Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/201

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RUSKIN ON LOUIS NAPOLEON

April 15th, 1860.

Emily to Miranda.

Yesterday we took Miss Baumgartner to see Ruskin's Turners. . . . Ruskin says lie does not mean to write any more for ten years, but to teach more. . . . He said he did not want to write any letters to people. He wanted Ockey's advice, as to what excuse he should make. She said he should think what was the truth, and try if he could not say that. Then he began talking about truth, saying it was difficult to speak the truth ; but to convey a truthful impression was almost impossible. That those who speak the truth are often the most misunderstood. O. asked him if he had read Mrs. Browning's new poems. He called them beautiful but absurd. O. said, "Why absurd ? Because she trusts Louis Napoleon?" "No," he said ; "I hold it is right to trust a man till he does something which proves him wrong. But mind, you're not to say I'm wrong if he turns out treacherous." Ruskin said that the taking of Savoy did not implicate Napoleon's character, because it was no pecuniary advantage to him, "not much larger than my garden and very poor." Do you think an ambitious man would spend thousands of men and money for that? He takes it just to pacify the French, who want some substantial proof that they were conquerors. To me personally it was a great blow, because it was so nice and dirty and tumble-down, and those wretched French will go and put it all to rights. It will be much better for the people, but I shall get no lore sketching."