Taken together, these two volumes constitute the finest and fairest life of
that has yet been written. It is likely to remain the standard work for a
long time to come....It has taken 100 years, but in Tim Hilton, Ruskin has
at last found the champion his achievement deserves.
Wall Street Journal
The second volume of art historian and critic Hilton's biography of Ruskin is heftier in size than its predecessor, and a lesser achievement. It does, however, reveal fully the recurrent mental illness that crippled the controversial Victorian sage in his later years. Much of the book centers--as did much of the middle-aged, sexually na ve Ruskin's life--on his attenuated and abortive love affair with a young, fanatically religious girl, Rose La Touche, who died in her mid-20s (Ruskin met her when she was 10). Hilton also shows how sycophants exploited the wealthy Ruskin, who was increasingly unable to complete most of his later work, a failure that Hilton makes light of; he curiously contends that those works "may be better for their lack of termination." While Hilton is vastly knowledgeable about Ruskin, his garrulous, old-fashioned style ("Before returning to the events of Ruskin's life in 1871 it is convenient to summarise here "; "We must now describe the last months ") is at odds with his contemporary approach to insanity, as in his ruminations about La Touche's possible suicidal anorexia and Ruskin's manic depressive psychosis. In the face of such writing excesses, only Hilton's morbid fascination with Ruskin's descent into his long, precarious twilight will keep the reader turning the pages. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This new work by Hilton, a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, picks up in 1859 where his highly praised John Ruskin: The Early Years left off. At that time, Ruskin was finishing his five-volume Modern Painters, still recovering from a failed marriage, and starting to teach ten-year-old Rose La Touche. By his early 40s, Ruskin had earned a reputation as a writer and most notably a famed and feared art critic. But soon he became a strident activist for social reform whose essays, though stinging, petulant, and sarcastic, brought forth the ideas of national education, organized labor, old-age pensions, homes for the working classes, and organized street cleaners. When La Touche refused to marry him for religious reasons and soon died, there began a series of bouts with "brain fever" that eventually led to periods of seclusion and madness. Still, Ruskin was the first to head up a professorship of fine arts at Oxford. Hilton's research, years of reading Ruskin, and attention to detail make this biography very personal and readable--and probably the definitive account on Ruskin. A necessary companion to Susan P. Casteras and others' John Ruskin and the Victorian Eye (LJ 4/1/93), Hilton's two-volume set is recommended for English literature and art collections at academic and larger public libraries.--Joseph Hewgley, Nashville P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Inspired...a magnum opus...
The New Yorker
[Hilton's] wonderful protracted wrestling match
with the surprising life and times of John Ruskin
makes a captivating story . . .
The New York Times Book Review
John Ruskin: The Later Years is simply magnificent: one of the great modern literary biographies...Hilton's prose is strikingly beautiful... Times Literary Supplement
Now that it is complete, Hilton's book takes its place among the foremost modern literary biographies.
The Sunday Telegraph
A masterpiece of investigative scholarship and a work of generous and engrossing humanity.
The Sunday Times
The second and final volume of English art critic Hilton's monumental life of Ruskin, spanning the years between 1859 and Ruskin's death in 1900. In 1859 Ruskin was 40; he had recovered from the dissolution of his disastrous, unconsummated marriage and had completed his great work Modern Painters, and was now at something of a loose end. He had lately met the then ten-year-old Rose La Touche, who would become the central figure of his life for the next 15 years and whose death would eventually drive him to the madness that darkened and silenced his final years. Ruskin's deep attachment to his pupil gradually matured into a tragic love as the girl herself grew into sickly, neurotic adolescence and listless, frustrated young womanhood. The intensity of their relationship, which involved many separations and reconciliations, was fueled as much by religious conflicts as by temperamental affinities. Hilton maintains that Rose was the mainspring of all Ruskin's writings of this period, not only Sesame and Lilies (the treatise on womanhood that was avowedly addressed to her) but also The Queen of the Air and even Fors Clavigera (the long series of letters addressed to the workingmen of England). In tracking all the important developments of Ruskin's later careerhis reconciliation with Carlyle, the increasingly political emphasis of his writing, the death of his beloved father, his appointment to the Slade Professorship at Oxford, the lawsuit brought against him by Whistler, the later travels and bouts of madnessHilton tells a story of decline, but also of personal relationships and influences. Considering Ruskin's writings and his political andeconomicenterprises primarily in terms of the personalities involved makes Hilton's study sympathetic and authoritative, if a bit claustrophobic: the religious and sexual issues he explores cry out for broader historical assessment. A humane, provocative study of a great and troubled Victorian soul.