“On Skiddaw and Derwent Water”

“On Skiddaw and Derwent Water”.
A draft in the handmade pamphlet, MS II, is entitled “description of skiddaw & lake derwent”. In another handmade manuscript, “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father” (now found tipped into MS V), a fair copy is entitled “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water” (see Manuscripts).
In the first published versions, in the periodical, Spiritual Times, the original MS II draft poem was split into two separate poems, each with a separate title, “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland. | Derwentwater and “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water.”
Six decades later, unaware of these Spiritual Times publications, and working from the MS II draft version, W. G. Collingwood likewise split the poem into two, each with a separate title—respectively, “Skiddaw” and “Derwentwater”. In terms of content, Collingwoodʼs two parts do not correspond with those published in the Spiritual Times, as the latterʼs “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland” consists solely of the conclusion of the original MS II draft–lines that, in Collingwoodʼs texts, form part of “Derwentwater”.
Topographical poem.
W. G. Collingwood does not mention the handmade booklet, “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father” in his “Preliminary Note on the Original MSS. of the Poems” appended to Poems (1891), which explains why he did not use this fair copy as his copytext. The pamphlet must have been discovered at some point between 1891 and 1903, since by 1903 its leaves were separated and tipped into blank pages remaining in MS V—a bound stationerʼs notebook with which the pamphlet has nothing to do, except that the contents of both items are miscellanies (as Ruskin declares in his title for the anthology contained in MS V, “Miscellaneous Poetry”).
Facsimiles by permission of John Ruskin Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Transcriptions of texts and commentary © David C. Hanson.
Composed between February and May 1829. The poem is misdated as belonging to the first half of 1828 along with the entirety of MS II, an error committed by W. G. Collingwood in Poems (1891) and perpetuated by the editors of the Library Edition (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:11–14, 262, and Poems [8o, 1891], 1:11–14, 263; Ruskin, Works, 2:536).
In his 10 May 1829 letter presenting the poem for his fatherʼs birthday, Ruskin says: “I think I began it about three months ago” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 200)—that is, counting backwards from this letter, mid‐February. This estimate corresponds convincingly to the draft poemʼs physical position in MS II, in which the draft wraps around a fragment of a salutation to a letter (“Hollo Papa”), which closely resembles the beginning of a 13 February 1829 fair‐copy letter in Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 174. The draft is also sandwiched among sermon notes, “A Theme”, and Sermon Notes [“christs intercession”], which may be identified with Ruskinʼs excited attention to the preaching of the clergyman, the Reverend Edward Andrews (1787–1841). In mid‐January, Ruskin remarked how he and his cousin, Mary Richardson (1815–49), were star‐struck by Andrewsʼs charisma, and in early to mid-April Ruskin started being tutored by Andrews in classical languages (letter of 19 January 1829; letter of 10 May 1829 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 173, 200]). In a letter of 4 March 1829, Margaret Ruskin commented that John was writing a “Sermon”, a dated reference that corresponds well with the sermon notes embedded in the draft of the poem (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 185)..
By the day of his fatherʼs 10 May 1829 birthday celebration, Ruskin must have fair‐copied the poem, either as a presentation copy, now untraced, that probably accompanied the birthday ode, “May”, or as the fair copy that survives with other poems in “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father” (see Composition and Publication: Composition; and MS II: Date; see also Hanson, “Psychology of Fragmentation”, 242–47, 254; and Burd, “Introduction”, in Burd and Dearden, eds., Tour to the Lakes in Cumberland, 20 n. 20).
Revision of the poem for publication must have taken place between 10 May and August 1829, when “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland. | Derwentwater was published. Further revision on the remaining unpublished portion of the poem could have taken place up until February 1830, when “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water” was published (see Composition and Publication: Revision and First Publication).
Composition and Publication
Ruskin composed the poem in blank verse, except for the final ten lines, which he headed “conclusion” in draft, and which he formed as rhymed octosyllabic couplets, perhaps influenced by Walter Scott. Structurally, the rough draft works by simple accretion, one section or strophe being added to the next using explicit transitions, such as “Ive treated of the clouds. now skiddaw come” and “Now derwent water come”. Writing the poem in stages, Ruskin changed from pencil to pen, and from one color of ink to another. Twice he interrupted composition of the poem with other texts. Given this structure of built‐up units over time, Ruskin treated the draft as both expandable and contractible—the contraction evident in a deleted ninth line, which could have triggered a premature ending, “Now hear my boyish moral”. Yet the poemʼs title suggests that, from the start, Ruskin projected his compound topic of mountain and lake; no evidence suggests that he decided seriatim to write first about Skiddaw and then to add a strophe about Derwent Water. The title containing the two place names shows no cramping on the page, as if he added the phrase “& lake derwent” as an afterthought. Overall, the poem represents a sustained and sophisticated effort, an advance in realized poetic ambition beyond anything Ruskin had both attempted and completed previously; and although its composition worked by accretion, compiling conventional picturesque tropes, the poem convinces as a whole.
In the progress of drafting the poem in MS II, Ruskin interrupts “description of skiddaw & lake derwent” twice by pausing to insert fragments of other texts, which form no part of the topographical poem. As explained in Date, the positions and content of these intervening texts help to date Ruskinʼs progress on the draft, and they also provide clues about the poemʼs social context, composition, and eventual presentation as a birthday gift for John James.
