Authors: Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne
July 2, 1865
At last we are settled in our new home in New York City.
Pa, Jane Ellen, Abraham Lincoln Dickens, and I arrived last night. Baby Abe slept in his little basket for most of the trip, covered with a red blanket. When Jed helped us carry him off the train, he said we looked as if we were headed for a picnic!
I think I am going to love our life here. I already love the home Jed has found for us -- a small set of furnished rooms above Brown's Shoe Store on Third Street. Jed and Jane Ellen will take the large front room, with Baby Abe
in a cradle next to their bed. Pa will sleep in the small bedroom. I will have a cot in a room off the kitchen that was once the pantry.
I think our rooms here are much nicer than our rooms in Washington City. The front room even has a piano! And Jane Ellen knows how to play!
Now it is early morning, and she is playing a soft, happy tune. Carriages rattle by on the street outside. A woman strolls down the sidewalk with a basket on her head, calling, "Strawberries! Fresh strawberries!"
New York seems a bit like a picnic indeed.
July 3, 1865
I have spent all morning cleaning our new home. Jane Ellen helped for a while, but quickly became too exhausted. She has not fully regained her strength since Baby Abe was
born. The two of them are sleeping now. They both look quite pale and fragile.
Pa is practicing his violin in his room. This afternoon he will set out to look for work. He has a letter from Professor Withers, the conductor of the orchestra at Ford's New Theatre in Washington. The letter praises Pa's character, and his talent as a musician.
Ford's New Theatre has been closed since President Lincoln was assassinated there three months ago. Professor Withers told Pa he thought there would be more opportunity for a musician with his talent in New York.
Jed left early for his first day at his new job. He will be writing for a newspaper called the
Spirit of the Times.
The editor there offered him the job because he had read Jed's articles about life in Washington City. He said he liked the way Jed's mind worked.
The editor said that Jed would be writing
mostly about plays and sporting events. But he promised that sometimes Jed could just write what he thinks.
I love it when Jed writes what he thinks. His thoughts are brilliant. At least, that's what
July 4, 1865
Today is Independence Day. There is to be a grand parade down Fifth Avenue. Jed is going to write about it for his newspaper.
Pa said we should all go with Jed to the parade and celebrate our country. He said that with the war finally over, Independence Day means more than ever before.
[Image: Two American flags.]
The parade was magnificent. Thousands of Union soldiers marched with their regiments. Many walked on crutches. Some had only one arm or one leg. But they all looked proud and brave. One soldier was blind. But, led by two of his fellow soldiers, he carried the American flag for his regiment.
By the end of the parade, my throat was sore from cheering and my hands were red from clapping. I wanted every single soldier to know how grateful I was for his bravery and courage.
When we got home, Jed went straight to his desk. By the time he finished writing, Jane Ellen, Pa, and Baby Abe were all asleep. Jed tapped softly on the door of my pantry room and asked if I was still awake. When I said I was, he asked if he could read his article to me.
In his article, Jed told all about the parade, and the soldiers, and the blind man carrying the flag. Here's how he ended his story:
The States of the nation are again United, and once more a single flag floats supreme over every inch of our magnificent country. The wounds of the war ache still, but the nation's heart beats strong. The country is whole and its people are free. The healing has begun.
I love what Jed wrote. But even more, I love that he wanted to share his writing with me.
July 5, 1865
Early this morning, I set out to explore. Pa had left to look for work, Jed had gone to his job at the newspaper, and Jane Ellen and Baby
Abe had fallen back asleep. I left a note for Jane Ellen, saying I had gone to the market and would be back very soon.
What I saw on my walk was amazing.
I passed houses that looked like palaces, with grand entrances and columns and lawns and beautiful tall windows.
Then, just a few blocks away, I saw filthy streets with dirty brick buildings all crammed together like rows of toy blocks.
There were beggars on almost every corner. In some places, whole families sat in the street, asking for pennies from anyone who passed by.
It is hard to believe that two such different worlds can exist in the same city. Our world seems to be somewhere in between.
I do not want us ever to be poor. Until Pa finds a job with an orchestra, I wonder if I myself should not be out looking for work.
Pa heard today that soldiers blocked the entrance to Mr. Ford's theatre in Washington City when he tried to reopen it. The government has ordered that there be no more plays there.
