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The Collation

Charles T. Grilley and the Garrick letter

While looking for (and failing to find) provenance information for a scrapbook in the Folger collection, an unrelated letter caught my eye. On December 1, 1914, Henry Folger wrote to Goodspeed’s Book Shop in Boston expressing his dismay at having missed getting a David Garrick letter in their recent catalog. The note ends, “Perhaps you will be good enough to let me know who the purchaser was, so that I might try to secure it from him.”

Typed note addressed to 5A Park St., Boston, Mass.

Typed carbon copy of letter from Henry Folger to Goodspeed’s Book Shop, 1 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

Curiosity got the better of me. Instead of closing the folder and putting it back in its box, I turned the page, expecting a reply from Goodspeed’s saying that they would pass the inquiry along to the purchaser. Nope! In a stunning reminder of how expectations of customer privacy have changed, Charles E. Goodspeed wrote the one-sentence response, “The buyer of the Garrick letter was Mr. C.T. Grilley, 87 Coolidge St., Brookline, Mass.”

Letterhead of Goodspeed's Book Shop, Boston, with "Special Attention Given to Collectors' Wants" and "75,000 prints for extra-illustrating in stock."

Typed note from C.E. Goodspeed to Mr. H.C. Folger, 3 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

Folger wasted no time. On December 4th he wrote to Grilley, offering to buy the letter for $65.00.

Mr Goodspeed has been kind enough to give me your name as the purchaser of the Garrick autograph letter in his last catalogue. I have probably the finest collection of Garrick autograph letters that has ever been made, and this one is much needed to help complete a series on his arrangements for his dramatic performances. Can I get you to sell the letter to me? I will be glad to pay $65.00 for it.

Addressed to C.T. Grilley, Esq., 87 Coolidge St., Brookline, Mass.

Typed carbon copy of letter from Henry Folger to C.T. Grilley, Esq. 4 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

Seeing Henry Folger give so much detail about his interest surprises me. Why tip his hand? More to the point, why tip his hand with the self-satisfied phrase “I have probably the finest collection of Garrick autograph letters that has ever been made”? If I were C.T. Grilley, I’d have kept the letter just to be ornery. Luckily for Folger, Grilley was motivated by money, not spite.

The next day, Charles T. Grilley wrote:

Yours of Dec 4th in regard to the Garrick letter received.

It was purchased for my private collection with no intention of disposing of it. If you care to pay $100.00 for it I will part with it.

On letterhead of "Charles T. Grilley, Interpreter of Dramatic and Humorous Literature, 87 Coolidge Street, Brookline, Massachusetts"

Handwritten letter from Chas. T. Grilley to Mr. H.C. Folger, 5 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

In his carefully worded December 8th reply, Henry Folger didn’t say that $100 was too much to pay for a Garrick letter. Rather, he implied that the new price represented an unseemly profit. He was still potentially interested, but wanted to know the letter’s content first.

Thank you for your letter of the 5th, just received. The advance in price which you feel you should ask for the Garrick letter I wish seems large. Will you be good enough to send it over to me by mail so that I may read it, as I have not seen it and the description in the catalogue was very brief.

Typed carbon copy of letter from Henry Folger to Chas. T. Grilley, Esq. (Folger archives case file 639)

The blurb in Goodspeed’s catalog wasn’t particularly brief compared to other entries, but it’s true the “description” part didn’t go beyond a physical description. Instead of a summary of the contents, it quoted the first nine lines:

6121. Garrick. David. Aᴄᴛᴏʀ. A.l.s., 4 pp., 4°, no year; addressed to “Dear George.” “I hope before this that you & spouse are settted [sic] in hr new habitation—when yr Dressing room is finish’d send me ye Beills & I’ll send you ye money.—let it be pretty & worthy of my reception or tell Siss that I shall throw her & her dressing Room into ye Attorney General’s Gardens” &c. Fɪɴᴇ. $40.00

Detail of item 6121 in Goodspeed’s Catalogue no. 106 (November 1914), p. 168 (Folger archives case box 639)

Grilley must have picked up the mail on his way out of town because his reply a day later came on letterhead from the New Southington Inn, Southington, Connecticut.

