John Muir's Reservations about John Ruskin Reviewed

presentation by Terry Gifford


Bretton Hall College
Leeds University
Sheffield, England

Detailed examination during two visits to the Muir papers at UOP revealed Muir's careful annotations on the end-papers of his copies of Ruskin's works to suggest a reverence in Muir's reading of Ruskin. He noted page numbers so that he could return to certain passages. If he annotated in actual pages of text it was usually to make a reflection of his own, clearly inspired by his reading. Rarely does he record a disagreemnet or reservation.

Yet the three refernces to Ruskin in Bade's LIFE AND LETTERS (which I am currently editing for republication, along with other papers and letters, by The Mountaineers Press) are each time an occasion for severe disagreement with Ruskin. These demand closer scutiny in themselves, but how, then, is one to understand the apparent difference between Muir the private reader of Ruskin and Muir the correspondent with reservations about Ruskin? This paper will consider these issues and will argue that Muir took more from Ruskin than his correspondence suggests.

In my 'Conclusion' to RUSKIN AND ENVIRONMENT (ed. M. Wheeler, St Martin's Press, 1995) I wrote: 'Ruskin's obvious influence on Muir remains undocumented.' This paper is an opening of that project.


1996 John Muir Conference

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