Three decades ago Richard Aldington recognized that Lawrence was "strangely akin" to John Ruskin, the great Victorian critic of art and society, "both in the character of his mind and in his social views — a certain affinity and an unadmitted literary influence."1 Keith Alldritt, who points out that "Lawrence grew to maturity at a time when Ruskin was still regarded as a major writer," claims that "though his attitude to Ruskin was always critical, it was never altogether dismissive. . . . Ruskinism . . . was more than a mere set of ideas to Lawrence; it was rather a particular range of emotional reverberation which he had known both in himself and in others."2 Although a few critics and biographers have thus pointed to Ruskin's major influence upon D. H. Lawrence, most have failed to build upon their recognitions. Most writers on Lawrence, it is true, do remark that Ruskin influenced his hatred of industrialism,3 and Keith Sagar, one of the few to perceive a Ruskinian presence, has pointed out that his notion of the snake as "a divine hieroglyph of the demoniac power of the earth — of the entire earthly Nature" anticipates Lawrence's discussion of the serpent's mythic status in Etruscan Places and othrer works.' Such recognitions of Ruskin's influence, however, have been comparatively rare, and students of Lawrence have generally failed to perceive the novelist's complex relation to his predecessor.
In fact, certain areas of Lawrence criticism which one might expect to mention Ruskin frequently are marked, instead, by an almost complete failure to do so. For example, David J. Gordon's useful D. H. Lawrence as a Literary Critic concerns an aspect of Lawrence's writings which obviously demands relating to Ruskin, if only [35/36] to point out either that Lawrence rejects his predecessor's ideas or that he formulates his own in direct reaction to them. Gordon thus points out that "the flexible, freewheeling form of critical essay which Lawrence developed for himself enabled him to pass naturally beyond a concern for art proper and to emphasize its relation to the civilization of which it is a vital expression" (3). In fact, all the elements Gordon credits Lawrence with inventing characterize the writings of the great Victorian critic of art and society: his freewheeling critical discussion, his movement in such criticism from art to the civilization within which it took form, and the idea that art is the best and most important expression of the society which produced it — so that to improve art one has, first, to change society itself. Indeed, as Arnold Hauser has remarked in The Social History of Art, Ruskin
was indubitably the first to interpret the decline of art and taste as the sign of a general cultural crisis, and to express the basic, and even today not sufficiently appreciated, principle that the conditions under which men live must first be changed, if their sense of beauty and their comprehension of art are to be awakened. ... He was, finally, the first to proclaim the gospel that art is not the privilege of artists, connoisseurs and the educated classes, but is part of every man's inheritance and estate. . . . Ruskin attributed the decay of art to the fact that the modern factory, with its mechanical mode of production and division of labour, prevents a genuine relationship between the worker and his work, that is to say, that it crushes out the spiritual element and estranges the producer from the product of his hands. [2.819-22]
Similarly, Gordon's clear description of Lawrence's characteristic argumentative method, which employs shifting terminologies (8-9), again well defines both a quality of mind and a manner of proceeding which derives from Ruskin, just as Lawrence's conceptions of analogical literary structure would also in part seem to do, for such structural principles inform Modern Painters and Praeterita, Ruskin's brilliantly allusive autobiography." From Ruskin Lawrence also seems to have derived major portions of his conceptions of symbolism, particularly his emphasis on the intrinsic relation of symbol and myth.9 Even Lawrence's basic opposition to asceticism and ideal art — a point at which one might expect to find him opposed by Ruskin — agrees completely with him.10
At the same time that one argues for a major Ruskinian influence [36/37] upon Lawrence, one must admit that some cases may represent confluence rather than influence. For example, as many writers on Lawrence have perceived, the Bible, particularly as it was read within the English dissenting tradition, colors all of Lawrence's prose. As Alldritt has pointed out in his discussion of The Rainbow, Lawrence there draws upon vernacular culture for a conception of biblical epic as well as for his frequent scriptural allusion.11 One should take such observations considerably further, since in Lawrence's references to Abraham, Moses, David and other Old Testament prefigurations of Christ and Christian doctrine he shares with Ruskin and many other Victorians a habit of secularized, often ironic, allusions not only to specific biblical texts but also to the interpretive tradition in which they were understood.12 Thus, Lawrence places his new rainbow against traditional nonconformist readings of that natural phenomenon as a covenant-sign and type of the Saviour. One recognizes additional rich ironic reverberations when one also perceives that the chain of scriptural types throughout the novel here reaches its climax in this imagistic coda. If Lawrence learned such scriptural imagery from his religious upbringing, why need we mention Ruskin at all? Ruskin is here important because he offered Lawrence an influential example of an author reworking and reapplying such materials in writings on art, literature and society. Although Lawrence certainly learned to recognize and even think in terms of such interpretive modes in his boyhood, nonetheless Ruskin and Carlyle most likely taught him how to employ such allusions in secular prose.