The Influence of Edward Andrews on Initial Composition
Of the two interruptions of the draft by unrelated material, the second consists of texts connected with Ruskinʼs infatuation with Edward Andrewsʼs preaching—a fragmentary abstract of a sermon, Sermon Notes [“christs intercession”]; and a draft fragment of a letter by Ruskin to his father, which belongs to a cluster of letters relating to John and his cousin Maryʼs attraction to the dynamic preacher, and their mixed success in transcribing his sermons (letters of 19 January, February 13, and 21 February 1829). In the letter fragment in MS II, Ruskin was probably drafting the salutation of the 13 February letter to his father, while in the sermon abstract he was probably responding to a February 22 Sunday service when “Doctor Andrews preached such a delightful sermon” that “Mary and I thought that we remembered a great deal but when we came to write it down we found that we did not remember so much as we thought” (letter of 21 February; see Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 174, 179). This intrusion, as it were, of Andrews into Ruskinʼs MS II, which was devoted primarily to New Yearʼs and birthday compositions for his father, mirrored the clergymanʼs entry to Herne Hill as Johnʼs tutor (see Edward Andrews). With this increased intimacy, Andrews may have inluenced the initial draft of Ruskinʼs topographical poem, even before there was any thought of his publishing it.
These materials fall between the two main strophes of “description of skiddaw & lake derwent”, the first describing Mount Skiddaw, and the second Lake Derwent. The Skiddaw strophe closes with a line urging “no more on this sad subject on this happy day”, referring to the topic of a shepherdʼs death—a “white tomb” on the mountainside awaiting a swain “who wanders far from home”. This detail opens a window onto a scene at Herne Hill, in which Ruskin, still in the midst of drafting “that blank verse upon Lake Derwent”, was asked by his father to see the poem, but “demurred at bringing” the poem “to read to you” since it “was designed for your birthday and I did not wish you to see it beforehand”. Sharing the poem at that stage was especially awkward, since the draft contained “a line saying something about this happy day”—the closing line of the first strophe, referring to John James's birthday—“and I was afraid you would ask me what happy day and then the whole secret would gradually have been hauled out of my unwilling mouth” (10 May 1829 birthday letter for John James Ruskin [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 199], not a posted letter, but a cover letter accompanying “Birthday Odes | To my dear Papa”, including a presentation copy of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water). As described here by Ruskin, this stage of the poemʼs development accords well with the first strophe of the draft as found in MS II: needing to find “a way of evading” the line about “this happy day” when reading the draft aloud to his father, Ruskin “found that when . . . [the line] was missed the poem sounded quite well without it”. Falling at the end of Skiddaw strophe, and immediately preceding the Andrews sermon material, the line could simply be lopped off in recitation (letter of 10 May 1829 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 200]).
From this evidence, one can deduce that composition of the Derwent strophe would probably have been contemporaneous with Andrewsʼs presence in the household—now not as a distantly admired clergyman, but as Ruskinʼs personal tutor with an interest in the youthʼs writing. Ruskinʼs recitation of the unfinished poem to his father, with its evasive maneuveur, must have occurred sometime in the last week of March or in April 1829, when a gap in the surviving family letters indicates that John James had returned home from traveling for wine orders. Andrews was engaged as a tutor starting early in April (see Reverend Edward Andrews). Since John Jamesʼs 10 May birthday was fast approaching, and Ruskin had yet to complete composition and fair‐copying of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water”, Ruskin may have been encouraged to recite his poem to his tutor, as well. Andrewsʼs influence—whether conveyed directly by the tutor as suggestions, or indirectly through his Latin instruction—is evident in the poemʼs second strophe, which introduces allusions to Homerʼs Odyssey.
In the poemʼs classical allusions, Ruskin may have been responding not only to his tutorʼs learning but also to his teaching style. Andrews was “always . . . relating some droll anecdote as explaining . . . virgil”, as Ruskin remarked in a letter to Mrs. Monro, which he drafted in MS II. Andrews amused Ruskin by “comparing Neptunes lifting up the wrecked ships of eenaes with his trident to my lifting up a potatoe with a fork or taking a piece of bread out of a bowl of milk”. Ruskinʼs own classical analogies in his poem are not so whimsical, but they attribute playfulness to the landscape itself by comparing Lake Derwentʼs “polished surface” to the “fair and oft deceiving” Penelope, since reflections are woven on the lakeʼs surface, but unwoven when the placid surface is ruffled by “bluff” Aeolus. Ruskin compares this deceptive “polished surface” to “a boy at play / who labours at the snow to make a man / And when heʼs made it”, Penelope‐like he “knocks it down again”. Comparison making is in itself a form of play, Ruskin recognizes: “So when thouʼst made a picture thou dost play / At tearing it to pieces”.
Beyond the composition of the poem, Andrewsʼs influence may also have extended to the form in which Ruskin presented a fair copy of the poem to his father on his birthday (see Fair‐copying for Presentation on John Jamesʼs Birthday). Without question, what the poem became through revision and publication was influenced by the character of Andrewsʼs magazine, the Spiritual Times, which started publication in May 1829, the month of John Jamesʼs birthday (see Discussion).
Composition of the “Conclusion” and Parental Demands for Completion
Ruskin maintains the trope of reflection in a “conclusion”, which he added to the end of the MS II draft (“helvellyn thunder” is “reechoed”, and “lightning flashes still reflected”). He changes the register of the poem, however, from the playfulness of the picturesque to the solemnity of the sublime; he moves the first‐person pronoun from an agency of invention (“enough / Ive treated of the clouds. now skiddaw come”) to a figure in the landscape (“there would I like to wander”); and he abandons blank verse for rhymed octosyllabic couplets—Walter Scottʼs and Byronʼs verse form for their narrative poems. These dramatic changes, combined with the emphatic labeling of the closing lines as a “conclusion”, suggest that composition of this poem was caught up along with some other works in a family debate over Ruskinʼs tendency to leave his writing unfinished.
In a letter of 4 March 1829, Margaret Ruskin complained to John James that John begins his writing “too eagerly” and then becomes “careless towards the end of his works as he calls them”, so she asked her husband “to impress on him the propriety” of closure and completion. For John, more was at stake than his motherʼs view of a propriety, since he used incompletion as a strategy to elicit love from his frequently absent father. For example, in a letter of 13 February 1829, Ruskin “intend[ed]” as he declared to his father, “if my rhyme has the power, . . . to keep you wishing and wishing for my next letter” by playing out a poem, “The Shipwreck”, “only two stanzas at a time” in successive letters (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 187, 175; and see Hanson, “Psychology of Fragmentation”, 247–58).
