Additional Manuscripts 817: John Ruskin biographical papers


Reference code: GB-0033-ADD 817
Title: Additional Manuscripts 817: John Ruskin biographical papers
Dates of creation: 1871-1944
Extent: 51 items
Held by: Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections
Origination: Derrick Leon (d.1944) [biographer of John Ruskin]
Language: English


This group of 51 items consists of an incomplete draft of Derrick Leon's book Ruskin: the Great Victorian (posthumously published London, 1949) together with a collection of letters and other material (1871-1944) used by Leon as sources for the biography.
The collection as it now exists is clearly only a part of Leon's working material for the biography. The items which are present are particularly concerned with Ruskin's love for Rose La Touche. They include original correspondence of Ruskin's friends the novelist George MacDonald and his wife, in whom Rose confided; this correspondence was part of a larger batch of material concerning the Ruskin/Rose La Touche relationship which was given to Leon by the MacDonalds' son Greville; original letters from Ruskin to the MacDonalds which were also part of the gift were subsequently passed on to Yale University as promised by Leon (Add. MS. 817/2). Add. MSS. 817/1-51 also includes Greville MacDonald's own account of the Ruskin/Rose La Touche relationship (Add. MS. 817/29), in which he quotes copiously from his parents' correspondence, including the letters now at Yale.

Accession details

Purchased from a bookseller by Mrs. Virginia Surtees, and presented by her to Durham University Library in 1984.
Summary catalogue of Additional Manuscripts


Drafts and notes for Ruskin: the Great Victorian
Add. MSS. 817/1   n.d.
Incomplete draft of Derrick Leon's book Ruskin: the Great Victorian (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949). Carbon typescript (except p.144, top copy), double-spaced. 560 leaves, numbered 38, 58, 79, 130-146, 202, 403, 589-818 (781 skipped in numbering), 817 [bis], 818 [bis], 819-849, 884-1120, 1122-1160 (end of book).
There are brief pencil notes relating to the sources of quotations on p.38, 79, 727, 900, 934, 966, 1153 and 1160, and pencil markings on some other pages. All appear to be in the same hand, identified by Virginia Surtees (in respect of the annotations on p.727 and 900) as that of Sir Sydney Cockerell, to whom, with Dr. Greville MacDonald and Charles Goodspeed, the book is dedicated.
Derrick Leon died in Nov. 1944. The book was published posthumously with a preface by G. L[eon?] which states that the author's death occurred shortly after he had completed the first draft of his manuscript, and before he could carry out his intention of revising it for the press - “In view of this, it was considered preferable that the material which he had collected with so much labour should be presented in the form in which it had been left, subject to a check of quotations and obvious grammatical errors”. Cockerell's pencil notes and markings on the typescript may relate to this attempt to check the quotations. Despite the suggestion that the work was published essentially as Derrick Leon left it, there are considerable differences between the typescript and the published text. It has not been possible to establish whether the typescript represents a preliminary version (despite the statement in the published preface that Leon completed only a first draft), or whether the editor undertook more pruning and reworking than the published preface implies.
The typescript corresponds as follows to the published text (published text page numbers are given in brackets):
38 [19-20], 58 [27], 79 [33], 130-146 [59-63], 202 [90]: the published text omits a substantial quantity of material in the typescript, and makes other revisions.
43 [182], 589-849 [281-417], 884-1120 [437-559], 1122-1160 [560-581]: the published text substantially matches the typescript, paragraph for paragraph, but there are occasional omissions (e.g. eight lines on p.610 of the typescript are omitted in the published version [p.292]), revisions (e.g. the opening of Bk V, chap. I, pt 4 is extensively revoked in the published version [p.294] from the equivalent passage in the typescript, p.614-615) and updating (e.g. published text p.405/typescript p.827).
Add. MSS. 817/2   [ca.1947]
Ms notes relating to the editing for the press of the draft text of Ruskin: the Great Victorian.
The notes largely concern the sources of quotations and positioning of illustrations. The page references correspond to the page numbering of Add. MSS. 817/1. Compiled in or after 1947 (see the note concerning addition to a passage on p.827 of the draft text of material newly available in 1947).
4p. on 2 leaves.
