Not long since I had the pleasure of the company of Paul Marks of Samizdata (it’s blog-rolled) fame in the Lake District. Naturally the conversation turned to Ruskin – I mean we could see his house from there. Now Ruskin was a nutter. We all know about the pubic hair incident but there is something I never said to Paul that I’m gonna say to you.
OK Ruskin was totally mental over Effie’s pubic hair. We’ll take that as Gospel. But whilst that is sad for the lady in question to have to have to her marriage annulled for non-consummation after six years it is a personal tragedy and not a grand one. But I shall quote on the anullment from wikipedia.
Their marriage was notoriously unhappy, eventually being annulled in 1854 on grounds of his “incurable impotency,” a charge Ruskin later disputed, even going so far as to offer to prove his virility at the court’s request. In court, the Ruskin family counter-attacked Effie as being mentally unbalanced. Effie later married the artist John Everett Millais, who had been Ruskin’s protegé, in July 1855, and bore eight children.
Apparently despite the bias of Victorian era divorce courts in favour of men over women I suspect that demonstrates quite abundantly which of the two could most obviously be deemed “sexually dysfunctional”.
But that is not really my point – I mention it purely because everyone does. Ruskin was also a sort of socialist of the peculiarly British breed that essentially pre-date Karl Marx’s musings. He was a pioneer of “Christian socialism” and a sort of Luddite-ism that wanted us all back on the farm. It’s still going strong and it’s chief champion is currently Prince Charles who oddly enough also found an attractive woman not to his taste either. I’m not holding a candle (in the wind?) for Diana but for fuck’s sake Chuckles she beat Camilla into a cocked hat! Oh, right but he loved Camilla. Then he should have married her! It really isn’t that hard. (or maybe it wasn’t in the case of John Ruskin – he never got that day in court to demonstrate).
No, my point is about Ruskin’s second infamous court case. This was a libel case involving the painter James Whistler. Now Ruskin had written nasty things about Whistler including accusing him of “flinging a pot of paint in the face of the public” by charging 200 Guineas for a picture.
There are a couple of ways to look at that and both come round to the same thing. Both are essentially about socialism. The first is that Whistler clearly wasn’t “slinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” because he was a private artist and if you wanted one of his paintings you knew who to call and if you didn’t then you just didn’t. This links neatly into Ruskin’s other beef against Whistler. He hated him because he was charging 200 Guineas for a painting that (and this was Whistler’s technique) was executed rapidly. That is also very socialist. It is a total denial of the market. The market values something for it’s real or perceived utility and not how much pointless effort went into it. The market is about the product and not the toiling. That is why socialism inevitably leads to slavery because it always concentrates on the effort and not the result.
I have sometimes taken a long time to sort computer issues. The faster I sort it the better for everyone. Trust me. You don’t want me crawling under your desk for three hours when I can do it in 20 minutes. Which fix would you pay more for? The one that looked like work or the one that worked and worked quickly?
Ruskin would have loved the Fairtrade movement and it’s love of women toiling away to make or grow stuff like serfs. Well as long as they found additional time to wax anyway.