Quite obviously, how one judges such relationships ultimately depends upon the critic's point of view, initial premises and purpose. If, for example, the critic engages himself to demonstrate Lawrence's superiority to his Victorian predecessors — or, to state the point more neutrally, if he wishes to emphasize what Lawrence adds to his tradition — then necessarily the critical enterprise takes the form of sharp distinctions which emphasize the new, the different, and overlooks points of contact and resemblance, be they few or many. On the other hand, the critic and cultural historian who attempts to perceive Lawrence's position within a long continuum deriving from Ruskin and beyond necessarily emphasizes precisely those points of contact the other critic, or other purpose of the same critic, de-emphasizes or even fails to perceive. Fortunately, now that Lawrence and other writers of his age have clearly won their recognition [37/38] as modern masters, his readers no longer need to argue for his greatness by first cutting him off from the tradition in which he produced his work. Rather, now that we see Lawrence is a major author in his own right, we as critics and readers late in the twentieth century surely need to perceive to what extent his work arose within native traditions.
By observing how much Lawrence owes to Ruskin, one can recognize precisely where Lawrence's uniqueness, inventiveness and genius lay. Indeed, as Ruskin himself reminds us in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849; full text on this site), "It is no sign of deadness in present art that it borrows or imitates, but only if it borrows without paying interest, or if it imitates without choice" (8.195). Since any complete examination of the complex and often ironic relationship between Ruskin and Lawrence demands an entire volume, and a long one at that, I have chosen to devote the following pages to several related literary methods that Lawrence learned from his predecessor and then added to them, making them his own.
D. H. Lawrence clearly learned from the author of Modern Painters (1843-60) and The Stones of Venice (1851-3) various modes of visually oriented prose, just as he also learned to transform Ruskinian word-painting into symbolic or mythological set-pieces. But, as we shall observe, although many passages of Lawrence's writing, both in the travel books and fiction, clearly bear the impress of Ruskin the word-painter, many also mark his extension of them into a new way of seeing, thinking and feeling in prose.
Lawrence learned from Ruskin ways of creating powerful topographical descriptions and also the uses to which such elaborate word-painting can be put. Ruskin's famed skill at natural description, which he employs throughout Modern Painters, The Stones of Venice and his other writings, achieve their characteristic effect in large part because he infused his descriptions with a powerfully ordered energy. Ruskin's characteristic word-paintings take three basic forms, each more complex and more powerful than the last. First, he employ what we may term an additive style, one in which, like most writers of description, he cites a number of visual details one after another. The second mode, in contrast, creates a dramatized scene placed before the reader, whose attention is focused upon certain elements which move through this fictive space conjured up by language. For example, in the first volume of Modem Painters when Ruskin writes about rain clouds, he first explains [38/39] how they form and then move in relation to the earth below, after which, like the Evangelical preacher and Romantic poet, he cites his own experience:
I remember once, when in crossing the Tete Noire, I had turned up the valley towards Trient, I noticed a rain-cloud forming on the Glacier de Trient. With a west wind, it proceeded towards the Col de Baime, being followed by a prolonged wreath of vapour, always forming exactly at the same spot over the glacier. This long, serpent-like line of cloud went on at a great rate till it reached Ie valley. . . . There it turned sharp round, and came down the valley, at right angles to its former progress, and finally directly contrary to it, till it came down within five hundred feet of the village, where it disappeared; the line behind always advancing, and always disappearing, at the same spot. This continued for half an hour, the long line describing the curve of a horse-shoe; always coming into existence and always vanishing at exactly the same place; traversing the space between with enormous swiftness. This cloud, ten miles off, would have looked like a perfectly motionless wreath, in the form of a horse-shoe hanging over the hills. [3.395]
Ruskin thus places us before his Alpine scene, permitting us to observe the movement of a single element within it. After he has concluded his examination of the moving cloud, he moves us farther away and tells us what the same phenomenon would look like — how we would experience it — from a different point of view.
