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
Crowding Memories is Mrs. Aldrich's memoir of her life with her husband and their mutual friends. The history is very personal and tells the stories of the lives of some of the literary and artistic notables of the Aldrichs' acquaintance, including Mark Twain, Edwin Booth, and William Dean Howells.
Aldrich is the prominent figure in his wife's memoir about their life together.
Mrs. Aldrich recounts that during a breakfast with the Booths, the Booths described to her and her sister in detail the members of a party at the Stoddards' the night before. During the literary caricatures drawn by the Booths, the following was given of Aldrich by one of the girls in a "case of idealistic episode of mistaken identity": "Do you mean the poet, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, who wrote the beautful 'Ballad of Babie Bell'? Wait. I think I could almost paint Mr. Aldrich myself. I know his poems so well that the outward semblance of the man takes shape, visual and vitalizing -- Mr. Aldrich must be a man about thirty-five years old, tall, slender, with black hair, piercing eyes, pallid face stamped with melancholy, which grief for the death of that child and its mother must have indelibly written there -- you both must remember in their beauty and pathos the last lines of that poem:
'We wove the roses round her brow --
White buds, the summer's drifted snow, --
Wrapt her from head to foot in flowers...
And thus went dainty Babie Bell
Out of this world of ours!'
And in the beginning of that wonderful poem, Mr Aldrich tells us--
'The mother's being ceased on earth
When baby came from Paradise!'
According to Mrs Aldrich, this portrait was met with suppressed laughter. Booth recovered himself enough to state "In poetry, and in play acting, nothing is, but what it is not. Tom Aldrich does not look twenty; he is short and blond and gay and brilliant; never had a wife, never had a child; never had anything, I guess, but the Muses, and poetical license" (18-19).
Mrs. Aldrich writes that Ferris Greenslet's portrayal of her husband during the years of the Civil War in his Life of Thomas Bailey Aldrich "visualizes him as he was at this time in his life with such accuracy that the words become as a glass in which he stands reflected" (24).
In late 1862/early 1863, Aldrich worked as the editor of the "Illustrated News" and visited the Stoddards from time to time. Mrs. Aldrich depicts him during one of these visits "describing to his hostess the tribulation and dismay of a helpless editor when the proprietor of his journal comes to him with a foot-rule in his hand, and demands and editorial of seven inches and three quarters -- no more nor less -- as he has measured the space on a blank sheet and the proportion looks well!" (29).
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 Aldrich away from his dressing room, suggesting other things he could do in the theater. During this conversation, 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).
Mrs. Aldrich writes that her husband was sent to New York to work as a clerk in his uncle's banking house shortly after his father's death when he was fourteen. There "his days were given to the perplexities of uncongenial work, the nights spent with his tutor in the work he delighted in, studies and books, with now and then time taken for occasional verses, to be written and printed in the Poet's Corner of the 'Portsmouth Journal' (45). At nineteen, Aldrich was given an ultimatum by his uncle to choose the business or literature; he chose literature. "At this time Mr. Aldrich was nineteen years old. He had written his first volume of verse, written a poem which gained almost at once a national celebrity, and resigned his place in his uncle's counting-room, to follow the life of letters" (45-46).
N.P. Willis offered Aldrich an editorial position at the "Home Journal" when Aldrich was nineteen. The office had previously been filled by Poe and James Parton. Of this early position, Mrs. Aldrich writes: "Very graphic were the word-pictures Mr. Aldrich made of this slender youth, sitting in a state in the editorial chair, and of the painful mortification caused by the perversity of his golden hair, which would curl when the day was damp or warm, giving to him a look of boyishness most ill-adapted to the new dignity" (46). During this time, Aldrich seems to have enjoyed visiting Willis at his home, Idlewild, on the Hudson River (46).
While editing the "Illustrated News" during the Civil War, Aldrich went outside to sketch a mob that was assembled to protest the drafting of men into the Army. One of the leaders noticed him and began yelling "Down with him! Down with him! Kill him!" Aldrich ran and barely escaped without serious injury; he had cuts on his wrists and was unable to write for a period (54).
Mrs. Aldrich writes that her husband had a wide circle of friends in the artistic and literary worlds; she expresses gratitude for their warm welcome upon her engagement (55-57).
