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date: 24 February 2020

Child, Francis Jameslocked

  • James Porter

Extract

(b Boston, Feb 1, 1825; d Boston, Sept 11, 1896). American ballad scholar. He was educated at Harvard and at the universities of Berlin and Göttingen and in 1876 he was appointed the first professor of English at Harvard. His fame rests largely on his masterly compilation, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882–98), a five-volume work in which he applied to the ballad the comparative and philological analysis he had brought to his work on Chaucer and Spenser. Although the majority of ballads in his edition of 305 ballad ‘types’ (i.e. plot types, in over 1000 versions) were from folk tradition, the texts were derived with few exceptions from books and manuscripts rather than from oral sources; he also corresponded extensively with scholars such as Svend Grundtvig, the editor of Danish ballads. The final part of Child’s work contains an ‘Index of Published Airs’ compiled by William Walker: it contains 447 references to Child’s ballad numbers and titles, a count raised to 500 by the printing of 53 tunes from manuscript, and shows Child’s awareness of the tunes and their importance. He acknowledged Walker’s assistance, and most of the latter’s work eventually appeared in the selection of Child material edited by Alexander Keith (...

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