Posted by kelly

Watkins worked with many famous actors (including T. D. Rice, Charlotte Cushman, and Edwin Forrest) and he records his (often unfavorable) thoughts on them in his diary. One such actor was Junius Brutus Booth Sr. Although Junius Brutus Booth Sr. was a well-known and accomplished actor in England and in the United States of America, Harry Watkins was not impressed by Booth’s talents as an actor and a playwright.

Watkins and Booth Sr. performed together in a few plays in 1851, such as Othello, King Lear and All That Glitters is Not Gold. Like Watkins, Booth Sr. was also a theatre manager, but he was more popular as an actor than Watkins, and he received rave reviews from critics for his portrayal of Richard III. Despite that, Watkins thought Booth’s performance of Macbeth was not strong because he was a bit too short, noting “five feet, four or five inches in height, does not convey a very good idea of a great warrior.”

Watkins encountered Booth Sr. again when he witnessed his performance of a play Booth wrote titled Ugolino. This play centers around a man who is deeply in love with a woman. Unfortunately, she has fallen in love with another man. Booth’s character, Ugolino, is so angry that she is in love with another man, that he murders the man and the woman in a jealous rage. Watkins attended a performance of Ugolino in June 1851 and he was not pleased with Booth’s work, noting the play as being “very heavy and lacks relief.” It’s unclear what Watkins had against Booth Sr., as a play cannot run for as long as Ugolino did, without an audience who enjoyed it, and I would certainly like to see a production of Ugolino on stage.

Watkins does not give credit to Booth’s talent as an actor or a playwright in his diary. As a person who has transcribed and read parts of his diary, Watkins does come across as a jealous man, and is seems he had a particular gripe with Booth Sr.