Friday, 8 May 2009

Ruskin on the Strangeness of Truth

Very ready we are to say of a book, “How good this is—that’s exactly what I think!” But the right feeling is, “How strange that is! I never thought of that before, and yet I see it is true; or if I do not now, I hope I shall, some day.” But whether thus submissively or not, at least be sure that you go to the author to get at his meaning, not to find yours. Judge it afterwards, if you think yourself qualified to do so; but ascertain it first. And be sure also, if the author is worth anything, that you will not get at his meaning all at once;—nay, that at his whole meaning you will not for a long time arrive in any wise. Not that he does not say what he means, and in strong words too; but he cannot say it all; and what is more strange, will not, but in a hidden way and in parables, in order that he may be sure you want it.

- John Ruskin (1819-1900), from 'Sesame and Lilies', Lecture 1:19.
(Painting: 'John Ruskin in his Study at Brantwood, 1881', by R.G. Collingwood)

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