In Twilight in Italy Lawrence creates this kind of word-painting, which produces the effect of moving elements within a scene, when I he describes his experience upon leaving the darkened, sensual interior of San Tommaso and coming out suddenly into bright day:
Across, the heavy mountain crouched, along the side of the lake, the upper half bril mtly white, belonging to the sky, the lower half dark and grim. So, then, that is where heaven and earth are divided. From behind me, on the left, the headland swept down out of a great, pale-grey, arid height, through a rush of russet and crimson, to the olive smoke and the water of the level earth. And between, like a blade of the sky cleaving the earth asunder, went the pale-blue lake, cleaving mountain from mountain with the triumph of the sky.  [39/40]
As this passage demonstrates, Lawrence, like Ruskin, creates his powerful descriptions by transforming description into narrative. In this instance he first implicitly places himself as viewer with the word "Across" which informs the reader where the scene takes place in relation to the perceiving eye. Then Lawrence presents the outlines of mountain form, not as static boundaries between material masses but rather as paths of movement. Thus, the mountain "crouched" before him alongside of the lake, while on his left hand the headland "swept down" from the arid heights. Since Lessing it has been a critical commonplace that the verbal arts are essentially temporal and the visual ones static. Ruskinian — and Lawrencean — word-painting uses this inevitable sequentiality of verbal art both to order and energize its attempts to create a visualizable pictorial image.14
Ruskin's third characteristic technique, which produces what we may anachronistically term a cinematic prose, proceeds by first establishing a center of consciousness which organizes the scene like a camera lens. Having established his narrative center or fictive eye, he proceeds to move it either through or across his described scene — that is, he either turns this camera-eye upon its axis, in effect panning across the scene, or else he changes the perceiving eye's distance to the scene, moving it closer (or into) the scene. Conversely, he moves it farther away to provide a distant view. Such literary strategies provide verbal art with a means of composing and ordering linguistic descriptions, thereby providing them with some of the elements and capacities of the visual arts. This inevitably kinetic description possesses an energy which merely additive and accumulatory forms do not. Examples of this third, or protocinematic, form of word-painting in Ruskin's works include his elaborate description of La Riccia (3.278-80) in the first volume of Modern Painters (1843), his satiric look at Claude's Il Mulino and the Roman scenery it purports to depict in the 1844 preface to that same volume (3.41-43) and many passages in The Stones of Venice (1851-53), particularly his tour of St Mark's (10.79-90), and his aerial view of the Mediterranean Sea (10.186-187).
This kind of proto-cinematic descriptive prose appears in the opening pages of The Rainbow, which describe the Marsh, the home of the Brangwens. Organizing this description by first establishing a vantage point in the Ruskinian manner, Lawrence then moves this imagined, fictive eye: "looking from the garden gate down the road [40/41] to the right, there, through the dark archway of the canal's square aqueduct, was a colliery spinning away in the near distance, and further, red, crude houses plastered in the valley in masses, and beyond all, the dim smoking hill of the down." Using the imagined eye's movement to create a path down which he can channel our visual imagination, Lawrence establishes the moral and philosophical meanings of the landscape within which he sets his narrative.
Lawrence also resembles Ruskin in avoiding "to be" and passive constructions, thereby creating life, movement and energy in his description. For example, in the sentence immediately after he has placed the Brangwens' home in relation to industrialization and its ravages, he first provides the reader with a meaning for the scene he is about to describe and then presents its vitality in terms of such strong verbs:
The homestead was just on the safe side of civilisation, outside the gate. The house stood bare from the road, approached by a straight garden path, along which at spring the daffodils were thick in green and yellow. At the sides of the house were bushes of lilac and guelder-rose and privet, entirely hiding the farm buildings behind.
