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Junius Brutus Booth

Theatrical Prometheus

Stephen Archer

Publication Year: 2010

In this, the first thoroughly researched scholarly biography of Junius Brutus Booth, Stephen M. Archer reveals Booth to have been an actor of considerable range and a man of sensitivity and intellect. Archer provides a clear account of the actor’s professional and personal life and places him in relationship to his contemporaries, particularly Edmund Kean and William Charles Macready

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Junius Brutus Booth flourished in America for more than a generation, from 1821 to 1852, as a distinguished Shakespearean tragedian. His public image, that of a drunken, even dangerous lunatic, obscured a private life that, although frequently traumatic, stressed an undeviating respect for all...

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1. A Gentleman of the Name of Booth

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pp. 1-20

They almost always called him "Mr. Booth." Eventually they called him the Booth. But Mr. Booth, aspiring tragedian, had not yet reached his twenty-first birthday as he prepared himself to step into the glittering dazzle of Drury Lane Theatre's stage.1 That unseasonably balmy day, 20 February 1817, Drury Lane playbills throughout London blazoned Mr. Booth's debut there, to perform Iago to Edmund Kean's Othello. Kean reigned supreme over the London...

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2. Showdown at Old Drury

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pp. 21-46

Booth first had to inform Richard Booth of the impending new generation of Booths. What explosions rocked Queen Street when the prodigal son introduced his pregnant Adelaide to Richard we can today only imagine, but some uproar seems likely. On the other hand, Booth had demonstrated his potential as a starring actor and had the doubtful advantage of Pasquin-Williams' patronage. In ...

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3. This England

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pp. 47-67

Booth was playing against a stacked deck. If acting had earned Booth a great deal of money, the profession had also treated him shabbily. He had starred on the two leading stages of the English speaking world, but the London critics, led by William Hazlitt, had dismissed him as a second-rate Kean. And London audiences followed their leaders: Kean reigned supreme; Booth represented merely the ...

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4. An Object of Interest

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pp. 68-104

Doubtless Booth thought he was leaving most of his problems behind when he sailed from England to North America. He had no more idea of what lay ahead than he had the first time he left home, but he had youth, talent, some money, a woman who loved him, and a pretty good horse-assets vastly superior to what most immigrants imported. The New World offered the young actor a new start, far from Adelaide, Kean's Wolves, managerial wranglings, and...

Gallery of Illustrations 1

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pp. 83-90

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5. The Fire Must Burn

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pp. 105-143

Booth sailed from Rotterdam on the Draper, commanded by Captain Hilliert. The tragedian spent much of the forty-nine day trip learning Italian, memorizing a list of words each day. An insane passenger, considered harmless, heard Booth repeating his Italian lesson, concluded the actor was a conjurer practicing black arts, and threatened Booth with an ax. Booth stared down the maniac...

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6. An Apparent Heir

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pp. 144-176

Ashe sailed toward his next London offensive, Booth kept a detailed journal.1 Upon arrival, he settled his family at 7 King's Row, Pentonville, just north of Clerkenwell. If he had any apprehension about Adelaide and Richard Junius, he need not have; they had gone to Brussels to visit her family...

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7. No More in This World

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pp. 177-223

Adelaide boarded the Great Britain in Liverpool the last day of October 1846 to start for America. On the bridge some argument arose about the accuracy of the ship's compass. Captain about 9:30 P.M. ran the Great Britain aground in the Bay of Dundrum on the east coast of Ireland. A badly shaken Adelaide wrote an account of the wreck to her sister, describing the splendid dinner she had had and the charm of her ...

Gallery of Illustrations 2

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pp. 199-214

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8. Coda

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pp. 224-240

Booth died without a will; Mary Ann had to settle the estate before getting on with her own life. The Orphan's Court of Baltimore granted letters of administration to the widow on 23 December 1852. With Tudor Hall and the Harford County property not included, Booth's estate, after thirty-one years of...

Appendix: Recorded Engagements

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pp. 243-278


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pp. 279-326

Works Cited

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pp. 327-338


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pp. 339-346

Author Bio

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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809385928
E-ISBN-10: 0809385929
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809330003
Print-ISBN-10: 0809330008

Page Count: 364
Illustrations: 34 b/w halftones, 2 galleries
Publication Year: 2010