Brantwood: The Story of an Obsession

P. Hoyle, Author Carcanet Press, $0 (152p) ISBN 978-0-85635-637-7
Like Hamlet's father, the ghost of John Ruskin that this elegant psychological study seeks to summon waits a long time in the wings. But his presence brushes every page of the diary written by the narrator, a young man who, beginning in 1929, interviews everyone connected with the great man during the last, mad decade of his life. The fledgling biographer pursues his subject on the paths near Ruskin's home in the Lake District and makes a trip to Venice to stand, like Ruskin, in the Bell Tower of St. Mark's. The glimpses the young man is given, though unspecific and sometimes conflicting, coalesce into a picture of an erstwhile literary lion now enfeebled, intellectually and creatively dead. On the lawn of Brantwood, Ruskin's house, the narrator catches sight of a heavy, silent, bearded old man whom he gradually equates with Ruskin. Finally, the young man is sent to a sanatorium, where his fancies are played out; when he is discharged, he takes a drab job in a drab city, his literary life ended. Just as others, awed by Ruskin in his prime and intimidated by the bogeyman he became, created a phantom that masqueraded as the man, so his would-be biographer creates Ruskin out of the phantom his obsessed imagination has produced. (September 26)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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