This is prompted by a biography of actress Laura Keene I had to give up on midway through for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that if it had an editor, they didn’t do their damned job. This lead to such sentences as, “She literally claimed their hearts…”
April 15, 1965, WASHINGTON – Attendees of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater were wowed last night, and not just by the players’ performances.
The play had been proceeding admirably, reaching the second scene of Act III with no incident save uproarious laughter. President Abraham Lincoln, in attendance with his First Lady and a couple who failed to be General and Mrs Grant, was no less immune to the play’s charms, slapping his leg with delight. Nor was he immune to the charms of leading lady Laura Keene, in the role of Florence Trenchard. The time for the delivery of a certain line, thought to be the play’s most hilarious, was fast approaching.
It was then that the lovely Keene spotted John Wilkes Booth, the most handsome and most irritating of the famed Booth brothers, creeping into the President’s box. Guided by her instincts for battle and treachery, she retrieved her legendary sword Lyonheart (said to have been granted to her by the Duke of Wellington himself after passing three trials) from under her skirts and dashed towards Booth with a mighty cry.
Booth, startled by the wordless yell which penatrated all present to their very bones, dropped the gun. He attempted to use the First Lady as a human shield, but as she is of but small height, this had little effect. Keene easily cut open Booth’s chest and claimed his still-beating heart, without harming a hair on the First Lady’s head. (Alas, the dress was ruined by blood stains.)
Keene then raised Booth’s heart in one hand and the President Lincoln’s fist with the other in triumph. All, save Booth’s cooling corpse, clapped wildly as the band played ‘Hail to the Chief.’
“Sic semper inertes!” cried Keene.
The show then resumed.
When asked after the performance what is most important in life, Keene answered thusly:
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”
Keene then continued sipping red wine out of a skull mug.