Decorative Initial RUSKIN, who learned to read the language of types chiefly from Evangelical sermons, frequently encountered typological symbolism in the readings of his boyhood as well. Paradise Lost, which all devout Evangelicals read as a doctrinal work, exemplifies that literature which exercised methods of interpretation Ruskin learned in Beresford and Camden Chapels. Milton's explicit explanation of types appears in Book XII when Michael comforts Adam with a vision of salvation to come, first instructing him that God will communicate laws to His chosen people through Moses

part such as appertain
To civil Justice, part religious Rites
Of sacrifice, informing them, by types
And shadows, of that destin'd Seed to bruise
The Serpent, by what means he shall achieve
Mankind's deliverance. But the voice of God
To mortal ear is dreadful; they beseech
That Moses might report to them his will,
And terror cease; he grants what they besought,
Instructed that to God is no access
Without Mediator, whose high Office now
Moses in figure bears, to introduce
One greater, of whose day he shall fortell,
And all the Prophets in thir Age the times
Of great Messiah shall sing.

Michael further explains to Adam that since man in his fallen state will be unable to keep God's moral law, only Christ will be able to crush Satan:

Doubt not but that sin
Will reign among them, as of thee begot;
And therefore was Law given them to evince
Thir natural pravity, by stirring up
Sin against Law to fight; that when they see
Law can discover sin, but not remove,
Save by those shadowy expiations weak,
The blood of Bulls and Goats, they may conclude
Some blood more precious must be paid for ~\Ian,
Just for unjust, that in such righteousness
To them by Faith imputed, they may find
Justification towards God, and peace
Of Conscience, which the Law by Ceremonies
Cannot appease, nor Man the moral part
Perform, and not performing cannot live.
So Law appears imperfet, and but giv'n
With purpose to resign them in full time
Up to a better Cov'nant, disciplin'd
From imposition of strict Laws, to free
Acceptance of large Grace, from servile fear
To filial, works of Law to works of Faith.
And therefore shall not Moses, though of God
Highly belov'd, being but the Minister
Of Law, his people into Canaan lead;
But Joshua whom the Gentiles Jesus call,
His Name and Office bearing, who shall quell
The adversary Serpent, and bring back
Through the world's wilderness long wander'd man
Safe to eternal Paradise of rest.

In these lines Milton not only explains the need for types and shadows but also, like the Evangelical preachers two centuries later, explains how Moses himself functions in the scheme of salvation.

Furthermore, as commentators have pointed out, Milton subtly emphasizes his typological vision of sacred history throughout Paradise Lost, thus simultaneously revealing the curse of the Fall and the promise of salvation. At the moment in Book X when the voice of God accuses Adam and Eve of their transgression and states the future enmity between their descendants and Satan, the poet mentions "Jesus son of Mary second Eve," who will bring salvation. Similarly in the fifth book Raphael greets Eve, yet unfallen, with "Hail" — "the holy salutation us'd/ Long after to blest Mary, second Eve."The poem, in fact, begins with Milton's request that he be inspired by the Heavenly Muse which inspired Moses, "That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed." Milton, then, continually emphasizes both the individual historical role of each agent, whether Adam, Eve, or Moses, and the symbolic function that each plays in sacred time. The forces of evil are revealed in their typical roles as well, for when Satan climbs into Eden, Milton points out how his act prefigures future evil:

So clomb this first grand Thief into God's Fold:
So since into his Church lewd Hirelings climb.

Similarly, the continual shifting of verb tenses in "The Morning of Christ's Nativity," which serves to reveal the interpenetration of human time, God's divine scheme of salvation, and Christ's presence, has its counterpart in these consistent reminders to the reader of Paradise Lost of the spiritual beauty of God's plan.

Confident both of the reality of types and that his readers will perceive them in the poem, Milton makes many subtle uses of figuralism. Thus, the eleventh book opens with Adam and Eve able to pray since God had enabled Grace to descend to them "from the Mercyseat above." Milton would have expected his readers to have recognized the mercy-seat as the image of Aaron's tabernacle in Exodus 25: 17-20, traditionally the type of intercession of Angels or Christ in heaven. Furthermore, the prophecy that Christ would  bruise the head of Satan appears six or seven times throughout the poem, always emphasizing the future appearance of the Savior.

In their ability to read figurally the Evangelicals clearly earn themselves a place in Milton's "fit audience though few." It is characteristic of the seriousness with which this party in the  Church of England regarded Paradise Lost that "'s Practical Christianity should use Milton's words to illustrate man's fallen state. " (40) quotes Adam's closing speech in Book x: "What better can we do [ . . . ], than prostrate fall Before him reverent; and there confess Humbly our faults, and pardon beg; with tears Watering the ground, and with our signs the air Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign Of sorrow unfeign'd, and humiliation meek?") Similarly, when Melvill's sermon, "Eve Parleying with the Tempter," which Ruskin summarized in his diary, appeared in The Pulpit, the Victorian editor followed the sermon by Milton's 11. 735-784 of the ninth book as the natural accompaniment to the preacher's words (XLIII (1843), 432). Ruskin mentions and summarizes this "noble sermon" in Diaries, 1, 243 (12 February 1843).

