« НазадПродовжити »
interpreted as a sufficient end: where no such finality is read into it, and it is regarded as a means of education and activity, needed to enable women to bear their proper part in the evolution of a sound industrial society, it is seen to lie along the right road of progress. Mr. Ruskin set his eyes so earnestly upon a distant ideal that he refused to make the true allowance for historical processes. If the just spiritual relation of the sexes which he craves existed now, and the family, at any rate, was founded in affection and cheerful co-operation, the movements which Mr. Ruskin deplores would rightly be deplorable; but in the actual relations of women to society, even the unsexing which he deprecates, with all the self-assertion and the hardening which it brings, is necessitated alike by the wrongs of the present and the hopes and needs of the future.
If some of the belligerent advocates of women's rights regard emancipation as an end, and competition of the sexes for all trades and professions as a permanent and desirable factor in social order, it is only because the dust and perturbation of the present struggle has blinded them, as it blinded many of the keenest thinkers and the bravest fighters for male liberty in the last generation.
THE GUILD OF ST. GEORGE.
§ 1. The practice of fair dealing. § 2. Mr. Ruskin's use of rent
and interest. § 3. Mr. Ruskin, publisher and bookseller. § 4. The origin and principles of St. George's Company. § 5. Experiments in agricultural reform. $ 6. The Ruskin Museum at Sheffield. $ 7. Revival of hand-spinning and weaving. $ 8. The Home Arts and Industries Association.
§ 1. As in education so in other matters Mr. Ruskin was eager to practise what he preached. But in practice he drew a just distinction between what is ultimately desirable, and what is now practically serviceable. Though he understood quite well that justice is unattainable in modern commercial transactions, he did not, as a few have done, determine to have nothing to do with buying and selling, and “to come out of the whole affair.” Here he was a teacher, drawing professional salaries, a maker and seller of books, a specialist buyer of pictures and other art treasures, as well as a purchaser and consumer of general commodities. What did common sense, enlightened by honesty, require of him ? Certainly not to give up buying pictures and selling books, for these were among his most serviceable functions to society. In his later years, at any rate, having given away, or put to other social use, his paternal inheritance, he could not fulfil his art
mission otherwise than by selling books. Mr. Ruskin was no believer in an ascetic doctrine of self-renunciation, but in a life of honest and delightful self-expression attainable for all. Had he refused to sell his books and teaching, he would in no sense have illustrated his sane theory of life. He was no disbeliever in commerce and exchange. What he sought to do was to deal fairly with others, as bookseller, as owner of houses and other property, and as buyer of goods and services. His method of buying he explains in the beginning of “ Unto this Last," as illustrated in the case of domestic service. He did not make labourers compete against one another so as to get his labour at the lowest market price, but fixed what he regarded as a reasonable wage, such wage as would enable the worker to do his work in comfort and with good-will towards his master, and chose the best labour available at this price. This was the theory of sound wages, which he preached and practised, not only in the treatment of domestic servants and other workers whom he employed directly, but in the indirect processes of buying commodities, by which also he exercised power over men. If a picture was offered him at a price he considered fair, and he had the means to buy it, he paid the price; if he made an offer, it was not the lowest offer which he thought might be accepted, but one which he thought to represent the present value: bargaining he utterly eschewed. It may be forcibly urged that, when one abandons the arbitrament of the market, no true standard of “ fairness ” in price or wages remains. This criticism is strictly valid, and yet it does not prevent us from tempering the harshness of market competition in particular cases, and in applying a rough
personal standard of justice. The appointment of most highly skilled officials, as we have seen, implies the legitimacy of such a standard, and the claim of Mr. Ruskin that it should be substituted everywhere for unchecked competition is one which he sought to enforce in all his private dealings.
§ 2. He fully recognised that this was a very rough approximation to justice, but it was all that the time and conditions render possible to the individual who cannot, however much he strive, “ come out of the whole affair.” In conformity with this true principle of compromise, Mr. Ruskin, even after he recognised the economic and moral wrong of rent and interest, took his rents and defended the action. His present obligation was to be a good landlord, and for this purpose, in 1864, he enlisted the help of Miss Octavia Hill, who helped him to attempt improvements in working-class dwellings on his property in Marylebone and other parts of London. Later on he sold to Miss Hill his London property. The proceeds of the sale, several thousand pounds, seem to have gone the way of nearly all the means he had inherited. It was no theory of his, as we have seen, that he should give away all the money which he had not earned. Yet, in fact, that seems to have been done, and even more. If we take account of the various large sums expended upon philanthropic and educational schemes, we shall find that the great bulk of his inherited property and his earnings went in these ways. A full and interesting account of the larger items of this expenditure is given in Letter lxxvi. of “ Fors," from which it appears that of the fortune of £157,000, with certain houses and lands besides, which
formed his inheritance, almost the whole of the money had been expended by 1877, while plans were already formed disposing in advance of considerable further sums derivable from the remaining property and current earnings. It is, indeed, impossible to allocate, out of the free but by no means lavish expenditure of a directly personal kind, which Mr. Ruskin admits, the proportion which is really and finally spent upon himself; for travel and art purchases, which expressed his most expensive tastes, were yet capital in the fuller and more liberal
The common phrase, “ There were no limits to his generosity,” was literally true of Mr. Ruskin; no man of means ever treated his money more in the spirit of a public trust, and none ever administered that trust more wisely. To some who have followed closely his modes of outlay this latter statement may seem dubious, but Mr. Ruskin rightly understood that many of his schemes were risky experiments, and he also understood that even an experiment which fails may be a wise expenditure of money and effort.
$ 3. Before describing the largest of these experiments, it will be well to illustrate Mr. Ruskin's commercial dealings by brief reference to his conduct as bookseller. For the greater part of his literary life he held full control over the making and selling of his books, and imposed conditions both on their production and their sale which were in strict conformity with his conceptions of honesty and industry. To put a thoroughly sound article into the hands of those who wanted it for use at a reasonable price, without imposing injurious physical or moral conditions upon the labourers employed, and without employing advertise