London, South Kensington
2 June 2008
RUSKIN, John (1819-1900). Autograph letter signed to 'Mrs Cowper' [his confidante, Georgina Cowper-Temple, later Lady Mount-Temple], n.p., 'Friday evening' , 3½ pages, 8vo, on half-mourning paper (remnant of mount on last page, with loss of one word); with an envelope addressed to the same recipient, postmarked 31 March 1870.
A RATHER DIRTY SPIRITUALIST. Ruskin has been to visit the spiritualist William Robert Bertolacci [author of Christian Spiritualism: wherein is shown the extension of the human faculties by the application of spiritual phenomena (1864)], and is less than impressed: 'He was ill (-- why does he not cure himself?) -- he came down to me in a dirty dressing gown -- the room was all dirty and in disorder -- torn and dog-eared books on the table -- a general air of squalor and discomfort which the poorest wayside cottage would have been Paradise-like in comparison of: He talks -- pleasingly -- eagerly -- but wildly -- the girls say little and seem to know little -- Caroline's drawing is ludicrously bad ... anything less like a Baptism with any sort of Water or Spirit or Fire I never saw in outward aspect than that household -- and yet there is an impossibility of supposing them cheats'. Ruskin goes on to remember other distinguished acquaintances who are not marked out by tidyness: 'Turner's house was foully dirty -- Rossetti's garden is full of horrible weeds -- Edward Jones himself keeps his room in a litter and all over dust -- How many brilliant and perfect beings in outward favour[?] and household discipline -- are as hard as flint -- as dishonest as sand!', ending with further sceptical remarks about spiritualism.
Ruskin's letters to Lord and Lady Mount-Temple have been published (ed. John Lewis Bradley, 1964). (2)
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