Booth, Junius Brutus, 1796-1852
Junius Brutus Booth (1 May 1796 – 30 November 1852) was a 19th century English stage actor. He was the father of actor John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. His other children included Edwin Booth, the foremost tragedian of the mid-to-late 19th century, Junius Brutus Booth Jr., an actor and theatre manager, and Asia Booth Clarke, a poet and writer.
Booth was born in St. Pancras, London, Great Britain, the son of Richard Booth, a lawyer and avid supporter of the American cause, and Jane Elizabeth Game. In August 1814, Junius met Marie Christine Adelaide Delannoy while boarding at her mother's home in Brussels. She followed him to London where they eventually married on 17 May 1815, soon after his 19th birthday. Their first child, Amelia Portia Adelaide Booth, was born 4 months, 2 weeks and 4 days later, on October 5, 1815, but died July 7, 1816. Their only child to survive infancy was Richard Junius Booth (1819–1868).
Booth’s interests in theatre came after he attended a production of Othello at the Covent Garden Theatre. He displayed a talent for acting from an early age, deciding on a career in the theatre by the age of 17. 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, with whom he soon had a rivalry.
In 1821, Booth emigrated to the United States with Mary Ann Holmes, leaving his wife and their young son. Booth and Holmes claimed to be married that year and settled in 1822 near Bel Air, Maryland. Booth was quickly hired to play Richard III. In less than a year, Booth became the most prominent actor in the United States. He embarked upon a 30-year acting career that made him famous throughout the country. Booth traveled to Baltimore, Boston, and New York. He toured England as an actor and enjoyed a career in theater in the United States, but relied on the support of his partner and grandson Edwin while working to avoid persistent problems with alcoholism and ensuing violence on and off stage.
His son Richard from his first marriage had also emigrated to the United States, and Booth tricked Richard into believing he lived alone for several years. Upon the discovery of this truth, Adelaide Booth traveled to the United States, where she resided until she was able to obtain a divorce.On 10 May 1851, with the youngest of their 10 children now 11 years of age, Booth finally legally married Mary Ann Holmes. He continued to tour, including a tour in California ruined by torrential rains, and died on November 30, 1852 on a steamboat from New Orleans to Chicago, likely from impure drinking water.
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|Theater--United States--History--19th century|
|Theater--Great Britain--History--19th century|