The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin

Ruskin's Religious Readings, 1851-1852

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Professor Bradley's invaluable edition of Ruskin's Letters from Venice, 1851-52 includes Ruskin's description of the religious readings he had with him in December 1851: "I have plenty of religious book[s] -- Young -- George Herbert -- Vinet -- d'Aubigné -- Milton -- Wordsworth and Milner -- only there is something very refreshing in Mr Melville. I class Wordsworth as a thoroughly religious book; -- in fact I believe for all practical use -- he is much more so than Milton -- It is almost impossible that anything can be more noble or useful than that entire passage beginning about 60 lines into the 4th book with 'And what are things eternal' and going on to the end of the speech of the Wanderer -- some hundred and 70 or 80 lines but more especially -- the passage beginning 'Here then we rest not fearing for our creed.' This passage and the whole of the poem called the 'Happy Warrior' and Young's very correspondent description -- far in the poem but I forget in which book -- of 'the man on earth devoted to the skies' -- are as far as I know -- the best things that profane poetry has yet done for the help and guidance of mankind -- Dante being prevented from having his full effect by his imaginative wildness and Romanism and George Herbert being the expression in detail of that which passages sum up in the most comprehensive and philosophical 'manner'" (92-93).

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Last modified 2000