The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin

Ruskin Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library: A Note to Chapter Three

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

This remark is taken from typescripts of Ruskin's notebooks, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, which were prepared by Cook and Wedderburn for use in drawing up their edition. The passage is in Eng. misc. c. zl4. I have not located the original manuscript. The complete passage reads: "Works to be seen: 'On the Landscape Architecture and the great painters of Italy' by G. L. Masson (Meason?) Esq. Sir Uvedale Price on the Picturesque. 'Walker on the Picturesque' Universal decay is the essence of the picturesque. In landscape therefore the picturesque stands in the same relation to the beautiful and the sublime that the pathetic does to them in poetry." The last remark about Walker, which suggests that Ruskin had already read this work (and possibly! Price as well) is of interest since this Walker was apparently the "recent critic on Art," cited in The Seven Lamps of Architecture, who "has gravely advanced the theory that the essence of the picturesque consists in the expression of 'universal decay'".

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