Born November 13th, 1833 in Maryland, Edwin Booth had an affinity for the acting world; he was named after the actors Edwin Forrest and Thomas Flynn, and his father, Junius, was a British actor who took Edwin with him on theatrical tours of the United States. Father and son developed a close relationship, although "to see to it that that erratic genius [Junius] did not break his engagements, murder someone, or commit suicide during his times of intoxication and half-insanity was a heavy responsibility for the fragile youth and made [Edwin] grave, serious, and melancholy beyond his years. His wayward father loved him deeply and would yield to the lad's suasion when deaf to the entreaties of all others" (Bates).
From 1855 to 1860 Booth performed in Boston and New York City while also touring the southeastern United States. His "triumphant" performance of Sir Giles Overreach greatly enhanced his reputation, as did various performances at Burton's Metropolitan Theatre in New York City. In 1860 he married actress Mary Devlin.In 1864, after the death of his wife, Booth became manager of the Winter Garden and bought the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. In his review of Booth's performances, Henry Clapp, Jr. asserts that Booth has "given us a series of hard, dry, woe-begone characters which (except in a few purely domestic scenes which he renders attimes with great delicacy and sweetness), are like certain under-toned pictures of mountain scenery which represent the loneliness of the scene without giving any idea of its wildness of its beauty" (Clapp "Untitled" 11 Oct. 1862). Indeed, this was not the only moment where Clapp wrote about Booth. Clapp followed the actor’s career closely “expending buckets of ink” writing articles in “exhaustive and worrying detail” (Martin 84).
While some Pfaffians found little to admire in Booth, there were others who felt he had great talent. Edward G. P. Wilkins felt that Booth had "the true fire of genius which needs but time, industry, and study to place its possessor in the very rank of living tragedians" (qtd. in T. Miller 63). Andrew C. Wheeler considered Booth to be "the greatest artist upon the American stage," although "he limited such praise to those of the actor's roles which demanded intellectual rather than physical or emotional force. Wheeler thought that to see Edwin Booth delineate Richard III and Iago was to see the best acting of which our stage was capable" (T. Miller 152). Booth floated heavily among the Pfaff’s group, being particularly close to Fitz Ludlow (Martin 59). Justin Martin counts Booth as a member of the “Bohemian set” stating that Booth “moved in this same circle and became friends [...] with Clapp, Aldrich, Winter, and others” (56). Booth and William Winter also corresponded frequently and openly (Watermeier). Booth was also “a frequent guest at receptions held at the tenth street studio” (172). Mark Lause also places Booth in Pfaff’s for Adah Isaacs Menken’s reception of Mazeppa, seated at the same table as Whitman, Ada Clare, and Fitz-James O’Brien (113).
Booth finished his hundredth night as Hamlet at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 1865, but one month later he retired from the stage after his brother, John Wilkes Booth, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. He reluctantly returned to the Winter Garden stage in 1866: "[h]is sufferings had been dreadful, and it is thought that nothing but the pressure of financial obligation would have induced him to return to the stage" (Odell 8:20). Fortunately, the audience was friendly and did not hold him responsible for his brother's actions.
After the Winter Garden burned to the ground in March 1867, Booth began building what came to be known as "Booth's Theatre" in New York City. In 1869 he was married for the second time to Mary McVicker, another actress. She quit performing after their marriage and slowly went insane before finally dying on November 13, 1881. Unfortunately, Booth's professional success was not matched by financial stability and "the most artistic theatre in America met financial disaster during the panic of 1873-74" (Bates).
From that time forward, Booth never had a permanent home as an actor. His acting ability seemed to decline along with his health and by the age of forty "his acting...often seemed tired; his voice, always his weakest point, tended to become monotonous; his gestures became more formal" (Bates). In 1877 Booth, with the help of William Winter, organized a collection of his better known plays for publication. They were published in 1878 as Edwin Booth's Prompt Book . Booth continued working until two years before his death. On April 4, 1891 he stepped on stage for the last time to perform Hamlet at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York.
