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“Travels with Van”

Two decades on the Ruskin Road with Van Akin Burd,

the World’s Greatest Ruskin Scholar


Talk by Jim Spates

Professor of Sociology, Emeritus

Hobart and William Smith Colleges


Thursday 22nd September 2016


By the time I met him in 1995, Van Akin Burd was already regarded as the greatest Ruskin scholar. His books, The Winnington Letters of John Ruskin, The Ruskin Family Letters, John Ruskin and Rose La Touche, and Christmas Story: John Ruskin’s Venetian Letters of 1876-77, were all celebrated as classics.  Though I had gone to see him for another purpose, I learned from Van that, for complex reasons, Ruskin’s life-story had been badly botched and, indeed, in significant respects, had been bowdlerized by the inheritors of his literary estate.  As a     result, Van said, all the biographies of Ruskin were frequently in serious error, creating  negative impressions of their great subject which, when all the evidence was considered, were simply not true. I determined to do what I could to rectify the situation. And so     began an intense, twenty years long friendship (Van died at 101 in 2015), during which, as we worked toward one “Ruskin righting” or another, we travelled – at various times – across America, to Venice, Scotland, and, many times, to England. As we went, we not only worked to complete the research needed to “solve” the different Ruskin problems we had chosen,  we met many wonderful people. By all, Van was universally admired as the living epitome of that ancient, noble status, “a gentleman and a scholar.”

This liberally illustrated talk has two goals: To provide a personal record of this wonderful friendship and, simultaneously, serve as a testimonial to the incredible work and legacy of the most important Ruskin scholar of the past (and much of the early part of the present!) century.


Talk starts at 7.00pm

Tickets £5.00 (£4.50 FoB)

(includes glass of wine on arrival)

Booking Recommended


Pre-dinner meals can be booked at the Brantwood Café






Brantwood is an independent registered charity - The Brantwood Trust Coniston Cumbria LA21 8AD Telephone: 015394 41396 Fax: 015394 41263