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THE BEACON BIOGRAPHIES

EDITED BY

M. A. DEWOLFE HOWE



EDWIN BOOTH

BY

CHARLES TOWNSEND COPELAND



THE




a e ,



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HBUSHED :



EDWIN BOOTH



CHARLES TOWNSEND COPELAND

If




BOSTON

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
MDCCCCI



Copyright)
By Smal^ Maynard & Company

(Incorporated}



Entered at Stationer? Hall



Press of
George H. Ellis^ Boston



The photogravure used as a frontispiece
to this volume is from a copy of a photo-
graph taken in 1890 by Mr. Ignatius Gross-
mann, Booth's son-in-law. Booth sent this
copy to Mr. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, with
a letter from which the following words,
giving his own opinion of the likeness, are
taken :

u the whole thing, [the Sargent portrait]
even the long thin legs & graceless trousers
are me & mine. I have a photograph
for you whose expression is very similar, &
wh. I consider the best of me ever made :
it was done by chance by Grossmann one
day last Summer, at the Pier ; I liked it
so well that he had it enlarged & finished
properly & I had a few for my friends
struck off. The absence of theatrical effect
&c, is its great merit & that is what pleases
me in Sargentf s portrait.

" Love for you all, God bless you.

" ED WIN:'

The present engraving is by John Andrew
& Son, Boston.



IN MEMOKIAM D. B.



PEEFACE.

Without Mr. William Winter's full and
authoritative "Life and Art of Edwin
Booth," this book could not have been writ-
ten. It owes less yet much to " The Elder
and the Younger Booth," by the late Mrs.
J. S. Clarice; and to "Edwin Booth:
Eecollections by his Daughter, Edwina
Booth Grossmann ; and Letters to her and
to his Friends."

The writer is greatly indebted to Mr.
Aldrich for permission to print hitherto
unpublished letters of Booth, and for the
loan of the rare photograph reproduced as
frontispiece.

The writer is obliged to Messrs. Sough-
ton, Mifflin & Co., and to Mr. Aldrich, for
permission to reprint the poem entitled
"Sargent's Portrait of Edwin Booth at
' The Players.' "

C. T. C.

CAMBRIDGE, 8 Noyember. 1901.



CHBCXNX)LOGY.

1833

November 13. Edwin Booth was born at
Belair, Maryland.

1849

First appearance on the stage, at Boston
Museum.

1851
Acted Richard III for the first time.

1852

Went to California with his father. His
father died.

1854

Visited Australia, Samoan and Sand-
wich Islands.

1857

April 20. Appeared at Boston Theatre
as Sir Giles Overreach.

1860

July 7. Married Miss Mary Devlin and
sailed soon afterwards for England.

1861

September. First appearance in London,
as Shylock.



xii CHRONOLOGY

1861 (continued)

December 9. Edwina Booth born at Ful-
hain, London.

1862

September 29. Reappearance in New
York.

1863

February 21. Death of Mary Devlin
Booth.

September 21. Took management of "Win-
ter Garden Theatre, New York.

1864

November 25. Produced " Julius Caesar 77
at Winter Garden Theatre ; Junius, Ed-
win, and John Wilkes Booth in cast.
November 26. Produced " Hamlet 77 at
Winter Garden Theatre.

1865

March 22. One hundredth night of
"Hamlet 77 at Winter Garden Theatre.
April 14. Lincoln assassinated by John
Wilkes Booth.
Retired from the stage.



CHEONOLOGY xiii

1866

January 3. Eeappeared at Winter Gar-
den Theatre, as Hamlet.

1867

January 22. Presentation of Hamlet
Medal.

January 28. Eevival of "The Merchant
of Venice ' ' at Winter Garden Theatre.
March 22-23. Winter Garden Theatre
destroyed by fire.

1868

April 8. Corner-stone of Booth's The-
atre, New York, laid.
November 3. Appeared in " Macbeth, 7 '
Boston Theatre, with Mme. Janauschek.