Jed says many people have turned against the theatre because President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was an actor. This does not seem at all right to me! President Lincoln loved plays. I do not think he would want people to stop going to the theatre.
I told Jed my thoughts, and he agreed. But he said John Wilkes Booth's brother Edwin is also an actor. Many people think Edwin Booth is the greatest actor of our time. But he has sworn never to return to the stage because his brother John has disgraced his family.
Our mother was born in Virginia. She had
two brothers. They may have fought for the Confederacy. They might have even shot one of the men I saw marching in the parade on Independence Day. I wonder: Are Jed and I disgraced because our uncles were Rebs?
July 8, 1865
This morning we heard newsboys on the corner calling, "Extra! Conspirators hanged! Read all about the hanging!" I rushed out and bought one of their papers for a penny.
The paper said that the four conspirators who helped John Wilkes Booth plan President Lincoln's assassination were hanged yesterday in Washington. Hundreds of people came to watch. The article said there was a "universal feeling of satisfaction" in the city.
I find this strange. Hanging the conspirators will not bring the President back to life.
Right now, I do not have a feeling of satisfaction. I just feel very sad.
July 9, 1865
Jed had his first assignment at a theatre last night. He saw
The Widow's Victim
at the New Bowery Theatre. At breakfast he told us all about it. He said the crowd was very rowdy and the evening was very long. Now he must write what he thinks of the play for the paper.
I would love to see a play. Perhaps I can convince Jed to take me with him when he goes to the theatre again.
At supper I asked Jed about going with him to see a play. He said there was very little
onstage that was suitable for a young girl to see.
I said I was not so young, that I was very interested in the theatre, and that in all New York City there must surely be
Jed said he would ask his new friends at the newspaper if they can think of anything.
July 11, 1865
Hooray! Jed has promised to take me to the theatre! We will spend the afternoon on Saturday at Mr. P. T. Barnum's American Museum. The museum has a menagerie of animals, exhibits of ancient curiosities from all over the world, and a grand lecture hall where plays are performed every day.
Jed brought home an advertisement for the
show that is playing there now. Here is what the advertisement says we will see:
Claude Marcel or The Idiot of Tarbes
A Grand Romantic Tragedy featuring
New and Splendid Scenic Effects, and
Appropriate Appointments and Costumes
grand romantic tragedy! I can hardly wait.
July 12, 1865
This morning I took a walk down Broadway to see P. T Barnum's American Museum. It is magnificent! It is five stories tall and takes up almost an entire block!
Jed says Mr. Barnum is famous for playing jokes on the public. He once advertised a "six-foot-tall man-eating chicken." When the curtain went up, there was a man onstage eating
a chicken leg. He was a six-foot-tall man... eating chicken! Not a chicken who ate men!
People laughed, and only a few wanted their money back. Can you imagine? I hope the show on Saturday is better than that!
July 13, 1865
I cannot believe that in two days I am finally going to see a play. I was supposed to go to the theatre for the very first time the night President Lincoln was shot.
On that night, Pa was playing in the orchestra at Mr. Ford's theatre. He was going to let me stand in the back and watch a play called
Our American Cousin.
But when the newspapers announced that President Lincoln was going to attend the play that night, Pa said he would not be able to sneak me in.
I was so disappointed that I cried for hours.
I thought it was a great tragedy that I could not go to the theatre. I did not know how great the tragedy would truly be that night.
On Saturday, I will wear the lacy yellow dress Jane Ellen gave me to wear to Ford's Theatre. Before I go, I will say a prayer for President Lincoln and his family.
July 14, 1865
I will not wear my yellow dress to P. T. Barnum's American Museum tomorrow. I will not see the show there, or the menagerie, or the ancient curiosities. Why? Because Mr. Barnum's museum has burned to the ground.
Jed says firemen worked for hours to put out the fire. They saved all the people who were inside. Still, Mr. Barnum's museum was completely destroyed and most of the animals in his menagerie died in the fire.
Thousands of people turned out to watch the building burn. While the firemen worked to put out the flames, pickpockets moved through the crowd. They stole men's wallets and ladies' purses. Thieves also stole things from the stores and shops around the museum.
How can some people be so terrible?
