Monday, September 3, 2012

ruskin on penguins

JR to Charles Eliot Norton, 4 November 1860:

When I begin to think at all, I get into states of disgust and fury at the way the mob is going on (meaning by mob, chiefly Dukes, Crown Princes, and such like persons) that I choke; and have to go to the British Museum and look at Penguins till I get cool. I find Penguins at present the only comfort in life. One feels everything in the world is sympathetically ridiculous; one can't be angry when one looks at a Penguin.

1 comment:

  1. It had not occurred to me at first, but this sounds a lot like Ruskin's appreciation of the vaudeville, theatre. The comic black-and-white, slipping and sliding about--that penguins are not sympathetically ridiculous but genuinely so, per their nature, as in P & J, etc. Similarly, this reminds me of Ruskin's disdain for gaudy stained glass with which people adorn their grief, as if it is not all the while publicly displayed. The world being ridiculous in such a way as engenders pity or sympathy, as the penguin does not, despite being similarly absurd (viz. flightless bird.)