hewers of wood, and drawers of water,[234]--these, bent under
burdens, or torn of scourges--these, that dig and weave--that plant
and build; workers in wood, and in marble, and in iron--by whom all
food, clothing, habitation, furniture, and means of delight are
produced, for themselves, and for all men beside; men, whose deeds are
good, though their words may be few; men, whose lives are serviceable,
be they never so short, and worthy of honour, be they never so
humble;--from these, surely, at least, we may receive some clear
message of teaching; and pierce, for an instant, into the mystery of
life, and of its arts.

Yes; from these, at last, we do receive a lesson. But I grieve to say,
or rather--for that is the deeper truth of the matter--I rejoice to
say--this message of theirs can only be received by joining them--not
by thinking about them.

You sent for me to talk to you of art; and I have obeyed you in
coming. But the main thing I have to tell you is,--that art must not
be talked about. The fact that there is talk about it at all,
signifies that it is ill done, or cannot be done. No true painter ever
speaks, or ever has spoken, much of his art. The greatest speak
nothing. Even Reynolds is no exception, for he wrote of all that he
could not himself do,[235] and was utterly silent respecting all that he
himself did.

The moment a man can really do his work he becomes speechless about
it. All words become idle to him--all theories.

Does a bird need to theorize about building its nest, or boast of it
when built? All good work is essentially done that way--without
hesitation, without difficulty, without boasting; and in the doers of
the best, there is an inner and involuntary power which approximates
literally to the instinct of an animal--nay, I am certain that in the
most perfect human artists, reason does _not_ supersede instinct, but
is added to an instinct as much more divine than that of the lower
animals as the human body is more beautiful than theirs; that a great
singer sings not with less instinct than the nightingale, but with
more--only more various, applicable, and governable; that a great
architect does not build with less instinct than the beaver or the
bee, but with more--with an innate cunning of proportion that embraces
all beauty, and a divine ingenuity of skill that improvises all
construction. But be that as it may--be the instinct less or more than
that of inferior animals--like or unlike theirs, still the human art
is dependent on that first, and then upon an amount of practice, of
science,--and of imagination disciplined by thought, which the true
possessor of it knows to be incommunicable, and the true critic of it,
inexplicable, except through long process of laborious years. That
journey of life's conquest, in which hills over hills, and Alps on
Alps arose, and sank,--do you think you can make another trace it
painlessly, by talking? Why, you cannot even carry us up an Alp, by
talking. You can guide us up it, step by step, no otherwise--even so,
best silently. You girls, who have been among the hills, know how the
bad guide chatters and gesticulates, and it is "put your foot here";
and "mind how you balance yourself there"; but the good guide walks on
quietly, without a word, only with his eyes on you when need is, and
his arm like an iron bar, if need be.

In that slow way, also, art can be taught--if you have faith in your
guide, and will let his arm be to you as an iron bar when need is. But
in what teacher of art have you such faith? Certainly not in me; for,
as I told you at first, I know well enough it is only because you
think I can talk, not because you think I know my business, that you
let me speak to you at all. If I were to tell you anything that seemed
to you strange, you would not believe it, and yet it would only be in
telling you strange things that I could be of use to you. I could be
of great use to you--infinite use--with brief saying, if you would
believe it; but you would not, just because the thing that would be of
real use would displease you. You are all wild, for instance, with
admiration of Gustave Doré. Well, suppose I were to tell you, in the
strongest terms I could use, that Gustave Doré's art was bad--bad, not
in weakness,--not in failure,--but bad with dreadful power--the power
of the Furies and the Harpies mingled, enraging, and polluting; that
so long as you looked at it, no perception of pure or beautiful art
was possible for you. Suppose I were to tell you that! What would be
the use? Would you look at Gustave Doré less? Rather, more, I fancy.
On the other hand, I could soon put you into good humour with me, if I
chose. I know well enough what you like, and how to praise it to your
better liking. I could talk to you about moonlight, and twilight, and
spring flowers, and autumn leaves, and the Madonnas of Raphael--how
motherly! and the Sibyls of Michael Angelo--how majestic! and the
Saints of Angelico--how pious! and the Cherubs of Correggio--how
delicious! Old as I am, I could play you a tune on the harp yet, that
you would dance to. But neither you nor I should be a bit the better
or wiser; or, if we were, our increased wisdom could be of no
practical effect. For, indeed, the arts, as regards teachableness,
differ from the sciences also in this, that their power is founded not
merely on facts which can be communicated, but on dispositions which
require to be created. Art is neither to be achieved by effort of
thinking, nor explained by accuracy of speaking. It is the instinctive
and necessary result of power, which can only be developed through the
mind of successive generations, and which finally burst into life
under social conditions as slow of growth as the faculties they
regulate. Whole æras of mighty history are summed, and the passions of
dead myriads are concentrated, in the existence of a noble art; and if
that noble art were among us, we should feel it and rejoice; not
caring in the least to hear lectures on it; and since it is not among
us, be assured we have to go back to the root of it, or, at least, to
the place where the stock of it is yet alive, and the branches began
to die.

