N contrast to many other nineteenth-century critics, Ruskin does not oppose allegory and symbolism to each other, for he holds that allegory, an imaginative mode, forms one kind of symbolism and not a lesser replacement for it. Not unexpectedly, his conceptions of allegory and allegorical art enable him to read painting, poetry, and architecture composed in this mode more sensitively than most of his contemporaries. In addition, Ruskin allegorizes not only art but natural phenomena as well — not only Dante, Spenser, and Giotto but also the facts of geology and meteorology. Like his theories of beauty, his interpretative methods partake of a larger vision of an orderly universe in which God has ordained that all phenomena bear moral and religious valences. As Mircea Eliade has pointed out in The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, "the completely profane world, the wholly desacralized cosmos, is a recent discovery in the history of the human spirit" (trans. Willard R., Trask, N.Y., 1959, 13). Ruskin, we must observe, had not yet made that discovery, and although many men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had long accepted what has come to be the modern view of the universe, the universe emptied of the spirit of God, he did not. In fact, for all Ruskin's interest in scientific geology, he still existed within a conception of the world more congenial in many ways to the Middle Ages than to the age of Queen Victoria.
Believing that God intended natural phenomena, the rock, the tree, and the cloud, to bear moral meanings, Ruskin reads them in a manner that makes parts of Modern Painters much resemble earlier physico-theologies. In the fourth volume, for example, he remarks that "there is one lesson evidently intended to be taught by the different characters" (6.132) of the rocks which form the earth and its mountains:
It can hardly be necessary to point out how these natural ordinances seem intended to teach us the great truths which are the basis of all political science; how the polishing friction which separates, the affection that binds, and the affliction that fuses and confirms, are accurately symbolized by the processes to which the several ranks of hills appear to owe their present aspect; and how, even if the knowledge of those processes be denied to us, that present aspect may in itself seem no imperfect image of the various states of mankind: first, that which is powerless through total disorganization; secondly, that which, though united, and in some degree powerful, is yet incapable of great effort or result, owing to the too great similarity and confusion of offices, both in ranks and individuals; and finally, the perfect state of brotherhood and strength in which each character is clearly distinguished, separately perfected, and employed in its proper place and office. (6.132-133)
Ruskin, like the Physiologus, conceives himself living in an allegorical universe in which natural fact reverberates with further meanings. Unlike the eighteenth-century divines, Ruskin is not primarily interested in argument from analogy. He concerns himself more with allegory, reading "Nature-scripture" (6.191) as he had been taught to read God's written Word — in terms of type and shadow. In his treatise On Christian Doctrine St. Augustine writes that the world divides between things and signs, and only in the world of the Bible can one take things as signs, rocks and mountains for bearers of meaning. By turning this earth into scripture, "Nature-scripture," Ruskin finds himself able to interpret "the ordinances of the hills" (6.117). The faith of some would move mountains; Ruskin prefers to read them, and just as he finds the laws of politics and morality embodied in the crystalline rocks, he finds in the sky an "ordinance of the firmament" that states the presence of God to all men: "God means us to acknowledge His own immediate presence as visiting, judging, and blessing us" (6.113). Ruskin does take into account the argument from design and from analogy, but he concerns himself far more with explicating the meaning of the world in which we find ourselves. Thus, Ruskin explains that the "conditions of mountain structure" have been invariably "calculated for the delight, the advantage, or the teaching of men; prepared, it seems, so as to contain . . . some beneficence of gift, or profoundness of counsel" (6.385). In short, God has constructed the mountains and the seas, the forests and the plains, for man: they offer sustenance for the body, beauty for the soul, and instruction for the mind. Nature-scripture, then, was "written" the way Augustine, Dante, and other men of the Middle Ages believe the Bible to have been: with a literal sense that upon inspection revealed further, deeper, richer significance.
