Letter from Charles Cushman [?] to Emma Stebbins

Dublin Core


Letter from Charles Cushman [?] to Emma Stebbins


Actors and Actresses--US American
Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882
Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Cook, Eliza, 1818-1889
Mercer, Sallie
Muspratt, Susan Cushman, 1822-1859
Cook, Eliza, 1818-1889


First mentioned in the letter are Charlotte's first successes in Great Britain, of which Sally should be able to tell Stebbins more about. The sender, who could be Charles Cushman because he was in England with Charlotte in the 1840s and talks about Ned and "mother Susan," also points out that Cushman was dependent on Maddox and the engagement at the Princess's for a successful career path. Maddox is characterized as a trickster  and "shrewd old rascal." He exploited her dependence. In this context, Charles discusses Charlotte's salary and financial concerns. Still talking about Charlotte's career, he complains that her manager "Mr Lee" did not make wise decisions. Essentially, Charlotte was making business with the wrong people, according to his judgement. Charles refers to her "reputation," in particular.
Eliza Cook had refused to follow Charlotte to America or the Continent, as travelling made her feel unwell. Charles argues that Cook was "sincerely & devotedly fond of Charlotte & the rupture between them I do honestly believe to be in a great measure the cause of the illness she has greatly suffered from almost ever since." Apparently, Cook had been involved in some of the quarrels that Cushman was dealing with, also legally, but Charles knew Cook as an "honorable" woman. Charles refers to a diary that he was writing at the time that Cushman's career took off, and he first mentions Cook in it in May 1845.
Charles also details the story behind Charlotte's appearance in Guy Mannering, which she offered to play until Susan Cushman would join her as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.
The letter ends abruptly without a goodbye.


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


Cushman, Charles Augustus, 1818-1896


LoC, CCP 8: 2499-2508



Letter Item Type Metadata


[2499] Dear Emma,

Sally ought to be enabled to tell you the date & name of ship by which they sailed from New York – it was by a sailing ship of the theatrical Line about Novbr. 1844 –

She too ought to be able to tell you of her companions Mr. & Mrs Bliss [last three words inserted] on the voyage with whom Charlotte  went to Scotland before she settled in London – at all events she came unheralded & unknown – was ill in +++ Street Covent Garden, & was advised to go away from there – (that was previous to her acting) doubtless you already know she acted first at the Princess’ under the management of Mr Maddox a shrewd old rascal of the +++ +++ on Thursday the 13" Feby 1845 – her terms  which was the best she could get being £7 per  night – after her triumphant success endeavourd. to get more, but this person knew what he +++ about & he knew too how utterly dependant [sic] she was upon him, for if she had chosen to withdraw from her engagement altho' no doubt she could have readily got an one [inserted] engagement elsewhere, yet her career would have been interupted [sic] & injured [inserted] & she was too good a General to jeopardize the stake she had in this game – both Maddox & herself knew the cards & knew what were trumps & both

[2499 reverse] X you will observe she play? Mrs Haller more frequently than any other character — strange to say alltho[?] a repulsive[?]play & were to induce tears rather than laughter, it always drew a good house.

[2500] acted in their respective interests – Charlotte acted 3 times a week & sometimes oftener & sometimes less  [last two words inserted] up to the 15" July having completed her 84 h night during which time the acted Bianca 4 time Emilia (othello) 2ce – Lady Macbeth 10 times Rosalind (so you like it) 10 — Mrs Haller (strangers) X [sign for insertions on another page] 18. Beatrice (much ado about nothing) 5. Julia (Hunchback) 10, Infatuation – a new play by +++ Kenney which she p wrote for her but which unhappily was not a success — 4 times; Juliana (Honeymoon) 4 – Portia (Merchant of V.) 2 — Meg Merrilies 6. Mariana 9 (The Wife) Lady [Teasle] once. This engagement would have been continued [inserted] very much longer best the heat was intense & people the Public [last two words inserted] (as partial us they people were to C) could not be induced to go the Theatre in the face of so many outdoor amusements besides which C having served her purpose by acting in London though she could make more money in the Provinces from which the Managers would give her no peace — She had not the experience she afterwards acquired & often went twice over the same ground by making engagement in opposite directions her agent Mr Lee of Bow[?] St ought to have known

