Note to Sur la lecture, preface to Sesame and Lilies

   In this preface I have merely tried in my own way to reflect upon the same subject that Ruskin covered in Kings' Treasuries: the benefits of reading. In this way these few pages, even though they have little connection with Ruskin constitute, if you like, a sort of indirect criticism of his doctrine. By bringing forth my ideas, I involuntarily found that they are opposed to his beforehand. As a direct commentary, the notes that I have placed at the foot of almost every page of Ruskin's text were sufficient. I would have nothing to add here then, had I not wanted to express once again my gratitude to my friend Mlle Marie Nordlinger who, so much more profitably occupied with her magnificent works of sculpture in which she shows such originality and mastery, had quite willingly and closely reviewed this translation, frequently making it less imperfect. I also wish to thank for all the precious information that he has quite willingly sent me, M. Charles Newton Scott, the poet and scholar to whom we are indebted for The church and compassion for animals and The Epoch of Marie Antoinette, two charming books that deserve to be more well known in France, full of learning, feeling and spirit.
P.S. This translation was already with the printers when the magnificent English edition (Library Edition) of the works of Ruskin appeared, published by Allen, E.T. Cook and Anthony Wedderburn, the book containing Sesame and Lilies (July 1905). I was eager to ask for my manuscript to be returned, hoping to complete some of my notes with the help of those of Mssrs Cook and Wedderburn. Unfortunately, despite the great interest I had in this volume, I was unable to make use of it from the point of view of my own book. Of course the most part of the references were already included in my notes. However the Library Edition had provided me with some new ones. I have had them added after the words "the Library Edition tells us", having never borrowed a reference from it without immediately indicating from where I had taken it. As regards comparisons with the rest of Ruskin's works one will observe that the Library Edition refers back to texts that I have not mentioned, and that I refer back to texts that the Library Edition does not mention. Those of my readers who are not familiar with my preface to The Bible of Amiens may perhaps have thought that, in coming second, I would have been able to profit from the Ruskinian references by Mssrs Cook and Wedderburn. Others that understand what I proposed for myself in these editions will not be surprised that I have not done that. Such comparisons as I conceive them are essentially individual. They are nothing but a flash of memory, a glimmering of the sensibility that is suddenly illuminated between two different passages. And these illuminations are not as fortuitous as they might seem. To add artificialities that do not spring from my innermost self, would falsify the view, thanks to them, that I am trying to give of Ruskin. Additionally the Library Edition provides numerous historical and biographical references, often of great interest. One will see that I have taken account of them, when I was able to, only rarely. Firstly they do not fit in absolutely with the aim I have set myself. Secondly, the purely scientific Library Edition forbids itself all commentary on Ruskin's text, which leaves plenty of room for bringing to light all the new documents, all the new unpublished material, which is truly its raison d'Ítre. On the contrary I follow Ruskin's text with endless commentaries that give this volume considerable proportions, so that to add reproductions of unpublished material, variants etc. would have overloaded it unforgivably. (I had to renounce including the prefaces to Sesame and Lilies, and the third lecture that Ruskin added later to the two earlier ones.) I say all this to excuse myself for not being able to profit further from Mssrs Cook and Wedderburn's notes and also to express my admiration for this truly definitive edition of Ruskin, which will be of such great interest to all Ruskinians.

 


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