John Ruskin was a Victorian English polymath, art critic, writer, painter, geologist, proto-environmentalist and utopian socialist activist. He is best known for his concept of the 'Pathetic Fallacy' in vol. 3 of his Modern Painters, which has greatly influenced literary criticism.
In terms of his personal life, he was married only once (to the high society beauty Effie Gray) for six years as a young man before the marriage was annulled. One of the key factors that ended this marriage was Ruskin's refusal to consummate the marriage, leaving open the possibility that Ruskin was a lifelong celibate.
Much modern scholarship on Ruskin has centered around speculation regarding his refusal to consummate the marriage. The varied and often rather farfetched explanations for this refusal include his shyness, his aversion to female pubic hair (owning to his only exposure to female nudity being classical sculptures), Ruskin's disgust at his wife's menstrual blood, his devout religiousness (at the time), his exaggerated Victorian prudishness, Ruskin being a closeted homosexual, or alternatively, Ruskin being a pedophile.
Ruskin did have many traits that seem to be commonly found among incels. He was shy as a youth and believed he was highly undesirable to women, writing: "If I had been a woman, I never should have loved the kind of person that I am". His concept of the 'pathetic fallacy' is partly based on an aversion to what he saw as sentimentally influenced semantic dissimulation on behalf of lauded Romantic poets such as Wordsworth, in favor of advancing the idea that art should faithfully describe the truth of nature, which may indicate some Asperger's traits.
His wife, a long-standing childhood friend, was highly offended by what she saw as his physical disgust towards her and rejection of her. She later left him, leaving him for the pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, who Ruskin introduced her to, in one of the most famous Victorian-era high society love triangles. Ruskin was aware of his wife's attraction to Millais and did nothing to prevent it, even going so far as to facilitate their infidelity by renting a cottage in the Scottish countryside and leaving Effie and Millais together. This lack of mate-guarding on behalf of Ruskin has promoted speculation that Ruskin intended to have the marriage annulled to evade the shame and legal difficulty of divorce.
Ruskin never remarried as his bitter ex-wife spread rumors about him and warned another marriage prospect's parents against allowing their daughter to be married to such a man.
Despite his socialist beliefs, which were indeed radical for the time, spawning several utopian socialist agrarian co-operatives, he retained a traditional view of gender roles, believing that women were fated to be confined to the domestic sphere, while men were to remain the active participants in public life.
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