[From Mannin, #3, 1914]
The following letters are a few of those which passed between Ruskin and his disciple and friend, Egbert Rydings. Rydings first became acquainted with the writings of the Master, as he always called him, about 1865, from which time he really ordered his life according to the teachings of Munera Pulveris. In 1875 he wrote to Ruskin to ask, "Ought parents to leave fortunes to their children ? " With Ruskin's answer to this letter, which was afterwards published in an article by Rydings in the Young Man (July 1895), and is now re-printed here, began a friendship and a correspondence of many years. Rydings was one of the first of the Companions of St. George, and from 1881 onwards, he was manager of the Ruskin Cloth Mill at Laxey. In 1876 he visited his Master at Brantwood, and again in 1881. The beauty of the tie between the great man and his "devoted and loving servant," as he signs himself, can be read between the lines of some of these letters it was a tie between two noble natures.
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 18th June, 1875.
I am much interested in your letter. In the strongest conviction, I would assert that the father should never provide for the children. He is to educate them and maintain them to the very best of his power, till they are of mature age NEVER LIVE upon THEM in their youth. (Damned modernism eats its own children young, and excuses its own avarice by them when they are old!). When they are strong, throw them out of the nest as the bird does. But let the nest be always open to them. No guilt should ever stand between child and parent. Doors always open to daughter harlot, or Son thief, IF they come ! But no fortune left them. Father's house open, nothing more. Honourable children will have their own houses, and if need be provide for their parents not the parents for them.
Ever truly yours,
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 18th June, 1875.
My Dear Sir,
I wrote to you hastily this morning, and forgot to ask what I should like much to know how it has come to pass that you are interested in my books, and collate them so carefully. I hardly ever find people really notice what I say anywhere much less put two places together.
Ever very truly yours,
Laxey, (pencilled 1876). Dear Sir,
. . . You will no doubt think it strange and question the propriety of a man giving up all business to attend an invalid wife . . . Ah, it is very easy to say that, but of all commodities a good nurse is the most difficult to get. I tried hard enough. Although within two hundred yards of our house are half-a-score of widow women, be-clogged and be-jacketed from seven o'clock in the morning to six at night, out in the open through all weathers, pushing, pulling, and trundling heavy wheelbarrows filled with lead-ore and blende, on the washing-floors of the Great Laxey Mining Company.
My wife and I were never very ambitious to accumulate what is called a large fortune; and in talking this matter over between ourselves, we always fixed the highest limit of accumulating at £1,500, so that the interest of it would bring us about £50 per annum. I always admire the wisdom of Brotherton's motto as written on his monument in Peel Park, Salford "A man's wealth consists not in the greatness of his possessions' but in the fewness of his wants." And as our weekly expenses, from first commencing house-keeping until twelve months ago, have always been rather under than over the sovereign, this amount, you will see, as I have said, would be amply sufficient for us while in health. I think I may therefore lay claim to be amongst your "Rich" Companions, if not in the "greatness of my possessions," I may in the "fewness of my wants."*
Yours ever truly,
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 14th March, '76.
My Dear Sir,
I most thankfully accept you as a Companion. I should be very grateful if of course without name of place you would allow me to print this biography, merely as one of the Companions of St. George. It would be serviceable in more ways than I have time to say.
Ever very gratefully yours,
To Egbert Rydings,
Laxey, April 20, '76. My Dear Master,
I enclose you cheque for £20, as my first instalment to St. George's Fund. I am getting my affairs in order as quickly as I can, and will then send you particulars and the balance, making the tenth of my possessions.
