Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Junius Brutus Booth

Junius Brutus Booth, born May 01, 1796-died November 30, 1852
Buried Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

I have just finished reading the book "My Thoughts Be Bloody" by Nora Titone. This book is a biography about the Booth family including Junius, Edwin, and of course John Wilkes. I have read and been taught plenty of information about our most infamous resident John Wilkes Booth, but knew very little about the other family members. Reading this book you are introduced to his father Junius Brutus Booth.

Wikipedia has the following information about Junius:

Junius was born in St. Pancras, London, England, the son of Richard Booth, a lawyer, and Jane Elizabeth Game, and grandson of John Booth, a silversmith, and Elizabeth Wilkes, a relative of the English radical and politician John Wilkes. He displayed remarkable talent from an early age, deciding on a career in the theatre by the age of seventeen. He performed roles in several small theatres throughout England, and joined a tour of the Low Countries in 1814, returning the following year to make his London debut.

Booth gained national renown in England with his performance in the title role of Richard III in 1817 at the Covent Garden Theatre. Critics compared his performances favorably with those of Edmund Kean, who was at the time the foremost tragedian in Britain. Partisans of the two actors would occasionally start rows at venues where the two were playing together. This did not stop the two from performing in the same plays; Kean and Booth acted in several Shakespearean productions at the Drury Lane Theatre from 1817 to 1821.
His acclaim continued to grow throughout the rest of his life; Walt Whitman described him as "the grandest historian of modern times." Although his relationship with Mary Ann was relatively happy, four of their children died, three in the same year (1833), when there were epidemics of cholera. In addition, he suffered from alcoholism, which had an effect on the entire family.

In 1821, Booth ran off to the United States with Mary Ann Holmes, a flower girl, abandoning his wife and their young son. Booth and Mary Ann claimed to be married that year and settled near Bel Air, Maryland in a farmhouse. Booth remodeled it and named it "Tudor Hall." It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. While Booth toured frequently in the United States, his family, which grew to 10 children, lived in great isolation in relatively primitive conditions, despite the grand name he and Mary Ann gave to their residence.

Further reading about Junius Brutus Booth:

Booth Memorials: passages, incidents, and anecdotes in the life of Junius Brutus Booth, (the elder) by Booth's daughter Asia Frigga Clarke

The Elder and the Younger Booth by Booth's daughter Asia Frigga Clarke

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to wait to read "My Thoughts Be Bloody" - I moved it to the top of my list when you said on facebook that you enjoyed reading it. Booth has always intrigued me.

    I find it completely fascinating that Tony Blair's wife is a descendant of the Booth fam.