The diabolical rage of the sky

John Ruskin’s diary, 19 June 1944
The Ruskin – Library, Museum and Research Centre

In London in 1819, John Ruskin was born—a Renaissance man (though a baby at first) whose keen eye for beauty and boundless curiosity would make him a prominent art critic, social thinker, and author who left an indelible mark on the Victorian world. At eleven, as he holidayed with family, he began his first diary; in 1887, with his health in fast decline, he kept his last. This entry came in March of 1876, when Ruskin was 57. He was writing obsessively of the weather, of its power—of the aggressive storms that seemed to swirl around him almost daily and hinder his work.

The Diary Entry

March 15th. Wednesday. Crashing rain with wild roaring wind and the whole air like the thickest of a steamer’s or Manchester chimney’s discharge, after coals are just put on. Nothing more entirely horrible have I seen yet in weather. Yet there was a bright star, for a minute or two, last night. Y[esterday] retouching old drawings—pathetic work.

I must do it by candlelight to-day, if at all. Y[esterday] the watery sun, in and out every two seconds, almost worse. I really cannot read or work this morning, in mere horror at the gloom and diabolical rage of the sky. 

Further Reading

John Ruskin’s papers are held at The Ruskin – Library, Museum and Research Centre at the University of Lancaster, and many of his diary notebooks can be viewed online. In the 1950s they were published in three volumes by Oxford University Press—now out of print but floating about on the Internet.

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