Edited by Ruskin: Francesca Alexander’s Roadside Songs of Tuscany
In 1907 Cook and Wedderburn published the volume XXXII of the Library Edition, grouping together a series of texts “Edited and Arranged by John Ruskin”: Studies of Peasant Life: The Story of Ida, Roadside Songs of Tuscany, Christ’s Folk in the Apennine, Ulric the Farm Servant. Since most of the works were authored by Francesca Alexander the volume is in effect a tribute to this American artist. In this paper I outline the history of the editing of Francesca Alexander’s Roadside Songs of Tuscany, from the manuscript “Francesca’s Book” to the published edition issued in parts between 1884 and 1885. I argue that Ruskin’s interest in the project bears a special relationship to the publication of the Fioretti di San Francesco in mid-nineteenth-century French and English versions, and to the ideological context that generated those publications. Ruskin’s declared aim of conveying to the English mind “some sympathetic conception of the reality of the sweet soul of Catholic Italy” was generated within this context, and his idea of publishing Francesca’s manuscript in a heavily edited and thoroughly new form justifies comparison with continental research into Medieval literature in the last decades of the Nineteenth century.
Keywords: Fioretti di San Francesco • Francesca Alexander • The Story of Ida • Italian Folk poetry • Cardinal Manning • Frédéric Ozanam • Roadside Songs of Tuscany