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grappling with fundamental questions of art; his work grew, and in 1843, when he was twenty-four years old, he published the first volume of Modern Painters, a famous examination of art, especially landscape art, and only incidentally, though emphatically, a defence of Turner.
For twenty years Ruskin devoted himself mainly to writing on art. His books had a very great influence both on painters and architects in calling their attention to great principles in art, and on public taste. But by and by, his readers noticed that as he insisted on purity and truthfulness of ideas as essential to right drawing and color, he began also to inquire into the failure of great art, and to ask if great art and good art did not depend upon the right living of people. In a word, just as before he started to defend Turner and found he must go to the bottom and study the whole meaning of modern art, so now he could not satisfy himself short of an examination of the whole structure of human society.
He was a painter when he undertook to write about painting, and his own work in water-color was a guide to his criticism in art. When he was possessed with the belief that the world was going wrong in its industry and its common life, he set about making a new world in a small way. He formed a society, called St. George's Company, started a farm, set up a shop, and in various ways tried to show how men and women might begin a new order of things by obedience to certain great laws. He tried a great many experiments, and they formed the basis of the books he now wrote in which he sought to get at the sound principles of right living. He made himself very unhappy, but he must needs keep on, like an old prophet who uttered his cries and lamentations and warnings, though few seemed to heed him. Now and then he would return to his thoughts about art, but they were mingled with these new, more pressing thoughts. He addressed a long series of letters to workingmen, and finally he began a beautiful narrative of his own life, but laid the pen down out of physical and mental weariness before he finished it.
It was when he was a young man, before he wrote Modern Painters, that he wrote the pretty fairy-tale which follows.
THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER.
I. In a secluded and mountainous part of Styria there was, in old time, a valley of the most surprising and luxuriant fertility. It was surrounded on all sides by steep and rocky mountains, rising into peaks, which were always covered with snow, and from which a number of torrents descended in constant cataracts. One of these fell westward, over the face of a crag so high that, when the sun had set to everything else, and all below was darkness, his beams still shone full upon this waterfall, so that it looked like a shower of gold. It was therefore called by the people of the neighborhood the Golden River. It was strange that none of these streams fell into the valley itself. They all descended on the other side of the mountains, and wound away through broad plains and by populous cities. But the clouds were drawn so constantly to the snowy hills, and rested so softly in the circular hollow, that, in time of drought and heat, when all the country round was burnt up, there was still rain in the little valley; and its crops were so heavy, and its hay so high, and its apples so red, and its grapes so blue, and its wine so rich, and its honey so sweet, that it was a marvel to every one who beheld it, and was commonly called the Treasure Valley.
The whole of this little valley belonged to three brothers, called Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans, the two elder brothers, were very ugly men, with overhanging eyebrows and small, dull eyes, which were always half shut, so that you could n't see into them, and always fancied they saw very far into you. They lived by farming the Treasure Valley, and very good farmers they were. They killed everything that did not pay for its eating. They shot the blackbirds, because they pecked the fruit; and killed the hedgehogs, lest they should suck the cows; they poisoned the crickets for eating the crumbs in the kitchen ; and smothered the cicadas, which used to sing all summer in the lime-trees. They worked their servants without any wages, till they would not work any more, and then quarrelled with them, and turned them out of doors without paying them. It would have been very odd if, with such a farm, and such a system of farming, they had n't got very rich; and very rich they did get. They generally contrived to keep their corn by them till it was very dear, and then sell it for twice its value; they had heaps of gold lying about on their floors, yet it was never known that they had given so much as a penny or a crust in charity ; they never went to mass; grumbled perpetually at paying tithes ; and were, in a word, of so cruel and grinding a temper, as to receive from all those with whom they had any dealings, the nickname of the “ Black Brothers."
The youngest brother, Gluck, was as completely opposed, in both appearance and character, to his seniors as could possibly be imagined or desired.
He was not above twelve years old, fair, blue-eyed, and kind in temper to every living thing. He did not, of course, agree particularly well with his brothers, or, rather, they did not agree with him. He was usually appointed to the honorable office of turnspit, when there was anything to roast, which was not often ; for, to do the brothers justice, they were hardly less sparing upon themselves than upon other people. At other times he used to clean the shoes, the floors, and sometimes the plates, occasionally getting what was left on them, by way of encouragement, and a wholesome quantity of dry blows, by way of education.
Things went on in this manner for a long time. At last came a very wet summer, and everything went wrong in the country round. The hay had hardly been got in, when the haystacks were floated bodily down to the sea by an inundation; the vines were cut to pieces with the hail; the corn was all killed by a black blight; only in the Treasure Valley, as usual, all was safe. As it had rain when there was rain nowhere else, so it had sun when there was sun nowhere else. Everybody came to buy corn at the farm, and went away pouring maledictions on the Black Brothers. They asked what they liked, and got it, except from the poor people, who could only beg, and several of whom were starved at their very door, without the slightest regard or notice.
It was drawing toward winter, and very cold weather, when one day the two elder brothers had gone out, with their usual warning to little Gluck, who was left to mind the roast, that he was to let nobody in, and give nothing out. Gluck sat down quite close to the fire, for it was raining very hard, and the kitchen walls were by no means dry or comfortable looking. He turned and turned, and the roast got nice and brown. “ What a pity,” thought Gluck, “my brothers never ask anybody to dinner. I'm sure, when they ’ve got such a nice piece of mutton as this, and nobody else has got so much as a piece of dry bread,