Mrs. Aldrich met Aldrich at Booth's rooms in the fall of 1862 (1). After seeing Booth act for the first time in "Hamlet," the future Mrs. Aldrich said to her sister: "The turning point has come to my life. That young actor will control my destiny" (2). Shortly after this declaration, Mrs. Aldrich's family was placed in hotel apartments next door to Edwin Booth and his young bride (2). The Booths were not seen for some time, however, one day when she snuck away from her lessons to eat lunch, she was seated with the couple. Mrs. Aldrich writes: "It is most difficult to give any idea of Mr. Booth's personality at this time. His fine bearing and natural grace, the magic charm of face and figure, the melodious voice and the ever-changing expression of his eyes!" Of his wife, she writes: "The one who was to be loved the most sat by him. Slight in figure, but with lovely lines; honest, straightforward eyes, brown and tender; years that counted nineteen; an ineffable grace that made even strangers love her." The lunch was interrupted by the appearance of Mrs. Aldrich's greyhound in the lunchroom - much to her embarassment. Booth, however, remained aloof and unphased by the commotion (3-5). The "accidental meeting" led to an acquaintance among all the parties and Mrs. Aldrich's later introduction to her future husband (5).
The first time the Booths called on the young, future Mrs. Aldrich, she describes the actor as follows: "Mr. Booth, then twenty-seven years old, was in the height of his splendor. The early part of his life had much of harshness and vicissitude, which with an inherited temperment had stamped his pale and mobile face with a deep expression of melancholy. The strange magnetic quality of his nature was almost perceptible to the touch. No one could come into his presence without, consciously or unconsciously, coming under his influence. He inspired an admiration that no word can adequately describe. When he walked the streets people stopped to gaze at him. When he played, the stage door on the street was blocked with both men and women who waited for one more glimpse of him as he stepped to his carriage. Of this luminous atmosphere in which he walked he seemed unconscious; or brushed it aside as something disconnected with himself, belonging solely to the trappings and paraphenalia of the stage...It was not decreed that Mr. Booth in his life of gloom and glory should know much of happiness" (6-7). According to Mrs. Aldrich, the Booths were quite happy to remain isolated from the social world and would often only visit with Mrs. Aldrich and her sister (7). Mrs. Aldrich only recalls the two accepting an invitation from the Century Club, at which event the discussion of Hamlet's sanity was debated (9).
After returning from London and the birth of their daughter, Edwina, the Booths were called upon by the Stoddards. In an unexpected decision, Edwin Booth invited them into his rooms because they shared a mutual friend in Lorimer Graham (12-13). According to Mrs. Aldrich, the presence of the Stoddards brought the "connecting link" to her fate (13). A few days later, the Booths were invited to visit with the Stoddards at their home on Tenth Street and to meet the members of their literary and artistic circle (14). It is through the recounting of this event by the Booths to the young Mrs. Aldrich and her sister that they first hear of Thomas Bailey Aldrich (16-18). Shortly after, the Booths hosted this group at their rooms, where the young Mrs. Aldrich was also invited. She remarks that it was odd to see Booth in the role of the cheerful host, and, although there was much drinking and toasting, Booth's glass remained empty throughout the evening. It was through this event and the Booths that the two young women were introduced to the literary and artistic circles of New York (19-22).
During Booth's New York engagements, Aldrich and Launt Thompson were often in his booth at the theater. After shows there were usually small suppers in his dressing rooms with his friends; Mrs. Aldrich here makes her first allusion to Booth's drinking (25).
For Booth's theatrical engagement beginning February 9, 1863, Mrs. Booth was unable to accompany him to New York and asked his friends to look after her husband. Aldrich and Thompson "were the two nights that threw the glove and entered the field" to look after their friend, who often came up with ways to elude his chaperones. Each man took turns keeping Booth under constant supervision, claiming devotion and the enjoyment of their friend's company. As Mrs. Aldrich puts it, "only once for a moment was the mask lifted," when Booth attempted to get Alrich away from his dressing room, suggesting other things he could do in the theater. During this conversaion, a messenger boy arrived with a "suspicious-looking beverage" on a tray. Booth reached for it, but Aldrich was quicker and poured the contents of the glass out the window. The two men did not speak for the rest of the evening and spent the night walking the city until Booth and Aldrich finally tired and returned to his hotel. Mrs. Aldrich reports that this same tactic was used by the elder Booth on Edwin when he wanted to be left alone. The next day, Booth was back to normal and the men did not speak of the event (29-33). It is during this separation that Mrs. Booth's condition worsened into a serious illness. Despite letters that masked the seriousness of her condition, she remained unwell enough to travel (34). Mrs. Stoddard wrote Mrs. Booth a letter stating: "Sick or well, you must come. Mr. Booth has lost all restraint and hold on himself. Last night there was the grave question of ringing down the curtain before before the performance was half over. Lose no time. Come." Mrs. Booth wrote back: "I cannot come. I cannot stand. I think sometimes that only a great calamity can save my dear husband. I am going to try to write him now, and God give me grace to write as a true wife should." After Mrs. Booth's death, Edwin Booth found Mrs. Stoddard's note and the discovery of its content led to a permanent rift between the two (35). The evening after writing this letter, Mrs. Booth's condition worsened and she passed away. Booth was, "on this sombre night, when happiness died" for him "playing fitfully, and only half himself" (36) later that evening, while being guarded by Stoddard, he recieved a telegram, the fourth notice, that he must attend to his wife immediately. Stoddard and Booth set out the next day for Boston, where Mrs. Booth had already passed away (37-38). Mrs Aldrich writes: "For the weeks following the death of his wife Mr. Booth was on the narrow line between sanity and insanity; a strange delerium held him in its clutch. Much of the time he was as Hamlet -- with the 'antic disposition' of variable moods, black despair, hysterical laughter, and tears" (42).
