The Ruskin Family Handwriting

In a 1903 essay, “Ruskinʼs Hand”, W. G. Collingwood interpreted Ruskinʼs juvenile handwriting primarily in relation to his fatherʼs mercantile round hand:
[Ruskin] developed his own writing like other precocious boys and girls, though there is some trace of teaching at the very start. But after 1830 he exchanged, perhaps at the instance of superior orders, his “print” for copperplate; the “Iteriad” (1831) is fair‐copied in a large, regular round‐hand, and the Tour poems of 1833 are in a smaller, less anxious, but more formed business style. One sees the fatherʼs influence coming in, and all his letters to the old‐fashioned business man show the obvious desire to please. “My dear papa” is flourished around in the most approved writing‐masterʼs manner, and “John Ruskin” at the end is in black letter, finishing a sheet of impeccable commercial‐hand, in which the free‐and‐easy wording contrasts quite ludicrously with the formal writing.
As an example of Ruskinʼs letters to his father with embellished salutations and signtures that Collingwood was describing, see the letter of 6 March 1831 (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters 233–35). As this and many other documents show, Ruskin did employ a “copperplate” cursive hand in the 1830s, especially for his fair‐copy poems and for some letters addressed to his father. Collingwoodʼs narrative is deficient, however, in supposing that Ruskin was entirely and precociously self‐taught in his handwriting until required to imitate a copybook round hand, modeling the personality of his hand on his fatherʼs mercantile writing. The narrative not only neglects to identify what precisely was precocious and inventive about his earliest hand as compared with the discipline “under orders” of copybook instruction; the story also fails even to pose questions about his motherʼs teaching, and how and why that teaching was supplanted—it it was so—by copybook training.
Collingwood comments on variations in Ruskinʼs handwriting, but attributes these to a sweeping claim about the “chameleon” quality of his personality: “For his mother he had another hand; for his friends and for himself an assortment of varying scribbles. But there, I think, comes out one of the leading points in his character. To be a man of strong thought and will, innovator in art, science, politics, morality, and religion, there never was such a chameleon, always ready to colour his mind after his surroundings; all things to all men” (Collingwood, “Ruskinʼs Hand”, Good Words, 652; reprinted in Collingwood, Ruskin Relics, 142). Collingwood originally wrote this essay for Good Words, a nondenominational Christian magazine with Scottish connections. His observation about Ruskinʼs chameleon character—besides seeming patently untrue—likely played to the magazineʼs ecumenical mission. (Good Words promised to enliven the dullness of English Sabbatarianism by extending the boundaries of Sunday devotional reading to include Christian thought in secular genres, especially poetry [see Ehnes, “Religion, Readership, and the Periodical Press”].) As an approach to Ruskinʼs handwriting, Collingwoodʼs polemical explanation is interesting as evidence of the reception of Ruskinʼs ideas around 1900. The purpose of this note is more empirical, to organize evidence from the 1820s–30s of family and cultural influences on Ruskinʼs various scripts, which are facsimilied throughout ERM.
Collingwoodʼs most untenable assumption is that the story of Ruskinʼs developing handwriting can be limited to the boyʼs precocity and his fatherʼs masculine mercantile discipline, whereas it was obviously Margaret Ruskin who presided over the scenes of writing during John Jamesʼs frequent absences on business trips. In the family letters, Margaret Ruskin does tend, however, to record events in the development of Ruskinʼs hand, as if he simply performed these feats unaided—like a creature in nature prodding itself to walk upright. One such benchmark was Ruskinʼs first use of pen and ink. According to Margaret, this occurred in April 1827, but she cuts directly to his accomplishment, omitting the role she must have played in supplying the writing materials, teaching him to hold a pen, and monitoring his practice: “John has sent you his first written letter . . . he is much delighted at being able to use pen & ink” (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 28 April 1827 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 156]; on the identify of the “first written letter”, see John to John James Ruskin, May 1827). From this point, as suggested in The Ruskins and Copybook Self‐Culture, John James may have appropriated control over this advance in Johnʼs handwriting, treating it as a rite of passage for his son. But Ruskinʼs use of pen and ink cannot be neatly compartmentalized, as Collingwood tells the story, as the sudden adoption “under orders” of a male “commercial” round hand like his fatherʼs. While Johnʼs writing instruction prior to 1827 goes unmentioned in the family letters, his first cursive script (1827–29) appears to have been modeled on his motherʼs.