[2501 reverse] X Mr Ashurst Mdme Venture's father

[2502] better, but his commission. to him — was the one thing most desirable to himDover was her first essay — then followed Brighton. Hull. Bristol. Bath. Swansea. Sheffield. Newcastle Edinburgh. Glasgow. Manchester. Liverpool. Birmingham &c &c all in as rapid succession as could be & all with the same genuine success – Once she was seriously taken – in in [sic] the following manner – She was written to by the Manager of some place at Norwich introducing the "Royal" into the name of his place of amusement – he agreed to her terms & she in the full time of success concluded it was all right & went, but returned almost as soon as she went, for she found it a low place, her appearance at which would not add to her reputation — a correspondence followed which resulted in a reference to Legal gentlemen [X; references insertion on 2501 reverse], & the matter compromised by the payment of a sum of money by Char. which no doubt satisfied this trickster, but it taught her a lesson for the future which she ever avoided afterwards – On one occasion when performing at Leeds. She ran away from an engagement in consequence of my being taken suddenly ill

[2503] & abused —the finger of calumny[?] pointed at Eliza Cook, but she was a woman who treated the world the flesh & the devil with the utmost & the most deserved contempt — in my own estimation not a more deserving — upright & honorable woman ever walked the earth — how C. even came to know her I now have no remembrance but she is first ment [mentioned] in my diary in May of that same year. 1845 —  we went frequently with her down to Ingress Abbey & enjoyed ourselves there very much — I  send you several pieces of her writings upon chair ["The Old Arm-Chair"] I don’t know that they will be of any use to you, I cannot say if they were published – some of them are in M.S. S & others printed slips — I never knew or if I did I have forgotten — the cause which  led to their 'agreeing to differ' – but Miss Cooks unwillingness to go to America or on the continent with C. had something to do with it — great results from little causes flow — sometimes — & this may have been the beginning of what followed — Miss Cook could not bear the sea — I have heard her say it wd. kill her — hence her objection to brave it — but I have always thought Miss Cook sincerely & devotedly fond of Charlotte & the rupture between them I do honestly believe to be in a great measure the cause of the illness she has greatly suffered from almost ever since — Perhaps I should tell you that when Charlotte [sic] success was firmly established – she became the idol of the Unitarian clique, for what reason

[2503 reverse] * Sergiant Talford also bestowed great attention to her

X you will observe this was very near the end of the engagement & when already other engagements had been made for the province

X which transcended almost every other which she had made

[2505; misnumbered, should be 2504] across Mrs Ben. Rush of Philadelphia, who was very attentive & kind to Charlotte – not only at that time but afterwards — here among strangers, when she sang people would stand in amazed silence & listen – in the pauses of the words – say — "Who is it? & when it was over give out thein admiring Bravas. as loud & as long as 'society' would permit — It was on the 10" of May June [inserted] Guy Mannering was produced X [references insertion on 2503] there was a capital [inserted] very good house notwithstanding the weather was awfully hot, I do not know that I need waste the time to tell you the result of that nights [sic] work – the people were almost mad with enthusiam [sic] – Hats & handkerchief waved.  +++ of applause followed that really were deafening,— & when she appeared by the unanimous[?] call. at the end of the play with her face changed from the old +++ to the Lady – they recognized their friend & there [their] delight knew no bounds [illegible; crossed out] the audience dispersed feeling conscious that if never before — they had now had their moneys [sic] worth. The memory of that night can never be effaced from my memory it was so gratifying — My imagination is constantly painting the scene — the sounds of the acclamation still reverberate in my ear & excite the warmest emotion in my heart – this great successs X [references insertion on 2503 reverse] was all the more pleasing to me inasmch as I had been the cause of her acting the part, which as

