The Darkening Glass: A Portrait of Ruskin's Genius

By John D. Rosenberg | Go to book overview

X. THE NIGHT COMETH

In February of 1870 Ruskin delivered his inaugural lecture as Slade Professor of Fine Art. An overflow audience had crowded into the Sheldonian Theatre to hear the slender, slightly stooped figure noted for his graceful language, radical ideas, and oddly old-fashioned dress. An ample master's gown hung loosely over his frock coat and homespun tweeds. He spoke with a faint Scottish burr and wore the velvet cap of a gentleman-commoner, a quaintly prideful reminder of his days as an undergraduate at Christ Church. One member of the audience, Henry Acland, the Regius Professor of Medicine and Ruskin's lifelong friend, recalled that in the same crowded hall thirty years earlier Wordsworth had listened to the young Ruskin read the poem which had been awarded the Newdigate prize.

The inaugural series of lectures--balanced, temperate, almost courtly in their grace of statement--justified the confidence of Ruskin's friends in urging his appointment. At the end of the second lecture Acland was in tears, "he was so pleased," Ruskin wrote to his mother, "and relieved from the fear of my saying anything that would shock people." The lectures betray none of the imbalance of mind or uncertainty of purpose which had marred The Queen of the Air. Nor are they disfigured by the grief Ruskin experienced during their composition. A month before he delivered the inaugural and just after the day on which he had once hoped to marry Rose, she passed him on the street without a word. He marked her silence with a blank page in his diary headed with the date alone and wrote to Mrs. Cowper that the inaugural was not what it should have been because he was "so stupid with the pain."

-176-

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The Darkening Glass: A Portrait of Ruskin's Genius
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations - Taken from Drawings by John Ruskin ix
  • Preface xi
  • Art 1
  • I - Nature, Truth, and Turner 1
  • II - Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory 22
  • Architecture 47
  • III - A Gothic Eden 47
  • IV - Windows of Agate 64
  • V - Venice: Stones and Touchstones 79
  • Society 107
  • VI - My Father's House 107
  • VII - Dives and Lazarus 121
  • VIII - No Wealth but Life 131
  • Wilderness 147
  • IX 147
  • X - The Night Cometh 176
  • Peace 201
  • XI - The Past Recaptured 201
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 253
  • Acknowledgments 263
  • Index 265
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