Ruskinʼs Early Print Lettering in Pencil
The earliest extant sustained writing by Ruskin appears in MS I and MS IVA, dated 1826–27, which he wrote entirely in print lettering. The medium is graphite, for which Ruskin would have used either a porte‐crayon—a metal holder for rods of plumbago—or a cedar pencil. (In “Harry and Lucy . . . Vol I”, Lucy mentions misplacing her “pencils”, but the term could apply either to “metallic” or “wooden” instruments, according to the Oxford English Dictionary [“pencil”, n., 2.a].) The plumbago used in Britain was proudly mined in Borrowdale, where high quality deposits were carefully husbanded (Finlay, Western Writing Implements, 52–53). The porte‐crayon is a typical object in eighteenth‐century genre paintings showing boys absorbed in drawing, such as works by the French artists Jean Siméon Chardin (1699–1779), Jean‐Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805), and Nicolas‐Bernard Lépicié (1735–84), who were concerned with conveying progressive educational ideas and with representing children as thoughtful, individualistic observers (see Johnson, “Picturing Pedagogy”).
Ruskin based his print lettering in part on models found in his favorite books. For example, in his adaptation of Maria Edgeworthʼs Harry and Lucy Concluded, “Harry and Lucy . . . Vol I”, he imitated the originalʼs title page; and in the text, he carefully modeled his letters on the serif typeface used for Edgeworthʼs 1825 book, even adopting a decorative capital Y from the display type of the title page. (The lettering suggests Caslon or perhaps the English transitional serif typefaces, such as Baskerville and Bulmer, which predominated in British books of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.) Even in these first manuscripts—both in the Red Books and in the separate presentation copies of poems that were later bound in MS IARuskin also flourished his lettering with decorative capitals that he called “double” print in the 1828–29 “Harry and Lucy,” Vol. 3. See, e.g., the 1 January 1827 pencil presentation copy, “Papa whats time a figure or a sense”.
While Ruskin appears to have derived his double‐print lettering primarily from a serif model, some of his fancy lettering was perhaps based on the sanserif typefaces that began as a neoclassical revival in the 1780s and sprang into a variety of forms and associations in the first decades of the nineteenth century (see Cramsie, Story of Graphic Design, 117–18, 126–27). Another possible model was the largest, most prominent lettering used for maps in Ruskinʼs geography book, Geography Illustrated on a Popular Plan (1820) by the Reverend J. Goldsmith—the author also of the geography text used by the Brontës (see Ruskin, Works, 35:79; Alexander, introduction to Brontës, Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal, xvii).
In her study of writing instruction in colonial America, E. Jennifer Monaghan notes the disjunction between the point of the writing masterʼs exercises—which were focused on “form” and the “purely visual properties” of handwriting, thus requiring the student “to learn how to represent the words of others” in “a variety of scripts”—and the ultimate purpose of writing instruction, which was to teach “a child to express himself” (Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America, 275). Margaret Ruskin turned the writing masterʼs approach on its head, asking her husband to “excuse” how Johnʼs “showing you” the mechanical skill of “his writing occupied his thoughts fully more than how he expressed his feelings” (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 28 April 1827 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 156]). From the perspective of the nineteenth‐century child writer, however, what seems a deflection into pedantry may have been a source of empowerment. Copying a text skillfully sponsored agency, as the seven‐year‐old Ruskin asserted on the title page of “Harry and Lucy Concluded, Being the Last Part of Early Lessons, in Four Volumes, Vol 1”: the work, according to its author, was “PRINTED and composed by a little boy | and also drawn”. Granted, Ruskin did not merely copy Maria Edgeworthʼs dialogues, but adapted the genre to depicting daily life at Herne Hill. He did, however, directly copy the experiments that he folded into the tale from Jeremiah Joyceʼs Scientific Dialogues, and we may be too quick to regard the latter expedient as a failure of inspiration. As Christine Alexander comments, nineteenth‐century child writers appropriated adult voices and their discourses in order to gain “the freedoms of the adult world”. Although working “within a defined discourse” that they found ready made, in doing so child writers gave “an account of both their own and the adult world”, empowering themselves to “construct an identity of authorship” chosen in “response to the print culture of their time” (Alexander, “Play and Apprenticeship”, 31).
