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The “ Ethics of the Dust,” whh I devoured with pause, and intend to look at ag”, is a most shining Performance! Not for a long while have I read anything tenth-part so radiant with talent, ingenuity, lambent fire (sheet — and other light
nings) of all commendable kinds! Never was such a lecture on Crystallography before, had there been nothing else in it,
and there are all manner of things. In power of expression I pronounce it to be supreme; never did anybody who had such things to explain explain them better. And the bit of Egypt" mythology, the cunning Dreams abt Pthah, Neith, &c, apart from their elucidative quality, whh is exquisite, have in them a poetry that might fill any Tennyson with despair. You are very dramatic too; nothing wanting in the stage directos, in the pretty little indicatns : a very pretty stage and dramatis persone altogeth'. Such is my first feeling abt yr Book, dear R. Come soon, and I will tell you all the faults of it, if I gradually discover a great many. In fact, come at any rate !
The Real Little Housewives, to whom the book was dedicated, were not quite delighted — at least, they said they were not — at the portraits drawn of them, in their pinafores, so to speak, with some little hints at failings and faults which they recog
. nized through the mask of dramatis persona. Miss “ Kathleen " disclaimed the singing of “ Vilikins and his Dinah,” and so on. It is difficult to please everybody. The public did not care about the book; the publisher hoped Mr. Ruskin would write no more dialogues: and so it remained, little noticed, for twelve years. In 1877 it was republished and found to be interesting, and in the next twelve years 8000 copies were called for.
The break-up of Winnington was not the end of Mr. Ruskin's educational experiments. He has described in “ Præterita” how he played the part of drawing-master to a pair of little girls, during this period; and no doubt some day we shall have the reminiscences of many another pupil on whom he has spent his time and affectionate advice, for the love of the work. Not only at Winnington, but at very many schools and colleges for girls and for boys, he has placed the most valuable collections of minerals, the most carefully chosen series of prints and pictures, in the hope of making it easy for others to carry out his plans: which are, after all, only what Rousseau had formed, long before, and a long series of educational theorists and experimenters have attempted, in their different ways. But Mr. Ruskin's system, if it can be called a system, reaches farther, attempts more; is closely bound up with a general scheme of life and politics, – - Platonic in its breadth of view. His work in this kind was the suggesting and exemplifying a course of action for others to follow out. He could not very well undertake to devote himself to school-teaching. The advantage of his method would never be thoroughly brought out unless continued and confidential relations were set up between the teacher and the taught. And while, for a bright and intelligent mind, it is a liberal education in itself just to live in his company, not even Mr. Ruskin can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
present day will doubt, if I read aright the tendency of the last twenty years, that his view of the function of the teacher is sound in the main points. To break down the wall between the schoolroom and the playground; to widen the range of subjects, and at the same time to replace a superficial breadth by accurate dealing with concrete facts; to consider each study in its relation to the whole aim and purpose of life; to set good literature and worthy art, healthy nature and sincere thought, before the pupil from the very beginning, — this is what he has taught as the first step to that “certain moral culture,” the higher development of the human race, through which and by no panaceas of statesmanship or party victories – the “time of wrath” may one day be past, “and the Wolf be dead in Arcady, and the Dragon in the Sea."
“Still to our gains our chief respect is had :
Reward it is that makes us good or bad."
MENTION has been made of an address to working men at the Camberwell Institute, January 24, 1865. This lecture was published in 1866, together with two others, under the title of “ The Crown of Wild Olive,” that is to say, the reward of human work, a reward “which should have been of gold, had not Jupiter been so poor,” as Aristophanes said.
What work is thus rewarded ? the speaker asked. What reward is to be hoped for? And how does it influence, how ought it to influence, the aims and the conduct of the various classes of men who make up the active world, the three great distinct castes of laborers, traders, and soldiers ? In fact, these three lectures, on Work, Traffic, and War, - one before a suburban insti. tute, one at a great manufacturing centre, and one addressed to the young soldiers of Woolwich, sketch out Mr. Ruskin's political ethics in sequel to his economy and educational ideals.
i Republished in 1873, with a fourth lecture added, and a Preface and notes on the political growth of Prussia, from Carlyle's Frederick.
In the loose way we have of saying “one man's play is another man's work," and other phrases of the sort, we often forget the real distinction between work and play, which ought to fix the first principles of our conduct in life.
Unless we know, to begin with, whether we are working or playing, whether a given action is a necessary step in our progress towards a determined end, we cannot form a clear notion of our duties. And Mr. Ruskin pointed out that, in many cases, occupations and aims that were really play were put forward as work, and took an importance in the public mind and code of morality far beyond the importance given to the real work by which human life is made possible. For example, the whole scheme of orthodox political economywas it the laws of work? or only rules of a game? Mr. Ruskin had labored to prove that it was not a true analysis of the real process of human provision for all human needs; that is to say, it was not a scientific account of work; and now, approaching the subject from the other side, he showed that the great occupation of moneymaking, which was the end and aim of British political economy, was, after all, only play on a large scale. Not only was the so-called science not a science, but the so-called work was not work.