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DISCRIMINATION IN ART TEACHING'
[See Letter 57, § 7 (Vol. XXVIII. p. 407)]
The first need is to be assured that there is a bad and good in art and in literature, and that some people know the one from the other.
If once we are assured of that, we are able to deal with the second question-Shall we let everybody, young people or uneducated people, look at and read what they like, and so find out what is good for themselves? or shall we give them only good art-only good literature-and forbid them bad art and bad literature ?
Forbid; but how can you, says John Milton, wisest of the Liberty men. Let us hear him first, nevertheless, on this point of absolute goodness : 2
“I deny not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how Bookes demeane themselves as well as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors : For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that foule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth ; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.
And yet on the other hand unlesse warinesse be us'd, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the Earth ; but a good Booke is the pretious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm’d and treasur'd up on purpose to a life beyond life. 'Tis true, no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great losse ; and revolutions of ages doe not oft recover the losse of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole Nations fare the worse. We should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against the living labours of publick men, how we spill that season'd life of man preserv’d and stor'd up in Books; since we see a kinde of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdome, and if it extend to the whole impression, a kinde of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elementall life, but strikes at that ethereall and first essence, the breath of reason it selfe, slaies an immortality rather than a life."*
* It seems to me that in this passage there must be some gap; to make it clear reasoning it ought to have “not only” inserted here after "therefore," and " but much more" after “public men” in the next line.
[This passage is printed from sheets of MS. at Brantwood, headed “Fors.”]
(The passage is not given in the MS., but Ruskin obviously refers to Areopagitica (p. 35 in Arber's Reprint) as here given.]
Now, in this passage you may read "picture" or "work of art” for book, with entirely the same force in the passage.
Which, so generalized, is literally and entirely true. And the Essay which I have printed, to take the lead among all that I have ever myself said which seems to me deserving not to die, is the amplification of this; of which if you will now read $S 32, 38, and 412—the latter in connection with our recent studies in Fors from Kirkby Lonsdale churchyard 3—you will be better prepared for what I have to say next, namely, that you cannot, then, at present, teach the British public anything but evil, by putting means of information indiscriminately within their reach.
The Crystal Palace proposes to do this. You have there casts of the best Greek statues, made entirely accessible to the British public, but at the same time the Soho Bazaar and the Surrey Pantomime in the central aisle.4 And the only word I have ever heard spoken by the British public concerning the Greek statues was an indecent jest by a drunken sailor; while the decent and undrunk portion of the British public entirely abjures that region of plaster anatomy, delights itself with its own dress and chattery under the monster organ, and makes the lovely Temple of Minerva at Ægina serve as a vestibule to the Ladies' Cloak-room.
At Kensington matters are still worse. For there fragments of really true and precious art are buried and polluted amidst a mass of loathsome modern mechanisms, fineries, and fatuity, and have the souls trodden out of them, and the lustre polluted on them, till they are but as a few sullied pearls in a troughful of rotten pease, at which the foul English public snout grunts in an amazed manner, finding them wholly flavourless.5
Now, therefore, the first thing we need in England is an accessible museum, however small, containing only good art, and chiefly of a quality which the British public can understand, or may in time come to understand, and which therefore will be in some degree attractive to it.
Good water-colour drawings, for instance, are pleasant to everybody. Not so pleasant as bad ones to the general mob; but never offensive, and in time attractive. Such a drawing, for instance, as that I named 6 of Mrs. Allingham's, in the water-colours of this year, could not fail to teach rightly, when it taught at all.
But even the best Greek vases must always be entirely unintelligible and useless to the British public, and need never be put in a museum intended for them.
[Here the MS. breaks off.]
* Cf. p. 5 of Letter 23 [§ 5 (Vol. XXVII. p. 398)]. (Sesame and Lilies was reissued in 1871 as the first volume in a collected Works” series of Ruskin's books : see Vol. XVIII. pp. lix., 9.]
(Vol. XVIII. pp. 84-86, 96-99.] 3 (See Letters 52 and 56 (Vol. XXVIII. pp. 298, 393).] • (For the casts, see Vol. XX. p. 237 ; for the pantomime, Vol. XIX. pp. 216–218.]
6 (For a similar reference to the South Kensington “labyrinth," see (in a later volume of this edition) the letter of March 20, 1880, on A Museum or Picture Gallery.]
o [In Academy Notes for 1875: see Vol. XIV. p. 264.]
Now, therefore, to begin one little piece of construction work, and as far as possible conclude it, let me state the main clauses of St. George's laws concerning wine.
The disorder of life and degradation of temper which attend the growth of the vine in many districts of Europe result either from the cupidity of the masters (reducing the vineyard labourers to serfdom), or the ignorance of the peasant and his consumption of the precious yearly fruit of his ground in his own careless thirst. Of all material tests of high civilization none can be more simple than the storing of corn and wine. You cannot have the highest civilization but in districts producing both, and that both should be rightly cultivated and distributed will always signify a nearly perfect condition of the commonwealth.