Ruskin also conceives the laws of human life to be similarly founded so that principles can be read for significance. The Seven Lamps of Architecture thus explains that "there is no branch of human work whose constant laws have not close analogy with those which govern every other mode of man's exertion. But, more than this, exactly as we reduce to greater simplicity and surety any one group of these practical laws, we shall find them passing the mere condition of connection or analogy, and becoming the actual expression of some ultimate nerve or fibre of the mighty laws which govern the moral world" (8.22). Whenever Ruskin can choose between analogy and allegory, he chooses allegory, as he has done here.
Realizing that "to the minds of many persons nothing bears a greater appearance of presumption than any attempt at reasoning respecting the purposes of Divine Being," Ruskin argued in a footnote against the notion that "the modesty of humanity" should limit its inquiries to "the ascertaining of physical causes": "Wisdom can only be demonstrated in its ends, and goodness only perceived in its motives. He who in a morbid modesty supposes that he is incapable of apprehending any of the purposes of God, renders himself also incapable of witnessing His wisdom" (6.134n). Few ever accused Ruskin of morbid modesty, to be sure, and even when his conventional faith had disappeared the impulse to interpret the world to others and to convert them to his vision remained.
Long after Ruskin had both lost his Evangelical faith and then returned to his own version of Christianity, he added a note to the fourth volume of Modern Painters that significantly altered his conception of these "natural ordinances." "I should have said now," he wrote in 1885, "rather than 'seem intended to teach us,' 'do, if we will consider them, teach us'" (6.132n). Having lost the faith which allowed him to allegorize the world, he now becomes willing to use natural phenomena for examples and analogies. But it was his early views which formed his readings of art, life, and nature, and to them we must turn to perceive the sources and reasoning of his interpretation.
In 1852 when Ruskin published the last volume of The Stones of Venice, he was aware that he stood alone, like a prophet, in a vision of things not shared by many; and yet he expressed hope:
that someday the language of Types will be more read and understood by us than it has been for centuries; and when this language, a better one than either Greek or Latin, is again recognised amongst us, we shall find, or remember, that as the other visible elements of the universe — its air, its water, and its flame — set forth, in their pure energies, the lifegiving, purifying, and sanctifying influences of the Deity upon His creatures, so the earth, in its purity, sets forth His eternity and His TRUTH. I have dwelt above on the historical language of stones; let us not forget this, which is their theological language. (11.41)
Ruskin's use of the word "type" here and elsewhere throughout his writings indicates his debt to Evangelical Anglican readings of scripture. Although he has obviously extended the meaning of the term beyond its chief exegetical use as "forerunner of Christ," one must examine Evangelical methods of reading the Bible to understand the habits of mind which shape his criticism, his conception of the world, and his theories of art.
As a young child Ruskin, like all Evangelicals, learned that daily Bible reading, the duty of every worshipper, had to be a search for Christ. The famous tracts of Bishop Ryle, which Ruskin later recommended to others, characteristically advised the reader:
Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify of Jesus. Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges and deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament history shows the world's need of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ's sufferings, and Christ's glory yet to come. (Startling Questions, 247-248.).
Bible reading had to be a meditation on the types of Christ, but the believer did not read his Bible figurally to authenticate Jesus Christ as the true Savior of man, for the devout reader was already convinced of this truth. Instead, he read the Bible as a means of discovering and meditating upon the universal role of Christ's coming in human history. The Evangelical was supposed to read continually to perceive foreshadowings of Christ, to feel wonder at the universal beauty of God's plan, and to exercise his intellect in the service of his own soul's salvation. Bible reading was to be not only devotional exercise, unraveling of the greatest of all puzzles, but also the aesthetic appreciation of divine order.
These attitudes toward studying scripture, which Ruskin learned as a child, recall similar attitudes underlying medieval and Renaissance allegorical imagery. According to Rosemond Tuve, "Men do not weary of meeting, especially in interesting disguise, ideas and beliefs that they hold with real firmness. We shall have little sympathetic understanding of this mediaeval and Renaissance taste in imagery unless we can conceive of readers who thought deliverance from hell to heaven was extraordinarily interesting good news" (Allegorical Imagery: Some Mediaeval Books and Their Posterity, Princeton, 1966, 331). Richard D. Altick's The English Common Reader , Chicago, 1963, 121-122, also points out that editors and authors of religious tracts and periodicals tried to provide the excitement of prohibited works of fiction. The sermon satisfied another intellectual taste in an acceptable form. We can have little feeling for the fusion of aesthetic, intellectual, and spiritual concerns that prompted both Victorian preachers and congregations to look forward with pleasure to two long sermons every Sunday, unless we conceive of the Evangelical love of discovering evidences of Christ. Since Ruskin learned his habits of reading in such a milieu, it is not surprising that when he later transferred religious exegetics to secular works, he maintained a similar fusion of apparently diverse attitudes.
