Mrs. Walker's Reminiscences of the Life of the World-Renowned Charlotte Cushman (1876)

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Mrs. Walker's Reminiscences of the Life of the World-Renowned Charlotte Cushman (1876)


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Macready, William Charles
Muspratt, Susan Cushman, 1822-1859
Actors and Actresses--US American
Cook, Eliza, 1818-1889
Gender Norms
Mercer, Sallie


The biography traces Cushman's successful career and mentions many business partners and friends. However, it excludes every references to Cushman's same-sex relationships. It is published after Charlotte Cushman's death.
The Cushman-Macready- relationship is depicted quite contrary to the one that can be found in Macready's diary. Walker mentions Cushman's introduction letters to London, the season in Paris with Macready which was not very successful, and how much Cushman earned for various engagements.
The biography revolves around discussions of spiritualism, a distinction of spirit-life and earth-life, and spirit photography. At the end, it also includes letters from an unknown mother to a son attached from the year 1855, allegedly on Cushman's behalf.


Library of Congress, P, Miscellaneous, Monographs and Pamphlets, Washington, D.C.


Walker, Mrs. Dr.


LoC, P, shelf no. 58323


W. P. Tenny





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"CHARLOTTE CUSHMAN was an original character. her aim was high, and she accomplished whatever she undertook. A careful perusal of this narative will discover to the reader, how she made a fortune of over half a million dollars, and won for herself a worldwide reputation." (3)

"Miss Cushman provided in her Will, for an income of from four dollars per week to fifteen hundred dollars per annum, for her brother Charles A. Cushman, and other relatives and friends, including her colored servant Sallie Mercer. Her investments were largely made in unproductive property, and some of them requiring large means aud skillful management to make them a success. These considerations doubtless are the reasons why she made no public bequests." (6)

"A great talent for music was first devoloped, through her connection with the Choir of Dr. Young's Unitarian Church, which was then situated on Summer Street, Boston" (8)

"This suggestion was not approved by her family, who had a great dislike to stage life, as opera singing, at that time, was not permissible in the modern Athens, on a Saturday night" (10)

reg. initial success w/ Park Theatre after engagement w/ Mr. Burton's Company before May 1837:
"A few months after the return of the sisters to New York, a little incident occurred which tended to strengthen both, especially Charlotte in public esteem, as the older [sister], and more experienced of the two, as well as an account of her better position in the company. [...] A new actress appeared. A friend of a leading journal of New York, was put into the good parts her sister had played. The sister's position in the company and before the public, was lowerd. Charlotte protested, but Mr. Simpson said he was powerless. Charlotte threatened to throw up her engagement, if the wrong was permitted. This brought a letter from the journalist, saying that if Miss Cushman did not tread carefully, she should be driven from the stage, if their [sic!] was any virtue in a New York audiene, or strength in the New York press. In this dilemma, Charlotte went to one of the strongest and most powerful editors for advice. She told him the story, and without telling her what he proposed doinf, he prepared and printed an article which laid before the New York public, the threat which had been made against the young actress. The nect night she was to appear as Lady Gay Spanker, a tremendous audience assembled. and trouble was anticipated, no sooned had Max Harkaway announced the coming of Lady Gay Spanker across the lawn on a hand gallop, than the house burst forth in such a stormy acclamation as to ever set at rest the hold of Miss Cushman on the public mind and heart. While under the Park management, Miss Cushman was sent to other cities to play, and once or twice appeared in Boston. May 30th, 1837, she opened a short engagement at the Tremont Theatre" (18-20)

"Her next engagement was with Macready, the celebrated English actor, who was about to make a tour of America, and Charlotte. who was ever ambitious, aspired to accompany him and play the opposite characters. She at once began to study the parts she would be called upon to act, and when the famous tragedian arrived, he was not long in making up his determination to engage her. She gave up the theatre in Philadelphia with no great regret. [...] In Boston her recception, as well as Macready's, was very cordial. [...] At the conclusion of the tour with macready, Miss Cushman found herself in the possession of the, to her, unprecedented sum of six hundred dollary. With this amount she determined to visit England, first study the English models of acting, and then seek an opening at one of the Metropolitan theatres. She bare letters of introduction to two persons in London but these were of little service to her" (21-23)

"Meanwhile, her sister, Mrs. Merriman, joined her, and the two appeared together, Charlotte acting Romeo, and Susan, Juliet. It was considered a dangerous experiment for an actress to risk the portraiture of a male character, and the result elicited various comments. But on the whole, these were laudatory, while the public was clearly on the side of the actress, for it rushed to the theatres in crowds whenever the play was announced." (32)

"George Vandenhoff, in his leaves from an 'Actor's Note Book,' sought to disparage he praises invested in the Misses Cushman. But on the other hand, James Sheridan Knowled thus expresses himself in a leter to a friend, on witnessing Charlotte's Romeo. 'I witnessed with astonishment the Romeo of Miss Cushman [...] I was not prepared for such a triumph of pure genius.[...]'" (33)

"Among the compliments paid her at this time was the dedication of a Volume of Poems, by Eliza Cook, who was a devoted admirer of the American actress." (34)

"After taking her formal farewell of the stage, Miss Cushman resided for a time with her sister, in Liverpool, and then established her residence in Home. In that great art center she found congenial companionship, and the rest and recreation which were welcome, after her many years of toil and, activity. Her wealth, acquired in the pursuit of her profession, enabled her not only to surround herself with such luxuries, as a refined and cultivated taste might suggest, but also, to lavish her hospitality upon others. She there became the center of a brilliant intellectual circle, which included artists, literateurs, and other gifted minds, and nobly was the good name of America upheld, in the social life of the great art metropolis of the world, and those of our countrymen who visited Italy had reason to feel proud of their brilliant representative. Miss Cushman was living in Rome at the time when the war broke out in this country. There were many Americans residing abroad at that period, who wavered in their faith towards the old flag. But it was not so with Miss Cushman, although a woman, she longed to be of service to the land of her birth." (38-39)

"After her praiseworthy efforts in behalf of the Sanitary Commission. Miss Cushman again retired to her home in Rome." (41)

"Her next effort was at the reading desk, almost against her own desire. She had been earnestly advised, by her friends in this city, to give readings from Shakespeare, and the poets. But she had no faith in the under taking. After trying the experiment, she discovered that it was more congenial to her J taste then she had supposed, and for several seasons she continued, to derive pleasure as well as profit, from her new occupation. She first read in Providence, December 18th, 1871, afterwards in New Haven." (43)

"Her first readings, and most of those given in New England, since that time, were under the management of James H. Roberts. Four of her early readings, — one in New Haven, — three in Boston,— and he paid her the hand some sum of three thousand dollars." (44)

"Miss Cushmah's transcendant merit as a dramatic artist, it is unnecessary to speak of. She was universally recognized as one of the greatest actresses the world has ever seen. The very greatest America has ever furnished. There was an individualism in her art, which distinguished her from all other actresses. Her early training, her struggles, her very nature tended to render her portrayals of characters strong and intense." (47)


Boston, MA, US

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Walker, Mrs. Dr., “Mrs. Walker's Reminiscences of the Life of the World-Renowned Charlotte Cushman (1876),” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed June 25, 2024,

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