To call Praeterita an autobiography is to tell only part of the truth. A book like no other, by oneof the greatest masters of English prose., it is less a narrative than the prismatic sotry of an extraordinary mind and a passionate heart told in terms of the author's aesthetic education. Ruskin was not merely the most important anglophone art critic and social commentator of the late nineteenth century: for his admirers - who included Proust - he was a Tolstoyan figure with the magic of an artist and the moral authority of a sage. Yet above all he was loved as a personality by friends and readers alilke, and it is the individual human qualitites which shine through the mercurial pages of Praeterita
Timothy Hilton, a former art critic for the Guardian and the Independent on Sunday, is the author of a two-volume biography of John Ruskin (Yale, 1985, 2000). Other works include The Pre-Raphaelites and Picasso.