(handsome, isn't he?)
Monday, February 25, 2013
I'm in Love with a Dead Man
by Nell Pratt (from Sheila Connolly's Monument to the Dead (Museum Mystery #4), coming June 2013)
No, I haven't really lost my mind. I can still tell reality from fantasy, at least most of the time. And I'm in love with a very real, living, breathing guy, one Special Agent James Morrison. Or at least I think I am. I haven't had a lot of practice with the real thing, so we're taking it kind of slowly.
But the dear departed object of my affections is Edwin Forrest. What, you say you've never heard of Edwin Forrest? That's all right—most people haven't. Edwin Forrest was the first great American stage actor, born right here in Philadelphia. He ruled American theater for years in the middle of the nineteenth century, playing the great Shakespearean roles and even holding contests for new plays, which he went on to make famous. He married an actress and they had a tempestuous relationship that ended quite badly with a very messy divorce—the transcript of the trial is over a thousand pages long, and he published it for all the world to see. He lost the trial, more or less, but it didn't seem to harm his career, while his former wife died in obscurity as "Mrs. Forrest."
I feel badly that his star has faded. But I'll admit, I only know about him because the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, where I'm president, houses a lot of Edwin's (I may call him by his first name, right?) memorabilia, starting with a larger-than-life marble statue of him in one of his favorite roles, Shakespeare's Coriolanus. He kept it in his Philadelphia home. I'll admit I have trouble wrapping my head around someone who keeps a large statue of himself in his house, but Edwin was undeniably special. The Society also has his mahogany make-up case (all traveling actors need one, right?) filled with silver-topped jars. And a lot of his letters too—would you believe he wrote in purple ink?
It makes me sad that it's so easy to forget our history. I guess I could ask, who's going to remember George Clooney or Ben Affleck in a hundred years? Although in their cases their performances will live on in digital format forever. But loyal fans haven't died rioting in the streets of New York to defend their good name, as they did for Edwin. Sometimes the past is more interesting than the present, don't you think?
All right, I'll go back to reality, but that won't stop me from saying hello to Edwin (all right, to his statue) whenever I walk by him. I won't tell James.