John Ruskin was born in London on February 8, 1819 of Scottish parents. His father,John James, was a wealthy wine merchant. His mother was a staunch puritan and a great disciplinarian. John Ruskin, the only child of his parents, was subjected to rigid discipline. He had to get up early in the morning. He was punished for small lapses and there were no toys for him to play with.
He had his early education at home and as a small child he was forced by his mother to read the Bible for hours everyday. No doubt this discipline was hard, but these readings be-came an essential part of his education.
At the same time, his father was interested in reading good poetry and prose. At an early age John had read Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Pope, Spenser, Byron, Goldsmith, Addison and Samuel Johnson. Ruskin’s father had a great desire that his son should write good pious poetry.John Ruskin’s education was supplemented by his regular tours to Europe in the company of his father which in turn cultivated his literary and aesthetic taste.
After a very short stay at a day school he was sent to Christ Church, Oxford in 1837where he spent five years. The stay was not very comfortable as he did not like the rather suffocating environment of the University. After leaving the University he dedicated himself to writing. His first book came out anonymously under the title Modern Painters in 1843. By this time he had started contributing his articles to leading magazines of England.
Ruskin married Euphemia Chalmera Gray in 1848. This marriage was not happy and ultimately they divorced each other in 1853.In 1853, Ruskin started his career as an Art Lecturer.
In 1857, he delivered some Lecturers on Political Economy at Manchester. He became increasingly interested in social reforms and economic problems of the contemporary world. During the sixties Ruskin published a number of books in which he propounded his advanced theories on political economy.
He was offered Professorship of Poetry at Oxford, which he decided to decline. However, in 1869, he accepted the post of State Professorship of Art. Ruskin’s interest in social reform is also shown in his popular work Seasome and Lilies (1865), and The Crown of the Wild Olive (1866). In 1885 Ruskin began Praeterita, his autobiography, but he could not complete it. Bad health clouded his later years and obscured his fine genius. He died on 20th Jannuary, 1900 and was buried at Coniston. Indeed, Ruskin was a great thinker, a social reformer and an artist, the match of which is hard to find in the history of England.