Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin and Lilias Trotter

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The article, “Women Artists in Ruskin’s Circle,” written by Jane Garnett, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography continues:

The other woman discussed by Ruskin [in the first Slade Lecture], (Isabella) Lilias Trotter (1853–1928), was completely unknown, and was not an artist by profession but a committed evangelical, at that point working for the YWCA in London. She was born on 14 July 1853 at Devonshire Place House, Marylebone, the seventh child of Alexander Trotter (1814–1866) of Dreghorn, Midlothian, a businessman, and the eldest of his second wife, Isabella Strange. She was educated at home in London by French and German governesses and was encouraged by her father in scientific and artistic pursuits; in the summer the family travelled on the continent. After the death of her father in 1866, she developed a new seriousness, and in the mid-1870s she attended with her mother evangelical conventions at Broadlands and Oxford; she sang in a choir during the Moody and Sankey revival of 1875. It was on a visit to Venice in October 1876 that she met Ruskin. Discovering that Ruskin was staying at the same hotel, her mother asked whether she could show him some of her daughter’s watercolours. As Ruskin recounted in the Slade lecture: ‘I saw there was extremely right-minded and careful work, almost totally without knowledge. I sent back a request that the young lady might be permitted to come out sketching with me.’ He commented on her learning ‘everything the instant that she was shown it—and ever so much more than she was taught’, and went on to display her drawings of peasant life in Norway, commended for conveying the same attributes of Christian simplicity which Francesca Alexander was doing in Tuscany (Complete Works, 33.280–81). Her Norwegian notebooks were to form part of Ruskin’s gift to the University of Oxford. She visited Brantwood regularly with her brother and sometimes her sister, and drew under Ruskin’s encouragement. But in 1879 she was to decide that she could not commit herself to painting ‘in the way he means, and continue still to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”’ (Stewart, 19). She worked for the YWCA, took a Bible class at the Welbeck Institute, and began to hold meetings at her own home in Montagu Square for women in the business houses of Oxford and Regent streets. In 1886 she bought a nightclub to convert into a restaurant for such women; and she worked at night among prostitutes. She continued to paint and to send sketches to Ruskin, who felt, however, that her work was deteriorating:

 

The power in these drawings is greater than ever—the capacity infinite in the things that none can teach; but the sense of colour is gradually getting debased under the conditions of your life … Technically you are losing yourself for want of study of the great colour masters. (ibid., 22–3)

 

In 1888 Trotter went to Algeria as a missionary, where she worked until her death, publishing Arabic translations of the gospels and organizing conferences for the missionaries of north Africa. At the same time she responded passionately both as an artist and as an evangelical to the landscape and colours of Algeria. Fascinated by the vivid sapphire blue of Kabylian berries growing deep under matted grass, she tried to paint them ‘to show what God can do with the very feeblest ray; but the blue is an unattainable colour’ (Master of the Impossible, 19). In 1926 she published a little story, Focussed, written for the YWCA, in which she used a similar image of a dandelion, catching a shaft of sun in a dark wood: from this she developed the metaphor of the lens to press the need for everyone to choose on what to focus and not to dissipate energy. Her aesthetic comments on detail and line, in Africa and on trips in Switzerland and north Italy, continued to show a strong Ruskinian sensibility. Until her death she sent watercolours of people, places, and plants—often in a bold and independent style—to him among others. She died in Algiers on 27 August 1928.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns one letter from John Ruskin to Lilias Trotter.

Letter from John Ruskin to Lilias Trotter. 15 August 1879.

Letter from John Ruskin to Lilias Trotter. 15 August 1879.

In this letter, Ruskin invites Lilias to come to Brantwood on Thursday, the 21st.

I am very glad and thankful you are back again—and eager to see you and the ‘play’.—but the little nest of a house is full till next Thursday—the 21st—can you come then?—and stay as long as ever you like.—If you can’t then tell me when you could—and I’ll arrange for it—you know ‘hours’ are no manner of use.

The ABL also owns the proof pages of Lectures on English Art : Rossetti and Holman Hunt, [The ODNB says they are Rossetti and Burne-Jones] which Ruskin has inscribed to “Lilias./ First proof./ With the Author’s love./ 27th March, 1883.”

John Ruskin. Inscription on cover page of Lectures on Art.

John Ruskin. Inscription on cover page of proof pages of Lectures on English Art.

John Ruskin. Proof pages of Lectures on Art.

John Ruskin. proof pages of Lectures on English Art.

John Ruskin. Proof pages for Lectures on English Art. Pages 3 and 4.

John Ruskin. Proof pages for Lectures on English Art. Pages 24 and 25.

In the lecture Ruskin describes his first meeting with Lilias:

When I was at Venice in 1876—it is almost the only thing that makes me now content in having gone there,—two English ladies, mother and daughter, were staying at the same hotel, the Europa. One day the mother sent me a pretty little note asking if I would look at the young lady’s drawings. On my some what sulky permission, a few were sent, in which I saw there was extremely right-minded and careful work, almost totally without knowledge. I sent back a request that the young lady might be allowed to come out sketching with me. I took her over into the pretty cloister of the church of La Salute, and set her, for the first time in her life, to draw a little piece of gay marble with the sun upon it, rightly. She may have had one lesson after that—she may have had two : the three, if there were three, seem to me, now to have been only one ! She seemed to learn everything the instant she was shown it—and ever so much more than she was taught.

