Asked in May 1886 to make a donation towards the building of the Duke Street Chapel in Richmond, Surrey, John Ruskin—on the verge of another serious breakdown in his mental health—replied with entertaining but instructive vehemence. Let us read it as an alternative Christmas message from the Master.
“I am scornfully amused at your appeal to me, of all people in the world the precisely least likely to give you a farthing! My first word to all men and boys who care to hear me is ‘Don’t get into debt. Starve and go to heaven—but don’t borrow. Try first begging,—I don’t mind, if it’s really needful, stealing! But don’t buy things you can’t pay for!’
“And of all manner of debtors, pious people building churches they can’t pay for are the most detestable nonsense to me. Can’t you preach and pray behind the hedges—or in a sandpit—or a coal-hole—first?
“And of all manner of churches thus idiotically built iron churches are the damnablest to me.
“And of all the sects of believers in any ruling spirit—Hindoos, Turks, Feather Idolaters, and Mumbo Jumbo, Log and Fire worshippers, who want churches, your modern English Evangelical sect is the most absurd, and entirely objectionable and unendurable to me! All which they might very easily have found out from my books—any other sort of sect would!—before bothering me to write it to them.”
Merry Christmas, everyone!