Fors Clavigera. Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain. By John Ruskin. [Containing letters I- XCVI, complete.] Four vols, Second & third small editions, 8vo, 18cm, pp.viii,524, pp.vi,517, pp.vi,480, pp.vi,530, London: George Allen, 1902 & 1903.
Very handsome Rugby School prize bindings of full purple morocco, by Lawrences of Rugby, elaborately gilt, with five raised bands and gilt labels, upper boards stamped with Rugby School crest in gilt, lower cover of Vol I stamped 'Harold Newnham P. Sloman from the Trustees of Rugby School', marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Bookplate in first volume. A little freckling to a few blank leaves, but a very good set indeed.
It was in Fors Clavigera that Ruskin published his attack on the paintings of James McNeill Whistler exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877. He attacked them as the epitome of capitalist production in art, created with minimum effort for maximum output. One of the most powerful sentences was "I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face". Ruskin's abusive language led Whistler to sue for libel. Whistler won the case, but only got one farthing in damages. Ruskin withdrew from art criticism for a period following the case.