William Richardson (1811–75)
Along with his sister, Mary Richardson (1815–49), William Richardson was educated at John James Ruskinʼs expense, especially from the time when they were orphaned by the death of their mother (John Jamesʼs sister), Jessie Richardson (1783–1828) of Perth. Unlike Mary, he did not live at Herne Hill with the Ruskins. William trained as a physician, later becoming the Ruskin family medical advisor; and he established a prominent practice in Tunbridge Wells, ultimately leaving a mark on diabetes research, according to Van Akin Burdʼs biographical note (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters 51–52 n. 3).
In Ruskinʼs youth, William seemed less promising to the Ruskins, Margaret wondering, “will he ever do for a Doctor”, skeptical that “he could get thro the latin classes” considering the limited “knowledge of the english” contained in one of his letters: “he must be thoroughly stupid but he may be the reverse of King Charles and we may hope may never do a stupid thing thoʼ he never either writes or says a wise one” (referring to the quip about Charles II by John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester, that the king “never said a foolish thing, / Nor ever did a wise one” [Ellis, ed., Complete Works, 197]). Margaret admitted, however, that William “is certainly goodnatured and obliging”, and hoped he “may come to the use of his understanding in time” (letter to John James Ruskin, 8 May 1827 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters 163, and see 165 n. 6]). Later, she decided that the “very dullness of his faculties in childhood has induced such habits of constant laborious study as will at least place him on an equality if he does not go beyond many of far higher genius” (letter to John James Ruskin, 17 March 1831 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 251]).