1869

February 3. Booth's Theatre opened
with "Eomeo and Juliet."
April 12. Produced "Othello."
June 7. Married Miss Mary P. W-
Yicker of Chicago.

1871

December 25. Produced " Julius Caesar "
at Booth's Theatre.



xiv CHEONOLOGY

1873
Eetired from management.

1874
Went into bankruptcy.

1875

March. Eeleased from bankruptcy.
Thrown from carriage at Cos- Cob, Con-
necticut j seriously injured.
October 25. Eeappeared in New York, at
Fifth Avenue Theatre.

1876

January 3-March 3. Successful tour of
southern states. Eevisited California.
November 20. Began long engagement in
New York.

1877-78

Fifteen volumes of Prompt-Books (Will-
iam Winter, editor) published.

1879

April 23. Mark Gray's attempt to assas-
sinate Booth, at Chicago.

1880
April. Appeared as Petruchio, Madison



CHBOKTOLOGY xv

Square Theatre, New York, for benefit
of Poe Memorial.

June 15. Booth festival at Delmonico's.
June 30. Sailed for England.
^November 6. Appeared at Princess's The-
atre, London, as Hamlet.

1881

Presented "King Lear."
March 29. Ended season at Princess's
Theatre, London.

May 2. Appeared at Lyceum Theatre,
London, as Othello, Henry Irving lago.
October 3. Eeappeared in New York,
Booth's Theatre.

November 13. Death of Mary M'Vicker
Booth.

1882

May 31. Sailed for England.
June 25. Eeappeared at Princess's The-
atre, London.

1883

January 11. Appeared at Berlin.
Tour of Germany.
April 7. Closed tour at Vienna.
turned to America.



xvi CHEONOLOGY

1885

May 4. Delivered address at dedication
of Poe Memorial, Metropolitan Museum,
New York.

May 7. Appeared in " Macbeth " with
Mme. Eistori at Academy of Music,
New York.

1886

April 27-30 and May 1. Appeared in
" Hamlet " and " Othello" with Salvini
at Academy of Music, New York.
Booth-Barrett combination formed.

1887

Delivered address at dedication of Ac-
tors' Monument, Long Island.

1888

May 21. Appeared as Hamlet at testimo-
nial benefit for Lester Wallack, Metro-
politan Opera House, New York.
December 31. Founded The Players.

1889

Mme. Modjeska joined the Booth-Bar-
rett Company.



CHBONOLOGY xvii

1889 {continued}

April 3. Had a light stroke of paralysis
at Bochester, New York.

1891

March 20. Death of Lawrence Barrett.
April 4. Last appearance on the stage,
as Hamlet.

1893

June 7. Edwin Booth died at The Play-
ers, New York City.



EDWIN BOOTH



EDWIN BOOTH.



JUNTUS BRUTUS BOOTH, known for
many years in this country as " the elder
Booth," was born on the first day of
May, 1796, in the parish of St. Pancras,
London. Through his grandmother,
Elizabeth Wilkes, he was related to the
famous John Wilke?i, ;aanl ', through Ms
mother he came of a Wl$h family named
Llewellyn. Thus bqfcji the eldei* an^1&e/;>
younger Booth had in them that strain
of Celtic blood so often found in English
actors, artists, and writers. < ' The Booths
and Wilkes of Clerkenwell," writes Mrs.
J. S. Clarke in her memoir of her father,
"were honourably known in their time 5
the house of Bishop Burnet, an historical
old building, was the birthplace of many
of the Booths, and the yard of the an-
cient church of St. John of Jerusalem
still contains the gravestones of their de-
scendants, on which the names of the



2 EDWIN BOOTH

two families are frequently intermingled.
Euin and demolition have been busy,
the black mould of years is over the nar-
row streets and by-ways ; but the little
court keeps its name of ' Booth/ and the
graves in the narrow slip of church-
ground seem likely to last till dooms-
day. "