On 10 March John James complied with Margaretʼs request, remarking to his son that “You have been at your Works with great Spirit & they commence so well that” nonetheless “the end rather disappoints that is if they get to an end”. The admonishment was muted since John James subordinated the mild criticism as a postscript to an otherwise playful and confiding letter, declaring that he would have written a more “serious letter” but was confident that “Mama . . . tells you what is right”. While John could read into these contingencies that his father was effectively closing ranks with him against Margaretʼs fussy proprieties, he did react to his motherʼs pressure, writing on the same day as his father, 10 March (and therefore prior to receiving his fatherʼs admonitory postscript), to promise that “I am trying to get that red book of mine which has the Monastery in it finished, by the time you come home” (letter of 10 March 1829 to John Ruskin; letter of 10 March 1829 to John James [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 190, 192, 187]).
Ruskin was referring to the Red Book, MS III, which contains “The Monastery”Ruskinʼs versification of Scottʼs novel, The Monastery. Besides this poem, he completed other short works, as well, in MS III, and prominently (and possibly fictionally) dated them “March 9, 1829”, which was the day prior to the two March 10 letters—his own, promising to complete the Red Book; and his fatherʼs, urging the completion. Since “description of skiddaw & lake derwent was destined as a birthday poem for John James, there was no call to finish its composition in March; however, given the pressure to demonstrate closure in his works by the time John James returned home, Johnʼs forced recitation of “description” in John Jamesʼs presence may have been uncomfortable for fearing to admit to the poemʼs rough state as well as for needing to keep the secret of its occasion. When he did draft the ending, in any case, he was emphatic in labeling it as a “conclusion”; and while he did not carry over this subhead to the fair copy, “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water even here Ruskin set off the closing octosyllabic lines with a horizontal bar.
(For the MS III works besides “The Monastery” that Ruskin labeled as completed on 9 March, see . . .
Fair‐copying for Presentation on John Jamesʼs Birthday
Van Akin Burd comments that “the poem Derwentwater’” (he is apparently thinking of Collingwoodʼs version of the poem, which divides the two strophes into separately entitled poems [see Subsequent Editing and Publication]), “which was apparently sent to [John James] as an enclosure with [Ruskinʼs 10 May 1829] letter is no longer with it [the letter]” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 200 n. 2). However, since Ruskin inscribed this letter as “Birthday Odes”—using the plural—the presentation copy evidently was not devoted solely to the topographical poem. What “odes” did this presentation consist of, then, and is the presentation copy lost?
The sole surviving fair copy of the topographical poem in Ruskinʼs hand is “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water, which is contained in a handmade booklet, “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father”. It is possible that this pamphlet constituted the “Birthday Odes” that accompanied Ruskinʼs 10 May 1829 letter. The pamphlet matches Ruskinʼs description given in the letter about its enclosure if one omits Burdʼs bracketed editorial insertion: “On Newyearsday I prepared a small poem for you”, and therefore “on your birthday it becomes me to have a much larger [one] for you” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 199). That is, by a “larger”, Ruskin may have meant, not just a single larger poem, “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water, but a larger project—the handmade booklet, which he dated 1829 on its cover, and which contains, along with the topographical poem, several other poems and a play, including the 1829 birthday ode, “May”.
Some evidence for this scenario of the birthday presentation is supported by the MS II draft, “description of skiddaw & lake derwent, which wraps around draft of another work—the first of the two unrelated texts that interrupt the composition of “description”—a fragmentary text consisting of the word “Play” followed by a few lines. This may be the earliest witness of “Battle of Waterloo: A Play in Two Acts”. Moreover, the handmade physical pamphlet containing the fair copies matches the size of the handmade MS II, 10 by 16 cm. Since these are the dimensions of the Red Books, the “Battle of Waterloo pamphlet suggests an added "volume" to “his works as he calls them”, in Margaretʼs phrase of March 1829. The pamphlet even sported a pink or red cover. As a birthday gift to his father, the pamphlet would have posed an ambitiously positive response to his parentsʼ demand that he finish his works.
Convergent with this evidence is the striking coincidence that the first number of Andrewsʼs magazine, Spiritual Times, was published in May 1829, the month of John Jamesʼs birthday. A portion of Ruskinʼs poem would not be published until the August number; however, the idea of a magazine as a miscellany may have influenced Ruskinʼs collection of a drama with other poems. Andrewsʼs own children produced a handmade magazine for their household (see Discussion; see also Revision and First Publication).
Despite all this, one cannot entirely discount the possibility that the pamphlet was a project separate from John Jamesʼs birthday presentation, and produced later in 1829, after 10 May. In that case, Ruskinʼs 10 May 1829 letter would have accompanied a different fair‐copy version of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water than the one included in the pamphlet—one which perhaps was paired solely with the birthday ode, “May”, and no other work.
Revision and First Publication
In 1829–30, Ruskinʼs original poem was revised and split into two poems for publication in the Spiritual Times: A Monthly Magazine. Thus, Ruskinʼs first poem to appear in print, and his first publication of any kind, was “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland. | Derwentwater, which was signed “R—”, and which appeared in the 1 August 1829 (vol. 1, no. 4) issue. Ruskinʼs second publication was “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water, which similarly was signed “R.”, and which appeared in the February 1830 (vol. 1, no. 10) issue. The responsibility and authority for the splitting and revision of the poem are unknown. As the editors of the Library Edition speculate, the revision presumably was guided either by the magazineʼs editor, the Reverend Edward Andrews (1787–1841), or by Ruskinʼs father, John James Ruskin, or by both of them. Scholars have weighted the responsibility on the fatherʼs side (see, e.g., Maidment, “‘Only Print’”, 196), but John Jamesʼs influence has probably been taken too much for granted. As shown in Composition: The Influence of Edward Andrews, Andrewsʼs mythology lessons are perceptible even in the draft. Unfortunately, no direct evidence, such as handwriting other than Ruskinʼs in the MS II draft, is available to attest to othersʼ participation in the drafting or revising process.
