What we like determines what we are

I was reading this essay by John Ruskin last week. It’s called Traffic. It’s 1864. He’s invited to this place in Yorkshire to talk about an Exchange they’re going to build. Well, he rocks up and says: this Exchange of yours is the last fucking thing I’m going to talk about.

That’s John Ruskin for you.

He says: As far as architecture is concerned, there’s no point asking my advice once in a while. All good architecture is the expression of national life and character.

And then he whips out this phrase of his: “Taste is essentially a moral quality.”

He says: Let me tell you what I mean by that, because people have been picking me up all wrong.

Good taste, he says, is the perpetual contemplation of a good and perfect thing. “It is the kind of shit that the angels, if they were sitting around looking at art, would be looking at. Titian, Turner, Greek statutes, any of that kind of thing.”

He whips this one out, which I like: “What we like determines what we are.”

He says this – and I’m thinking of Ireland – that if a nation has any vices or weaknesses it’s inevitable that they come out either in their art, or their lack of art. That’s what he says. “In all time…every nation’s vice, or virtue, was written in its art.”

That’s John Ruskin for you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s