John Ruskin

General Description

Date: 1851 August
Genre: critical study


◦ Fredeman, Pre-Raphaelitism (1965), 9-13

◦ Dickens, “Old Lamps for New Ones”, Household Words (15 June 1850), 265-266

◦ Jump, J. D., “Ruskin's Reputation in the Eighteen-Fifties: The Evidence of the Three Principal Weeklies ”, PMLA 63 (June 1948), 678-685

Scholarly Commentary


Ruskin published this famous pamphlet in August 1851 by recasting two letters that he wrote to the Times on 13 and 30 May. The letters were a response to a severe two-part review that appeared in the 3 and 7 May issues of the paper by the anonymous Times art critic. The latter was only the most prominent, if not the most negative, of the critical attacks that had been made upon the work of Hunt and Millais as signature artists of “Pre-Raphaelitism”, the artistic movement recently inaugurated by DGR and his friends. Hunt and Millais (but not DGR) had submitted work for the Royal Academy Exhibition that opened on 3 May and the critics were virtually unanimous in denouncing the work. Millais's Christ in the House of his Parents was a particular object of attack.

A notable voice among the critics was Dickens, who published a singularly obtuse and abusive notice in Household Words (15 June 1850). Ruskin's letters, and his subsequent pamphlet, thus came as a critical moment, giving an endorsement to the work of the PRB from an authoritative cultural voice. The entire exchange represents a seminal moment in the history of the PRB.

Textual History: Revision

Ruskin's texts in the Times are much briefer than this pamphlet text and they address the works of art more particularly. When Ruskin came to compose the pamphlet, he recast his thought into a much more general form, making his defense of the PRB an extension of his larger views about contemporary art-making, art-training, and art-criticism.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: nd467.r93.raw.xml