Although the Evangelicals and other groups, such as the Baptists and Presbyterians who shared their methods, made full use of tracts and biblical commentaries, they considered preaching the most effective weapon of the elect; and consequently it is in sermons that we find the most important use of biblical types. While still a young child Ruskin had learned from sermons the correct way to search the Bible for types and shadows of Christ, and the degree to which typological exegetics had become a commonplace to him appears in one of the Letters Addressed to a College Friend, which Ruskin wrote to the Reverend Edward Clayton in 1843: "To-day being the first Sunday of the month, Mr. Melville [sic] preached at the Tower, and his curate gave us a sermon on 'Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins,' etc. 'Now,' thought I, when he began, 'I know what you're going to say about that; you'll say that the beasts were sacrificed, and that the skins were typical of the robe of Christ's righteousness"'(1.490). He could thus anticipate the curate in such a superior manner because the sermons of Melvill and other preachers, particularly the Reverend E. Andrews of Beresford Chapel, Walsworth, had long before instructed him in the practice of typological readings of scripture. When Ruskin was only nine years old he made elaborate summaries of sermons, probably those of Andrews, which demonstrate the theological and exegetical sophistication which he had attained by 1828.17 In Sermon X, "The law of sacrifice," Ruskin makes use of the characteristic Evangelical application of figural reading to Leviticus. This third book of the Pentateuch, which sets forth the Judaic ceremonies of sacrifice used before the destruction of the Temple, apparently had little to offer the Christian reader, since it details the outmoded rules of an abrogated law. Ruskin, explaining that he will "follow up the law of the shadow of sacrifice to its substance Christ," points to the difficulties created by Levitical ceremonies when he mentions "the beginning of the 10th chapter, of Hebrews where it is said that the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of these things, can never make the comers thereunto perfect, & it goes on to say that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. Now, if it is impossible, that blood can take away sin, can we suppose that these momentous ordinances, were only for show, for ceremony[?] Can God institute anything of no moral worth[?]" Such apparent irrelevance would have created great difficulties for Evangelical belief, which held not only that God had directly inspired every word of the Bible but also that each of its parts bore equal value. Since they did not accept an evolutionary theory of scripture, they found themselves forced to make the best of this unpromising material, and their universal solution was that God had instituted Levitical sacrifices as types to prefigure Christ's sacrifice: "As the law threw forward a shadow to another economy these sacrifices must be to intimate[?] that sacrifice is necessary in the other economy and sacrifice, which shall be capable of taking away all sin. Now . . . in the Gospel this sacrifice of animals is done away with, and yet we know that we must have sacrifices of some sort[;] we are shut up to the death of Christ as the very essence of atonement. The law[s] of sacrifices derive their value only because they referred to the Gospel and if this be correct, the view which [we] have taken of them, must be referred to Christ. . . . As the law is a shadow of good things to come and as sacrifice is the foundation of the law[,] we have a striking proof of the efficacy of the atonement of Christ." In the next sermon, "Sacrifices of the old law," Ruskin again makes use of the usually circular argument from types. After stating that ceremonial law "was to shadow forth the future sacrifice of Christ," he adds "[I]f these were not shadow[s] of this great sacrifice, they were trivial ceremonial forms and unworthy of the being who appointed them." Such clearly could not be the case.
