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Robertson Davies letter discovered at the Salvation Army

Here’s one for bargain seekers patiently digging through second-hand stores, hoping to score a treasure amongst the polyester.

Halifax illustrator and filmmaker Colleen MacIsaac found a used hardcover edition of the Robertson Davies play A Jig For the Gypsy at her local Salvation Army store. The book itself is worth more than the $1.99 MacIsaac paid for it ” copies are listed on Amazon for $30-$150, depending on condition. But what is special about this particular copy is that it contained a 1956 typewritten letter from Davies to Queen’s University professor Malcolm Ross. The English-literature scholar, who received the Order of Canada in 1976, passed away in Halifax nine years ago.

The letter, sent when Davies was an editor of the Peterborough Examiner, expresses a pointed dislike of Metropolitan Opera radio performances: The broadcasting of ludicrous Nineteenth Century melodrama, accompanied by music which is emotionally powerful but frequently of staggering vulgarity, and projected by means of acting which often falls below the level of a high school literary society’s play, is cultural only on a very special level.

MacIsaac scanned the letter, which she’s made available on her website.