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" (74). Aldrich remained with Booth until and after his brother was caught and was also with Booth when a telegram arrived for his mother with the news that his sister, Mrs. Clarke, was seriously ill in Philadelpia (74-75).
In 1865, J.R. Osgood offered Aldrich the editorship of "Every Saturday." The paper was to debut January 1, 1866, in Boston. Aldrich was married to Miss Woodman November 28, 1865, in New York. Bayard Taylor wrote a sonnet for the occasion (85). Shortly after starting his new position in Boston at "Every Saturday," Aldrich became friends with William Dean Howells, then an assitant editor at the "Atlantic Monthly" (87).
Aldrich was also able to meet Dickens when he was doing editorial work for Ticknor and Fields (99). Mrs. Aldrich also dicusses the writing of the story "The Nutter House" and "The Story of a Bad Boy" (110-118).
Mrs. Aldrich gave birth to twin boys September 17, 1868. One month after receiving a note from Howells announcing that "I have a fine boy," Aldrich sent him a letter on September 18, announcing, "I have TWO fine boys" (118).
Aldrich's "epsitilatory acquaintance" with Samuel Clemens began with "a savage letter Mark Twain had written to Mr. Aldrich, not as a comrade and fellow worker, but to the unscrupulous and unreliable editor of 'Every Saturday.' Mr. Aldrich had copied from another periodical some rhymes credited to Mark Twain about a euchre game that was turned into poker, and evidently had commented on them unfavorably, as being an imitation of Bret Harte's 'Heathen Chinee.' Mr Clemens wrote to say the lines were not his, and he wished to have the misstatement corrected, which Mr. Aldrich, in a very complimentary paragraph, immediately did." Mrs. Aldrich also recounts her displeasure at her husband's dinner invitation to a seemingly intoxicated man; after an icy evening that included several attempts by Mr. Aldrich to warm up his wife's demeanor, the guest excused himself. After a bout of hysterics prompted by her husband's questions as to why she was so rude to their guest, Mrs. Aldrich found out that Mark Twain had been their intended dinner guest and that the behavior she mistook for intoxication were really his mannerisms and speech patterns (127-132).
Of Aldrich's wit, Twain once said: "Mr. Aldrich has never had his peer for prompt and pithy and humorous sayings. None has equalled him, certainly none surpassed him in the felicity of phrasing with which he clothes those children of his fancy. Aldrich is always brilliant; he can't help it; he is a fire opal set round with rose diamonds; when he is not speaking, you know that his dainty fancies are twinkling and glimmering around in him; when he speaks the diamonds flash. Yes, he is always brilliant; he will be brilliant in hell, you will see" (145).
Mrs. Aldrich reprints correspondence from Stedman and Twain welcoming her husband home after six months abroad (219).
Mrs. Aldrich writes of Aldrich's sadness over Bayard Taylor's death in 1878, and notes that he wrote in a letter to Stedman that November, "I have a presentiment he will never return." Mrs. Aldrich prints another part of a December 20, 1878, letter to Stedman in which Aldrich expresses his sadness over their mutual loss (224).
Aldrich was named the editor of the "Atlantic Monthly" in 1881, after the resignation of Howells. Mrs. Aldrich cites both Greenslet and Aldrich's secretary of nine years, Miss Francis, for descriptions of her husband at that time (245). Aldrich retired from this position after nine years, in 1890 (270).
Clemens, Aldrich, Curtis, and Howells were among the speakers at the "Authors' Reading" done by the friends of Longfellow for the Longfellow Memorial Fund (256).
Aldrich is credited with naming Booth's Actor's Club the "Players' Club" (263).
Aldrich died March 19,1904. "Impressive funeral services, 'befitting a poet's passing'" were held at the Arlington Street Church. According to his wife, "the friends he loved most 'bent over his bier.'" Aldrich was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetary, next to one of his sons (285). Aldrich's epitaph reads:
"...How trivial now
To him most earthly laurel be
Who wears the amaranth on his brow!
How vain the voices of mortality!
So take him earth, and this his mortal part
With that shrewd alchemy thou hast, transmute
To flower and leaf in thine undending Springs!" (286).
Extra page numbers: 285-286
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).
