The life of John Ruskin (1813-1900) is an exercise in advanced thinking and Philanthropic endeavour. He is very much a unique individual who cared very deeply about his fellow human beings. He was a professor at Oxford University, he won poetry awards and his lifetime written works amount to 39 volumes. He owned a Teashop in London, and hired men to keep the streets swept-clean around it. He believed that the ordinary man and woman should have the right to an education, good health and decent employment. To this end, he sponsored an early form of a working commune and believed very much in the idea of libraries, so that knowledge could be spread through books. Although born into a Christian family, he became disillusioned with Christian belief, as he thought it unable to cope with the destructive social changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. In his later life, he showed an interest in spiritualism, and was a member of the Society for Pyschical Research - this may have been inspired by a vision of a spirit that he experienced during a seance
This book is superb. It was written not long after Ruskin's death, and was penned by his long time student and personal assistant, WG Collingwood (1854-1932). Collingwood is perfectly positioned to undertake such an important project. Originally, Collingwood believed that Ruskin's work was not very well known, and that this book was a way for preserving and conveying for the general public. Ruskin's work however, is now very well known and accessible. This book presents Ruskin's life through his work, as a chronological journey of discovery. The book has four parts:
Part I - The Boy Poet (1819-1842).
Part II - The Art Critic (1842-1860).
Part III - Hermit and Heretic (1860-1870).
Part IV Professor and Profit (1870-1900).
The paperback (2007) edition has 210 numbered pages. This is a biography of a great Victorian gentleman. John Ruskin, for all his genius, was not beyond the odd eccentricity. For instance, he was opposed to train travel, as he believed the actual process involved in train travel, reduced travelers to the status of 'human parcels'. Collingwood not only wrote this excellent biography of Ruskin, but he also designed Ruskin's gravestone - an interesting 9 foot structure situated in St Andrews, Coniston. It is covered in unusual engraved symbols that represent the beliefs, teachings and philosophy of John Ruskin himself. There is some speculation that certain symbols might have occult meanings. There are a number of interesting books written about John Ruskin, but there is something compelling about Collingwood's presentation. It is a timeless masterpiece.