The first stage of the two‐part publication in Spiritual Times—the shorter poem, “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland—was formed by isolating the “conclusion” (beginning “sweet derwent on thy winding shore”) of the original draft. (In the fair copy, “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water, contained in “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems”, this concluding section is not subtitled “conclusion”, but it is marked by a horizontal bar above its first line, as in the MS II draft.) Isolating these concluding lines for publication was easy, since they were already set apart from the main body of poem by their octosyllabic couplets and their sublime, rather than picturesque mode (see Composition of the “Conclusion” and Parental Demands for Completion). Revision of just ten lines was possible between the May presentation to John James and the August publication date, whereas revision of the main body of Ruskinʼs original poem apparently required the later publication date of February 1830.
There was time enough, nonetheless, for the ten‐line conclusion to undergo several minor revisions and one major development to arrive at “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland. The major change transfers the reflection of lightning over Mount Helvellyn from the outer surface of a “mountain rill” to an internalized play “oeʼr the Poetʼs eye” and warming of his “heart”. In a brief space, the aesthetic paradigm shifts from mirror to lamp, imitation to expression. Yet the Romantic paradigm is instantly quelled by the addition of a moralizing couplet, raising the total number of lines from ten to twelve, which deprives the Poet of solace in nature: “Though such thy glories Earth, thy proudest whole, / Can never satiate the grasping soul!” Similarly, when the remainder of the poem was revised for publication in February 1830 as “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water, the manuscript originalʼs reference to the “happy day” of John Jamesʼs birthday was not just omitted as being irrelevant to the poemʼs new context; the “happy day” was obliterated by seven lines of apocalyptic imagery, culminating in the “great day of fire the general grave”. (This imagery includes a reference to the “fall” of Herculaneum, a topic that seems particularly likely to have originated with Andrews; see contextual notes to “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water” [February 1830] and to versions based on that copytext.)
H. Robertson Nicoll, who unearthed the “Lines” from the Spiritual Times in 1895, declared that it was Andrews who “contributed the last two lines, the youthful poet being unable to find an appropriate conclusion” (Nicoll, “First Published Writings of Mr. Ruskin). It is unclear how Nicoll arrived at this conclusion, since he had no access to the manuscript versions, draft or fair copy, lacking the couplet. Perhaps, since he gained access to a rare set of the journal issues with the assistance of the Andrews family, they made him privy to family stories about the Reverend Andrewsʼs part in revising Ruskinʼs poem (see The Rediscovery of Ruskinʼs First Publication). More likely, Nicoll compared the “Lines” as published in the Spiritual Times with the text of Derwentwater as edited by Collingwood from the MS II “description” and published in 1891: this text ends with Ruskinʼs original conclusion, lacking the two lines found only in Spiritual Times. Noticing the shift in tone, Nicoll may have decided that the additional couplet can only have been the work of a clergyman rather than of a ten‐year‐old (see Editing for Publication in Poems [1891]).
At the same time, the revised version for the Spiritual Times intensifies the originalʼs theme of playfulness. In lines 12–16 of the revision, the originalʼs description of “straggler” roots is caught up in a simile about the rambunctious play of an “urchin boy”, whose foot tramples and “dissolves” the root‐bound “mould”, just as the dissolving shapes in the clouds chase away one anoother. The added simile parallels Ruskinʼs own original simile of a “boy at play / who labours at the snow to make a man / And when heʼs made it knocks it down again”. As Nicoll concluded from his study of the magazine, Andrews did not intend Spiritual Times to be conventionally religious, and yet it is in fact conventional in its piety, if unexpectedly varied in content (see Discussion). Just so, Andrews seems to have been capable equally of pairing Ruskinʼs snowman maker with a playmate in the urchin boy and of dampening that playfulness with a cautionary couplet.
Subsequent Editing and Publication
John James Ruskin and W. H. Harrison omitted the poem from the privately printed Poems by J.R. (1850). They had not forgotten the poem—at least not entirely. In the List of Ruskinʼs Published Poems, 1830–46, which John James compiled sometime in the 1840s (probably during or after 1846, using blank pages remaining in MS IV), he began with the entry, “on Skiddaw & Derwent Water | page 72 Spiritual Times | Feby 1830 age 11 years”. No mention is made, however, of “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland. While it seems surprising that the admiring father could have forgotten Ruskinʼs very first appearance in print, bibliophilesʼ fascination with what were called “firsts” or “early editions” by modern authors became a phenomenon only at the end of the nineteenth century. John James was interested in preserving only the “best” of his sonʼs early publications in the collected volume—and for him, the “best” seems by definition to have precluded early, much less first, publications. He also rejected reprinting of Ruskinʼs first high‐profile verse publication, the poem “Saltzburg” for the gift annual, Friendshipʼs Offering; and Winterʼs Wreath: A Christmas and New Yearʼs Present, for 1835 (see Collecting of Modern Authors in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries; see also and Poems [1850]). In the List of Ruskinʼs Published Poems, someone—perhaps, John James—scored through the “on Skiddaw & Derwent Water” entry in pencil.