Eichard, the father of J. B. Booth,
was educated for the law ; but his devo-
tion to a profession more firmly attached
to pre^denfc than any other except
perhaps that of his son and grandsons
was not enough to keep him from be-
coming a red Eepublican and resolving
to fight for England's American colonies
against the mother-country. After be-
ing taken prisoner and brought back to
England, Booth addressed himself to
study, and the practice of law. Al-
though he seems not to have been
punished for his disloyalty, a freely
proclaimed republicanism kept him un-
popular. Eichard Booth's rule that



EDWIN BOOTH 3

everyone who entered his Bloomsbury
drawing-room should bow before a por-
trait of Washington that hung there,
was probably the most whimsical mani-
festation of his principles. Clearly in-
dicative of these were also the names of
his two sons, Junius Brutus and Alger-
non Sidney.

After a brief rivalry with Kean, J. B.
Booth came to try his fortune in the new
world, where he was long and widely
known for his great genius and even
greater eccentricity. On the eighteenth
of January, 1821, he had married Mary
Anne Holmes, and the same year found
them at Norfolk, Virginia. The young
actor's gifts and oddities were combined
with a strong desire for a quiet country
life when he was not acting. So, after
a number of brilliant engagements, in
the summer of 1822 he bought a farm
in Harford County, Maryland, twenty-
five miles from Baltimore. He passed
much time there, and there his six sons
and four daughters were born.



4 EDWIN BOOTH

Known always as "The Farm/' this
estate was really a wood, three miles
from each of three small villages Bel-
air, Hickory, and Churchville. Over
the stony coach-road, through an arch of
great trees, the post-boy, with his horn
and mail-bags, used to ride once a week,
and toss the Booths' letters and papers
over their gate. The house was a quar-
ter of a mile from the gate, by a narrow,
crooked path. The house, it should be
said, was no more than a log-cabin, as
innocent of locks and bolts as if it had
been in Arcadia. The square window-
frames and broad shutters of the cabin
which was plastered and whitewashed on
the outside were painted red. i < Four
rooms besides the loffc, the kitchen, and
the Old Dominion chimney, made up
a picturesque and comfortable abode,
standing in a clearing encompassed by
huge oak, black walnut, beech, and tu-
lip trees. " Booth caused his cabin to be
removed across several fields, in order to



EDWItf BOOTH 5

bring it near an excellent spring which
he had discovered under the thickest
trees. These were left standing, and the
spring was furnished with granite ledges
and steps. " In its grateful depths/ 7
continues Mrs. Clarke, " dwelt an im-
mense green bull-frog ; and as these creat-
ures are said to live a hundred years,
the children of the family used to imag-
ine that he had croaked to the first
invaders of his solitude as he did to
them. In this shaded spot a little dairy
was built, and the thoughtful possessor
planted in front of his door a cherry-
shoot, anticipating the future when
his children should gather under its
branches. Those days came in their
time, and his tall sons swung themselves
up among its great boughs, to read or
doze away many a sultry afternoon.
Merry groups gossiped under its shelter,
little ones danced there, while older ones
dreamed, and reared airy castles ; the
aged mother in her widowhood remem-



6 EDWIN BOOTH

bered happier days in its shadows ; and
every year the orioles and mocking-birds
paid their welcome visits. This grand
old grafted tree was very tall and
straight, and shaded the entire lawn. 77

In his green clearing, circled by un-
broken forest as far as the eye could
reach, the Farmer the world forget-
ting, though not by the world forgot
planted a large orchard, and had negro
quarters, barns, and stables, built.
Among other necessities added to the
Farm, were a vineyard, a cider-press,
and a fishing stream : among its luxuries
was a swimming-pond, with a little
willow-grown island.

In a few years, when it became neces-
sary to provide for the dead as well as
for the living, a little graveyard was
railed in. With true Southern refusal
to join in death those who in life were so
far asunder, Booth buried black mem-
bers of his large household outside of
the enclosure, which was shaded with



EDWIN BOOTH 7

Jewish althea bushes, yews, and weeping
willows. The white dead were laid with-
in the rails. As clergymen were usually
no nearer than the rest of civilisation,
the owner of all this seclusion often found
it a part of his duty to read the burial
service.