Your letter received. I shall be at home on Saturday and will mail you the Garrick letter for your inspection as you request.

On letterhead of The New Southington Inn, Geo. R. Keife, P.J. Downing, Southington, Conn.

Handwritten letter from Chas. T. Grilley to H.C. Folger Jr., Esq., 9 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

Folger hadn’t asked about the condition of the paper or the legibility of the handwriting, he just said he wanted to read it, so Grilley could simply have sent a transcription of the letter. Instead, putting great faith in the post office and in Henry Folger, Grilley mailed the original to 26 Broadway, New York City.

The letter arrived safely, and on December 14th Folger made Grilley an offer:

Thank you very much for sending me the Garrick letter. While it is a good specimen, and perhaps the price asked in the catalogue was low, still I am quite sure it cannot be worth to anybody the $100 figure you name. The highest value I can see in it is $75 or $80. If you can see your way to let me have it at that figure I will keep it and send a check at once.

Typed carbon copy of letter from Henry Folger to Mr. C.T. Grilley, 14 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

No one would expect that an offer of “$75 or $80” would be accepted at $75, but it is a subtle way to pre-empt a counter-offer of $85. Indeed, Grilley accepted it:

Your letter received and while I hate to let the letter go, as it is one I very much desired to retain in my collection I am going to let you have it at the $80.00 figure you named. I hope you will enjoy the letter as much as I have in the brief time I have had it in my possession.

On letterhead of "Charles T. Grilley, Interpreter of Dramatic and Humorous Literature, 87 Coolidge Street, Brookline, Massachusetts"

Handwritten letter from Chas. T. Grilley to Mr. Folger, 16 Dec. 1914 (Folger archives case file 639)

Charles T. Grilley (1864-1927) was an “Interpreter of Dramatic and Humorous Literature” as stated on his letterhead. He toured the United States and Canada performing on the Chautauqua and Lyceum circuits. In fact, local newspapers show that he was performing in small towns in Maine the week he wrote to say he’d send the Garrick letter when he returned home that Saturday.1

Bust-length black and white photo of a balding white man wearing a suit and tie.

“Charles T. Grilley, Entertainer” (Detail from a brochure for “The Rogers-Grilley Recitals,” 1915. University of Iowa Libraries, Redpath Chautauqua Collection, MSC0150)

According to publicity material from 1916, Grilley’s acts included “comedy scenes from Shakespeare.” Were any of them scenes David Garrick had played? Probably not, given that Garrick’s repertoire contained only three comedic Shakespeare roles, but it’s a nice thought.2

Lengthy enumeration of Grilley's stage repertoire.

Grilley’s repertoire (Detail from promotional brochure for “The Charles T. Grilley recitals,” 1916. University of Iowa Libraries, Redpath Chautauqua Collection, MSC0150)

As for the Garrick letter itself, I’ll have to leave you with just the tantalizing opening lines quoted by Goodspeed, above, and the very brief summary currently found in the Folger catalog record (which now includes Goodspeed’s Book Shop and Charles T. Grilley as former owners).

Hopes he and his wife are well settled in their new habitation. Will not give above £7 per week to Bland. Hopes Saunders new entertainment will soon be ready. Asks about Messrs. Taaff [sic] and Montagu’s affair.

Once the Folger collection is accessible again, I’ll look at the original letter and update the rest of the description.


  1. The Bangor Daily News, 2 Dec 1914, p. 8; The Republican Journal (Belfast, Maine), 3 Dec 1914, p. 5; and The Bath Daily Times, 10 Dec 1914, p. 3. It’s a mystery why Grilley used letterhead from a hotel in central Connecticut while he was in Maine. Grilley and his wife were both from that part of the state, and he’s buried in Waterbury, Connecticut, so maybe there was a family connection to the New Southington Inn? So far I’ve managed to resist the temptation to look up business records to see if an inn by that name went bankrupt, leaving reams of obsolete letterhead behind.
  2. The three roles were Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (performed 113 times), Leontes in The Winter’s Tale (23 times), and Posthumus in Cymbeline (also 23 times). Ian McIntyre, Garrick, London: Allen Lane, 1999, p. 146.


You folks at The Folger are terrific. Thank you.

Beverley Ballantine — March 12, 2024


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