This anthology of Ruskin means to concentrate on Ruskin’s writings which are relevant to environmental problems.


 Ruskin's word painting of Turner's Land's End


From MP II,

…the object I propose to myself is of no partial nor accidental importance. It is not now to distinguish between disputed degrees of ability in individuals, or agreeableness in canvases; it is not now to expose the ignorance or defend the principles of party or person; it is to summon the moral energies of the nation to a forgotten duty, to display the use, force, and function of a great body of neglected sympathies and desires, and to elevate to its healthy and beneficial operation that art which, being altogether addressed to them, rises or falls with their variableness of vigour, now leading them with Tyrtæan fire, now singing them to sleep with baby murmurings.

(LE4, p. 27)




From MP II :


“…And at this time, when the iron roads are tearing up the surface of Europe, as grapeshot do the sea; when their great net is drawing and twitching the ancient frame and strength   of England together, contracting all its various life, its rocky arms and rural heart, into a narrow, finite, calculating metropolis of manufactures; when there is not a monument throughout the cities of Europe that speaks of old years and mighty people, but it is being swept away to build cafés and gaming-houses;…..


…..when we ravage without a pause all the loveliness of creation which God in giving pronounced Good, and destroy without a thought all those labours which men have given their lives and their sons’ sons’ lives to complete;… —there is need, bitter need, to bring back into men’s minds, that to live is nothing, unless to live be to know Him by whom we live;

…. He has not cloven the earth with rivers,4 that their white wild waves might turn wheels and push paddles, nor turned it up under as it were fire,



 (But to be contemplated ….)





Chapter 2 Lance of Pallas

No more daydreaming


Taking up arms against evils

Chapter X

The Two Boyhoods

Death of England

Death of Europe

Chapter X

The Nereid's Gard

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Goddess of Discord Choosing the Apple of Contention in the Garden of the Hesperides exhibited 1806

 Goddess of Discord Choosing the Apple of Contention in the Garden of Hesperides




§ 1. Five years after the Hesperides were painted, another great mythological subject appeared by Turner’s hand. Another dragon—this time not triumphant, but in death-pang,



Joseph Mallord William Turner Apollo and Python exhibited 1811

 Apollo and Python, exh 18111


            § 15. I say you will find, not knowing to how few I speak; for in order to find what is fairest, you must delight in what is fair; and I know not how few or how many there may be who take such delight. Once I could speak joyfully about beautiful things, thinking to be understood;—now I cannot any more; for it seems to me that no one regards them. Wherever I look or travel in England or abroad, I see that men, wherever they can reach, destroy all beauty. They seem to have no other desire or hope but to have large houses and to be able to move fast. Every perfect and lovely spot which they can touch, they defile.*

§ 16. Nevertheless, though not joyfully, or with any hope of being at present heard, I would have tried to enter here into some examination of the right and worthy effect of beauty in Art upon human mind, if I had been myself able to come to demonstrable conclusions. But the question is so complicated with that of the enervating influence of all luxury,1 that I cannot get it put into any tractable compass. Nay, I have many inquiries to make, many difficult passages of history to examine, before I can determine the just limits of the hope in which I may permit myself to continue to labour in any cause of Art.2

Nor is the subject connected with the purpose of this book. I have written it to show that Turner is the greatest landscape painter who ever lived; and this it has sufficiently accomplished. What the final use may be to men, of landscape painting, or of any painting, or of natural beauty, I do not yet know. Thus far, however, I do know.3

* Thus, the railroad bridge over the Fall of Schaffhausen, and that round the Clarens shore of the lake of Geneva, have destroyed the power of two pieces of scenery of which nothing can ever supply the place, in appeal to the higher ranks of European mind.


§ 17. Three principal forms of asceticism have existed in this weak world. Religious asceticism, being the refusal of pleasure and knowledge for the sake (as supposed) of religion; seen chiefly in the Middle Ages. Military asceticism, being the refusal of pleasure and knowledge for the sake of power; seen chiefly in the early days of Sparta and Rome. And monetary asceticism, consisting in the refusal of pleasure and knowledge for the sake of money; seen in the present days of London and Manchester.

