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This series of letters written between 1859 and 1868 by John Ruskin to Miss Bell and the girls of her school in Cheshire and discovered in a Brighton house in 1952 reveal for the first time the extent of the friendship between Miss Bell and Ruskin. She was a sympathetic listener, with whom he could discuss the spiritual crisis that marked his life during his important middle years, when he was completing Modern Painters and his earlier books on political economy. Van Akin Burd studies the letters as an expression of this struggle. He also develops a portrait of the unorthodox schoolmistress, and suggests her reasons for turning to the art critic.
Besides the charming pictures of Ruskin with the children, the correspondence provides new sources for his ideas on art, education, and religion, as well as additional insight into his tragic love for Rose La Touche. Most of Ruskin’s letters to Winnington have been collected by the Pierpont Morgan Library. Of the 542 letters in this volume, 497 have not been published before.