Within the cabin the master of it
typified his two fold life by keeping in
one file the numbers of a weekly paper
on farming, and in another, playbills.
Incidents and pleasures of the farm life
he minutely described in a note-book,
along with passages from plays, memo-
randa of dresses and properties, stage
directions, births and deaths of children,
astronomical observations, fast days, and
lastly a few verses.

On the Actor-Farmer's few but catho-
lic book-shelves, stood volumes of Shel-
ley, Coleridge, and Keats new poets
then a Gazetteer of the World, an
English and a French dictionary, Ea-
cine, Alfieri, Tasso, Dante, Burton's An-



8 EDWEST BOOTH

atomy of Melancholy, Plutarch's Morals
and Lives, Milton, Shakespeare, the
Koran (by which the elder Booth set
great store), Locke's Essay on the Human
Understanding, and Paley's Theology.

On the parlour walls hung three en-
gravings ' i Timon of Athens, " " The
Eoman Matron showing her Husband
how to Die/' and "The Death of Bona-
parte," "with these words written in
the clouds, <T6te d'Armee.' " The
furniture of the cabin, though simple
and rough, was of a sort that is looked
upon with increasing interest and affec-
tion. The corner cupboard, full of old-
fashioned china ; a narrow looking-
glass, with the sun and moon (in the
guise of human faces) painted on the
upper half; the spinning wheel ; the
tall brass andirons and fender all
these objects, even without the particu-
lar association, would be cherished as
household reminders of former times.
The old Herbalist and Almanack, side



EDWIN BOOTH 9

by side on the wall, the ink-horn, bunch
of quills, and little bags of seeds, hung
from hooks round the looking-glass,
added harmonious details to a picture
strangely contrasted with the scenes in
which the world thinks of the elder and
the younger Booth. The family bread
was baked in a Dutch oven, the family
meals eaten from immense pewter plat-
ters, which were used in later days as
covers to the milk-crocks in the dairy.
A rigid vegetarianism was practised on
the Farm. * ' Mr. Booth usually travelled
from Harford County to Baltimore and
to Eichmond in his carryall with two
horses i Captain/ a very large animal,
and the favourite but diminutive < Pea-
cock,' " a piebald pony bought on the
island of Madeira.

It has seemed worth while to recite all
these details of Edwin Booth's first home,
not only for their interest, but because
they were so very different from every-
thing in and about his last home, the



10 EDWIN BOOTH

Players 7 Club in New York. Between
the two, we have only the most general
record of any of his abodes.

A word or two as to the physical
aspect of father and son will be a further
help to most readers. The father was
short, spare, and sinewy. He had the
head of a Greek, the chest of an athlete,
and a face of the pallor often though not
always seen in scholars. His hair was
dark, and his eyes blue-grey. His voice
ranged from organ to flute. Mr. Joseph
Jefferson's brief description of his acting,
to be found in the Autobiography, is worth
most of the many others scattered through
books of reminiscence and criticism.
"When but twenty-two years of age,"
says Mr. Jefferson, "I was cast for
Marrall in 'A New Way to Pay Old
Debts, 7 the elder Booth playing Sir Giles
Overreach. . . . The elder Booth's act-
ing of Sir Giles was indeed something to
be remembered. During the last scene
he beats Marrall, who hides for protec-



EDWIIST BOOTH 11

tion behind Lord Lovell. Booth's face,
when he found he could not reach his
victim, had the look of an uncaged tiger.
His eyes flashed and seemed to snap with
fire ; his nostrils dilated ; his cheeks
appeared to quiver ; his half-opened
mouth, with its thin lips pressed tightly
against the white teeth, made a picture
of anger fearful to look upon. At the
point where he is about to draw his
sword his arm shakes, his right hand
refuses to do its office, and, stricken with
paralysis, he stands the embodiment of
despair ; then come his terrible words of
anguish and self-reproach :

