Page:Studies of a Biographer 3.djvu/105

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93
JOHN RUSKIN

own sentiments. If disputable as a general theory, it shows what the love of nature meant for Ruskin. To him it seemed to be a part of religion; and a description is for him not a mere catalogue of forms and colours and sensations, but a divine language to be interpreted by the 'high instincts' (if I may quote the inevitable ode again) before which our mortal nature trembles like a guilty thing surprised. To read the true meaning of these outward and visible signs is the function of what he calls the 'theoretic faculty'; and, parenthetically, I may add that his theory, good or bad in itself, leads him to very interesting literary criticisms. I do not know whether the chapters in which he discusses the 'theoretic' faculty or imagination will pass muster with later psychologists better than his theory of the beautiful with professors of æsthetics. But I never read anything which seemed to me to do more than these chapters to make clear the true characteristics of good poetry. Ruskin's critical judgments are certainly not always right; no critic can always judge rightly, unless at the cost of being thoroughly commonplace, and Ruskin is often wayward and sometimes extravagant. But his sense of what was excellent was so keen and genuine,