Editing for Publication in Poems (1891)
Thus, the next subsequent publication after 1829–30 was left to W. G. Collingwood in Poems (1891). Collingwood was aware that some version of the poem had been printed in the Spiritual Times, for when describing MS IV in his “Preliminary Note on the Original MSS. of the Poems”, he singled out for quotation John James Ruskinʼs listing of “on Skiddaw & Derwent Water / page 72 Spiritual Times / Feby 1830 age 11 years” from the List of Published Poems, 1830–46. However, Collingwood mistranscribed the date in John Jamesʼs entry as “Feby. 1831” rather than as “1830” (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:262; Poems [8o, 1891], 1:264). Whether this error or another cause led him off the trail, Collingwood ignored John Jamesʼs record of the publication. Moreover, a copy of Andrewsʼs scarce periodical may have been unavailable to Collingwood even at Brantwood. In The Library of John Ruskin, James S. Dearden lists no copies of either the August 1829 or the February 1830 issues of the Spiritual Times (see also Dearden, “The Ruskin Galleries at Bembridge School”, 334). While the family surely owned copies at one time, the issues may have gone missing by Collingwoodʼs time, and perhaps the August 1829 issue was missing even by the 1840s, when John James compiled his faulty list in MS IV (see The Rediscovery of Ruskinʼs First Publication). Thus, possibly lacking copytext from a published source, and apparently having forgotten or chosen to ignore John Jamesʼs entry in List of Published Poems, 1830–46, Collingwood persisted in honoring a later publication as Ruskinʼs first (the essay, “Enquiries on the Causes of the Colour of the Water of the Rhine, in the Magazine of Natural History).
Meanwhile, Collingwood edited the poem using for copytext the MS II draft version, “description of skiddaw & lake derwent (Poems [4o, 1891], and Poems [8o, 1891], 1:11–14). Apparently, by 1891, Collingwood had not seen the pamphlet, “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father”, which contains the fair copy; otherwise, he surely would not have troubled to “decipher” his copytext from the “childish and almost illegible scribble” in MS II (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:269; Poems [8o, 1891], 1:270). In 1893, however, he made up for this oversight, describing both the poem and the Waterloo pamphlet in Life and Work of John Ruskin, 1:37–38.
It is a coincidence that, in his edition of the poem, Collingwood decided, like the Reverend Andrews, to divide Ruskinʼs original poem into two, separately titled parts, although he did not divide the poem the same way. Collingwood perhaps got the idea to divide the poem from an accidental feature of the MS II draft: the section that he separated out and entitled Skiddaw happens to precede the prose fragment, Sermon Notes [“christs intercession“], which interrupts the sequential composition of the poem; and the section that Collingwood entitled Derwentwater follows the prose fragment, with Ruskin signaling the resumption of composition by a short form of the poemʼs title, “skiddaw derwent water”. In this segmenting of the draft, there is no indication that Ruskin intended separate poems, although the interruption by the prose fragment does occur at a clear point of transition, introduced by the line, “Now derwent water come a looking glass”.
Editing for Publication in the Library Edition (Works, Volume 2, Poems [1903])
In the Library Edition, the editors, Cook and Wedderburn, adopted as copytext for the main reading text the February 1830 Spiritual Times version, “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water, which they entitled as the unhyphenated “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water. Obviously, the editors had been able to follow up on the evidence that Collingwood discovered and yet neglected in John James Ruskinʼs List of Published Poems, 1830–46; and unlike Collingwood, they acknowledged “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water as a publication prior to the 1834 “Enquiries on the Causes of the Colour of the Water of the Rhine, as confirmed in the Library Editionʼs “Bibliography” (Ruskin, Works, 38:3). The editors did not print “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland from the Spiritual Times, or list the poem as a publication in their bibliography, perhaps overlooking it because John Jamesʼs list drew no attention to that earlier publication.
With the recovery of the pamphlet, “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father”, which Collingwood acknowledged in 1893, the editors were also able to publish Ruskinʼs fair‐copy version, the text of which they dropped into a note—untitled in their edition, but in ERM designated “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water. Cook and Wedderburn annotated this text using variants drawn from Collingwoodʼs texts, Skiddaw and Derwentwater, on the grounds that Collingwood based his versions on “the somewhat illegible draft” in MS II. This procedure is misleading, since the editors fail to make clear that their annotations are based, not on a legitimate comparison with Ruskinʼs draft, but on Collingwoodʼs edited version of that draft—a text already responsible for numerous omissions from and editorial interventions in Ruskinʼs original text (see Ruskin, Works, 2:267–68 n.).
Thus, Cook and Wedderburn brought the publishing history of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water further into view, after Collingwood had obscurely hinted at (though erroneously dated) an earlier printing history. The editors announced (albeit still incorrectly) what Collingwood had ignored, that “these verses are the earliest printed work of Ruskin” (see Ruskin, Works, 2:265 n. 1). But Cook and Wedderburn added confusion to the publication and compositional history of the poem, even as they presented new materials. Not only did they conflate the texts of Collingwoodʼs edited versions with the text of the MS II draft; they also introduced numerous silent editorial changes of their own into their texts of the both the Spiritual Times version, as well as the “Battle of Waterloo pamphlet version (see textual notes to “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water” [based on Spiritual Times text] and to “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water” [based on pamphlet text in MS V]).
Other Editions for Publication
In 1912, E. T. Cook saw fit to cobble together a version of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water, using copytext from both the February 1830 Spiritual Times version and Collingwoodʼs editing of the draft version (Cook, Life of John Ruskin, 23).
In 1971, James S. Dearden hand‐printed from copytext based on the fair copy in “Battle of Waterloo, A Play, in Two Acts, with Other Small Poems, Dedicated to His Father”, but without the silent alterations in Library Edition. This version is included in the pamphlet, Three Lakeland Poems.
The Rediscovery of Ruskinʼs First Publication
Meanwhile, why did Ruskinʼs previous—and therefore actually first—publication in the Spiritual Times, “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland | Derwentwater, remain undetected? In fact, the discovery of both texts in the Spiritual Times“On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water as well as “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland—were rediscovered and made public in 1895. Curiously, this recovery was not acknowledged in the Library Edition, an oversight that consigned the “Lines” to its seemingly fated obscurity for another century. Nor did Cook and Wedderburn acknowledge this reprinting of “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water from the Spiritual Times prior to their own.
The discovery, or at least the publicizing and reprinting, of the Spiritual Times publications must be credited to the journalist and book collector, H. Robertson Nicoll (1851–1923), who in June 1895 published a brief article, “First Published Writings of Mr. Ruskin, in a journal that he founded and edited, the Bookman.
