JOHN RUSKIN Autograph Letter Signed.
English art critic, writer and artist. Champion of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. John Ruskin was also instrumental in bringing J.M.W. Turner to public notice.
ALS. 4pp. Denmark Hill, S.E. 14th January, 1868. To Frederick Clowes, Esq.
"I will not say that "I do not know how to thank you" for your gift - for I can feel that the assurance of its being of the very greatest service to me will be the thanks that you will like best - and indeed it will be of more use to me than you can imagine - for, owing for my very affection for them - I know less about the mosses than about any other group of creatures - (not that I know much more about any other) - for I have always put off to a "more convenient time" the careful looking at them, meaning some day to do the best I could with them, but the day has never come yet, and unless by your help could not have come now, for the best books findable on the subject respect, more of them, in illustration and of quite exemplary and - awful - there is no other right word, industry in microscopic investigation, never by chance contain the few words I want on any particular question. As for instance what is the structure and nature of the moss leaf (or husk rather, as I believe it to be more of a palea than a leaf) which gives it this moist immortality? - This Bacchanalean perpetualness of thirsty youth? How does it differ from an oak leaf? - How from an aloe leaf? - How from a grass leaf? - How from the chaff of grass? - How, finally, from the pineapple leaf, which is indeed a moss, but with [querifoid?] flowers instead of its little red Norman Cap? I always find that the botanists bury themselves under a mountain of many species, without ever endeavouring to understand, still less to explain, the nature of one. I fear you will be sadly disappointed with the poor effort I shall make in this explanatory or descriptive direction - But this subject is so attractive to me that, in all its hopeless impurity, it would soon absent me from every other pursuit and moss me over far away from all my art studies - on a grey hillside. - and I am forced to shrug myself up out of the fibres that entangle me, like Gulliver from his uncountable chains and, perhaps, may not get any botany done, after all. Like enough, for I shall be fifty next month, and feel as if all my work is yet to do. Meanwhile, thanks again, with all my heart, for this great help, and for your permission to write to you about things that I want to know - for this last, especially; and believe me always gratefully and sincerely yours, J. Ruskin".
8vo. Approx 7 x 4.5 inches. Slight mounting traces to edge. VG.
A very nice John Ruskin letter in which he demonstrates the extraordinary erudition of the Victorian gentleman. Botany, along with many other scientific disciplines, were still very much the purview of the enthusiastic amateur and most of the important advances were made by middle-aged country clergymen, and the like, who had the time and inclination to devote themselves to study. John Ruskin is known to have had wide ranging interests, which he gives vent to in this letter in his somewhat romantic and lyrical style. John Ruskin had a particular passion for botany and he made many sketches and drawings from nature. The diaries of John Ruskin now housed at the Ruskin Library contain many examples of his botanical drawings.
Provenance: From the 19th century album of Emma Marshall of Penwortham Lodge, Preston. Emma was the daughter of William Marshall, landowner and cotton manufacturer and was related by marriage to the Miller family of Baronets, M.P.s and landowners.