At the back a confusion of sheds spread into the homeclose from out of two or three indistinct yards. The duckpond lay beyond the furthest wall, littering its white feathers on the padded earthen banks, blowing its stray soiled feathers into the grass and the gorse bushes below the canal embankment, which rose like a high rampart near at hand. [emphasis added]
A different use of this kind of kinetic description closes this first chapter, when Lawrence, in the manner of Ruskin and Tennyson, presents a character's exterior environment expressionistically; that is, like his Victorian predecessors, he employs what Ruskin termed the Pathetic (or emotional) Fallacy, a technique which makes the setting figure forth a character's interior landscape, his mind and mood.15 Having proposed to Lydia, Brangwen experiences his passion as "a clanging torment," for "such intimacy of embrace, and such utter foreignness of contact" torture him. He thereupon goes out into the windy night:
Big holes were blown into the sky, the moonlight blew about. Sometimes a high moon, liquid-brilliant, scudded across a hollow space and took cover under electric, brown-iridescent cloud [41/42] edges. Then there was a blot of cloud, and shadow. Then somewhere in the night a radiance again, like a vapour. And all the sky was teeming and tearing along, a vast disorder of flying shapes and darkness and ragged fumes of light and a great brown circling halo, then the terror of a moon running liquid-brilliant into the open for a moment, hurting the eyes before she plunged under cover of cloud again.16
This brilliant application of the Pathetic Fallacy as Ruskin suggested it should be employed — that is, to body forth a character's strongest emotions — receives a characteristically Laurencean intonation, since he employs it for subjects and emotions Ruskin would not himself have emphasized: physical desire and passion. Such a passage reminds us that Lawrence's natural development of Ruskinian word-painting takes the form of using such techniques learned from his Victorian master to convey precisely those experiential and imaginative truths which most concerned him — and in so doing he advanced both nonfiction and the novel into new areas.
Lawrence's own brilliant additions to the tradition of Ruskinian word-painting — the sensuous and semi-conscious feelings one experiences within a scene — appear with particular clarity in Twilight in Italy when he relates his experience of San Tommaso. This passage, which appears in "The Spinner and the Monks," owes a great deal to Ruskin's many presentations of prospect visions, Pisgah sights and distant views of mountains throughout his works (but particularly in Modern Painters and his autobiography Praeterita), and that section which tells of Lawrence's entrance into the church itself seems based upon Ruskin's elaborate narrative presentation of St Mark's in The Stones of Venice. After explaining that the "tiny chaotic back-ways" and "tortuous, tiny, deep passages of the village" baffled him, he relates how, one day, he at last managed to ascend to the church which surmounts the village. Finding a broken stairway, he runs up it, "and came out suddenly, as by a miracle, clean on the platform of my San Tommaso, in the tremend-* ous sunshine," and he discovers himself in "another world, the world of the eagle, the world of fierce abstraction. ... I was in the skies now." After describing his setting, first in terms of the details surrounding him and then by filling in the distant sights far below on the lake, Lawrence next ruminates upon the church he has come to investigate, after which he enters its sheltering darkness: [42/43]
I went into the Church. It was very dark, and impregnated with centuries of incense. It affected me like e lair of some enormous creature. My senses were roused, they rang awake in the hot, spiced darkness. My skin was expectant, as if it expected some contact, some embrace, as if it were aware of the contiguity of the physical world, the physical contact with the darkness and the heavy, suggestive substance of the enclosure. It was a thick, fierce darkness of the senses. But my soul shrank.
I went out again. The pavemented threshold was clear as a jewel, the marvellous clarity of sunshine that becomes blue in the height seemed to distill me into myself. [pp. 5 -22]
This passage well exemplifies Lawrence's version of what Richard L. Stein's The Ritual of Interpretation has taught us to recognize as a Ruskinian "fable of perception" (53). Brilliantly as this scene departs from Ruskin's own methods by emphasizing the physical and subconscious reactions of the viewer, it nonetheless still represents Lawrence adding to rather than denyng his Ruskinian heritage. In fact, Lawrence here stands in reation to Ruskin as Ruskin himself stands in relation to Sir Joshua Reynolds; each succeeding man incorporates and builds upon the ideas of his predecessor. When Reynolds attempted to win prestige 'or the art of painting, he found himself forced to use the only available terminology, and he therefore employed the traditional opposition between mechanical (or physical) and intellectual arts. Thus, he claimed that painting, like literature, was an intellectual art.
In contrast, Ruskin inherited the resources of Romantic tradition, and when he came to formulate his Romantic theory of the sister arts — he takes literature and painting as'equivalent forms of the noetic and urges us to receive his remarks on one subject as applying to the other — added a third term, the imaginative, to the two that Reynolds had used. Therefore, he can urge that in contrast to the works produced by physical and intellectual means, poetry is produced by the higher faculty of imagination. Lawrence, who comfortably takes his place in this progression, demonstrates by his descriptive passages and narratre that he adds the unconscious and sexual drives to those faculties I skin had described. For Lawrence, therefore, imaginative descri[ on had to include those sensations that hover around and beneath consciousness.