The Ruskin Museum has made available to the Armstrong Browning Library several drawings and paintings by Lilias Trotter. Among the images is a drawing of a capital of a column. Perhaps this is the sketch to which Ruskin referred in his lecture.

Lilias Trotter. Column. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Column. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

The Armstrong Browning Library also owns a page on which is mounted Ruskin’s handwritten notes from “Stones” in Modern Painters, Volume 6 (Chapter 18, Page 817). At the bottom of the page are sketches of Stonehenge, a stone frieze, and the Toad Rock.

John Ruskin. Drawings from Stones of Venice.

John Ruskin. Drawings from Stones of Venice.

In the lecture, Ruskin tells of Lilias’s trip to Norway and her little sketchbook of drawings—“They can only be seen . . .with a magnifying glass, and they are patterns to you therefore only of pocket-book work ; but what skill is more precious to a traveller than that of minute, instantaneous, and unerring record of the things that are precisely best?”

Those drawings from the Norwegian sketchbook are now located at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford. The sketches measures 2 in. X 4 in. A facsimile of Lilias Trotter’s 1876 Sketchbook: Scenes from Lucerne to Venice and Lilias Trotter’s 1889 Sketchbook: Scenes From North Africa, Italy & Switzerland are available for purchase. This illustration from her 1889 sketchbook of an ironwork cross illustrates the “pocket-book work” Ruskin described.

Lilias Trotter. "Cross" from Lilias Trotter's Sketchbook of 1879.

Lilias Trotter. “Cross” from Lilias Trotter’s Sketchbook of 1889. 2 in. X 4 in.

Following are the images of a few other drawings and paintings provided to the ABL from The Ruskin Library at Lancaster University:

Lilias Trotter. Figure Studies. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Figure Studies. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Mountain Range and Desert. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Mountain Range and Desert. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Image from Sketchbook-3. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Image from Sketchbook-3. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Image from Sketchbook-15. Courtesty of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Image from Sketchbook-15. Courtesty of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Daisies. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Daisies. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Desert Flowers. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

Lilias Trotter. Desert Flowers. Courtesy of Ruskin Library.

 

 

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin and Francesca Alexander

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The following paragraph appears in the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography in an article entitled “Women Artists in Ruskin’s Circle,” written by Jane Garnett:

In his first lecture in the Slade series Ruskin had already surprised his audience by turning from a discussion of Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones to praise of two women artists, prefacing his comments with the statement: ‘For a long time I used to say … that, except in a graceful and minor way, women could not paint or draw. I am beginning, lately, to bow myself to the much more delightful conviction that nobody else can’ (Complete Works, 33.280). Both of these women lived out Ruskin’s principles of profound religious engagement with nature. One of them was the American Francesca Alexander (1837–1917), to whom Ruskin had been introduced in Florence in 1882. She was at this point forty-five and had been a professional artist for twenty years, although Ruskin was to talk of her as if she were a young girl, and addressed her as ‘lassie’ and as his ‘sweetest Sorel’. She had been brought up by her artist father in Ruskinian ways of looking at nature, and as a devout evangelical. At the age of seven she was said to have announced that she wanted to be an artist and to work for poor children. She collected stories and songs from the Tuscan peasantry, which she wrote and illustrated with figure drawings of the poor, many of whom gathered regularly in her studio, and whom she supported with the proceeds of sales of her work. For Ruskin her work—in both its form and its subject matter—embodied an ideal Christian and artistic simplicity and sincerity. He was to focus on this ideal in remembering—and transfiguring from its religious narrowness—the character of Rose La Touche. He bought and published Francesca Alexander’s The Story of Ida, Roadside Songs of Tuscany, and Christ’s Folk in the Apennine. In his third Slade Lecture he read passages from her preface to the Roadside Songs, and showed some of her drawings; and in June 1883 he gave a drawing-room lecture in London at which he showed twenty of her drawings. The Spectator review, commending their excellence, saw them as exemplars of Ruskin’s teaching.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns two letters from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 1.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 1.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 2.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 2.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 3.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 3.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 4.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 4.

In this letter Francesca tells Ruskin about the discussion in which her little group of Bellosguardo friends had participated regarding the drawings of flowers in her book, Roadside Songs of Tuscany:

I must tell you though what some of them said about the Road Side Songs, (which they nearly all saw before it went to you) you may be pleased, now that the book belongs to you, to have the favourable opinion of such distinguished judges as meet in the “brilliant society” of my Sky-parlour. They all seemed principally interested in the pictures of flowers, which brought about a discourse on flowers in general, causing Edwige to remark, what I believe she thinks she has discovered, and what really I don’t believe people think so much about as they might . . . that each flower has just the leaves that are most becoming to it. Then, taking the Easter flowers on the table for a text, poor gentle Bice, with tears in her eyes, improvised a little sermon, (better than many that I have heard in church) on their variety and wonderful contrivances for beauty, as showing the hand of the Creator. “And only think,” said a Contadina woman, contemptuously, “that now-a-days people try to make out that it is only nature who does it all!” At which Edwige said, yet more contemptuously: “It is all very well; and I hear a good deal about inventions in these times . . . but it is my belief that they will wait a good while before anybody makes another invention like those flowers: and if they think it is so easy, they had better try themselves!” Then the Contadina returned to the flowers of the Road side Songs, which she said “Seemed to have all the colours of the real ones, and yet were made of nothing but ink!” And she did not believe I could have done it by myself: probably the angels came and showed me how. And finally Edwige ended the discourse by saying triumphantly: “you will never see any more books born, like that!”

