Is there a core of ideas, practices and institutions that provide a bedrock for our current civilisation? Most of us would perhaps optimistically say yes, and even agree broadly on what they are. We would say tolerance; largely an invention of the 18th century. Then rationality and the scientific method; also, largely from the 17th and 18th centuries, but with a link back to ancient Greece. We would probably say “the rule of law”, which derives from the ancient world and the Middle Ages. We would surely too say “democracy”, although only a 19th and even 20th-century development, with distant links to the Greek and Roman republics. We would also say “equality”, or at least some notion of equality before the law, or equality of opportunity as an ideal: that too goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. We would probably also say things like rights, justice, fairness, which we could trace back to the Middle Ages and to documents such as Magna Carta. And deep in the foundations are Judeo-Christian principles - charity, love, peace, justice, forgiveness.
Of course, these are the ideals, which we all hope to aspire to in practice. But very few of them could we openly reject, and those who have rejected them (we might think of the Bolsheviks and the Nazis) only ever had a short, although catastrophic, influence on history.
John Ruskin – a man of the Victorian era whose knowledge and appreciation of arts, sociology, economics, architecture, religion and humanity were so advanced and pioneering at the time that one can only describe him as a visionary with hindsight. The other extraordinary artefact to his story is that of his marital life with wife Effie Gray - which seems to intrigue to say the least or cast shadows about his sexuality coupled with the prevailing Victorian Dogma and morality at the time. On the bicentenary of his birth (1819-2019) writer Daisy Dunn revisits some of the contradictions of the man whose followers included some visionaries of our own century Charlotte Bronte, Mahatma Gandhi, Tolstoy et al .
John and Effie were very much like chalk and cheese – the former extremely introverted and the latter an extrovert to the last degree. What sparked this study apart from his extraordinary vision and sense of purpose was that John and Effie married for six years and did not at all consummate the marriage. The marriage was subsequently annulled. John attempted but did not marry again and ended as a bachelor without a heir. Effie on the other hand, fuelling more mystic to the over loaded conundrum ended up marrying John Everett Millais, a friend, student and former pupil of John Ruskin. They had eight children.
Their trials and tribulations together with some intriguing anecdotes have left us with a history to ponder about. During his era, there was a strong religious drive for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodists, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. Concurrently, Britain embarked on global imperial expansions, particularly in Asia and Africa, which made the British Empire the largest empire in history. National self-confidence peaked.
Fabian N. Ukaegbu was born in Eastern Nigeria. He received his basic education there before travelling to the United Kingdom for further education. He qualified in Marketing, Management, Accountancy and International Relations/Diplomacy. He worked for six and the half years as a Consular Officer in the Nigeria High Commission in London and has worked also as a finance officer for 14 years with the London Borough of Hackney.
He is a prolific writer as indicated by the titles below
His Other Titles Include-