In London, Mr. and Mrs. Aldrich renewed their friendship with George Boughton and his wife. Mrs. Aldrich describes Boughton as a "Royal Academician and charming artist" (231-232).
Mrs. Aldrich quotes Comyns Carr's description of Boughton: "He achieved in England a deservedly high place among his comrades--he was a man of fine taste and delicate perception both in the region of art and the broader field of literature" (232).
Prior to building a large house on Campden Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Boughton hosted a large artistic circle and their reputation continued after the building of their home. Browning was a frequent visitor, and, according to Mrs. Aldrich, "the house became a meeting-place for nearly all who were interested in art" (232).
Clemens, Aldrich, Curtis, and Howells were among the speakers at the "Authors' Reading" done by the friends of Longfellow for the Longfellow Memorial Fund (256). At this event, Curtis read from the "Potiphar Papers" (258).
Mrs. Aldrich recalls that Emerson spoke the night her engagement was announced at the dinner held in honor of Bryant at the Century Club (58).
Emerson was among the lunch party when Bret Harte dined with the Saturday Club in Boston. The party was comprised of the literary notables of Boston (135).
Howells established a friendship with Aldrich after Aldrich assumed the editorial position at "Every Saturday." Howells was the assitant editor of the "Atlantic Monthly" at that time (87). Mrs. Aldrich quotes Mr. Howells's account of their first meeting from his "Literary Friends and Acquaintance" p. 87-88. During their early days in Boston, after gaining acceptance into the notoriously selective and exclusive Boston society, the Aldriches and Howellses were often invited to dinners to meet each other; these invitations arrived "until the recipients of these attentions with hysterical laughter and almost tears confessed the relief it would be to go somewhere -- anywhere, where they would never hear of see each other again" (91).
Howells was still the assistant editor of the "Atlantic Monthly" when Bret Harte made his first visit to Boston as Howells's guest. Mrs. Aldrich quotes Howells's account of the visit in "Literary Friends and Acquaintance p.133-135 (133-135).
Howells was also among the company gathered at the Clemens' house during the merry visit Mrs. Aldrich discusses (143). Of the company of Howells, Clemens, Aldrich and Charles Dudley Warner at dinner at the Warner's on the night of their arrival, Mrs. Aldrich claims "never can there be such talk as scintillated about the table that night" and that the men "made a quartette that was incomparable" (145). When the group returned to the Clemens house, the converation continued long into the night. Before it was decided that everyone should go to bed, "Mr. Howells, with eyes suffused with tears, had pleaded with Mrs. Aldrich to use her influence to make Mr. Aldrich abstain from any more provocative speech. Mr. Howells said he could not bear it any longer, he was ill with laughter, and that for friendship's sake Aldrich must be muffled and checked. Let the others talk, but beg him to keep still" (146).
Clemens, Aldrich, Curtis, and Howells were among the speakers at the "Authors' Reading" done by the friends of Longfellow for the Longfellow Memorial Fund (256). At this event, Howells read extracts from "Their Wedding Journey" (262).
Relates a story about the Ludlows' attendance at a party thrown by the Stoddards (18).
Osgood was among the company when the Aldriches and Howells visited the Clemenses in Hartford (143).
The Booths named both Stedman and his wife among those assembled the first time they visited the Stoddards. "Next came Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman, argumentative, alert, debonair. Mrs. Stedman was sketched in black and white, neutral and colorless" (17).
According to Mrs. Aldrich, the same year and month that Aldrich took over the editorship of the "Atlantic Monthly" from Howells, Oscar Wilde arrived in Boston and made a "sensation." Of Wilde, Stedman wrote to Aldrich, "This Philistine town [New York] is making a fool of itself over Oscar Wilde, who is lecturing on Art Subjects, appearing in public in extraordinary dress -- a loose shirt with a turn-down collar, a flowing tie of uncommon shade, velvet coat, knee breetches -- and often he is seen in public carrying a lily, or a sunflower, in his hand. He has brought hundreds of letters of introduction" (246).
