Although there is no evidence that he read Burnet, we may point out in passing that John Ruskin himself was not only concerned with the kind of approach to nature that Burnet had made important but also that in the fourth volume of Modern Painters he frequently dwells on the possibility that the earth is a ruin of a once greater and more perfect beauty. At one point in the fourth volume, which purports to be about mountain beauty but which often verges on a physico-theology, Ruskin asks:
From what first created forms were the mountains brought into their present condition? . . . The present conformation of the earth appears dictated, as has been shown in the preceding chapters, by supreme wisdom and kindness. And yet its former state must have been different from what it is now; as its present one from that which it must assume hereafter. Is this, therefore, the earth's prime into which we are born: or is it, with all its beauty, only the wreck of Paradise?" [6.177]
In addition to an interest, similar to Burnet's, in a now vanished state of the earth, Ruskin also parallels his predecessor when he creates "appalling" images of nature in ruins:
There are many spots among the inferior ridges of the Alps, such as the Col de Ferret, the Col d'Anterne, and the associated ranges of the Buet, which, though commanding prospects of great nobleness, are themselves very nearly types of all that is most painful to the human mind vast wastes of mountain ground, covered here and there with dull grey grass or moss, but breaking continually into black banks of shattered slate, all glistening and sodden with slow tricklings of clogged, incapable streams; the snow water oozing through them in a cold sweat, and spreading itself in creeping stains among their dust; ever and anon a shaking here and there, and a handful or two of their particles or flakes trembling down, one sees not why, into more total dissolution; leaving a few jagged teeth, like the edges of knives eaten away by vinegar, projecting through the half-dislodged mass from the inner rock, keen enough to cut the hand or foot that rests on them, yet crumbling as they wound, and soon sinking again into the smooth, slippery, glutinous heap, looking like a beach of black scales of dead fish, cast ashore from a poisonous sea; and sloping away into the foul ravines, branched down immeasurable slopes of barrenness, w here the winds howl and wander continually, and the snow lies in wasted and sorrowful fields, covered with sooty dust, that collects in streaks and stains at the bottom of all its thawing ripples, I know no other scenes so appalling as these in storm, or so woful in sunshine" [Modern Painters, 6.158-159].
Last modified 1988