Obeying the constraints of copying handwriting exercises or of imitating typography could be creative. In “Harry and Lucy Concluded”, Ruskin paradoxically enfranchised his inventiveness by constraining his lettering within the guidelines of bookmaking. For example, he imitated the justification of printed text, right and left, but he evidently found it difficult to space his letter‐ and word‐spacing within a line of prose, so as to end a word on the right‐justified margin. He understood that words could be broken at the margin using a hyphen, and he did adopt that expediency. More often, however, he put that punctuation mark to work in his own way, by deploying it, not to divide words, but to fill the space between words that falls at the end of a line. Hence, he invented a new punctuation mark—or new use of an existing one—in the varying‐length hyphen. In ERM, the mark is designated as Ruskinʼs justification mark (see Editorial and Encoding Rationale and Methodology: Element, Attribute, and Value Usage—Justification, Runover, and Word Division). Ruskin continued to use this mark for the purpose of right‐justifying text at least through 1834, in the MS IX fair copy of An Account of a Tour of the Continent.
Problems could arise when Ruskin set himself particularly exacting imitative or decorative lettering tasks, such as the elaborate double‐print lettering for the poem, “A Battle: Irregular Measure”, which he apparently failed to complete in time for a holiday presentation to his father (see “Harry and Lucy,” Vol. 3). This problem would be solved by adopting an easier “copperplate” round hand for fair copies of his poems—especially longer poems, such as “Iteriad” and Account of a Tour on the Continent (The Ruskins and Copybook Self‐Culture). But Ruskin would always take pleasure in copying, it seems, a trait that perhaps extended to his drawing later.
[More to come in this section.]
From Pencil to Pen, Print to Cursive
After April 1827, when Ruskin first took up a pen, his fledgling efforts in ink are exhibited in MS III. Its inside back endboard is covered with random words and letters in ink, as if Ruskin was practicing use of his pen. In that same year, when entering the first works to be fair‐copied in MS III—that is, “Harry and Lucy,” Vol. 2, and Poetry DescriptiveRuskin traced his letters in ink over top of his initial pencil lettering, which remains visible beneath. (A clearly visible example of the procedure is found in line 1 of “Spring: Blank Verse”, where Ruskin left the terminal s of the word beauties in pencil, forgetting to overwrite that one letter in ink.)
The drawings for this Red Book, MS III, are in pencil, while their legends are written in ink. A similar mix occurs in a May 1827 letter to his father, the text of which Ruskin wrote in pencil, but which included two poems fair‐copied in ink, “Wales” and “Spring: Blank Verse” (Ruskin Family Letters, 159 n. 1). Another transitional piece is “The Ship” and “Look at that Ship” [1827], which Ruskin lettered in pencil in the “feb / march 1827” version, and in ink in the MS III version. By 1828–29, when fair‐copying “The Monastery” in MS III, he was able to produce an ink lettering that is both scaled noticeably smaller than most of the lettering for Poetry Descriptive and that is free of pencil tracing underneath. Ruskin never produced a miniscule hand like the Brontësʼ, however.
Ruskin probably learned to write in ink using a quill, if trade statistics for the 1820s provide a reliable guide. In London alone, imported goose quills consumed annually averaged around 20 million, and the country as a whole used about double that number. However, the 1820s in Britain also witnessed the mass production of steel pens—referring to what nowadays is typically called the nib, as opposed to the pen‐holder held in the hand—and by 1838 this output increased to 220 million. In the 1820s, manufacturers (chiefly in Birmingham) were improving the flexibility of pens as well producing them in quantities sufficient to lower their retail cost considerably. Even fountain‐pens were being patented, although not mass-produced until the end of the century. These alternatives to the traditional quill became more affordable and widely used in the 1830s. Quills of any kind were purchased already prepared or “dressed”; and as the huge consumption suggests, consumers typically were unskilled in mending a quill for extended use, or unwilling to take the trouble, preferring merely to discard a dull pen for a fresh one. Steel pens broke easily, but as they became cheaper (dropping from about eighteen shillings per dozen at the start of the century to about fourpence per gross by 1838), these too could be painlessly discarded by the middle‐class writer (Finlay, Western Writing Implements, 3, 21, 42, 47, 10; Hall, “Materiality of Letter Writing”, 92–94).
By the time he learned to wield a pen, Ruskin already could write in cursive. In Margaretʼs letter of 28 April 1827 already mentioned, she alerts her husband to expect their sonʼs “first written letter”, by which she might have meant the first letter that she allowed John to write to his father on his own, as opposed to her transcribing and containing a message from him within a letter of hers, or she might have meant his first letter in a cursive hand—“written” as opposed to printed. Or both meanings may have been true. In Ruskinʼs May 1827 letter to his father, (regardless of whether this is the “first written letter” mentioned by Margaret), the body of the letter is written in pencil and in a cursive hand, which he apparently already commanded. At the end of the letter, between the closing and the signature, he exhibited his newly acquired pen skills by inserting a sentence—likewise in cursive, but using pen and ink: “mamma says I may tell you I have been a very good boy while you have been away”. Following the signture, Ruskin copied his poems, “Wales” and “Spring: Blank Verse”, in ink printed lettering. He was exhibiting the range of his pen‐and‐ink skills, and possibly also distinguishing between the cursive hand appropriate to a letter, and the imitation of typography appropriate to a poem.
