Charles E. Goodspeed (1867–1950)

Charles Eliot Goodspeed was significant both as a personal collector of Ruskin and as a seller to other Ruskin collectors, operating from his shop in Boston, Massachusetts, first opened in 1898 (Whitehill, “Charles Eliot Goodspeed”, 261). In his memoir, Yankee Bookseller (1937), Goodspeed dates his Ruskin collecting from his youth in the 1880s, giving two reasons for “the spell of Ruskin”. First, his books occupied, “if not the highest, at least high rank in modern English literature”, for “although his style is criticised”, he “is conceded to be a great prose writer”. Second, for collectors, Ruskinʼs books presented outstanding “examples of book‐making”, excelling “principally in illustration” but also in the “minute attention” that the author gave to all aspects of book‐making in such works as “Praeterita, Deucalion, Proserpina, and the other books issued [originally] in parts” (pp. 263, 264). It was perhaps the bibliophileʼs enchantment with the illustrations in Ruskinʼs books that caused Goodspeed to take a special interest in Ruskinʼs own drawings.
Ruskinʼs standard for “book‐making” inspired Goodspeed also as a publisher. In the 1939 edition of The Book in America, Hellmut Lehmann‐Haupt characterized Goodspeed as “a disciple of Ruskin, and moved by many interests which he shared with the Stone and Kimball generation” (p. 254), referring to the small art‐nouveau publishers of the 1890s, such as Stone & Kimball in Chicago and Copeland & Day in Boston. These publishers, according to Lehmann‐Haupt, “had in common their determination to publish only works of literary quality and to bring out their selections in an attractive and distinctive format” (p. 211). From the founding of his bookselling business through the early 1930s, Goodspeed realized these art‐book ambitions in small publishing projects of his own, which were printed by the Merrymount Press (Mahoney, “C. E. Goodspeed and Company”, 180).
The spell of Ruskin for Goodspeed was not confined to bibliographical appeal, however. Goodspeed was a thorough and admiring student of Ruskinʼs ideas, as demonstrated by the scholarship he brought to a not insignificant bibliographical contribution to Ruskin studies in the 1930s, his Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, and Manuscripts by John Ruskin, published by Goodspeedʼs Book Shop (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1931: The Buyers). Goodspeedʼs approach to thinking through Ruskin appears to have been primarily biographical. His most cherished collectorʼs possession was the manuscript of Praeterita; and according to a record of a talk he gave at Wellesley College Library in 1933, he chose to interest his listeners in “Ruskinʼs youth” and “his love in later life for Rose La Touche”, illustrating the talk with “his own collection of early Ruskin drawings and other material illustrative of his life”, including Ruskinʼs portrait drawing of Rose La Touche, and one of George Richmondʼs portrait drawings of Ruskin (Wellesley College, “Annual Reports . . . 1932–33”, 42‐43). In Yankee Bookseller, he planned to devote part of the chapter on Ruskin to “the story of Ruskin and Rose La Touche, prefaced by an account of Ruskinʼs marriage with Euphemia Gray”, ultimately deciding to save the topic for treatment elsewhere (p. 268).
Goodspeed also took a practical interest in Ruskin. Judging by Walter Muir Whitehillʼs remarks about the hobbies that the bookseller pursued in his retirement years, Goodspeedʼs interests appear to have been inspired by Ruskinʼs works, such as tending to rare, wild plant species in his woodland garden (“Charles Eliot Goodspeed”, 361). His most regretted loss at the final Brantwood estate sale in July 1931 was Ruskinʼs mineral cabinet, an “item [that] excited me greatly, for it revived my early interest in mineralogical specimens, never entirely lost” (Yankee Bookseller, 269).
Goodspeed and the New England Ruskin Collecting Community
As one of most prominent Ruskin collectors stateside in the first half of the twentieth century, Goodspeed exhibited characteristics of the trend for Collecting of Modern Authors in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, which committed collectors to assembling comprehensive runs of an authorʼs first editions in their original condition. In his memoir, Goodspeed comments on his “mistake” as a young collector in causing his fledgling Ruskin collection to be uniformly rebound, instead of preserving the items in their original state. He therefore disposed of that false start and rebuilt his Ruskin collection on “the primary rule that pamphlet issues of all kinds, if intended for sale to collectors, must be preserved in their original form”. Eventually, Goodspeedʼs Ruskin collection reached over five hundred items of first editions along with “all the authorized editions of Ruskin and his biographies” (Yankee Bookseller, 261–62, 265). The volume count is comparable in scope with a contemporaneous comprehensive Ruskin collection assembled by the American collector, R. B. Adam II (1863–1940) and his father by adoption, Robert Borthwick Adam I (1833–1904).