[2505 reverse]
X and the failure of Kennys [sic] play [last two words inserted] "Infatuation"

[2506] you will see had been & was objectionable to her. — It happened on this +++. The houses owing to atmospherical causes X [references insertion on 2505 reverse] were fast dwindling away, (notwithstanding the receipt on Charlottes [sic] nights still averaged from £ 100. to £ 150) and our Menagarial autocrat was desirous of producing [last two words inserted] something that would be likely to remunerate him for the off nights, as well as for the regular ones — which Charlotte were — he consulted her but nothing was then definitely fixed upon — in a day or two afterwards imagine our surprise to see underlined that "Romeo & Juliet was in active rehearsal & would speedily be produced with new scenery appointments &c"  – Now, this would never do. Charlottes [sic] motive of action was to reserve Romeo & Juliet — which she had fully made up her mind to play — till Susan should come — consequently this would be disturbing all her little arrangements; Without letting Maddox have no any [inserted] idea whatever of her intention she deputed me to go to him & verbally to name say [inserted] that circumstances rendered it impossible that she could do Romeo, but incidentally to mention several other characters which might at the same time meet his views & be attractive – amongst these she gave prominence to Guy Mannering but subsequently before leaving on my ambassadors

[2507] she retracted what she had said respecting Guy Mannering as it would occasion her great trouble, I hard work, & after all be  productive perhaps [inserted] of but small results — I went — the different parts she was willing to act had been given to me verbally & in my conversation I accidentally named Meg Merrilies – but no – nothing seemed to mollify him, his aim had been 'Romeo' & to be thwarted thus, annoyed & irritated him [inserted], he would accept nothing & so I returned — of course. I gave a full count of my interview & told her that I had given Meg in the list — She was exceedingly sorry & then it was I remembered she had withdrawn that character in her recapitulation — but however she said to me. "Well let it be so now, it is not impossible in his present humour & as he would not listen to any of them he may not again think of it". We heard no more of Romeo but in a short time Guy Mannering was announced in the bills — Mr Maddox had a It had evidently occurred to Maddox's mind that he might introduce his opera company that fill up the off nights [last six words inserted], on a part of it into the piece & they add to his exchequer

[2508] in this he was calculating — as was his habit – shrewdly – When Charlotte learned that it my inadvertence had been thus taken advantage of she made the remark I have never forgotten — "Well, I will do it as it never has been done before"! and so she did. It might perhaps have been played afterwards & perhaps produced the same results — but happening just as her provincial engagements were commencing it gave her a chef d'oeuvre to go into the country with & so by carelessness or inattention she did that which in after time was the means of adding greatly to her fame & not inconsiderably to her fortune – Charlotte's first Benefit in London took place on the 17" June & although a good house was not as satisfactory as it ouight to have been – 1ly it was fearfully hot 2ly it rained & 3ly & chiefly — Maddox who had by this time learned to look upon Charlotte apocryptally desired to impress her [inserted] with the feeling that the public — who at all times I grant you are uncertain & unreliable — cared nothing for her & therefore. as we had every reason to think from what we subsequently learned did what he could — notwithstanding it was contrary to his interest — to injure the benefit – the plays were The Wife & Guy Mannering – she shared the house after £ 50. which was far beyond the nightly

[2508 reverse]

X Ben Brewster was her agent at that time but afterwards when Mother Susan & Ned came away from there & our interest seemed to cease there, Mr George Peabody took charge of her means & it was found by her to be much more convenient to have them here

X Duchess Eleanor


Cushman, Charles Augustus, 1818-1896


Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882

Extended Date/Time Format (EDTF) Specification


Social Bookmarking



Cushman, Charles Augustus, 1818-1896, “Letter from Charles Cushman [?] to Emma Stebbins,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed May 28, 2024, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/384.

Output Formats