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, Massachucetts, 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, Ruskin's books presented outstanding "examples of book-making", excelling "principally in illustration" (pp. 263, 264).
Ruskin's standard for "book-making" inspired Goodspeed not only as a collector and dealer but also as a publisher. In the 1939 edition of Lehmann‐Haupt, The Book in America, Goodspeed is characterized as a disciple of Ruskin, and moved by many interests 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, who had in common a 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).
As a bookseller, Goodspeed describes himself as having served a steady--albeit, he wrote, a "fading"--New England market for Ruskin, which he attributed to the influence of Ruskin's American friend and Harvard professor of the history of art, Charles Eliot Norton. Goodspeed regarded himself as having cornered this New England market, having "bought more . . . [Ruskin first editions] abroad than any other American dealer". He "found no competition" in scouring London particularly for first editions of lesser-known Ruskin titles--the many books and pamphlets beyond "the nine-volume set comprising Modern Painters, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, and The Stones of Venice" that "was always on the shelves of the larger booksellers". Part of Goodspeed's interest in the lesser-known, later publications of Ruskin was owing to 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" (Yankee Bookseller, 262-64). The spell of these volumes for Goodspeed was not confined to their bibliographical appeal, however, since, as Whitehill remarks about the bookseller's retirement years, he pursued the interests sponsored by Ruskin's late works--such as collecting minerals and tending to rare, wild plant species in his woodland garden ("Charles Eliot Goodspeed", 361).
As a Ruskin collector in his own right, Goodspeed represented stateside the characteristics of the trend, Collecting of Modern Authors in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, which committed collectors to seeking comprehensiveness in assembling an author's first editions and to preserving firsts 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' 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" (Yankee Booksellder, 261-62). Eventually, his comprehensive collection reached five hundred items of first editions along with "all the authorized editions of Ruskin and his biographies", a count comparable with the scope of a contemporaneous American comprehensive Ruskin collection assembled by R. B. Adam II (1863-1940) and his father by adoption, Robert Borthwick Adam I (1833-1904). Goodspeed donated his collection to Wellesley College, "in consideration of Ruskin's interest in the education of girls and from the fact that both of [his] daughters were graduated" from that institution (Yankee Bookseller, 265).
Goodspeed knew R. B. Adam only by reputation, not as a client. The American Ruskin collectors whom Goodspeed singles out as his customers and memorable Ruskin collectors included 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. As a Boston bookseller, Goodspeed was well positioned not only to supply New Englanders with Ruskin but also to acquire Ruskin rarities; he mentions, for example, acquisitions from the estate of Ruskin's friend, Francesca Alexander (Yankee Bookseller, 262, 265; and see Bolton, “Memoir of Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast).
One of Goodspeed's most significant legacies proved to be his highly competitive role in the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930 and the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1931. A key figure in the provenance of manuscripts edited in ERM, Goodspeed took a particular interest in the early as well as late manuscripts, a strategy corresponding to his approach as a dealer in printed Ruskin--seeking out the then non-canonical Ruskin, for which competition was less keen. He was also drawn to items that matched his interests as a collector, however, particularly treasuring the manuscript of Ruskin's autobiography, which he kept for himself: "It is for the manuscript of Praeterita", he wrote of his acquisitions from the 1930 Sotheby's sales, "that I have most regard. I had bought it 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 Ruskin's portrait of Rose La Touche and his manuscript of Praeterita" (Yankee Bookseller, 269). His other acquisitions from the 1930 sale were purchased by Yale University Library within only four months (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930: The Buyers)
The time did come when Goodspeed faced the unimaginable: not just having to part with his manuscript of Praeterita, but under tragic circumstances of salvaging this cherished possession from the wreck of his collection. After publishing his memoir of book dealing and collecting in 1937 and retiring to Shirley, Massachusetts, Goodspeed's house burned in 1941 (Whitehill, "Charles Eliot Goodspeed", 361, 363). Portions of his personal library were destroyed and other portions severely damaged. The Praeterta manuscript survived, and Goodspeed presented it to Yale University Library. [More to come.]
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