Letter from Jane Carlyle to Charlotte Cushman, Jan 31, 1862

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Letter from Jane Carlyle to Charlotte Cushman, Jan 31, 1862


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Gender Norms
Jewsbury, Geraldine Endsor, 1812-1880
Relationships-- Intimate--Same-sex


Jane Carlyle, who had earlier expressed jealousy over Geraldine Jewsbury's attachment to Charlotte Cushman (see, e.g. a 1846-letter to her aunt Jeannie Welsh), here details her deep and sudden affection for Cushman upon finally meeting her.


Library of Congress, Charlotte Cushman Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Carlyle, Jane Welsh, 1801-1866


LoC, CCP 16:3954-55





Letter Item Type Metadata


[page 1] My Dear! My Dear! I want to put my arms around your neck, and give you, oh! such a good kiss! And then, if you can stand that sort of thing, once in a way, – I should like to lay my head on your shoulder and take a good cry! That is how nature prompts me to acknowledge your dar letter, and dear new year's tokens, – with a good kiss and a good cry rather than with any written sentences that my poor nearly extinct Brain can cobble together in these Hard Times! (I am so worn out and disheartened with long illes and confinement to two rooms?) But alas Dear! The "gods", however entreated, will not "annihilate time and space, to make two lovers happy!" [quote from Alexander Pope, 1688 - 1744]. That has been clearly ascertained some time since! And so faute de mieux must have recourse to writing "under difficulties"; and that without further delay; on penalty of passing for both fickle and ungrateful; when – God bless you – I am as far as possible from being either! and as unwilling as possible that such an idea should be entertained of me – by you! Mrs. Dilberoglue [Sarah Anderton] being the presicest and faithfulest of dear little "goods", would to unfallibly what she promised, nay volunteered to do, namely, "explain to Miss Cushman all about it" – "It" meaning my happiness at having a letter from you, my true Scotchwoman impatience to make "a suitable return", and then my 'illness' – my extreme weakness and nervousness which

[page 2] made any – the least – use of my head intolerably irksome besides being especially prohibited by my Doctor; – all that the little good was to "explain"! and trusting that she did so with her accustomed accuracy and lucidity, I will not go back upon the causes of my long silence; it is enough to have been fourth months ill and shut up in two rooms; without "renewing grief" by details of one's fit-for-nothingness; so soon as ever one has recovered a certain use of one's tongue and pen!

But if I shut down the lid and turn the key on my sich room tribulations; what is there left out of these weary four months to tell you? this – first and foremost; that I am not a bit cooled on the sudden affection I took for you; and believe it to be one of those Elective affinities on which one does not cool – ever! I have seen you twice – that's all! and already you are mixed up with my life like an old friend! I look forward with pleasure to seeing you again; but, without seeing you without interchanging words with you, it is a pleasure to know of you in the same world with me. The influence of a strong, brave, loving true woman may be felt at any distance! I firmly believe, without outward visible sign! and then Dear, you are come to me just at the right time – to be a consolation as well as a possession! For of late years it had been all loss, loss with me! never again! The friend after another out of "dear old long ago", that had cared for one and tath I had cared for all my life

[page 3] had gone to their rest, leaving me so lonely on the Earth! Playing at friendship with the new people I was thrown amongst; and so discouraged in my secret heart that I desparied of both my chances and my ability to ever make myself a new real Friend! – My Heavens! when I went to Barnesbury Park that day to see you; how very very little I dreamt of jumping into your arms! and "swearing eternal friendship", like any boarding-school girl! But it was all right! after so many months and after a severe fit of illness (which I take to be the best possible test of realities and shams) I feel no misgivings about that somewhat german-looking transaction / rather compliment myself on having so much life left in me after all! and on having turned it to such account!

My life as been making another pronunciamento with which I could throw you into fits of laughter if I had you beside me! My Dear! i have had a fearful row with Geraldine Jewsbury! Which has made "pigs and whistles" of that [underlined] everlasting friendships! and "like cliffs that have been rent asunder a dreary see now flows between!" [quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772–1834] I should be more overpowerd with grief than I am (in fact have shown an insensibility unexampled!) had the the cliffs been rent by one explosion; but the rent has been the gradual work of many years and the cliffs were only of sand or some loose material to begin with! I do think that sort of emotional woman, all "finer sensibilities" and no feeling

[page 4] all smoke and no flame is one of the most intolerable inventions of civilization, should be down by act of Parliament, and prayed against in all churches!

You asked for Mrs Hawk’s (Madame Venturi’s) address. After the 7th of January (she wrote to me) I was to address Emilia Venturi nata Ashurst poste restante Milan
She had been living up to that date in some rooms of an old Château near Bresica [Brescia], dismantled and unfurnished, in the midst of all sorts of inconveniences and discomforts; but waited on by a girl of the country whom she named Bare legs (as Mr Carlyle would say) "significative of much!" But caring for none of these things! very fond of her new husband I think and very happy with him! – happy as a young girl – and with a touching air of consciousness that not being a young girl she has no claim to that sort of happiness and no sure hold of it! She writes to me "I am so glad you like Charlotte Cushman she she is a dear good noble soul!"

[writing continued vertically] Aren't you glad that we are not to be natural enemies? I would have been so absurd that way as well as [inserted] vexatious!! When will you come? and how long will you stay?

I cannot put into words how touched I was by your newyears bouquet and the little scarfs? I took them not only as tokens from you btu as omens of a fortunate year; and – next day I had a relapse and was thrown into bed again for a fortnight!!

[continued, upside down, on the top of page 1] Does your friend remember me? I do her—and offer her my kind regards and just one word more and the paper is full. Please love me ever so much but dont [sic] flatter me for it makes me “think shame"!

Yours faithfully and affectionately

Jane Carlyle


Carlyle, Jane Welsh, 1801-1866


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, Great Britain

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Location (Recipient)

38 Via Gregoriana, Rome, Italy

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Secondary Texts: Comments

Can also be found here: Carlyle, Jane Welsh. Jane Carlyle: Newly Selected Letters. Edited by K. J. Fielding and David R. Sorensen. Ashgate, 2004, pp. 268-271.

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Carlyle, Jane Welsh, 1801-1866, “Letter from Jane Carlyle to Charlotte Cushman, Jan 31, 1862,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed May 28, 2024, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/108.

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