Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Helen Hunt, June 28, 1871

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Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Helen Hunt, June 28, 1871


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Cushman, Emma Crow, 1839-1920
Jackson, Helen Hunt
Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882
Social Events--Travels
Gender Norms
Actors and Actresses


Currently, Charlotte Cushman is not in pain. Mrs Garland, Emma Stebbins's sister, is very fond of Helen Hunt because of the book of poems she sent.
Cushman announces a visit of Stebbins and herself in Bethlehem. Among others, Booth urges Cushman to come back to the stage but Cushman hesitates also due to "vulgar people."

Transcripts courtesy of Nancy Knipe, Colorado College.


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876





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Carissa Mia,
If you could believe how very disappointed we were, all of us, that you could not accept Mrs. Garlands invitation you would be more sorry than you are! By the by dear, did you ever get her letter [underlined] to you, if you did won’t you send her a little note for herself. I gave her your [underlined] message in answer to her [underlined] message in my note, but I think she would be pleased with a letter here to herself in reply to her note which was sent to Mrs. Davies. I am sorry you could not come, yet why should I wonder apart from your [dread?] of roses, why should you take such a journey to see me, when there were many days together that I did not see you even when we were as near each other as Mrs. Davies & Riggs! – The tyranny of things! impresses me more & more every day I live. The imperative way in which the small petty claims of things which are just around you, seize hold of you & you begin to try to “get off” just this little matter & that little matter before you get to your real pleasures & enjoyments is something awful to contemplate. Life is now half long enough. The days not “wide” enough to get all done which we must [underlined] & which we would, & so, & so. Does one ever get a real perfect holy-day, perfect in all actions, thoughts, promises & performances? Lowell says “The thing we long [underlined] for, that we are For one transcendent moment Before the present from & [bait?] Has made its swearing comment” The transcendent moments are the moments of perfection [underlined], but the present brings such an awful counterbalancing of swearing comments! That one never gets a perfect [underlined] entire day! What charming platitudes! Dearie, your sweet poems “Morning & Evening Day” & “Waiting! are lovely, very very [underlined] sweet & full of love, and after your description of the effect of the Pyro Phosphate, if you don’t get to be a perfect Steam Engine during the summers & take immense journeys into the Land of Song [last three words underlined] (where is that land?) & make us all jump with your calls, I shall be mistaken. But you must remember, dear, that this feeling of strength is not real [underlined] strength, only a gradual or sudden turning & bracing up of the nerves, so don’t do too much. I have let Miss Garland read these two poems. Dear, for she is a sweet soul, & has a long poetical appreciation, she admires your “Verses” more than I can tell you, & knows when & how to look for their beauty. I am glad you saw Miss Clarke & enjoyed her & her [driving?]. Will she not go to Bethlehem to see you this summer? About myself, dear, what shall I say? All my letters to my friends during these last two years of anxiety & pain, have been so full of myself & this miserable malady which was upon me, that I am so thankful for this “let up” which I got through Dr Jones since it enables me to almost forget my trouble & in my letters I don’t speak about myself for I don’t feel pain or intense anxiety any more. The trouble lives, but it does not [seize?] on me as it did. I shall go on to Boston as soon as I get to Newport to have the trouble looked to, for I think it is advanced to a stage when something should be done, & yet I know no pain from it [last seven words underlined]. This is the sign, that it is not of a malignant character, & another sign is that I am getting so stout, as to be “Spectacolo per gli uomini”! And this could not be if there was any ‘malignants’ at work! On the 7th I leave here. I am sorry to say, for it is so lovely, that I should have been glad to stay longer. I am so miserable in moving about in warm weather! But I want my babies & their mother, so I must go. I hope to remain there until the month of August, or about the 21st! & then, what should you think of the probabilities of your finding anything in the way of accommodation for Miss Stebbins & me at Bethlehem if we can manage to go there for 10 days or a fortnight? Can it be accomplished do you think. I should like so much to see this lovely place of which you write such wonders. I should like to see you, & should like to give Miss Stebbins some mountain air, after Newport & before Swampscott, and for myself I should like the bracing, for it is possible I may do something this coming winter. Mr Booth, Mr Cheney & Mr Davenport are giving me no peace. They say “a generation has come up since you ceased acting who are calling out [last two words underlined] to see you & we feel that we can afford to beg you to consider it. & you can afford to come back to the stage for a time “just to give them a taste of your quality.” I answer “but I took my leave of the stage & of the public. I have no need to go back to it. Why should I lay myself open to the charge of vulgar people that once before a public & no woman can forego the passion.” [Greediness of gain?], &c. &c.-- all the petty things that people who write for newspapers like to say. “They reply”a few people who know you will take care that the public [underlined] are kept rightly informed as to your motives & our persuasion & all will be right if you will only consent! – I have not as yet consented, but I hesitate, & you know what becomes of women so situated! No. I won’t go to the Desert. You are right! I have put Miss Stebbins on [Physophosphate?] and it works like a charm, thank you for mentioning it won’t you give me a copy of your prescription for it? I only went into the chemists & asked for some powdered Pysophosphate of Iron, & she takes as much as goes on the end of a knife, is that [right?] at dinner only? How funny about Elliotts methods of raising the wind—what a Gazebo! only think about Pricilla & Nelly, why Concord & not the Sea? Oh foolish virgins, had they let their lamps go out, & so did not see the weakness, on ---?
[written on front of letter]: Now God bless, you. Emma S. sends love, Mrs. Garland kind regards, & I? whatever you will from your faithfully attached C.C.


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


Jackson, Helen Hunt, 1830-1885


Villa Garland Hyde Park
Dutchess County, NY, US

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Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 2, Ms 0156, Box 1, Folder 17, letters from Charlotte Cushman to HH, 1871-75. Transcribed by Nancy Knipe, 2007, https://libraryweb.coloradocollege.edu/library/specialcollections/Manuscript/HHJ2-1-17.html. Accessed 30 March, 2020.

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Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876, “Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Helen Hunt, June 28, 1871,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed July 18, 2024, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/260.

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