And now, may I have your pardon for pointing out, partly with
reference to matters which are at this time of greater moment than the
arts--that if we undertook such recession to the vital germ of
national arts that have decayed, we should find a more singular arrest
of their power in Ireland than in any other European country. For in
the eighth century Ireland possessed a school of art in her
manuscripts and sculpture, which, in many of its qualities--apparently
in all essential qualities of decorative invention--was quite without
rival; seeming as if it might have advanced to the highest triumphs in
architecture and in painting. But there was one fatal flaw in its
nature, by which it was stayed, and stayed with a conspicuousness of
pause to which there is no parallel: so that, long ago, in tracing the
progress of European schools from infancy to strength, I chose for the
students of Kensington, in a lecture since published, two
characteristic examples of early art, of equal skill; but in the one
case, skill which was progressive--in the other, skill which was at
pause. In the one case, it was work receptive of correction--hungry
for correction; and in the other, work which inherently rejected
correction. I chose for them a corrigible Eve, and an incorrigible
Angel, and I grieve to say[236] that the incorrigible Angel was also an
Irish angel!

And the fatal difference lay wholly in this. In both pieces of art
there was an equal falling short of the needs of fact; but the
Lombardic Eve knew she was in the wrong, and the Irish Angel thought
himself all right. The eager Lombardic sculptor, though firmly
insisting on his childish idea, yet showed in the irregular broken
touches of the features, and the imperfect struggle for softer lines
in the form, a perception of beauty and law that he could not render;
there was the strain of effort, under conscious imperfection, in every
line. But the Irish missal-painter had drawn his angel with no sense
of failure, in happy complacency, and put red dots into the palms of
each hand, and rounded the eyes into perfect circles, and, I regret to
say, left the mouth out altogether, with perfect satisfaction to

May I without offence ask you to consider whether this mode of arrest
in ancient Irish art may not be indicative of points of character
which even yet, in some measure, arrest your national power? I have
seen much of Irish character, and have watched it closely, for I have
also much loved it. And I think the form of failure to which it is
most liable is this,--that being generous-hearted, and wholly
intending always to do right, it does not attend to the external laws
of right, but thinks it must necessarily do right because it means to
do so, and therefore does wrong without finding it out; and then, when
the consequences of its wrong come upon it, or upon others connected
with it, it cannot conceive that the wrong is in any wise of its
causing or of its doing, but flies into wrath, and a strange agony of
desire for justice, as feeling itself wholly innocent, which leads it
farther astray, until there is nothing that it is not capable of doing
with a good conscience.

But mind, I do not mean to say that, in past or present relations
between Ireland and England, you have been wrong, and we right. Far
from that, I believe that in all great questions of principle, and in
all details of administration of law, you have been usually right, and
we wrong; sometimes in misunderstanding you, sometimes in resolute
iniquity to you. Nevertheless, in all disputes between states, though
the strongest is nearly always mainly in the wrong, the weaker is
often so in a minor degree; and I think we sometimes admit the
possibility of our being in error, and you never do.[237]

And now, returning to the broader question, what these arts and
labours of life have to teach us of its mystery, this is the first of
their lessons--that the more beautiful the art, the more it is
essentially the work of people who _feel themselves wrong_;--who are
striving for the fulfilment of a law, and the grasp of a loveliness,
which they have not yet attained, which they feel even farther and
farther from attaining the more they strive for it. And yet, in still
deeper sense, it is the work of people who know also that they are
right. The very sense of inevitable error from their purpose marks the
perfectness of that purpose, and the continued sense of failure arises
from the continued opening of the eyes more clearly to all the
sacredest laws of truth.

