Two Centuries Of Solitude?
He was much unlike others…when others drooled at, and almost eulogised the expansion of the British Empire in Victorian England, the then leading English art critic & patron of art, draughtsman, watercolour-ist, prominent social thinker and philanthropist John Ruskin (February 8, 1819-January 20, 1900) had other ideas! He rightly realised that the nation was making progress only by exploiting the poor people. Ruskin even went on to believe that Her Majesty the Queen had allowed the factories to torture the nature!
In 1871, Ruskin had established the Guild of St George in Sheffield in order to help poor people enjoy the fruit of industrial development… His main aim was to revive the healthy rural economy, as he wanted to build schools, libraries and art galleries especially for the masses, i.e. the backward section of the people! Ruskin also went on to open a gallery for workers of the iron factories in Sheffield, which was famous for stainless steel and crucible steel factories…
It is to be noted that Ruskin greatly influenced Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule. Gandhi even translated Ruskin’s essay and book on economy, ‘Unto This Last’ in Gujarati language in 1908, under the title of ‘Sarvodaya’ (or ‘Well Being of All’)!
As a part of Ruskin’s bicentennial celebration, the Guild of St George authorities are organising an exhibition, titled – ‘John Ruskin – The Power Of Seeing’, at the spectacular neo-Gothic setting of London’s ‘Two Temple Place‘. The visitors there get an opportunity to see Ruskin’s personal collections of art works and some of his paintings in this exhibition. According to the organisers, this bicentenary exhibition brings together more than 190 paintings, drawings, daguerreotypes, metal work and plaster casts to illustrate how Ruskin’s attitude to aesthetic beauty shaped his radical views on culture and society…
The organisers are also showcasing a list of 10 objects, considered as ‘most disgusting’ by Ruskin, at Two Temple Place. The Parliament, the Constitution and the iron grids of prison have secured their places in that list!
Dead Letter Rekindles A Fire
It may casually be stated that their love story witnessed a tragic end – Phyllis Ponting and Bill Walker had fallen in love with one another after they met in Wiltshire during the WWII. Bill, who was serving with the Wiltshire Regiment in India, had reportedly proposed to Phyllis before leaving for South Asia. He had to leave England without getting a reply from the teenage girl. From India, Bill had written a letter to his fiancée, stating that he would like to marry her, and Phyllis had accepted his proposal and sent a reply in return. Unfortunately, the soldier did ‘not’ return from the war…
The 99-year-old Phyllis recently came to know that Bill had answered his letter… but his hand-written letter found its place at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean! The great grandmother of seven children also came to know that the cargo ship – transporting Bill’s letter – had sunk in 1941!
Eight years after a Japanese torpedo attack on the English ship, marine archaeologists recovered 717 personal letters. In that letter, Bill recalled how he “wept with joy” upon receiving her acceptance. “I wish you could have been there when I opened it,” he wrote. Those 717 letters, including Bill’s, are now being showcased at the Voices from the Deep Gallery in London’s Postal Museum!
Till 2018, Phyllis had no idea whether Bill had survived the War, or not! She went on to tie knot with another person, Jim Holloway. Phyllis and Holloway went on to have four children, who gave the couple a further four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Holloway passed away several years later, and Phyllis is now married to Reginald Ponting.
Phyllis with the letter
Talking to the press, Phyllis was heard saying: “I don’t think Bill can have survived the war, otherwise he would have been straight round to my address in Roseland Avenue.” She admitted that her life would have been different, had she received the letter at the time and reunited with Bill. “We would have been married. He loved me a lot,” stressed Phyllis.
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