Puslapio vaizdai

But he was not the man to spend on himself without sharing his wealth with others. On November 22d, Convocation accepted a gift from the Slade professor of £5000, to endow a mastership of drawing at Oxford, in addition to the pictures and “copies ” placed in the schools; he had set up a relative in business with £15,000, which was promptly lost; and at Christmas he gave £7000, the tithe of his remaining capital, to the St. George's Fund; of which more hereafter.

On November 23d he was elected Lord Rector of St. Andrews University by 86 votes against 79 for Lord Lytton. After the election it was discovered that, by the Scottish Universities' Act of 1858, no one holding a professorship at a British university was eligible. Professor Ruskin was disqualified, and gave no address; and Lord Neaves was chosen in his place. Mrs. Ruskin was now ninety years

of sight was nearly gone, but she still retained her powers of mind, and ruled with severe kindliness her household and her son. Her old servant Anne had died in March. Anne had nursed John Ruskin as a baby, and had lived with the family ever since, devoted to them, and ready for any disagreeable task, “so that she was never quite in her glory,” “ Præterita” says,

“ unless some of us were ill. She had also some parallel speciality for saying disagreeable things, and might be relied upon to give the extremely darkest view of any subject, before proceeding to

age; her

ameliorative action upon it. And she had a very creditable and republican aversion to doing immediately, or in set terms, as she was bid; so that when my mother and she got old together, and my mother became very imperative and particular about having her teacup set on one side of her little round table, Anne would observantly and punctiliously put it always on the other; which caused my mother to state to me, every morning after breakfast, gravely, that if ever a woman in this world was possessed by the Devil, Anne was that woman."

But this gloomy Calvinism was tempered with a benevolence quite as uncommon. It was from his parents that Mr. Ruskin learned never to turn off a servant, and the Denmark Hill household was as easy-going as the legendary "baronial”

“ retinue of the good old times. A young friend asked Mrs. Ruskin, in a moment of indiscretion, what such a one of the ancient maids did, — for there were several without apparent occupation about the house. Mrs. Ruskin drew herself up and said, “She, my dear, puts out the dessert.”

And yet, in her blindness, she could read character unerringly. That was, no doubt, why people feared her. When Mr. Secretary Howell, in the days when he was still the oracle of the Ruskin-Rossetti circle, had been regaling them with his wonderful tales, after dinner, she would throw her netting down and say, “ How can you two sit there and listen to such a pack of lies ?” She objected strongly, in these later years, to the theatre; and when sometimes her son would wish to take a party into town to see the last new piece, her permission had to be asked, and was not readily granted, unless to Miss Agnew, who was the ambassadress in such affairs of diplomacy. But while disapproving of some of his worldly ways,

and convinced that she had too much indulged his childhood, the old lady loved him with all the intensity of the strange fierce lioness nature, which only one or two had ever had a glimpse of. And when (December 5, 1871) she died, trusting to see her husband again, — not to be near him, not to be so high in heaven, but content if she might only see him, she said, — her son was left “with a surprising sense of loneliness.” He had loved her truly, obeyed her strictly, and tended her faithfully; and even yet hardly realized how much she had been to him. He buried her in his father's grave, and wrote upon it, “ Here beside my father's body I have laid my mother's; nor was dearer earth ever returned to earth, nor purer life recorded in heaven."




“ Nous ne recevons l'existence

Qu'afin de travailler pour nous, ou pour autrui;
De ce devoir sacré quiconque se dispense
Est puni par la Providence,
Par le besoin, ou par l'ennui.”


On January 1, 1871, was issued a small pamphlet, headed “ Fors Clavigera,” in the form of a

” letter to the working men and laborers of England, dated from Denmark Hill, and signed “ John Ruskin.” It was not published in the usual way, but sold by the author's engraver, Mr. George Allen, at Heathfield Cottage, Keston, Kent. It was not advertised; press-copies were sent to the leading papers; and of course the author's acquaintance knew of its publication. Strangers, who heard of this curious proceeding, spread the report that in order to get Ruskin's latest you had to travel into the country, with your sevenpence in your hand, and transact your business among Mr. Allen's beehives. So you had, if you wanted to see what you were buying; for no arrangements were made for its sale by the booksellers: sevenpence a copy, carriage paid, no discount, and no abatement on taking a quantity.

By such pilgrimages, but more easily through the post, the new work filtered out, in monthly installments, to a limited number of buyers. After three years the price was raised to tenpence. In 1875, the first thousands of the earlier numbers were sold. The public has a very long nose, Mr. Ruskin once said, “and scents out what it wants, sooner or later." A second edition was issued, bound up into yearly volumes, of which eight were ultimately completed. Meanwhile the work went on, something in the style of the old Addison “Spectator;" each part containing twenty pages, more or less, by Mr. Ruskin, with added contributions from various correspondents.

“ Fors Clavigera” is practically a continuation of " Time and Tide,” and addressed, not to "working men ”only, but to the workers of England, those who, like Thomas Dixon, had ears to hear, in whatever rank of life. Its name, like itself, is mystic, and changes content as it goes on, — the Fate or Force that bears the Club, or Key, or Nail: that is, in three aspects, -as following, or fore-ordaining, deed (or courage), and patience, and laws, unknown or known, of nature and life; so that the “ Third Fors,” that plays so large a part in this later period, is simply fortune. The general sense of the title expresses the general drift of the work; to show that life is to be bettered by each man's honest effort, and to be borne, in

[ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »