precious in itself, every day complete at the end, as with Sydney Smith’s salad: “Fate cannot harm me; I have dined, to-day.”1
55. The two chapters closing the first, and beginning the second volume of The Stones of Venice were written, I see on re-reading, in the melancholy experience of 1852,2 with honest effort to tell every traveller what was really to be seen. They do not attempt to recall my own joys of 1835 and 1841, when there was not even beginning of railway bridge; when everything, muddy Brenta, vulgar villa, dusty causeway, sandy beach, was equally rich in rapture, on the morning that brought us in sight of Venice: and the black knot of gondolas in the canal of Mestre, more beautiful to me than a sunrise full of clouds all scarlet and gold.
But again, how to tell of it? or even explain it to myself,-the English mind, high or common, being utterly without trace of the feeling. Sir Philip Sidney goes to Venice, and seems unconscious that it is in the sea at all.3 Elizabeth, Lady Craven, in 1789, “expected to see a gay clean-looking town, with quays on each side of the canals, but was extremely disappointed; the houses are in the water, and look dirty and uncomfortable on the outside; the innumerable quantity of gondolas too, that look like swimming coffins, added to the dismal scene, and, I confess,
1 [Recipe for a Salad: see Lady Holland’s Memoir of Sydney Smith, 1855, vol. i. p. 377.]
2 [Here Ruskin forgets that the first volume, the last chapter in which (“The Vestibule”) describes the approach to Venice in olden days, was published in 1851-that is, after his wintering there 1850-1851. He wintered there again 1851-1852, and the second volume of The Stones was published in July 1853. The “melancholy experience” refers to the opening words of the second volume: “In the olden days of travelling, now to return no more, ...” The railway bridge had been built in 1845.]
3 [Sidney was in Venice during the winter of 1573-1574, and wrote many letters thence to his friend H. Languet: see The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, collected and translated by Steuart A. Pears, 1845. Mr. Pears in his memoir (p. xix.) exclaims: “How must Sidney have been delighted at the fabric in the day of its beauty and glory ... resting on the bosom of the waters,” etc., etc. He may have been; but the letters, as Ruskin says, hardly indicate any impression of the kind.]
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