6 Some undone widow sits upon mine arm,

my sword,

Glued to my scabbard, with wronged
orphans' tears. 7

His whole frame, shaken with convul-
sions, seems to collapse, his head sinks
upon his breast, his jaw drops, and the
cruel man is dead. There was no ap-



12 EDWIN BOOTH

plause the night I speak of 5 the acting
was so intense and so natural that the
mimic scenes seemed really to have hap-
pened. ' ' We have all sat through scenes
followed by no applause, though not for
the reason given by Mr. Jefferson. But
the audiences of half a century ago and
more were either more impressionable
than those of to-day, or else, as the sur-
vivors affirm, they had better reason for
being impressed. Certain it is that Mrs.
Siddons and Kean and the elder Booth
had a power over their houses that even
Salvini has not exercised in our own
time.

It is also clear that in bodily pres-
ence the elder Booth was more impos-
ing, though not more brilliant, than
the younger. Yet there was a resem-
blance between them a resemblance
that showed itself mainly in the shape
of head and face ; in the arch of eye-
brow, " the actor's feature 7 ' for which
both men were notable ; and in a mo-



EDWIN BOOTH 13

bility and positive radiance of face that
were among Edwin Booth's most beauti-
ful endowments. His eyes were dark
brown, and so full of light that boys and
girls often kept the look of them as
almost the sole recollection of plays in
which they had seen him. I, for one,
saw Booth's ShylocJc at a very early age ;
and for years after, I remember, the
Jew to me was nothing but a pair of
eyes, large, dark, awful, and bright
above all, bright, and seeming to give
out light. In the opinion of Mr. Will-
iam Winter, "only one man of our time
has equalled Edwin Booth in this sin-
gular splendour of countenance the
great New England orator Eufus Choate.
Had Choate been an actor upon the
stage as he was before a jury with
those terrible eyes of his, and that pas-
sionate Arab face, he must have towered
fully to the height of the tradition of
George Frederick Cooke." In poise,
grace, and swiftness of motion, for which



14 EDWIN BOOTH

the elder Booth was famous, neither he
nor any one could well have surpassed
his son. Of the middle height and size,
the younger Booth was closely knit and
admirably proportioned. His physical
command of himself recalled the Ger-
man traveller's note that Garrick seemed
all right hand, so that within Booth 7 s
easy achievement were the march of
Othello , lago's leopard tread, and the
tottering majesty of Lear. His voice,
although a little " veiled " at least in
later years ranged wide and carried
far. Its sweetness and strength spoke to
the inner even more than to the outer
ear. It stirred not only the blood but
the spirit.



II.

THE youth of this rare person was
schooled by constant association with a
man of genius, and saddened by his
strange, almost mad perversities. But
in forming an artist and disciplining a
character, the privilege of being son to
the elder Booth far outweighed the fre-
quent penalty of acting as his guardian.

Edwin Thomas Booth Edwin after
Edwin Forrest was born at the Mary-
land farm on ISTovember 13, 1833. The
negroes said he was "born lucky" and
" gifted to see ghosts, " because there was
a brilliant shower of meteors on the night
of the boy's birth, and because he was
born with a caul. His first recollection
of his father was of their having travelled
a whole day together and reaching the
Farm late at night, under the dark trees.
A man who had come with them to take
back the hired horses they had ridden,
went away into the night; and Booth



16 EDWIN BOOTH

lifted his little son over the snake-fence
into the grass, saying as he did so
"Your foot is on your native heath. "

The boy's education began under Miss
Susan Hyde, who taught the rudiments
to boys and girls. Miss Hyde, who
afterward became secretary of the Pea-
body Institute in Baltimore, was always
affectionately remembered by her most
distinguished pupil. Somewhat later,
Booth sent his son to an old Frenchman,
a West-Indian naval officer, M. Louis
Dugas. He went probably for a very
short time to " a university ?? which
Mrs. Clarke does not name ; and studied
intermittently with a Mr. Kearney, who
wrote all his own school-books. Kear-
ney encouraged his boys to act scenes
from plays, and on one occasion the
elder Booth, sitting on the corner of a
bench near the door, was an unseen
and a gratified witness of the quarrel
between Brutus and Cassius, recited with
gestures by Edwin Booth and John S.



