Edwin Thomas Booth 1833 - 1893
March 02, 2008
Edwin Thomas Booth 1833 - 1893 was a supporter of homeopathy and a patron of homeopathy, (the Theatrical License fund regularly donated money to Homeopathic hospitals) and a friend of homeopathic patron William Cullen Bryant.
When Edwin’s brother John assassinated Abraham Lincoln, it was feared that this dreadful deed would crush Edwin such that he would never appear in public again. Homeopathic supporter William Cullen Bryant began to publish extracts from Boston newspapers in support of Edwin, and he went onto publish extracts from Edwin’s letters to support his loyalty to the Union cause.
In his early appearances Edwin Booth usually performed alongside his father, making his stage debut as Tressel in Richard III in Boston, Massachusetts in 1849. Two years later, Edwin had his first starring role, standing in for his supposedly ailing father as Richard.
After his father’s death in 1852, Booth went on a worldwide tour, visiting Australia and Hawaii, and finally gaining acclaim of his own during an engagement in Sacramento, California in 1856.
Before his brother murdered the president, Edwin had appeared with his two brothers John Wilkes and Junius Brutus Booth Jr. in Julius Caesar in 1864. John Wilkes played Marc Antony, Edwin played Brutus, and Junius played Cassius. It was a benefit show and the first and last time that the brothers would appear together on the same stage.
After Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, the infamy associated with the Booth name forced Booth to abandon the stage for many months, a period dramatized in the 1955 Richard Burton movie Prince of Players, which was adapted from the biography of the same name by Eleanor Ruggles.
Booth was married to Mary Devlin from 1860 to 1863, the year of her death. He & Mary Devlin had one daughter, Edwina, born in 1862. He later remarried, wedding Mary McVicker in 1869, and becoming a widower again in 1881.
In 1869, Edwin acquired his brother John’s body after repeatedly writing to the president begging for it. The president finally released the remains, and Edwin had them buried, unmarked, in the family plot at Green Mount Cemetery near Baltimore.
In 1888 Booth founded the Players in New York City, a club for actors and others associated with the arts, and dedicated his home to it. His final performance was, fittingly, in his signature role of Hamlet, in 1891 at the Brooklyn Academy.
The Players’ Club still exists at his home, at 16 Gramercy Park South.
Memories of Booth can still be found around Bel Air, Maryland. In front of the court house is a fountain dedicated to his memory. Inside the post office there is a portrait of him. Also, his childhood home, Tudor Hall, still stands and was bought in 2006 by Harford County, Maryland, to become a museum.
Fifth Avenue Hotel on Broadway was a meeting place for cultural figures like Mark Twain, O. Henry, Edwin Booth, Jenny Lind, William Cullen Bryant and Stanford White. Booth lived just down the block at number 28 Broadway, and acted at the Winter Garden Theatre just around the corner.
His literary salon was packed with the influential people of the time, including Louisa May Alcott, John Greenleaf Whittier, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, James Russell Lowell, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Julia Ward Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Bret Harte, Bayard Taylor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edwin Booth, and Nathaniel Parker Willis who described Parnassus Corner as ’the hub in which every spoke of the radiating wheel of Boston intellect had a socket.. ‘.
Homeopathic supporter Mark Twain was a close friend of Edwin, as were most of the people at Parnassus Corner, and the homeopathic elite and the intelligentsia of Boston all circulated around the important topics of the day.