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. April 1885]. Page 1.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 1.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 2.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 2.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 3.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 3.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 4.

Letter from Francesca Alexander to John Ruskin. [ca. 1885-1887]. Page 4.

This letter expresses Francesca’s concern for Ruskin’s well-being. She says:

Some things in your letter trouble me: you seem dissatisfied with Joanie, and . . . I hope I am wrong, but I keep thinking about that miserable time two years ago, when there came about a separation between you, and you suffered more than ever, since I have know you, (as you told me afterwards yourself) and she fell dangerously ill, and as for me . . . Well, I don’t like to think about it! The end of it was, that it half killed you both; and, if you knew the terror that comes over me at the thought of any difference between you and her, you would have patience with whatever I say! You don’t explain what the trouble is, and I ask no questions. You speak as if she worried you . . . But do remember that she is worn out now, with her anxiety during your illness, and is probly [sic] weak and nervous, and worried all the time for fear of your hurting yourself in some way. But I dare say it is foolish in me to be so frightened. Only I am so far away, and have suffered much for my fiends, in these last years; and now I am always dreading some harm coming to you, or to her, whom you have taught me to love.

The Armstrong Browning Library also owns three copies of Roadside Songs of Tuscany in various forms. However, none of the editions contain parts 9 and 10.

Francesca Alexander and John Ruskin. Roadside Songs of Tuscany. 1884.

Francesca Alexander and John Ruskin. Roadside Songs of Tuscany, 1884.

The Alexanders, who lived near Florence are mentioned several times in the Brownings’ letters.

In 1897 Francesca Alexander published an edition of Tuscan Songs that did not include John Ruskin’s notes but did include the music of the folk songs that she had collected, along with her lovely illustrations of the flowers from along the roadsides of Tuscany.

Francesca Alexander. Tuscan Songs, 235.

Francesca Alexander. Tuscan Songs, 1897.

 

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin’s Travels

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

John Ruskin’s extensive and privileged travel experiences began as a child. His father, a wine merchant, visited his business clients in the Lake District of England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Strasbourg, Schaffhausen, Milan, Genoa, Turin, the Alps, and Venice. Ruskin returned to many of these places throughout his lifetime to study and sketch his impressions of landscapes and buildings. These two letters record some of those experiences.

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Letter from John Ruskin to W. H. Harrison. 10 November [1851]. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to W. H. Harrison. 10 November [1851]. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to W. H. Harrison. 10 November [1851]. Pages 2 and 3.

Letter from John Ruskin to W. H. Harrison. 10 November [1851]. Pages 2 and 3.

Letter from John Ruskin to W. H. Harrison. 10 November [1851]. Page 4.

Letter from John Ruskin to W. H. Harrison. 10 November [1851]. Page 4.

This letter, written while the Ruskins were wintering in Venice, was addressed to Mr. W. H. Harrison. The letter thanks Mr. Harrison for his “epigram on friendship” and accepts his invitation for a meeting. The remainder of the letter discusses the restoration of a gondola. An illustration of the gondola is included in the letter. Ruskin comments that the parasol on the gondola was granted to the Doge by Pope Alexander III.

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Letter from John Ruskin to [Jane O'Meara] Simon. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to [Jane O’Meara] Simon. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to [Jane O'Meara] Simon. 1 March 1863. Pages 2 and 3.

Letter from John Ruskin to [Jane O’Meara ] Simon. 1 March 1863. Pages 2 and 3.

This letter, written from Mornex, Switzerland to Jane O’Meara Simon, describes in great detail his lodgings and the landscapes he views from his lodgings. Mrs. Simon was a close family friend of John Ruskin and the Severns and wife of Dr. John Simon, Ruskin’s physician. Ruskin describes the view from his lodgings in Mornex:

. . . in the morning I get a little Greek and geology done – and perhaps some drawing – none well – but yet enough to give slight [show] of progress. I live in that room you were in, chiefly. –the [day] goes all round it, and I get from corner to corner as it chases me; sitting mostly however at the window next the fireplace . . .  I can see the [Salève] slope out of the near window, and the grander [Jorasses] out of the other by turning my head . . . In the morning, I can see Mont Blanc / on my bed – and, sleeping, have the [entire] view from the [Urins] to the [Stanery] [mountains] unbroken.

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin’s Friends, Family, and Employees

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The following small group of John Ruskin’s letters are not particularly concerned with art, social issues, or criticism. They focus instead on social engagements, the death of a long-time employee, the design of a dress for a friend, a Christmas wish, and a friend’s memorial, and give us a glimpse into Ruskin’s personal life.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Charles Kingsley. [ca. 1862]. Page 1.

ruskin-to-kingsley002

Letter from John Ruskin to Charles Kingsley. [ca. 1862]. Pages 2 and 3.

The watermark on this letter suggests this letter to Charles Kingsley, broad church priest of the Church of England, university professor, social reformer, historian and novelist, may have been written around 1862. During that time Kingsley was Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. A few years later, in 1869, Ruskin would became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford. Both Ruskin and Kingsley were becoming more focused on social issues at this time. Kingsley published The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby, a tale about a chimney sweep in 1863. Ruskin had just published Unto This Last is an essay and book on economy in 1860.

However this letter is much more lighthearted. Ruskin laments missing his hoped for music that morning and engagements at Colonel Elwyn’s and Mr. Booth’s. He chastises Kingsley for not planning to stay with him that evening and informs him that dinner will be at six.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Henry Ritchie. 3 February 1865.

Letter from John Ruskin to Henry Ritchie. 3 February 1865.

