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Butler, George H. (1840-1886)

Harry Zena

The troublesome nephew of a prominent Massachusetts Congressman and Civil War general, Benjamin Butler, George H. Butler was a theater critic and writer. During the Civil War, Butler served as lieutenant in the Union army (New York Times, May 12, 1886, 2). After the war, he returned to New York, where he was an editor for the Arcadian (Record of the Year, vol. 2, 57). Later, he served as a writer and dramatic critic for the publication, Spirit of the Times (New York Times, May 12, 1886, 2). Butler was married to Rose Eytinge, an actress who often frequented Pfaff's. Together they had two children. They were divorced in 1882 (New York Times, March 26, 1882, 6). While they were married, George served in a variety of official positions that his uncle helped him to obtain, but he was often removed because of his behavior. For example, he served as the Consul General in Egypt in 1870. His wife, Rose, joined him in Egypt, but they did not remain there long as Butler made ripples by dismissing all consular agents, auctioning off their commissions, and purchasing dancing girls. He was recalled in 1872, but not before he was involved in a brawl there with three former Confederate officers, including General P. T. Beauregard ("A Short History," S18; Young 346-8).

While no source directly places Butler at Pfaff's, he has several connections to those who frequented the establishment and was likely involved with the group, to a certain extent. First off, he was married to Rose Eytinge, who herself was part of the Pfaffian crowd, and whose cousin, Sol Eytinge, was also involved with the group of Bohemians. In addition, there are several clues that he shared a particular connection with Henry Clapp. For example, Butler is identified as one of the "friends of Henry Clapp in the city of New York," but not necessarily as a Pfaffian ("Current Memoranda" 714). According to theater scholar, Tice Miller, Butler was also one of the several individuals, many of whom were Pfaffians, who help to organize Clapp's funeral (T. Miller 40). Scholar Mark Lause also notes that Butler and William Winter worked together on a committee organized by fellow Pfaffian, George McWatters, with the purpose of helping to move Henry Clapp's remains back to his native Nantucket following his death (118).

Butler's troublesome ways continued in his later life, as he continued to get himself into tricky situations and was eventually arrested several times. In an article following his arrest in 1878 for failing to pay the outstanding balance on a suit, the author noted that "Col. Butler, when sober, is the pleasantest man in the city. He is an exceedingly clever writer, and has been employed on the Sunday papers of this city since his recall as Special Agent of the Post Office Department last winter" (New York Times, Aug. 4, 1878, 5). George H. Butler died in May of 1886. Butler's eulogy in the Hunterdon Country Democrat remembered him as "the dissipated nephew of General B. F. Butler, who has been one of the characters of the National Capital for years." In Other Days, William Winter confirms this familial connection and provides a detailed example of Butler's dissipation. Winter recalls how George H. Butler, nephew of General B. F. Butler, approached him at Brougham's Theater, informing him that James Fisk, Jr., a theatre manager who Butler represented, would offer Winter $2,500 a year to drop an occasional good word about him into the papers. Winter flatly rejected this attempted bribe (116-17). His obituary in the New York Times echoed the sentiment of the one written while still alive, noting that "when not disable by unfortunate habits he was a brilliant talker and writer" (New York Times, May 12, 1886, 2).