The appearance of Johnʼs early cursive is quite distinct from John Jamesʼs mercantile round hand, which in the early manuscripts is the most readily identifiable of the three Ruskinsʼ handwriting. Compared to Margaretʼs, John Jamesʼs hand is larger, more slanted, and its characters accentuated in the manner of round hand—the downstrokes bold and dark, upstrokes and connecting lines fine, and the ascenders and descenders long. Capital letters are frequent. The bold hand reflects the advice set in verse by the famous English writing master, George Bickham (1684–1758):
Down Strokes make black, and upward Strokes make fine.
Enlarge thy Writing if it be too small,
Full in Proportion make thy Letters all,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Join all thy letters with a fine Hair-stroke.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Set Stems of Letters fair above the Line.
The Heads above the Stem, the Tails below.
("Poem on Writing" (ca. 1715), quoted in Monaghan, Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America, 274)
Margaretʼs hand is smaller, less slanted, the strokes finer and more uniform. Ruskinʼs early cursive hand resembles his motherʼs—so closely, that their hands can easily be confused with one another if the content fails to supply a clue. It is understandable that a home‐schooled youth would initially imitate his motherʼs hand, particularly in a household like the Ruskinsʼ, from which the father was absent for protracted periods. Margaret Ruskin was, after all, the most constant daily influence on Johnʼs early education, including his penmanship.
Within a year of his May 1827 letter, Ruskin can be found using cursive, in both ink and pencil, as his default hand for rough draft of poetry and prose. An early example is the poem, “The Constellations: Northern, Some of the Zodiac, and Some of the Southern” in its RF T70 version (a photograph of the presently unlocated manuscript, made in the course of preparing the Library Edition). This manuscript originated as a fair copy of the poem, using an ink, print‐lettered hand similar in appearance to the MS III fair copy of “The Monastery”, which is dated ca. 1827–28 (books 1–2). In the margins, Ruskin revised the poem in a sprawling cursive hand, using both pen and pencil. This version of “The Constellations” is undated, but it certainly predated the late 1827–early 1828 MS III fair copy of the poem, which incorporates the revisions. The cursive hand is awkward, but recognizably Ruskinʼs, and legible without difficulty. Judging by the pencil cursive hand used for the ca. February–May 1829 rough draft of “description of skiddaw & lake derwent” (MS II), Ruskinʼs cursive hand for personal use got worse in legibility before it got better, but remaining large and sprawling, recklessly occupying a large space on paper. By 1833–34, in the MS VIII draft for Account of a Tour of the Continent, the cursive hand for rough draft is smaller, more consistent in size of lettering, and fluid—and always in ink.
[More to come in this section.]
The Ruskins and Copybook Self‐Culture
In June 1827, soon after Ruskinʼs adoption of pen and ink in place of pencil in April of that year (From Pencil to Pen, Print to Cursive), John James purchased a copybook—“Writing Butterworth 7/6”, his Account Book records, a text identified by Van Akin Burd and by James Dearden as Butterworthʼs Young Arithmeticianʼs Instructor, Containing Specimens of Writing with Directions (1815) (John James Ruskin, Account Book [1827–45], 2r; Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 168 n. 1; Dearden, The Library of John Ruskin, 59 [no. 407]). The manual was produced by the firm of Edmund Butterworth (d. 1814), who had held the post of writing master and accountant at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, until 1793, shortly before John James Ruskin enrolled at that institution in 1795.
Apparently, John James regarded this juncture in the development of his sonʼs handwriting as a coming of age, analogous to his own. When John James enrolled at the Edinburgh Royal High at age ten, he was already somewhat older than his class, the customary starting age being eight—Johnʼs age when first using a pen. Scottish burgh schools like the Edinburgh Royal High in theory championed a democratic ideal of seating tradesmenʼs sons alongside those of patricians, and fees were kept moderate. Nonetheless, the Ruskin family may have delayed in order to scrape together the means even for moderate fees, or John Jamesʼs mother, Catherine, may have been apprehensive of exposing him to a famously sadistic Latin master (see Viljoen, Ruskinʼs Scottish Heritage, 59–62; and on the burgh schools, see Watters, “Καλοι κ'αγαθοι (The Beautiful and the Good): Classical School Architecture and Educational Elitism in Early Nineteenth‐Century Edinburgh”, 280–82). Given his own delayed matriculation, whatever its cause, John James perhaps acted with deliberate resolve in introducing his son in 1827, at age eight, to copybook exercises by his alma materʼs writing master.