July 15, 1865
This was the day I was to go with Jed to see the play at Mr. Barnum's museum. Instead, I spent the afternoon in bed in my little pantry room. I told Pa and Jane Ellen I felt sick. But what I truly feel is terribly, terribly sad. I keep thinking of the animals who suffered in the fire, and of the firemen risking their lives, and of the pickpockets and thieves.
I think of the sad, dirty families begging on the streets just a few blocks from our home.
I think of the blind and wounded soldiers in the parade, and of John Wilkes Booth, and the conspirators who were hanged in Washington.
And I think of President Lincoln's family, and how heartbroken they must all still be.
I no longer want to go the theatre to watch a "grand romantic tragedy." There is too much tragedy in the world already.
July 16, 1865
At breakfast this morning, Jed said he was "keeping his eye out" for another play that we could see together. I told him he needn't bother, that I had lost my interest in the theatre.
The truth is, I do not feel much interest in anything these days.
It has been very hot all week. Jane Ellen has spent most of the last few days in bed. I'm sure the weather is making her feel even more exhausted than usual. She never complains, though. She gently rocks Baby Abe's cradle beside her bed, while he frets about the heat.
Pa came home this afternoon in poor spirits. He says it is a terrible time to look for work as a musician, as many theatres do not even operate in the summer. It makes me sad to picture him carrying his violin all over the city in this heat.
No one has suggested that I go to work. But I feel I should help earn money for our rent and food. We have not discussed my schooling
yet. Nor have we spoken about what we will do if Pa cannot find work here as a musician. Even though we have unpacked all our belongings, our home still feels very unsettled.
July 20, 1865
I bought a newspaper this morning and looked in the Advertisements section for a job. There were many notices for girls to work in factories as trimmers or cutters. I do not know what these jobs are.
July 22, 1865
Today Jed lent me his book of plays by William Shakespeare. He said there would be many plays by Shakespeare coming to New York in the fall, and one of them would surely be suitable for us to see together.
I reminded Jed that I was no longer interested in plays and the theatre. He just smiled and handed me the book anyway.
July 24, 1865
I have been trying to read the plays of William Shakespeare. Jed says the writing is poetry. I see that some of the lines rhyme, but most do not. How can that be poetry?
July 26, 1865
Pa still has had no success finding a job with an orchestra. People tell him there will be more work for musicians when "the season" begins in September.
I told Pa not to worry. I said that I wanted to help our family, and could perhaps get a job in one of the factories.
"Nonsense!" he said. "We'll hear no more about that!"
I think I hurt his feelings. I know how frustrated he is about not being able to support his family.
July 27, 1865
This morning, Pa told us he was putting an advertisement in the paper seeking violin students. He asked Jane Ellen if he could use the front room for his lessons.
"Oh yes!" she said. She assured him that we could tend to Baby Abe in his room while he teaches out front.
Pa taught violin lessons when we lived in Gettysburg. He had hoped his teaching days were over. But now he seems resigned to going back to it.
I lay awake much of last night, thinking that Pa is not very smart about money. It will surely be a long while before he has enough violin students to earn much.
So this morning, on my way to the market, I walked quickly to the address of one of the factories I had read about in the Advertisements section of the paper. I climbed a creaky set of stairs and peered into a dim, windowless room.
What I saw was horrible. Dozens of women and girls were working at machines. Some of the girls were even younger than I. The air was stale and damp. The smell was terrible and the heat nearly unbearable. And the noise! The noise was almost deafening. I covered my ears and ran back down the stairs.
I do not know what to do. I cannot imagine
working in such a place. I could apply for a job as a servant in a wealthy person's home. But then I would not be able to help Jane Ellen take care of the baby during the day.
Why must we always be struggling? I thought our lives in New York would be different.
July 31, 1865
There was a notice in Jed's newspaper today about a contest for Civil War veterans -- a left-handed penmanship contest. Any Union soldier who lost his right arm in the war may compete. The soldier with the best handwriting will receive five hundred dollars. The contest is supposed to inspire veterans to overcome their handicaps and build new lives.
As I write this, Pa is practicing his violin. Jane Ellen is playing the piano. Jed is gently
rocking Baby Abe in his arms. I am ashamed of my feelings of discontent. I must try to remember how lucky we are.
