Savage Ruskin pp 145-155 | Cite as

Savage Ruskin

  • Patrick Conner


Digressions, in the opinion of Tristam Shandy, are the sunshine: ‘They are the life, the soul of reading; — take them out of this book, for instance — you might as well take the book along with them.’ Much of Ruskin’s later work, too, is a mass of digressions, but unlike Laurance Sterne’s these are not the sunshine; too often they are the fog, and they spring from Ruskin’s growing inability to focus his mind on any single subject. In Munera Pulveris (published as a book in 1872) this was already evident. The professed subject-matter of political economy was interrupted by literary or Biblical excursions, sometimes of a most obscure nature. Ambiguous remarks on the subject of slavery led Ruskin on to the differences between Ariel and Caliban in The Tempest, and a discussion of currency ran wildly off course into the allegorical significance of Scylla, Charybdis and the Sirens. When the book was published he apologised for his ramblings, but more and more they became his natural means of expression, as he leapt from one topic to another and buried his meaning beneath a heap of allusions.


Natural Means Slum House Smoke Cloud Fevered Illness Unconscious Fear 
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  1. 1.
    Quoted in D. Leon, Ruskin the Great Victorian (1949), P. 359.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The Diaries ofJohn Ruskin ed. J. Evans and J. H. Whitehouse (1956–9), vol. 1, p. 127.Google Scholar

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© Patrick Conner 1979

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  • Patrick Conner

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