Rosalie Booth’s Letters

In November I posted a piece about Rosalie A. Booth, the sister of the assassin of President Lincoln.  In that post, I included the full text of Rosalie’s letter that she wrote to her brother, Edwin, in 1860.  That letter is housed in the New York Public Library and the text of it was published in the “Lincoln Log” in 1979.  Here is the text of that letter:

Phil’a

March 12th

1860

Dear Ned

I received yours from Nashville dated the 7 inst. Asia has got a fine little girl and is doing pretty well so far.  So you see you have won the bet.  Clarke telegraphed you on Saturday. Asia wrote one day last week we both got our boxes and are very much pleased with them and I thank you a thousand times. Mother got a letter from June written on the 6th of Feb’y he got the check that she sent and was going to write to you at the same time.  He was in good health but little Mary had a very bad cold. He sends his love to you and Joe. In regards to living in New York or Boston it does not make the slightest difference to me as all places are alike as I will have [to] live where Mother does (unless I get married, and have a house of my own but I don’t think that there is any danger of that yet awhile) Mother thinks that she ought to be where Joe is as he is the one that wants some one to take care of him. She [said] that John has been away from home so long that he can get along very well by himself. Love to Joe and tell him to find time to answer my letters. Sleeper says that he got something for Joe to do at the Arch if he has made up his mind to follow the stage. In regard to Wilkes’ fight at Richmond it was with a man named Pat Redford or Bedman in the box office who had insulted him several times before but he did not say what the insult was. He played Ludovico the other night for Julia Dean Hayne’s benefit and was the only one called before the curtain and had a 6 minute call. He seems very much pleased at it. He has got your letter was to answer it. Mother has just written to you and says she will tell you all about how she wants to live as for me all places are alike. Asia sends her love to you and Joe. I am glad that Joe succeeded so well in Biondello.

God bless you my dear Brother is the pray[er] of your loving sister

Rose A Booth

There is, however, at least one other letter written by Rosalie that still exists today.  That letter, written by Rosalie to her niece, Edwina, is housed at the Hampden-Booth Library inside The Players Club in New York.  I had discovered a poorly copied version of the letter online, but making a workable transcription from it was extremely difficult.  On my own, I managed to transcribe bits and pieces of the letter that hardly added up to a quarter of its contents.  After my initial post, I received an email from a fellow Lincoln assassination researcher named Kate Ramirez who resides in New York City.  She graciously volunteered to visit The Players and attempt to transcribe the letter in person.  I’m eternally grateful to Kate for giving so generously of her time and to the director of the Hampden-Booth Library, Ray Wemmlinger, for allowing her to view the document.

Unfortunately, even in person, Rosalie’s handwriting is very difficult to decipher.  Kate was only able to make a partial transcription of the letter.  By combining her efforts and the work I had previously done, we’ve managed to transcribe about three-fourths of the letter.

Before reading the letter, however, some background is required.  Rose is writing this letter to her niece Edwina on April 3rd, 1881.  At the time Edwina, her famous father Edwin, and his second wife Mary McVicker, are living abroad in England.  Asia Booth Clarke, who had moved to England with her husband and children years before, had convinced her brother Edwin to make the journey across the Atlantic to perform for London audiences.  The engagement only lasted about a year and, during this time, Mary McVicker’s health was failing.  The family would return to America in the summer and Mary McVicker would die in November.  Still, Edwina, her father, and stepmother, spent their time visiting with “Aunt Asia” and her children.  Asia’s oldest child, Asia Dorothy Clarke, was nicknamed Dollie and she was only a couple years older than Edwina.  Edwina and Dollie had another cousin, Marion, who was the daughter of their uncle Junius Brutus Booth, Jr.  She was an actress and resided in America.  Rose mentions news about Marion in her letter, but what she announces never actually came to pass.

What follows is the partial transcription of Rosalie’s 1881 letter to Edwina, along with the poor quality images of each page.  If you have any ideas for what missing words might be, or any corrections to the transcription thus far, please feel free to comment below.  Perhaps, through teamwork, we can actually get this letter fully transcribed.

