January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON ; 16 May 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560516-TC-LOA-01; CL 31: 97-98


Chelsea, 16 May, 1856—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

This morning Ruskin, from Dover, sent me the enclosed Note, with an old Newspaper from which I have cut out what was of use to you,—Ruskin's speech at Oxford to his assembled mechanics.1 I have not read it, being extremely busy all morning: please do not burn it till I come; perhaps tomorrow or next day (if the Fates are so beneficent) I may find a chance of looking into it. Ruskin I have found in all things to mean well, and aim high with the very highest; but he strikes me always as infinitely too hopeful of men and things,—in fact as having soared aloft out of all contact with rugged facts; which class of objects accordingly he contemplates, as with outspread level wings, very much at his ease, far up in the azure aether.— — It is certain, however, he does teach various working young men to draw, and has a boundless zeal to continue teaching more and more. His Fourth volume2 (whh I have not time to read) is full of the finest “eloquence,” Swiss descriptions &c,—the like of whh I have hardly ever seen;—but tending nowhither, except towards the impracticable, the impossible, so far as I could surmise. It is one of the strangest Books, for gift and want of gift, I have ever met with. The man himself I find exceedingly amiable, in spite of all that is said. But he flies out like a soda-water bottle, gets into the eyes of various people (being incautiously drawn), and these of course complain dreadfully!

I do design for Addiscombe before you get away: If the weather pleased to take up, it might be tomorrow,—if I had a horse or hippogriff, why not this very night!—but I have only bad feet and railways, and dejected heart (unwell below par): unless it be really bright, I do not calculate steadily on tomorrow. But we shall see, we shall see. On Sunday I come at any rate;—and tell My Lady I compute, as to Saturday, that if I be not there, at six, I have no right to dinner.

And so I remain, with many aspirations,—recommending myself to your prayers

T. Carlyle—