Booth returned to New York two months after his wife's death with his daughter. For the 1864-1865 season, he was scheduled to perform at the Winter Garden Theatre, of which he had also become a part proprietor (60). Mrs. Aldrich writes that during that season Booth's sorrow over the loss of his wife was so fresh that he did not need any makeup to portray Hamlet (61).
March 20, 1865, Booth finished his hundredth night as Hamlet at the Winter Garden Theatre. March 24, 1865, Booth began an engagement in Boston "beginning with great brilliancy and ending in such grim tragedy." The last week of the engagement the surrender of Lee's army occured (61). Booth was playing in "The Iron Chest" in Boston the night of Lincoln's assassination (65). Booth's performance that evening had been a tremendous success; Booth was awoken by a servant with the news his brother had shot the President the next morning (70-71). Booth traveled to New York the next day to be with his mother (73).
After Lincoln's assassination, Aldrich was one of a group of friends who waited at Booth's New York home for his arrival. "In the sad days following this home-coming, Mr. Aldrich was Mr. Booth's constant companion, a vigil that was not without threatening danger, as daily letters, notes, and messages came to the house addressed to Mr. Booth warning him that the name of Booth should be exterminated. None should bear it and live. 'Bullets were marked for him and his household.' 'His house would be burnt.' Cries for justice and vengeance, and every other indignity that hot indignation and wrathful words could ignite" (73-74).
Booth was sent for by the government for the trial of the conspirators; he was not called upon to testify, although he was present. Years later, after the war, the government sent word as to where his brother had been buried and gave him the right to reinternment (82-83).
In 1885, Booth established a club for actors, which Aldrich named the Players' Club. Booth donated the house he owned, 29 Chestnut Street, Boston, to the Club, and "In giving the Club to the Actors, Mr. Booth had made a home for the homeless and ever-travelling profession" (263-264).
Mrs. Aldrich mentions a portrait of Edwin Booth done by Sargent and reprints a verse written about the work on p. 267.
Mrs. Aldrich also writes that "Mr. Booth's professional life closed as it had begun, by chance," giving his last performance in "Hamlet" in Brooklyn (267). Booth was called to the stage for several encores, but never had an official last performance; "litte by little he had relaxed his grasp upon the stage" (268). Booth died at the age of sixty in his rooms on the third floor of the Players' Club, where he spent the last few years of his life. Booth suffered a small stroke two years before his death, and after this event his health gradually declined. Booth had a second stroke in April 1893, and from that point he rapidly declined, dying shortly after midnight on June 7. Mrs. Aldrich writes: "On the night Edwin Booth was born there was a great shower of meteors. At the hour when he lay dying, all the electric lights in the Players' Club grew dim and went out" (268).
Mrs. Aldrich prints here lines written on Booth's death:
June 7, 1893
In narrow space with Booth, lie housed in death,
Iago, Hamlet, Shylock, Lear, Macbeth.
If still they seem to walk the painted scene
'T is but the ghosts of those that once have been. (269).
The book's dedication reads:
TO EDWIN BOOTH.
MY DEAR BOOTH:
In offering these verses to you, I beg you to treat them (as you have many a time advised a certain lord chamberlain to treat the players) not according to ther desert. "Use them after your own honor and dignity; the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty."
