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SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN,
SOME four years ago, when the desire to write a life of Turner first entered my mind, I determined to take no steps in such a scheme till I had ascertained whether Mr. Ruskin might not himself have some intention of one day becoming the biographer of that great painter whose genius he had done so much to illustrate.
In answer to my letter of inquiry, Mr. Ruskin replied that he had no intention of writing a life of Turner, but that he should much rejoice in my doing so, and would give me all the help he could. His words were :
“ MY DEAR SIR,
“Fix at the beginning the following main characteristics of Turner in your mind, as the keys to the secret of all he said and did :
And be sure that he knew his own power, and felt himself utterly alone in the world from its not being understood. Don't try to mask the dark side. *
Yours most truly,
“ J. Ruskin.”
Encouraged by this certainty that I was neither trespassing nor interfering with any one, I at once set to work steadily and quietly, letting no day pass by without some search for materials, some noting down of traditions, some visit to Turner's old friends, determining not to complete my book, however long it took me, till I had collected for it all that patience and enthusiasm could glean, cull, or heap together.
Through Mr. Ruskin's kind aid I became acquainted one by one with all Turner's executors, and my letters of inquiry made me also known to most of the English collectors of Turner pictures, water-colour drawings, etchings, engravings, and proofs. The two or three noblemen who alone of their wealthy order patronized the painter when living, instantly gave me courteously what information they could. From Turner's friends (all of whom truly loved his memory) I met with kindness and consideration. They kept nothing from me --they ransacked their memories—they searched for old letters—they established old dates—they read over to me old diaries and old note-books. Bound to me by the same sympathy, they aided me without one selfish or envious thought. Mr. Ruskin gave me a chart to steer by—all he could do—for of Turner's personal history I found he knew little.