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Unto This Last and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 31 Oct 1985
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From the Back Cover
The most influential art theorist and critic of his age, an outstanding man of letters, a sensitive painter and draughtsman, Ruskin's social criticism shocked and angered the establishment and many of his admirers.
About the Author
John Ruskin was born in London in 1819, of Scottish descent. His father was a succesful wine-merchant and art lover; his mother a strict Evangelical whose religious instruction affected him deeply. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1836 and graduated in 1842. In 1843, the first of the five volumes of Modern Painters was published, a work written in defense of J.M.W. Turner. The other volumes survey the main traditions of European painting from Giotto to the nineteenth century. Ruskin was also passionately interested in Gothic architecture and published two books on the subject before the completion of Modern Painters: The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and the three volumes of The Stones of Venice in 1851 and 1853. He married Effie Gray in 1848, but seven years later the marriage was annulled on grounds of non-consummation. In 1858 he met Rose la Toche, a girl of nine, with whom he fell in love and became increasingly obsessed, and in that year he finally lost his Evangelical faith. In 1860, disillusioned with a society in which poverty was rampant and the poor exploited, he began the first of four essays attacking the science of Political Economy. They were published in book form in 1862, uner the title, Unto this Last. This was followed in 1863 by Munera Pulveris, which puts forward some positive proposals for economic change and reform. In 1869 he became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and in 1871 began writing Fors Clavigera, a series of open letters which draw connections between diverse subjects. He also took part in many practical projects, many of which he directed by way of his Utopian pressure-group, the Guild of St. George. When Rose la Touche died insanse in 1875, however, he began to show signs of mental disturbance and suffered the first of seven mental breakdowns in 1878. In 1885 he began publishing his autobiography, Praeterita. This moving and lyrical book was brought to a premature conclusion by his last and most violent breakdown in 1889. He lived on, withdrawn and inactive, until 1900.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The wealth of the elite and the wealth of the rich should ultimately be judged by the general happiness of the common man on the street. Ruskin also advocated reading and the building of public libraries and wrote a moving essay on why one should read: included here.
Ruskin's life took some passionate twists. His mother had him memorize the Bible while his father inculcated a love for Byron in him. He proved a gifted artist and then studied geology at university. Then an attack by critics on a favored artist, Turner, lead him on an eighteen year quest to study art and explain why Turner is a great artist, writing volumes of popular art history and critiques while developing a love for Giotto and Dante on the way and becoming possibly the most widely read art critic the English-speaking world has ever produced. Then the economic debates rageing in his day between advocates of Smith's laissez-fair, Malthus, Ricardo, Mills, and Marx lead Ruskin to attack all of them and to point out why they all miss the point in some way. Ruskin's approach was organic given: time, place, and circumstances, but he does give models and examples for what good economics is. Ruskin was a great humanist, in general terms he had the heart and approach of a conservative but his results could be described as almost idealic liberalism -- echoing something of Plato's philosopher kings.
Ruskin's observations on the English language are also interesting; the hierarchy of words and the distancing of words from their right place and meaning due to English being a diverse language with Latin, Greek, French, and variety of Germanic dialects composing it.
In De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde, Wilde must have been profoundly influenced by Ruskin as Wilde expressed regret for not having taken up the moral causes of Ruskin and to have wasted his genius the way he did. Wilde seemed to say that the torch was passed to him and he dropped it. Read this book then De Profundis (which Wilde wrote, without the use of references as he was in prison), and I don't think there will be any doubt that Ruskin had a profound influence on Wilde as Wilde refers to Ruskin-esk themes throughout the book (letter). I think Waugh and Forester echo some Ruskin sentiments as well; Ruskin had a huge influence, well worth reading.
Definitely not every one' cup of tea.especially tweet lovers.