The Surprising Opening of "Traffic"

Ruskin opens his lecture "Traffic" in a most surprising manner; in effect he starts by alienating himself from his audience.

My good Yorkshire friends, you asked me down here among your hills that I might talk to you about this Exchange you are going to build: but, earnestly and seriously asking you to pardon me, I am going to do nothing of the kind. I cannot talk, or at least can say very little, about this same Exchange. I must talk of quite other things, though not willingly; — I could not deserve your pardon, if, when you invited me to speak on one subject, I willfully spoke on another. But I cannot speak, to purpose, of anything about which I do not care; and most simply and sorrowfully I have to tell you, in the outset, that I do not care about this Exchange of yours.


1. What does Ruskin hope to accomplish by telling his audience that the subject they are interested in is not important to him?

2. Does his honesty come across as arrogance, if so why does he employ this technique? If not, how does it come across and what are his motives?

3. Does the effect of his bluntly honest approach come from the way he almost attacks his audience or could a similar effect have been achieved though being more tactful?

Victorian Overview John Ruskin Leading Questions

Last modified 29 September 2003