As a bookseller, Goodspeed held to the standard of “Ruskin firsts”, just as he had done as a collector; and he believed he “bought more” of these editions “abroad than any other American dealer”. As a Ruskin specialist, he distinguished his shop from the “larger booksellers”, who could be counted on to stock “the nine‐volume set comprising Modern Painters, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, and The Stones of Venice” in a uniform size with illustrations—the latter caveats obscuring what the initiated Ruskin collector would have recognized, that these sets were made up with later editions of Modern Painters I and Modern Painters II rather than the first editions of those two volumes, not so much because the firsts were a different size than the other volumes (and in the case of Modern Painters I, lacked illustrations), but because the first editions of those two volumes were extremely rare. Scouring London for Ruskin firsts, Goodspeed says that, other than the prized Modern Painters I and II and Poems (1850) by J.R., he “found no competition” for first editions of lesser‐known Ruskin titles—namely, the dozens of books and pamphlets beyond the titles making up the standard nine‐volume sets always available “on the shelves of the larger booksellers“ (Yankee Bookseller, 262–63).
Goodspeed credited the influence of Ruskinʼs American friend and Harvard professor of the history of art, Charles Eliot Norton (1827–1908) for the “mild local interest in Ruskin then prevalent” in the first third of the twentieth century, and he believed his own “earnestness” contributed to upholding the “fading Ruskin tradition” at least in New England. (He hoped that the chapter on Ruskin in his memoir would “arouse a new interest in Ruskin, at least with collectors”, when the author had become so “strangely neglected today”.) While he knew the Ruskin collector R. B. Adam only by reputation, not as a client, Goodspeed supplied other important American collectors, including Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast (1843–1909), librarian of the Massachusetts State Library; and John G. Winant (1889–1947), governor of New Hampshire and ambassador to the United Kingdom (Yankee Bookseller, 262, 264–65; and see Bolton, “Memoir of Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast).
Goodspeedʼs alertness for the totality of the Ruskin bibliography, including very early as well as very late titles appears to have marked his strategy as a buyer and seller not only for print but also for manuscripts. His knowledge about the full scope of Ruskinʼs writing and bibliography probably made him unique among American dealers, and certainly the single most influential force in the provenance of manuscripts constituting ERM. Goodspeedʼs affection for and interest in the juvenilia was very strong, particularly if he was able to relate these early manuscripts to Ruskinʼs narrative about his childhood in Praeterita (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1931: Charles Eliot Goodspeed).
In 1920–21, Goodspeed donated his personal Ruskin collection to Wellesley College, “in consideration of Ruskinʼs interest in the education of girls and from the fact that both of [his] daughters were graduated” from that institution (Yankee Bookseller, 265). Along with the print holdings, the collection included Ruskin drawings, proofs of engravings touched by Ruskin, marked printer proofs, and other unique items (Wellesley College, “Annual Reports . . . 1919–21”, 45–46). Goodspeed continued to contribute to the collection from the 1920s through the 1940s, the collection presently totaling nearly nine hundred items.
Goodspeed and the Acquisition of Ruskin Manuscripts
As a Boston dealer, Goodspeed was well positioned to acquire Ruskin rarities connected with the region—for example, acquisitions from the estate of Ruskinʼs friend, Francesca Alexander, which he gave to Wellesley. The thoughtful variety and scope of his collection when donated to Wellesley shows, however, that he had long searched beyond the antiquarian book trade to build up his holdings. His most significant opportunity to contibute stateside to Ruskin archives came in 1930–31, when he played a highly competitive role in the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930, the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1931, and the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Pictures and Drawings, 1931.
