RUSKIN, JOHN. Twenty-seven autograph letters signed to Katie Winifred Macdonald Goring in Bedford Park, written from Brantwood, Coniston, and London, 22 January 1885-16 February 1888. Together 48 pages, 8vo, on pale grey-green stationery, most with his address printed in red, signed variously (one in full, others with "J Ruskin" or initials, most "Papa R." or "Papa"), the first letter with small fold tear, a few with slight soiling, cloth slipcase. WITH: Katie Macdonald Goring, The Friends of Living Creatures and John Ruskin. With Extracts from Some Letters to a Child in Bedford Park. (Reprinted from the Fortnightly Review), [Cambridge: Privately Printed by F. & P. Piggott, n.d.], 8vo, 30 pp., original printed wrappers, First Edition; a photocopy of the same, and a typed transcript of a Goring family related item.
"LITTLE GIRLS ARE NOT MUCH BETTER THAN KITTENS OR BUTTERFLIES"
A charming series of letters to a young girl (who was ten-years-old when the correspondence began) concerning the "Society of Friends of Living Creatures," of which Ruskin was the patron. The Society was founded by Katie Goring and her brother John (called Puck) principally in response to an article by Ruskin in which he denounced "the wanton destruction of beautiful and harmless creatures, butterflies expecially." Katie wrote to Ruskin, asking him to become their patron (the author accepted in his first letter), by-laws were drawn up, and the membership quickly grew to more than forty boys and girls.
22 January 1885: "I'm quite delighted with the Society -- and its plans, and its signatures -- and its ages and its resolutions -- they're all as nice as ever can be; and I'll be your Patron -- or Dux or anything you like to make me -- only -- it seems to me you don't need to by Patronized -- doesn't Patron sound to much as if you were a Charitable Bazaar or an amateur concert or somethings of that sort. Don't you think you'd better call me the Society's 'Papa'? -- I should feel ever so much more at home, if you called me that..." 24 February 1885: "...The Society has given me great delight this morning by the news of its taking me for Papa...Meanwhile, two serious words only about your 'stories.' First, when you write fables, try always to make the animals speak, though with your words and wit, only from their experience and feelings. Don't make a frog talk like a crane, nor a crane like a swallow; -- in the second, and far more important place, when you collect and write down your experiences of animals, be sure you give as far as possible the exact facts -- and no more than the facts. Don't attribute to the animals any more cleverness than you are sure of -- nor guess their feelings. Say what they did with precision and how they looked and seemed to feel -- but all as carefully as if you were on oath in a court of Justice..." 11 June 1885; "It is very sad that I can't come to you again this time -- but I'm quite tired out by this London, and freed to go back to my hills tomorrow. But you know, we must by happy in loving each other through the air -- or we should always be unhappy in this world which won't let us fly through it..." 3 July 1885: "...You see, my dear, children are the Friends of living creatures in a much more intimate way than other people -- they understand them all so much better being little more than extremely living creatures themselves. You know my dear, little girls are not much better than kittens or butterflies, and boys are seldom quite as good as ponies or donkeys, and as for dogs, -- you are for the most part much more under their care than they under yours..." 18 October 1885: "By all means take in the Branch Society of poor children -- it is one of the most cherished of my purposes to bring the joy of the love of animals to the children of the poor..."
15 March 1886: "Nothing can be nicer than the thought of a separate book on the treatment of domesticated animals...I think the Society had better consider the treatment of pets, & of unpettable animals in confinement, as a secondary matter, compared to the observation of them in their own haunts and their own ways. I send for the Society's acceptance Mr. Froude's Oceana -- please at the next meeting, let the best reader read [from several pages concerning birds]..." 4 May 1886: "You didn't know what music was till you went to the Albert Hall [to hear Handel's Messiah]? My dear, I wouldn't give the blackbird that sits on my hawthorne in the quiet May evenings for a million of fiddlers going my steam. These vast concerts are merely mob's noise -- rage -- vanity -- waste of money and life -- & fearfully bad for little girls -- or big ones either for that matter. Learn to sing yourself -- carefully, modestly -- feelingly. Learn the simplest airs that belong to entirely noble words: -- never sing sacred music but definitely as an act of worship -- never for amusement -- and above all...see that music is made the minister and tutor of the poor -- not the passion and pride of the rich..." 18 May 1886: "...I don't like grand music at all -- I like the songs of sixpence -- and a pocketfull of rye -- and the King was in the counting house (and I only wish Kings oftener were) -- and I do love an old quite vulgar song about Hot Codlins -- and I'm so ashamed of myself you can't think -- all the same I believe you would come & pet me, if you were a bird -- so I try to fancy it..." (30)