Mr. Pringle visited us at Herne Hill, heard the traditions of my literary life, expressed some interest in its farther progress,—and sometimes took a copy of verses away in his pocket. He was the first person who intimated to my father and mother, with some decision, that there were as yet no wholly trustworthy indications of my one day occupying a higher place in English literature than either Milton or Byron; and accordingly I think none of us attached much importance to his opinions. . . He himself found interest enough in my real love of nature and ready faculty of rhyme, to induce him to read and criticize for me some of my verses with attention; and at last, as a sacred Eleusinian initiation and Delphic pilgrimage, to take me in his hand one day when he had a visit to pay to the poet Rogers.
The old man, previously warned of my admissible claims, in Mr. Pringle's sight, to the beatitude of such introduction, was sufficiently gracious to me, though the cultivation of germinating genius was never held by Mr. Rogers to be an industry altogether delectable to genius in its zenith. Moreover, I was unfortunate in the line of observations by which, in return for his notice, I endeavoured to show myself worthy of it. I congratulated him with enthusiasm on the beauty of the engravings by which his poems were illustrated — but betrayed, I fear me, at the same time some lack of an equally vivid interest in the composition of the poems themselves. At all events, Mr. Pringle — I thought at the time, somewhat abruptly — diverted the conversation to subjects connected with Africa. These were doubtless more calculated to interest the polished minstrels of St. James's Place; but again I fell into misdemeanours by allowing my own attention, as my wandering eyes too frankly confessed, to determine itself on the pictures glowing from the crimson-silk walls; and accordingly, after we had taken leave, Mr. Pringle took occasion to advise me that, in future, when I was in the company of distinguished men, I should listen more attentively to their conversation.
From John Ruskin, Praeterita (1886);
The Works of John Ruskin, ed. Sir. E. T. Cook and A. D. O. Wedderburn (1902-1912), xxxv. 92-93.
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