Barton Booth (1682 – 10 May 1733) was one of the most famous dramatic actors of the first part of the 18th century.

Early life


Booth was the son of The Hon and Very Revd Dr Robert Booth, Dean of Bristol, by his first wife and distant cousin Ann Booth, daughter of Sir Robert Booth, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and was educated at Westminster School, where his success in the Roman comedy Andria gave him a gave him an inclination for the stage. He was intended for the church, and to attend Trinity College, Cambridge; but in 1698 he ran away and obtained employment in a theatrical company in Dublin, where he made his first appearance as the title character in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko.

London success


After two seasons in Ireland he returned to London, where Thomas Betterton, who had previously failed to help him, probably out of regard for Booth's family, now gave him all the assistance in his power. At the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre (1700–1704) he first appeared as Maximus in Valentinian, and his success was immediate. He was at the Haymarket with Betterton from 1705 to 1708, and for the next twenty years at Drury Lane.[1] In 1713 he joint-managed the theater with Thomas Doggett, Colley Cibber, and Robert Wilks. After his death on 10 May 1733, Booth was buried in St Laurence Cowley near Uxbridge in Middlesex. His widow had a memorial to Booth placed in Westminster Abbey in 1772. This was created by William Tyler RA.[2]



His greatest parts, after the title part of Joseph Addison's Cato, which established his reputation as a tragedian, were probably Hotspur and Brutus. His King Lear was deemed worthy of comparison with David Garrick's. As the ghost in Hamlet he is said never to have had a superior. Among his other Shakespearian rôles were Mark Antony, Timon of Athens and Othello. He also played to perfection Lothario in Nicholas Rowe's The Fair Penitent.[1] He also starred in Rowe's tragedies Ulysses (1705) as Telemachus and The Royal Convert (1707) as Hengist, King of Kent. In 1710 he starred as Athelwold in Aaron Hill's Elfrid. He starred as Coriolanus in the 1719 play The Invader of His Country by John Dennis. In 1724 he featured in John Gay's tragedy The Captives as Sophernes.

Booth was twice married; his second wife, Hester Santlow, a noted actress, survived him. He was a "poet and acholar as well as actor, and certainly a man of genius...."[3]



From 1727, Booth was afflicted by ill health and in 1733 eventually called for Thomas Dover, "Doctor Quicksilver", who prescribed him quicksilver. He ingested 2 pounds of mercury and died in a week.

"I endeavour'd to divide the Rectum and tie it , but it was so rotten that it broke between my Fingers like Tinder , and sent forth a most offensive cadaverous Stench..."

The whole intestinal track on the inside was covered with black balls of mercury the size of pinheads. This famous case greatly reduced the medicinal use of elemental mercury.[4][5]

Selected roles



  1. ^ a b Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 by Rupert Gunnis
  3. ^ Winter, p. 354.
  4. ^ Daniel, Turner (1733). The ancient physician's legacy impartially survey'd, and his practice prov'd repugnant, not only to that of the best antient and modern physicians, but to the very nature of those diseases (many of them) of which he undertakes to give us an account, inconsistent even with those very indications himself at some times lays down for the cure : with practical observations upon each chapter in a letter to a country physician : to which is added ... a discourse on quicksilver, as now commonly taken and the good or bad effects which have thence ensued : as also a particular account of Mr. Bellost's pill compar'd with the author's. London. pp. 269–274. OCLC 488503077.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ Sigmond, George Gabriel (1840). Mercury, blue pill, and calomel their use and abuse. H. Renshaw. pp. 17–18. OCLC 768163717.


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Booth, Barton". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 238. This cites:
    • Cibber, Lives and Characters of the most eminent Actors and Actresses (1753)
    • Victor, Memoirs of the Life of Barton Booth (1733)


  • See Cibber, Lives and Characters of the most eminent Actors and Actresses (1753).
  • Victor, Memoirs of the Life of Barton Booth (1733).
  • Winter, William. Shakespeare on the Stage. New York, Moffat, Yard and Co., 1915.