These many years your friend and comrade,
Edwin Booth was one of the thirty-two contributors who contributed ten dollars apiece to purchase a horse and buggy for Whitman in 1884-1885. The request was made in response to Whitman's worsening lameness in the winter of 1884-1885, and his inability to get around without transportation. Most, but not all, of the contributors were personal friends of Whitman (522).[pages:522]
Booth extensively traveled the country and the globe, with performances in Sacramento and San Francisco, California as well as a brief run of The Merchant of Venice in Sydney, Australia. By the time he traveled east in 1855. Booth had matured and gained confidence as an actor: "His style was inevitably moulded by that of his father and by the whole Kean tradition but it was marked by an intellectuality and a sustained power which the elder Booth never achieved. Not super-eminent as a comedian, in tragedy the younger Booth was soon to reach the level of Kean himself."
Brown notes his 100-night run of Hamlet in 1864-1865.[pages:i.477]
C.B.S. mentions that preparations are being made at the Winter Garden in anticipation of Booth's return to the stage, scheduled for January 8 (329).[pages:329]
C.B.S. devotes a section of his column to Booth and his return to the stage. C.B.S. announces the beginning of Booth's engagement at the Winter Garden. C.B.S. also refers to the "recent attack" on Booth in the Herald relating to Booth's brother's "great crime" (345).[pages:345]
Clapp's review of Booth's Hamlet: It lacked "flesh and blood."
Figaro asks why anyone would spend more to see Booth or Forrest perform when there is plenty to see at Barnum's. Also discusses his failure, as well as other male actors', to accurately represent human emotions. Discusses his performance as Richelieu (3).[pages:3]
Eytinge claims that "every one who ever met Edwin Booth" could bear "testimony to his gentleness, his sweet temper, his unvarying, simple kindliness" (28).
Eytinge met Booth when she was acting in New York and he offered her the part of Fiordilisa in his production of "A Fool's Revenge" (28). She relates an incident during this production when she misread her character and created a costume that was too elaborate. Booth expressed dismay at her appearance but treated her kindly once he saw her embarrassment. He allowed her to wear the costume throughout the run of the production (29-30).
Eytinge describes her appearance on the stage with Booth a year or two later at Winter Garden Theatre in New York. She tells how he welcomed her interpretation of a supporting character's role in their production of "Richelieu" and changed his costume from courtier to acolyte accordingly (30-1). She also illustrates "the kindliness of Booth's nature and his some quaint sense of humour" in another anecdote from the production of "Richelieu". He removed "a smudge of black" from the end of her nose during their performance with the corner of the Cardinal's robe (31-2).
Several years later Booth again offered her work in one of his productions but Eytinge turned him down because she was playing a starring role elsewhere. She notes that she regrets missing this opportunity to work with Booth again (32).
Eytinge witnessed the effect that the crime of John Wilkes Booth had upon his brother. She describes how "shrinking and cowering under the weight of that great sin and shame, for which he was in no way responsible, but the consequences of which he suffered deeply and bitterly, withdrew himself from the world and avowed his determination never to appear in public again, and how it was only after a long time, and after not only his friends and admirers but the whole country clamoured for him, that he reconsidered that determination and consented to appear again upon the stage" (33). Eytinge also reveals that John Wilkes Booth's body was exhumed and moved to Baltimore at his mother's request (33). Eytinge claims that the Government moved the body "not so much out of sympathy for her, but as an expression of respect for her son Edwin, and of the faith which the nation had in him" (34).
Eytinge writes that "it is not possible to think of Edwin Booth without chastened sorrow and sympathy" and she points to his difficult life resulting from an unsettled childhood, his wife's premature death and his brother's crime (34). She also indicates that there were "domestic clouds which shadowed Edwin Booth's later years" but states that no one has the right to discuss them (34). She points out that he had compensation for a difficult life, however, because "Art, his mistress, always greeted him with smiles; the tragic muse, Melpomene, never turned away from him. She walked with him hand in hand through fields where lesser mortals could not follow, and with the wreath of willow that a sorrowful nation laid upon his grave there were also mingled the leaves of the laurel" (35).