Ruskin to Henry Ritchie. 3 February 1865. Envelope.

Ruskin to Henry Ritchie. 3 February 1865. Envelope.

This letter to Henry Ritchie, John James Ruskin’s clerk, expresses Ruskin’s shock at hearing of the death of Henry Watson, his father’s head clerk. Ruskin’s father, who had died the previous year, had been very successful in the wine-importing business, employing two clerks, Henry Watson and Henry Ritchie to assist him with clerical duties. Ruskin says that he expected Watson to have died before his Master, “but Death and Time play strange tricks with the little cracked clay pitchers they juggle with.” Ruskin wishes Ritchie and his new partner “all prosperity & peace.”

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Letter from John Ruskin to Miss Rudkin. 29 October 1875. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to Miss Rudkin. 29 October 1875. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to Miss Rudkin. 29 October 1875. Page 2.

Letter from John Ruskin to Miss Rudkin. 29 October 1875. Page 2.

This letter, addressed to Miss Rudkin, expresses a desire to find “a pretty, quiet, thoroughly strong, and not fussy nor catchy sort of dress for Ethel Hilliard,” daughter of Rev. J. C. Hilliard. Ruskin was staying at the Hilliard’s home at Cowley Rectory. He often sought refuge from London at their home. Hilliard’s son, Laurence, became Ruskin’s secretary in the 1870s. We know nothing of Miss Rudkin, other than that Ruskin paid her £14 14s for a silk frock presented to his pet, presumably Ethel Hilliard, on Ruskin’s own birthday, according to Fors Clavigera, Volume VI.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Margaret. 22 December 1878.

Letter from John Ruskin to Margaret. 22 December 1878.

With this letter Ruskin sends a Christmas gift to his cousin Margaret, thankful that he has “been preserved through so grave an illness to see another Christmas.” He expresses the hope that the bright frost in Brantwood “may neither be dark nor unhealthy in London, and that you may yourself have stronger health in the coming year.”

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Letter from John Ruskin to Emma Sidney Edwardes. 2 May 1886.

Letter from John Ruskin to Emma Sidney Edwardes. 2 May 1886.

This letter is addressed to Emma Sidney Edwardes, the step-daughter of Dr. Grant, the physician of Ruskin’s father, and wife of Sir Herbert Edwardes, administrator, soldier, and statesman active in the Punjab, India. Her book, paying tribute to her husband’s life, Memorials of the Life and Letters of Major General Sir Herbert Edwardes was published in 1886. In the letter, Ruskin says:

I am so very glad and thankful that book is done. Heaven knows how thankful I shall read every word of it—no wife ever had better right to love her husband to the uttermost—and you have love him, worthily. I think you will be beloved by the way you & he come in gradually in Praeteita.

Emma is described in Chapter 1 of Volume 2 of Praeterita as a nice and clever daughter. On December 22, 1883, Ruskin had delivered as lecture, “The Battle of Kineyree.” The lecture was published as  A Knight’s Faith, and two years later, inn 1885, published as A Knight’s Faith : Passages in the Life of Sir Herbert Edwardes, in Bibliotheca Pastorum, Volume 4. Ruskin describes his work in the preface:

The following pages are in substance little more than grouped extracts of some deeply interesting passages in the narrative published by Sir Herbert Edwardes, in 1851, of his military operations in the Punjaub during the winter of 1848–1849 [A Year on the Punjab Frontier]. The vital significance of that campaign was not felt at the time by the British public, nor was the character of the commanding officer rightly understood. This was partly in consequence of his being compelled to encumber his accounts of real facts by extracts from official documents; and partly because his diary could not, in the time at his disposal, be reduced to a clearly arranged and easily intelligible narrative. My own abstract of it… reduced the events preceding the battle of Kineyree [18 June 1848] within the compass of an ordinary lecture, which was given here at Coniston in the winter of 1883; but in preparing this for publication, it seemed to me that in our present relations with Afghanistan, the reader might wish to hear the story in fuller detail, and might perhaps learn some things from it not to his hurt”

Ruskin presented The Edwardes Ruby to the British Museum in honor of Sir Herbert Edwards in 1887. The inscription reads:

The Edwardes Ruby
Presented in 1887 by John Ruskin
‘In Honour of the
Invincible Soldiership
And loving Equity
Of Sir Herbert Edwardes’ Rule
By the Shores of Indus’.

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: Ruskin’s Social and Political Letters

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

In addition to his importance as an art critic, Ruskin was also a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. The Armstrong Browning Library owns several letters from Ruskin to correspondents who shared his social and political concerns.

John Ruskin to Octavia Hill. 4 Oxtover 1888

John Ruskin to Octavia Hill. 22 November 1865.

John Ruskin to Octavia HIll.

John Ruskin to Octavia HIll. 22 November 1865.

In this letter to Octavia Hill, artist and social reformer, Ruskin gives his permission for Hill to “make her offer.” He warns her “not to be rash and to be as sure as good counsel can make you of your game,” advising her that he “had much rather go very slowly, than have failures to your account or to others.”  Based on the date of the letter, Ruskin is probably referring to his lease of three houses of six rooms each in Paradise Place, Marylebone as residences for the poorest of the working class. Ruskin placed these houses under the management of Hill, who had a deep concern for housing for the poor.

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John Ruskin to Elizabeth Gaskell.

John Ruskin to Elizabeth Gaskell. [ca. 1865].