Mrs. Aldrich mentions that the first visit of the Stoddards to the Booths brought the "connecting link" to her fate. The Stoddards and the Booths had a mutual friend in Lorimer Graham. The momentary awkwardness of Stoddards arrival was resolved when Edwin Booth and Elizabeth Stoddard introduced themselves. Mrs. Aldrich writes: "Every detail of that hour is distinct. The opening door; on its threshold a woman of angular slimness, perhaps forty-three or forty-four years old. She wore a dull brown dress, with an arabesque of white in a minute pattern woven through the warp. The expression of face and figure was withered like a brown leaf on the tree before the snow comes. No aura of charm whatever. There was a moment of silence; then Mr. Booth with outstretched arms moved quickly toward her, and in his hands her hands were laid. There were but two words spoken, 'Edwin,' 'Elizabeth.' Then Mr. Booth, releasing her hand, slowly untied the strings of the bonnet that shaded her face, took it off, and still holding it in his hand drew her to a chair" (13).
Mrs. Aldrich continues with her description: "I know no prototype of Mrs. Stoddard -- this singular woman, who possessed so strongly the ability to sway all men who came within her influence. Brilliant and fascinating, she needed neither beauty nor youth, her power was so much beyond such aids. On every variety of subject she talked with originality and ready wit; with impassioned speech expressing an individuality and insight most unusual and rare" (14). The first meeting led the Booths to be invited to join the gathering of the artistic and literary circle that congregated at the Stoddards' home on Tenth Street (14). According to Mrs. Aldrich, the Stoddards', Pfaff's, and the Century Club were popular houses for the literary and artistic to meet, but the Stoddards' had an interesting, refined character. "It was rather a solemn thing to belong to it. The new member entered its (to him) inhospitable door with somewhat the same feelings that would have represented his complex mind had it been the portal of a church. The chantelaine of the Tenth Street house was an exceptional and interesting character. Her criticisms and discussion of current matters were admirable. She would rather run the risk of losing a boarder than forego the privilege of speaking her mind freely in regard to every issue of the day. She had also a keen sense of humor, and dearly loved a joke, bringing to it a laugh that was most contagious. Of the heterogeneous company of men and women that assembled daily at her table she numbered authors, actors, artists, musicians, mathematicians, professors, journalists, critics, and essayists. To Mrs. Stoddard alone, however, was the honor given of a salon. An invitation to her rooms on the evening she entertained was to this company what a ribbon is to a soldier, and prized accordingly" (15).
Among the company gathered at the Stoddards' the night of the Booth's first visit, they leave her among their caricatures for Mrs. Aldrich and her sister "too scintillating to be drawn" (17-18).
During Mrs. Booth's illness and Edwin Booth's separation from her while in New York for an acting engagement, Mrs. Stoddard wrote the following letter to Mrs. Booth:
"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 the performance was half over. Lose no time. Come."
Mrs. Booth replied that she was too ill to come and that she felt at times that nothing but a "great calamity" would save her husband. After Mrs. Booth's death, Edwin Booth found Mrs. Stoddard's "cruel letter" and ended their friendship (35).
Mrs. Aldrich recalls the first meeting between the Stoddards and the Booths; the Booths had returned from England when the Stoddards called on them. The two couples had a mutual friend in Lorimer Graham. This meeting would lead to the Booth's receiving an invitation to the Stoddards' home on Tenth Street, where one of New York's literary and artistic circles gathered (13-15).
During the discussion of the company assembled during the Stoddards' gathering, his presence and the fact that he is a poet and essayist is noted (17).
Stoddard was among the writers and readers of poems for the celebration of Bryant at the Century Club (59).
In the "word pictures" drawn by the Booths for Mrs. Aldrich and her sister of the gathered company at the Stoddards', the description of the Taylors was as follows: "First for guests we had Mr. Bayard Taylor and his young German bride, wearing the simple black dress of the German frau; the lace cap, the insignia of the new dignity of wifehood, covering her sunny hair. Bayard's 'picture in little' was of a big, genial, lovable man, an immense favorite with all, full of good-fellowship, and bubbling over with gaiety and cheer" (17).
Taylor was one of the poets who wrote and read poems for the celebration of Bryant at the Century Club (59).
Mrs. Aldrich reprints the sonnet Taylor wrote to commemorate the Aldrichs' marriage p.86.