Furthermore, Lawrence also builds upon Ruskin's conception of [43/44] imaginative art. Several places in Modern Painters explain that both the novice and the painter without imagination must content themselves with a merely topographical art of visual fact. "The aid of the great inventive landscape painter," on the other hand, "must be to give the far higher and deeper truth of mental vision, rather than that of the physical facts, and to reach a representation which . . . shall yet be capable of producing on the far-away beholder's mind precisely the impression which the reality would have produced" (6.35). According to Ruskin, in this higher form of art, "the artist not only places the spectator, but . . . makes him a sharer in his own strong feelings and quick thoughts" (3.134). In other words, the great imaginative artist, whether he works in words or paint, grants us the privilege of momentarily seeing with his eyes and imaginative vision: we experience his phenomenological relation to the world. By including and even emphasizing elements which Ruskin had himself not included, Lawrence extends this kind of imaginative description in his own way.
In addition to thus incorporating Ruskinian phenomenological descriptions of the exterior and interior worlds into his writing, Lawrence also employs Ruskinian transformation of natural phenomena into emblems. Lawrence's emblematization of landscape set-pieces appears throughout both his travel writing and fiction. In Sea and Sardinia, for example, he presents the solitary figure working within the landscape as an emblem of the old full life, which he contrasts to the life of man under industrialism. He begins, as he so frequently does in such set-pieces, by presenting the scene from the vantage point of those moving through a defined space.
Soon We begin to climb to the hills. And soon the cultivation begins to be intermittent. Extraordinary how the healthy, moorlike hills come to the sea: extraordinary how scrubby and uninhabited the great spaces Sardinia are. It is wild, with heath and arbutus scrub and a sort of myrtle, breast-high. Sometimes one sees a few head of cattle. And then again come the greyish arable-patches, where the corn is grown. It is like Cornwall, like the Land's End region. Here and there, in the distance, are peasants working on the lonely landscape. Sometimes it is one man alone in the distance, showing so vividly in his black-and-white costume, small and far-off like a solitary magpie, and curiously [44/45] distinct. All of the strange magic of Sardinia is in this sight. Among the low, moor-like hills, away in a hollow of wide landscape one solitary gure, small but vivid black-and-white, working alone, as if eternally. There are patches and hollows of grey arable land, good for corn. Sardinia was once a great granary. 
In one sense, Lawrence relates his experience of climbing the hills of Sardinia and encountering its people within their land much as does any picturesque traveler of the nineteenth century, for he proceeds by interspersing facts encountered with thoughts prompted by them.20 Unlike both Ruskin's or his own pure word-painting, this passage devotes little effort to presenting visual reality. He briefly mentions an act of vision but does not present visual facts of form, color or brightness in any detail. Instead the narrating voice simply names the objects perceived, after which it then comments in some way upon their significance. Although Lawrence organizes the narration of his encounter with the Sardinian landscape in terms of a physical movement through it, he concentrates, not as in other places in his writing upon the experience of the visual facts, but rather upon the meaning that these facts have for him. Lawrence, in other words, here emphasizes an act of interpretation rather than one of visual perception.
Any attempt to present landscape can take three forms — the actual act of perception and the visual experience itself; the primary interpretation of experience (these patches of color are arable fields); and then the political, moral or philosophical interpretation of this second level (such fields represent man in a natural relation to an unsullied nature).21 Lawrence, who here concerns himself with the second and third steps almost entirely, thus begins by presenting the action of the climb, then what that act of climbing first reveals — here the fact that cultivated fields become intermittent — after which the describer (or narrator) comments upon the unusual fact that the hills come so close to the sea. He next comments how "scrubby and uninhabited" are Sardinia's great spaces as if to indicate how small a role man has in this world and how little room he and his activities occupy in it. Then, after specifically mentioning the kind of vegetation which contributes to this overall impression of wildness, Lawrence mentions another visual act: "Sometimes one sees a few head of cattle." Next he compares the scene to the Land's [45/46] End region of Cornwall and this mention of native English landscape provides an analogy which makes the Sardinian landscape more understandable. Finally, he arrives at what turns out to be the intellectual center of this passage of description and the purpose to which it has been building: the appearance of solitary human beings working in the midst of this wild, untamed, encompassing nature which no one has yet managed to soil, exhaust or control.