August 3, 1865
We finally had a discussion about my schooling. I think Pa and Jed had been putting it off because of Jane Ellen's health. Here is what we decided: For at least another year, I will study my lessons at home with Jane Ellen. I will help her take care of Baby Abe and keep house.
I do not mind this arrangement at all. Jane Ellen is a wonderful teacher. And to be honest, I was a little afraid of what the schools here in New York would be like.
[Image: Two American flags.]
Jane Ellen got a letter from her friend Becky Lee in Gettysburg today. Becky Lee had wonderful news. She has found her mother's brother and his family, and they are coming to live with her!
Becky Lee's relatives were all slaves on a plantation in South Carolina. Becky Lee had been trying to locate them since the war ended. Finally she received word from someone who had seen one of her notices in a South Carolina newspaper.
Becky Lee traveled to a little town near Charleston and found them living in a shack on their former owner's land. She said there were seven people sharing a room the size of our parlor in Gettysburg.
I cannot stop thinking about Becky Lee's relatives. In her letter, Becky Lee said there was a girl in the family about my age. The girl must have been a slave, too.
I have tried over and over to imagine how it would feel to be
by another person. But I cannot do it. I simply cannot imagine it. And I cannot imagine how anyone could ever believe it was all right to own slaves.
August 15, 1865
Pa has received no inquiries from his notice seeking students. I told him that no one can think of violin lessons in this weather. I said that as soon as the heat spell ends, people will think of music again.
Jed has found another play for us to see together. It is a play by William Shakespeare called
It will be performed at the Broadway Theatre on Broome Street. We will see it in two weeks.
I must admit, I am rather excited. I thought I had lost my interest in the theatre. But perhaps not.
August 19, 1865
I told Jane Ellen today that I could not understand the poetry in Jed's Shakespeare book and was worried that I would not be able to enjoy
She says we can use
for our first reading lesson.
I have been trying to read
Jane Ellen is helping me understand the story. It is all about a king who gives his kingdom to his daughters and then goes insane when they turn against him.
August 25, 1865
Jed invited a friend from the newspaper to join us for supper tonight. During the meal, there was a lot of talk about President Johnson.
When he was Vice President, Mr. Johnson spoke very harshly about the South. But now he believes the South should be treated with leniency. He says the government should help the South recover from the war.
Many Northern congressmen, though, are
still very angry. They think the South should be punished.
I truly do not know what I think. When I think of Becky Lee and her family, and the wounded soldiers, and the assassination of President Lincoln, I, too, feel angry. But when I remember Captain Heath, the Confederate officer who saved me in Gettysburg, and his family in North Carolina, I do not want him to be punished. And when I remember that my mother's brothers may have been Confederate soldiers, I do not want them punished, either.
How is it possible to feel such different things at the same time?
August 30, 1865
Good news! Pa has received his first inquiry for music lessons! A letter arrived from a
woman who said she very much wishes for her son to learn the violin. She says she is seeking a patient and talented instructor.
Pa replied immediately. He said he was eager to assist her and was certain he could teach her son to play. He said he would charge three dollars a month, and that she should bring her son for a lesson every week.
Pa seemed very happy that someone finally noticed his advertisement. I hope, I hope, I hope the woman accepts his terms.
September 4, 1865
I am still reading
The plot has gotten very complicated. Many people have been killed or banished.
[Image: Two American flags.]
Jed wrote an article for his paper this week about President Johnson and his enemies in Congress. Some congressmen are now saying that Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, should be hanged, like the conspirators who helped John Wilkes Booth murder President Lincoln. They say the Confederacy tried to murder the nation.
In his article, Jed said what most threatens to murder the nation now is the hatred that rages in some of its leaders. He reminded people of President Lincoln's words: "With malice toward none, with charity for all..."
September 11, 1865
Hooray! Pa received word from the woman whose son wants to learn the violin. She found
Pa's terms "perfectly acceptable" and will bring her son for his first lesson next week. Hooray!
September 12, 1865
Tonight we see
I have not been able to finish reading the play, so I do not know how it turns out. But I must confess that, so far, I cannot understand why Jed thinks William Shakespeare is such a great writer.
September 13, 1865
I have an announcement to make:
is a wonderful play! It made a great deal more sense when I saw it acted out onstage last night. I had no idea how truly sad it was! One of the king's daughters, Cordelia, has trouble saying how much she loves him, and he turns against her. The other daughters take
over the kingdom and throw King Lear out of his castle.