Ruskin here follows a very common Evangelical authentication of types. Ryle, for example, arguing from the assumption that God had written the Bible with types and shadows, uses this principle to attack the Socinians who believed that Christ was mortal. Their belief, he held, strikes
at the root of the whole plan of salvation which God has revealed in the Bible, and . . . [would] nullify the greater part of the Scriptures. It overthrows the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and strips him of His office. It converts the whole system of the law of Moses touching sacrifices and ordinances, into a meaningless form. . . . It turns man adrift on a sea of uncertainty, by plucking from under him the finished work of a divine mediator" ("Living or Dead," 239-240).
In other words, if Christ were not divine, God could not and would not have instituted types; and if God had not instituted types, the Bible would have become all too frequently the record of "meaningless form." The Evangelicals perceived themselves living in a universe of divinely instituted order of which the Bible was the key; and types, which reveal a consistent principle in the Bible, the principle of Christ, create order and meaning in the Bible.
In addition to the fact that these childhood sermon records demonstrate Ruskin's early acquaintance with the usual Evangelical applications of typology, they gain further interest because the ideas he draws upon when he was nine years old appear again twenty years later in The Seven Lamps of Architecture. In his first chapter, "The Lamp of Sacrifice," he asks "the broad question, Can the Deity be indeed honoured by the presentation to Him of any material objects of value. . . ?" (8.31) Summoning the tone, vocabulary, and arguments of an Evangelical preacher, Ruskin examines the nature of sacrifice in the Bible, coming to the conclusion that this second question "admits of entire answer only when we have met another and far different question, whether the Bible be indeed one book or two, and whether the character of God revealed in the Old Testament be other than His character revealed in the New" (8.32). Drawing upon the theory of types, Ruskin argues that since the same principle — salvation by Christ — unites Old and New Testaments, "God is one and the same, and is pleased or displeased by the same things for ever, although one part of His pleasure may be expressed at one time rather than another, and although the mode in which His pleasure is to be consulted may be by Him graciously modified to the circumstances of men. Thus, for instance, it was necessary that, in order to the understanding by man of the scheme of the Redemption, that scheme should be foreshown from the beginning by the type of bloody sacrifice" (8.32). Ruskin so emphasizes the notion of the figural significance of ceremonial law that he holds "God had no more pleasure in such sacrifice in the time of Moses than He has now; He never accepted, as a propitiation for sin, any sacrifice but the single one in prospective" (8.32-33). Arguing that it was not "necessary to the completeness, as a type, of the Levitical sacrifice, or to its utility as an explanation of divine purposes, that it should cost anything," since the sacrifice it prefigured "was to be God's free gift" (8.33), he concludes that "costliness, therefore, must be an acceptable condition in all human offerings at all times" (8.33-34). Hence Ruskin, using Evangelical method and manner, can convince Evangelicals to build costly Gothic houses of worship. He directed The Seven Lamps of Architecture at his English Protestant audience which, he knew, would not accept Gothic architecture as long as it seemed a Roman Catholic style. Ever a polemical writer, he adapts himself to his readers, wielding the phrases of the preacher and the evidence of scripture, to convince them that an Evangelical reading of the Bible demanded sacrifice.
"The Lamp of Sacrifice" shows how thoroughly typology had permeated Ruskin's habits of thought. But although his Evangelical habits of scriptural interpretation thus enabled him on occasion to conduct arguments that would appeal to an Evangelical reader, the major effects of these modes of reading appear in his art and literary criticism. In order to gain a sense of the exegetical procedures that so impressed themselves upon Ruskin's thought, we would do well to examine the sermons of Henry Melvill, Ruskin's favorite preacher. This preacher's gracefully written sermons, to which Ruskin paid such close attention, frequently take the form of elaborate revelations and explanations of typical resemblances. Like many other Evangelicals, he believed that the presence of types in the Bible is its distinguishing characteristic. Consequently, he warns his listeners: "If we fail to search the scriptural narratives for lessons and types, it is evident that we shall practically take away from a great part of the Bible its distinctive character as a record of spiritual truth" ("Well of Bethlehem," Sermons, London, 1843, 170). Melvill's sermons are of particular interest to a student of Ruskin's criticism not only because he makes sophisticated use of figuralism, but also because in the course of elaborating Christ's types and shadows he provides rules for the applications of typology.
