John Ruskin (1819-1900)

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”

“In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it.”

“The entire object of true education, is to make people not merely do the right thing, but to enjoy right things; not merely industrious, but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love knowledge.”

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.”

“The imagination is never governed, it is always the ruling and divine power.”

“Education is the leading of human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them.”

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

“To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education.”

“Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.”

“Give a little to love a child, and you get a great deal back.”

“When we build, let us think that we build forever.”

“In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.”

“The path of a good woman is indeed strewn with flowers; but they rise behind her steps, not before them.”

“Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth.”

“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.”

“Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight”

“Do not think of your faults, still less of others’ faults; look for what is good and strong, and try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.”

“It is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture. That which I have… insisted upon as the life of the whole, that spirit which is given only by the hand and eye of the workman, can never be recalled.”

“Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peacocks and lilies for instance.”

“Out of suffering comes the serious mind; out of salvation, the grateful heart; out of endurance, fortitude; out of deliverance faith.”

“He who can take no great interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great”

“Let every dawn be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its close.”

“A book worth reading is worth buying.”

“Our duty is to preserve what the past has had to say for itself, and to say for ourselves what shall be true for the future”

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”

“He that has truth in his heart need never fear the want of persuasion on his tongue.”

“It is written on the arched sky; it looks out from every star. It is the poetry of Nature; it is that which uplifts the spirit within us.”

“The first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility I don’t mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do.”

“Endurance is nobler than strength and patience than beauty.”

“Modern travelling is not travelling at all; it is merely being sent to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel.”

“The root of almost every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has suffered, has been because of the effort of men to earn, rather than receive their salvation; and the reason preaching is so commonly ineffective is, that it often calls on people to work for God rather than letting God work through them.”

“The first condition of education is being able to put someone to wholesome and meaningful work.”

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

“You may chisel a boy into shape, as you would a rock, or hammer him into it, if he be of a better kind, as you would a piece of bronze. But you cannot hammer a girl into anything. She grows as a flower does.”

“Punishment is the last and the least effective instrument in the hands of the legislator for the prevention of crime.”

“The weakest among us has a gift, however seemingly trivial, which is peculiar to him, and which worthily used, will be a gift to his race forever”

“Mountains are to the rest of the body of the earth, what violent muscular action is to the body of man. The muscles and tendons of its anatomy are, in the mountain, brought out with force and convulsive energy, full of expression, passion, and strength.”

“Architecture is the work of nations.”

“To use books rightly, is to go to them for help; to appeal to them when our own knowledge and power fail; to be led by them into wider sight and purer conception than our own, and to receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinions.”

“Cheerfulness is as natural to the heart of a man in strong health, as color to his cheek; and wherever there is habitual gloom, there must be either bad air, unwholesome food, improperly severe labor, or erring habits of life.”

“Be humble as the blade of grass that is being trodden underneath the feet. The little ant tastes joyously the sweetness of honey and sugar. The mighty elephant trembles in pain under the agony of sharp goad.”

“Government and cooperation are in all things the laws of life. Anarchy and competition, the laws of death.”

“No architecture is so haughty as that which is simple.”

“The distinctive character of a child is to always live in the tangible present.”

“Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.”

“You may either win your peace or buy it: win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil.”

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world… to see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one.”

“No human being, however great, or powerful, was ever so free as a fish.”

“Natural abilities can almost compensate for the want of every kind of cultivation, but no cultivation of the mind can make up for the want of natural abilities.”

“They are the weakest-minded and the hardest-hearted men that most love change.”

“The best work never was and never will be done for money.”

“What right have you to take the word wealth, which originally meant ”well-being,” and degrade and narrow it by confining it to certain sorts of material objects measured by money.”

“An infinitude of tenderness is the chief gift and inheritance of all truly great men.”

“What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?”

“Large fortunes are all founded either on the occupation of land, or lending or the taxation of labor.”

“Freedom is only granted us that obedience may be more perfect.”

“Children see in their parents the past, their parents see in them the future; and if we find more love in the parents for their children than in children for their parents, this is sad but natural. Who does not entertain his hopes more than his recollections.”

“Music when healthy, is the teacher of perfect order, and when depraved, the teacher of perfect disorder.”

“Nearly all the evils in the Church have arisen from bishops desiring power more than light. They want authority, not outlook.”

“In great countries, children are always trying to remain children, and the parents want to make them into adults. In vile countries, the children are always wanting to be adults and the parents want to keep them children.”

“Reverence is the chief joy and power of life – reverence for that which is pure and bright in youth; for what is true and tried in age; for all that is gracious among the living, great among the dead, – and marvelous in the powers that cannot die.”

“This is the true nature of home — it is the place of peace; the shelter, not only from injury, but from all terror, doubt and division.”

“Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their operation.”

“Some slaves are scoured to their work by whips, others by their restlessness and ambition.”

“The distinguishing sign of slavery is to have a price, and to be bought for it.”

“He thinks by infection, catching an opinion like a cold.”

“We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it.”

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”

“A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.”

“The noble grotesque involves the true appreciation of beauty.”

“There is no wealth but life.”

“Conceit may puff a man up, but never prop him up.”

“No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art”

“Men don’t and can’t live by exchanging articles, but by producing them. They don’t live by trade, but by work. Give up that foolish and vain title of trades unions; and take that of laborers unions.”

“The common practice of keeping up appearances with society is a mere selfish struggle of the vain with the vain.”

“It does not matter what the whip is; it is none the less a whip, because you have cut thongs for it out of your own souls.”

“What is the cheapest to you now is likely to be the dearest to you in the end.”

“When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.”

“God alone can finish.”

“Nothing is ever done beautifully which is done in rivalship: or nobly, which is done in pride.”

“All that is good in art is the expression of one soul talking to another; and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it.”

“The training which makes men happiest in themselves also makes them most serviceable to others.”

“If a great thing can be done, it can be done easily, but this ease is like the of ease of a tree blossoming after long years of gathering strength.”

“Man’s only true happiness is to live in hope of something to be won by him. Reverence something to be worshipped by him, and love something to be cherished by him, forever.”

“You should read books like you take medicine, by advice, and not by advertisement.”

“Modern education has devoted itself to the teaching of impudence, and then we complain that we can no longer control our mobs.”

“Imaginary evils soon become real one by indulging our reflections on them.”

“Men cannot not live by exchanging articles, but producing them. They live by work not trade.”

“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts / the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art.”

“We may live without her, and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her. How cold is all history, how lifeless all imagery, compared to that which the living nation writes, and the uncorrupted marble bears!”

“People cannot live by lending money to one another.”

“An architect should live as little in cities as a painter. Send him to our hills, and let him study there what nature understands by a buttress, and what by a dome.”

“It is not, truly speaking, the labor that is divided; but the men: divided into mere segments of men –broken into small fragments and crumbs of life, so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail.”

“Tell me what you like, and I’ll tell you what you are.”

“Beauty deprived of its proper foils and adjuncts ceases to be enjoyed as beauty, just as light deprived of all shadows ceases to be enjoyed as light.”

“It is only by labor that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labor can be made happy; and the two cannot be separated with impunity.”

“Hundreds can talk to one who can think; thousands can think to one who can see.”

“He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the sum of his works, the greatest number of the greatest ideas.”

“Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.”

“All books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hour, and the books of all time.”

“Every great person is always being helped by everybody; for their gift is to get good out of all things and all persons.”

“To give alms is nothing unless you give thought also.”

“He that would be angry and sin not, must not be angry with anything but sin.”

“The great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than the furnace blast, is all in very deed for this — that we manufacture everything there except men.”

“They are good furniture pictures, unworthy of praise, and undeserving of blame.”

“In old times men used their powers of painting to show the objects of faith, in later times they use the objects of faith to show their powers of painting.”

“Obey something, and you will have a chance to learn what is best to obey. But if you begin by obeying nothing, you will end by obeying the devil and all his invited friends.”

“The last act crowns the play.”

“Fit yourself for the best society, and then, never enter it.”

“No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder.”

“No good is ever done to society by the pictorial representation of its diseases.”

“You cannot get anything out of nature or from God by gambling; only out of your neighbor.”

“To watch the corn grow, or the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over the plough or spade; to read, to think, to love, to pray, are the things that make men happy.”

“Civilization is the making of civil persons.”

“Cursing is invoking the assistance of a spirit to help you inflict suffering. Swearing on the other hand, is invoking, only the witness of a spirit to an statement you wish to make.”

“We have seen when the earth had to be prepared for the habitation of man, a veil, as it were, of intermediate being was spread between him and its darkness, in which were joined in a subdued measure, the stability and insensibility of the earth, and the passion and perishing of mankind.”

“Success by the laws of competition signifies a victory over others by obtaining the direction and profits of their work. This is the real source of all great riches.”

“Once thoroughly our own knowledge ceases to give us pleasure.”

“A thing is worth what it can do for you, not what you choose to pay for it.”

“Of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.”

“Spiritual power begins by directing animal power to other than egoistic ends.”

“No lying knight or lying priest ever prospered in any age, but especially not in the dark ones. Men prospered then only in following an openly declared purpose, and preaching candidly beloved and trusted creeds.”

“Your labor only may be sold, your soul must not.”

“It is far better to give work that is above a person, than to educate the person to be above their work.”

