14 MARCH 1958, Page 20

RUSKIN AND NATURE SIR,—In his review of The Diaries of

John Ruskin, Mr. Peter Quennell quotes a description of seagulls in Venice quartering the canal (obviously looking for floating garbage). and 'flapping their wings slowly like moths'; and this is followed by another quoted description of swallows dipping. Mr. Quennell adds, `Surely no other English writer, unless an exception should perhaps be made for Coleridge, has had a more finely observant eye, or has imparted his observations in a more exact, yet more poetic, style!'

One wonders if Mr. Quennell has read the descrip- tions of such true countrymen as Richard Jefferies, Thomas Hardy, or even W. H. Hudson. Black-headed gulls, or terns (which from the description they seem to have been), when hovering do flap their wings, but do moths flap—even the humming-bird hawk-moth? Jefferies, whose 'precisions' have put off many readers, would not have written that, his details were exact.

This is not to depreciate Ruskin, who is a very fine prose-writer, but as an observer of nature's details not always exact surely?—Yours faithfully, HENRY WILLIAMSON