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John Ruskin’s Marriage

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October 18, 2016

You really need to know something about the second most famous literary scandal (behind Oscar Wilde’s problems) of the Victorian age—John Ruskin’s marriage to Effie Gray.

Gray married Ruskin in 1848, but nearly everything about the marriage of six years was trouble. Evidently Ruskin just simply loathed Gray. He could not bring himself to consummate the marriage. It was a completely celibate relationship—not mutually, however. Why? Well, Ruskin testified at the end that to him Effie Gray simply was too ugly; she was not physically attractive.

Don’t stop reading.

Ok, what do you say? But here’s the thing. Effie Gray was considered one of the most beautiful women of her day. Go to Google images and type in her name. You will pull up dozens more images of Ruskin’s “ugly” wife than you see here. She was a favorite model of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Her figure and face showed up everywhere in those days. This was a celebrity marriage gone bad. The painter John Millais fell in love with her when she modeled for him and after Ruskin’s annulment they eventually married.


Ah well. If you want the details download or stream the 2014 film Effie Gray, starring Dakota Fanning.

Again, what do you say? But alas for Ruskin, his problems did not end with the annulment of his marriage. Have you ever heard of Rose La Touche? Well, stay tuned, because, again, Ruskin’s next affair was not the usual story.

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Paul Varner


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