“No one can become rich by the efforts of only their toil, but only by the discovery of some method of taxing the labor of others.”

“The child who desires education will be bettered by it; the child who dislikes it disgraced.”

“A great thing can only be done by a great person; and they do it without effort.”

“Nothing can be beautiful which is not true.”

“The principle of all successful effort is to try to do not what is absolutely the best, but what is easily within our power, and suited for our temperament and condition.”

“One of the prevailing sources of misery and crime is in the generally accepted assumption, that because things have been wrong a long time, it is impossible they will ever be right.”

“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.”

“How false is the conception, how frantic the pursuit, of that treacherous phantom which men call Liberty: most treacherous, indeed, of all phantoms; for the feeblest ray of reason might surely show us, that not only its attainment, but its being, was impossible. There is no such thing in the universe. There can never be. The stars have it not; the earth has it not; the sea has it not; and we men have the mockery and semblance of it only for our heaviest punishment.”

“The sky is the part of creation in which nature has done for the sake of pleasing man.”

“No person who is well bred, kind and modest is ever offensively plain; all real deformity means want for manners or of heart.”

“It is advisable that a person know at least three things, where they are, where they are going, and what they had best do under the circumstances.”

“It is not how much one makes but to what purpose one spends.”

“The beginning and almost the end of all good law is that everyone shall work for their bread and receive good bread for their work.”

“It is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated; far more difficult to sacrifice skill and easy execution in the proper place, than to expand both indiscriminately.”

“An unimaginative person can neither be reverent or kind.”

“How long most people would look at the best book before they would give the price of a large turbot for it?”

“The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances, and demonstrations for impressions.”

“Men are more evanescent than pictures, yet one sorrows for lost friends, and pictures are my friends. I have none others. I am never long enough with men to attach myself to them; and whatever feelings of attachment I have are to material things.”

“The secret of language is the secret of sympathy and its full charm is possible only to the gentle.”

“Of all the things that oppress me, this sense of the evil working of nature herself – my disgust at her barbarity – clumsiness – darkness – bitter mockery of herself – is the most desolating.”

“Not only is there but one way of doing things rightly, but there is only one way of seeing them, and that is, seeing the whole of them.”

“You will find that the mere resolve not to be useless, and the honest desire to help other people, will, in the quickest and delicatest ways, improve yourself.”

“Doing is the great thing, for if people resolutely do what is right, they come in time to like doing it.”

“It is excellent discipline for an author to feel that he must say all that he has to say in the fewest possible words, or his readers is sure to skip them.”

“That thirst (for applause) if the last infirmity of noble minds, is also the first infirmity of weak one.s”

“No art can be noble which is incapable of expressing thought, and no art is capable of expressing thought which does not change.”

“It is better to be nobly remembered than nobly born.”

“Race is precisely of as much consequence in man as it is in any animal.”

“Great art is precisely that which never was, nor will be taught, it is preeminently and finally the expression of the spirits of great men.”

“To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.”

“Poetry is the suggestion, by the imagination, of noble grounds for the noble emotions.”

“The saying that beauty is but skin deep is but a skin deep saying.”

“Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.”

“I believe the first test of a truly great man is humility.”

“It is his restraint that is honorable to a person, not their liberty.”

“Nearly all the powerful people of this age are unbelievers, the best of them in doubt and misery, the most in plodding hesitation, doing as well as they can, what practical work lies at hand.”

“Whether for life or death, do your own work well.”

“In health of mind and body, men should see with their own eyes, hear and speak without trumpets, walk on their feet, not on wheels, and work and war with their arms, not with engine-beams, nor rifles warranted to kill twenty men at a shot before you can see them.”

“Along the iron veins that traverse the frame of our country, beat and flow the fiery pulses of its exertion, hotter and faster every hour. All vitality is concentrated through those throbbing arteries into the central cities; the country is passed over like a green sea by narrow bridges, and we are thrown back in continually closer crowds on the city gates.”

“One who does not know when to die, does not know how to live.”

“The best thing in life aren’t things.”

“It takes a great deal of living to get a little deal of learning.”

“Let every dawn of the morning be to you as the beginning of life. And let every setting of the sun be to you as its close. Then let everyone of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others; some good strength of knowledge gained for yourself.”

“When I have been unhappy, I have heard an opera… and it seemed the shrieking of winds; when I am happy, a sparrow’s chirp is delicious to me. But it is not the chirp that makes me happy, but I that make it sweet.”

“The higher a man stands, the more the word ”vulgar” becomes unintelligible to him.”

“Every great man is always being helped by everybody; for his gift is to get good out of all things and all persons.”

“In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; try to imitate it, and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes.”

“Beethoven always sounds to me like the upsetting of a bag of nails, with here and there an also dropped hammer.”


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