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1. By my promise that, in the text of this series of Fors, there shall be “no syllable of complaint, or of scorn,” : I pray the reader to understand that I in no wise intimate any change of feeling on my own part. I never felt more difficulty in my life than I do, at this instant, in not lamenting certain things with more than common lament, and in not speaking of certain people with more than
Nor is it possible to fulfil the rightly warning functions of Fors without implying some measure of scorn.
For instance, in the matter of choice of books, it is impossible to warn my scholars against a book, without implying a certain kind of contempt for it. For I never would warn them against any writer whom I had complete respect for,—however adverse to me, or my work. There are few stronger adversaries to St. George than Voltaire. But my scholars are welcome to read as much of Voltaire as they like. His voice is mighty among the ages.
Whereas they are entirely forbidden Miss Martineau,—not because she is an infidel, but because she is a vulgar and foolish one.*
* I use the word vulgar, here, in its first sense of egoism, not of selfishness, but of not seeing one's own relations to the universe. Miss Martineau plans a book-afterwards popular--and goes to breakfast, “not
[With this Letter was issued a Publisher's Notice, recording the suspension of Fors, owing to the author's serious illness : see p. xxx.]
(For the title, see $ 7.]
2. Do not say, or think, I am breaking my word in asserting, once for all, with reference to example, this necessary principle. This very vow and law that I have set myself, must be honoured sometimes in the breach of it, so only that the transgression be visibly not wanton or incontinent. Nay, in this very instance it is because I am not speaking in pure contempt, but have lately been as much surprised by the beauty of a piece of Miss Martineau's writings, as I have been grieved by the deadly effect of her writings generally on the mind of one of my best pupils, who had read them without telling me, that I make her a definite example. In future, it will be ordinarily enough for me to say to my pupils privately that they are not to read such and such books; while, for general order to my Fors readers, they may be well content, it seems to me, with the list of the books I want them to read constantly; and with such casual recommendation as I may be able to give of current literature. For instance, there is a quite lovely little book just come out about Irish children, Castle Blair, 3—(which, let me state at once, I have strong personal, though stronger impersonal, reasons for recommending, the writer being a very dear friend; and some Irish children, for many and many a year, much more than that “). But the impersonal reasons are—first, that the book is good and lovely, and true;
knowing what a great thing had been done.” 5 So Mr. Buckle, dying, thinks only-he shall not finish his book.8 Not at all whether God will ever make up His.
1 [Hamlet, Act i. sc. 4.]
? İRuskin does not give any such list of books, though he gives one of authors (Vol. XXVIII. pp. 500-501 : see also ibid., pp. 20, 407, 434).]
[Castle Blair: a Story of Youthful Days, by Flora L. Shaw (now Lady Lugard) 2 vols., 1878.]
[Miss Rose La Touche and her sister : see Præterita, iii. $ 51.]
[The reference is to Miss Martineau's account (in her Autobiography, 1877; vol, i. p. 139) of the inception of her Illustrations of Political Economy. She unfolded her scheme in the family circle: “Brother James nodded assent; my mother said, “Do it'; and we went to tea, unconscious what a great thing we had done since dinner."]
* [Comparo Vol. XXII. p. 523. Froude related the incident in his lecture on “The Science of History" (the first of the Short Studies).]
having the best description of a noble child in it (Winnie) that I ever read; and nearly the best description of the next best thing—a noble dog; and reason second is that, after Miss Edgeworth's Ormond and Absentee, this little book will give more true insight into the proper way of managing Irish people than any other I know.*
3. Wherewith I have some more serious recommendations to give; and the first shall be of this most beautiful passage of Miss Martineau, which is quoted from Deerbrooks in the review of her autobiography :
“In the house of every wise parent, may then be seen an epitome of life-a sight whose consolation is needed at times, perhaps, by all. Which of the little children of a virtuous household can conceive of his entering into his parents' pursuits, or interfering with them? How sacred are the study and the office, the apparatus of a knowledge and a power which he can only venerate! Which of these little ones dreams of disturbing the course of his parents' thought or achievement? Which of them conceives of the daily routine of the household—its going forth and coming in, its rising and its rest—having been different before its birth, or that it would be altered by his absence ? It is even a matter of surprise to him when it now and then occurs to him that there is anything set apart for himthat he has clothes and couch, and that his mother thinks and cares for him. If he lags behind in a walk, or finds himself alone among the trees, he does not dream of being missed; but home rises up before him as he has always seen it-his father thoughtful, his mother occupied, and the rest gay, with the one difference of his f not being there. This he believes, and has no other trust than in his shriek of terror, for being ever remembered more. Yet, all the while, from day to day, from year to year, without one moment's intermission, is the providence of his parent around him, brooding over the workings of his infant spirit, chastening its passions, nourishing its affections—now troubling it with salutary pain, now
* Also, I have had it long on my mind to name the [Strange] Adventures of a Phaeton 3 as a very delightful and wise book of its kind; very full of pleasant play, and deep and pure feeling; much interpretation of some of the best points of German character; and, last and least, with pieces of description in it which I should be glad, selfishly, to think inferior to what the public praise in Modern Painters,–I can only say, they seem to me quite as good.
