Tours of 1822–24
Prior to 1822, the Ruskins would have traveled little for leisure. In January 1822, John James wrote with pleasure to Margaret about their journey together as a newly married couple in 1818, coming from Leicester to Stamford, where they stayed at the ancient George Inn. In reply, Margaret referred briefly to a holiday in the Kent seaside town of Sandgate (letter of 23 January 1822; letter of 28 January 1822 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 104, 105n, 107]; and see Seaside Resorts for the Ruskinsʼ attraction to these places).
The earliest family tours to be reflected directly in Ruskinʼs juvenilia are discussed in Tours of 1826–27; the present note concerns tours known mainly by family tradition.
In a 23–24 February 1822 letter to Margaret Ruskin, John James Ruskin eloquently describes the charms of the “beautiful Ride . . . , differing from if not excelling all other Rides”, between Warwick and Coventry and including Kenilworth, which he hopes “to view . . . with my Love some summers day” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 118). That the family did undertake a tour in 1822, perhaps sometime between May and September, is supported by Ruskinʼs remark to Samuel Prout (1783–1852), albeit made over two decades later in a letter of 29 April 1844, that he had been ‘born again, at three years old’, among the Cumberland Hills (Ruskin, Works, 38:339)—the remark thus adding a religious association to experiences that his fatherʼs 1822 letter had characterized solely in terms of the picturesque.
If a tour comprising the Midlands and Cumberland seems ambitious enough for a family with a three‐year‐old, the itinerary may have extended to Scotland, as Van Akin Burd points out. According to Ruskin writing decades later in Praeterita, this leg of the journey was reached by water: “I had gone to Scotland in Captain Spinksʼs cutter, then a regular passage boat, when I was only three years old” (Ruskin, Works, 35:105; see also Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 119–20 n. 1).
It is possible that Ruskin was referring to a steam cutter, since steam travel for passengers and tourism had been available in Scotland since 1812, when the first commercial steamboat in Europe, the Comet, began operating on the Clyde River. Soon steam vessels were navigating west to east, from Glasgow on the Clyde, through the Forth and Clyde Canal, and then on the Forth River to Leith. From that point, Clyde steamers began making their way down the east coast to the south. Of the 141 steam vessels built in Britain by 1822, 23 operated off the east coast of Scotland (Grenier, Tourism and Identity in Scotland, 60; Bain, “Perth Steam Packet Company”, 411; Jackman, Development of Transportation in Modern England, 455).
Whether the Ruskinsʼ journey was by steam or sail, a journey to Scotland in the 1820s by water was not unlikely, since trade conditions during the Napoleonic War encouraged the development of company‐owned “lines” of coastal vessels in competition with independent vessels—one such company being especially germane to the Ruskinsʼ northern destination, the Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Company, which carried passengers as well as cargo. Scholarship on this line includes mention of a Captain Spinks who, like many of the experienced captains chosen to effect the companyʼs transition from sail to steam, had difficulties maneuvering the comparatively unmanageable steam “smacks” (i.e., coastal cutters). This Spinks was formally admonished for repeatedly incurring damage to his steam smack, the Perth, throughout 1836–37, owing to collisions that included running over an oyster fishing smack (Jackson, “Operational Problems of the Transfer to Steam”, 154–55, 165).
There is in addition a tradition that the family visited the Lake District in 1824 (see, e.g., Ruskin, Works, 1:xxv). This journey may be associated with one to Perth since Ruskinʼs uncle, Patrick Richardson, died on July 20 of that year, although a family tour may have been underway or even completed by that date.