Pilgrim's Progress, one of the few books Margaret Ruskin allowed her son to read on Sundays, further exemplifies the way his childhood readings reinforced Evangelical interpretations of scripture. After returning home from Beresford Chapel where he had heard Reverend Andrews preach on the types in Leviticus, Ruskin would have come upon many of these same figures of Christ in Bunyan. For example, the verses prefatory to Pilgrim's Progress thus cite God's use of types in Levitical law to defend the author's allegory and metaphor:

            Was not God's laws,
His Gospel-laws, in olden times held forth
By Types, Shadows and Metaphors? Yet loth
Will any sober Man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault
The highest Wisdom. No, he rather stoops
And seeks to find out what by Pins and Loops,
By Calves, and Sheep, by Heifers, and by Rams,
By Birds and Herbs, and by the blood of Lambs,
God speaketh to him; and happy is he
That finds the Light and Grace that in them be. (Ed. James B. Wharey, Oxford, 1928, 4)

Believing firmly that in the service of God one can employ those devices of language and art sanctified by "the highest wisdom," Bunyan casts his narrative in the form of an allegory and embellishes his text with frequent echoes of scripture, many of which bear figural significance.

Occasionally he will explicitly mention typology in the narrative, but usually his practice is more indirect. At one point, however, Christian explains to Hopeful that "Esau's Birth-right was Typical"(136). More characteristic is that scene in the second half of the Progress which indirectly expounds the  Levitical types cited in the prefatory verse. After Christiana's son Matthew has fallen ill from a guilty conscience, Mr. Skill "made him a Purge, but it was too weak. 'Twas said it was made of the Blood of a Goat, the Ashes of a Heifer, and with some of the Juice of Hyssop, &c. When Mr. Skill had seen that that Purge was too weak he made him one to the purpose. 'Twas made ex Carne — Sanguine Christi." Combining the belief that Christ has come to fulfill sacrificial law with the belief that only Christ can cure the ills of the world, this passage shows that in one's journey to heaven one especially needs the Gospel and the intercession of Christ after one has realized his own guilt. For the reader to understand this incident he must be familiar with figural interpretations of Levitical law. For him to enjoy it he must delight in discovering the truths of religion in novel contexts. Bunyan obviously expects these figural embellishments upon the main narrative to attract and exercise the reader's skill at biblical interpretation, and he makes frequent use of them. For instance, when Christiana, Great-Heart, and Gaius sit down to dinner with the others, they find on their table "a Heave-shoulder and a Wave-breast," the sacrificial offerings enjoined by Leviticus 7:32-34 and 10:14 15. Here the typological symbolism functions more indirectly than did Mr. Skill's purge, for the reader must first recognize that the pilgrims dine on the Levitical offering, then realize that this offering prefigures Christ, and finally perceive that the pilgrims sustain themselves with the body and blood of Christ thus typically prefigured. This love of solving divine riddles appears again in many of the visions and emblems which the pilgrims encounter throughout their journey. For example, when the angels present Christiana with a vision of Jacob's ladder and Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, the well-prepared reader would have received figural instruction as well as the overt moral instructions that Bunyan included.

Bunyan's primary use of the visions are tropological. Thus after Prudence has shown Christiana the holy places and things of religion she sings the following song to her (246):

An Anchor you received have;
But let not these suffice,
Until with Abram you have gave
Your best, a Sacrifice.

In other words, the reader has to interpret Pilgrim's Progress in the same way the Evangelicals — and the  Puritans before them — interpreted the Bible. Like Milton, Bunyan believed that since his allegory reveals Christ's role in human salvation he could fittingly employ typology. Unlike Milton, whose figuralism generally advances the main narrative, Bunyan uses types to embellish his tale of life's journey. Both works achieved great popularity with the Evangelicals who regarded the seventeenth-century Puritans as honored precursors to their party, and Ryle described the story of Christian's pilgrimage through life as "a religious work . . . unrivalled in its way since the time of the apostles"(Living or Dead?, 18). The fact that Bunyan's absorbing story both enforced Evangelical doctrine and exercised the reader's skill at understanding the Word of God made it especially appropriate reading for the young. Although many Victorian children must have read the story literally, completely missing Bunyan's use of types and shadows, Ruskin, who at the age of nine could already explicate Levitical law with utmost sophistication, would have understood Pilgrim's Progress more fully.

