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John Ruskin

(Read for the author before the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science in the autumn of 1858; and printed in the Transactions of the Society for that year, pp. 311-16.)

Paper read before the Metaphysical Society, May 11th, 1875.[23]

[1] The full meaning of this sentence, and of that which closes the paragraph, can only be understood by reference to my more developed statements on the subject of Education in "Modern Painters" and in "Time and Tide." The following fourth paragraph is the most pregnant summary of my political and social principles I have ever been able to give.

by John Ruskin

1. The duty which is to-day laid on me, of introducing, among the elements of education appointed in this great University, one not only new, but such as to involve in its possible results some modification of the rest, is, as you well feel, so grave, that no man could undertake it without laying himself open to the imputation of a kind of insolence; and no man could undertake it rightly, without being in danger of having his hands shortened by dread of his task, and mistrust of himself.

31. It was stated, and I trust partly with your acceptance, in my opening lecture, that the study on which we are about to enter cannot be rightly undertaken except in furtherance of the grave purposes of life with respect to which the rest of the scheme of your education here is designed. But you can scarcely have at once felt all that I intended in saying so;—you cannot but be still partly under the impression that the so-called fine arts are merely modes of graceful recreation, and a new resource for your times of rest.

66. You probably recollect that, in the beginning of my last lecture, it was stated that fine art had, and could have, but three functions: the enforcing of the religious sentiments of men, the perfecting their ethical state, and the doing them material service. We have to-day to examine, the mode of its action in the second power—that of perfecting the morality, or ethical state, of men.

Perfecting, observe—not producing.

97. Our subject of enquiry to-day, you will remember, is the mode in which fine art is founded upon, or may contribute to, the practical requirements of human life.

126. You will, I doubt not, willingly permit me to begin your lessons in real practice of art in the words of the greatest of English painters: one also, than whom there is indeed no greater, among those of any nation, or any time,—our own gentle Reynolds.

146. The plan of the divisions of art-schools which I gave you in the last lecture is of course only a first germ of classification, on which we are to found farther and more defined statement; but for this very reason it is necessary that every term of it should be very clear in your minds.

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