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Book Reviews - Note de lecture


A Short Story of English Literature

Found this in my library last week :

«Of all the writers who felt that the nineteenth century was inadequate, John Ruskin (1819-1900) expressed himself most voluminously. In Modern Painters (I843-6o) he championed the art of Turner, and constructed a philosophy of the aesthetic which, in his mind, is almost a substitute for religion. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and in The Stones of Venice (1851-3) he expounded the principles of architecture and eulogized the Gothic, to a generation that sadly misinterpreted his lessons. The arts led him to the craftsmen who are responsible for them, and this, in turn, directed his attention to the shabby commercialism of his age, which he attacked in Unto this Last (1862). Among his later and more informal works were his letters to working men entitled Fors Clavier (1871-87), and his autobiography, Praeterita (1885-9).

«Much that Ruskin said has now lost its urgency, and he himself changed his mind frequently in his own lifetime, but his central theme remains. Against the shabby mass productions of a mechanical age he set the work of craftsmen, who saw that each thing they made was well made, and beautifully made. He challenged, at least by implication, the whole basis on which a commercial society rests, and his influence lived on in William Morris, and in numerous other less well-known followers. With all his strength and vision, Ruskin had in him some element of weakness. To read his work is to listen to someone shouting continuously, and so loudly that one is distracted from the argument. It is true that his prose could at times assume the garments of magnificence, but even at their grandest the reader feels that the effects have been produced to overawe him. The quieter manner of his autobiography is a relief from the rhetoric of some of the earlier volumes.»

Who wrote this ?

Sir Ifor Evans (1899-1982) in The above mentioned  Short Story of English Literature, a Pelican Book edition, published in 1958 by Penguin Books, in the UK and in the USA.

Copernique Marshall

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