One of his sermons, "The Death of Moses," which was delivered sometime between 1836 and 1843, provides a good example of his methods. Speaking on Deuteronomy XXII:48-so, in which God orders Moses to leave his people before they entered Canaan, Melvill asks why Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. The preacher carefully sets his listeners within the narrative, reminding them of Moses's past actions, the wanderings in the wilderness, the beauties via the angels, "the figure . . . scarcely seems distinguished by the aptness and force which are always characteristic of scriptural imagery" (Sermons, 1838, 11). Finally, since every part of God's dealings with man "is generally significative, and none can be shown to have been superfluous," we must search farther. Melvill concludes that the ladder typically signifies Christ, for Christ is both man's way to heaven and man's way of communicating with God, and he substantiates his traditional interpretation by the usual reference, made by Simeon and others, to John I:51 where Christ says to Nathaniel, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." Therefore, another principle of typological exegetics is that Christ's (or in some cases Paul's) confirmation is final proof.
Returning to "the Death of Moses," we can now recognize the gravity of Moses's sin. When he struck the rock in Horeb on divine command, he did so because God wanted to make the rock typify Christ: "The circumstance of the rock yielding no water, until smitten by the rod of Moses, represented the important truth, that the Mediator must receive the blows of the law before he could be the source of salvation to a parched and perishing world" (Sermons, 1836, 163-64). By striking the rock a second time, Moses disrupted God's scheme, or would have done so had not God's later action allowed the preacher to realize the significance of Moses's action:
Having been once smitten, there is nothing needed, in any after dearth, but that this rock should be spoken to; prayer, if we may use the expression, will open the pierced side of the Lamb of God, and cause fresh flowings of that stream which is for the cleansing of the nations. Hence it would have been to violate the integrity and beauty of the type, that the rock should have been smitten again; it would have been to represent a necessity that Christ should be twice sacrificed, and thus to darken the whole Gospel scheme. (Sermons, 1836,165-166)
God punished Moses, then, in order to draw attention to his act, and thereby suggest another entry in the book of Christ's revelations.
Melvill next proceeds to examine the story once more, finding another reason, in a figural significance, why Moses could not enter Canaan. "You will all remember that Moses, though he must die before entering Canaan, was to rise, and appear in that land, ages before the general resurrection. When Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor, who were those shining forms that stood by him, and 'spake of the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem?' Who but Elias and Moses. . . ? . . . Moses was the representative of the myriads who shall rise from the grave; Elias, of those, who, found alive upon earth, shall be transformed without seeing death" (Sermons, 1836, 165-66). As part of the transfiguration, Moses then becomes part of a type which has not yet been fulfilled.
Melvill then returns once more to his original question, and for a third time finds an answer. Why has Moses not been allowed to complete his great work of deliverance? "Why, except that Moses was the representative of the law, and that the law of itself, can never lead us into heavenly places? The law is as 'a schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ [Gal. iii]" (185). Moses, then, as representative of the Jewish law, could not enter the Promised Land, because to have done so would have mistakenly suggested that the old dispensation could earn that salvation made possible only through Christ.
Something very interesting has happened here: by the recognition of this typical significance, Melvill seems to be saying that what the man Moses, as emblem, signifies is more important than what the man as agent does. One feels that no matter what the prophet had done, the burden of figural meaning, of reference beyond himself, would have prevented him from entering the land of milk and honey. According to a figural interpretation of history, such as we encounter here, the personages exist simultaneously on several planes and in separate worlds. First of all, there is Moses the human being, a man who has direct dealings with the Lord; he exists here in this life as we all do. Secondly, every one of his actions, like those of all men, has a moral meaning, for he exists in a moral universe; and because the prophet is more important than most men are or have been, each action is doubly significant, each action is emblematic of the actions of morality in human life. Thirdly, there is the fact that Moses exists as a part of the Gospel scheme which God created before — or perhaps outside — time. Furthermore, Moses exists in several different ways, or dimensions, within this typical structure that underlies or is intertwined with earthly history and time. Moses is, first of all, a figure of Christ, for like Christ he brings the law and guides his people; secondly, he, as a representative of the law, is the type of those who do not attain heaven, the Promised Land, because they do not have Christ; thirdly, he enforces another type, when, signifying the law, he strikes the rock, now a figure of Christ, thus showing that Christ must die by the law which he has come to replace; fourthly, by striking the rock a second time, he is again a type of those who will not reach heaven because they disobey God, because they hurt Christ by their sinning, and because they do not pray to Christ. What has happened is that while Moses is conceived as dwelling solidly within the world of physical fact, of the visible here and now, he is also seen to exist multivalently in a realm of sacred meaning.
