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A MOTHER'S CARE
John Ruskin, an English writer and art critic, was born in London, February 8, 1819, the son of a wealthy merchant. As a child, he had no young playmates, and was very strictly brought up. But his parents were fond of good books and good pictures; they read aloud to the boy in the evenings, and took him to visit the great picture galleries. At the age of seventeen, he was sent to Oxford, and while a student there he was winner of a prize given for English poetry. “The King of the Golden River,” was also written while he was in college. Ruskin's parents intended him to be a clergyman, but the love of art was so strong in him that he determined to devote his life to study and criticism. Besides his works on art, he has written many others, one of them, “Sesame and Lilies,” being two essays on books and reading, the first addressed to young men, the second to young women.
He died in 1900.
We scarcely ever, in our study of education, ask this essential of all questions about a man, What patience had his mother or sister with him? And most men are apt to forget it themselves. Pardon me for speaking of 5 myself for a moment; if I did not know things by my own part in them, I would not write of them at all. You know that people sometimes call me a good writer; others like to hear me speak. Well, my own impression about this
power, such as it may be, is that it was born with me, or 10 gradually gained by my own study. It is only by delib
erate effort that I recall the long morning hours of toil, as regular as sunrise, by which, year after year, my mother forced me to learn all the Scotch paraphrases by heart,
and ever so many chapters of the Bible besides, allowing 15 not so much as a syllable to be missed or misplaced; while
every sentence was required to be said over and over again till she was satisfied with the accent of it. I recollect a struggle between us of about three weeks, concerning the accent of the “of” in the lines
Shall any following spring revive
I insisting, partly in childish obstinacy, and partly in true instinct for rhythm (being wholly careless on the subject both of urns and their contents), on reciting it, “The ashes
of the urn.” It was not, I say, till after three weeks' 10 labor that my mother got the accent laid upon the “ashes”
to her mind. But had it taken three years, she would have done it, having once undertaken to do it. And, assuredly, had she not done it, I had been simply an avari
cious picture collector, or perhaps even a more avaricious 15 money collector, to this day; and had she done it wrongly,
no afterstudy would ever have enabled me to read so much as a single line of verse.
HELPS FOR STUDY What does Ruskin say is his own impression of his power to speak and write?
Why do you think it required an effort for him to recall how he was forced to learn by his mother?
What tribute does he pay to his mother's care?
NOTE The Scotch paraphrases were sixty-seven selected passages of Scripture rendered in verse. They were usually bound up with the metrical version of the psalms, and like them, sung in church.
ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS Selections may be found in the following works of Ruskin: King of the Golden River *
The Crown of Wild Olive Sesame and Lilies *
Modern Painters The Stones of Venice
Seven Lamps of Architecture (* Published in the Educational Publishing Company's Fifteen Cent Classics.)
MADAM WASHINGTON AT THE PEACE BALL*
MARY VIRGINIA TERHUNE
Mary Virginia Terhune, who wrote under the pen name of “Marion Harland,” was born in Amelia County, Virginia, in 1830. When only sixteen she published å sketch in Godey's Lady's Book. She is the author of a number of novels, besides several works on housekeeping, and has also conducted departments in various magazines. “The Story of Mary Washington,” was written by her to help in raising funds for a monument at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in honor of Washington's mother.
Madam Washington's only public appearance as a hero's mother was at the Peace Ball given in Fredericksburg during the visit of Washington to that town. With all her majestic self-command she did not disguise the 5 pleasure with which she received the special request of the managers that she would honor the occasion with her presence. There was even a happy flutter in the playful rejoinder that “her dancing days were pretty well over,
but that if her coming would contribute to the general 10 pleasure she would attend.”
A path was opened from the foot to the top of the hall as they appeared in the doorway, and “every head was bowed in reverence.” It must have been the
proudest moment of her life, but she bore herself with 15 perfect composure then and after her son, seating her in an
armchair upon the dais reserved for distinguished guests, faced the crowd in prideful expectancy that all his friends would seek to know his mother. She had entered the hall at eight o'clock, and for two hours held court, the most distinguished people there pressing eagerly forward to be presented to her.
* From “The Story of Madam Washington." Reprinted by permission of the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Company.
From her slightly elevated position she could, without rising, overlook the floor, and 5 watched with quiet pleasure the dancers, among them the knightly figure of the Commander-in-Chief, who led a Fredericksburg matron through a minuet.
At ten o'clock she signed to him to approach, and rose to take his arm, saying in her clear, soft voice, “Come, 10 George; it is time for old folks to be at home.” Smiling
a good night to all, she walked down the room, as erect in form and as steady in gait as any dancer there.
One of the French officers exclaimed aloud, as she disappeared, “If such are the matrons of America, she may 15 well boast of illustrious sons."
Lafayette's report of his interview to his friends at Mount Vernon was: “I have seen the only Roman matron living at this day.”
HELPS FOR STUDY
In what way was this Madam Washington's only public appearance as a “hero's mother”?
Why was it called the “Peace Ball”?
What were the tributes paid Madam Washington by Lafayette and the other French officer?
Why did Lafayette compare her to the Roman matrons?
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
Clear the brown path, to meet his coulter's gleam!
These are the hands whose sturdy labor brings