I have before me a volume containing ten numbers, all that were published, of the Spiritual Times. It was commenced in May, 1829, and was published by Mr. D. Freeman, of 52, Paternoster Row, London, and 8, Keeneʼs Row, Walworth. The editor was the Rev. Dr. Andrews, minister of Beresford Chapel, Walworth, one of the most distinguished dissenting ministers of his time. In the first number Dr. Andrews suggests that the composition of his magazine is to be “sprightly and elegant”, that it is to “break out of the trammels in which other religious periodicals seem proud to confine themselves, and show that even piety may be connected with high talent, and that vulgarity of style is not inseperable with what are foolishly called high doctrines, and dullness from what more sober persons call Evangelical”. The magazine is, however, for the most part, explicitly and fervently religious. Dr. Andrews contributes some articles on his personal experiences as a minister, including a curious account of his visits to Edward H. H. Martelly, “under sentence of death at Newgate”. The distinction of the periodical is that it contains the first published writings of Mr. Ruskin. Mr. Ruskin, it will be remembered [from Praeterita], was at one time a pupil of Dr. Andrews, and was occasionally present in his chapel, where he remembers seeing Dr. Andrewsʼs daughter [Emily Augusta Andrews (1824–62)], afterwards Mrs. Coventry Patmore. Through the kindness of Dr. Andrewsʼs granddaughter, Miss Eliza Orme, I have been able to identify Mr. Ruskinʼs contributions. To the first of them, Dr. Andrews contributed the last two lines, the youthful poet being unable to find an appropriate conclusion. They are as follows:—[Nicollʼs transcription, “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland. Derwentwater.”].
The second poem, “On Skiddaw and Derwentwater, is much better, and has pretty clearly been worked over by the editor: [Nicollʼs transcription, “On Skiddaw and Derwentwater”].
The magazine did not live long, and the following announcement appears in the last number. “With the present number the Spiritual Times will end. Its discontinuance, though much regretted by many of its readers, must be attributed to the want of encouragement; which circumstance has induced the principal editor to withdraw his services”.
Nicoll does not explain what led him to hunt down the magazine. Did he spot Collingwoodʼs citation from John James Ruskinʼs List of Published Poems, 1830–46, and follow the trail that Collingwood had left cold (see Editing for Publication in Poems [1891])? Nicollʼs acknowledgment of the “kindness” of Eliza Orme (1848–1937) suggests that he realized the Andrews family was a likely source for a full run of the Spiritual Times—“one of the rarest pieces of Ruskiniana”, as James S. Dearden would remark decades later (Dearden, Ruskin, Bembridge, and Brantwood, 214).
On the evidence of Cook and Wedderburnʼs transcription of “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water from the Spiritual Times, the editors (who do not mention, incidentally, where they obtained a copy of the magazine) did not view Nicollʼs transcription—or, if they did see it, did not allow themselves to be guided by its choices. As described in the textual notes to the Bookman transcription, it contains (along with some minor alterations in punctuation) at least two significant departures from the Spiritual Times text, which do not appear in the Library Edition transcription. If Cook and Wedderburn allowed their eye to be guided by any predecessor, it was Collingwoodʼs texts, as indicated by the Library Edition version of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water”, based on the Spiritual Times text (see the textual glosses on their division of the poem into two stanzas, following Collingwoodʼs division of the text, not the undivided copytext; and on the phrase “Chasing the others off”, which the editors could have adopted only from Collingwoodʼs text). The Library Edition also reverts to Collingwoodʼs text in some details of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water”, based on the MS V text (see the textual gloss on the usage of “Thus” for “Then”, which is supported only by Collingwoodʼs text, not the copytext). At least some of these preferences for Collingwoodʼs editing over the copytext at hand seem deliberate, whereas there is no evidence that Cook and Wedderburn even accidentally transmitted unique features in Nicollʼs transcription. (At the same time, it must be admitted that Cook and Wedderburn also may have silently rejected some of Collingwoodʼs transcriptions; see the textual note on the reading of “vain” for “fair” in “Skiddaw”.)
Accordingly, while it seems strange that Nicollʼs previous recovery of these texts was unknown to the editors of the Library Edition, they apparently were not acting disingenuously when, seven years later, they edited the second of the two poems, “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water, based on copytext derived from the Spiritual Times, heralding this poem as “the earliest printed work of Ruskin” (Ruskin, Works, 2:265). They do not credit Nicollʼs article anywhere in the Library Edition. (In the “Addenda et Corrigenda”, no correction of the omission is made respecting either the bibliography of Ruskinʼs poems or the editing in volume 2 of the edition, although among the corrigenda to volume 34 the editors do quote from a different article by Nicoll published in the Bookman; see Ruskin, Works, 38:381.) Thus, Cook and Wedderburn perpetuated the neglect of the prior publication of “Lines”. That correction awaited a second rediscovery by James S. Dearden, who published a note, John Ruskinʼs First Published Work”, in 1994, almost a century following the appearance of Nicollʼs brief article. (In his note, Dearden, like Cook and Wedderburn, failed to record Nicollʼs prior discovery; however, he intended to write a longer article, kindly relinquishing the project in deference to what has ultimately become this apparatus, and no doubt his unfailingly impeccable scholarship would have lead him to these same surprising results.)