Eytinge notes that Edwin Booth was one of many actors who could be met at Bulfinch Place, or "the actors' Mecca", in Boston when she visited there (57,60).[pages:28-35,28(ill.),60]
Figaro notes that Booth is still very popular at the Winter Garden with Richeleau and Hamlet (2).[pages:2]
Figaro mentions Booth's success at the Winter Garden (5).[pages:5]
Figaro mentions that Booth is currently the "great attraction" at the Winter Garden (5).[pages:5]
Booth's Hamlet is discussed and the different nuances he brings to the role nightly (4).[pages:4]
Figaro mentions that Booth fails to do anything but "Hamletize" his role in the current performance of Richeleu at the Winter Garden (89).[pages:88,89]
Figaro compares Booth's Hamlet to Charles Kean's Hamlet. Figaro likens Booth's portrayal to a "portrait by Vandyke" (72).[pages:72]
Figaro praises Booth's style of "elocution" in tragic roles (72). Figaro also mentions that he has not yet seen Booth in Richelieu at the Winter Garden (73).[pages:72,73]
Figaro discusses the "fiendish treatment" of Booth and Kate Bateman by Bennett of the Herald (24).[pages:24,25]
Figaro discusses Bennett's "outrageous attack" on Booth, who is performing at the Winter Garden and the public backlash involved in such an attack (9).[pages:9]
Figaro notes that Booth is still performing successfully at the Winter Garden (105).[pages:105]
In speaking of Clarke's reception at the Winter Garden, Figaro doubts that Booth himself could have received a better response from the audience (89).[pages:89]
Figaro mentions Booth's success at the Winter Garden (121).[pages:121]
Figaro gives an excuse for not seeing Booth in Ruy Blas, but claims that as it appears that almost everyone else went, he heard the show was well done (57).[pages:57]
Stephen Ryder Fiske sharply criticises Booth for not doing more to elevate his profession. "[Booth] sticks to Shakespeare, not only because it is great, but because it is cheap. The Theatre, the company and the accessories are furnished for him and he never seems to care whether they are good, bad, or indifferent. He goes through his part, well or ill, according to the whim of the night or the state of his health, pockets his cheque and disappears until the stage is ready for the next performance."
A member of Aldrich's "nearer circle of contemporaries" during his experience in the "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38).
Greenslet claims that "the careers of Bayard Taylor and Edwin Booth are known to all men" (38).
Greenslet mentions that Aldrich's friendship with Booth, "who was at the height of his success at the Winter Garden," deepened during 1864. Greenslet claims that in 1865 "the only cloud came through his love and friendship for Edwin Booth, who, after the assasination of Lincoln by his brother John, feeling that the name Booth must be forever the synonym of infamy, shut himself moodily within his house. There for weeks and months he lived, the melancholy target for all the cruel notes and letters that came daily to his door. The only mitigations of his mood came through the friendly ministrations of Launt Thompson and Aldrich, who shared his solitude both day and night" (72-3).
Alrich mentions in an Oct. 9, 1866 letter from Boston to Taylor that "Booth has been with us this six weeks, acting wonderfully. We shall miss him sadly. He is a great actor. We love the boy. I like to mix his gloom with my sunshine..." (83).
During a cruise in 1885 in which Aldrich and Booth were members of the traveling party, Booth wrote to his daughter that "Aldrich is kept in a white heat of fun by [Laurence] Hutton" (157).
Greenslet cites an incident with Booth that shows that "the most telling feature of Aldrich's humor was its marvellous readiness": Aldrich had passed Booth's Chestnut Street house and notice a light still burning in the study; he knocked on the window with no response, so he knocked again. "...suddenly the door sprang open and out rushed the tragedian, hair rumpled and eyes wild, a navy revolver, at full cock in his hand. 'Hello Ned,' said Alrich, 'going hunting? I'll lend you Trip' [Aldrich's setter] (159).
Greenslet reprints a letter from Alrich to G.E. Woodberry that remarks upon Booth's illness by asking, "Is poor Edwin to be taken to the seaside? These are sad days for the dear boy and those who love him" (174).
Greenslet reprints a June 12, 1893, letter from Aldrich to Winter ("Will") from Ponkapog, Mass., that remarks upon Booth's death and funeral. Aldrich remarks that he quoted Hamlet ("Goodnight sweet prince") to himself as Booth was laid to rest. Aldrich tells Winter that at the funeral, "Then I thought of the years and years that had been made rich with his presence, and of the years that were to come, -- for us, not many, surely, -- and if there had not been a crowd of people, I would have buried my face in the greensward and wept, as men may not do and women may. And thus we left him" (174). Aldrich closes the letter to Winter by saying, "Some day, when I come to New York, we must get together in a corner at the Players, and talk about him -- his sorrows and his genius and his gentle soul" (175). (This letter is reprinted from Winter's The Life and Art of Edwin Booth.)[pages:3, 38, 72-73,83,157,159,174-175]
Identified as one of Pfaff's "guests" and referred to as one of the "luminaries of the stage" (61).[pages:61]
John writes that the play they saw at Wallack's "wanted an Edmund Kean or a Booth to carry" it (264).[pages:264]
Miller compares Booth's acting style to Edwin Forrest and W. C. Macready (9).
