forms from civil buildings, and he contested vigorously the popular idea that Gothic was good only for churches. “It was one of the purposes of The Stones of Venice,” said Ruskin in his inaugural Lectures on Art at Oxford (§ 122), to show that the lovely forms of cathedral domes and porches, of the vaults and arches of their aisles, of the canopies of their tombs, “were every one of them developed in civil and domestic building.” It is significant that of the modern buildings which may be traced most directly to Ruskin’s influence, one was a museum, another an insurance office, and the third a palace of justice.1
It is the fate of every movement to pay the penalty of success in being caricatured and vulgarised. Ruskin makes complaint of this in the preface to the third edition of The Stones of Venice (1874). “No book of mine,” he there says, “has had so much influence on contemporary art,” and goes on to deplore the mottling of manufactory chimneys with black and red brick and the introduction of Italian Gothic into the porches of public houses (Vol. IX. p. 11). This order of Victorian architecture, which has sometimes been distinguished as the streaky bacon style, is indeed unlovely enough, and Ruskin-in a letter reprinted in an additional appendix to this volume (p. 458)-deplores that his house in the suburbs had come to be surrounded everywhere by the “accursed Frankenstein monster of, indirectly, my own making.” “For Venetian architecture developed out of British moral consciousness I decline,” he says again, “to be answerable.” Of a building for which he did answer-the Museum at Oxford-we shall hear in a later volume. By one of the same architects was the Crown Life Insurance Office (1855) in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, of which D. G. Rossetti said: “It seems to me the most perfect piece of civil architecture of the new school that I have seen in London. I never cease to look at it with delight.”2 But Ruskin for his part feared that the effect produced by his preaching and by the practice of architects such as Benjamin Woodward was only transitory. “The architecture we endeavoured to introduce is inconsistent,” he wrote, “alike with the reckless luxury, the deforming mechanism, and the squalid misery of modern cities; among the formative fashions of the day, aided, especially in England, by ecclesiastical sentiment, it indeed obtained notoriety; and sometimes behind an engine furnace, or a railroad bank, you may detect the pathetic discord of its momentary grace, and, with toil, decipher its floral carvings choked with soot. I felt answerable to the schools I loved, only for their injury.”3
1 See below, Appendix 13, p. 459.
2 Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham, 1897, p. 145.
3 “The Mystery of Life and its Arts,” in Sesame and Lilies, § 104.
[Version 0.04: March 2008]