In the end, when King Lear loses his mind, Cordelia is the only one who comforts him. But then she is killed, and he is all alone. When King Lear loses Cordelia, it is one of the saddest things I have ever seen.
When we came home, Pa was still awake, planning a first lesson for his new student. I rushed to him and threw my arms around him. He seemed startled, but he put down his fiddle and held me for a long time.
September 14, 1865
I told Jed I would like to see more plays by Shakespeare. Again, he said he would "keep his eye out" for something I might enjoy.
Pa had the first lesson with his new music student today. He is a boy about eight years old. He came with his mother, who introduced herself as Mrs. Charles Edmonds and her son as Master Charles Edmonds Jr.
Mrs. Edmonds said that Charles's violin had belonged to her husband, who had been killed in the war. Pa said he was terribly sorry and that he would be honored to help Charles learn to play.
Jane Ellen and I took Baby Abe to Pa's room. When he was settled, I peeked through the door and watched Pa teach Charles Edmonds Jr. how to play the violin.
First, he helped Charles hold the violin properly under his chin. Then he showed him how to grasp the bow and draw it across the strings.
At first, Charles could make no sound at all, but Pa was very patient. He put his arms around Charles and made little adjustments to the way the boy was moving the bow.
Eventually Charles began to make sounds. At first they were scratching sounds. Then they were screeching sounds. Still, Pa was patient.
Finally, Charles took a deep breath. With Pa guiding his hand, he drew the bow slowly and steadily across the strings. The sound was low and rich and sweet. It hung in the air for a moment, then died away slowly.
Pa looked happier than I have seen him in months. "Yes! Yes!" he shouted. "Good boy! Excellent!"
Charles was so excited he almost dropped the violin. When I looked at Mrs. Edmonds, there were tears on her cheeks.
At breakfast, I asked Jed if his eye was still out for more plays we could see. He laughed and said he would find something soon.
Meanwhile, Jane Ellen is helping me read
Romeo and Juliet.
September 26, 1865
Charles Edmonds had his second violin lesson with Pa today. After the lesson, Mrs. Edmonds told Pa how pleased she was with his teaching. She said it meant the world to her to hear the sound of her husband's violin again.
Pa just smiled and nodded. He actually seemed a bit shy.
[Image: Two American flags.]
I am finding
Romeo and Juliet
a bit easier to understand than
The story is very sweet. And Juliet is so young! Jane Ellen says she is only a few years older than I.
September 28, 1865
Today I went with Pa on his rounds of the theatres. None of them need more musicians, but people tell him to keep checking.
I thought Pa would be discouraged, but he did not seem so at all. On the way home, he talked a great deal about Charles Edmonds and his mother, and how happy he was to have such a good student.
[Image: Two American flags.]
Jane Ellen got another letter from Becky Lee in Gettysburg. Becky Lee says times there are very hard, for whites and Negroes alike. Many freed slaves have moved north. There is not enough work. Jed says times are hard all over the country.
October 3, 1865
I have finished
Romeo and Juliet.
It ends terribly sadly, just like
King Lear I
Romeo and Juliet both die! Did Mr. Shakespeare write no plays in which everything turns out all right?
October 6, 1865
I am still worried that we will become poor. Pa had two more inquiries about music lessons
this week, but that is all. I know Jed does not earn very much money from his newspaper writing. Jane Ellen cannot tutor children because of Baby Abe and her fragile health.
If Pa does not find more work soon, I worry that we will not be able to pay our rent.
October 9, 1865
I have started reading another play by Shakespeare. It is called A
Midsummer Night's Dream.
Jane Ellen has assured me that this one ends happily.
October 11, 1865
I have a job! A wonderful job at the Olympic Theatre!
Here is how it happened. Today Pa again took me with him on his rounds. We went first
to Niblo's Garden Theatre, then to Wallack's Theatre. At both these theatres, the doormen were very rude and said their theatres still did not need any musicians. Then we went to the Olympic, where Mrs. John Wood is starring in
The matinee show had just finished and people were streaming out of the theatre. We waited until the crowd cleared, then Pa asked to speak with the stage manager.