What is most striking about this vision of history is that Melvill, unlike some earlier Evangelical preachers, does not hold that reading figural significances is primarily important as a meditational exercise. Instead, Melvill states that many types are as yet unfulfilled, that they await completion, that man, even man in the time of Queen Victoria, lives within a typologically structured universe. We have already seen that because Moses figures forth those who, at the resurrection, will rise from the grave, he takes part in a yet unfinished typological scheme that embraces the preacher's contemporaries. Melvill also holds that not only individual men, but even entire nations, must be seen as partaking in divine schemes whose fulfillment awaits the fullness of time. For example, the history of the Jews, who are to be regarded as "a typical people," shadows forth both the histories of the human race and the Christian church ("Seeking after Finding," Sermons, London, 1845, 159). This commonplace appears also in "The Resurrection of Dry Bones," Sermons (London, 1848), pp. 64-73. See, in addition, "The Dispersion and Restoration of the Jews," Sermons, New York, 1854, 1, 207-217. So also with those who have oppressed the Jews, for
from the first the enemies of God and his people which one age has produced, have served as types of those who will arise in the latter days of the world; and . . . the judgments by which they have been overtaken, have been so constructed as to figure the final vengeance on Antichrist and his followers. Hence it is that so many prophecies appear to require as well as to admit a double fulfilment: they could hardly delineate the type and not delineate also the antitype. ("Seeking after Finding," Sermons, 1845,156)
Types, as Melvill so well phrases it, are to be seen "spreading . . . over the whole of time, and giving outlines of the history of this world from the beginning to the final consummation" ("The First Prophecy," Sermons, London, 1833, 6). Thus, when he preaches upon the text of Zechariah X: 1, which directs that we should ask the Lord for rain in the time of latter rain, Melvill comments "that time must include the whole christian dispensation, and . . . must comprehend such days as our own" ("The Latter Rain," Sermons, London, 1843, 279). The preacher insists that his listeners still exist within biblical history, within prophetic and figural time.
That Ruskin, like his favorite preacher, finds himself living within sacral, figural time perhaps appears in those arguments which draw upon the typical laws in Leviticus to demonstrate the sacredness of color and the need for sacrifice in architecture. Here, however, he chiefly emphasizes, not that types have yet to be fulfilled, but that the truths contained in typical law remain valid. A far clearer indication that he accepts a figural conception of history occurs when The Stones of Venice uses the destinies of Tyre and Venice as types for nineteenth-century England. The opening pages of this work demonstrate forcibly that when he wrote it, he believed God structured time so that the events of the scriptural narrative would prefigure contemporary history.
