Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Helen Hunt Jackson, Dec 21, 1869

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Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Helen Hunt Jackson, Dec 21, 1869


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Cushman, Edwin "Ned" Charles, 1838-1909
Cushman, Emma Crow, 1839-1920
Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882
Jackson, Helen Hunt
Social Events--Travels
Gender Norms
Intimacy--As topic


Charlotte Cushman is back in Rome with Emma Stebbins and Emma Crow Cushman. Apparently, Helen Hunt warned her after the last letter that some of the "dangerous words inside" the last letter could have been read through the envelope.
Many friends wanted to see her but Cushman is in a precarious state of health and cannot keep up with her social duties. She also comments on women who get a divorce to be with someone else: "This changing men seems to me a little unclean."

Transcripts courtesy of Nancy Knipe, Colorado College.


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876






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we have reached our destination, and are very slowly shaking down into our places. I have wished to write you ever since I arrived & have tried, but, oh the sets [?] & hindrances that are thrown around me, to prevent my doing any thing as I would. It used to be bad enough, before my illness gave them an excuse for making me lead an idle life, but now they are watching me at every turn. They don't let me get out of my bed until 11 o'clock! & during the morning in bed I have visits from Emma S. & C. & the baby-- & Ned & a friend who came on with us & who is staying until after Xmas on a visit! But for these visits, I should get a little time in the morning to write (I am writing this before any of them can get to me, before my breakfast comes to me, just to make a commencement, for once begun it will be finished) - but no, I am not to do anything to fatigue me. Look-dearie this not getting up until 11, implies not getting down until 12 & then I snatch what [moments?] I can, between 12 & 1, which are very few, because I am subject to the habiteurs, Miss Wood, Miss Sorllers [?], Miss Whittle & the gossip of the house hold, coming into my sitting room. Then at 1 o'clock comes lunch, & as the days are so short, & the sunsets so early, I am made to go out in the carriage for a drive, at 2 ΒΌ. I return at 4 1/2. Then comes tea & callers-for this is the way anyone is supposed to be able to see me this winter, by coming in socially from 5 to 6 or from 8 to 10 in the evening. We dine at 6. So darling you will see the sets [?] and hindrances of which I spoke & which chafe me much, as they so effectually seem to prevent my writing. But there are Some words I must write & these are of them, & with the "must" they will somehow be accomplished. You will have had my own note from Nice. I thank you for the warning at the thin envelope, but I did not wish to over burden Miss Stebbins' letter & took very good care to fold my little note with the dangerous words inside, what could be read through the envelope, I did not care about, so make your dear heart easy on that score. Our journey from Nice, which place we left on the 8th & made the journey along the beautiful Cornice & Riviera, by Sienna, to Spezzia in five days, arriving at Spezzia on Sunday evening where we met Mr. Cushman who had arrived there in the morning. The weather along the journey was unpropitious, so we lost most of the [?beauty? word written over and crossed out] two of the days it rained & the other three were grey, but still it is always beautiful and vettura[?] traveling is the most luxurious in the world, you only drive about 40 miles a day, pausing two hours in the middle of the day for resting the horses, & dining, arriving always before night. Being in the open air all day makes one eat & sleep well. We went from Spezzia to Florence on Monday - staid over Tuesday in Florence, leaving Tuesday night for Rome, which "home" we reached on Wednesday morning. Lots of people were at the train to meet us, & as I [?sent?--word missing] my Sallie on before me, breakfast and a cosy fire awaited us, almost everybody in Rome has been to see me. I mean all my old friends, but my time is so limited almost everybody has missed me. I saw the "good fellows" at the door yesterday & they are coming to see me this afternoon after my drive. Rome looks as [?deceitful?] as ever, though the weather is unhealthy, a moist, mild atmosphere, which is anything but strengthening, but still it is very captivating. St. Peters, where I went on Sunday afternoon, just for a peep, looks [?orderly?] enough with one side of the transept completely built up as though with stone, but the church was very full of people. Rome is very full, but not of Americans or English, many Italians & French. Lots of Bourbons who are congregated, for the birth of this child to the King of Naples & whatever crumbs they may pick up from the Ecumenical [?] table.

Dear, I have been reading the papers from home about this Richardson McFarland affair. I see that when Mrs McF. went to Indiana for her divorce, not affording the husband an opportunity for stating his grievances, Mrs. Calhoun was one, almost the only witness she had to obtain her divorce, which has led to this shocking catastrophe. Ah, dear this is one of the sad phases of our life in America, this recklessness in making marriage vows which should be the holiest, & then the ease with which women seem to step out of them when a better looking or more appealing fellow comes along to tempt them. I think it is just horrid! If a woman cannot live with her husband on account of brutality, then let her separate her life from him if she can; but don't let her get away from him through a laxity in the moral law simply to take somebody else. [Never?] shall we have women careful whom they marry, until the laws keep them in their slavery. This changing men seems to me a little unclean. - Why do I write this to you, you sweet soul?

Dear, you shall sit on a stool at my feet & tell me what you will & you & I will compare notes, dear partisan! I like partisans, it is the stuff good New Englanders are made of. I would not give a penny for any body who could not lean to one side or the other.

What a delight to have Morris' new book. I have sent to my brother to send it to me by Book post. How I wish I was sitting with you at Holyrood[?] House, reading to you or having you read to me. Would you ever tire of me & want some fresher stimulant. I don't believe you would! You see I am confiding even when I have been disappointed. "The victory is in believing."

I can imagine how you must suffer from want of sun at Malvern, ah, how I wish Rome was not so fatal to you. Though the sun does not shine much, still it is so beautifully soft.

I think the douche must have been very disturbing to you & the special washing is much better. I hope you will be better dear in all ways, but when you come to leave Malvern you will find the advantage of the treatment more than while you are taking it. I don't believe about Dr. S. not liking you. I know he doesn't care for the others, but for you, he must care.

Ah, I shall be so sorry if you have to go home before I do, & yet if you ought you must! But get all the good you can before you go. England ought to help you & then I should see you again before you go.

How I should like to see your [room?], gay with American [?] - don't forget to send me a copy of anything you write - there's a dear. I mean poetry. Emma S. sends love to you & Emma C also. Hold me in your warm heart & believe that I am faithfully your loving C.C.


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


Jackson, Helen Hunt, 1830-1885


38 Via Gregoriana, Rome, Italy

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Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876, “Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Helen Hunt Jackson, Dec 21, 1869,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed April 22, 2024, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/439.

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