Ruskin often includes richly descriptive passages in his writing. This process, called word-painting, is defined in "Elegant Jeremiahs" as "the creation of visually composed passages of description." Consider the following two passages from "Traffic":

Suppose, instead of being now sent for by you, I had been sent for by some private gentleman, living in a suburban house, with his garden separated only by a fruit wall from his next door neighbour's; and he had called me to consult with him on the furnishings of his drawing-room. I begin looking about me, and find the walls rather bare; I think such and such a paper might be desireable — perhaps a little fresco here and there on the ceiling — a damask curtain or so at the window. [236]

and also:

A boy leaves his father's house to go on a long journey on foot, to visit his uncle: he has to cross a wild hill-desert; just as if one of your own boys had to cross the wolds to visit an uncle at Carlisle. The second or third day your boy finds himself somewhere between Hawes and Brough, in the midst of the moors, at sunset. It is stony ground, and boggy; he cannot go one foot farther that night. Down he lies, to sleep, on Wharnside, where best he may, gathering a few of the stones together to put under his head; - so wild the place is, he cannot get anything but stones. And there, lying under the broad night, he has a dream; and he sees a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reaches to heaven, and the angels of God are ascending and descending upon it. [238]


1. How does Ruskin's use of word-painting fit into his role of sage? That is, does he use it simply to provide pleasurable description to the reader, or does it play a more integral role in his position as sage?

2. Could one argue that it gives him more authority, thus underscoring his worthiness as a qualified observer of society?

Last modified 1 May 2024