EDWIN BOOTH 17

Clarke, whose delightful art afterward led
him quite away from tragedy. The
young Eomans wore white linen trousers
and black jackets, then the fashion.
Mr. J. H. Hewitt, of Baltimore, remem-
bered Edwin as "a comely lad . . .
dressed in a Spanish cloak."

A varied education was made still
more fragmentary by periodical trips,
on which Edwin Booth had the respon-
sible task of caring for the health and
even the safety of his father. In Louis-
ville, to give one example of the sort of
thing that often happened, Booth had
on a certain night been playing Richard
III with great brilliancy. On the way
to his hotel he suddenly determined to
walk the streets alone. When he found
that Edwin would not leave him, he
went rapidly to a long covered market,
in which he began to walk up and
down. The promenade, from end to
end of the market, did not cease until
daylight. Now hastening, now lagging,



18 EDWIN BOOTH

the father could not shake off his son,
who sometimes angry, sometimes ready
to laugh, and always weary kept his
father 7 s changing pace until morning
moved Booth to go home to bed. During
the whole time neither had spoken a
word.

It is not strange that such experiences
as these should have made a sensitive
youth grave beyond his years ; or that
more painful demands upon his patience
and courage, with no anodyne of the ab-
surd, should have deepened his inherited
melancholy. The noble motto of the
noble Italian house, " Though sad, I am
strong, ' ' might well have been this boy 7 s.
And at only one moment of later life, in
the disaster that almost crushed him,
could he have felt its sadness or needed
its strength more than in the early, hard
probation of being attendant, dresser,
and guardian, to a man whose genius was
not without its authenticating strain of
madness.



EDWIN BOOTH 19

In spite of all this association with the
theatre, the actor's son saw little of its
processes. His father intended him to
be a cabinet-maker. "During my con-
stant attendance on him in the thea-
tre " says Edwin Booth in "Some
Words about my Father 7 ' "he for-
bade my quitting his dressing-room
where he supposed my school-lessons
were studied. But the idle boy, ignor-
ing Lindley Murray and such small deer,
seldom seeing the actors, listened at the
keyhole to the garbled text of the mighty
dramatists, as given in the acting ver-
sions of the plays. By this means at an
early age my memory became stored
with the words of all the parts of every
play in which my father performed."
It is common knowledge that the loss
of one sense often sharpens the others.
Who shall say that so much hearing
without seeing, did not tune the listen-
er's ear, and train unconsciously the
tongue that was afterward to rob the
Hybla bees?



20 EDWIN BOOTH

Not only was the boy forbidden to see
plays, but he seldom heard his father
speak of actors or the theatre. Only
once, indeed, was he allowed to hear any
of the elder Booth's recollections of the
stage. This was on an occasion when,
after reading "Coriolanus" to his son
u until far into the morning, he spoke
of the marvellous acting of Edmund
Kean."

Clearly enough, however, Edwin
Booth's hereditary talent, his delphic
association with the theatre, his strange
responsibilities, and the grotesque con-
trasts of his life, were hurrying the neg-
lectful grammar-student into a closer
walk with "the mighty dramatists " to
whom he had hearkened so attentively.
Yet, when he made his first appearance
on any stage, it was by accident, and
characteristically enough to do some
one a kindness. Mr. Thoman, who
doubled the parts of prompter and actor,
was attending to some detail in prepara-



EDWIN BOOTH 21

tion for the elder Booth's Richard III
at the Boston Museum. Suddenly he
turned to Edwin, who was standing by,
and exclaimed: "This is too much
work for one man ; you ought to play
Tressel. ' ' The boy consented, and, when


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