The first letter from Ruskin to Rawdon Brown is dated December 23rd and preceded by a brief note. The references to the ‘quaint and precious things between the Rialto and Fondaco de’ Turchi’ relate so closely to Notebook M p.102 that 1849 seems the correct date, and that date seems to be confirmed by the tone of the letter which suggests the early stages of a relationship. It is not, however, the date implied by its place in the sequence of the Cavendish-Bentinck collection (BL Add. 36304).
My wife says you named 5, tomorrow evening - if nothing comes in the way, we shall then expect you. Our best thanks for the pleasure of once more reading the Italy - and with additional marginal notes -
My Dear Sir
I fear it is a little too cold to have much chance of favourable weather for the excursion to Lido tomorrow - Effie thinks also that it will be well to avoid any fatigue until the evening - when we shall hope to see you - at any hour consonant with your Principles - I like the person you sent me exceedingly - he is to go to Lorenzi tomorrow - and I shall pay him a visit in the course of the day - the first day that is too cold for me to draw in; I shall claim your provision of a ramble with me; - as long as by any possibility I can stand to it - I have plenty to do & I found some quaint and precious things between the Rialto and the Fondaco de’ Turchi, which I have been longing for a look at for the last fortnight - a palace with the evangelists between windows - and another with a chessboard. I wonder if they anyway connected with the great Ferrara family?
Yours very faithfully,
The other is dated 21st September, kept before the letter transcribed above in the Cavendish-Bentinck collection, but from its content likely to be after it:
Denmark Hill 21st Sept.
Dear Mr Brown
I wrote to you a day or two ago - but I hardly know if Effie has yet sent my letter - and two things have just cropped up that I need Vasons help in quickly: please tell him he need not worry about the Porta di Ferro, but I want as soon as possible a very slight profile - merely a line - of the base of a fragment of house at the Ponte St Cristoforo - Calle Barbaro, near Salute - it is unfinished has an angle like this, and a base with roses in medallions, huge, [DIAGRAM 1]
Something like this and the roses in space a.b. but I want the profile rather accurately, and one of the roses drawn lightly.
Also: as well as the profile of the way they fill a.b., and the height from a to the high water mark.
[DIAGRAM 2] let A here at the side be the northernmost of the five porches of St. Marks - now St. Mark’s has two bases - one a low seat on which the people are always lying - the other a white higher one, carrying the pillars - now let the shaded part here be the lower base: I want the breadth of it at a.b.c. to the bottom of the one that carries the shafts - by my measurements it ought to be much narrower at c. than at a. or b. and this seems to me so odd that I want it confirmed. and also. I want the measurement c. in the same place at the side of the central porch and to know if the shaft d. is hexagonal or octagonal - I have it hexagonal but I find it ocatagonal in Knenty’s plan.
Vason may be sure which plinth I mean - because it fills up the northern porches altogether, diamonded with red and white - I sincerely beg your pardon for giving you this trouble. Vason must tell me what he ought to have for these things - and I will give it him - I am much tired tonight and can write no more - but am affectionately yours
An indication of the content of the diagrams in the text of the second letter is given below:
To the left Ruskin wrote vertically ‘Piazzetta da Leoni’.
Underneath he wrote Front of St. Mark’s
[Version 0.05: May 2008]