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The very qualities which have pleased the body of his readers most, the brilliant word-painting (which he has vainly repudiated), the superb freedom of passionate utterance in praise and blame, the immense variety of swift and telling illustration, the gifts of rhetorical exaggeration which he employs, have done him this injury with sober-minded thinkers of a more practical or scientific turn, that they have concealed the close and accurate texture of his deeper thought. Thus the selfish interests and the false passions which he so constantly and bitterly assailed have, in part at any rate, succeeded in persuading large sections of the thinking world that, while Mr. Ruskin is a valuable art-critic and a brilliant litterateur, he has no claim to serious consideration as an economist and a thinker upon social reform. Particular phrases and judgments have been distorted and abused, the grossest misrepresentations of a general character have been employed, in order either to pretend that Mr. Ruskin did not really mean what he has plainly said, or that his fundamental notions and valuations are too unsubstantial to deserve the attention of thoughtful practical reformers. This is the common price paid by literary genius to the dull-witted multitude, who have always been easily persuaded that a man who writes well cannot think clearly or deeply.
Some even among his lovers and admirers may hold their master to blame for a certain perverse ingenuity of waywardness in the intentional disorder of his reasoning. That he has in fact carried this disorder so far as to hide from many the full appreciation of his logic is my chief excuse for this work.
To crib, cabin, and confine in a dull array of formal
propositions the rich exuberance of Mr. Ruskin's thought would be a needless injury. This I have endeavoured to avoid. But, however one may handle so delicate a writer for purposes of exposition, some considerable loss of the finer flavour of his work is unavoidable. As we draw together from diverse quarters the compact order of his thought, the spell of his eloquence is broken, the all-pervasive charm of his rich free utterance is dissipated. To some it may seem that the establishment of a sound logical reputation is no adequate compensation for such a loss. My answer is that every reader who would appraise his work aright, in all its breadth and fullness, must in some fashion do for himself this work of formal analysis and synthesis, must seek a wholeness and a harmony in Mr. Ruskin's art of life. This central fire of inspiration which gives vitality to all his works, this art of life, issuing as it does from his supreme sense of spiritual brotherhood, is identical with the passion of social reform, which is the aspect of his work that here engages us. Some account of the outward circumstances of his life, and of the more distinctively artistic and literary interests which absorbed much of his time and attention, is here given. But neither biography nor art philosophy is treated for its own intrinsic interest, but only in so far as it helps to explain, historically or logically, the order and nature of his social teaching. My design is to render some assistance to those who are disposed to admit the validity of the claim which Mr. Ruskin has made to be first and above all else a Political Economist, and who are willing to give careful consideration alike to the strictures he has passed upon current economic theory and prac
tice, and to the schemes of social and industrial reconstruction which he has advocated with zeal and persistency for over thirty years.
The main part of this book is devoted to a statement and a vindication of Mr. Ruskin's claim to have placed Political Economy upon a sounder scientific and ethical foundation than it had hitherto possessed, and to have built upon that foundation an ideal of a prosperous human society. The particular qualities and defects of Mr. Ruskin's criticism and constructive policy are examined in some detail, his repudiation of democratic ideas and institutions receiving special attention. The important contribution which he made to educational theories and experiments, and its bearing upon the wider social polity, are separately discussed, and chapters are accorded to certain themes, such as his attitude towards machinery and his view of the position of woman, which seem to demand separate treatment. Finally, some account is given of the constitution of the Society and Guild of St. George, and of the industrial and educational experiments either directly associated with the Guild or animated by the spirit of Mr. Ruskin's social teaching
For many of the biographical facts I wish to express my
indebtedness to the admirable work of Mr. Collingwood, “Life and Work of John Ruskin.”
I have also to acknowledge the kindness and courtesy of Mr. Ruskin, and of Messrs. George Allen & Son, in permitting me the use of copious excerpts from Mr. Ruskin's published works.
J. A. HOBSON.
FORMATIVE INFLUENCES OF EARLY LIFE.
$1. “An entirely honest merchant” and his wife. § 2. First
impressions from literature and art. 83. Education of nature and of books. $ 4. A home-keeping youth — Dawn of the literary faculty. $ 5. Undergraduate days at Oxford.
$ 1. Only those who are familiar with John Ruskin's estimate of the mercantile life and of the art of homekeeping can understand the full significance of the phrases in which he summed up the distinctive and essential virtues of his parentage. The first great “formative influence” in his life was the fact that he was the son of an entirely honest merchant” and of “ consummate housewife.”
Scotch blood entered his veins from both parents, with some infusion of the Galloway Celt. Those who attach importance to the powers of “race" as determinants of individual character and work may find an interest in tracing the Celtic qualities in Mr. Ruskin's art and literature, and will attribute to this source the vivid imagination and the impulsiveness which give such brilliant colour to his social criticism. A surer