Letters to Derrick Leon concerning his projected biography of Ruskin
Add. MSS. 817/3   23 January 1944
Autograph letter from Helen Rossetti Angeli (niece of D.G. Rossetti and daughter of W.M. Rossetti).
She has quoted hitherto unpublished letters and passages of letters from Ruskin to her uncle and father in her own recently completed book on her uncle ( Dante Gabriel Rossetti: his friends and enemies, London, 1949). “In these circumstances you will understand that I could not hand them over for inclusion in a different book ... these passages ... do in fact bear on Ruskin's relation towards Millais & (inferentially) towards his wife”. Tells Leon that the suppressed passages in her father's diary are not relevant to Rose La Touche.
3p. on 2ff.
Add. MSS. 817/4-8   1944
Five autograph letters from Mrs. Winifred Blow (wife of Detmar Blow, who had known Ruskin in his youth, and niece of Ruskin's confidante, Mrs. Georgiana Cowper-Temple, later Lady Mount-Temple), dated 10 Jan. (817/4, 2p.), 10 Feb. (817/5, 2p.), 26 Feb. (817/6, 3p.), 6 March (817/7, 3p.) and 9 March 1944 (817/8 4p.).
Her husband's recollections of Ruskin (817/4). Both Ruskin and Rose La Touche confided in her aunt. “I think my Aunt would never have discussed the subject with any one” (817/8). Has all her aunt's letters [i.e. letters her aunt received, rather than those she wrote], and lends him those relating to Ruskin's relationship with Rose La Touche, and two others of Ruskin, one of which refers to Lord Derby - “though nothing to do with the subject [i.e. Rose La Touche] they are rather characteristic” (for transcripts of the two last mentioned letters see below, 817/14-15).
Add. MSS. 817/9-12   1944
Four letters from Charles E. Goodspeed of Shirley, Mass., dated 25 April (817/9, 2p.), 21 May (817/10, 3p.) 28 July (817/11, 2p.) and 13 Sept. 1944 (817/12, 1p.). 817/9 is typescript, signed; the others are autograph.
Relinquishes his own plan for writing an account of Ruskin's married life, and offers to give Leon the material he has accumulated from sources not readily available to the latter. His most important source has been Ruskin's unpublished letters to his father, held by Yale. 817/10 - “The subordinate position in relation to R's parents which [his wife, Effie Gray] occupied was a striking feature of this correspondence”. Quotes from a ms in Wellesley College Library, Wellesley, Mass. - “Notes in conversation with George Allen Ruskin's friend and publisher - April 5 1897” signed M. Tomkinson, about Ruskin's married life and love for Rose La Touche. Transcribes a letter from Ruskin to F.J. Furnivall, 18 Aug. 1854, printed in an edition of 25 copies, 1925, about his married life and Effie Gray's involvement with Millais. Refers to unpublished material in the ms of Praeterita, also at Yale. 817/11 - sends his notes (see below 817/17). 817/12 - Welcome's Leon's decision to present the Ruskin - MacDonald letters to Yale [Greville MacDonald, George MacDonald's son gave Leon his large collection of letters to his parents from Ruskin, Rose La Touche and her mother etc. Leon did fulfill his promise to Goodspeed to give them to Yale, where they now are. For other material given to Leon by Greville MacDonald, see below 817/18-48.]
Other source material for Leon's biography of Ruskin
Add. MSS. 817/13   6 March [1878]
Autograph letter from F. Allen to Miss Hill [Octavia Hill, the philanthropist and proteg裠of Ruskin?].
Report on the progress of Ruskin's condition during an attack of “brain fever” [Ruskin suffered the onset of a serious mental breakdown at the beginning of March, 1878]. “Mr. Simon, formerly of St Thomas's, is in the house (Brantwood), and is an old friend, and there is every possible help. Overwork is the cause of the attack”.
4p. on 1 folded leaf.
Add. MSS. 817/14-16
Transcripts [by Leon?] of letters to William Cowper-Temple, Lord Mount-Temple, and his wife Georgiana, lent to Leon by Winifred Blow (see above, 817/4-8)
Add. MSS. 817/14   [ca. April 1873]
Manuscript transcript of letter from J[ohn] R[uskin], Coniston, Lancs, to William [Cowper-Temple], Dec. 1873 [i.e. ca April 1873].
