I intend to use this space to explore a range of topics related to the Victorian critic of art and society, John Ruskin (1819-1900). It will include original articles, reviews and commentary, some of it revisiting old work, some of it anticipating publications to come. It strives to complement rather than compete with established blogs maintained by Jim Spates and The Ruskin at Lancaster University.
Initially, much of the content of my blog will focus on Ruskin’s utopian society, the Guild of St George, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2021.
Ruskin founded the Guild as a response to global injustice, self-righteous malpractice, rampant corruption, and the squandering of resources by the unsympathetic, unintelligent and insatiable demands of industry. This was all underpinned by a political system that privileged the utility of monetary exchange over the value of work and the interests of community relationships which constituted true “wealth”. In January 1871 Ruskin declared:
“For my own part, I will put up with this state of things, passively, not an hour longer. […] I will […] henceforward, with any few or many who will help, do my poor best to abate this misery.”
Ruskin recognised that we are all custodians of the world we live in and that we have a duty to beqeath something richer to future generations than we have inherited. He called this “the great entail”.
Ruskin’s Guild of St George could not slay the dragon of industrial capitalism but, on a modest scale, it did promote an exemplary alternative way of life. Ruskin wanted people to live sustainably, and sought to combat modern threats to the “beautiful, peaceful, and fruitful”. In practice, this meant reverence for the natural environment, trust in the transformative power of art, and faith in the creative freedom of individual self-expression exemplified in the hand-work of traditional crafts. Ruskin helped to change attitudes: his priorities were more controverial in his own day than they are now.
For much of the 2010s I was heavily invested in the work of the Guild. In 2010, I delivered its annual Ruskin Lecture—an account of Ruskin’s influence on Leo Tolstoy, marking the centenary of Tolstoy’s death. For six years I edited and designed the Guild’s journal, The Companion. As company secretary, I was responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation, handling everything from bookkeeping to legal compliance, event management to minute-taking, public communications to fundraising. I also managed its website and established its social media presence.
I hope to draw on this experience and the insights it gave me into the Guild’s history and heritage to present a range of content designed to shine a light into previously unexplored or under-explored areas of Ruskin’s enduring legacy.
Thank you for joining me.
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