† Italics mine.
1 [For another reference to Ormond, see Vol. XXV. p. 282; to the Absentee, Preterita, i. $ 145, and below, p. 444 n.]
[Chapter xxxiii., pp. 359, 360 (1860 edition). The passage is cited in a review of the Autobiography, by Henry S. Richardson, in the Contemporary Review, May 1877, vol. 29, pp. 1115-1116.]
[By William Black; first published in 1872.]
animating it with even more wholesome delight. All the while, is the order of the household affairs regulated for the comfort and profit of these lowly little ones, though they regard it reverently, because they cannot comprehend it. They may not know of all this—how their guardian bends over their pillow nightly, and lets no word of their careless talk drop unheeded, and records every sob of infant grief, hails every brightening gleam of reason and every chirp of childish glee—they may not know this, because they could not understand it aright, and each little heart would be inflated with pride, each little mind would lose the grace and purity of its unconsciousness; but the guardianship is not the less real, constant, and tender for its being unrecognized by its objects.”
This passage is of especial value to me just now, because I have presently to speak about faith, and its power;' and I have never myself thought of the innocent faithlessness of children, but only of their faith. The idea given here by Miss Martineau is entirely new to me, and most beautiful. And had she gone on thus, expressing her own feelings modestly, she would have been a most noble person, and a verily “great” writer. She became a vulgar person, and a little writer, in her conceit;-of which I can say no more, else I should break my vow unnecessarily.
4. And by way of atonement for even this involuntary disobedience to it, I have to express great shame for some words spoken, in one of the letters of the first series, in total misunderstanding of Mr. Gladstone's character.?
I know so little of public life, and see so little of the men who are engaged in it, that it has become impossible for me to understand their conduct or speech, as it is reported in journals.
There are reserves, references, difficulties, limits, excitements, in all their words and ways, which are inscrutable to me; and at this moment I am unable to say a word about the personal conduct of any one, respecting the Turkisho or any other national question,—remaining myself perfectly clear as to what was always needed, and still
1 [See below, pp. 370-373.)
2 (See Letter 57, § 2 (Vol. XXVIII. p. 403). Ruskin, at the time of writing the present letter, had just returned from staying with Mr. Gladstone at Hawarden.)
* (Then at a very critical stage : see below, p. 375 n.]
needs, to be done, but utterly unable to conceive why people talk, or do, or do not, as hitherto they have spoken, done, and left undone. But as to the actual need, it is now nearly two years since Mr. Carlyle, Mr. Froude, and several other men of “creditable” (shall we say ?) name, gathered together at call of Mr. Gladstone, as for a great national need, together with a few other men of more retired and studious mind, Edward Burne-Jones for one, and myself for another, and did then plainly and to the best of their faculty tell the English nation what it had to do.?
The people of England answered, by the mouths of their journals, that Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Froude knew nothing of history, that Mr. Gladstone was a dishonest leader of a party, and that the rest of us were insignificant, or insane, persons.
5. Whereupon the significant and sagacious persons, guiding the opinions of the public, through its press, set themselves diligently to that solemn task.
And I will take some pains to calculate for you, my now doubtless well-informed and soundly purposed readers, what expenditure of type there has been on your education, guidance, and exhortation by those significant persons, in these last two years.
I am getting into that Cathedra Pestilentiæ* again !-My good reader, I mean, truly and simply, that I hope to get, for next month, some approximate measure of the space in heaven which would be occupied by the unfolded tissue or web of all the columns of the British newspapers which have during these last two years discussed, in your pay, the Turkish question. All that counsel, you observe, you have bought with a price. Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Froude gave you theirs gratis, as all the best things are
1 [For the allusions here to the Conference at the St. James's Hall on the Eastern Question, see Vol. XXIV. p. xxxviii.] 2 (See Letter 74, § 16 n. (p. 45).]
(This, however, was not done.] • ["The seat of the scornful” (Vulgate, Psalms i. 1): compare the preface ($ 15) to Rock Honeycomb (Vol. XXXI.).1
* [His illness, however, stopped the publication of Fors.]
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