This is one lesson. The second is a very plain, and greatly precious
one: namely,--that whenever the arts and labours of life are fulfilled
in this spirit of striving against misrule, and doing whatever we have
to do, honourably and perfectly, they invariably bring happiness, as
much as seems possible to the nature of man. In all other paths by
which that happiness is pursued there is disappointment, or
destruction: for ambition and for passion there is no rest--no
fruition; the fairest pleasures of youth perish in a darkness greater
than their past light; and the loftiest and purest love too often does
but inflame the cloud of life with endless fire of pain. But,
ascending from lowest to highest, through every scale of human
industry, that industry worthily followed, gives peace. Ask the
labourer in the field, at the forge, or in the mine; ask the patient,
delicate-fingered artisan, or the strong-armed, fiery-hearted worker
in bronze, and in marble, and in the colours of light; and none of
these, who are true workmen, will ever tell you, that they have found
the law of heaven an unkind one--that in the sweat of their face they
should eat bread, till they return to the ground;[238] nor that they
ever found it an unrewarded obedience, if, indeed, it was rendered
faithfully to the command--"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do--do it
with thy might."[239]

These are the two great and constant lessons which our labourers teach
us of the mystery of life. But there is another, and a sadder one,
which they cannot teach us, which we must read on their tombstones.

"Do it with thy might." There have been myriads upon myriads of human
creatures who have obeyed this law--who have put every breath and
nerve of their being into its toil--who have devoted every hour, and
exhausted every faculty--who have bequeathed their unaccomplished
thoughts at death--who, being dead, have yet spoken,[240] by majesty of
memory, and strength of example. And, at last, what has all this
"Might" of humanity accomplished, in six thousand years of labour and
sorrow? What has it _done_? Take the three chief occupations and arts
of men, one by one, and count their achievements. Begin with the
first--the lord of them all--Agriculture. Six thousand years have
passed since we were sent to till the ground, from which we were
taken. How much of it is tilled? How much of that which is, wisely or
well? In the very centre and chief garden of Europe--where the two
forms of parent Christianity have had their fortresses--where the
noble Catholics of the Forest Cantons, and the noble Protestants of
the Vaudois valleys, have maintained, for dateless ages, their faiths
and liberties--there the unchecked Alpine rivers yet run wild in
devastation; and the marshes, which a few hundred men could redeem
with a year's labour, still blast their helpless inhabitants into
fevered idiotism. That is so, in the centre of Europe! While, on the
near coast of Africa, once the Garden of the Hesperides, an Arab
woman, but a few sunsets since, ate her child, for famine. And, with
all the treasures of the East at our feet, we, in our own dominion,
could not find a few grains of rice, for a people that asked of us no
more; but stood by, and saw five hundred thousand of them perish of

Then, after agriculture, the art of kings, take the next head of
human arts--weaving; the art of queens, honoured of all noble
Heathen women, in the person of their virgin goddess[242]--honoured
of all Hebrew women, by the word of their wisest king--"She layeth
her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff; she
stretcheth out her hand to the poor. She is not afraid of the snow
for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself covering of tapestry; her clothing is silk and
purple. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it, and delivereth
girdles unto the merchant."[243] What have we done in all these
thousands of years with this bright art of Greek maid and Christian
matron? Six thousand years of weaving, and have we learned to weave?
Might not every naked wall have been purple with tapestry, and every
feeble breast fenced with sweet colours from the cold? What have we
done? Our fingers are too few, it seems, to twist together some poor
covering for our bodies. We set our streams to work for us, and
choke the air with fire, to turn our pinning-wheels--and,--_are we
yet clothed_? Are not the streets of the capitals of Europe foul
with the sale of cast clouts and rotten rags?[244] Is not the beauty
of your sweet children left in wretchedness of disgrace, while, with
better honour, nature clothes the brood of the bird in its nest, and
the suckling of the wolf in her den? And does not every winter's
snow robe what you have not robed, and shroud what you have not
shrouded; and every winter's wind bear up to heaven its wasted
souls, to witness against you hereafter, by the voice of their
Christ,--"I was naked, and ye clothed me not"?[245]

