A Message from 18th Century for Brexiters

Anna Laetitia Barbould

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 1743 – 1825

Anna Laetitia Barbauld, was a remarkable woman who wrote, poetry, essays and text books for children as well as writing pamphlets on serious social and political issues of the day. She was highly critical of the war between England and France. She predicted that England would not maintain its position of dominance in the world, a very unpopular view which resulted in her rejection by the establishment and abandonment by many literary friends who were initially great admirers of her writing.

This extract from Juvenalia seems very apt to the present day and the madness that is Brexit. Here she warns against the unheeded dangers of Britain ignoring the consequences that would follow its continued animosity with France.

“And think’st thou, Britain, still to sit at ease,
An island Queen amidst thy subject seas,
While the vext billows, in their distant roar,
But soothe thy slumbers, and but kiss thy shore?
To sport in wars, while danger keeps aloof,
Thy grassy turf unbruised by hostile hoof?
So sing thy flatterers; but, Britain, know,
Thou who hast shared the guilt must share the woe.
Nor distant is the hour; low murmurs spread,
And whispered fears, creating what they dread;
Ruin, as with an earthquake shock, is here”

John Ruskin

Of King’s Treasuries

John Ruskin 1819 - 1900

Neither does a great nation send its poor little boys to jail for stealing six walnuts; and allow its bankrupts to steal their hundreds of thousands with a bow, and its bankers, rich with poor men’s savings, to close their doors ‘under circumstances over which they have no control,’ with a ‘by your leave;’ and large landed estates to be bought by men who have made their money by … altering the common highwayman’s demand ‘your money or your life’ into ‘your money and your life.’

Sesame and Lilies
John Ruskin 1864

This extract from a lecture by John Ruskin in Manchester in 1864 has an uncanny resonance with the incredible revelations concerning our own dispicable bankers, specualtors and money men. In his lecture Ruskin was making a case for a nation investing in Libraries, Art Galleries, Museums, Gardens and places of rest.  These would be ‘accessible to all clean and orderly persons at all times of the day or evening’ and free of charge.

… it is…better to build a beautiful human creature than a beautiful dome or steeple,” he concludes.

Do we have a modern day John Ruskin and who is he or she.