“We do not come here to look at the mountains,” said the Carthusian to me at the Grande Chartreuse.1 “We do not come here to look at the mountains,” the Austrian generals would say, encamping by the shores of Garda. “We do not come here to look at the mountains,” so the thriving manufacturers tell me, between Rochdale and Halifax.

§ 18. All these asceticisms have their bright and their dark sides. I myself like the military asceticism best, because it is not so necessarily a refusal of general knowledge as the two others, but leads to acute and marvellous use of mind, and perfect use of body. Nevertheless, none of the three are a healthy or central state of man. There is much to be respected in each, but they are not what we should wish large numbers of men to become. A monk of La Trappe, a French soldier of the Imperial Guard, and a thriving mill-owner, supposing each a type, and no more than a type, of his class, are all interesting specimens of humanity, but narrow ones,—so narrow that even all the three together would not make up a perfect man. Nor does it appear in any way desirable that either of the three classes should extend itself so as to include a majority of the persons in the world, and turn large cities into mere groups of monastery, barracks, or factory. I do not say that it may not be desirable that one city, or one country, sacrificed for the good of the rest, should become a mass of barracks or factories. Perhaps, it may be well that this England should become the furnace of the world;1 so that the smoke of the island, rising out of the sea, should be seen from a hundred leagues away, as if it were a field of fierce volcanoes; and every kind of sordid, foul, or venomous work which, in other countries, men dreaded or disdained, it should become England’s duty to do,—becoming thus the offscourer of the earth, and taking the hyena instead of the lion upon her shield. I do not, for a moment, deny this; but, looking broadly, not at the destiny of England,2 nor of any country in particular, but of the world, this is certain—that men exclusively occupied either in spiritual reverie, mechanical destruction, or mechanical productiveness,3 fall below the proper standard of their race, and enter into a lower form of being; and that the true perfection of the race, and, therefore, its power and happiness, are only to be attained by a life which is neither speculative nor productive;4 but essentially contemplative and protective, which (A) does not lose itself in the monk’s vision or hope, but delights in seeing present and real things as they truly are; which (B) does not mortify itself for the sake of obtaining powers of destruction, but seeks the more easily attainable powers of affection, observance, and protection; which (C), finally, does not mortify itself with a view to productive accumulation, but delights itself in peace, with its appointed portion. So that the things to be desired for man in a healthy state, are that he should not see dreams, but realities; that he should not destroy life, but save it; and that he should be not rich, but content.

§ 19. Towards which last state of contentment, I do not see that the world is at present approximating. There are, indeed, two forms of discontent: one laborious, the other indolent and complaining. We respect the man of laborious desire, but let us not suppose that his restlessness is peace, or his ambition meekness. It is because of the special connection of meekness with contentment that it is promised that the meek shall “inherit the earth.”1 Neither covetous men, nor the Grave, can inherit2 anything;* they can but consume. Only contentment can possess.

§ 20. The most helpful and sacred work, therefore, which can at present be done for humanity, is to teach people (chiefly by example, as all best teaching must be done) not how “to better themselves,” but how to “satisfy themselves.” It is the curse of every evil nation and evil creature to eat, and not be satisfied.3 The words of blessing are, that they shall eat and be satisfied. And as there is only one kind of water which quenches all thirst, so there is only one kind of bread which satisfies all hunger—the bread of justice, or righteousness; which hungering after, men shall always be filled, that being the bread of heaven; but hungering after the bread, or wages, of unrighteousness, shall not be filled, that being the bread of Sodom.


§ 21. And, in order to teach men how to be satisfied, it is necessary fully to understand the art and joy of humble life,—this, at present, of all arts or sciences being the one most needing study. Humble life,—that is to say, proposing to itself no future exaltation, but only a sweet continuance;1 not excluding the idea of foresight, but wholly of fore-sorrow, and taking no troublous thought for coming days;2 so, also, not excluding the idea of providence, or provision,* but wholly of accumulation;—the life of domestic affection and domestic peace, full of sensitiveness to all elements of costless and kind pleasure;—therefore, chiefly to the loveliness of the natural world……………………………… …..  




§ 23. Again, respecting degrees of possible refinement, I cannot yet speak positively, because no effort has yet been made to teach refined habits to persons of simple life.

