Ruskin, early decorated, luxurious Ruskin, complete with crockets and crenellations is I am convinced, a model which all those of us who are learning to write should study, imitate, and learn to love. I say this despite the fact that in doing so I shall find that, amongst teacher of English eyebrows will be raised, lips will probably be pursed and a variety of clucking noises will be clearly audible. 'What', you will say: 'is that gold and purple prose that cloying sweetness of language to be considered wholesome fare for the young? We live in the late Twentieth Century and what style could possibly be less appropriate for us than that of the eighteen forties? The suggestion is absurd, it is as though some girder-bending, concrete-mixing, polyvinylurinated art student were told to copy Bernini.'
This of course is just what such an art student ought to do (and is saying this I am looking straight at you Jane Doe and at you, Richard Roe, both of you now majoring in creative writing at the University of Labrador). Ruskin can help you, he cannot harm you. The authors who can do you a mischief are those whom you would naturally admire, those whose writings 'make sense' within the context of your own age, those who are still new and smart and popular and 'relevant'. These you copy at your peril for they are saying the kind of things that you want to say, in using their phrases you may be cozened into believing that they are your own, their style is so close to yours that yours may become infected by theirs. Then indeed you may grow into a sedulous ape, a wind bag blown tight with the stale phrases of other people and then indeed you will be damned.