The cul de sac of Nicollʼs scholarship is striking in view of the phenomenon of the Collecting of Modern Authors in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, which prompted keen rivalries for obtaining “early editions” of modern authors at high prices on the rare book market. Two circumstances may have blunted Nicollʼs coup from causing its due sensation. First, two years earlier, in 1893, James P. Smart and Thomas J. Wise had already published their Complete Bibliography of . . . Ruskin (1889–93), which supported Collingwoodʼs contention that Ruskinʼs first publication was the March 1834 prose piece for the Magazine of Natural History, the “Enquiries on the Causes of the Colour of the Water of the Rhine (see Collingwood, Life and Work of John Ruskin [1893], 1:57, and see vol. 1, app., p. iv; Collingwood, Life of John Ruskin [1900], 41, 409). The bibliography identified, moreover, Ruskinʼs first published poem as “Saltzburg” in Friendshipʼs Offering (Wise and Smart, Bibliography of Ruskin, 2:123, 111). A second possible reason that Nicollʼs correction to the bibliography perhaps never gained traction was owing to the rarity of the Spiritual Times. Apparently, no copy ever appeared on the rare book market; and no fake was likely to be attempted—even by a forger as resourceful as Thomas J. Wise—given the detail about the original periodical that Nicoll had provided, based on a probably unique surviving copy that remained safe in private hands.
Sources in Travel and the Picturesque
In “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water, Ruskin made his most ambitious effort to date to engage with the conventions of the picturesque, which first appears in the juvenilia of 1827, when he gathered poems into a small anthology that he entitled “Poetry Discriptive”. That he was consciously writing the present poem in the same mode is implicit in his original title, “description of skiddaw & lake derwent.
It is less clear whether Ruskin derived materials for the poem from picturesque journeying. The poems in “Poetry Discriptive” originated from a family tour in 1827 to Wales and Scotland, whereas the editors of the Library Edition believed that “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water “must have been based on memories of a visit to the Lakes in 1826 (Ruskin, Works, 2:265 n. 1; and see Ruskin, Works, 1:xxv, and Burd, “Introduction” to Tour to the Lakes in Cumberland, 6–7, for possible earlier journeys to the Lake District). Evidence of such a journey in 1826 is elusive. Arguments for dating and mapping the early family journeys have tended to work in circles, with Ruskinʼs dateable poems about locales cited as evidence for the journeys that are used to contextualize those very poems. In the present instance, as argued in Tours of 1826–27, while the Lakes was a possible destination in both 1826 and 1827, no direct evidence attests to a visit. (As also argued, it is possible that an alleged 1826 northern journey might not have occurred at all, but may be a mistaken reference to an 1827 journey that included Wales and Scotland but not necessarily the Lake District.)
Biographically, perhaps the most significant influence on Ruskinʼs composition of his poem was a journey that definitely failed to materialize. In 1828, the family embarked on a “great tour” destined for the Lakes; however, they cut the trip short when they had gotten only so far as Cornwall, where they received news of the death of John James Ruskinʼs sister, Jessie (1783–1828). Ruskin may have been moved to write about these scenes for his fatherʼs 1829 birthday as a compensation for the lost tour, and as an anticipation of the grand tour to come, the Lake District Tour of 1830, which the family was probably already planning in 1829. For this purpose, Ruskin could have relied on an engraving of the scene to supply the place of memory. “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water is a distinctly joyous poem, but its point may have been to dispel memories of grief rather than to record them. (For another topographical poem that may have been connected therapeutically with grief, see “On Scotland.)
The Character of the Spiritual Times
Despite the grief associated with the aborted tour of 1828 to the Lakes—and despite the occasional patch of mountain gloom in the poem itself, such as the fatality that threatens the shepherd—the origin of “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water lay more in laughter than in tears, and that tenor was not necessarily altered by the poemʼs publication in a religious journal. Ruskinʼs amusement by Andrewsʼs teaching style has already been remarked as an inluence on the poemʼs composition (The Influence of Edward Andrews on Initial Composition); just so, the pleasantries of a secular, picturesque poem were not out of place in Andrewsʼs new periodical, which the editor‐clergyman promised would “break out of the trammels in which other religious periodicals seem proud to confine themselves, and show that even piety may be connected with high talent, and that vulgarity of style is not inseperable with what are foolishly called high doctrines” (see The Rediscovery of Ruskinʼs First Publication). This advertisement was only one among several marks of the Andrews familyʼs cultivated tastes and social ambition, such as the fine organ installed in Beresford Chapel, a building that Andrews also owned (see Reverend Edward Andrews [1787–1841]). Like Ruskin, the Andrews children participated in these middle‐class ambitions, including making their own books by editing a family magazine, “The Beresford Spy” (Anstruther, Coventry Patmoreʼs Angel, 16–18).
The mission of Andrewsʼs magazine to “break out of the trammels” of sectarianism was not unique. The much longer‐lived Congregational magazine, the Eclectic Review (1805–68), likewise sought to undermine stiff‐necked Nonconformity and the supposed incompatibility of evangelical seriousness with a broad cultivation of literature and taste. In the Eclecticʼs first years, regular contributors included the essayist, John Foster (1770–1843), and the poet, James Montgomery (1771–1854). Theologically and politically, the Eclectic was committed to bridging the gap between Dissent and Establishment (Hiller, “Eclectic Review, 179–86). On a broader scale, David Stewart has proposed that Romantic‐era magazines in general resisted becoming trapped in bunkered positions as culture fissured into competing disciplines and positions; instead, magazines sought a heterogeneous audience who in turn positioned itself in relation to a magazine culture and not just a single organ of opinion (Stewart, Romantic Magazines and Metropolitan Literary Culture, 7–8). The editors of the Eclectic Review discovered, however, that an “eclectic” stance was difficult to maintain, and found themselves driven to promoting more decisively Nonconformist interests of civic and religious liberty in the turbulent period of reform.
