9. Ruskin in Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Russia, and … Reading
1 Apr, 2021

A little Easter weekend reading for you.

A paper I have written in the recently published John Ruskin’s Europe can be read here.

The paper attempts to explore how Ruskin’s ideas were received in Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, and (briefly) Russia. Tracing Ruskin’s translational history in central and eastern Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, this paper argues that his most valuable insights became accessible at a crucial juncture in the development of Europe’s fine, applied and industrial arts. Ruskin’s ideas were co-opted by those who sought to promote radical new movements designed to feed national renewal, and simultaneously he was assimilated by more conservative forces determined to protect nature and to preserve the traditional skills and standards threatened by industrialisation and technological innovation. Groups distinguished by diverse philosophical and social outlooks shared the view that Ruskin’s defining value was as an ‘apostle of beauty’ who articulated the vital truth of the indivisibility of nature and man, art and society.

I also recently found this poem to Ruskin in one of the newspapers printed in my hometown. I’ve never come across it before. It dates from 1939, a time when Ruskin’s value was not widely recognised.

To John Ruskin
by S. E. Collins

[Published in the Reading Standard (22 September 1939).]


’Twas by your prose that I was made aware
  Of deeper beauty in my mother-tongue—
The harmony—the cadence hidden there
  You first released for me, and foremost sung.


When I was but a boy, of ten or so,
  I’d often draw in quietude aside
To read your “Seven Lamps” (some feat, I trow)
  Your “Stones of Venice” or your “Time and Tide.”


And then you showed me bays, by shipping thronged,
  Or boats uplifted by the sea’s soft swell:
Till you I took for guide; and simply longed
  To write one little hundredth part as well!


I learned by heart descriptions subtly sweet
  Of forest flowers or of Alpine track.
And even now I think I could repeat
  Whole passages from forty summers back.


For when you tell us of the mountain height—
  Verona’s streets, and southern sunsets clear—
The miracles of dawn, the hush of night,
  You are (I still maintain) without a peer.