John James Ruskin

John James Ruskin (1785-1864) was the father of John Ruskin and son of John Thomas Ruskin, and Catherine Tweddale. In 1795, following his mothers receipt of a legacy, the young John James Ruskin was able to enter the Royal High School at Edinburgh, run by the rector Dr Alexander Adam (1741-1809) (see Viljoen Ruskin's Scottish Heritage pp. 58-60). He also received some art lessons from Alexander Naysmyth (1758-1840). Originally, John James had wished to train as a lawyer, but he left Edinburgh for London in order to begin a mercantile career. He came to know his future wife Margaret Cock, (see Margaret Ruskin) who had travelled in the opposit direction (from Croydon to Scotland) to live within the Ruskin household as helper and companion to Catherine around 1800-1804. Margaret was the daughter of an innkeeper William Cock (1754-1787) and John Thomas Ruskin's sister Margaret Ruskin Cock (1756? -1817) and therefore a first cousin of the man she was to marry. Ruskin himself noted: 'My Mother's Mother's name was Margaret Ruskin, unmarried' (see Bradley, Ruskin's Letters to the Mount Temples, p.31). In 1808 John James and Margaret became engaged, an engagement which lasted eight years. During his time in London he rose to become head clerk of the firm of wine importers, 'Gordon, Murphy and Co', and eventually made a large fortune through the setting-up of his own firm of 'Ruskin, Telford and Domecq'. In 1818, following the close deaths of all their parents, three months earlier, John James and Margaret were married in Perth on 2 February. They moved into their own house at 54 Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, London where their son John Ruskin was born on 8 February 1819. John James spent the next ten years paying off his fathers debts whilst building the foundation of his own successful business. John James Ruskin was to have a powerful influence upon the life of his son through his total commitment to his welfare, which was not always appreciated, by his son. When he died on 3 March 1864 age 78, he left his son £120,000, a number of properties and around £10,000 in the value of his art collection. He left his wife £37,000 and the large family home at Denmark Hill. Ruskin wrote the epitaph for his father's tomb:

Here rests from day's well-sustained burden,
he was an entirely honest merchant
and his memory is, to all who keep it, dear and helpful.
His son, whom he loved to the uttermost
and taught to speak truth, says this of him ( Works, 17.lxxvii)