This letter from John Ruskin to Elizabeth Gaskell, English novelist and short story writer, is likely a response to Gaskell’s letter of February 1865. In that letter Gaskell asked Ruskin to pull whatever political strings that he could to make sure that her friend, Alfred Waterhouse, architect of the Assize Courts, had his name among those to be considered as architects for the new Law Courts in London, a position to be appointed by William Cowper. The appointment was prolonged and contentious. The judges wanted George Edmund Street to design the exterior, with the interior designed by Charles Barry. A special committee of lawyers favored Alfred Waterhouse’s designs, Elizabeth Gaskell’s choice. The appointment was eventually won by George Edmund Street, who died in 1881 before the project was completed. This letter suggests that Ruskin had contacted William Cowper and was able to assure Gaskell, “you will see by the enclosed the affair is not so petulantly forward yet, then men of course never make any promises—but I have good hope that he means at least as much as he says.”

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John Ruskin to John Henry Chamberlain. 6 December 1869.

John Ruskin to John Henry Chamberlain. 6 December 1869.

Ruskin apologizes for not thanking John Henry Chamberlain, architect from Birmingham, for his kind note. Ruskin later chooses Chamberlain to be a trustee of St. George’s Guild. St. George’s Guild is an Educational Trust created by John Ruskin to oppose modern, industrial capitalism and the ugliness, poverty, and pollution it produced. He hoped to establish communities that would oppose profit-driven industry and provide alternatives to mass production.

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John Ruskin to John Pakenham Stilwell. 14 February [ny].

John Ruskin to John Pakenham Stilwell. 14 February [ny].

John Ruskin to John Pakenham Stilwell. 14 February [ny].

John Ruskin to John Pakenham Stilwell. 14 February [ny].

The Armstrong Browning Library also owns eight letters of correspondence between Ruskin to John Pakenham Stilwell, British banker, Navy Agent, and Chairman of the Board of Management of the London Homeopathic Hospital. In the letters Ruskin thanks Stilwell for his gifts to St. George’s Guild and apologizes for his mistakes in accounting. In this letter Ruskin laments the plight of the poor:

I am truly helped by your kind letter, and entirely feel with you as to the quantity of good heart left in England. But as far as I have seen in history the innocent suffer with the guilty . . . . And when Revolution comes, as it must, distress will be everywhere.

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John Ruskin to William Cowper-Temple.

John Ruskin to William Cowper-Temple. 23 July 1876.

Ruskin had appointed William Cowper-Temple, a British Liberal Party statesman and politician and family friend, as trustee for St. George’s Guild. In this letter he thanks Cowper-Temple for his note and cheque. “Grannie,” referred to in the letter, is Lady Georgiana Cowper-Temple. He variously addressed her as “Phile,” “Isola,” “Mama,” and “Grannie.” In the letter Ruskin tells William to tell Grannie he is working on an edition of Sir Philip Sidney’s psalter, which was published the next year as Rock Honeycomb: Broken Pieces of Sir Philip Sidney’s Psalter. Laid Up in Store for English Homes. Ellis and White, 1877.

 

 

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: Ruskin’s Letters About Art

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, an active art patron, an accomplished draftsman, and a gifted water-colorist and painter. Several of the letters owned by the Armstrong Browning Library mention topics related to art.

ruskin-to-rossetti013

Letter from John Ruskin to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. [1855]

In this brief note to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, [1855], Ruskin says: “I like my picture[s] & mightily—but want you to order the frame and try any experiment you like on it thoroughly.” It is not possible to clearly determine which picture or pictures Ruskin is talking about. He bought several paintings from Rossetti and from Elizabeth Siddal, Rossetti’s wife.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Alfred Harris. 6 May [1864]. Page 1.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Alfred Harris. 6 May [1864]. Page 2 and 3.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Alfred Harris. 6 May [1864]. Page 4.

In this letter to Alfred Harris, Ruskin recounts a humorous conversation he had overheard  about himself while riding in a carriage. In the conversation Ruskin was described as “cracked,” and it was conjectured that “All them genius’s have something wrong about them you know.”  Ruskin then tells Harris that he  has “been looking for the pretty Princess portrait I told Miss Ella of” with “the blue eyes.” He said he had purchased it and sent it to Mr. Harris for Ella, possibly, his daughter.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Albert Goodwin. [ca. 1870]. Page 1.

ruskin-to-goodwin003

Letter from John Ruskin to Albert Goodwin. [ca. 1870]. Page 2.

In this letter Ruskin critiques Goodwin’s painting, offers to buy it at a reduced price, and asks for it to be loaned to him for a lecture. Goodwin was a close friend and protégé of Ruskin. Although he describes the painting as beautiful, Ruskin critiques Goodwin’s perspective on his drawing of pots, his “blundered dog,” “slurred arabesques,” and “lost curls of ample hair” in the painting. Although the painting is not named, the descriptive clues suggest a possible identification.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Sidney Colvin. 19 March 1873. Page 1.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Sidney Colvin. 19 March 1873. Page 2.

Sidney Colvin, a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, became a fellow of his college in 1868. In 1873, when this letter was written, he was Slade Professor of Fine Art, and was appointed to the directorship of the Fitzwilliam Museum the following year. Ruskin himself was appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in August 1869, and continued to teach at Oxford until 1879. He taught there again from 1883-1884. In this letter Ruskin tells Colvin that “that book of drawing will be left for some days yet in Mr. Reid’s charge—and I have asked him to let you look over it at your leisure, whenever you wish.” George William Reid was curator of the Print Room in the British Museum.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Sidney Miles. 24 September 1879.

