"The King of the Golden River" is a delightful fairy tale told
with all Ruskin's charm of style, his appreciation of mountain scenery,
and with his usual insistence upon drawing a moral. None the less, it
is quite unlike his other writings. All his life long his pen was busy
interpreting nature and pictures and architecture, or persuading to
better views those whom he believed to be in error, or arousing, with
the white heat of a prophet's zeal, those whom he knew to be unawakened.
There is indeed a good deal of the prophet about John Ruskin. Though
essentially an interpreter with a singularly fine appreciation of beauty,
no man of the nineteenth century felt more keenly that he had a mission,
and none was more loyal to what he believed that mission to be.
While still in college, what seemed a chance incident gave
occasion and direction to this mission. A certain English reviewer
had ridiculed the work of the artist Turner. Now Ruskin held
Turner to be the greatest landscape painter the world had seen,
and he immediately wrote a notable article in his defense. Slowly
this article grew into a pamphlet, and the pamphlet into a book,
the first volume of "Modern Painters." The young man awoke to
find himself famous. In the next few years four more volumes were
added to "Modern Painters," and the other notable series upon
art, "The Stones of Venice" and "The Seven Lamps of
Architecture," were sent forth.