Rosalie letter 1881 1

Click to enlarge

April 3rd

1881

Dear Edwina

You must

excuse me for not

answering your letter

sooner I have been sick

for over a week but I

am quite well now I’m

so sorry for Mary I hope

by the time this reaches you

she will be ____ Grandmother

got your letter last night

she will answer ____  ____

____  ____ for ____  ____

 

Rosalie letter 1881 2

Click to enlarge

Papa and you let her

You must excuse this

____ as I am weak

yet from my spell of ____

I enclose a slip of paper

for you to give Papa it

may do Mama some good

I take an English ____

called The Young ____ ____ ____

it is a very nice B[roth or Brand]

Give my love to Aunt

Asia and all of her family

Tell Dollie that I will

write to her soon I wish

Many Happy returns of her

Birthday I intended to

send her something ____

 

Rosalie letter 1881 3

Click to enlarge

we could not get in time

____ I will send it soon

Grand Mother and Uncle

Joe join me in love

to you all You

ask if Marie is engaged

to be married Yes

she is engaged to a

Mr. Harrison I believe and

is to be married in a year

if nothing occurs to break

it off he is one of the

Editors or is connected with

Dramatic Mirror We

see very little of her I go

to see sometimes Aunt

Aggie and Uncle June

 

Rosalie letter 1881 4

Click to enlarge

are both in B(oston?)

I believe and there

____  ____ good ____

Tell Mama and Papa

that we pray for you

all and that Mama may

soon be restored to health

I am proud my dear

Niece that you will

happily be ____  ____  ____

they ____  ____ you ____

____  ____  ____

God Bless you all

Your loving Aunt

Rose A. Booth

 

References:
Special thanks to Kate Ramirez for visiting The Players and for transcribing this letter.

Thanks to Jeff in the comments section for his input and help in transcribing.

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5 thoughts on “Rosalie Booth’s Letters

  1. Rich smyth

    I find it quite interesting that Rose talked about a future possible marriage and that the family (in her opinion) felt that Joseph was the most needy.

  2. John C. Fazio

    Dave:

    Thank you for this information. It is interesting and valuable. I was in the Players Club a couple of years ago. Had dinner there and sang a song for the patrons upstairs when I discovered a pianist who just happened to be playing one of my favorites (You Go To My Head). While there, one of the managers was kind enough to escort me and my wife to what I recall was the third floor. There he showed me the bed on which Edwin died in, as I recall, 1893. It is still there with what I was assured was the original bed clothing. He showed me much else up there (books, photos, objets d’art, etc.), but what interested me most was a back room which contained tons of files, records, correspondence, dusty tomes, etc., altogether unorganized. I asked him why this material was in such a state and he answered that they had neither the manpower nor the resources to review and organize it. I thought to myself that there might be and probably is gold in there somewhere if someone had the time and energy to pan for it. Now there is a project for an energetic and ambitious young man or woman, or perhaps several. I thought seriously of membership there, but then decided that it is not a resource I would make sufficient use of to justify it, living 500 miles away. The Club has a star-studded membership list, past and present, and a storied history.

    John

  3. Jeff

    April 3rd, 1881

    Dear Edwina,
    You must excuse me for not answering your letter sooner I have been sick for over a week but I am quite well now. I’m so sorry for Mary I hope by the time this reaches you she will be ____ Grandmother got your letter last night she will answer ____ ____ ____ ____ for ____ ____ Papa and you let her. You must excuse this scribble as I am weak yet from my spell of ____ I enclose a slip of paper for you to give Papa it may do him some good. I take an English ____ called the ____ ____ ____ ____ it is a very nice Broth. Give my love to Aunt Asia and all of her family. Tell Dollie that I will write to her soon. I wish Many Happy returns of her Birthday. I intended to send her something ____ but could not get in time but I will send it soon. Grand Mother and Uncle Joe join me in love to you all. You ask if Marie is engaged to be married. Yes she is engaged to a Mr. Harrison I believe and is to be married in a year if nothing occurs to break it off he is one of the Editors or is connected with Dramatic Mirror. We see very little of her I go to see sometimes Aunt Aggie and Uncle June ____are both in B(oston? I believe and there ____ ____ good ____ Tell Marie and Papa that we pray for you all and that Mary may soon be ____ to health. I am proud my dear Niece that you will happily be ____ ____ ____ they ____ ____ you ____ ____ ____ ____
    God Bless you all
    Your loving Aunt
    Rose A. Booth

    • Jeff,

      Thank you so much for your input in this. I definitely agree with your Broth or Brand Idea. I think the brand is called “The Young ___ Favourite” but I tried doing searches for things like that but came up empty.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

      Dave

  4. Jeff

    I think the one sentence actually ends “…it is a very nice brand.” rather than “broth” and I think she might have been recommending a medicine or balm she was familiar with.

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