When John was eight in 1826–27, he had already begun practicing (in pencil) Latin Rules and Conjugations in MS Juvenilia A. Just so, at the Edinburgh Royal High, boys were drilled for five to six years in Latin lessons (and some Greek in the fifth year) as a foundation for entry to the universities, where at age thirteen or fourteen they began training for professions, most often for the law (Viljoen, Ruskinʼs Scottish Heritage, 59–61). It is impossible to view the 1804 Portrait of John James Ruskin by Henry Raeburn (1756–1823)—an iconically Romantic image of a youth, who looks up from the book on which he is leaning and gazes into the imaginative space his reading has opened up—without concluding that John James once hoped to continue his studies at the university. Instead, his departure in 1802 for a mercantile life in London compelled him to pursue self‐culture, which both his own determination and the broadening print and visual culture of the era enabled him to support, first for himself and then for his family.
Copybooks like Butterworthʼs were designed to straddle the worlds of public instruction in schools and of private instruction in the home, whether by writing masters or by self‐guided practice. Even at the Edinburgh Royal High, the writing and arithmetic classes had always been optional, the expectation being that many youths would acquire these accomplishments on their own by various means (see Edmund Butterworth [d. 1814]; and for the ties between writing instruction and training in mathematics, which had been strong in English and American copybooks and pedagogy since the seventeenth century, see Monaghan, Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America, 275, 293–96). In an 1825 advertisement, the publisher Oliver & Boyd of Edinburgh characterizes Butterworthʼs Young Arithmeticianʼs Instructor as “designed for the Use of Schools and Private Families”, by “combining accurate Writing, correct Figures, and judicious Arrangement”. Respecting the five productions by Butterworth listed, the advertisement goes on to declare that “[f]or beauty of design, and correctness of execution, these Works of Mr Butterworth are admired by every competent judge of Penmanship. A decided preference is accordingly given to them by the most eminent Teachers in the United Kingdom. They are the productions of an indefatigable genius in his profession, exercised and improved by the experience of above forty years.—The demand for them continuing to increase, the Publishers have spared no expense in bringing them out in the superior style in which they now appear” (“Books Published by Oliver & Boyd”, 21).
As a path to self‐cultivation, copybooks typically provided instructional texts (set in letterpress) along with illustrations of writing samples in various styles or hands (reproduced from engraving or woodcut and, later, from lithograph). Subcategories of copybooks specialized in particular disciplines or audiences, such as youths or ladies; and Margaret may have learned from such a manual at Mrs. Riceʼs Academy for Ladies in Croydon, where she attended as a girl and learned accurate spelling and legible penmanship “in good round hand” among other accomplishments (Becker, Practice of Letters, xi; Viljoen, Ruskinʼs Scottish Heritage, 86). Most copybooks modeled the formal script known as English round hand or copperplate, for which an influential standard had been set by the copybook, Universal Penman (1733–41), jointly authored by the engraver and writing master, George Bickham (1684–1758), and his son. Practiced using a pen with a flexible quill nib, round hand called for a looping style that accentuated contrasts of thin and thick strokes, a style related to the late eighteenth‐century transitional and modern typefaces that featured these extreme contrasts, such as Baskerville and Bodoni (Cramsie, Story of Graphic Design, 119–21). In the eighteenth century, round hand settled into a practical but elegant script that was less elaborate than earlier versions, and that was widely used in business. In the view of a historian of calligraphy, the common English round hand was “colourless, thoroughly unromantic, and dull”; however, these “were precisely the qualities which commended [the hand] to those who wrote our invoices and to those abroad who received them”; and this “plain hand for a plain purpose” was typified in the nineteenth century by “the books of Butterworth”, in which the hand became “even more matter‐of‐fact and more standardised” (Morison, “Development of Hand‐Writing”, xxxiii, xl).