Inquires if the present Lord Derby has done anything in the book way. “I want to speak of him incidently [sic] in next Fors [ Fors Clavigera ] as an unscholarly blockhead”.
Published in The letters of John Ruskin to Lord and Lady Mount-Temple, ed. J.L. Bradley (Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 1964), p.345. The original letter was then in private ownership (Bradley, p.393). This transcript is dated Dec. 1873 with no indication that the date is supplied by the transcriber. Bradley, however, conjecturally dates the undated original April 1873, since Ruskin mentioned Derby, although not as an unscholarly blockhead, in the May Fors ; a reference in the letter to wild primroses in flower would seem to support Bradley's guess.
2p. on 2 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/15   [ca. 1881]
Manuscript transcript of letter from St C [John Ruskin] to Isola [Lady Mount-Temple], 2 Aug. 1881.
About his recovery from a further bout of mental illness “not so terrific as the first ... but more of a warning, since it showed the malady to be recurrent”.
Published by Bradley, The letters of John Ruskin to Lord and Lady Mount-Temple, p.379-380. The original letter was then in private ownership (Bradley, p.394)
3p. on 2 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/16   [1898]
Manuscript transcript of letter from Joan [Agnew, Mrs. Arthur Severn, Ruskin's distant cousin and close associate] to “Beloved Lady” [Lady Mount-Temple], 8 Feb. 1898.
Sends Ruskin's thanks on his birthday. “I'm to say he's doing his best to please you by being a good little boy”.
Add. MSS. 817/17    n.d.
Charles E. Goodspeed's working notes for a book, never completed, on Ruskin's marriage (see above 817/9-12).
Pencil transcripts of passages from letters by Ruskin in Yale University Library relating to J.E. Millais and to Ruskin's married life with Effie Gray, together with ink and typescript notes by Goodspeed on Millais's painting “The Order of Release”, and a leaf of ink numbers.
14 leaves/slips of paper.
Add. MSS. 817/18-48
Source material given to Leon by Greville MacDonald
Add. MSS. 817/18-28
Letters to and from Mr. and/or Mrs. George MacDonald
Add. MSS. 817/18   [July 1872]
Incomplete draft of a letter from George MacDonald to Ruskin.
Reply to a letter from Ruskin of 8 July 1872. Defends himself against Ruskin's misunderstanding of his and his wife's attempts in earlier letters to convey the gravity of their concern about Rose La Touche's state of mind. Leon printed this document in full and quoted from the letter to which it replied ( Ruskin: the Great Victorian, p.491-492/typescript p.990-992)
2p. With envelope.
Add. MSS. 817/19   16 August 1872
Telegram from Miss La Touche, 27 Princes Gate, to Mrs. MacDonald, The Retreat, Hammersmith.
“Rose left on Wednesday and is to be at Harristown [her family home in Ireland] to-day”. Perhaps this was sent on Rose's behalf by someone else, or was sent by a relative also called Miss La Touche. On 13 Aug. Rose spent the day with Ruskin at Broadlands, Hants, the Cowper-Temples' home. She then departed for Ireland, but left the train at Crewe to see some relatives of the Cowper-Temples who lived at Toft Hall near Knutsford in Cheshire. She was still in England on 18 Aug. when Ruskin spent the day with her at Toft (V.A. Burd, John Ruskin and Rose La Touche, Oxford, 1979, pp.125-126).
1f. With envelope.
Six autograph letters from Mrs. [Georgiana] Cowper-Temple [later Lady Mount-Temple] to Mr. and/or Mrs. MacDonald, 1871-78, and one undated. (All are originally undated, but dates, apparently from postmarks, have been added to four in pencil or red ink).
Add. MSS. 817/20   [ p.m. 17 July 1871]
To Mr. MacDonald. Refers to helping [Joan] Severn nurse Ruskin during an illness [he was seriously ill at Matlock during the summer of 1871] - “we have every hope now that he will soon be quite well again”.
4p. on 1 folded sheet.
Add. MSS. 817/21   20 April 1872
To Mr. MacDonald. Refers to Rose La Touche and Ruskin - “Is it not sad those two should be thus tortured who might perhaps have been happy together ... I wonder if one should try more to heal the breach - or if one w[oul]d be only meddlesome”.
