He'll find an idea, Ruskin, and follow the force of that idea, unless it is something like the Indian statue of a bull, and then he rams himself shut, "it may rest in the eternal obscurity of evil art" -- but not afraid to follow a small piece of the world, like the dirty foot on one boy in a painting, or the rust on fence rails, and so naked he is willing to be, revolted by his fence railing, saddened by his fence railing, and looking at the audience with this fence railing in his mouth and calling it "an uneducated monster" while the engineers sit and wonder, Did he just tell me that iron is morally good? -- and all his writing is extruded very intimately from his art criticism, which is an aesthetic criticism, or morally "theoretic" for him -- theoretic is the word he picked when he was young, and the man circled around his principle.
Now the term "æsthesis" properly signifies mere sensual perception of the outward qualities and necessary effects of bodies, in which sense only, if we would arrive at any accurate conclusions on this difficult subject, it should always be used. But I wholly deny that the impressions of beauty are in any way sensual,—they are neither sensual nor intellectual, but moral, and for the faculty receiving them, whose difference from mere perception I shall immediately endeavor to explain, no term can be more accurate or convenient than that employed by the Greeks, "theoretic," which I pray permission, therefore, always to use, and to call the operation of the faculty itself, Theoria.
(Modern Painters, Vol. II)
If beauty is moral then the journalists making fun of Turner are not wrong but evil because what other word can express it, "the crying evil which called for instant remedy" (this is feeling, not analysis, you think, reading the whole passage, in which he insists that it is analysis, evil intellectually determined, but I call it the hammer word, the word by which he commits himself, the magical word, evil and good his own shaman words of transcendent explosion); and meanwhile Turner himself is moved upwards by his art: "nothing so great or solemn but that he can raise himself into harmony with it," until painting is "the most exalted truth, and the highest ideal," an idea affecting the writer so much that when he sees it in the artist he will follow the paint with his prose.
"It will be found in this picture (and I am now describing nature's work and Turner's with the same words) that the whole distance is given by retirement of solid surface; and that if ever an edge is expressed, it is only felt for an instant, and then lost again; so that the eye cannot stop at it and prepare for a long jump to another like it, but is guided over it, and round it, into the hollow beyond; and thus the whole receding mass of ground, going back for more than a quarter of a mile, is made completely one -- no part of it is separated from the rest for an instant -- it is all united, and its modulations are members, not divisions of its mass. But those modulations are countless -- heaving here, sinking there -- now swelling, now mouldering, now blending, now breaking --"
(Modern Painters, Vol. I)
"The eye" is "guided over [the sentence] and round it, into the hollow beyond … it is all united, and its modulations are members, not divisions of its mass ... heaving here, sinking there." And this shape of the writing only becomes active when he reaches the description of that painting. A moment earlier he was discussing a painter who didn't impress him, and the prose is not like that. This prose will not be extricated from the subject matter, and he is pressing towards a unity that is a moral unity, believing that the form of writing should not be separated from the form of morality itself, which is the form he understands in Turner; and the words pushing towards that form, fragments in unity, which he loves everywhere, for his entire life, but also the freedom of things, the fireflies that he mentions in two different books, coming into town and seeing them "moving like fine-broken starlight through the purple leaves."
Fine-broken, therefore done beautifully and intentionally by whatever created them. "Broken" on its own would have been different.
"Is it not strange to find this stern and strong metal mingled so delicately in our human life, that we cannot even blush without its help?"
Because the iron in the hills is also the iron in your blood.