Ruskin 4: People and Class
Posted by Helen on June 29, 1998 at 10:29:04:
I thought this deserved a special section all to itself, because it’s what I personally find most interesting - an indication of how realistic JA’s characters are.
Ruskin describes himself as a ‘violent Tory of the old school’ (the old school being Walter Scott and Homer). This translates into ‘a most sincere love of kings’, seeing them as unselfish and working benevolently for their subjects. (Which recalls to me JA in her History of England and her pro-Mary Queen of Scots views).
Mr. Ruskin’s business partner had small estate and owned London counting house: ‘He was a perfect type of an English country gentleman of moderate fortune; unmarried, living with three unmarried sisters’ who lived ‘in the refinement of their highly educated, unpretending, benevolent, and felicitous lives’, while their brother was ‘so gentle, so humble, so affectionate, so clear in common sense, so fond of horses’.
The marriage of one of his clerks makes Mr and Mrs Bennet seem the picture of philosophy: ‘Mrs. Richard Gray used sometimes to play gracefully to me, but if ever she struck a false note, her husband used to put his fingers in his ears, and dance about the room, exclaiming, ‘O Mary, Mary dear!’ and so extinguish her’)
(Of course, this could also be what happened to Mary Bennet after her marriage… ;-) )
This is the other clerk: ‘He was, I believe, the principle support of a widowed mother and three grown-up sisters, amiable, well educated, and fairly sensible women, all of them; refined beyond the average tone of their position, - and desirous, not vulgarly, of keeping themselves in the upper-edge circle of the middle class. Not vulgarly, I say, as caring merely to have carriages stopping at their door, but with real sense of the good that is is good London society, in London society’s way. They liked, as they did not drop their own h’s, to talk with people who did not drop theirs; to hear what was going on in polite circles; and to have entrée to a pleasant dance, or rightly given concert… this was not difficult for them; - nevertheless it meant necessarily having a house in a street of tone, near the Park, and being nicely dressed, and giving now and then a little reception themselves’ – this took all 3 of their brothers’ salaries.
‘The family lived, to the edge of their means, - not too narrowly: the young ladies enjoyed themselves, studied German – and at that time it was thought very fine and poetical to study German; sang extremely well, gracefully and easily; had good taste in dress… and the whole family thought themselves extremely elite, in a substantial and virtuous manner.’
The clerk was taken into the counting house aged 16 – at first his family thought it good but they began to be outraged by ‘steady work… and … little show: the clerks could by no means venture to leave their desks for a garden-party, and after dark were allowed only tallow candles. That the head of the Firm should live in the half of a party-walled house, beyond the suburb of Camberwell, was a degradation and disgrace to everybody connected with the business! And that Henry should be obliged every morning to take omnibus into the eastern City, and work within scent of Billingsgate, instead of walking elegantly across Piccadilly to an office in St. James’ Street, was alike injurious to him, and disparaging to my father’s taste and knowledge of the world.’
There was also the problem of Mrs. Ruskin, ‘apt to look with some severity, perhaps a tinge of jealousy, on what she thought pretentious in the accomplishments, or affected in the manners, of the young people: while they, on the other hand, though quite sensible of my mother’s worth, grateful for her good will, and in time really attached to her, were not disposed to pay much attention to the opinions of a woman who knew only her own language; - and were more restive than responsive under kindnesses which frequently took the form of advice.’
(This reminds me irresistibly of Fanny Price and the Bertram sisters).
Well, there you go… I hope this was of interest to someone… I really recommend Praeterita, it’s a very soothing read and Ruskin is a very interesting person… (Oh yes, and David Beckham scored a very nice goal against Columbia…)
- Vindaloo, Vindaloo......Na-na Naa na-na naa naa naaaaah! Caroline 12:54:23 6/29/98 (3)
- Just returned from London Nicole 14:27:09 7/17/98 (0)
- It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming.... Helen 14:52:08 6/30/98 (1)
- JA, Fat Les, and Soccermania Caroline 23:38:09 6/30/98 (0)
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