3p. on 1 folded sheet. With envelope.
Add. MSS. 817/22   [21 May 1872]
To Mr. MacDonald. Has sent Mr. MacDonald's letter on to “poor little Rose” “She will have told you the comfort it gave her”. Rose is coming to Broadlands next week.
2p. With envelope.
Add. MSS. 817/23   [21 January 1874]
To Mrs. MacDonald. “Rose is with us. It is thought necessary that she s[houl]d be separated from her mother for a time”. Asks if Mrs. MacDonald knows of a lady who would be a suitable companion for Rose - “motherly & firm & companionable”. Wonders if Miss Hill [Octavia Hill?] might do this. Rose “is in a very pitiable state”.
3p. on 1 folded sheet. With envelope.
Add. MSS. 817/24   [1878 March 12 p.m.]
To “Beloved Friends” [Mr. & Mrs. MacDonald]. Reports on the gravity of Ruskin's illness.
3p. on 1 folded sheet.
Add. MSS. 817/25   n.d.
Thursday-before-Easter. To Mrs. MacDonald. Written from Torquay. “I feel this must be a Passion Week indeed to your dear heart”.
3p. on 1 folded sheet.
Add. MSS. 817/26-27   [November 1874]
Two letters from Annie Munro to Mrs. MacDonald, “Tuesday night” [3 Nov. 1874] and [16 Nov. 1874]
References to the [Cowper] Temples, to Ruskin and to Rose La Touche - “she is quite strong enough to go your length. Mrs. Temple has seen him twice, he is very happy, but she does not yet know how it is to end”. The letters have been dated in pencil, in another hand, apparently from the postmarks (the envelopes are not now present). The earlier, postmarked 4 Nov. 1874, was apparently written the previous evening (3 Nov. 1874 was a Tuesday).
4 p. each.
Add. MSS. 817/28   Monday [undated]
Letter from Joan Severn to Mrs MacDonald, Herne Hill. “The carriage will be at the Retreat tomorrow ... to bring you and Rosie [La Touche] out here”.
Add. MSS. 817/29   1919
Greville MacDonald, “John Ruskin, friend and lover. Being the story of his friendship with George MacDonald and his love for Rose La Touche”. Typescript, dated on title-page 1919.i, 1-6, 6a-6d, 7-41, 43-76, 76a, 77-116, 118-142p.
Many leaves bear two or more different page numbers, but there is one continuous sequence as above. Some of the typescript is carbon and some top copy. Much but not all is double-spaced. On some leaves new matter has been pasted over an earlier version. Most but not all pages are quarto in size. Corrections in black and red ink occur throughout. Marked “Complete” in pencil and “Unmutilated” in red pencil on the title-page.
Quotes extensively from letters to the author's father, George MacDonald, from Ruskin, Rose La Touche, and Mrs. La Touche, Rose's mother, and from notes by George MacDonald about Ruskin and Rose. The original letters, on which Leon drew extensively, are now in the Beinecke Library, Yale University (cf. 817/12).
Unpublished in this form, although compiled with publication in mind. Greville MacDonald says on p.1 “I am forbidden by Ruskin's executors to publish his letters, - a refusal that in itself suggests their importance”. See 817/30-48 for the obstacles to publication which he encountered. He eventually included some of the correspondence quoted on pp.6d-12, 95-137 of the typescript in his Reminiscences of a specialist (London, Allen & Unwin, 1932) pp.103-122 but omitted Ruskin's letters to George MacDonald because of the continued opposition of Ruskin's literary executor. More of the text of the original letters is omitted in the printed version than in the typescript, and not all the omissions are indicated. The linking narrative also differs substantially.
138 pp.
Add. MSS. 817/30-48
Correspondence of Greville MacDonald concerning Ruskin and Rose La Touche, and the possibility of publishing their letters to his parents.
Add. MSS. 817/30   28 May 1919
Greville MacDonald to [Percy La Touche, Rose's brother]. Carbon typescript, with ms. postscript and corrections.
Contemplates publishing the letters in his possession from Ruskin, Rose La Touche, and her mother, to his parents, and asks La Touche's permission. Gives brief details of his own career and interests.
