Time and Tide, by Weare and Tyne. Twenty-Five Letters to a Workingman of Sunderland on the Laws of Work
By John Wiley and Son.New York:
WHAT “ Mr. Thomas Dixon, a working cork-cutter of Sunderland,” understands to be bis duty, from the letters here addressed to him, or understands to be the duty of anybody, is not clear from such of his replies as are printed in the Appendix ; nor are we sure that the reader will be much the wiser as to what Mr. Ruskin expects than, for example, Mr. Ruskin himself. The general desire of this dreamer, whose words are still eloquent, though his mind is sorely be-Carlyled, is to a fairy despotism, which shall sustain itself in the affections and consciences of its subjects by every kind of sumptuary law, and by statutes aiming to repress all the vices and encourage all the virtues. In this state everyone is to remain as nearly as can be in the rank to which he was born ; there is to be slavery, but not slave-trade, and the slaves are to understand that their work, being manual, is base and degrading; there are to be nobles dwelling on vast estates, —but deriving no income from the lands, which shall neither be sold nor hired,—and salaried by the government, in order that they may keep bright the image of hereditary aristocracy ; there is not to be co-operation, for that tends to prevent the accumulation of private wealth bycommerce, and to keep people in the station out of which they ought not to rise; marriage is to be permitted by the state as a special reward of merit, and the wicked are to go unwed; there are to be priests and bishops to inquire diligently into the affairs of every family that will stand it, and to write the biographies of their parishioners for public inspection, — to be Scribes, in effect, rather than Pharisees ; there shall be soldiers to act as a police in repressing crime and protecting the poor, after the manner of those obeying Governor Eyre in Jamaica (to whose defence fund Mr. Ruskin proclaims that he gave a hundred pounds), and not after the manner of those commanded by General Sheridan in the Valley of the Shenandoah. Mr. Ruskin says nothing directly to this effect, but we suspect, from the general tenor of his reasoning, that he intends Mr. Johnson to be King of his Bezonians.
There is not wanting much beauty of thought, real aspiration, and downright good sense amidst all this rubbish, and the reader has to struggle against an absurd tenderness for the nonsense, because it is taught by one who is thoroughly earnest and philanthropic in it. But at last he has to regret that Mr. Ruskin turned aside from painting buds and leaves, in order to write these letters, and to wish that he had gone to Switzerland to look after his health and “ the junctions of the molasse sandstones and nagelfluh,” and had not deprived himself of the means to make the journey by subscribing one hundred pounds to the Eyre defence fund. We own, though, that we would not like to have lost, even for the sake of Mr. Ruskin’s general reputation hurt by this book, one of his notions in political economy, namely, that civilization advances by the extinction of wants, and not by the creation of them ; and we are very thankful for the severity with which both the success and failure of Doré are treated. Also, what is said of the degraded ugliness and vileness of modern theatrical spectacles and public entertainments could ill be spared in this country, where nothing succeeds like the success of the Japanese jugglers, and undrapery, and the cancan, at all the chief playhouses.