Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Mephitic Vapour. — “I have received, from the author, M. Emile de Lavelaye, his pamphlet, — ‘Protestantism and Catholicism in their bearing upon the Liberty and Prosperity of Nations, with an introductory Letter by Mr. Gladstone.’ I do not know why M. de Lavelaye sent me this pamphlet. I thank him for the courtesy; but he has evidently read none of my books, or must have been aware that he could not have written anything more contrary to the positions which I am politically maintaining. . . .
    But of the pamphlet in question, and its preface, he will, I trust, pardon my speaking in the same frank terms which I should have used had it accidentally come under my notice, instead of by the author’s gift. The pamphlet is especially displeasing to me, because it speaks of ‘Liberty’ under the common assumption of its desirableness; whereas my own teaching has been, and is, that Liberty, whether in the body, soul, or political estate of men, is only another word for Death, and the final issue of Death, putrefaction: the body, spirit, and political estate being alike healthy only by their bonds and laws; and by Liberty being instantly disengaged into mephitic vapour.”
John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, Vol.V (Sunnyside, Orpington, Kent: George Allen., 1875), Letter LVII, pp.247-8