Guild of St. George


John Ruskin (1819-1900), perhaps best known for his defences of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites and his home at Brantwood in the Lake District, produced an idiosyncratic monthly digest of his ideas entitled Fors Clavigera. This took the form of a series of letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain. Amongst the many personal anecdotes, Swiss folk stories, discourses on art and botany and promised recipes for a famous vegetable soup, Ruskin sketched out the framework for his own utopian world. It was a world where art and life were to merge as one. Money itself would be an object of beauty. Each trade and profession was to have its own distinctive costume. Work would be carried out by hand, without machines with their accompanying pollution. The mainly agricultural work would be interspersed with folk festivals.

Ruskin conceived the Guild of St. George as a means of transforming the declining state of Britain into his utopian fantasy. "We will try to take some small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful and fruitful. We will have no steam-engines upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the dead." The Guild was to be a band of men of good will, giving a tithe of their income, and the best of their energies, to acquiring land, and developing it, in accordance with Ruskin's ideas and ideals.

The Code of the Guild of St. George
  • I trust in the Living God, Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things and creatures visible and invisible. I trust in the kindness of His law, and the goodness of His work. And I will strive to love Him, and keep His law, and see His work, while I live.
  • I trust in the nobleness of human nature, in the majesty of its faculties, the fulness of its mercy, and the joy of its love. And I will strive to love my neighbour as myself, and, even when I cannot, will act as if I did.
  • I will labour, with such strength and opportunity as God gives me, for my own daily bread; and all that my hand finds to do, I will do with my might.
  • I will not deceive, or cause to be deceived, any human being for my gain or pleasure; nor hurt, or cause to be hurt, any human being for my gain or pleasure; nor rob, or cause to be robbed, any human being for my gain or pleasure.
  • I will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, nor destroy any beautiful thing, but will strive to save and comfort all gentle life, and guard and perfect all natural beauty, upon the earth.
  • I will strive to raise my own body and soul daily into higher powers of duty and happiness; not in rivalship or contention with others, but for the help, delight, and honour of others, and for the joy and peace of my own life.
  • I will obey all the laws of my country faithfully; and the orders of its monarch, and of all persons appointed to be in authority under its monarch, so far as such laws or commands are consistent with what I suppose to be the law of God; and when they are not, or seem in any wise to need change, I will oppose them loyally and deliberately, not with malicious, concealed, or disorderly violence.
  • And with the same faithfulness, and under the limits of the same obedience, which I render to the laws of my country, and the commands of its rulers, I will obey the laws of the Society called of St. George, into which I am this day received; and the orders of its masters, and of all persons appointed to be in authority under its masters, so long as I remain a Companion, called of St. George.
John Ruskin Fors Clavigera, Letter 58



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