Immediately after presenting this Wordsworthian vignette, Lawrence makes a sharp contrast between it and scenes one encounters elsewhere and thereupon draws some culturally significant conclusions about this contrast:
Usually, however, the peasants of the South have left off the costume. Usually it is the invisible soldiers' gray-green cloth, the Italian khaki. Wherever you go, wherever you may be, you see this khaki, this gray-green war-clothing. How many millions of yards of the thick, excellent, but hateful material the Italian Government must have provided I don't know: but enough to cover Italy with a felt carpet, I should think. It is everywhere. It cases the tiny children in stiff and neutral frocks and coats, it covers their extinguished fathers, and sometimes it even encloses the women in its warmth. It is symbolic of the universal grey mist that has come over men, the extinguishing of all bright individuality, the blotting out of all wild singleness. Oh, democracy! Oh, khaki democracy! 
In addition to possessing the obviously Ruskinian (and Carlylean) contrast of past and present — the one organic and healthy, the other unnatural and destructive — Lawrence's description of his climb through the Sardinian hills also makes an essentially Ruskinian application of an essentially Ruskinian technique.
Like Ruskin he casts himself in the role of the sage who in discern matters of grave importance to his audience in the r ist unlikely and even apparently trivial contemporary phenomena. Like his Victorian forebear, Lawrence proceeds by performing an act of interpretation which transforms these phenomena into an emblem of contemporary spiritual states of mind and soul. Furthermore, like Ruskin who claimed in Modern Painters that his times, not the medieval ones, were the dark ages, he points to the way men clothe themselves to suggest how much his contemporaries have lost — how much the age of Industrialization has taken from man and his environment.22 [46/47]
In such passages, as so frequently throughout his writings, Lawrence adopts the tone and strategies of what John Holloway has taught us to call the "Victorian Sage."23 As I have urged elsewhere, we can take the following as a useful working definition of that kind of nonfiction created by the Victorian sages Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold and their American contemporary Thoreau:
It is a form of nonfiction that adapts the techniques of the Victorian sermon, neoclassical satire, classical rhetoric, and Old Testament prophecy to create credibility for the interpretations of contemporary phenomena made by a figure, the sage, who stands apart from his audience and society.
The Victorian sage is, above all else, an interpreter, an exegete, one who can read the Signs of the Times. His essential defining claim is that he understands matters that others do not — and that his understanding is of crucial value to those who see with duller eyes. ... By showing the members of his audience that truth resides in unexpected places and that he, and only he, can reveal it to them, the sage convinces them to give a hearing to his views of man, society, and culture that might at first seem eccentric and even insane.24
Such self-consciously performed acts of interpretation — I write "performed" because they often unfold as performances in the presence of the reader — frequently produce set-pieces which present some phenomenon emblematically as the embodiment of important truth. For example, in Twilight in Italy, Lawrence employs the roadside crucifixes in the book's opening section and the Italian soldier in "The Lemon Gardens" as such emblems, and he makes much the same use of his servant's painful experiences with the revolutionaries in Mornings in Mexico.
In addition to such acts of interpretive virtuosity, the sage also characteristically tries to win the assent of his audience to his often apparently outlandish views by a series of techniques that establish his superiority to the audience and its dependence upon him. Techniques, such as careful positioning of himself and his views in relation to those of his audience, redefining key terms and satirizing accepted conventions all serve to create what ancient rhetoricians called ethos, the effect of credibility. One of Lawrence's major means of achieving credibility appears in descriptions, which, like those of Ruskin, immediately establish him as one who can see, one who views the external world with sharpened, cleansed perceptions. [47/48] Many of those set-pieces of word-painting which characterize both men's writings impress upon the reader th he is in the presence of someone worth listening to who reacts me sensitively, more accurately, and certainly more intensely and in estingly than could the reader himself, even if he were present in the landscape described. Moreover, those passages of description which add characteristically Laurencean elements of physical, semi-conscious awareness to a setting or event, such as the superb description of San Tommaso in Twilight in Italy, create a characteristically Laurencean ethos by demonstrating what unique experiential and imaginative truths he has to offer. In other words, such descriptions simultaneously make Lawrence's claim to be a sage and then forcefully substantial them.