The stage manager was very polite, but said they did not need any musicians. He said the only job they had available was for a girl to help dress Mrs. Wood in her costumes for the next play, which opens tomorrow.
I spoke up immediately. I said I was very interested in the theatre and would love a job dressing Mrs. Wood. Before Pa could say anything, the stage manager asked me how old I was -- and I did a dreadful thing. I lied
about my age! Instead of telling him I was eleven, I said I was thirteen! Pa looked at me but still didn't speak. I think he was too shocked.
The stage manager asked if I had had any experience in the theatre. I told him I was currently studying all the plays of Shakespeare. I said I liked
Romeo and Juliet,
was my favorite. I said I thought Shakespeare was an excellent writer.
The stage manager laughed and told Pa to bring me back at six o'clock to meet Mrs. Wood.
All the way home, I begged Pa to let me take the job. At first he said absolutely not, that the theatre was no place for a young girl. I reminded him that he had met my mother when she attended a theatre in Richmond and saw him play his violin onstage.
I told him working in the theatre was much
better than working in the factories, where hundreds and hundreds of young girls work.
I told him it was a perfect job for me because most days I could still stay home and help Jane Ellen with Baby Abe.
I told him it was even more perfect because I really
interested in the theatre.
Before I could tell him anything else, he said I could accept the job.
I have met Mrs. Wood. She is plump, proud, and very outgoing. She is not only the leading actress in the company -- she is the manager of the whole theatre!
I will work backstage, helping Mrs. Wood and the other actresses get dressed for their roles in a play called
The Streets of New York.
She says I will not see much of the play, as all my work will be "behind the scenes." But I do not care! I will be working in the theatre! And I will earn five dollars a week!
October 12, 1865
I have had my first night as a dresser. The work is a bit more difficult than I had imagined. There are many costume changes, and little time to make them between scenes in the play.
It was also a bit of a chore fitting Mrs. Wood into her costumes. She kept whispering, "Hurry! Hurry!" as I struggled to fasten the tiny silver buttons on her dresses.
October 14, 1865
Late. Home. Can't write. Too tired.
October 15, 1865
There are no performances of
The Streets of New York
today because it is Sunday. Thank goodness! I am afraid I have fallen a little behind in my lessons with Jane Ellen. I will try to use today to catch up.
October 17, 1865
My work at the theatre is still difficult but getting smoother. All the actresses are now arriving onstage in time for their scenes, with nearly all their costume pieces in place. I fear I am still behind in my schoolwork, however.
As I write this, I can hear Pa teaching Charles Edmonds in the front room. Mrs. Edmonds is watching the lesson, as she always does. Charles seems to be getting better.
Pa once tried to teach me to play the violin, but was not successful. He was patient, but I am afraid I was not.
October 20, 1865
As Pa walked me home from the theatre last night, he talked about what a good student Charles Edmonds is. Pa knows I am a little behind in my lessons with Jane Ellen.
He told me that Charles is applying himself. "And that," Pa said, "is the secret of learning."
For goodness sakes, Pa! I intend to apply myself! I am just too busy and tired these days.
October 21, 1865
It is late at night. I have just finished another week at the Olympic Theatre. My
fingers are red and sore from hundreds of buttonings and unbuttonings. My back aches from carrying dresses, coats, corsets, hats, shoes, boots, and scarves to and from the costume shop. I am very, very, very, very tired. But I am also very, very, very, very happy.
Mrs. Wood says I am doing "a fine job." She is not one to give compliments, so her words make me very proud. And I
working "behind the scenes." I can hear the whole play, and see some of it when I am not hurrying to get the actresses ready to go onstage.
I am beginning to think I might like a career in the theatre.
October 22, 1865
A beautiful autumn Sunday. Our whole family went on an outing this afternoon, even Jane Ellen and Baby Abe! They both seem
much healthier now that the weather has grown cooler.
Jed took us to Central Park. The park is filled with lakes, lawns, bridges, and roads -- and so many people! Men walked about in their war uniforms. Women wore shawls and hats or kerchiefs. There were many small children being pushed about in strollers.
The leaves were changing, and the park was filled with beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows. It was like a piece of open country in the middle of the city.
I must confess that when we got home, I was a little bit homesick. We did not have to go to a park to see leaves change in Gettysburg.
