BOOTH, John Wilkes. Autograph letter signed ("J. Wilkes Booth") to "Dear Kim" (Moses Kimball, a friend and theatrical producer), St. Joseph, [Missouri], 2 January 1864. 4 pages, 8vo, on lined paper with small embossed "Omaha Mills" stationer's stamp. In superb condition.
BOOTH ON THE THEATRICAL CIRCUIT: "SOME OF MY OLD LUCK HAS RETURNED TO HUNT ME DOWN"
A letter of melancholy tinged with bitterness, with a tantalizing reference to the return of his "old luck" hunting him down. Booth recounts his New Year's adventures, including the loss of his "best friend" (a whiskey flask!) in a blizzard. Moses Kimball, his correspondent, was the owner of a Boston Theater, with whom he had recently been traveling. Booth writes: "Here I am snowed in again. And God knows when I shall be able to get away. I have telegraphed St. Louis for them not to expect me. [Booth was engaged to play in that city.] It seems to me that some of my old luck has returned to hunt me down. I hope you passed a delightful New Years, you and your kind lady, but I fear not, I will give you a slight glimpse of mine."
"I arrived at Fort with one ear frost-bitten. I saw our friends there had a ___, well I won't say what. And then after giving my boy my flask to keep for me, I started for a run and made the river (four miles) on foot. I run without a stop, all the way. I then found my boy had lost that treasured flask. I had to pay five dollars for a bare-backed horse to hunt for it. I returned within sight of the Fort, and judge of my dismay upon arriving to see a waggon just crushing my best friend, but I kissed him in his last moments by pressing the snow to my lips, over which he had spilled his noble blood. I got back to the river in time to help and cut the ice that the boat might come to the shore. And after 'a sea of troubles,' reached this Hotel a dead man. Got to bed as soon as I could where I have been ever since. Am better now and will I expect get up tomorrow. You must excuse this scrawl. I am the worst letter writer alive. And I am trying to get through this on a cold bed. Give my best wishes to Mrs. Kimbal and ask her to forgive me for keeping her husband out so late at night. I guess she is glad I am gone. We may get away from here Monday or tomorrow: we can-not tell. Hoping you will remember me to all my friends. And that you will look over this poorly written letter...."
Booth's letters have become quite rare. Published in "Right or Wrong, God Judge Me": The Writings of John Wilkes Booth, ed. J. Rhodehamel and L. Taper, pp.93-94.
Provenance: The Sang Collection (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 26 April 1978), lot 46 [envelope then present] -- Anonymous owner (sale, Christie's, 9 December 1993, lot 158, $42,550).