At times Lawrence's creations of what I have termed ethos take the comparatively simple form of drawing the reader's attention to Lawrence as a perceiver, as a man very like the reader. For example, at the beginning of "The Crucifix across the Mountains," that magnificent Ruskinian combination of aesthetic, political, anthropological and religious argument and observation which opens Twilight in Italy, he remarks: "I was startled into consciousness one evening, going alone over a marshy place at the foot of the mountain when the sky was pale and unearthly, invisible, and the hills were nearly black" (p. 4). This sentence, which seems merely a casual remark in passing, serves several purposes. First of all, since he tries to win the assent of his reader by convincing him of his observations, such a remark begins with an attempt to convince the reader of his openness, his receptivity, to such phenomena and his suitability for such an enterprise. Perhaps even more important for his purposes, Lawrence, who is here engaged to luiorm the reader about a particularly interesting and therefore supposedly important perception, provides the autobiographical occasion for his perception, thus rooting it in a kind of personally achieved authenticity, and also reveals to the reader that he, like us, does not always exist in some heightened state of consciousnes In other words, like Montaigne, a master of this technique, he admits his own weakness and his own lapses to convince us that when he tells us something he considers important, he does so with full honesty. Similarly, many of Lawrence's most annoying assertions of selfhood and displays of his own foibles effectively serve to inform the reader that he is being given a supposedly unedited version of the truth. The logic of such a rhetorical strategy seems to follow this path: "If I have repeatedly admitted [48/49] my limitations, confessed my foolishness, and displayed my shortcomings so openly, so honestly, the reader can be certain that I now give him the full truth." Of course, such premises do not inevitably lead to such conclusions, and, indeed, when Lawrence, like Ruskin, fails to achieve his intended effect, he fails miserably. But, after all, the art of the sage requires its practitioners to take grave rhetorical risks.
Lawrence also employs the techniques of the sage in his fiction. In addition to thus using Ruskinian word-painting to create symbolic settings within which to place his characters, Lawrence also combines such word-painting, as he does in his non-fiction, to create satiric emblems. For example, in The Rainbow the description of Tom Brangwen's home perched above a hideously ugly industrial wasteland powerfully sums up- — and attacks — the destructions of the modern world against which Ruskin, Lawrence and Lawrence's characters all have to strive in order to preserve life and vitality:
The place had the strange desolation of a ruin. Colliers dinging about in gangs and groups, or passing along the asphalt pavements heavily to work, seemed not like living people, but like spectres. The rigidity of the blank streets, the homogeneous amorphous sterility of the whole suggested death rather than life. There was no meeting place, no centre, no organic formation. There it lay, like the new foundations of a red-brick confusion rapidly spreading, like a skin-disease.
Just outside of this, on a little hill, was Tom Brangwen's big, red-brick house. It looked from the front upon the edge of the place, a meaningless squalor of ash-pits and closets and irregular rows of the backs of houses, each with its small activity made sordid by barren cohesion with the rest of the small activities. Further off was the great colliery that went night and day. And all around was the country, green with two winding streams, ragged with gorse, and heath, the darker woods in the distance.
The whole place was unreal, just unreal, even now, when he had been there for two years, Tom Brangwen did not believe in vi the actuality of the place. It was like some gruesome dream, some ugly, dead, amorphous mood become concrete . . . The place was a moment of chaos fixed and rigid.
Lawrence's placing of Tom's home within this blighted nature owes much to Ruskin. First, the major Ruskinian theme that modern economics and industrialization embody, not new order, but new chaos informs the entire description. Second, Lawrence, following Ruskin continually contrasts nature with man and the domesticated, soned space he has created. Third, this opposition takes the form of what is essentially an allegorical emblem, each detail of which must be read as an indictment of the beings who have created such chaos. Furthermore, the specific placement of Tom Brangwen's home on a hill overlooking the workplace, which is certainly an accurate rendering of many towns in the midlands and industrial north, also seems to derive from Ruskin's "Traffic," which presents a satiric portrait of the industrialist's ideal existence.
In other words, as these few examples suggest, Lawrence drew upon Ruskin for a congeries of complex ideas and techniques which influences the shape, the texture, the feeling of all his writing. Both men were practicing visual artists, and both were controversial, often brilliant critics of both art and society. But, different as were the men and the needs of their ages, they shared a great many ideas, attitudes and emphases, some of which stem from their common Evangelical Protestant tradition. Lawrence's desire to combine the techniques and interests of the word-painter with the mission of the secular prophet makes him, however unexpectedly, a Ruskinian modernist.
Last modified 28 July 2012