3p. on 2 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/31   23 June [1919]
Percy La Touche to [Greville MacDonald]. Reply to 817/30, giving the permission sought.
Add. MSS. 817/32   [24 July 1924]
Greville MacDonald to [Alexander] Wedderburn [Ruskin's literary executor]. Carbon typescript, with ms. corrections.
Renews his request (refused by Wedderburn several years previously) for permission to print Ruskin's letters to his father. “The whole of my leisure has for many years been devoted to the welfare of the Peasant Arts Guild which is steadily growing in influence and which I think is the only body of people now devoted to Ruskin's teaching as the ground work of their propaganda. I am now retiring entirely from my profession and am going to give the rest of my life to this and analogous enterprise”.
2p. on 2 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/33   1 August 1924
Alexander Wedderburn to Greville MacDonald. Manuscript, marked “dictated”.
Reply to 817/32. “The use of Ruskin's letters in the Life of your Father was one thing, but a book about Ruskin's private concerns is quite another. My feeling is that it is very doubtful if there is anything to be gained by further publicity of the La Touche affair ... As regards the marriage, I should have great difficulty in being a party to any book in which this was discussed”.
4p. on 2 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/34   9 August 1924
Greville MacDonald to Alexander Wedderburn. Typescript copy, with ms. corrections.
Reply to 817/33. Renews his attempt to persuade Wedderburn to give permission for publication. His purpose is “to set out the most important personal incident in Ruskin's life in such a way that it would increase generally the sense of his nobility, integrity and beauty of character”. On Ruskin's marriage to Effie Gray “I have no facts to add that would in any way differ from those in the library edition, but I have my father's comment on these which emphasises and perhaps makes even more intelligible Ruskin's simplicity and sincerity”.
Add. MSS. 817/35   5 September 1924
Greville MacDonald to Alexander Wedderburn. Carbon typescript. A further attempt to obtain permission to publish.
Add. MSS. 816/36   24 September 1924
Mrs. Rose F. Hotham [niece of Rose La Touche] to Greville MacDonald.
Understands he has been given permisison to publish letters from Rose La Touche about her love affair with Ruskin; “the revival of the story of my late Aunt's personal affairs will cause deep displeasure to my brother and myself”.
3p. on 1 folded sheet.
Add. MSS. 817/37   26 September 1924
Greville MacDonald to Rose Hotham. Carbon typescript, with ms. corrections.
Reply to no. 817/36. “I am sorry for your decision as it deprives the world of a unique bit of quite uplifting literature”. Thinks she has been swayed by Wedderburn and tries to persuade her to reconsider. “Your grandmother's voluminous and brilliant letters to my mother when your aunt was but a small child, are quite wonderful, revealing the latter as a person of singularly spiritual outlook and more or less in tacit rebellion against the comforts ... of her own home as contrasted with the horrible poverty all round them in Ireland”.
Add. MSS. 817/38   24 October [1924]
Rose Hotham to Greville MacDonald. Asks to see the letters MacDonald wishes to publish.
3p. on 2 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/39   [1924?]
Incomplete letter or account by Greville MacDonald of letters and documents still in his possession relating to his great-uncle Macintosh Mackay, and to Ruskin. Carbon typescript. Watermark identical to that on a letter by him (817/32) written in 1924.
Mentions the refusal of Alexander Wedderburn to allow him to publish the Ruskin letters in his possession.
Add. MSS. 817/40   20 April 1925
Mary Drew (W.E. Gladstone's daughter) to Greville MacDonald.
Expresses disappointment that he has never written to her about the section on Ruskin and Rose La Touche in her book Acton, Gladstone and others (London, 1924). She notes Wedderburn's approval of it, and suggests the way is now open for MacDonald to proceed with his book, to which she looks forward. Wedderburn disapproves of a reference she made to Effie Gray.
Add. MSS. 817/41   10 June 1925
Greville MacDonald to Rose Hotham. Carbon typescript.
