Letter from Emma Stebbins to Sidney Lanier, March 1, 1876

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Letter from Emma Stebbins to Sidney Lanier, March 1, 1876


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Cushman, Edwin "Ned" Charles, 1838-1909
Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882
Lanier, Sidney, 1842-1881
Relationships-- Intimate--Same-sex
Intimacy--As Source
Jackson, Helen Hunt


Stebbins writes to Lanier upon Charlotte Cushman's death to discuss the matter of Cushman's memoirs.

Transcripts by Jennie Lorenz


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


Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882


LoC, JLP 2





Letter Item Type Metadata


My dear Lanier,
It is very hard for me to write yet, though I struggle with all my strength to make some acknowledgments of the kindness and sympathy which meet me at every turn - so many hearts have been +++ by our great loss – so many souls yearn to her memory, and cling to all that remains of her. I must not indulge in a selfish inertia, or fall down into the dull flat of despondency, while there is duty to be done, such is not the glorious example she set us – and my life not if it is spared must be given to her will – even more than before – to hold to her spirit as I have ever done to her dear presence, and so keep her influence about me. I believe that she will be with me . she held to me with undying love in life, and I know – I know, she exists and loves me still – great, strong + glorified more able to help and comfort than ever! Yes dear – it is pitiful – it is almost unendurable, this terrible sense of dream, utterly unable to realize the great and irremediable loss, but I am bearing up better than I could have believed possible - I always believe that there is still work for me to do here – needs to be met, thank God! And so I shall not grieve as one ?? hope – but go steadfastly one, in whatsoever good ?? or work, there is for me to do – believing that therein I shall but please her. You know that all whom she loved and helped must be dear to me, and wherin [?] soever I in my lesser degree can carry on her work – there my whole heart will be given – believe that to you also she will come with strengthening and help – we wills strive to make our lives worthy of her. As soon as I can gather my thoughts together, I must consult with you about that memoir which must be written by those who loved her, lest unworthy and careless hands undertake it – I have a long letter from HH [insert Lorenz: Helen Hunt?)] on the subject – she wants to do it; and offers to give all the coming summer to the work – but I could not accept her as the right one for the task – even it I had not not had that conversation with my dear one about you. I know she never accepted Mrs Hunt fully – neither could I – with all her ability and real power – there is something which is not the ring of the true metal. The discussion of the question seems to me premature – as yet – everything is chaos about me - I cannot ever think – and this pursuing on [Lorenz insert: in?] of material things and interests revolts me. Mrs H. says “of course the book ought to come out in the autumn’ – this strikes me like ??? – and I don’t like it. To my mind whatever is written about her should be done with care & love – not gotten up to meet an excited market or a panicky demand. However, I am not equal yet to the thought of it even – I have not been at all well since my return to N.Y. I hear daily from Newport – they are well but inexpressibly sad – poor Emma seems to be oppressed with feeling almost like remorse that life can go on & carry her along with it under our sad condition. No, I do not know of any special message to you; on that sad +++ of January 7 – when she talked to her nephew & others a great deal about her possible death and made some testamentary dispositions – I was not present I never could bear the subject, and she spared me the pain – I will make inquiries & see if the others know anything – all she ever said to me, was in reference to the memoir and that was only an answer to my suggestion – she wanted me to do it – the darling always believed I could to anything I willed to do – but I was never anything but through her – she bore me up in her strong will & made me whatever I was – there was very little said – and there has been very little done – for she was always singularly indifferent about it – if she had secured [?] we were to make a business of it. Let me hear from you whenever you can – and if it is possible for you to find me some faint image and reflections of the glory that is gone – as having lived so long in such close communion with it – command me – you will always find me,
Faithfully yours

[insert by Lorenz: (E. S. here seems to have more of the quality of C. C. than in earlier letters. L)]


Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882


Lanier, Sidney, 1842-1881


37 West 37th St. New York, NY, US

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Secondary Texts: Comments

William Merrill Decker argues that "epistolary construction of utopian scenes that restore the full presence of the lost or absent friend is/ one of the most pervasive and interesting motifs in pre-twentieth-century letter writing. These themes inform the many ocassions of correspondence, yet they arise with particular force in letters of condolence–those messages that address the void a death has produced in a family or among a circle of friends" (22-23).

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Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882, “Letter from Emma Stebbins to Sidney Lanier, March 1, 1876,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed December 5, 2023, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/157.

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