In this faded letter Ruskin informs Miles that his engagements prevent him from the verification of pictures. However, he submits “this general recommendation—never to buy pictures unless you enjoy them—and if you enjoy them—never to mind whose they are.”

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Letter from John Ruskin to [William] Kingsley. 18 February 1886. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to [William] Kingsley. 18 February 1886. Page 1.

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Letter from John Ruskin to [William] Kingsley. 18 February 1886. Page 2.

Ruskin thanks Kingsley for loaning him the delightful sketchbook belonging to Kingsley’s wife, saying that “the light and colour of some bits [of her landscapes] were exactly true and the character perfect.” William Kingsley, Rector of South Kilvington, near Thirsk, was a close personal friend of both John Ruskin and J. M. W. Turner. An account of their association can be found in  Yorkshire Remembrances, by Marmaduke Charles Frederic Morris (1922). Kingsley lived to be 101; his wife died the following year at the age of ninety. Mrs. Kingsley’s sister was married to Tom Taylor, the dramatist and editor of Punch.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Tom Taylor. [Undated].

Letter from John Ruskin to Tom Taylor. [Undated].

Although the signature of this letter is excised, the heading and the handwriting suggest it to be Ruskin’s. The letter is Ruskin’s refusal to buy the sketches that Taylor has offered. He says:

I had much rather give you ten pounds for any body in distress, than buy what I do not want—I have bought  sketches like them —or better—for fifteen or twenty shillings—in the old times, and would not buy many, then.—at first rate thing is always worth—what one must give for it—a second rate thing—worth only what it is worth however the market may be—

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Letter from John Ruskin to [Unknown]. [Undated].

Letter from John Ruskin to [Unknown]. [Undated].

In this letter to an unknown correspondent, Ruskin gives drawing instructions to a student. He says:

“Begin any other of the pencil subject like that you have just done, which seems easiest to you. … Practice, at home, a quantity of pencil shading thus [six columns of lines drawn back and forth from left to right] And lines, thus, straight and thick and upright lines [eleven diagonal lines that appear to be smudged at the bottom and seven straight lines] thus.”

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin and Joseph Milsand

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

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Robert Browning (on left) and Joseph Milsand (on right).

Joseph Milsand (1817-1886) was a French critic, philosopher, theologian, and close friend of Robert Browning. The Joseph Milsand Archive, now owned by the Armstrong Browning Library, contains over 4,000 autograph letters as well as numerous rare books, pamphlets, journals, photographs, drawings, newspapers, and albums. It includes original manuscripts of nearly all of Milsand’s known writings, together with a large number of annotated proofs and most of his printed works, documenting his career from the age of twenty until his death. Over 62,000 manuscript pages of Milsand’s articles, essays, study notes, and personal journals (mostly handwritten in French) record his thoughts and observations relating to the Brownings, the Milsand family, and the Anglo-French literary scene from the 1860s to 80s.

Milsand, who often wrote for the French journal, Revue des Deux Mondes,  published two articles about Ruskin in that periodical,  “Nouvelle theories de l’art, en Angleterre” 1 July 1860, and “De l’influence de la littérature,” 15 August 1861. The two articles, along with a preface, were published as a book, L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin, in June 1864.

Shown below is Milsand’s copy of his first publication on John Ruskin, “Nouvelle theories de l’art en Angleterre.”

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Revue des Deux Mondes. 1860.

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“Nouvelles theories de l’art en Angleterre” in Revue des Deux Mondes. 1 July 1860.

Several pages of Milsand’s notes on John Ruskin can be found in this journal kept from 1850-65.

t010003t010001t010002The Armstrong Browning Library also owns twenty-four pages of heavily revised galley proofs of the article, “Nouvelles theories de l’art en Angleterre,”  which was published in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1 July 1860.

s085Milsand collected this  article about Ruskin, “Nouvelles theories de l’art en Angleterre,” and another article also published in Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 August 1861, “De l’influence de la littérature,” written the next year, and added a preface to complete a book on John Ruskin, L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin (1864). The following is a contract Milsand signed with Germer Baillière for the publication of L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin (1864), dated 6 June 1864.

v019009v019010The Armstrong Browning Library also owns two letters written from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand related to Milsand’s critique of Ruskin’s Modern Painters in his book,  L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin.

On 12 February 1865, John Ruskin wrote to Joseph Milsand, offering him thanks for the “deep and careful” praise given in Milsand’s review of Modern Painters. Ruskin tells Milsand that he accepts “his strictures as heartily and frankly as I do your praise,”  affirming that “nothing has given me so much encouragement—or so much of the rare happiness which comes of a discovered sympathy, as your review of me.”

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Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Page 2 and 3.

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Page 2 and 3.

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Envelope from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865.

Envelope from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Verso.

Envelope from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Verso.

In the following letter, 28 February [1865], Ruskin thanks Milsand for his letter of response. He says that Browning had written to him saying that he thought Milsand would think Ruskin would have been angry about his criticism. However, Ruskin says this about praise and censure:

“…how could you think that? Unless indeed you have found as I have found so often that however much praise or sympathy you give people if you give them even the least bit of blame if it’s only enough to hold the praise on, like a cherry stone—they suck all the praise off—and spit the stone back in your face—or, if its big enough—throw it at you like the Merchant under the date tree in Arabian nights…. I’m very thankful for yours—blame & praise alike & much the better for it.”

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Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 28 February [1865]. Page 1.

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Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 28 February [1865]. Page 2.