Goodspeedʼs strategy as a buyer at these sales of manuscripts and drawings appears to have corresponded to his approach as a dealer in printed Ruskin items—that is, to seize on what was then considered less canonical Ruskin, an area in which competition could be expected to be less keen. (His agent at the Sothebyʼs sales, the London firm, B. F. Stevens & Brown, felt able to assure their other major Ruskin client, J. H. Whitehouse, that the firm could work with mutual advantage for both Goodspeed and Whitehouse. See Ralph Brownʼs 17 July 1931 letter to Whitehouse, quoted in Dearden, Ruskin, Bembridge, and Brantwood, 88.) It seems likely, however, that, although avoiding squaring off against competitors like Whitehouse who targeted the more canonical Ruskin manuscripts, Goodspeed took on considerable risk. Not only had the Great Depression begun in America, but, even before the crash, interest in Ruskin was declining, as Goodspeed later admitted in Yankee Bookseller. The decline was evident by 1929 even before Black Tuesday, since by that date R. B. Adam had already donated his Ruskin collection to Yale, after having unsuccessfully attempted for the previous six years to sell the collection through the major New York dealer, A. S. W. Rosenbach (see R. B. Adam II [1863–1940]).
At first, Goodspeed was fortunate. Within only four months of the 1930 Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, he sold most of his acquisitions to Yale University Library. He had less luck following the 1931 Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library and the 1931 Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Pictures and Drawings. A quotation of items from the 1931 manuscript sale on file at the Beinecke Library suggests that Goodspeed offered first chance at these items to Yale, but the library purchased only two items (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library: Goodspeed, the 1931 Acquisitions, and Yale University Library. He then compiled the offerings in the scholarly and elegantly produced Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, and Manuscripts by John Ruskin, which must have entailed a significant expense in itself. One recipient of the catalogue in 1932 was J. H. Whitehouse, whom Goodspeed hoped to interest especially in Ruskin drawings, though Whitehouse is believed to have delayed acquiring a group of these drawings until 1936 (Dearden, Ruskin, Bembridge, and Brantwood, 138–39). In Yankee Bookseller, published in 1937, Goodspeedʼs observation of declining interest in Ruskin, and his bid to revive interest at least among collectors, must have been prompted by the slowing sales of his Sothebyʼs acquisitions. Not until 1939 were many of the items in Goodspeedʼs Catalogue finally sold to Princeton University Library (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library: Goodspeed and Princeton University Library).
The Damage by Fire to the Goodspeed Ruskin Collection and Its Donation to Yale University Library
A decade after the Sothebyʼs sales, the items remaining unsold from Goodspeedʼs Catalogue along with his personal collection were damaged or destroyed when his house in Shirley, Massachusetts, caught fire on 22 February 1941 (Whitehill, “Charles Eliot Goodspeed”, 361, 363). Salvaging viable remains of books and manuscripts from the catastrophe, Goodspeed donated Ruskin manuscripts to Yale University Library in the hope that they could be preserved in spite of damage. He chose the Sterling Library because “it was his wish to complete Yaleʼs holdings of the available major Ruskin manuscripts, so many of which had passed through his hands on their way to New Haven” (Hogan, “Yale Collection of the Manuscripts of John Ruskin”, 69).
The first of these gifts, sent soon after the fire in March 1941, was the manuscript of Praeterita, which he had kept for himself from the 1930 Sothebyʼs Sale. As he had boasted before the fire in Yankee Bookseller, it was “for the manuscript of Praeterita that I have most regard. I had bought . . . [the autobiography] when published in periodical form, looking forward to each succeeding number with a keener interest than the modern reader would have for the weekly installment of a story by Agatha Christie in the Saturday Evening Post. . . . I cannot imagine a temptation sufficent to make me part with Ruskinʼs portrait of Rose La Touche and his manuscript of Praeterita” (Yankee Bookseller, 269). When that time of parting did come, not as a temptation, but as an unthinkable catastrophe, Goodspeed was devastated with remorse. Writing to Chauncey B. Tinker (1876–1963), the keeper of rare books at Yale University Library, whether he would “care to be bothered with material in such damaged condition”, Goodspeed thought it “fitting that what is left of it should be preserved there. . . . I myself do not feel like putting it in shape for better preservation. . . . I hardly need to say how keenly I regret that, as the custodian of a manuscript of this kind, I have been so negligent in properly caring for it. We think of these things, however, when it is too late”. In a subsequent letter, Goodspeed rejoiced in having recovered more of the manuscript, but two octavo volumes had perished altogether (Goodspeed to Tinker, 25 March 1941 and 31 March 1941).
For Goodspeedʼs other gifts to Yale as the result of fire damage, which consisted largely of items remaining in Goodspeedʼs possession from the 1931 Sothebyʼs acquistions, see The Damage by Fire to Goodspeedʼs 1931 Acquisitions and Their Donation to Yale University Library. The damage affecting individual manuscripts of early works is discussed in connection with particular items throughout ERM.
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