Reply to 817/39, with apologies for his delay. Agrees to her request to see the letters he wishes to publish. His life of his father, George MacDonald and his wife (London, 1924) has brought many requests that he should publish his account of Ruskin; Wedderburn has taken exception to Greville MacDonald's complaint in that book at the absence of any reference to his father in the Library edition of Ruskin's works ( Life, letters and works of John Ruskin ed. E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn. 39v. London, 1903-12). Suggests that, after recent press comment on Ruskin and Rose La Touche, some of it hostile to Rose, following [J.G.] Swift MacNeill's book What I have seen and heard [London, 1925], she may think it desirable to let the whole story be published accurately.
3p. on 3 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/42   15 June 1925
Rose Hotham to Greville MacDonald. Returns the letters he has shown her and gives him permission to publish.
4p. on 1 folded leaf.
Add. MSS. 817/43   17 June 1925
Greville MacDonald to Rose Hotham. Carbon typescript.
Reply to 817/42. Thanks her for her permission to publish, and offers to give her all the original letters of her grandmother and aunt together with a copy of his book, as soon as it is out.
Add. MSS. 817/44   18 June [1925]
Rose Hotham to Greville MacDonald. Reply to 817/43, thanking him for and accepting his offer.
3p. on 1 folded sheet.
Add. MSS. 817/45   18 June 1925
Greville MacDonald to Alexander Wedderburn. Typescript with ms. correction.
Rose Hotham has given him permission to publish any La Touche letters to his parents. “I cannot think that you will raise any objection now to my publishing also Ruskin's letters”.
Add. MSS. 817/46   2 July 1925
Greville MacDonald to Miss [Margaret Ferrier] Young (editor of The letters of a noble woman [Rose La Touche's mother], 1908). Carbon typescript.
Thinks his book can now proceed, even if Wedderburn does not agree to the publication of Ruskin's letters. Has told Wedderburn that Mrs Hotham and Miss Young have agreed to the publication of the La Touche letters. There will be no need to say where Rose La Touche died, or give particulars of her last illness.
Add. MSS. 817/47   8 July 1926
Margaret Ferrier Young to Greville MacDonald.
Reply to no. 817/46. Offers any help she can give him. Reference to George MacDonald's accompanying Mrs. La Touche to a seance with the medium [D.D.] Home. “The last phase in poor Rose's life is too utterly sad to be opened up now”.
Add. MSS. 817/48   [1929?]
Greville MacDonald to “Sir” [i.e. the editor of the Spectator ]. Carbon typescript.
Reply to a letter (“Ruskin's Love Affair”) to the editor of the Spectator by Mrs. A. Williams Ellis, author of The tragedy of John Ruskin (London, 1928) Mrs. Williams Ellis's letter appeared in the Spectator 142 (1929), p.159. MacDonald gives a lengthy defence of Ruskin's moral integrity, citing as his authority the Ruskin and La Touche correspondence with his parents, as well as his own recollections of Ruskin. He explains that he is prohibited from publishing a letter from Ruskin to his father, in which Ruskin defends himself from contemporary slurs on his character.
4p. on 4 leaves.
Add. MSS. 817/49-51
Add. MSS. 817/49    n.d.
Transcript of a passage from A.J.C. Hare's The story of two nobles lives. (3v. London, 1893). Typescript, paginated 109 in ink.
Leon's Ruskin: the Great Victorian (p.585) includes this biography of the sisters Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, in his bibliography of his chief sources. The sisters were friends of Ruskin, and it was through Lady Waterford, a close friend of Mrs. La Touche, that Ruskin met Rose La Touche.
1 p.
Add. MSS. 817/50    n.d.
Steel-engraved portrait of Louise, Marchioness of Waterford (sc. W. Roffe, from a photograph)
Apparently extracted from a book. A different portrait of Lady Waterford was included among the illustrations to Ruskin: the Great Victorian (facing p.284)
Add. MSS. 817/51   n.d.
Manuscript note by an unidentified grandchild of Charles Darwin, questioning Leon's claim in Ruskin: the Great Victorian (on p.547 of the published version, p.1097 of the typescript) that Ruskin had met Darwin at least twice before their encounter in the Lakes in 1879.
The passage the writer quotes from his or her aunt H.E. Litchfield's book Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin: a century of family letters (2v., 1904) does not in fact necessarily conflict with what Leon wrote. Since the note seems to be addressed to Leon, but his book was published posthumously, the author had presumably been shown a draft text.