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John Ruskin
by [?]

“The lady’s argument is ingenious, but lacks force when we consider that the bearing of arms is a matter relating to statecraft, while the baby question is Dame Nature’s own, and is not to be regulated even by the sovereign.”

Then Mr. Ruskin talked for nearly fifteen minutes on the duty of the State to the individual–talked very deliberately, but with the clearness and force of a man who believes what he says and says what he believes.

Thus, my friend, by a gentle thrust under the fifth rib of Mr. Ruskin’s logic, caused him to come to the rescue of his previously expressed opinions, and we had the satisfaction of hearing him discourse earnestly and eloquently.

Maiden ladies usually have an opinion ready on the subject of masculine methods, and, conversely, much of the world’s logic on the “woman question” has come from the bachelor brain.

Mr. Ruskin went quite out of his way on several occasions in times past to attack John Stuart Mill for heresy “in opening up careers for women other than that of wife and mother.”

When Mill did not answer Mr. Ruskin’s newspaper letters, the author of “Sesame and Lilies” called him a “cretinous wretch” and referred to him as “the man of no imagination.” Mr. Mill may have been a cretinous wretch (I do not exactly understand the phrase), but the preface to “On Liberty” is at once the tenderest, highest and most sincere compliment paid to a woman, of which I know.

The life of Mr. and Mrs. John Stuart Mill shows that perfect mating is possible; yet Mr. Ruskin has only scorn for the opinions of Mr. Mill on a subject which Mill came as near personally solving in a matrimonial “experiment” as any other public man of modern times, not excepting even Robert Browning. Therefore we might suppose Mr. Mill entitled to speak on the woman question, and I intimated as much to Mr. Ruskin.

“He might know all about one woman, and if he should regard her as a sample of all womankind, would he not make a great mistake?”

I was silenced.

In “Fors Clavigera,” Letter LIX, the author says: “I never wrote a letter in my life which all the world is not welcome to read.” From this one might imagine that Mr. Ruskin never loved–no pressed flowers in books; no passages of poetry double-marked and scored; no bundles of letters faded and yellow, sacred for his own eye, tied with white or dainty blue ribbon; no little nothings hidden away in the bottom of a trunk. And yet Mr. Ruskin has his ideas on the woman question, and very positive ideas they are too–often sweetly sympathetic and wisely helpful.

I see that one of the encyclopedias mentions Ruskin as a bachelor, which is giving rather an extended meaning to the word, for although Mr. Ruskin married, he was not mated. According to Collingwood’s account, this marriage was a quiet arrangement between parents. Anyway, the genius is like the profligate in this: when he marries he generally makes a woman miserable. And misery is reactionary as well as infectious. Ruskin is a genius.

Genius is unique. No satisfactory analysis of it has yet been given. We know a few of its indications–that’s all. First among these is ability to concentrate.

No seed can sow genius; no soil can grow it: its quality is inborn and defies both cultivation and extermination. To be surpassed is never pleasant; to feel your inferiority is to feel a pang. Seldom is there a person great enough to find satisfaction in the success of a friend. The pleasure that excellence gives is oft tainted by resentment; and so the woman who marries a genius is usually unhappy.

Genius is excess: it is obstructive to little plans. It is difficult to warm yourself at a conflagration; the tempest may blow you away; the sun dazzles; lightning seldom strikes gently; the Nile overflows. Genius has its times of straying off into the infinite–and then what is the good wife to do for companionship? Does she protest, and find fault? It could not be otherwise, for genius is dictatorial without knowing it, obstructive without wishing to be, intolerant unawares, and unsocial because it can not help it.