John Ruskin



Modern Painters





Part IV. Of Many Things.
Chapter XVI. Of Modern Landscape.

§ 28.   Then, as touching the kind of work done by these two men, the more I think of it I find this conclusion more impressed upon me, — that the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one.

Therefore, finding the world of Literature more or less divided into Thinkers and Seers, I believe we shall find also that the Seers are wholly the greater race of the two. A true Thinker, who has practical purpose in his thinking, and is sincere, as Plato, or Carlyle, or Helps, becomes in some sort a seer, and must be always of infinite use in his generation; but an affected Thinker, who supposes his thinking of any other importance than as it tends to work, is about the vainest kind of person that can be found in the occupied classes. Nay, I believe that metaphysicians and philosophers are, on the whole, the greatest troubles the world has got to deal with; and that while a tyrant or bad man is of some use in teaching people submission or indignation, and a thoroughly idle man is only harmful in setting an idle example, and communicating to other lazy people his own lazy misunder standings, busy metaphysicians are always entangling good and active people, and weaving cobwebs among the finest wheels of the world’s business; and are as much as possible, by all prudent persons, to be brushed out of their way, like spiders, and the [269] meshed weed that has got into the Cambridgeshire canals, and other such impediments to barges and business. And if we thus clear the metaphysical element out of modern literature, we shall find its bulk amazingly diminished, and the claims of the remaining writers, or of those whom we have thinned by this abstraction of their straw stuffing, much more easily adjusted. 1

§ 29.   Again: the mass of sentimental literature, concerned with the analysis and description of emotion, headed by the poetry of Byron, is altogether of lower rank than the literature which merely describes what it saw. The true Seer always feels as intensely as any one else; but he does not much describe his feelings. He tells you whom he met, and what they said; leaves you to make out, from that, what they feel, and what he feels, but goes into little detail. And, generally speaking, pathetic writing and careful explanation of passion are quite easy, compared with this plain recording of what people said and did, or with the right invention of what they are likely to say and do; for this reason, that to invent a story, or admirably, and thoroughly tell any part of a story, it is necessary to grasp the entire mind of every personage concerned in it, and know precisely how they would be affected by what happens; which to do requires a colossal intellect; but to describe a separate emotion delicately, it is only needed that one should feel it oneself; and thousands of people are capable of feeling this or that noble emotion, for one who is able to enter into all the feelings of somebody sitting on the other side of the table. Even, therefore, where this sentimental literature is first rate, as in passages of Byron, Tennyson, and Keats, it ought not to be ranked so high as the Creative; and though perfection, even in narrow fields, is perhaps as rare as in the wider, and it may be as long before we have another In Memoriam as another Guy Mannering, I unhesitatingly receive as a greater manifestation of power the right invention of a few [270] sentences spoken by Pleydell and Mannering across their supper-table, than the most tender and passionate melodies of the self-examining verse.



[Fußnote, S. 269]

1   Observe, I do not speak thus of metaphysics because I have no pleasure in them. When I speak contemptuously of philology, it may be answered me, that I am a bad scholar; but I cannot be so answered touching metaphysics, for every one conversant with such subjects may see that I have strong inclination that way, which would, indeed, have led me far astray long ago, if I had not learned also some use of my hands, eyes, and feet.   zurück





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

John Ruskin: Modern Painters. Volume III.
Containing Part IV. Of Many Things.
London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1856, S. 157-172.

Unser Auszug: S. 268-270.


Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).






Richard Herne Shepherd: The Bibliography of Ruskin.
A Bibliographical List Arranged in Chronological Order
of the Published Writings in Prose and Verse, of John Ruskin, M. A.
5. ed., rev. and enl. London: Eliot Stock o.J. [1884].

[Ruskin, John]: Modern Painters. [Volume I].
Their Superiority in the Art of Landscape Painting to all The Ancient Masters
Proved by Examples of the True, the Beautiful, and the Intellectual, from the Works of Modern Artists,
especially from those of J. M. W. Turner Esq., R.A.
By a Graduate of Oxford.
London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1843.

[Ruskin, John]: Modern Painters. Volume II.
Containing Part III, Sections 1 and 2. Of the Imaginative and Theoretic Faculties.
By a Graduate of Oxford.
London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1846.
URL:   [2. ed. 1848]

Ruskin, John: Modern Painters. Volume III.
Containing Part IV. Of Many Things.
London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1856.
S. 157-172: Of the Pathetic Fallacy.

Ruskin, John: Modern Painters. Volume IV.
Containing Part V. Of Mountain Beauty.
London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1856.

Ruskin, John: Modern Painters. Volume V.
Completing the Work and containing Parts
VI. Of Leaf Beauty.
VII. Of Cloud Beauty.
VIII. Of Ideas of Relation. 1. Of Invention Formal.
IX. Of Ideas of Relation. 2. Of Invention Spiritual.
London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1860.

Ruskin, John: The Works.
Hrsg. von E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn.
39 Bde. London: George Allen 1903-1912.





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Nijibayashi, Kei: Recreating Romantic Style: Ambivalence towards Wordsworth's Poetics in John Ruskin's Modern Painters. In: The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 27 (2018), S. 58-68.

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