Lastly--take the Art of Building--the strongest--proudest--most
orderly--most enduring of the arts of man; that of which the produce
is in the surest manner accumulative, and need not perish, or be
replaced; but if once well done, will stand more strongly than the
unbalanced rocks--more prevalently than the crumbling hills. The art
which is associated with all civic pride and sacred principle; with
which men record their power--satisfy their enthusiasm--make sure
their defence--define and make dear their habitation. And in six
thousand years of building, what have we done? Of the greater part of
all that skill and strength, _no_ vestige is left, but fallen stones,
that encumber the fields and impede the streams. But, from this waste
of disorder, and of time, and of rage, what _is_ left to us?
Constructive and progressive creatures that we are, with ruling
brains, and forming hands, capable of fellowship, and thirsting for
fame, can we not contend, in comfort, with the insects of the forest,
or, in achievement, with the worm of the sea? The white surf rages in
vain against the ramparts built by poor atoms of scarcely nascent
life; but only ridges of formless ruin mark the places where once
dwelt our noblest multitudes. The ant and the moth have cells for each
of their young, but our little ones lie in festering heaps, in homes
that consume them like graves; and night by night, from the corners of
our streets, rises up the cry of the homeless--"I was a stranger, and
ye took me not in."[246]

Must it be always thus? Is our life for ever to be without
profit--without possession? Shall the strength of its generations be
as barren as death; or cast away their labour, as the wild fig-tree
casts her untimely figs?[247] Is it all a dream then--the desire of the
eyes and the pride of life--or, if it be, might we not live in nobler
dream than this? The poets and prophets, the wise men, and the
scribes, though they have told us nothing about a life to come, have
told us much about the life that is now. They have had--they
also,--their dreams, and we have laughed at them. They have dreamed of
mercy, and of justice; they have dreamed of peace and good-will; they
have dreamed of labour undisappointed, and of rest undisturbed; they
have dreamed of fulness in harvest, and overflowing in store; they
have dreamed of wisdom in council, and of providence in law; of
gladness of parents, and strength of children, and glory of grey
hairs. And at these visions of theirs we have mocked, and held them
for idle and vain, unreal and unaccomplishable. What have we
accomplished with our realities? Is this what has come of our worldly
wisdom, tried against their folly? this, our mightiest possible,
against their impotent ideal? or, have we only wandered among the
spectra of a baser felicity, and chased phantoms of the tombs, instead
of visions of the Almighty; and walked after the imaginations of our
evil hearts,[248] instead of after the counsels of Eternity, until our
lives--not in the likeness of the cloud of heaven, but of the smoke of
hell--have become "as a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and
then vanisheth away"?[249]

_Does_ it vanish then? Are you sure of that?--sure, that the
nothingness of the grave will be a rest from this troubled
nothingness; and that the coiling shadow, which disquiets itself in
vain, cannot change into the smoke of the torment that ascends for
ever?[250] Will any answer that they _are_ sure of it, and that there
is no fear, nor hope, nor desire, nor labour, whither they go?[251] Be
it so: will you not, then, make as sure of the Life that now is, as
you are of the Death that is to come? Your hearts are wholly in this
world--will you not give them to it wisely, as well as perfectly? And
see, first of all, that you _have_ hearts, and sound hearts, too, to
give. Because you have no heaven to look for, is that any reason that
you should remain ignorant of this wonderful and infinite earth, which
is firmly and instantly given you in possession? Although your days
are numbered, and the following darkness sure, is it necessary that
you should share the degradation of the brute, because you are
condemned to its mortality; or live the life of the moth, and of the
worm, because you are to companion them in the dust? Not so; we may
have but a few thousands of days to spend, perhaps hundreds
only--perhaps tens; nay, the longest of our time and best, looked back
on, will be but as a moment, as the twinkling of an eye; still we are
men, not insects; we are living spirits, not passing clouds. "He
maketh the winds His messengers; the momentary fire, His minister";[252]
and shall we do less than _these_? Let us do the work of men while
we bear the form of them; and, as we snatch our narrow portion of
time out of Eternity, snatch also our narrow inheritance of passion
out of Immortality--even though our lives _be_ as a vapour, that
appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