By prudent industry the corn and wine district of the temperate zone may be greatly extended beyond its present limits. But within their attainable limits no ground should ever be allowed by the Government to be put under vine but that which has good exposure and fitting soil. The northern and eastern slopes of hills, so often put under vine by the proprietors in districts of reputation for wine, must be authoritatively reduced to lower produce, and no grapes grown but such as will give wine that will keep
The most accurate and scrupulous skill being spent on these, and the preparation of the wines conducted under Government inspection preventing, by quite crushing penalties, all adulteration and imposture, the wines are to be finally sealed with the Government seal in bottles of accurate and equal measure in all Christian countries, admitting of course division of such measure according to the preciousness of the wine; and the storehouses on each estate are to be proportioned in size to the time which the wine requires to be matured in, so that, supposing it is at its best at the end of ten years, the storehouses must hold the produce of ten vintages, and as the new year's wine is put in wood at one end of them, the ten years' old wine taken out for sale at the other, the sale of the newer wine being permitted if the consumer ask for it, but not at a lower price, so that there may be no temptation to any one to drink, or give immature
· [Printed from a MS., with no heading, at Brantwood.]
wine because it is cheaper. The measure of wine therefore from these inspected stores will always be of the same known and unquestioned money value, inevitable and minor variations in flavour being noticed only for the better pleasing, in courtesy, of individual taste, but not permitted to affect price, and the wines of entirely rare quality retained by Government for gifts of honour or use in medicine.
I have no occasion to say more than this on the subject of winegrowth in the text of Fors; but I will admit into its correspondence any useful letters of suggestion or statement from wine-growers. Of letters of objection I shall take no notice because no rational objection can be made to this system except on grounds of selfish interest which I refuse to recognize.
ECONOMY: GOD'S AND THE DEVIL'S'
[See Letter 58, § 12 (Vol. XXVIII. p. 429)]
Devil's, AND Fool's POLITICAL
God's, AND His SERVANT'S
ECONOMY. 1. That good things are only good, 1. That money is only good, if it if they can be turned into money. can be turned into good things.
2. That all human prosperity must 2. That all human prosperity must be founded on the vices of human be founded on the virtues of human nature, because these are the essential nature, because these are the essential powers of human nature, and its vir powers of human nature, and its vices tues are accidental and impotent. are accidental and impotent.
3. That every man is bound to form, 3. That every man is bound to know, and at liberty to follow, his own and under orders to follow, God's opinion on all matters concerning opinion, on all matters concerning him.
him. 4. That there is no Devil, no Life, 4 (indivisible) That there is an and no God.
Eternal God, an Eternal Life, and an
1 [This section of the Appendix was printed as Note 5 in Mr. Faunthorpe's Index to “ Fors Clavigera," p. 501.]
THEREFORE she is the teacher, and shelter of Israel; a hard taskmaster, yet needful, serviceable. “Out of Egypt have I called my son;"? yes, but the Son was first sent there.
There is continual debate among learned men nowadays whether the art of Greece came from Egypt or Tyre. But they debate without themselves knowing what could be got from either of them, and in the meantime the Turks have hindered Count de Cesnola from going on with his diggings in Cyprus, where the marbles are the key to everything. The noble collection of them which, made out of the temple at Golgos three years ago, he offered for an old song to the British Museum, and which its authorities (my own impression is, through pure and mere jealousy) offered him an older song for, and let it be bought over their heads by New York, where doubtless the enlightened public will soon break it all up for soft building materials, contained the entire evidence needed respecting what was western and southern in Greek art. Unquestionably, however, one elementary branch of the arts-letters and the art of writing them—did come from the Reed country. Egypt is not only the great Engraver on stone, but the great Scribe on Papyrus. And the Ark which her princess found, itself of reed, among the paper reeds by the brooks, is the first origin and type of all noble Library.
Whereupon we may proceed to our writing lesson-progress in which is for the most part dependent on your obeying the general order, never to write anything but what you sincerely suppose needs to be written, and will be good, if written, for yourself in future and for others at present. And plant that written word thoroughly and accurately, as you would plant potatoes or vines or anything else meant to grow, in true lines and with due pains, and no hurry. The words which you copied for a first lesson were Greek for, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength," the beginning of the 18th Psalm.
· [This passage is printed from MS. sheets at Brantwood, headed "New Copy." It was clearly intended to follow Letter 61, for it takes up the writing exercise, there set (Vol. XXVIII. p. 494); but it also connects with what is said of Egypt in Letter 64 (ibid., p. 563).]
2 (Matthew ii. 15.]
3 For another allusion to this collection and its refusal by the British Museum, see Vol. XXV. p. 161.]