Vol 13 No 7; John Sleeper-Clarke

Non-Hampton & Richmond Borough related posts.
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Things you may not know, or didn’t know you knew!

And the Abraham Lincoln connection

Buried in Teddington Cemetery is an actor born in Baltimore, Maryland who has a connection to the 1865 assassination of the US President, Abraham Lincoln.

John Clarke Sleeper (1833-1899) was born in Baltimore, later taking on the stage name of John Sleeper Clarke. In his youth he made the acquaintance of Edward Booth, and later married his sister Asia – the link with Abraham Lincoln will be become clear shortly – if you haven’t already had the glimmer of an idea.

Clarke made his debut on the stage in 1851 and made a number of appearances in Philadelphia and New York. In 1859 he married Asia and joined his old school friend, Edward, in managing several theatres in a number of cities including Boston.

In 1865 Lincoln was assassinated in Fords Theatre in Washington by – John Wilkes Booth - Asia’s brother and, of course, Clarke’s brother-in-law. Clarke was held for a month in prison as the authorities rounded up anyone with a connection to Wilkes Booth. On his release Clarke applied for a divorce from Asia, wishing to distance himself from the Booth family, however she refused and they left the US to live in England and continued to live as man and wife, in name only.

So began the next stage in Clarke’s acting career. He made his first appearance on the London stage in 1867 and would remain a regular until his retirement in 1889. Clarke excelled in comic roles including Timothy Toodle in The Toodles which ran for 200 nights at the Strand Theatre.

Clarke was also a Theatre Manager and managed the Haymarket Theatre for a time.

Clarke died of a heart attack and was buried in Teddington Cemetery on 28th September 1899. Among the mourners were the staff of the Strand Theatre and a certain Charles Hawtrey - who was the subject of my previous article (I didn’t go looking for a connection, I think it’s called serendipity!).

The Old Historian
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