From Fors Clavigera
by John Ruskin

From Letter XVI, April, 1872.

“[....] Such is the irony of events! Excuse the presumption of this rather rambling letter, and apologizing for addressing you at such length,

“I am, very faithfully yours.”

I have only time, just now, to remark on this letter, first, that I don’t believe any of Mr. Scott’s work is badly done, or will come down soon; and that Trades Unions are quite right when honest and kind: but the frantic mistake of the Glaswegians, in thinking that they can import learning into their town safely in a Gothic case, and have 180,000 pounds’ worth of it at command, while they have banished for ever from their eyes the sight of all that mankind have to learn anything about, is,— Well as the rest of our enlightened public opinion. They might as well put a pyx into a pigsty, to make the pigs pious.

In the second place, as to my correspondent’s wish to read my books, I am entirely pleased by it; but, putting the question of fee aside for the nonce, I am not in the least minded as matters stand, to prescribe my books for him. Nay, so far as in me lies, he shall neither read them, nor learn to trust in any such poor qualifications and partial comforts of the entirely wrong and dreadful condition of life he is in, with millions of others. If a child in a muddy ditch asked me for a picture-book, I should not give it him; but say, “Come out of that, first; or, if you cannot, I must go and get help; but picture-books, there, you shall have none!”

Only a day and a half in the week on which one can get a walk into the country, (and how few have as much, or anything like it?) just bread enough earned to keep one alive, on those terms one’s daily work asking not so much as a lucifer match’s worth of human intelligence;— unwholesome besides one’s chest, shoulders and stomach getting hourly more useless. Smoke above for sky; mud beneath for water; and the pleasant consciousness of spending one’s weary life in the pure service of the devil! And the blacks are emancipated over the water there and this is what you call “having your own way,” here, is it?

Very solemnly, my good clerk-friend, there is something to be done in this matter; not merely to be read. Do you know any honest men who have a will of their own, among your neighbours? If none, set yourself to seek for such; if any, commune with them on this one subject, how a man may have sight of the Earth he was made of, and his bread out of the dust of it and peace! And find out what it is that, hinders you now from having these, and resolve that you will fight it, and put end to it. If you cannot find out for yourselves, tell me your difficulties, briefly, and I will deal with them for you, as the second Fors may teach me. Bring you the First with you, and the Third will help us

And believe me, faithfully yours,