Ruskin is one of the authors on the
wider reading list for the new AQA
Victorian option: prose reading
The cover of the Penguin Selected Works, to the right, shows John Millais' portrait of Ruskin standing proud beside a Scottish stream. The story behind the painting (which you can see better here) is as interesting as the work itself; whilst he painted Ruskin, Millais was falling in love with Effie, Ruskin's wife. Within two years, Ruskin's marriage had been annulled and Effie married Millais.
Or, in the words of the Reverend James Wood in 1907, Fors Clavigera was used by Ruskin 'to designate three great powers which go to fashion human destiny, viz., Force, wearing, as it were, (clava) the club of Hercules; Fortitude, wearing, as it were, (clavis) the key of Ulysses; and Fortune, wearing, as it were, (clavus) the nail of Lycurgus; that is to say, Faculty waiting on the right moment, and then striking in. See Shakespeare's "Time and tide in the affairs of men," &c., the "flood" in which is the "Third Fors". The letters are represented as written at the dictation of the Third Fors, or, as it seems to the author, the right moment, or the occurrence of it.'
I find penguins at present the only comfort in life. One feels everything in the world so sympathetically ridiculous; one can't be angry when one looks at a penguin.
Ruskin: letter to Charles Eliot Norton
You think it a great triumph to make the sun draw brown landscapes for you! That was also a discovery, and some day may be useful. But the sun had drawn landscapes before for you, not in brown, but in green, and blue, and all imaginable colours, here in England. Not one of you ever looked at them; not one of you cares for the loss of them, now, when you have shut the sun out with smoke, so that he can draw nothing more, except brown blots through a hole in a box. There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the vale of Tempe; you might have seen the gods there morning and evening, - Apollo and all the sweet Muses of the Light, walking in fair procession on the lawns of it, and to and fro among the pinnacles of its crags. You cared neither for gods nor grass, but for cash (which you did not know the way to get). You thought you could get it by what the Times calls 'Railroad Enterprise'. You enterprised a railroad through the valley, you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange, you Fools everywhere!'Call me a fool,' writes Matthew Fort in The Guardian, 'but I can see any number of good reasons to be in Bakewell.... How many towns the size of Bakewell, I wondered, could boast a Tiroler Stüberl, Austrian Coffee Shop & Sausage Importer?' The answer, I suspect, lies in the large number of tourists who flock there - those same 'Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain' whom Ruskin addressed, perhaps, and their womenfolk?