But there are some of you who believe not this--who think this
cloud of life has no such close--that it is to float, revealed and
illumined, upon the floor of heaven, in the day when He cometh with
clouds, and every eye shall see Him.[253] Some day, you believe,
within these five, or ten, or twenty years, for every one of us the
judgment will be set, and the books opened.[254] If that be true,
far more than that must be true. Is there but one day of judgment?
Why, for us every day is a day of judgment--every day is a Dies
Iræ,[255] and writes its irrevocable verdict in the flame of its
West. Think you that judgment waits till the doors of the grave are
opened? It waits at the doors of your houses--it waits at the
corners of your streets; we are in the midst of judgment--the
insects that we crush are our judges--the moments that we fret away
are our judges--the elements that feed us, judge, as they
minister--and the pleasures that deceive us, judge as they indulge.
Let us, for our lives, do the work of Men while we bear the form of
them, if indeed those lives are _Not_ as a vapour, and do _Not_
vanish away.

"The work of men"--and what is that? Well, we may any of us know very
quickly, on the condition of being wholly ready to do it. But many of
us are for the most part thinking, not of what we are to do, but of
what we are to get; and the best of us are sunk into the sin of
Ananias,[256] and it is a mortal one--we want to keep back part of the
price; and we continually talk of taking up our cross, as if the only
harm in a cross was the _weight_ of it--as if it was only a thing to
be carried, instead of to be--crucified upon. "They that are His have
crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."[257] Does that
mean, think you, that in time of national distress, of religious
trial, of crisis for every interest and hope of humanity--none of us
will cease jesting, none cease idling, none put themselves to any
wholesome work, none take so much as a tag of lace off their footmen's
coats, to save the world? Or does it rather mean, that they are ready
to leave houses, lands, and kindreds--yes, and life, if need be?
Life!--some of us are ready enough to throw that away, joyless as we
have made it. But "_station_ in Life"--how many of us are ready to
quit _that_? Is it not always the great objection, where there is
question of finding something useful to do--"We cannot leave our
stations in Life"?

Those of us who really cannot--that is to say, who can only maintain
themselves by continuing in some business or salaried office, have
already something to do; and all that they have to see to is, that
they do it honestly and with all their might. But with most people who
use that apology, "remaining in the station of life to which
Providence has called them" means keeping all the carriages, and all
the footmen and large houses they can possibly pay for; and, once for
all, I say that if ever Providence _did_ put them into stations of
that sort--which is not at all a matter of certainty--Providence is
just now very distinctly calling them out again. Levi's station in
life was the receipt of custom; and Peter's, the shore of Galilee; and
Paul's, the antechambers of the High Priest,--which "station in life"
each had to leave, with brief notice.

And, whatever our station in life may be, at this crisis, those of us
who mean to fulfil our duty ought first to live on as little as we
can; and, secondly, to do all the wholesome work for it we can, and to
spend all we can spare in doing all the sure good we can.

And sure good is, first in feeding people, then in dressing people,
then in lodging people, and lastly in rightly pleasing people, with
arts, or sciences, or any other subject of thought.

I say first in feeding; and, once for all, do not let yourselves be
deceived by any of the common talk of "indiscriminate charity." The
order to us is not to feed the deserving hungry, nor the industrious
hungry, nor the amiable and well-intentioned hungry, but simply to
feed the hungry.[258] It is quite true, infallibly true, that if any
man will not work, neither should he eat[259]--think of that, and every
time you sit down to your dinner, ladies and gentlemen, say solemnly,
before you ask a blessing, "How much work have I done to-day for my
dinner?" But the proper way to enforce that order on those below you,
as well as on yourselves, is not to leave vagabonds and honest people
to starve together, but very distinctly to discern and seize your
vagabond; and shut your vagabond up out of honest people's way, and
very sternly then see that, until he has worked, he does _not_ eat.
But the first thing is to be sure you have the food to give; and,
therefore, to enforce the organization of vast activities in
agriculture and in commerce, for the production of the wholesomest
food, and proper storing and distribution of it, so that no famine
shall any more be possible among civilized beings There is plenty of
work in this business alone, and at once, for any number of people who
like to engage in it.

Secondly, dressing people--that is to say, urging every one within
reach of your influence to be always neat and clean, and giving them
means of being so. In so far as they absolutely refuse, you must give
up the effort with respect to them, only taking care that no children
within your sphere of influence shall any more be brought up with such
habits; and that every person who is willing to dress with propriety
shall have encouragement to do so. And the first absolutely necessary
step towards this is the gradual adoption of a consistent dress for
different ranks of persons, so that their rank shall be known by their
dress; and the restriction of the changes of fashion within certain
limits. All which appears for the present quite impossible; but it is
only so far even difficult as it is difficult to conquer our vanity,
frivolity, and desire to appear what we are not. And it is not, nor
ever shall be, creed of mine, that these mean and shallow vices are
unconquerable by Christian women.

