Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/166

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146
chap.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

function than either to delight or to teach ; it has to remind us of our glory before the fall. Mr. D. informs me that in the time I take to copy a foreground, he would get the essence of every picture in the Dulwich collection. It sets me wondering what the essence of a picture is, that it can be got at so rapidly ; and whether, if it is worth much, it may not also be worth much labour to gain it, and require much of the much talked of thought and spirit of man ; whether faithful and earnest work may not be the only fit preparation for perception of truth in picture or in life ; whether before we can understand, much less embody, noble truth, it may not be necessary firmly to believe day after day, when it is inconvenient, and when it is agreeable, that there really is a truth and a God of Truth, distinct from the imaginations of men's hearts ; whether simplicity is not much more necessary than excitement, even in art. So that I think one has reason to be very thankful to have been taught to look at real lines and colours and sizes, which one may not misrepresent ; which don't change when we change, nor depend for their power or beauty on our thoughts about them.

Milton Street,
June 26th, 1859.

To Florence.

 ... I quite trust Ruskin about his plans for me ; only I wonder why he should speak so despisingly of all copies, and yet set me to do them ; but some day I shall understand it. I haven't any doubt that Mrs. Browning feels passionately and intensely ; but probably her passion is both controlled and concealed. I think her turning away, when you spoke of England,