An unrepresentative selection from


Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain

John Ruskin, LL. D.

From Letter I, 1st January, 1871
For my own part, I will put up with this state of things, passively, not an hour longer.
From Letter II
There are, practically, two absolutely opposite kinds of labour going on among men, for ever. The first, labour supported by Capital, producing nothing. The second, labour unsupported by Capital, producing all things.
From Letter III
For instance, all your journals will be full of talk, for months to come, about whose fault the war was....
From Letter IV
... “the country is once more getting rich, and the money is filtering downwards to the actual workers.” But whence, then, did it filter down to us, the actual idlers?
From Letter V
We will try to make some small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful, and fruitful. We will have no steam-engines upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the dead.
From Letter VII
Whereas, in true justice, the only honest and wholly right tax is one not merely on income, but property; increasing in percentage as the property is greater.
From Letter IX
How many actual deaths are now annually caused by the strain and anxiety of competitive examination, it would startle us all if we could know....
From Letter X
And, at this day, though I have kind invitations enough to visit America, I could not, even for a couple of months, live in a country so miserable as to possess no castles.
From Letter XVI
Very solemnly, my good clerk-friend, there is something to be done in this matter; not merely to be read.
From Letter XXIV
Nor shall I sign myself “faithfully yours” any more; being very far from faithfully my own, and having found most other people anything but faithfully mine.
From Letter XXV
... and forthwith I got quite a little mail-cartful of consolation, reproof, and advice.
From Letter XXIX
What a pestilence of them, and unseemly plague of builders’ work — as if the bricks of Egypt had multiplied like its lice, and alighted like its locusts — has fallen on the suburbs of loathsome London!
From Letter XXXI
Of the four great English tale-tellers whose dynasties have set or risen within my own memory, I find myself greatly at pause in conjecturing, however dimly, what essential good has been effected by them....
From Letter XXXV
... the peculiar forms of vice and ignorance, reacting on each other, which belong to the modern Evangelical sect....
From Letter XXXVII, 1st January, 1874
Indeed, during these three past years I have not hoped to do more than make my readers feel what mischiefs they have to conquer. It is time now to say more clearly what I want them to do.
From Letter XLIV
“The wealth in the world practically infinite,”— is it? Then it seems to me, the poor may ask, with more reason than ever before, Why have we not our share of Infinity?
From Letter XLVIII
I am bound to state that the results, for the present, are not altogether encouraging.
From Letter XLIX
She tells me, first, that I have not joined the St. George’s Company because I have no home. It is too true.
From Letter LI
My mother was obliged to accept them; but afterwards quietly told me it was not right that I should have them; and I never saw them again.
From Letter LIV
And it is perhaps already time to mark what advantage and mischief, by the chances of life up to seven years old, had been irrevocably determined for me.
From Letter LV
The extremities of human degradation are not owing to natural causes; but to the habitual preying upon the labour of the poor by the luxury of the rich; and they are only encouraged and increased by the local efforts of religious charity.
From Letter LVII
And yet, my correspondent may be thankful that some remnant of delight is still taken in dance-music.
From Letter LX
It cannot, surely, be the difference in degree of refinement between malt liquor and champagne whicn causes Mr. Greg’s conviction that there is moral delinquency and economical error in the latter case, but none in the former....
From Letter LXIX
... among certainly not less than some seven or eight hundred people, seen by me in the course of this day, I saw not one happy face, and several hundreds of entirely miserable ones.
From Letter LXXIV
It is assuredly true, as I said in the December Fors, that I can keep accounts; but, it seems, not of my own revenues....
From Letter LXXVI
Meantime, don’t be afraid that I am going to become a Roman Catholic, or that I am one, in disguise.
From Letter LXXIX
I must not close this letter without noting some of the deeper causes which may influence the success of an effort made this year in London, and in many respects on sound principles, for the promulgation of Art-knowledge; the opening, namely, of the Grosvenor Gallery.
From Letter LXXXII
The Greek word for slave and servant is the same....
From Letter LXXXVI
My dear Octavia,— You err singularly in imagining I invited you to a ‘discussion.’
From Letter LXXXVII, February, 1878
Has Jael-Atropos at last driven her nail well down through the Helmet of Death he wore instead of the Helmet of Salvation — mother of Sisera?
Letter LXXXVIII, February, 1880
To-day, being my sixty-first birthday, I would ask leave to say a few words to the friends who care for me, and the readers who are anxious about me, touching the above-named illness itself.
From Letter XCI
I keep to the estimate only of our loss by helpless, reckless, needless death, the enduring torture at the bolted theatre door of the world, and on the staircase it has smoothed to Avernus.
From Letter XCVI — (TERMINAL.)