RUSKIN'S first principles tended to keep the focus of art realistic; but the problem of beauty, his second subject of inquiry, held undiscovered possibilities for romantic implications. Ruskin's case for artistic truth had justified landscape on the basis of representing the real appearance of nature. By distinguishing the "characteristic" reality which art could present from the superficial imitation of nature he had, nevertheless, opened a wedge for imagination. This was necessary for the success of any theory that might explain the magic of the new art, for nature in its newly extended sense had become the fountain-head of imaginative revelations.
Though true records of simple life and natural scene were popular, it was the beauty of nature and natural sentiment which the literature of the past forty years had been exploiting. The concept of nature had not merely been shifted from general outlines and mechanical laws to the intricate classifications of the botanist, the geologist and the mineralogist; it had been, since the publication of Lyrical Ballads, pushed into the center of mysteries -- the very sources of physical life, the involutions of the cosmos. A glamour had descended upon the earth: fire, air and water had again laid claim upon the awe in men's hearts. Mountains, which in the seventeenth century 1