Although Ruskin evidently shared with Melvill and other Evangelicals this sense of dwelling in figural time, his conception of the world as allegory plays a far more central role in his writings. Similarly, although he frequently makes skillful use of typology, as in his interpretations of Giotto, his uses of allegory are more important than his applications of figuralism. Both this allegorical conception of the world and his ideas of allegory in general derive from Evangelical typology, for despite the fact that members of this Church party, including " and Melvill, mention allegory with distaste and distrust. ", who quotes Swift's Tale of a Tub against forced allegorical interpretations of scripture, seems far more conservative than Melvill, though even he is usually quite skeptical of allegorization (as opposed to typological exegetics). Ironically, many preachers unknowingly practiced allegorization under another guise: the Evangelical Anglican penchant for elaborate figural interpretation frequently prompts nineteenth-century exegetes to move from typology to allegory, thus repeating a phenomenon familiar in the history of scriptural exposition. Whereas typology (or figuralism), which traces the connections between two unique events, stresses what an historian of exegetics has called a "similar situation," allegory, which interprets one thing as in reality signifying another, does not attempt to establish this unique situational parallel (Sources and bibliographical suggestions). Strictly speaking, Moses is not a type of Christ. Rather "Moses leading the children of God from Egyptian slavery into the Promised Land" acts as a type for "Christ leading men from spiritual slavery into the heavenly kingdom." Thus, although writers often sound as though one person or thing may foreshadow another, in fact situation and action are also required to have a true type. Another difference between figural and allegorical interpretation is that, whereas in typology one real, physically existing being or event represents another real, physically existing being or event, in allegory a thing may often represent a doctrine or abstract idea, such as grace, whose duration cannot be confined to one moment or one period in time. Thus, although both typological and allegorical interpretations are meta-historical, typology must work within human time, while allegory may often work outside of it. We can perceive this shift from typological to allegorical reading of the Bible in Melvill's sermons. For example, when he uses the traditional notion, found in Scott, Simeon, and others, that God's creation of the waters typified grace, he has in fact applied allegory and not typical symbolism; although one can perhaps argue that the physical creation of water figures forth countless individual acts of grace that have occurred and are yet to occur throughout history, this is not true "prefiguring," since the first event is linked not to one but to an infinite number of following events, and since the weakened connection between events is far less important than the fact that one thing, water, is seen to represent a theological doctrine. In other words, whereas a type focuses attention on both its historical existence and its meaning, an allegory places most importance on its significance. The difference between the two is often not very great, and therefore Evangelical attempts to perform intricate typological readings frequently lead the interpreter to shift unknowingly from type to allegorization.
Working within this Evangelical tradition of scriptural interpretation, Ruskin himself frequently extends the primary sense of type to include allegory and symbol. Nonetheless, however far he extends the original meaning of the term "type," his uses of it almost always bear overtones of that original meaning. For example, because typology assumes that on the narrative level there must be a real, historically existing person or thing, it places much greater emphasis upon the literal level than does allegory. Unlike most nineteenth-century critics, including Arnold, who believe that once the meanings of allegory make themselves clear the narrative tends to disappear like a useless husk, Ruskin places essentially equal emphasis upon both signifier and signified. The influence of typology appears in Ruskin's theory of typical beauty, which emphasizes both the formal elements of the beautiful and its deeper theological significance. Similarly, his theories of art formed under the influence of typology encourage him to maintain a balance between the formal elements of a painting, its aesthetic surface, and its complex significances. Thus, as we shall observe in a later section of this chapter, when he interprets the allegory of one of Turner's works, he tends to pay close attention both to form and iconography.
Although such a relation between typology and Ruskin's theories of allegory may explain why he rather unfashionably defended the values and procedures of allegorical art and literature, it presents us with another problem; namely, how in the first place could Ruskin and other Evangelicals have maintained a belief in typology, a belief that was obviously an anachronism by the Victorian age. The answer to the question how the Evangelicals could sustain this belief in a hostile intellectual environment lies in their belief, never officially accepted by the Church of England, that God had literally dictated the words of the Bible. This noncanonical doctrine of Verbal Inspiration created that conception of language fundamental to allegorical and typological readings of scripture. As Thomas P. Roche has pointed out in The Kindly Flame, his study of The Faerie Queene, "Allegorical reading (or more simply allegory) is a form of literary criticism with a metaphysical basis. It postulates a verbal universe at every point correspondent with the physical world in which we live, that is a Realistic view of language" (Princeton, 1964, 7). Allegory and allegorical interpretation both depend upon and implicitly create a Realistic view of language, a view which since the late seventeenth century has become increasingly difficult to accept. As long as men assumed that language had, corresponded to, or participated in essences, allegorical art and an allegorical reading of scripture were possible and perhaps inevitable. But after Hobbes and Locke referred language not to metaphysics but to psychology, a Realistic conception of language which provides the basis for allegory became largely untenable. Hobbes, who denied that words have essences, believed that language is merely the means "whereby men register their Thoughts" (Leviathan, NY, 1950, 22). Thus, there is no such thing as "an Universall; there being nothing in the world Universall but Names; for the things named, are every one of them Individuall and Singular" (23). Similarly, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke states that language functions as a sign for ideas within the speaker's mind that communicates these ideas to another person (ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser, NY, 1959, II, 3, 9-11). According to Locke, human convention, not participation in essences or correspondence to them, establishes meaning. Furthermore, because man has no access to any metaphysical existence, he therefore cannot define his words by reference to something that thus lies above or beyond him. Words are defined ultimately by reference to the speaker's mind. Once Hobbes and Locke moved the reality of language from metaphysics to psychology, from the external realm of forms to the internal realm of the mind, they simultaneously dissolved the linguistic foundations of allegory.
