Writings by Ruskin

Students of Ruskin's life and work are indebted to the Library Edition of the Works, ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, 39 vols. (George Allen, London, 1903-12), which contains invaluable background, biographical, and bibliographical information and reproduces as well many of Ruskin's drawings. The Works must be supplemented by the poorly edited Diaries of John Ruskin, ed. Joan Evans and J. H - Whitehouse, 3 vols, (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1956), and Brantwood Diary of John Ruskin, ed. Helen Gill Viljoen (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1971).

Cook and Wedderburn. include a selection of letters in Volumes 36 and 37 and in the introductions to other volumes, but no complete edition of the correspondence exists. The more important published portions include Ruskin's Letters from Venice, 1851-1852, ed. John L. Bradley (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1955); The Winnington Letters, ed. Van Akin Burd (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1969); Ruskin in Italy: Letters to His Parents 1845, ed. Harold I. Shapiro (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972); The Ruskin Family Letters: The Correspondence of John James Ruskin, His Wife, and His Son, 1801-1843, ed. Van Akin Burd, 2 vols. (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1973; review); and "Your Good Influence On Me": The Correspondence of John Ruskin and William Holman Hunt, ed. George P. Landow (Rylands Library, Manchester, 1977).

Writings about Ruskin

The long period during which students of art, literature, and politics generally ignored Ruskin ended more than a decade ago [89/90] with a flurry of editions, biographies, and critical studies. The chapter on Ruskin by Francis Townsend in Victorian Non-Fiction: A Guide to Research, ed. David J. DeLaura (Modern Language Association, New York, 1977), provides valuable summary judgements of both primary and secondary materials, and the annual bibliographical issue of Victorian Studies lists current books and articles and notes reviews of recent books. Readers may also wish to consult The Ruskin Newsletter, which contains notices of current sales of Ruskiniana as well as of other matters of interest to students of his life, art, writing, and influence.

Biographies and Biographical Materials

Derrick Leon, Ruskin The Great Victorian (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1949), remains the best biography, although two useful ones have recently appeared: Joan Abse, John Ruskin the Passionate Moralist (Knopf, New York, 1982), and J.D. Hunt, The Wider Sea: A Life of John Ruskin (Viking, New York, 1982). Tim Hilton’s two-volume biography, John Ruskin: The Early Years (1985) and John Ruskin: The Later Years (2000; review) has the great advantage of the author’s knowledge of much unpublished material in UK libraries and archives and the great disadvantage of his failing to use the enormous amount of crucial material in the United States. The author of this otherwise useful work shamefully accuses Ruskin of being a pedophile without actually knowing what that term means of presenting any evidence whatsoever. James Spates’s Ruskin’s Sexuality corrects Hilton’s irresponsible statements and offers much new information. His “Ruskin—The Forgotten Legacy in America” describes the material missing from Hilton and other studies. Robert Brownell’s Marriage of Inconvenience (2013; review) tells the story of Ruskin, Effie Gray, John Everett Millais with crucial evidence not available when Mary Lutyens wrote Effie in Venice, Millais and the Ruskins, and The Ruskins and the Grays (review).

John D. Rosenberg, The Darkening Glass: A Portrait of Ruskin's Genius (Columbia University Press, New York, 1961), a pioneering study that is responsible for much of the current interest in Ruskin, has been superseded by more recent work but still contains many valuable insights, as does Robert Hewison, John Ruskin or the Argument of the Eye (Thames and Hudson, London, 1975). Two of the most important studies of Ruskin during the past decade are Elizabeth K. Helsinger's Ruskin and the Art of the Beholder (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1982), and Paul Sawyer's Ruskin's Poetic Argument: The Design of His Major Works (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1985). George P. Landow, The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 19 7 1), and Paul H. Walton, The Drawings of John Ruskin (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972), provide specialized discussions of his thought within the context of Victorian and earlier ideas. Walton's volume, which contains many reproductions of Ruskin's drawings and water-colours, sets his pictures against the background of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century drawing treatises. Landow, who examines the sources [90/91] and development of Ruskin's conceptions of beauty and the arts, shows how he formulated a Victorian aesthetic by drawing upon Neoclassical conceptions of painting, beauty, sublimity, and picturesqueness and combining them with Romantic conceptions of poetry and evangelical attitudes towards interpretation. James Clarke Sherburne, John Ruskin, or the Ambiguities of Abundance: A Study in Social and Economic Criticism (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1972), an essential book, examines the sources, evolution, and influence of his political economy. Raymond E. Fitch, The Poison Sky: Myth and Apocalypse in Ruskin (Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 1982) provides a massive study of the subjects covered in its title. New Approaches to Ruskin, ed. Robert Hewison (Routledge " Kegan Paul, London, 1982), which contains important essays on individual works, provides a valuable survey of the state of current Ruskin criticism and scholarship.

The study of Ruskin's influence on the arts has produced some interesting results, but much more work needs to be done in this area. Roger B. Stein, Ruskin and Aesthetic Thought in America, 1840-1900 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1967) offers a pioneering survey of its broad subject, while Kristine 0. Garrigan, Ruskin on Architecture: His Thought and Influence (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1973); Eve Blau, Ruskinian Gothic (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1982), and George L. Hersey, High Victorian Gothic: A Study in Associationism (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1972), contain much valuable information about his influence on architecture. Allen Staley, The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973), and George P. Landow, William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1979), examine his influence upon different aspects of Pre-Raphaelitism, as does Robert Secor, John Ruskin and alfred Hunt: New Letters and the Record of a Friendship, English Literary Studies Monograph Studies No. 25 (University of Victoria Press, Victoria, B. C., 1982).[91/92]

Last modified 9 December 2006

6 May 2019