[J. B.] Mc Chesney
Yosemite Valley January 9th 1873
I have just finished a ramble through the handsome Ruskin you have me Ruskin is great but not a great man, only a great ready-to-burst bud of a man, He is fettered & bounded though his chain is [longer?] His tether seems at times to break all together & he roams over all this world & what he takes to be the next, but after all, one never can feel that he is free-, his widest world, his highest sky is inclosed by a hard definite shell, making us think of a mouse beneath a huge bell glass so huge that it scarce feels its bounds There are writers of far lesser in- tellectual growth who nevertheless
[in margin: The very hope & longings of Ruskin are clearest & regular in form as bricks & could be made to order by a machine]
when taken into the stomach so would silver & gold. So would sunshine but I have lived with & loved with Kalmia many a day & slept with my cheek upon her bonnie purple flowers & glossy leaves & I know that she is only love directly spoken from the lips of God, & I know something about "the blasted trunk, & the barren rock, the moaning of the bleak winds, the solemn solitudes of moors & seas, the roar of the black, perilous merciless whirlpools of the mountain streams" & they [underlined: have] a language for me but declare nothing of wrath or of Hell Only Love plain as was ever spoken All that he says about near approach to mtn beauty & familiarity with Nature in general is very com- pletely false This my friend is the true infidelity a disbelief in the con- stancy & sufficiency & everlastingness of God's Love as written in Nature We should use beauty every moment as we use breath Christianity & Mountainanity are streams from the same fountain When I read such heresy as Ruskins Mtn loom & Mtn evil & Mtn devil & the unwholesome- ness of Mtn beauty as everyday bread I wish [in margin: I were a preacher. Ever cordially yrs John Muir]
give promise of indefinite de- velopment - 'it doth not appear what they shall be', but Ruskin leaves us nothing to hope in the direction of after development All of his attainments & all of his hopes are bounded by surfaces definite as those of a crystal He is suggestive & instructive & in every way well worthy of perusal He makes one think & his errors & absurdities are so clearly ex- pressed they do good rather than harm His beauties are numberless page after page is studded with flowers like a glacier meadow I have never experienced his Mtn gloom wh doubtless is a bogle humbug; Nor have I seen any of that "fierce convulsive energy" said to manifest itself in Mtn tops But the worst thing I find in his book is his lack of faith in
the scriptures of Nature. He says we must not dwell in contrast with Natures beauty else we will become blind to it just as if God had not Mtns composed of Strip of evil & good, work made beauty an ocean in wh we of God & of Satan will dwell forever Evil he says always exists with good & ugliness with beauty in order to act as foils the one for the other. - Beside every mtn angel he sits a mtn devil. Here I want to say so much that I cannot say anything Only he is an infidel to Nature & knows nothing about her, Kalmia one of the very dearest of my Mountain flowers A companion of Bryanthus & Cassiope, one of the purest words of love that God has ever uttered on mountain meadow he calls, A type of deceit because when he eats it, it poisons him - unfit for his belly, a good English reason Kalmia Kills men & sheep
1873 Jan 9
Original letter dimensions: 21 x 26 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [J. B.] Mc Chesney, 1873 Jan 9." (1873). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 1507.
Reel 02, Image 1051
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