Letter: How Ruskin saw Morris

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The Independent Online
Tim Hilton represents William Morris as at odds with John Ruskin, at least in their later lives ("Paper Tiger", Review, 5 May). Why then did Ruskin, at the age of 64, agree to chair one of Morris's more inflammatory addresses, delivered at Oxford to an academic audience? Why did he endorse both its critique of capitalism and its attack on "the defilement of ... Oxford ... which has mostly been due to the plutocracy of learning"? Why did he, further, speak of the lecturer (according to a contemporary report) as "the great conceiver and doer ... and his old and dear friend"? Why did he subsequently describe Morris as "beaten gold" and "the ablest man of his time"?

Morris was no less fulsome in praise of Ruskin. "How deadly dull the world would have been 20 years ago but for Ruskin!" he wrote in 1894, two years before his death. Two years previously he had reprinted Ruskin's The Nature of Gothic at his Kelmscott Press, declaring it "one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances of the century" and by no means suggesting that Ruskin had ceased to be of interest.

Clive Wilmer