"The Misses Cushman", Manchester Times, Jan 22, 1847

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"The Misses Cushman", Manchester Times, Jan 22, 1847


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Gender Norms
Actors and Actresses--US American
Muspratt, Susan Cushman, 1822-1859
Howitt, Mary, 1799-1888


This article contains the review of Charlotte and Susan Cushman's performances in Romeo and Juliet at the Theatre Royal in London and mentions a few other of Cushman's performances as comparison. It also reports that the biographical article written by Mary Howitt about the Cushman sisters is available for purchase at the theatre.


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Manchester Times


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The Theatre Royal.


 It is very generally known that, during the season, it is the intention of the manager of this theatre to proceed on that system usually denominated the "starring system ;" and in the pursuance of this design we have as the first of a succession of these "stars" -- the Misses Cushman -- the two American actresses, who have achieved so high a reputation with the metropolitan public. The elder Miss Cushman, having as Romeo met with great success, has been emboldened to continue the assumption of male character, and it is chiefly in this capacity, her sister undertaking the first female characters, that she now appears on the boards of our Theatre Royal. It is disagreeable and difficult for us to conceive a woman, as it were unsexing herself, assuming the dress, and embodying the feelings, passions, and character of the opposite sex, nor do we think Miss Cushman has entirely succeeded in doing so. Her acting partakes of the physical energy of her own character, and of the school of acting in which she has been trained, but we can never divest ourselves of the idea that it is an energetic woman we see before us, endeavouring to assume other and opposite characteristic.

 Romeo, which was played on Monday night, is the most pleasing of her performances of this kind, though this we think owes its success to other causes than the successful assumption of male characters. Love is an element of woman's nature -- violent when not softened and held in abeyance by female delicacy and discretion. Man, therefore, approaches woman in feeling an character, in proportion as his soul is under the dominion of intense or absorbing feeling. Romeo, then, an ardent youth, imbued with all the impetuosity and passion of a southern clime, is a character more adapted, then perhaps any other male character, for a female representative. Miss Cushman, we think, owed her success in it to this principle; she was, in our opinion, most effective in those parts where, forgetting her male attire, she spoke and acted her as herself. It by no means follows, however, that a successful impersonation of Romeo betokens abilities for other male characters, and accordingly we were not surprised to find her Claude Melnotte a comparative failure. The performance, certainly, was not deficient in energy -- but it lacked power -- it wanted a perception of the high and noble aspirations -- the conscious and manly dignity which belonged to Claude's character. In the last act we thought too much energy was displayed under the crushing intelligence of Pauline's with faithlessness. The audience, however, it is but fair to state, applauded, and at the close call to the sisters before the curtain to receive this tribute of approbation. 

 Her Meg Merrilies does not call upon our imagination to so great an extent as the before-mentioned characters, and is consequently a more agreeable performance. It is a startling, almost ghastly, piece of acting, yet we cannot but think somewhat unnatural, and false in conception. We cannot deny to miss Cushman much praise that is due -- she has many merits -- but we must not shut our eyes to her faults, her constrained action, and occasional mannerism, nor assign to her the extraordinary genius which so many believe her to possess.

 Her sister is a quiet, lady-like actress, With more ability for comedy than for the higher walks of tragedy; we were, however, very much pleased with her last performance, as Pauline, in the Lady of Lyons.

 An interesting memoir of these sisters, written by Mary Howitt, for the People's Journal, is sold at the theatre, and will repay perusal. All who appreciate energy and endurance of character, amounting perhaps to heroism, cannot but feel deeply interested in the Misses Cushman: their merits as artists, however, must be discussed apart from private feeling.

 Of the other actors, Messrs. Davidge and Wyndham, performed as they usually do, with great ability.

 On Monday evening, during the performance, the gauze curtain which hangs among the sky-borders, took fire, occasioning considerable alarm. It was, however, fortunately subdued without injury. 

 It will be seen that the Misses Cushman play to-night in As You Like It, and tomorrow in Guy Mannering and Simpsons and Co.



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Manchester, Lancashire, England

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“"The Misses Cushman", Manchester Times, Jan 22, 1847,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed June 25, 2024, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/565.

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