Miller includes Clapp's review of Booth's Hamlet: It lacked "flesh and blood." Clapp claims that Booth has "given us a series of hard, dry, woe-begone characters which (except in a few purely domestic scenes which he renders at times with great delicacy and sweetness), are like certain under-toned pictures of mountain scenery which represent the loneliness of the scene without giving any idea of its wildness of its beauty" (34). Booth made history by playing Hamlet for 100 performances during 1864-65 (94).
Edward G. P. Wilkins felt that Booth had "the true fire of genius which needs but time, industry, and study to place its possessor in the very rank of living tragedians" (63). Like Henry Clapp, Edward Wilkins found Booth's acting lacking in comparison to Edwin Forrest (64).
"Edwin Booth most clearly typified [William] Winter's idea of genius in acting" (94).
Booth was the "acknowledged leader of his profession during the last third of the nineteenth-century" (95). Stephen Ryder Fiske sharply criticised Booth for not doing more to elevate his profession. "[Booth] sticks to Shakespeare, not only because it is great, but because it is cheap. The Theatre, the company and the accessories are furnished for him and he never seems to care whether they are good, bad, or indifferent. He goes through his part, well or ill, according to the whim of the night or the state of his health, pockets his cheque and disappears until the stage is ready for the next performance." Andrew C. Wheeler described Booth as "the greatest artist upon the American stage" but "he limited such praise to those of the actor's roles which demanded intellectual rather than physical or emotional force. Wheeler thought that to see Edwin Booth delineate Richard III and Iago was to see the best acting of which our stage was capable" (152).
Miller also mentions Booth's performance in William H. Smith's The Drunkard, or the Fallen Saved (43).[pages:9, 33, 34, 43, 63-65, 76, 77, 79, 80, 91, 94-95, 99, 103, 112, 120, 140, 142-43, 152-54, 159]
Mentions Booth's "Hamlet."[pages:286]
Booth returned to the stage January 4, 1866, in the role of Hamlet. He had been in retirement since April 14, 1865 - the date of Lincoln's assasination.
Booth also seems to have been encouraged to return to acting by friends and had a degree of public sympathy for the actions of his brother. "The night of his reappearance brought a vast, cheering throng to the Winter Garden, which at once made evident the deep affection of the public and its determination to show the actor that he was in no way to be allowed to suffer fro the outrageous deed of his brother" (20). Booth played Hamlet without interruption until Jan. 24 when he reprised the role of Ruy Blas for the first time in 3 years at a matinee (20). Hamlet ran until Jan. 30, but paled in comparison to the 100-night run and cast of the 1864-65 show (20). Booth made frequent appearances on the stage during the 1866-67 season. Odell records that at one point, Booth was playing the Winter Garden, the Italian opera, and Brooklyn simultaneously.
Booth opened his own theater - Booth's Theatre - in 1869. The theater was located at the south-east corner of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street. To build the theater, Booth entered a business partnership in 1867 with Richard A. Robertson, businessman of Boston, after the buring of the Winter Garden (Odell claims this was an "unfortunate partnership"). Booth began this business relatioship in the hopes of "building a new house dedicated to the very highest forms of dramatic art" (422). The site for the Theatre was chosen by J.H. Magonigle, who had been married to the first Mrs. Booth's sister, and who remained a close friend. Houses were demolished on the site of the theater and excavations revealed solid rock that had to be blasted before the foundations could be laid. The corner stone of Booth's Theatre was laid April 8, 1868. The front of the building was 184 ft. long; the Theatre occupied 150 ft. with a wing taking up the other 34 ft. This wing extended 76 ft. down Sixth Avenue and was used for shops, offices, etc. The Theatre itself was 100 ft. deep, 120 ft. high. Booth's Theatre also had a much admired facade with two large doors (one stage entrance, one for the auditorium) and three small exit doors in between. The second storey had four windows and was capped by a mansard roof with three towers.