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin’s Printing Plates and Woodcut Blocks

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The Armstrong Browning Library owns a collection of printing plates and woodcut blocks engraved from sketches by John Ruskin.

ruskin-woodcutsThese printing plates were used in illustrating Ruskin’s The Two Paths and Aratra Pentelici. Prints of the plates have been made by the Baylor Press to illustrate the designs.

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Ruskin, John. The Two Paths: Being Lectures on Art, and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture, Delivered in 1858-9. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1859.

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Angel in The Two Paths: Being Lectures on Art, and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture, Delivered in 1858-9. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1859, 27.

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Print of Angel from printing plate and woodcut block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Serpent Beguiling Eve in The Two Paths: Being Lectures on Art, and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture, Delivered in 1858-9. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1859, 30.

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Print of Serpent Beguiling Eve from woodcut block and printing plates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blob, Stick Man, and Handkerchief in The Two Paths: Being Lectures on Art, and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture, Delivered in 1858-9. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1859, 110-111.

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Print of Stick Man from printing plate and woodcut block.

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Print of Handkerchief from printing plate and woodcut block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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House (Fig. 1.) in The Two Paths: Being Lectures on Art, and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture, Delivered in 1858-9. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1859, 260.

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Print of House (Fig. 1.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ruskin, John. Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891. Print.

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Breakfast Plate (Fig. 1.) in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 9.

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Print of Breakfast Plate (Fig. 1.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spirit of Agriculture (Fig. 3.) in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 57.

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Print of the Spirit of Agriculture (Fig. 3.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zeus and Hephaestus (Fig. 4.) in  Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 62.

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Print of Zeus and Hephaestus (Fig. 4.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Angel (Figure 5.) in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 66.

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Print of Angel (Figure 5.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Owl (Figure 6.) in  Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 69.

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Print of Owl (Figure 6.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fish (Figure 7.) in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 69.

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Print of Fish (Figure 7.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Branched Iron Bar (Figure 8.) in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 135.

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Print of Branched Iron Bar (Figure 8.) from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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XII Branch of Phillyrea in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, before 151.

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Outline of Branch of Phillyrea (Figure 9.) in Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870. New York: John Wiley and sons, 1891, 151.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Print of Outline of Branch of Phillyrea from printing plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin and the Brownings

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The Armstrong Browning Library holds twelve letters recounting the correspondence between John Ruskin and the Brownings.

The earliest, [16 October 1855], is a letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Ruskin apologizing to him for not being able to see him before they leave for Paris.

In his letter to Ruskin of [1 February 1856], Robert Browning discusses Modern Painters.

In Ruskin’s letter to Robert Browning of 29 August 1856, he apologizes for “mangling” Browning’s  “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church” in Modern Painters and describes his tired, “vegetative” state.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes to John Ruskin’s mother on 18 October 1856, thanking her for her gifts of a netted scarf, flowers, and a box of preserves. Elizabeth also thanks her for her attention to her son Pen and for reading his poems that Elizabeth had sent to Mrs. Ruskin.

John Ruskin replies to Elizabeth on 18 October 1856, saying that he intends to send a gift to Pen. He also talks about his admiration for the poetry of both Brownings.

In a letter of 3 June 1859, Elizabeth recommends an artist, Mr. Page, to Ruskin. She also thanks Ruskin for speaking kindly about Italy, whose political situation is not looked on favorably by many people in England.

Robert informs Ruskin in a letter of [Mid-May 1862] that he will be at the National Gallery under the Portico of the Entrance to the Old Masters on Friday at five and hopes to have tea with him.

John Ruskin to Mrs. Johnson. [31 January 1865].

John Ruskin to Mrs. Johnson. [31 January 1865].

Ruskin mentions to Mrs. Johnson in a letter of [31 January 1865] that he has not written to Browning for a long time. He writes, rather cryptically: “Leave granted at once by Browning. I had not written to him for a long time and had to tell him why, and couldn’t at the time your letter came.”

The Armstrong Browning Library holds an envelope from Ruskin to Browning, 6 February 1865. The letter, which invites Browning to dinner at five on Wednesday, is located at The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

In this letter, [26 March 1866], Browning regrets he cannot accept Ruskin’s invitation.

Browning invites Ruskin to view Pen’s paintings in this letter of 28 March 1880.

In this letter of 12 August 1884 Browning forwards a letter from Mrs. Bloomfield Moore, author and art collector, to Ruskin.

In addition to these letters The Browning Letters project provides access to twenty Ruskin letters held by the Ransom Center at the University of Texas and three letters from Special Collection at the Margaret Clapp Library at Wellesley College. There are thirty-four references to John Ruskin in The Browning Letters.

Among the items in the John Ruskin Collection at the ABL are Ruskin’s copies of the Brownings’ works. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets bears Ruskin’s bookplate: “Ex Libris/John Ruskin/Brantwood.” Robert Browning’s translation of The Agamemnon of Aeschylus bears the same bookplate.

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John Ruskin’s bookplate in Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets. London: Chapman & Hall, 1863.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets. London: Chapman & Hall, 1863.

ruskins-copy-of-ebb1Ruskin’s copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Greek Christian Poets contains an annotation regarding the provenance of the book, indicating that Dr. and Mrs. Armstrong secured the book from Ruskin’s Coniston House.

John Ruskin’s bookplate in Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Transcribed by Robert Browning. London: Smith Elder & Co., 1877.

John Ruskin’s bookplate in Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Transcribed by Robert Browning. London: Smith Elder & Co., 1877.

