Ruskin, John James (1785-1864). Born in Edinburgh, father of John Ruskin and son of John Thomas Ruskin (1761-1817), a ‘merchant of Edinburgh’ and Catherine Tweedale (1763-1817). John Thomas Ruskin was born in London and had travelled north to Scotland where he established a small grocer’s business. Catherine Tweedale was from a land-owning family and married John Thomas at the age of sixteen. In 1875, following his mother’s receipt of a legacy, the young John James Ruskin was able to enter the Royal High School at Edinburgh, run by the rector Dr Alexander Adam. He also received some art lessons from Alexander Naysmyth. Originally wishing to train as a lawyer, he left Edinburgh for London in order to begin a mercantile career. John James came to know his future wife Margaret Cock, (later change toCox) who had travelled in the opposite direction from Croydon to Scotland to work within the Ruskin household as helper and companion to Catherine. Margaret was the daughter of John Thomas’s sister Mary and an innkeeper William Cock (1754-1787) and therefore the cousin of John James Ruskin. In 1808 John James and Margaret became engaged, an engagement which lasted eight years. During his time in London John James rose to become head clerk of the firm of wine importers, ‘Gordon, Murphy and Co’, and eventually made a large fortune through the setting-up of his own firm of ‘Ruskin, Telford and Domecq’. In 1817 after a long period of financial difficulty and poor mental health, John Thomas Ruskin committed suicide, and John James and Margaret were married in Perth three months later. John James spent the next ten years paying off his father’s debts whilst building the foundation of his own successful business. They did however, move into their own house at 54 Hunter Street, Brunswick Square where their son John Ruskin was born on 8th February 1819. John James was to have a powerful influence upon the life of his son through his total commitment to his welfare, which was not always appreciated by his son. When he died on 3th March 1864 age 78, he left his son £120,000, a number of properties and around £10,000 in the value of his art collection. He left his wife £37,000 and the large family home on Denmark Hill. Ruskin wrote the epitaph for his father’s tomb:
Here rests from day’s well-sustained burden,
JOHN JAMES RUSKIN,
he was an entirely honest merchant
and his memory is, to all who keep it, dear and helpful.
His son, whom he loved to the uttermost
and taught to speak truth, says this of him (Works, 17.lxxvii [n/a])
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