On the inside of the Theatre, the vestibule was paved with Italian marble, and at its south end a stone stairway led to the balcony which was decorated with Gould's bust of Booth's father. There was a gallery above the balcony, and above the gallery there was an amphitheater. The house seated 1750 with standing room for more. A statue of Shakespeare was placed in the middle of the proscenium arch and busts of Garrick, Talma, Edmund Kean, G.F. Cooke, and Betteron were placed above the proscenium. The stage was 76 ft. high and there were 55 ft. from the footlights to the rear wall. Backstage there was a green room, star dressing rooms, and thirty ordinary dressing rooms. The architects for the Theatre were Renwick and Sands. In terms of staff, J.A. Booth was treasurer, Magonigle was business manager, Mark Smith was stage manager, and E. Mollenhauer was the leader of orchestra.
In addition to the public and acting spaces, carpenter shops were housed underneath the sidewalk of 23rd Street. A Pamphlet, Booth's Theatre -- Behind the Scenes, reprinted in 1870 in Appleton's Journal discusses the workings of the theater. The structure seems to have housed massive amounts of machinery to run the theater. Scenes were sent up to the stage from below by hydraulic rams which, as Odell states, "eliminated the ancient magic of flats sliding in grooves and clicking to in the middle of the stage." Booth's Theatre also did away with rectangular side-wings. "Side scenes were solid walls of rooms or in outdoor sets oblique paintings through which the eye could not see through to the regions 'off stage'" these scenes did not run on grooves, either, and were held in place by long braces. "Act drops, drop scenes, canvases fell down complete, taut, and unwrinkled from the well-equipped fly-regions and rigging lofts." No rollers or cylinders ; "immense spaces above allowed the raising or lowering of pictures stretched on frames". Booth's Theatre also contained a very well stocked prop and scene room.
The Theatre opened Feb.3, 1869, with Romeo and Juliet to an audience who had bought their seats at auction; the highest-priced seat went for $125(422-4). Mary McVicker, step-daughter of J.H. McVicker, Chicago actor-manager, became the second Mrs. Booth at Long Branch (N.J.) June, 1870 (424). The Times, Feb. 4, 1869, describes the theatre as "one of the most important ever dedicated to the art. Its exterior grandeur is only equaled by the beauty and brightness of its interior decorations. It lacks, however, the spacious freedom of the Grand Opera House, and is particularly deficient in lobby room. Ladies's dresses were rent and disordered last evening in a way that will bring a powerful interest to bear against the theatre." The review continues to discuss the performance and the feats of set design that led to delays, but not disasters, during the show (424-5).
The Theatre had trouble with Saturday matinee and evening performances. Booth decided to act six times a week, but the question of how to fill the theatre during the nights when he did not appear was a problem (425-6).
The Times seems to have been traditionally unfriendly to Booth in its reviews of his acting.
Booth read, on May 8, 1869, part of Byron's Manfred at a Philharmonic Society Concert.
Booth's Theatre seems to have had a troublesome business partnership from the first season (427). Booth's seems to have struggled at the beginning of its second season and paled in comparison to Wallack's (565). Odell notes that the outstanding production of the 1869-70 season was Hamlet, with Booth in the title role, "a performance now mellowed to the point of richness which from the time forward for yeras stamped the impression idelibly on the public consciousness. Thereafter for us Booth was Hamlet and Hamlet was Booth, one and inseparable"(567-8).
Booth, in the role of Hamlet, was the subject of series of pictures by Napoleon Sarony that are featured in Volume VII of The Annals of the New York Stage. Odell also reprints Booth's reviews from the Herald. Hamlet ran six ngihts a week from Janaury to mid-March (567-8).
Booth read "The Passions" at Steiway Hall Feb.12, 1870.[pages:18 (ill), 19-20,21,245-46,418 (ill),422-6, 426(ill),426-7,523, 562(ill),565,567-8,625,654]
His first New York appearance noted in the Herald as Sept. 27, 1849. Booth seems to have made a great impression on the New York stage.
Booth often acted with his father and other family members and memorably subsituted for his father at the last minute for a benefit performance of Richard III. Though young, he was referred to as "Master" Edwin Booth.
Booth went to California in 1852.[pages:34(ill.)-35,36,40, 43,102, 145,526-528,578;]
Booth returned to New York at age 23 after training in California and Australia. Odell includes reviews of Booth's performances at Burton's from The Herald. Booth was the opening attraction at Burton's in 1857; Odell claims this is before Booth became a historic tragedian.