October 24, 1865
Tuesdays have become busy, noisy days in our home. Pa now has four students. The
sounds in the parlor are sometimes truly terrible! But Pa seems very happy teaching. He says Charles Edmonds has the most natural ability of the four.
Natural ability. I wonder what my natural ability is?
October 28, 1865
Last night as I was helping Mrs. Wood get dressed, I asked how she had come to be the manager of her own theatre. She said she had simply gotten tired of always waiting for someone else to hire her to perform. Now she hires herself!
November 6, 1865
This is the last week
The Streets of New York
will play at the theatre. A new play called
Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
opens this Saturday. No one has said anything to me about staying on as a dresser for that play. I am worried that I will be without a job again soon.
November 8, 1865
Tonight when I was squeezing Mrs. Wood into her corset, I built up my courage and asked her what would happen when
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
came into the theatre. At first, she didn't seem to understand what I meant. When I told her I was worried about my job, she seemed quite surprised.
She said that I was a wonderful dresser, and of course she wants me to stay on and help the actresses in the new play! When Pa arrived to walk me home, I was floating on air.
November 11, 1865
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
opened tonight. Things did not go smoothly.
There are many, many costume changes, and I am embarrassed to admit that not everyone arrived onstage fully dressed. Several actors forgot what they were supposed to say. Mr. Ponisi, the prompter, had to call out their lines in a loud whisper from offstage.
Still, the audience seemed to enjoy the show. I suspect most had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.
November 15, 1865
This morning, Jed and I had a discussion about plays. I said I thought
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
was silly and scant -- probably because it is meant mostly for children -- and
The Streets of New York
was a bit overdone: The good people were too good, and the bad people were too bad. I told him that in my opinion, nothing I had seen at the Olympic Theatre came close to the writing of Mr. Shakespeare.
Jed laughed and said perhaps I should write his articles for the newspaper.
I know he was teasing, but I think I might actually enjoy that job.
November 20, 1865
Mrs. Edmonds stayed for tea after Charles's lesson this afternoon. Pa sent me to the market on the corner to fetch some cream and asked that I takes Charles with me.
On the way to the store, I asked Charles about his father. Charles said he was a
lieutenant with a New York cavalry regiment. He was shot in the Battle of Williamsburg and died of blood poisoning in a field hospital.
Charles has a slight stammer. But he speaks very earnestly and seems to remember his father with much love. "It was a terrible, terrible tragedy," he said. I wanted to hug his skinny little body and comfort him.
When we got home, Pa and Mrs. Edmonds were sitting together on the settee in the parlor. I could tell that Mrs. Edmonds had been crying. I cannot say for sure, but I suspect she had been talking about Charles's father, too.
November 22, 1865
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
has been playing for over a week now, and several of the actors still do not know their lines!
Mr. Ponisi has gotten quite cross about the situation. Tonight he was nearly shouting the lines to the actors from offstage!
November 28, 1865
Our lives are much more orderly these days. Pa now has seven students. I am doing much better with my lessons with Jane Ellen. We finished A
Midsummer Night's Dream,
and now I am reading As
You Like It.
December 4, 1865
I heard some exciting news at the theatre today. John Wilkes Booth's brother Edwin Booth is returning to the stage! People have convinced him that he should not have to pay for the crimes of his brother by giving up his career as an actor. So in January he will
by William Shakespeare at the Winter Garden Theatre.
Mrs. Wood says that Shakespeare is the greatest writer who ever lived, that
is the greatest play ever written, and that Edwin Booth is the greatest actor of our time.
I think I
find a way to see Edwin Booth in this play!
December 5, 1865
I asked Jed about going to see Mr. Edwin Booth play
He said he would inquire at his newspaper about tickets.
December 9, 1865
Another show is opening at the theatre next week. Mrs. Wood asked if I could please come in early tomorrow to help organize the
new costumes. I guess I am now an official dresser at the Olympic Theatre!
December 11, 1865
I asked Jed if he had had any success getting tickets for Edwin Booth's
He said it had slipped his mind! I asked him to please try to remember, as everyone at the theatre is talking about this event.
December 14, 1865
I have saved enough from my wages to buy Christmas presents for everyone. I am giving Pa a pair of gloves; Jed, a new pen; Jane Ellen, a red scarf; and Baby Abe, a rag doll.