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Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Transcribed by Robert Browning. London: Smith Elder & Co., 1877.

In a letter to Miss Carrie, 15 June 1914, Mrs. Lilian Whiting, an American journalist and biographer of the Brownings, relates this story recalled by Pen Browning about his father and John Ruskin.

Some six years before Mr. Barrett Brofning’s [sic] death (in July of 1912) he bought one of the old Medici villas that are scattered about Tuscany, , one called “La Torre All’ Antella”, about five miles out of Florence, and began “restoring” it. (That was his favorite amusement, and contributed largely to his dying a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in debt.) But to the last he had only two rooms that were habitable, and in those he camped out, so to speak, the rest of the house being in the hands of workmen. It was left in a totally unfinished state. In an outhouse he had packed all the furniture. He took me into the storehouse to see it, – the sofa, as high as a catafalque, on which he remembered seeing his father and Ruskin sitting side by side, with their feet dangling.

Robert Browning's snuff box

Robert Browning’s snuff box.

Robert Browning’s snuff box of Georgian silver is a crescent-shaped, engine turned box made in Birmingham in 1797 with R. B. monogrammed on the lid. It was reputedly given by Browning’s daughter-in-law, Fannie Coddington Browning, to John Ruskin and was still in his possession at his death in 1900.

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: Items from the John Ruskin Collection at The Armstrong Browning Library

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

seeing-many-beautiful-thingsOn Thursday, November 10, from 3:30-4:30 pm, in the Cox Lecture Hall, Jerry Eisley, Director of the Washington Arts Group will present a lecture, “Lost in Translation: The Challenge of John Ruskin and Lilias Trotter to Art & Culture in the 21st Century,” examining how John Ruskin and Lilias Trotter sought beauty and truth in their own time. Each generation seeks to translate transcendence and define sacred space for itself.  The Washington Arts Group does the same today. Eisley will discuss the intersection of art and culture with belief, from the perspective of the displaced artist.  He will address the question, what would modern art have been like without the influence of Ruskin and Trotter?

The next afternoon, Friday, November 11, from 3:30-5:00 pm, Many Beautiful Things, a documentary about the lives of Lilias Trotter and John Ruskin, will be screened in the Cox Lecture Hall. The film was produced by Hisao Kurosawa, directed by award-winning filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson, and features the voices of Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones). Eisley portrays John Ruskin in the documentary film Many Beautiful Things. The film focuses on the life of Victorian social reformer, artist, and missionary, Lilias Trotter. Lilias was a favored art student of John Ruskin. Despite Ruskin’s claim that “she would be the greatest living painter and do things that would be immortal,” at the age of 35, Lilias chose to leave her career as an artist and become a missionary to the people of Algeria. She lived in Algeria for the next forty years of her life.

many-beautiful-things A physical exhibit, “Seeing Many Beautiful Things: from the John Ruskin Collection at the Armstrong Browning Library,” presented in the Cox Reception Hall, will focus on a few items from the John Ruskin Collection at the Armstrong Browning Library: some letters, books, and memorabilia connecting the Brownings and John Ruskin, books and letters connecting author and illustrator Francesca Alexander and John Ruskin, and a book and a letter connecting Lilias Trotter and John Ruskin.

An accompanying blog will extend the physical exhibit and address more completely:

—Ruskin’s correspondence with the Brownings
—Images and descriptions of wood blocks used in Ruskin’s books
—Ruskin’s correspondence with French art critic Joseph Milsand
—Ruskin’s correspondence with other artists
—Ruskin’s correspondence regarding St. George’s Guild
—Ruskin’s letters to family
—Ruskin’s letters to friends
—Ruskin’s letters describing his travels
—John Ruskin and Francesca Alexander
—John Ruskin and Lilias Trotter

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Trotter, I. Lilias. Facsimile Edition: Lilias Trotter’s 1889 Sketchbook: Scenes from North Africa, Italy & Switzerland. Oxvision Books, 2015.

The flower reproduced on the exhibit poster is from Lilias Trotter’s 1889 Sketchbook, a tiny sketchbook Lilias carried in her pocket as she traveled around North Africa, Italy, and Switzerland. Although here she portrays a lovely purple flower, she did not always paint in purple. Once when she was visiting John Ruskin at Brantwood she admitted that she had a dislike for the color purple. She was sternly rebuked by Ruskin who opened cupboards full of beautiful minerals, rock crystals and amethysts of every shade, picked purple flowers; brought out watercolors of birds by Hunt, and displayed mountain scenes by Turner to persuade her of the greatness of her heresy (Blanche A. F. Pigott, I. Lilias Trotter. London: Marshall, 1929, 13). Ruskin taught her to “see” purple.

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John Ruskin, 1863

In the third volume of Modern Painters, a book primarily written as a defense of J. M. W. Turner, Ruskin argues that art should devote itself to the accurate documentation of nature. He says:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one.” Modern Painters, vol. III, part IV, chapter XVI, 1856

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Lilias Trotter

On 27 August 1928, members of the band of missionaries who had labored together in Algeria gathered around Lilias Trotter’s death bed and sang her favorite hymn, “Jesus Lover of My Soul. ” She looked out the window that framed her garden view and exclaimed, ‘A chariot and six horses!’ ‘You are seeing beautiful things?’ asked Helen Freeman. Lilias looked up and spoke her last words: ‘Yes, many, many beautiful things.’” (Miriam Huffman Rockness, A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Discovery House Publishers, 1999).

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