Booth suffered a minor slump in fame and reviews after Burton's end. Odell notes how Booth was one of the later greats to come forward on the New York stage during the 1856-57 and 1857-58 seasons. Odell reasserts that at that point Booth was not yet the remembered great actor. Odell aslo reprints the reviews of Booth's Hamlet in Winter 1863 from the The Herald.
Edwin Booth co-starred in his younger brother's (John Wilkes Booth) New York stage debut. Edwin Booth also appeared with his brothers John Wilkes and Junius Brutus in Julius Casear on Nov. 24, 1864, in a benefit for the fund to erect a statue to Shakespeare in Central Park. This was the New York performance of John Wilkes Booth.
Edwin Booth went into an immediate retirement when John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 14, 1865 (Edwin Booth was playing Hamlet at the time).[pages:FP(ill), 6, 14-15, 17(ill),18, 30,66, 314-315, 416,475-476,478,553-554,557,558,580,617,618, 638-641]
Parry claims that the hero of Ada Clare's Only a Woman's Heart, Victor Doria, an actor and sculptor, was a composite of Gottschalk and Booth (33).[pages:33]
Personne describes Booth as "a tragedian of some cleverness, and a great deal of notoriety." Personne also discusses Booth's Boston engagement and his "admirer," the "Vagabond" of the Sunday Times (3).[pages:3]
Quelqu'un reports that "young Booth" will be at the Winter Garden during the week (3).[pages:3]
Quelqu'un directs the readers' attention to an article about Edwin Booth that follows the Fueilleton. The article discusses his performances at the Winter Garden and his reputation (3).[pages:3]
"Walt Whitman's reminiscences of the Bowery Theatre demonstrate the specifically masculine, working-class appeal that Forrest and his audience confirmed for each other. 'Recalling from that period the occasion of either Forrest or Booth, any good night at the old Bowery, pack'd from ceiling to pit with its audience mainly of alert, well-dress'd, full-blooded young and middle-aged men, the best average of American-born mechanics- the emotional nature of the whole mass arous'd by the power and magnetism of as mighty mimes as ever trod to stage [...]" (21).[pages:21, 73,130]
In his tribute to Elizabeth Stoddard, Stedman mentions the associates in her literary circle, including Bayard Taylor, General McClellan, James Russell Lowell, and Edmund Booth.[pages:9]
Mentions Booth's Theater in New York City.[pages:168]
Edward G. P. Wilkins felt that Booth had "the true fire of genius which needs but time, industry, and study to place its possessor in the very rank of living tragedians" (63).
Wilkin's review of Booth's Cardinal Richelieu: "a superb performance." (63).
Winter includes a letter from Aldrich about his last meeting with Booth dated May 11,1893, after Aldrich returned home from a trip to New York. Winter dedicated his "Life of Edwin Booth" to Aldrich because the two men had been good friends. Of Booth, Aldrich writes: "I saw dear Edwin for a moment [while in New York], and said farewell to that sweet soul. He did not know me until the instant I touched his hand, and then he smiled, and said 'Tom Aldrich!' Immediately his mind was gone again, and he turned vacant eyes upon me. That was our parting. To have my name associated with the beautiful studies you have made of his character and his genius will be a great pleasure and honor to me. You are Edwin Booth's authentic biographer." In a postscript, Aldrich continues, "I've not thought of much these last few days but Edwin, lying there at the Players, waiting for Death. His face has kept coming to me out of the darkness of my room" (372-373).
Booth died June 7, 1893, at the Players (373).
Winter's dedication in his biography of Booth, published the next autumn, is as follows:
Thomas Bailey Aldrich,
Remembering Old and Happy Days,
I Dedicate This Memorial
Of Our Friend and Comrade,
Forever Loved and Honored
And Forever Mourned.
'There is a world elsewhere'" (373-374).
Of "The Life and Art of Edwin Booth," Aldrich wrote to Winter on November 1, 1893: "It is a complete record. The man we knew and the man the world knew are here drawn at full length. Hereafter others will, doubtless, attempt to write of Edwin Booth, but they will have to come to your pages for authentic material, whether of biography or criticism. Everything that befell him was on a large scale -- his triumphs and his calamities. I count it one of his great pieces of good fortune that he had a wise and loving chronicler like you." Aldrich also praises Winter's inclusion of Launt Thompson's bust of Booth among the illustrations as well as a crayon done by Mr. Scott. Aldrich also offers Winter a few corrections of the details included in the biography, but mainly praises the work (374-375)[pages:75,372-375]
Mentioned as a friend of O'Brien.[pages:65, 200]
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