Likewise, another heterogeneous periodical, the Patriot (1832–66), which was operated jointly by interests of Congregationalists and Baptists, struggled to build adequate support on a nationwide subscriber base of Dissenters who upheld loyalty to voluntaryism on the question of Church Establishment, but who shrank from identifying with radical Dissent. The newspaperʼs trustees turned to the experienced journalist, Josiah Conder (1789–1855), already editor of the Eclectic Review, to increase subscription, but the Patriot nonetheless almost foundered along with its editor because Conder was perceived as too soft on the question of Establishment even in the view of moderates, must less of the radical voluntaryists (Cooper, “Dissenters and National Journalism”). Given that the weekly Patriot and monthly Eclectic survived only by virtue of deft political and theological positioning, not to mention the hugely energetic labors of professional journalists like Conder, no wonder that the modest Spiritual Times failed to summon adequate support. In the magazineʼs final issue, Andrews attributed the failure to “want of encouragement” (see The Rediscovery of Ruskinʼs First Publication). Add to this the scale of the competition, with four thousand journal titles estimated to have been founded in Britain between 1790 and 1832, and Andrews was soon forced to shut down the costly venture within the first year of his magazineʼs publication (Anstruther, Coventry Patmoreʼs Angel, 16; Klancher, Making of English Reading Audiences, ix).
Compared to these national political struggles, the conflicts staged in the Spiritual Times are domestic in scale. In dueling correspondence on the “Religious Education of Children” contributed by “Rector” and “Cor‐Rector”, the former observes that “children of ministers turn out worse than others” for “when they do get into the world, they riot in it”. Having been “made to sit through a long form of worship before they can understand one word”, their overloaded “brains are turned”; and “growing older, and their wishes and desires expanding”, they nonetheless remain dangerously thwarted, “not allowed to read anything in a dramatic form,—good or bad,—nay” not even “any thing fictitious”. Cor‐Rector replies with an anecdote about a godly child who read Scripture from infancy, soon growing so fond of it that he became a prodigy. “As he grew older, and his desires expanding, what on earth could anything in a dramatic form benefit his mind, or the reading of any fictitious books? . . . Would not this supplant all the preceding labours bestowed on the child, and fill the library of his mind with gross fictions, and subverting from his heart in future days the fear of God, which was the beginning of his wisdom? . . . Hymn learning and hymn singing is charming, and more than refreshing from infants”. Rector considers such prodigies to be hypocrites. The argument goes nowhere, partly because the magazine stopped publication, but also because, despite the promise of the magazine to favor the “sprightly and elegant”, the editor declined from the start to speak courageously in favor of broad‐minded cultivation: according to the “Observations by the Editor” appended to Rectorʼs initial letter, “We insert the above letter because, in the main its assertions are just: but we think it dangerous to say any thing that might be mistaken as unfriendly to catechisms, and the learning of hymns, &c.; all of which, if not overdone, may be unspeakably useful” (“Rector”, “Letter concerning Severity of Religious Education” and “Observations by the Editor”; “Cor‐Rector”, “Religious Education of Children”; and “Rector” with rejoinder by “Cor‐Rector”, “Religious Education of Children”, in Spiritual Times, no. 3 [1 July 1829], 87–88; no. 7 [November 1829], 273–73; no. 10 [February 1830], 73–75).
Edward and Elizabeth Andrews did not educate their own children narrowly (see Andrews family). Nonetheless, the writing for the magazine by Andrewʼs eldest son, Edward was religious, according to Ian Anstruther (Coventry Patmoreʼs Angel, 17); and the following poem contributed by another juvenile writer to the magazine, “Lines by a Youth | Not Alone”, conveys the quality of a hymn that is seldom detected in the Ruskin juvenilia. The poem by the anonymous youth holds out comfort to “favourʼd souls” that “better know / The causes of terrestrial woe”:
When earth‐born toils perplex the soul,
And cares like a wild deluge roll;
When hopes all fail and friends are gone,
ʼTis sweet to feel we are not alone.
We are not alone for Jesus guides,
For all our wants his love provides;
To him each hour for life we come,
Till brought at last to heaven our home.
And while we count the sorrows past,
Ourselves beyond the stormy blast;
ʼTwill be a theme of wonder there
That favourʼd souls could eʼer despair;
Or rather say they better know
The causes of terrestrial woe;
Removʼd from sorrowʼs funeral reign
They recognize the source of pain.
ʼTis sin, ʼtis sin abhorred sprite,
That never haunts those walks of light.
Ah! when shall we to glories rise,—
And endless sabbath in the skies.
But while, O Lord, we dwell below,
While yet our hearts temptation know,
In love forgive our numerous fears,
Let mercyʼs hand remove our tears.
In troubles more than we can bear,
A refuge let us find in prayer;
When here before thy face we groan,
Convince us, Lord, we are not alone.
A poet like this youth seems more likely than Ruskin to have found an appropriate ending to “Lines Written at the Lakes in Cumberland by repudiating the whole “Earth” for the greater “glories” needed to “satiate the grasping soul”; or to have improved “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water by elevating Ruskinʼs humble imagining of a snowy “mauseleum for the careless swain” to an apocalypse “where the ocean swallows navies down, / Or yawning earthquke covers cities vast, / Shroudless, engulfed, without a knell or tear; / Or where another Herculaneum falls; / Or the great day of fire the general grave. / These are the tombs she makes, and buries all / Beneath them, but the soul; that, . . . scorns the dust”.
As a consequence, the tension between the magazineʼs embrace of both Romantic imagination and Evangelical otherworldliness appears to have set off a debate in MS II over the respective claims of worldly beauty and religious austerity.
Amid draft of “Eudosia” occur the fragments “These worldly things are fair and beauteous too” and “We say that this world is unhappy”. The debate—if debate it is—seems to culminate in MS II with another fragment, “If such the beauties of an earthly shore”, which is an almost illegible, scrawled draft that may bear witness to the revision process seeking the new concluding couplet for “Lines”—or the draft may be an attempt at revising “On Skiddaw and Derwent‐Water for publication in February 1830, which similarly acquired an ending that “scorns the dust” of the “general grave”. If these fragments do represent the revision process, they must date from between 10 May 1829, when Ruskin wrote his letter presenting a fair copy of the poem to his father, and either August 1829, when “Lines” was published, or February 1830, when the revised main body of the poem was published (thus placing compostion and revision a full year or more after 1828, when Collingwood believed that Ruskin composed the poem; see Hanson, “Psychology of Fragmentation”, 254–55).
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