George Herbert, who throughout Ruskin's life remained one of his favorite poets, similarly makes extensive use of figuralism. For example, "The Sacrifice," a soliloquy spoken by Christ, emphasizes both that Jesus came as a second Adam and that he was the antitype, the fulfillment, of Moses:

My face they cover, though it be divine.
As Moses face was vailed, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine.(Works, ed. F. E. Hutchinson, Oxford,1941, 31)

Similarly, Herbert's "Sunday" employs the notion that Sampson was a type of Christ, showing that the tremor which shook the earth at the moment Christ died fulfilled Sampson's destruction of the temple which he pulled down upon himself. In particular, the poem argues that just as the Old Testament hero pulled down the heathen temple, so Christ pulled down the old religious order — worship on Saturday — replacing it with worship on Sunday, the day of His resurrection:

The rest of our Creation
Our great Redeemer did remove
With the same shake, which at his passion
Did th' earth and all things with it move.
As Sampson bore the doores away,
Christs hands, though nail'd wrought our salvation,
And did unhinge that day.

The use of typology for Herbert's wit of paradox, evident in "Sunday," characterizes many of his other poems, and, as a recent critic has demonstrated, not only individual poems but also the entire structure of The Temple itself employ typological symbolism — See John David Walker, "The Architectonics of George Herbert's The Temple," ELH, 29 (1962): 289-305. Ruskin, who encountered in Herbert the uses of figuralism that he had learned from the sermons of Andrews and Melvill, would here have found his habits of scriptural reading reinforced and exercised in the most delightful manner.

In addition, Ruskin exercised his knowledge of figural interpretation in reading not only the works of these seventeenth-century writers but also those of his own century. Wordsworth, who perhaps more than any other romantic poet influenced Ruskin's early years, employs typology in ways that would have confirmed Ruskin's own usage of this mode of symbolism. The Excursion, upon which he drew for the epigraph to Modern Painters, several times uses figuralism in its strict biblical application. For example, when the Solitary is musing upon the rite of baptism, he mentions the commonplace that Noah's ark was a type of the church:

At the baptismal font . . . when the pure
And consecrating element hath cleansed
The original stain, the child is there received
Into the second ark, Christ's church, with trust
That he, from wrath redeemed, therein shall float
Over the billows of this troublesome world
To the fair land of everlasting life. (Works, v, 162)

In other words, just as Noah, following the Word of God, built an ark that the virtuous few might survive the divine wrath of the punishing Hood, so Christ established the church to enable the virtuous few of a later day to survive the "billows of this troublesome world." Such use of a biblical type does not draw much attention to itself, for it arises as a natural means of expression to those accustomed to reading the scriptures for signs of Christ. And Wordsworth, while not an Evangelical, still read the Bible in this manner and still found the language of types a natural mode in which to discuss the truth of scripture. A similar use of figuralism occurs in Book VI, "The Churchyard among the Mountains," when the betrayed Ellen tells her mother that the grace of God enabled her to endure the "pang of despised love":

There was a stony region in my heart;
But He, at whose command the parched rock
Was smitten, and poured forth a quenching stream,
Hath softened that obduracy, and made
Unlooked-for gladness in the desert place,
To save the perishing.(216; Ruskin borrows this image for use in his poem "The Broken Chain,"2.174).

Here the use of the scriptural type is more indirect than in the previous passage. Although the analogy which Ellen draws between Moses striking the rock in the wilderness and God relieving her distress functions quite effectively without a recognition that this is a common type, such a recognition adds to the power of the comparison. For if the reader perceives that when Moses struck the rock he prefigured, as Melvill pointed out, Christ's death by the law which brought grace to men, then the further connections between the suffering of Ellen and her Savior make the passage even more moving.

Wordsworth's most interesting types are those symbols drawn from the world of nature which foreshadow things to come. Thus, upon looking at the glory of a mountain sunset, the effusive clergyman of The Excursion "in holy transport" thanks God for

this local transitory type
Of thy paternal splendours, and the pomp
Of those who fill thy courts in highest heaven,
The radiant Cherubim. (Works, v, 307)

The notion of type here is of course somewhat ambiguous, for the speaker might be using it in the extended sense of "symbol" — that the sunset provides an earthly image of eternity — or he might intend it to mean that this terrestrial beauty literally prefigures the beauties of the life which follows. At any rate, since in either case the earthly, temporal beauty signifies that which is outside time and space, and since that which exists in eternity clearly relates to Christ, who brought men the good news of eternal life, the basic notion of the biblical type applies. On the other hand, the magnificent "Simplon Pass," which presents the tumult and peace, the darkness and light of the Alpine pass as a type of the Apocalypse, clearly and unambiguously makes use of figuralism:

