Ruth Bernard Yeazell writes:
Edward Jones – the Burne came later – was born in Birmingham to a mother who died giving birth to him and a father who eked out a living as a frame-maker, although art, his son reported, ‘was always a great bewilderment to him’. The only person who seems to have recognised the boy’s talent – a neighbour who bought pictures to rework – had the dubious merit of having once painted stormy waves over a calm harbour scene by Turner. Ned did well enough at school to be allowed to study classics, and his classmates became his first real friends. He was attracted to religious ceremony, and arrived at Oxford in 1853 a fervent Tractarian: he dreamed of following in the footsteps of John Henry Newman or even joining a monastic brotherhood. The spiritual intensity of his Oxford phase and the dream of brotherhood never left him, but the appeal of the church gradually faded; by the time he set out for London three years later, the disciple of Newman had become a disciple of Ruskin.