Plain though its sample “hands” may have been, Butterworthʼs Young Arithmeticianʼs Instructor provided Ruskin with patterns for his “copperplate” fair‐copies of poems, as well as a storehouse of flourishes for decorating his manuscripts. One wonders is copybook exercises ever occasioned as much mirth as its role in Ruskinʼs finishing the fair copy of his epic poem, “Iteriad”:
Iteriad is at last finished, quite copied in, fairly dismissed, I was cutting capers all the remainder of the evening after I had done the notable deed Uproarious was I and quite pleased with myself and everybody looked about me Then in the morning I took Mr Butterworth and I put such a finis If you saw the innumerable flourishes with which it is decorated and the paper loaded you would think there never was to be a beginning of that end I quite eclipsed Mr Butterworth threw him into the shade, made him quite ashamed of himself and his patry attempts ar flourishing.
Ruskin consulted Butterworthʼs copybook, then, to “publish” his poems and other productions in a family context, just as he had always copied from print sources to produce his presentation copies of poems for his father and other works. Butterworthʼs practical text, however, modeled an elegant but easy round hand that was less demanding and time‐consuming than his earlier “double print”, while at the same time supplying patterns for elaborate flourishes where needed, such as the “finis” of “Iteriad”. Ruskin seems not to have used Butterworthʼs copybook to improve his everyday cursive script, in which he took his own way.
Nor would the elder Ruskins necessarily have expected such thorough discipline. Margaretʼs skepticism about the fixation on presentation at the expense of “expression” has alreay been cited. Margaret took the opposite approach to Ruskinʼs cousin, William Richardson (1811–75), whom she regarded as limited in abilities, but industrious. For William, exercises in Butterworth seemed the ticket to success: “The very dullness of his faculties in childhood”, Margaret reasoned, “has induced such habits of laborious study as will at least place him on an equality if he does not go beyond many of far higher genius”; and one sign of the dogged self‐improvement was his “trying by copying Butterworth to improve his writing” (letter to John James Ruskin, 17 March 1831 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 251]). In Johnʼs case, methodical discipline was perhaps a duty to be paid for his gift of invention, but laborious exercises were not required, as in Williamʼs case, to make up for the lack in native genius. As John James assured John at age ten: “It would be sinful in you to let the powers of your mind lie dormant through idleness or want of perseverance when they may at their maturity aid the cause of Truth & of Religion”, for his genius had “doomed [him] to enlighten a People by your Wisdom & to adorn an age by your Learning” (letter of 6 November 1829 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 209–10]).
Unidentified Hands
MS VII, XI Fair Copy of the “Account”
MS VII contains 23 pages of fair copy, which W. G. Collingwood, in his “Preliminary Note on the Original MSS of the Poems”, characterizes as inscribed in “a female hand“, perhaps that of Ruskinʼs cousin, Mary Richardson (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:264; Poems [8o, 1891], 1:265). These fair copies include the poems, “The Rhine” and “Chamouni”, which are sections of the Account of a Tour of the Continenent. The editors of the Library Edition repeat this characterization verbatim, in reprinting Collingwoodʼs “Note” respecting MS VII; however, they effectively modify this characterization in a note appended to another section of the “Account”, the prose essay, “Chamouni”, which they speculate to have been copied in “a ladyʼs hand (query—his motherʼs [i.e., Margaret Ruskinʼs])” (Ruskin, Works, 2:380 n. 1). This latter essay does not form part of the 23–page section of fair copy in MS VII, but is written on two leaves (both sides of each) bound into MS XI, but the hand used for this fair copy appears identical to that used for the poems in MS VII. Cook and Wedderburn seem to acknowledge the identical hands by repeating Collingwoodʼs characterization of a “female“ or “ladyʼs hand, albeit dodging the implication of their “queryʼ—that if Margaret Ruskin fair‐copied the item in MS XI, then she also copied the times in MS VII.
The hand is in fact markedly more elegant than Margaretʼs, although it does exhibit a few characteristics typical of both hers and John Jamesʼs hands, characteristics that are not found in Johnʼs—namely, a long medial s as the first stroke of a double‐s; and heavy reliance on the ampersand. One might be tempted to ascribe the hand to John James; however, as Cook and Wedderburn point out more helpfully than in what theyʼve so far contributed to the question, John Jamesʼs hand is unquestionably responsible for an attribution and dateline that follow the prose essay in MS XI, “J.R. / fragment from a Journal / 1833“—and this hand definitely contrasts with that of the transcription itself (Ruskin, Works, 2:380 n. 1).
So we are left with Mary Richardson or possibly another “lady” as a candidate.
John James Ruskin, Account Book (1827–45), © The Ruskin, Lancaster University.
Back to top