Brook and road
Were fellow-travellers in this gloomy Pass,
And with them did we journey several hours
At a slow step. The immeasurable height
Of woods decaying, never to he decayed,
The stationary blasts of waterfalls,
And in the narrow rent, at every turn,
Winds thwarting winds bewildered and forlorn,
The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky,
The rocks that muttered close upon our ears,
Black drizzling crags that spake by the wayside
As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
And giddy prospect of the raving stream,
The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light —
Were all like workings of one mind, the features
Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,
Characters of the great Apocalypse,
The types and symbols of Eternity,
Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.(Works, II, 212-13)

Against Wordsworth one might argue that natural phenomena cannot be types, since they only appear in the Bible and only there because God dictated its words. But to Wordsworth, as to Ruskin, such argument would fail to recognize their assumption that the earth, in a most literal sense, is the book of God. Believing as he does in the sacred language of the earth, Wordsworth has no difficulty in discovering types of a changed earth, the future earth of the Apocalypse, in the magnificence of an Alpine pass.

Carlyle, whose influence upon Ruskin increased about the time Wordsworth's began to fade, further provided him with an example of symbolism ultimately rooted in biblical typology. Unlike the essentially orthodox use of figuralism which Wordsworth extended to include the natural world, Carlyle's conception of the symbol had been largely emptied of its original Christian meaning. This genetic relation of the Carlylean symbol to type or figura appears most distinctly in Sartor Resartus where, after emphasizing that men live by symbols, Carlyle's Professor points out how much greater are symbols with intrinsic meaning than banners and emblems: "Let but the Godlike manifest itself to Sense; let but Eternity look, more or less visibly, through the Time-figure (Zeitbild)! Then is it fit that men unite there; and worship together before such a Symbol.... Of this latter sort are all true Works of Art: in them (if thou know a Work of Art from a Daub of Artifice) wilt thou discern Eternity looking through Time; the Godlike rendered visible" (Works, 1, 178). Carlyle's use of the term "Time-figure," which obviously recalls "figure" or figura, the usual Latin term for type, would seem to demonstrate his debt to traditional readings of scripture. Similarly, the emphasis upon "Eternity looking through Time" and "the Godlike rendered visible" apparently arise in conventional typology. Throughout Carlyle's writings one can perceive similar hints that his notions of symbolism derive from a typology emptied of christological significance. Sartor, for example, emphasizes that "in what we can call a Symbol, there is ever . . . some embodiment and revelation of the Infinite; the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to stand visible, and as it were, attainable there" (Works, 1, 175). Without the emphasis upon Christ, without the emphasis upon an eternal plan unfolding in human time, there remains the notion essential to typology that the type both exists in itself and signifies further — that an incursion from eternity stands forth in the world of man, bearing news from the infinite. Similarly, although Carlyle's "Chartism" removes the Carlylean notion of sacred history far from its original source, we can still perceive habits of mind acquired in the Christian tradition: "Events are written lessons, glaring in huge hieroglyphic picture-writing, that all may read and know them: the terror and horror they inspire is but the note of preparation for the truth they are to teach" (XXIX, 155). Here in "Chartism," though we are far from the gospel of salvation that typology reveals, the terminology remains Christian. Like the fundamentalist preacher, whether Presbyterian, Evangelical, or Methodist, Carlyle considers events as "written lessons," and like the preacher he uses the notion of "hieroglyphic," teaching by event, and a meaningfully structured history.

When Carlyle drew upon Christian typology for his ideas of symbolism, he emptied his source both of orthodox Christian significance and its emphasis upon the literal. As we have already seen, typology, unlike Hellenistic allegory, maintains the integrity of both the signifier and the signified: Moses, though far less than Christ, is still real. A conception of symbolism or allegory, such as Ruskin's, which is based on typology therefore emphasizes the reality and the importance of the literal. Carlyle, on the other hand, remains without confidence in the essential reality of this world. His central attitude appears in his statement in Heroes and Hero-Worship that "this so solid-looking material world is, at bottom, in very deed, Nothing: is a visual and factual Manifestation of God's power and presence — a shadow hung-out by Him on the bosom of the void Infinite; nothing more" (V, 65). The difference between Carlyle and Ruskin is a matter of emphasis, surely, but an all-important one; for although Ruskin, like Wordsworth, believes this world to be a mere shadow of things to come, he never loses sight of the essential reality of the material, the earthly. This divergence between Ruskin and Carlyle, a divergence which goes far to explain why Carlyle so distrusted the art which Ruskin loved, suggests that Carlyle had little effect on Ruskin's notions of symbolism, which, at any rate, had formed themselves before Carlyle had an important influence upon his thought.


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Last modified 26 July 2005