This is a very human book, written by a very great man. It title, which may seem odd or laboured to modern eye - 'Praeterita' - is a Greek word that translates as 'past things'. Such a title is indicative of the rarified cultural attainment and attitude of John Ruskin, both an Oxford graduate and eventual Professor at the university. Despite being recognised for his genius as an art critic and a leading authority upon the subject of architecture, his life was full and varied outside of his study. The stuty however, was very important to Ruskin, himself an admirer of the ancient Greek philosophical tradition. He was unlucky in love, and his endeavours in this area were not without their problems. Occasionally rejections regarding matters of the heart would often reduce Ruskin to a state of self-imposed, psychological and physical exile.
This book shows the reader the life of John Ruskin from the 'inside'. Ruskin wrote from a sense of inner truth, rather than from a sense of the requirement to adhere to external measure. He is honest and tells exactly what he thinks. In his life, he seldom withdrew any comment, even if it offended, because, from his perspective, 'truth' can not be 'edited' for the sake of convenience or sentimentality. Part of his habit of speaking plainly and directly was probably behind his compassionate sense of justice toward the ordinary man and woman of Britain. Ruskin disliked the destructive social consequences of the Industrial Revolution, and sought to create a fairer society by advocating self-improvement through education and honest labour. Fairness features as a central aspect to all of Ruskin's work. He favoured libraries and communal living.
When he passed in 1900, his old student, assistant and friend - WG Collingwood - designed an awe inspiring monument gravestone, measuring around 9 foot in height. This stone may be seen in the graveyard of St Andrews Church, Coniston, UK. It contains numerous engravings of symbols that serve to sum-up the influences, beliefs and inspirations of John Ruskin's life. There is something intensely personal about this book that will move every reader. This book enriches the life of the reader. Superb.