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February 27, 1837|
Boston, Massachusetts United States
|Died||January 21, 1917
Francesca Alexander (February 27, 1837 – January 21, 1917), born Esther Francesca Alexander and also known as Fanny Alexander, was an American illustrator, author, and translator from the Italian.
She was born Esther Frances Alexander in Boston, Massachusetts and educated at home. At age 16, her family moved to Florence, Italy, where she collected folk songs, tales, and customs. Her first batch of translations of Tuscan songs and stories, later published as Roadside Songs of Tuscany, was drawn from a celebrated story-teller, Beatrice Bernardi of Pian degli Ontani. In it Alexander translated Bartolomeo Casenti's ottava rima ballad (1616) about a little servant girl turned saint, with Italian original opposite the translated English stanzas. Alexander illustrated her translations with drawings done in a fine and highly personal style.
In 1882 she met John Ruskin, who was to be a close friend until his death. He was deeply impressed by her Roadside Songs and purchased it along with a second manuscript that he published in 1883 as The Story of Ida with its author listed simply as "Francesca." The volume enjoyed several British and American editions. Ruskin then edited and published her Roadside Songs in 1884-85, and a third collection, Christ's Folk in the Apennines, in 1887-89. An intimate correspondence between Ruskin, Alexander, and her mother continued for some years.
After Ruskin's death Alexander published Tuscan Songs (1897) and The Hidden Servants and Other Very Old Stories Told Over (1900). She was blind and in poor health in her final years, and died in Florence on January 21, 1917. Her papers are collected in the Boston Athenæum. Correspondence between Alexander and Ruskin and letters from Alexander to Ruskin's cousin and heir Joan Severn are held by the Morgan Library.
- 1883 The Story of Ida, John Ruskin, ed. Boston: Cupples, Upham.
- 1884-85 Roadside Songs of Tuscany, Francesca Alexander, tr. and ill. John Ruskin, ed. 4 vols. New York: Wiley.
- 1887-89 Christ's Folk In The Apennini. Reminiscences of Her Friends Among the Tuscan Peasantry. London: George Allen.
- 1897 Tuscan Songs.
- 1900 The Hidden Servants and Other Very Old Stories Told Over.
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