In these inspiring essays about why we read, Proust explores all the pleasures and trials that we take from books, as well as explaining the beauty of Ruskin and his work, and the joys of losing yourself in literature as a child.
Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives – and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.
One by one, like the ‘muses leaving their father Apollo to go and bring light to the world’, Ruskin’s ideas left the godlike head which had borne them and, embodied in living books, went to bring instruction to the nations. Ruskin had withdrawn into the solitude in which prophetic existences often end until it pleases God to call back the coenobite or ascetic whose superhuman task is done. And the mystery which has been fulfilled, the slow destruction of a perishable brain which had harboured an immortal posterity, could only be guessed at, through the veil stretched over it by pious hands.
Today death has put mankind in possession of the immense inheritance that Ruskin bequeathed to it. For the man of genius can only give birth to works which will not die by creating them in the image not of the mortal being that he is, but of the exemplum of mankind he bears within him. His thoughts are in some sense lent to him for his lifetime, of which they are the companions. On his death they return to mankind and instruct it. Such as that august family dwelling in the rue de la Rochefoucauld known as the home of Gustave Moreau while he yet lived and since his death as the Musee Gustave Moreau.