Ruskin's House at Denmark Hill (front view. Source: Works, facing 35.380. [Compare rear view] Scanned image and text by George P. Landow [This image may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose.]

In Praetrita Ruskin describes the house thus:

The house on Denmark Hill . . . has been associated, by dated notepaper, with a quarter of a century of my English life; and was indeed to my parents a peaceful, yet cheerful, and pleasantly, in its suburban manner, dignified, abode of their declining years. . . . Denmark Hill [was] connected . . . by the Vauxhall Road and convenient omnibuses, with St. James's Street and Cavendish Square.

But the house itself had every good in it, except nearness to a stream, that could with any reason be coveted by modest mortals. It stood in command of seven acres of healthy ground (a patch of local gravel there overlying the London clay); half of it in meadow sloping to the sunrise, the rest prudently and pleasantly divided into an upper and lower kitchen garden; a fruitful bit of orchard, and chance inlets and outlets of woodwalk, opening to the sunny path by the field, which was gladdened on its other side in springtime by flushes of almond and double peach blossom. Scarce all the hyacinths and heath of Brantwood redeem the loss of these to me, and when the summer winds have wrecked the wreaths of our wild roses, I am apt to think sorrowfully of the trailings and climbings of deep purple convolvulus which bloomed full every autumn morning round the trunks of the apple trees in the kitchen garden.

The house itself had no specialty, either of comfort or inconvenience, to endear it; the breakfast-room, opening on the lawn and farther field, was extremely pretty when its walls were mostly covered with lakes by Turner and doves by: Namely, Derwentwater; Lake Lucerne, with the Righi at sunset; the Bay of Uri, with the Rothstock, from above Brunnen; Hunt; the dining and drawing-rooms were spacious enough for our grandest receptions, never more than twelve at dinner, with perhaps Henry Watson and his sisters in the evening, and had decoration enough in our Northcote portraits, Turner's Slave-ship, and, in later years, his Rialto, with our John Lewis, two Copley Fieldings, and every now and then a new Turner drawing. My own work-room, above the breakfast-room, was only distinct, as being such, in its large oblong table, occupying so much of the say fifteen by five and twenty feet of available space within bookcases, that the rest of the floor virtually was only a passage round it. Lucerne itself, seen from the lake; the upper reach of the lake, seen from Lucerne; and the opening of the Lake of Constance, from Constance. Goldau, St. Gothard, Schaffhausen, Coblentz, and Llanthony, raised the total of matchless Turner drawings in this room to eleven.

I always wrote on the flat of the table, a bad habit, enforced partly by the frequent need of laying drawings or books for reference beside me. Two windows, forming the sides of a bow blank in the middle, gave me, though rather awkwardly crossed, all the light I needed: partly through laziness and make-shiftiness, partly in respect for external symmetry, for the house had really something of an architectural air at the back, I never opened the midmost blank wall, though it con-siderably fretted me: the single window of my bed-room above, looking straight south-east, gave, through the first ten or twelve winters at Denmark Hill, command of the morning clouds, inestimable for its aid in all healthy thought. Papa and mamma took possession of the quiet western rooms, which looked merely into the branches of the cedar on the front lawn.

In such stateliness of civic domicile, the industry of midlife now began for me, little disturbed by the murmur of London beyond the bridges. [Chapter VIII, "The State of Denmark," 35.379-81]

References

Ruskin, John. Works, "The Library Edition." eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-1912.


Victorianism Overview John Ruskin's homes

Last modified 21 June 2007