Mrs. Aldrich discusses Taylor seeing them off on the Abyssinia when the Aldriches went abroad and how he brought them his own cure for seasickness. Mrs. Aldrich notes that "Mr. Taylor's reputation as a traveler was great" (162-164).
Mrs. Aldrich writes that at the end of 1878, everyone "was much saddened" at the death of Bayard Taylor. She discusses how her husband wrote to Stedman in November 1878, "I have a presentiment he will never return." On December 20, 1878, Aldrich wrote again to Stedman: "I cannot speak or write about it. It gave me such a shock in the solitude here. It was at the supper-table last night. I was laughing as I unfolded the 'Tribune,' and then I read 'Bayard Taylor dead.' I shall be in New York all day on the 7th of January. We sail on the 8th on the Abyssinia, and I want a quiet half-hour's talk with you somewhere, if it can be arranged" (224).
Mrs. Aldrich prints a poem about Taylor, titled "Bayard Taylor" on p. 236.
The sculptor Launt Thompson is among the company the Booths mention to be present at the Stoddards' home during their first visit (18).
Aldrich and Thompson were frequent guests in Booth's box during his New York engagement (25). During this visit, Thomspon and Aldrich were "the two knights who drew the glove and entered the field; their code to be: inseparable companionship; never two, always one" with Booth. Their friends had decided, based on a request from Mrs. Booth, who was unable to travel with her husband, that these two men would constantly chaperone the actor (31).
Of the popular artists' studios at the time, "Mr. Launt Thompson's studio was one of the largest, and as he was always a great favorite, choice spirits were always to be met there day and night." Mrs. Aldrich recalls that a few days after her engagement was announced, she and Mr. Aldrich were present at Thompson's studio for the making of a cast of a hand. "There seemed to be wireless communication throughout the entire building, so that if anything of interest was happening in any of the rooms the whole community knew of it." Mrs. Aldrich recalls that there was a huge statue in the middle of the room (she thinks it was of General Scott), his sculpture "The Trapper," was finished and mounted, the life-sized bust of Booth as Hamlet was in progress, a beautifully chiseled face of a girl could be seen, and there was a plaster medallion of Mr. Aldrich that was given to him as a wedding present. There were also "numerous torsos, legs and arms, hands and feet, hung on pegs and nails all over the brown-stained walls of the room, with here and there a piece of tapestry or bright rugs to give warmth and color, and always in a corner the alcohol urn for the brewing of tea or coffee for the unexpected or expected guest (56-57).
Thompson took Mrs. Booth to the train station after the assassination of President Lincoln (75-76).
Clemens and Aldrich began their "episolatory acquaintance" with "a very savage letter which Mark Twain had written to Mr. Aldrich, not as a comrade and fellow worker, but to the unscrupulous and unreliable editor of 'Every Saturday.'" Aldrich had taken some "rhymes" from another periodical (where they were credited to Mark Twain), printed them in "Every Saturday" and criticized them as being poor imitations of Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee." Twain corrected the error and demanded a printed correction, which Alrich fulfilled (127).
After a year of "belligerent correspondence" between the two men, Aldrich and Clemens first met. Aldrich brought his new friend to his home for dinner. Mrs. Aldrich recounts her displeasure at her husband's dinner invitation to a seemingly intoxicated man; after an icy evening which included several attempts by Mr. Aldrich to warm up his wife's demeanor, the guest excused himself. After a bout of hysterics prompted by her husband's questions as to why she was so rude to their guest, Mrs. Aldrich found out that Mark Twain had been their intended dinner guest and that the behavior she mistook for intoxication was really his mannerisms and speech patterns. Twain did not learn of her mistake for several years (127-132).
Mark Twain worked with Bret Harte on the "Golden Era," where he became famous for his columns. "The 'Golden Era' was said to be the cradle and grave of many a high hope of budding genius" (139).
The Aldriches were invited to visit the Clemenses in Hartford, Conn. Other guests included Mr. Howells and Mr. Osgood (143). Of their first dinner during their visit, Mrs. Aldrich writes: "Never again can there be such talk as scintillated about the table that night," where Alrich, Howells, Clemens, and Charles Dudley Warner were gathered (at the Warner's home)(145). When they returned to the Clemens' house that evening, the group stayed up practically all night talking and laughing (146). The first morning they arrived, Twain reprimanded the Aldriches for walking too heavily and upsetting and worsening his wife's headache. The Aldriches moved around on tiptoe and found out later, at breakfast, that Twain had played a practical joke on them (147-148).
