In the history of Ruskin scholarship, Van Burd takes the palm for longevity, having published over six decades since his first article on Modern Painters in 1953. His final piece, in the Spring 2014 Ruskin Review and Bulletin, is undoubtedly unique in the bibliography as the work of a centenarian.
Outstanding among Van’s achievements are the three great editions of letters which not only brought some of Ruskin’s most interesting correspondence to a wide audience but brilliantly illuminated three phases of his life: the young man of genius, in The Ruskin Family Letters, 1801-1843 (1973); the eccentric but passionate educator and nympholept, in The Winnington Letters (1969); and the saddened sage mourning for lost love, in Christmas Story: John Ruskin’s Venetian Letters of 1876-77 (1990). Each edition is shot through with Van’s reverence for his subject combined with modesty, humanity and humour: precision with just a hint of mischief.
Ruskin once said of Americans that ‘as a nation, they are wholly undesirous of rest, and incapable of it.’ He could not have imagined how prophetic those words would be in describing one of the most dedicated not just of Ruskin scholars, but of true Ruskinians. May he now rest in peace.