Praeterita: Outlines of Scenes and Thoughts, Perhaps Worthy of Memory in My Past Life

Praeterita: Outlines of Scenes and Thoughts, Perhaps Worthy of Memory in My Past Life

John Ruskin

Language: English

Pages: 632

ISBN: 1400043174

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


As a memoir elevated to the level of fine art, John Ruskin’s Praeterita stands alongside The Education of Henry Adams and the confessions of Augustine, Rousseau, and Tolstoy. A luminous account of his childhood and youth, Praeterita is the last major work of the revolutionary nineteenth-century critic.


Written in the lucid intervals between the bouts of dementia that haunted his final years, Praeterita tells the story of Ruskin’s early life—the formation of his taste and intellect through education, travels in Europe, and encounters with great works of art and artists. In abandoning the traditional linear mode of autobiography, Ruskin opened up the form and was an important influence on Proust. He also provided a vivid, detailed portrait of pre-Victorian and Victorian England that is as indispensable an account of its era as Samuel Pepys’s diary is of England in the seventeenth century.


This edition of Praeterita is accompanied by Dilecta, Ruskin’s own selection from his letters, diaries, and other writings. In these more private writings we get a fascinating glimpse of genius as it flickers in and out of madness. Together these two works illuminate the life and mind of a towering intellect who left an extraordinary mark on the history of aesthetics and culture, and on the very course of autobiography. With a new Introduction by Tim Hilton

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canal of Mestre, more beautiful to me than a sunrise full of clouds all scarlet and gold. But again, how to tell of it? or even explain it to myself, – the English mind, high or common, being utterly without trace of the feeling. Sir Philip Sidney goes to Venice, and seems unconscious that it is in the sea at all. Elizabeth, Lady Craven, in 1789, “expected to see a gay clean-looking town, with quays on each side of the canals, but was extremely disappointed; the houses are in the water, and look

bitterly in 1845; but for the rest, Florence was still, then, what no one who sees her now could conceive. For one great feature, an avenue of magnificent cypress and laurel ascended, unbroken, from the Porta Romana to Bellosguardo, from whose height one could then wander round through lanes of olive, or through small rural vineyards, to San Miniato, which stood deserted, but not ruinous, with a narrow lawn of scented herbage before it, and sweet wild weeds about its steps, all shut in by a

friend disliked it, and Scott spoil a story to please a bookseller. As I have come on the extremely minor question of my own work,1 I may once for all complete all necessary account of it by confession of my evermore childish delight in beginning a drawing; and usually acute misery in trying to finish one. People sometimes praise me as industrious, when they count the number of printed volumes which Mr Allen can now advertise. But the biography of the waste pencilling and passionately forsaken

named Elizabeth instead, I should have liked her ever so much better,) remained an entirely worthy and unworldly girl and woman, of true service and counsel always to her brother and me; caring for us both much more than she was cared for; – to my mother an affectionate and always acceptable, calling and chatting, friend: capable and intelligent from her earliest youth, nor without graceful fancy and rational poetic power. She wrote far better verses than ever I did, and might have drawn well,

book, and my father, who writes in it, “The gift of Henry Telford, Esq.,” still more curiously, for him, puts no date: if it was a year later, no matter; there is no doubt however that early in the spring of 1833 Prout published his Sketches in Flanders and Germany. I well remember going with my father into the shop where subscribers entered their names, and being referred to the specimen print, the turreted window over the Moselle, at Coblentz. We got the book home to Herne Hill before the time

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