Mrs. Aldrich also writes of Mrs. Clemens' deep religious belief, and how "doctrines and creeds" would later become distant to the pair. She also recounts how the two met, and how Clemens had fallen for his wife after seeing a miniature of her in her brother's (Charles Langdon) room on the steamship Quaker City, in 1867 (149). He would meet her after the cruise, when he was invited to dine with the Langdon family in New York, at the St. Nicholas Hotel (151). After this meeting, he was invited to visit with the family whenever he was in New York; Clemens had many speaking engagements in New York and was able to visit quite often (154-155). When the Aldriches visited the Clemens's in Hartford, they had been married four years (156). Mrs. Aldrich recalls that Mrs. Clemens used to refer to her husband as "Youth! O, Youth!" (160).
According to Mrs. Aldrich, 1867 was also Clemens' first year of literary success and recognition on the East Coast, with "The Jumping Frog" seeing publication in several periodicals. While waiting in the shipping office of the Quaker City, Clemens overheard a clerk list his name with pride when asked what "notables" were on the ship (149-150).
Mrs. Aldrich provides a description of Clemens in these early days: "Mr. Clemens was at this time thirty-one or two years old; a sparely built man of medium height; a finely shaped, classical head, covered with thick, shaggy red-colored hair; a mustache of the same tawny hue; eyes which glimmered, keen and twinkling, under overhanging, bushy eyebrows, each hair of which ruffled itself, taking part with unwarrantable intrusion in Mr. Clemens's moods, were they grave or gay. Once, in my remembrance, so belligerant and fierce was their aspect, that his listener, who had the temerity to differ with the views he was expressing, begged the privilege of brushing the eyebrows down, that she might have courage to continue the argument" (150).
Mrs. Aldrich claims that Clemens's coarseness of manner was developed after his years on the Mississippi and in California: "With that sharp schooling he had become too well acquainted with the coarser types of human nature." She continues: "He was born with a marvellous gift of phrase, and his one-time friends could not resist the temptation of developing his profanity to an incomparable perfection. He said to a friend who remonstrated with him on the habit, 'In certain trying circumstances, desparate circumstances, urgent circumstances, profanity furnished a relief denied even to prayer'" (150-151).
Clemens, Aldrich, Curtis, and Howells were among the speakers at the "Authors' Reading" done by the friends of Longfellow for the Longfellow Memorial Fund (256). Twain spoke first and announced the title of his talk as "English as She is Taught" (257-258).
Willis hired Aldrich for an editorial position at the "Home Journal" when Aldrich was nineteen. The position had previously been filled by Poe and James Parton. During his early editing days, Aldrich seems to have enjoyed visiting Willis and his pretty daughter, Imogene, at Idlewild, their home on the Hudson River (46). According to Mrs. Aldrich, "The intimate companionship with his chief, who at this time was about fifty years old, was vital in interest and charm. Mr. Willis from early youth was a figure of importance, both in the literary and social world" (47).
According to Aldrich, Willis was instrumental in making Thackeray known in America, before the publication of "Vanity Fair." Willis also knew Dickens before he was famous, early in his career. Willis also knew Charles and Mary Lamb, Landor, heard of Byron from Countess Guiccioli, was friendly with Lady Byron and Byron's sister Augusta Leigh, he knew Joanna Baillie, Scott's friend, and knew Disraeli, Bulwer-Lytton, Samuel Rogers, "and, in truth, all of England's famous writers in the early Victorian period." Willis's fame and connections were not limted to England: "In America he had a friendship with almost every man of letters. He went to school with Emerson; was among the first to give encouragement to Lowell; was a friend to Hawthorne, and kindness itself to Bayard Taylor when he was a friendless boy" (47-48).
Mrs. Aldrich also adds: "Mr. Aldrich thought Willis very attractive and with exceedingly good manners, and that, in spite of a certain dandyism and jauntiness that was characteristic, he had real manliness, and always the courage of his convictions; that he had the rare gift of making persons see what he described" (48).
The Vault at Pfaff's
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