Today, the 19th-century critic John Ruskin’s observation that “the neglect of art . . . has been of evil consequence to the Christian world” sounds so overwrought to us — so filled with moral outrage — as to verge on the unintentionally hilarious.Declarative sentences dealing with absolutes, to Ms. Merkin, are "overwrought" and "unintentionally hilarious," apparently. Ruskin, no Catholic, like so many of his 19th- century fellow travelers in English art circles including several of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was riding on the coat tails of Catholic teaching on truth, goodness, and beauty. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin , Catholic convert, architect and Eucharistic artist,was a notable exception.
This, clearly, does not last, but declines as others (Bailie, Pearce, De Marco, Wiker) have observed through romanticism to today's nihilism. This is Ms. Merkin's and her fellow travelers' plight. They are lost in a cosmos of their own making. If one sees and hears no evil except in relativist terms, one still has the unsavory problem of speaking evil, tho' one doesn't believe it exists.