The Evangelical Anglicans did not maintain their Realistic conception of biblical language by consciously opposing Locke and his philosophical heirs, the Scottish empiricists such as Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart, and Adam Smith. Smith's Theory of the Moral Sentiments, in fact, received something very like official sanction when William "'s Practical Christianity (1797), cited it approvingly. But although the Evangelicals accepted empiricist philosophy, they were nonetheless able to read scripture figurally and allegorically, because they believed, as Melvill stated in "The Advantages Resulting from Possession of the Scriptures", that "The Bible is as actually a divine communication as though its words came to us in the voice of Almighty, mysteriously syllabled, and breathed from the firmament" (NY, 1854, I, 159.). This Evangelical doctrine that the Bible was literally the Word of God placed the scriptures in a special category unaffected by empiricist theories of language. For since God had dictated the words of scripture, these words, unlike any others, necessarily participated in a greater reality. In other words, the Evangelicals had accepted the Lockean notion that the context created by the mind of the speaker ultimately defines language, and then referred scriptural language to the eternal mind of God.
Only the conservatism of the Evangelical party, which insulated it for a time from the corrosive implications of contemporary historical and scientific speculation, enabled its members to maintain their noncanonical belief in Verbal Inspiration. Ruskin soon lost that belief, but not before his habits of reading had been formed. By the middle of the nineteenth century, when the great Evangelical preachers were perfecting their elaborate methods of figural and allegorical interpretation, the combined forces of natural science, biblical criticism, and comparative philology were already clearly demonstrating that the Bible could not be literally true. (See Vernon F. Storr, The Development of English Theology in the Nineteenth Century, 1800-1833, London, 1894, 175-176.). Geology, Ruskin's favorite science, had shown that scriptural accounts of the physical world, particularly the age of the earth, could not be correct, while biblical studies emanating from Germany demonstrated that the Bible was not a homogenous document, but one which had evolved throughout a long history. (See Francis C. Haber, The Age of the World, Moses to Darwin, Baltimore, 1959). Both Colenso's work and Essays and Reviews were two of many factors that increasingly undermined Evangelical doctrine. Comparative philology, which revealed that Hebrew was not, as most Evangelicals believed, unique and set apart from other languages, further eroded the doctrine that the Bible was the Word of God. Their belief in Verbal Inspiration had enabled the Evangelicals to interpret the Bible figurally and allegorically long after the general linguistic basis of such interpretation disappeared, but once the corrosive forces of historical and scientific scholarship undermined Evangelical belief in Verbal Inspiration, it became apparent even to many of the Evangelical party that typology and allegory could not be used to interpret scripture. Thus, at the very time that Melvill and other Evangelical clergymen most closely paralleled medieval exegesis, the intellectual climate of the nineteenth century was beginning to wear away fundamental doctrines of the Evangelical party. In the second half of the nineteenth century this segment of the Anglican Church lost power, as Englishmen turned increasingly either to less conservative parties in the Church or to unbelief. Having already observed the way Ruskin's own faith gradually changed, vanished, and returned in a new form, it now remains for us to examine other sources of typological interpretation that he had encountered as a boy and young man.
Last modified 26 July 2005