And then, thirdly, lodging people, which you may think should have
been put first, but I put it third, because we must feed and clothe
people where we find them, and lodge them afterwards. And providing
lodgment for them means a great deal of vigorous legislation, and
cutting down of vested interests that stand in the way, and after
that, or before that, so far as we can get it, thorough sanitary and
remedial action in the houses that we have; and then the building of
more, strongly, beautifully, and in groups of limited extent, kept in
proportion to their streams, and walled round, so that there may be no
festering and wretched suburb anywhere, but clean and busy street
within, and the open country without, with a belt of beautiful garden
and orchard round the walls, so that from any part of the city
perfectly fresh air and grass, and the sight of far horizon, might be
reachable in a few minutes' walk. This is the final aim; but in
immediate action every minor and possible good to be instantly done,
when, and as, we can; roofs mended that have holes in them--fences
patched that have gaps in them--walls buttressed that totter--and
floors propped that shake; cleanliness and order enforced with our own
hands and eyes, till we are breathless, every day. And all the fine
arts will healthily follow. I myself have washed a flight of stone
stairs all down, with bucket and broom, in a Savoy inn, where they
hadn't washed their stairs since they first went up them; and I never
made a better sketch than that afternoon.

These, then, are the three first needs of civilized life; and the law
for every Christian man and woman is, that they shall be in direct
service towards one of these three needs, as far as is consistent with
their own special occupation, and if they have no special business,
then wholly in one of these services. And out of such exertion in
plain duty all other good will come; for in this direct contention
with material evil, you will find out the real nature of all evil; you
will discern by the various kinds of resistance, what is really the
fault and main antagonism to good; also you will find the most
unexpected helps and profound lessons given, and truths will come thus
down to us which the speculation of all our lives would never have
raised us up to. You will find nearly every educational problem
solved, as soon as you truly want to do something; everybody will
become of use in their own fittest way, and will learn what is best
for them to know in that use. Competitive examination will then, and
not till then, be wholesome, because it will be daily, and calm, and
in practice; and on these familiar arts, and minute, but certain and
serviceable knowledges, will be surely edified and sustained the
greater arts and splendid theoretical sciences.

But much more than this. On such holy and simple practice will be
founded, indeed, at last, an infallible religion. The greatest of all
the mysteries of life, and the most terrible, is the corruption of
even the sincerest religion, which is not daily founded on rational,
effective, humble, and helpful action. Helpful action, observe! for
there is just one law, which obeyed, keeps all religions
pure--forgotten, makes them all false. Whenever in any religious
faith, dark or bright, we allow our minds to dwell upon the points in
which we differ from other people, we are wrong, and in the devil's
power. That is the essence of the Pharisee's thanksgiving--"Lord, I
thank Thee that I am not as other men are."[260] At every moment of our
lives we should be trying to find out, not in what we differ with
other people, but in what we agree with them; and the moment we find
we can agree as to anything that should be done, kind or good, (and
who but fools couldn't?) then do it; push at it together: you can't
quarrel in a side-by-side push; but the moment that even the best men
stop pushing, and begin talking, they mistake their pugnacity for
piety, and if's all over. I will not speak of the crimes which in past
times have been committed in the name of Christ, nor of the follies
which are at this hour held to be consistent with obedience to Him;
but I _will_ speak of the morbid corruption and waste of vital power
in religious sentiment, by which the pure strength of that which
should be the guiding soul of every nation, the splendour of its
youthful manhood, and spotless light of its maidenhood, is averted or
cast away. You may see continually girls who have never been taught to
do a single useful thing thoroughly; who cannot sew, who cannot cook,
who cannot cast an account, nor prepare a medicine, whose whole life
has been passed either in play or in pride; you will find girls like
these, when they are earnest-hearted, cast all their innate passion of
religious spirit, which was meant by God to support them through the
irksomeness of daily toil, into grievous and vain meditation over the
meaning of the great Book, of which no syllable was ever yet to be
understood but through a deed; all the instinctive wisdom and mercy of
their womanhood made vain, and the glory of their pure consciences
warped into fruitless agony concerning questions which the laws of
common serviceable life would have either solved for them in an
instant, or kept out of their way. Give such a girl any true work that
will make her active in the dawn, and weary at night, with the
consciousness that her fellow-creatures have indeed been the better
for her day, and the powerless sorrow of her enthusiasm will transform
itself into a majesty of radiant and beneficent peace.

