Charles E. Goodspeed, Francis Francis, and Christmas

Copyright 2010, Kenneth H. Lokensgard

NOTE: For a correction of these dates, please see the first reader’s response, written by a former employee of Goodspeed’s Book Shop.

Charles Eliot Goodspeed opened Goodspeed’s Book Shop in 1937.  His Boston store grew to be one of the most respected antiquarian book shops in the United States, and it was in business until 1993.  Goodspeed cared not only about books, but also about fishing. As biographer Walter Muir Whitehill puts it, Goodspeed was “a devout disciple of Izaak Walton.”[1] No doubt, this prompted Goodspeed to compile a massive collection of new and previously published fishing essays.  This collection was published in 1946, as A Treasury of Fishing Stories (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company). According to the book’s “Acknowledgements” section, Goodspeed gathered most of the previously published selections from a collection of fishing works left to Harvard Libraries by Daniel Butler Fearing.

Among the sometimes obscure, other times famous, and almost always incredibly entertaining pieces that Goodspeed includes in A Treasury is one by Francis Francis, angling editor to the English sporting magazine The Field and author of the well-known A Book on Angling (1867). The piece that Goodspeed includes is titled “Christmas in the Fisherman’s Snuggery,” from Francis’ Hot Pot; Or Miscellaneous Papers (1880).

In “Christmas,” the narrator, presumably Francis, visits his wealthy friend, George, for Christmas.  The two of them retire to the host’s angling “snuggery” — the Victorian equivalent of a “man cave” — for a smoke between festivities.  The narrator describes the room, perfectly designed for someone who enjoys tying flies, playing with tackle, and having the occasional smoke and drink in private:

A Fisherman’s Snuggery — What is it like?  A squarish room, about 16ft. each way, low rather than lofty, with recesses on either side of the fireplace, and a glazed bookcase in each — one containing a choice collection of works upon angling, ancient and modern, and the other a good selection of works upon natural history, botany, geology, and kindred sciences; for your true angler should always have a love for Nature and her secrets, and should study how to unlock them.  Below the book-cases are chiffonnières [sic], with cupboards.  In one long drawer, with a let-down flap, is contained in various small drawers and pigeon-holes the entire arcana of bait fishing, and in the other of fly fishing.  Both are open this Christmas day, and a loving ramble amongst their contents is going on.[2]

The narrator continues to describe the room, paying special attention to mementos and trophies accumulated by the host on various fishing trips.  George, for his part, indulgently relates the story behind each item.  For example:

“There,” says George, taking a dusty, dingy old salmon fly, past color or mark of teeth, tied on treble gut, off a hook on the wall, where it hung: “that is the fly I killed my first salmon with, twenty five years ago April next! Well I remember it.  Shall I ever forget it, indeed?  Does anyone ever forget his first salmon? Aye, aye, it was in the Thurso, in the Linn of Skinnet, as the pool was called then, though it has long been called by another name, close to where Brawl castle stands now.  …  He wasn’t much of a fish, and in the dead water played rather pikeishly, but I got him out at last, quite panting with excitement.  He weighed 10 ½ lb.; and surely so beauteous a creature never was seen by mortal eyes.  I never got tired of looking at him.”[3]

 The narrator clearly enjoys the tour, as any angler would. At last, though, the host reminds the narrator that they should return to the other guests:

“But now there’s Jane with the coffee.  Just spring that night bolt, will you? — I never allow people to come bursting in on me without due notice, and some I don’t let in at all — it’s a bore to get up and let them in; so a night bold is invaluable.  And now, just one pipe more.  Maraschino or Chartreuse? Chartreuse; all right, my boy.  And then let us join the ladies with forfeits, and Sir Roger de Coverley; and I trust you have enjoyed your Christmas afternoon’s pipe in the angler’s snuggery.”[4]

I know that I would certainly have enjoyed some time in George’s snuggery.  There are few activities that I love more than perusing the fishing books and tackle in my office, which is, no doubt, infinitely more modest in design and contents than George’s sporting sanctum.

 

Enjoy the winter holidays, fellow anglers.


[1] Walter Muir Whitehill, “Charles Eliot Goodspeed,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 71 (Oct, 1953- May, 1957),  p. 362.

[2] Francis Francis, “Christmas in the Fisherman’s Snuggery,” in A Treasury of Fishing Stories, compiled by Charles E. Goodspeed (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1946), 193-194.

[3] Ibid., 195.

[4] Ibid., 199.

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3 Responses to “Charles E. Goodspeed, Francis Francis, and Christmas”

  1. Joe Kernan Says:

    While I appreciate your tribute to Charles Goodspeed, there are some errors in your account. Charles Eliot Goodspeed opened his book shop on Park Street in Boston in 1896. The bbok shop succeeded and moved twice to find adequate space; first to Ashburton Place on Beacon Hill and then 18 Beacon Street. He published his autobiography, Yankee Bookseller, in 1937 and died in 1950. His son George Talbot Goodspeed took over after that and closed the shop in 1995 after one last move to the corner of Beacon and School Streets.
    Oddly enough, Charles Goodspeed’s shop published a deluxe edition of Isaac Walton’s Compleat Angler in the 1930s but I’m not sure which year. I worked at Goodspeed’s for 9 years, but you can cross check my facts if you wish. I have been known to be wrong.

    Like

  2. kenov Says:

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to provide this information. I got the date on the closing from a 1993 Boston Globe article. Perhaps the article was dated incorrectly, or maybe the shop reopened for two more years. I found another article citing a 1995 closing. So your memory of the date is clearly right. Obviously, I was wildly off on the opening date.

    I never made it to the store, but I certainly wish I had. It must have been an amazing place to work. Was fishing a topic of conversation there?

    I actually have Goodspeed’s fishing anthology on my bedside table right now. He certainly selected some great writings to include. I have tracked down the original sources of many of them, in order to read the texts in their entirety.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  3. Kenov Says:

    Reblogged this on The Literary Fly Fisher and commented:

    For the winter holidays, I repost this essay from some time back.

    Like

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