Posted by naomi

After many years of dedicated work by our extensive team, we're delighted to announce that the diary of Harry Watkins will be published in October 2018 by University of Michigan Press! As those of you who have been following our work via Facebook, Twitter (@WatkinsDiary), and old-fashioned face-to-face conversations know, our critical edition of the diary, A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, US American Actor, has been a true labor of love, with many surprises and challenges along the way. We have worked with a huge team of interns and research assistants and are thrilled that the book will be available for purchase very soon. We are particularly grateful to LeAnn Fields, our editor at UMich Press, for believing in this project when it was little more than an idea. 

You can find more information about the volume--and even pre-order a copy--here. Please ask your library to purchase a copy for its collection! We expect it will be an invaluable resource for scholars, students, and general readers interested in nineteenth-century US theater and culture. We also think it's an interesting and entertaining read.

Stay tuned for information about our digital edition of the diary, which will be hosted by U-M Library Digital Collections

Book description and endorsements:

Hardworking actor, playwright, and stage manager Harry Watkins (1825–94) was also a prolific diarist. For fifteen years Watkins regularly recorded the plays he saw, the roles he performed, the books he read, and his impressions of current events. Performing across the U.S., Watkins collaborated with preeminent performers and producers, recording his successes and failures as well as his encounters with celebrities such as P. T. Barnum, Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin Forrest, Anna Cora Mowatt, and Lucy Stone. His is the only known diary of substantial length and scope written by a U.S. actor before the Civil War—making Watkins, essentially, the antebellum equivalent of Samuel Pepys. Theater historians Amy E. Hughes and Naomi J. Stubbs have selected, edited, and annotated excerpts from the diary in an edition that offers a vivid glimpse of how ordinary people like Watkins lived, loved, struggled, and triumphed during one of the most tumultuous periods in U.S. history. The selections in A Player and a Gentleman are drawn from a more expansive digital archive of the complete diary. The book, like its digital counterpart, will richly enhance our knowledge of antebellum theater culture and daily life in the U.S. during this period. 

 “Provides unique insight into the antebellum world of U.S. theater and society, offering a richly illuminating window into the granular realities and day-to-day dealings of a committed life as a stage actor and sometime stage manager and playwright in this era.”

—Kim Marra, University of Iowa

 “Creating the print and digital editions of this remarkable diary has been a prodigious effort, and the payoff is ample. Watkins gives us a voice from behind the curtain, a day-to-day account of what it meant to grind out a living through talent and cunning in the mid-19th-century theatre … of immediate interest to theatre historians and also engaging and accessible to general readers.”

—Laura Mielke, University of Kansas