So with our youths. We once taught them to make Latin verses, and
called them educated; now we teach them to leap and to row, to hit a
ball with a bat, and call them educated. Can they plough, can they
sow, can they plant at the right time, or build with a steady hand? Is
it the effort of their lives to be chaste, knightly, faithful, holy in
thought, lovely in word and deed? Indeed it is, with some, nay with
many, and the strength of England is in them, and the hope; but we
have to turn their courage from the toil of war to the toil of mercy;
and their intellect from dispute of words to discernment of things;
and their knighthood from the errantry of adventure to the state and
fidelity of a kingly power. And then, indeed, shall abide, for them,
and for us, an incorruptible felicity, and an infallible religion;
shall abide for us Faith, no more to be assailed by temptation, no
more to be defended by wrath and by fear;--shall abide with us Hope,
no more to be quenched by the years that overwhelm, or made ashamed by
the shadows that betray:--shall abide for us, and with us, the
greatest of these; the abiding will, the abiding name of our Father.
For the greatest of these is Charity.[261]

  [230] _Isaiah_ xl, 12.

  [231] I have sometimes been asked what this means. I intended it to
  set forth the wisdom of men in war contending for kingdoms, and
  what follows to set forth their wisdom in peace, contending for
  wealth. [Ruskin.]

  [232] See Wordsworth's poem, _My heart leaps up when I behold_.

  [233] See _Genesis_ ii, 15, and the opening lines of the first
  selection in this volume.

  [234] _Joshua_ ix, 21.

  [235] In his _Discourses on Art_. Cf. pp. 24 ff. above.

  [236] See _The Two Paths_, §§ 28 _et seq_. [Ruskin.]

  [237] References mainly to the Irish Land Question, on which Ruskin
  agreed with Mill and Gladstone in advocating the establishment of a
  peasant-proprietorship in Ireland.

  [238] _Genesis_ iii, 19.

  [239] _Ecclesiastes_ ix, 10.

  [240] _Hebrews_ xi, 4.

  [241] During the famine in the Indian province of Orissa.

  [242] Athena, goddess of weaving.

  [243] _Proverbs_ xxxi, 19-22, 24.

  [244] _Jeremiah_ xxxviii, 11.

  [245] _Matthew_ xxv, 43.

  [246] _Matthew_ xxv, 43.

  [247] _Revelation_ vi, 13.

  [248] _Jeremiah_ xi, 8.

  [249] _James_ iv, 14.

  [250] _Psalms_ xxxix, 6 and _Revelation_ xiv, 11.

  [251] _Ecclesiastes_ ix, 10.

  [252] _Psalms_ civ, 4.

  [253] _Revelation_ i, 7.

  [254] _Daniel_ vii, 10.

  [255] _Dies Iræ_, the name generally given (from the opening words)
  to the most famous of the mediæval hymns, usually ascribed to the
  Franciscan Thomas of Celano (died c. 1255). It is composed in
  triplets of rhyming trochaic tetrameters, and describes the Last
  Judgment in language of magnificent grandeur, passing into a
  plaintive plea for the souls of the dead.

  [256] _Acts_ v, 1, 2.

  [257] _Galatians_ v. 24.

  [258] _Isaiah_ lviii, 7.

  [259] 2 _Thessalonians_ iii, 10.

  [260] _Luke_ xviii, 11.

  [261] 1 _Corinthians_ xiii, 13.


_Editions_. The standard edition of Ruskin is that of Cook and
      Wedderburn in 34 volumes. Most of his better-known works may
      be had in cheap and convenient forms.

The best lives are:

COLLINGWOOD, W.G. The Life and Work of John Ruskin Houghton Mifflin
      Company, 1893. (2 vols.) The standard biography.

HARRISON, P. John Ruskin (English Men of Letters). The Macmillan
      Company, 1902. A short and readable biography.

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