John Ruskin: Literary Contribution to Victorian Era

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      Carlyle was indignant at the society of his time for its cowardice, its lack of moral strength, its flabbiness in the struggle against vice and poverty. But the indignation of John Ruskin (1819-1900) was caused by the ugliness of the industrial world, the lack of beauty and art. Ruskin's Campaigne for Reformation was complementary to that of Carlyle whom he held as his master.

Ruskin's ideas were expressed in a magnificent poetic and decorative prose.
John Ruskin

      After an individual and original education, he began with a series of studies, Modern Painters (1843-1860) devoted to painting. He completed this series with architectural studies, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1842) and The Stone of Venice (1851-1853) in which he proclaimed both his admiration of Gothic art and his scorn for Renaissance art. Ruskin's value as an art critic lay chiefly in the impulse he gave to his generation to appreciate the beauty of natural phenomena; he showed them the absurdity of confounding the grandeur of Nature with her big scenic effects. To this extent he supplemented the implicit teachings of Wordsworth and Shelley Ruskin founded art on faith, on sincerity, on the truth and justness of the symbol. Similarly, he raised an enthusiastic hymn to Nature and demanded faithful inter predation of it by the artist.

      Ruskin also gave his genius, his strength and his wealth to the great social causes which he had espoused. He expounded his social and economic theories in lectures, essays and books. Unto the Last (1861), Munera Pulveries (1862) set forth his political economy. His more general ethical teachings may be found in Sesame and Lilies (1865) and The Crown of mid Olive (1866).

      Thus Ruskin's writings fall into two divisions: his writings on art and his writings on social, economic and moral questions. According to him, true art can be produced only by a nation which is inspired by noble, national aims. He thought that it was useless to preach art to the nineteenth century England sunk as it was in materialism. A complete purification of the entire social system was necessary before any revival in Art was possible in England.

      Ruskin's ideas were expressed in a magnificent poetic and decorative prose. His descriptions rivalled in richness the pictures of which he wrote; sometimes they were themselves pictures acting directly on the imagination. His books suffer from looseness of construction; his superb style is overburdened in its magnificence ana excessive in its splendour; yet it furnished many examples of that beauty which he extolled to his generation. He was whimsical and sometimes aggressive. But his spirit was pure, noble and courageous. His style claims the highest praise. His early prose was characterised by colloquialism, but in both he is one of the great masters of English prose.

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