The John Ruskin Diary Notebooks

The John Ruskin Digital Archive

In nineteenth-century Great Britain, John Ruskin (1819-1900) was a figure about whom no reader could have been ignorant: a public intellectual, in our terms, who had ideas about what buildings should look like, what Christianity should be, what paintings were valuable and not, what responsibility the state had to its citizens and what responsibilities citizens had to the state. He wrote about myths and about science, about the duties of the sexes, the limits of capitalism, the pleasures of dancing, the meaning of the Alps, the sorrowful testimony of Venice. He tried to transform the heart of Great Britain. And he also sold teaThe private thoughts and ideas of this huge figure of nineteenth-century Great Britain are also available. Ruskin kept a diary journal through most of his working life. And it has never been published in full in any open access, color, and high quality form.

Ruskin’s diary journals–distributed in archives across the UK and US–are copious, searching, luminous, and bothered. They reveal the observations and the development of ideas that would, often enough, make the public world of print. They are a kind of personal workshop for the public man. But they are also private: reflections on states of mind, on states of soul, on a personal perception of the condition of Europe. Charting the energies of a great writer, the journals also open up the tormented world of Ruskin’s heart and the periodic failing of his mental health. They are impossible to summarize and replete with the testimonies of a life lived both to the full and, increasingly, on the verge.


Thanks to our VLLC partners at the University of Leeds, Lancaster University, the Ruskin Ruskin Library and Research Centre, and our colleagues at the University of South Carolina Department of Digital Collections, seven previously unpublished Ruskin Diary Notebooks held at the Ruskin Centre are now accessible online at