The idea of such refinement has been made to appear absurd, partly by the foolish ambition of vulgar persons in low life, but more by the worse than foolish assumption, acted on so often by modern advocates of improvement, that “education” means teaching Latin, or algebra, or music, or drawing, instead of developing or “drawing out” the human soul.2

It may not be the least necessary that a peasant should know algebra, or Greek, or drawing. But it may, perhaps, be both possible and expedient that he should be able to arrange his thoughts clearly, to speak his own language intelligibly, to discern between right and wrong, to govern his passions, and to receive such pleasures of ear or sight as his life may render accessible to him. I would not have him taught the science of music; but most assuredly I would have him taught to sing. I would not teach him the science of drawing; but certainly I would teach him to see; without learning a single term of botany, he should know accurately the habits and uses of every leaf and flower in his fields; and unencumbered by any theories of moral or political philosophy, he should help his neighbour, and disdain a bribe.







Letter 5



“For lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone,

The flowers appear on the earth,

The time of the singing of birds is come,


Arise, O my fair one, my dove,

And come.”3

Denmark Hill,

1st May, 1871.

1. My Friends,—It has been asked of me, very justly, why I have hitherto written to you of things you were little likely to care for, in words which it was difficult for you to understand.4

I have no fear but that you will one day understand all my poor words,—the saddest of them, perhaps, too well. But I have great fear that you may never come to understand these written above, which are part of a king’s love-song, in one sweet May, of many long since gone.





14. There are three Material things, not only useful, but essential to Life. No one “knows how to live”3 till he has got them.

These are, Pure Air, Water, and Earth.



15. The first three, I said, are Pure Air, Water, and Earth.

Heaven gives you the main elements of these. You can destroy them at your pleasure, or increase, almost without limit, the available quantities of them.

You can vitiate the air by your manner of life, and of death, to any extent. You might easily vitiate it so as to bring such a pestilence on the globe as would end all of you. You, or your fellows, German and French, are at present busy in vitiating it to the best of your power in every direction; chiefly at this moment with corpses, and animal and vegetable ruin in war: changing men, horses, and garden-stuff into noxious gas. But everywhere, and all day long, you are vitiating it with foul chemical exhalations; and the horrible nests, which you call towns, are little more than laboratories for the distillation into heaven of venomous smokes and smells, mixed with effluvia from decaying animal matter, and infectious miasmata from purulent disease.


29.91  On the other hand, your power of purifying the air, by dealing properly and swiftly with all substances in corruption; by absolutely forbidding noxious manufactures; and by planting in all soils the trees which cleanse and invigorate earth and atmosphere,—is literally infinite. You might make every breath of air you draw, food.

16. Secondly, your power over the rain and river-waters of the earth is infinite. You can bring rain where you will,1 by planting wisely and tending carefully;—drought where you will, by ravage of woods and neglect of the soil. You might have the rivers of England as pure as the crystal of the rock; beautiful in falls, in lakes, in living pools; so full of fish that you might take them out with your hands instead of nets. Or you may do always as you have done now, turn every river of England into a common sewer, so that you cannot so much as baptize an English baby but with filth, unless you hold its face out in the rain; and even that falls dirty.

17. Then for the third, Earth,—meant to be nourishing for you, and blossoming. You have learned, about it, that there is no such thing as a flower;2 and as far as your scientific hands and scientific brains, inventive of explosive and deathful, instead of blossoming and life-giving, Dust, can contrive, you have turned the Mother-Earth, Demeter,*into the Avenger-Earth, Tisiphone1—with the voice of your brother’s blood crying out of it,2 in one wild harmony round all its murderous sphere.

This is what you have done for the three Material Useful Things.

From the Bible of Amiens, Ruskin's thoughts in relation to  of the Beau Dieu, the statue of C on the western facade : 

52. First, that throughout the Sermon on this Amiens Mount, Christ never appears, or is for a moment thought of, as the Crucified, nor as the Dead: but as the Incarnate Word—as the present Friend—as the Prince of Peace on Earth,2—and as the Everlasting King in Heaven. What His life is, what His commands are, and what His judgment will be, are the things here taught: not what He once did, nor what He once suffered, but what He is now doing—and what He requires us to do. That is the pure, joyful, beautiful lesson of Christianity; and the fall from that faith, and all the corruptions of its abortive practice, may be summed briefly as the habitual contemplation of Christ’s death instead of His Life, and the substitution of His past suffering for our present duty.3