In your last letter but one to me you say, Tell me what it is that makes you so strong ?" Since receiving the letter I have been puzzling and asking myself in which way am I strong. My life up to January, 1875, by most people, now-a-days, would be considered a failure. But I suppose you mean what strengthened and helped and gave me courage to give up business, so as to attend to my wife's health and comfort during her sickness. I will tell you frankly. Five years since I began to read Fors, and believed what was stated in them to be the truth; I began to shape my life according to their teachings. Three years later I read this passage in Munera Pulvcris' p. 168, The law of life is, that a man should fix the sum he desires to make annually, as the food he desires to eat daily, and stay when he has reached the limit, refusing increase of business, and leaving it to others, so obtaining due freedom of time for better thoughts"* And fully believing in my Master and his teachings, this very passage was the cause of my taking the step I then did; so that whatever strength has been put forth during the past year of my life, your guiding influence has been to it both sun and showers. I am now left alone in the world. My companion having been called home as you are aware. I am out of employment at present, but could soon find employment if I wished. But having become a Companion of the Order of St. George, as I told you, I am now in a position, and desire to be one of the Comites Ministrantes," and so devote my main energy to the Company, if it be the Master's wish.
From the sketch I gave you of my past life you know my position and what I am best fitted to serve the Company in. I shall therefore be happy to hear from you at your convenience.
Yours ever truly, EGBERT RYDINGS.
*Vide Fors Clavigera, "The Companions of St. George are to, have glass pockets so that the absolute content. of them may be known of all men,'
Herne Hill, S. E.,
April, 1876. Dear Mr. Rydings,
So many thanks. Yes, I'll send you the accounts to check, when I've time I have been so pushed lately the beginning of Sheffield Museum and of St. George's Library, being extra work. Fors always after time. Your name is right in Companion's list in Oxford Roll. It is written in Gospel MS. of XI century, in Corpus.
Ever gratefully yours, J.R.
·In connection with this paragraph, it may be noted that Ruskin, in Munera Pulveris, added the following foot-notes: "Fenelon He died exemplifying the mean he had always observed between prodigality and avarice leaving neither debts nor money." And "I desire in the strongest terms to re-inforce all that is contained in this paragraph."
Brantwood, Coniston, Lancashire, 12th May, '76.
Dear Mr. Rydings,
It is a great pleasure to me to hear that you can come and see me. I trust the delay in my reply, caused by various accidents, may not cause you inconvenience. Let me know which day you can come; please dine here, and I will have a comfortable room retained for you at the Water Head Inn, which I consider as much my home as this this being so small I never count on being able to receive my friends in it. How kind you are about G . But I trust he will not and indeed will make sure he shall not be troublesome to you.
Most truly yours, J. RUSKIN.
Laxey, June, 1876. My Dear Master,
. . . Let this be thoroughly understood; we can never manufacture cloth that will compare in fineness and softness with machine made; ours will, as a consequence, be coarser and harder, and on that account more durable. If you think after the cloth is made we can sell it mostly to the Companions, the durability can be guaranteed; but as to the general public we cannot expect them to know what is a good article or what is cheap or what is dear.
Our great payment, as I understand it, being that we are doing some trifle of good work, and, as a consequence, preventing in that proportion, so much bad work.
Yours ever truly, E. RYDINGS.
31st January, '77. Dear Mr. Rydings,
I find yours of the 18th in a heap of unanswered "letters of importance." Please, in future, send in cheque on the first (or as soon after as may be) of each month, to Union Bank, for all sums received and keep list of persons they are received from, to be published half-yearly, and do not delay or trouble yourself by any reference to me.
I must keep my head and conscience clear of arithmetic, that, at present, is a plain phenomenon to me. Ever gratefully yours,
Friday. My Dear Master,
Let me please beg to remind you that my salary of £70 as "Secretary of the Guild of St. George," and Manager here, was due for the year ending midsummer last. But at the same time, I shall certainly object to taking any salary from the Guild, after this, except it gives me much more work to do, both as secretary and manager, than it has done for these last six months.
I hope, dear master, your summer sojourn on the continent has been beneficial to your health and that you are quite strong again, and always believe me,
Yours very sincerely, E. RYDINGS.
'[Please put this in proper form, receipted, and send to Silvanus Wilkins, Esq., Treasurer, Hoffordok Bank, Birmingham] .
(To be continued)