Edwin Booth Haiku

Family – can’t live

With ’em, can’t crawl in hole when

They shoot President.

Poor Edwin Booth. Tried so hard to get past his shit childhood, hone his acting skills, and become the greatest Shakespearean actor of his generation, only to have his efforts thrown in an outhouse when his little prick of a brother assassinated Honest Abe.

Edwin was born in 1833 to famous actor Junius Brutus Booth and Mary Ann Holmes. The two had run off to American twelve years prior after Junius seduced the teenaged Mary with Lord Byron’s poetry and knocked her up because Free Love. (Junius’ first wife and son had things to say about that via a lawyer when they finally tracked him down.) Mary and the eventually many kids stayed behind in Maryland whilst Junius went on tour, which became problematic when he discovered the bottle and crawled into it. Edwin was chosen to keep an eye on him so he’d actually a) perform and b) not spend every red cent. The other boys stayed behind for school and young John Wilkes was soooo jealous.

Yes, because corralling your abusive dad so your ungrateful family can eat is a holiday. The upside is he got a great course in acting by watching and performing alongside Junius. This ended in 1852 when, while in California, Edwin got sick of his shit and struck out on his own. Junius got sick himself and died. His mom and the rest of the family blamed him.

But he kept acting and his star rose. John Wilkes tried to ride his coattails, but he was unprofessional and just not as good. Edwin drew out their turfs on the map to keep him from damaging his rep. Bad blood thickened.

During this time, Edwin took to drink too. He married the young actress Mary Devlin (with much seething from his family because she was IRISH), with whom he had a daughter, Edwina. While away working and drinking, he ignored telegrams warning about how sick Mary was. He finally came back just after she died. Out of grief, he stopped drinking and devoted himself to Edwina. (Also, a civil war was happening, FYI.) Then Lincoln was shot. Out of shame, Edwin retired from the stage. But when he he finally performed again, he was overcome by the positive reaction. Turns out the public could tell him from his brother after all. He died of a stroke in 1893.

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