The System of Date Citation
On the Apparatus Page for any given work, the “Date” section begins with a declaration of a date or a date range, which is used to place the work in the chronological index of the archive (see The Plan of the Archive). This opening declaration in the “Date” section is followed by a discussion of the evidence for dating the work. The choice of date for indexing purposes awards priority to a date inscribed in the manuscript by Ruskin himself or by his parents, if that date is reasonably trustworthy; otherwise, the opening declaration uses a date or date range of composition.
The date thus selected for indexing purposes is somewhat arbitrary since, as the discussion in the “Date” section of an apparatus clarifies in any given instance, the date that Ruskin or his parents inscribed may refer to a variety of stages in the composition, specifying possibly when he wrote a work, or when he fair‐copied it, or the occasion when he presented it to a recipient. For example, a date of “1 January 1828” that Ruskin inscribed on a New Yearʼs Poem refers obviously to the occasion of the fair copyʼs presentation, and 1 January 1828 is used to index the poem in the archive. In such an instance, as the discussion of a work will clarify, however, Ruskin would typically have drafted and fair‐copied the poem in December 1827.
For indexing purposes, less credence is apt to be awarded to dates inscribed in the manuscript by later hands—typically by Alexander Wedderburn (d. 1931) or W. G. Collingwood (1854–1932). If these dates are questionable, the inscription is merely mentioned and discussed in the “Date” section.
In some cases, even dates that Ruskin himself inscribed can be very misleading. For example, he dated several poems in MS III as 9 March 1829. He is unlikely to have composed, or even fair‐copied, so many poems in a single day. This may be a case in which Ruskinʼs inscription of a date refers, rather, to a wished‐for date of fair‐copying, a performative episode turning on tensions arising from his parentsʼ attempts to control his writing, in conflict with his ardent desire to please them with his compositions (see “Of rocks first and of caverns now I sing”: Discussion).
The compositional date is given—and the piece is ordered sequentially within a given year, according to that date—only when a datable rough draft or some other hard evidence about its composition is available. In cases for which only the fair copy remains, one may often assume only a few months, at most, to have elapsed between beginning composition and fair‐copying. Parts of some longer poems such as “Eudosia” appear, in fact, to have been fair‐copied almost as soon as Ruskin drafted them. Such assumptions are not uniformly safe, however, since Ruskinʼs anthologies include poems that good evidence may date as much as a year earlier than when he compiled the anthology.