Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, June 28, 1869

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Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, June 28, 1869


Crow, Wayman, 1808-1885
Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Cushman, Edwin "Ned" Charles, 1838-1909
Cushman, Emma Crow, 1839-1920
Travel Reports
Intimacy--With Subjects
Intimacy--As topic
Intimacy--As Source


Cushman responds to Emma’s previous letters, expressing how much pain they have caused her. She is shocked that Emma would expect Cushman to tarnish her reputation so willingly. A "poor old worlded woman" exerted "pressure of her stupid little will" and Cushman lost her temper and spoke up, a "mistake" which was made through Cushman's "great love" for Emma. According to Cushman, the dispute in question was recounted to Emma incorrectly, which made Cushman “appear infinitely worse than [she was]." Cushman thinks of the incident as a "trap." Cushman insists that Emma is in the wrong as Cushman has admittedly made statements “incautiously” but not with the intention to cause Emma harm. Cushman states, "I thought you were making a mistake & leading others to think injuriously of you." Cushman only tried to protect Emma, which Emma apparently interpreted as overstepping boundaries. Cushman blames Emma to misjudge her and laments Ned's "ingratitude & unkindness." The "influence" (=person) who made Cushman act might have been jealous "with regard to" Emma.

Cushman feels offended by Emma's repeated accusations of having wasted her life. Cushman assures Emma that she  “saved [her, Cushman] from many mortifications.” She implores Emma to reject this self-reproach and see herself as worthily as Cushman does.
Cushman’s doctor proceeds with the water treatment cautiously as it could aggravate her condition even more. The actress speaks of her illness as "breast trouble." Overall, she has been feeling better, however, the emotional turmoil of Emma’s letters causes her a lot of anguish.
Cushman is mortified about having to leave Rome because of her cancer and possibly living separately from her children. She is looking forward to seeing Emma again and suggests contacting her uncle Charles for lodgings in case Emma deems that she cannot live with “the influence” of Cushman. Apparently, Emma is in contact with Dr. Sims, who will later high-handedly speak about Cushman's health in the papers, and Cushman asks her to forward a message to him.

In a letter to Helen Hunt from Dec 1869, Cushman describes "that young person" who she "invited to stay" in her house in Rome and who "abused" Cushman's trust. This incident is presumably the same one that is touched upon in Cushman's letter to Emma Crow here.


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


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


LoC, CCP 4: 1136-1141





Letter Item Type Metadata


[1136] +++ +++. your letters have given me very very great pain. more than perhaps you would be willing to give me if you knew how deeply you have hurt me. That it would be possible for me to +++ even carelessly [last two words inserted] injure what I most loved in the world. That it would be possible for me to place your reputation as far as l do it — in the hands of any one. Especially one whom I did not trust. is a mistake. an error. that I cannot feel your [?] labour make & not suffer more than any thing else could now make me suffer! God knows how long I waited. & how hard I tried to escape the pushing of that poor little worlded woman. how I was driven & backed into a corner. even pushed up into my bedroom to which I had many times run to escape the pressure of her stupid little will. which was determined to make me say what had they "done". I had +++ in every way to hide my displeasure at the disgusting little ways of the little +++ & consequently answered "nothing" — "nothing is the matter"— and 

[1136 reverse] thus I was contradicted. "+++ was so +++ giving me to understand that something had been said to them. and who could have said any thing to them. but the one who seemed most intimate with them? Thus I was led [?] into a trap. & put at bay. was +++ to say I did not like the manner of the husband to ladies under my roof!— This was +++. Things were repeated to you in a mischief making spirit & I was made to appear infinitely worse than I was, in thought indeed. But I loved you with my whole strong heart. & that I +++, should have been entirely overlooked, by a warm & generous heart that loved me in turn because my mistake was made through my great love! I never distrusted your actions. I never thought one could do any thing unprincipled or that should make me or yourself blush. I thought you were making a mistake & leading others to think injuriously of you. & in my older knowledge of human nature. I wished to influence you in that matter. I did not try to mortify

[1137] you into doing as I wished! This is so entirely & so grossly a misjudgment of me. That I cannot suffer you to give expression to it without an earnest protest & to beg you. if you +++ me to disabuse your mind of it. You may have thought & inferred it. but you were mistaken. as you were in the whole of that matter. & one of these days when you have no Auntie to love you. you will beg be sorry for the injustice you did her in that instance & in others. It may not be that I have many years to be with you. & my +++ are those of my temperament & not of my heart & you must bear with any mistakes I may make. & not hold them so unforgivingly in your heart. You are entirely wrong too with regard to anticipating which you suppose to be at work with me against you. There is no influence at work with me against you! When I have been made unhappy by what looked. like wilfulness on your part. & when I have been wounded by the ingratitude & unkindness of Ned. I dare say the

[1137 reverse] +++ +++ have thought & perhaps incautiously [?] said to some friend who did not intend to make mischief at the time (but who none the less did it very efficaciously,) that she thought it would be better for me if I had less of such irritation around me. but this was not intended as underhand. for it was told to me the very day it was said. & it was as immediately reported of & my pardon was on saying it. but even that was said in reply to something — & perhaps if you had been behind a screen & heard the conversation you would have seen that it was not harmful or intended to be. It is possible, & perhaps natural that there should have been some jealousy on the part of "the influence". with regard to you. I should not wonder & should not much blame. for I know what that passion is. & how easily it may be excited where one loves much & is very dependent. I have felt it with regard [?] To you & To her. & +++ meant to worry either of you. But I must not write

[1138] upon this subject. it fevers me & makes me too ill with sad memories & painful regrets. & I am not in a state just now to be made furnish [?]. we will talk together some day perhaps when you come to say that you have mistaken me in the past. you will forgive, enough to make you forget. my dear, I am unhappy enough at all +++ about you. without your telling me [inserted] as you have now done for the second time of your "wasted life." You did what you did with your eyes open. as open as any girls [sic] eyes ever are. you loved me. you wanted to keep me & you have helped me. you have saved me from many mortifications which I should unquestionably have had. Though the lower nature of what was bound to me & which I could never escape from. for my duties and family ties are the greatest holds upon my life. & however unworthily they may behave. however they may trial me with ingratitude & selfish unkindness my sisters [sic] children. especially her first. +++ with me & almost all

[1138 reverse] his younger days living with me would +++ have to be helped & assisted by me out of any scrape his want of judgement [sic] or care might had him into. You have saved me from this & from low +++. & for this you must try to find me grateful. & must try to see that your life has not been "wasted". all that he has of good or rights. is of & has come of this association with you. & for that I am thankful to you to say [?] in most heart. all that I am saved of mortification & pain through him I owe to you. & if you love me. or feel that your love for me is of any good. you must try to convert this thought of a "wasted life" into the thought that whatever I may have had of pain. you have saved me from very very much more. That might have broken my heart long ago! Darling I love you. most most best. I am very grateful to you & if I have ever hurt you. I give [sic], I grieve more than I can tell you. but I had no thought to treat you cruelly. nor can I believe that

[1139] a healthy mind or soul would entertain so exaggerated a view of any thing I may ever have done or said. My having injured you +++ +++ +++. was little. & you have heard that I did not injure you with any one else if I did with her! I do not understand quite what you mean about your "deep humiliation of these last two years". my only thought about you this last week has been for your physical state. I was cured of any jealousy of you by the pain & suffering I had in the affair of the +++. But dear. if you dont [?, sic] see me better & nobler & more worthy on this side the +++. you will see me better when you are on the other. I love you very deeply & am pained deeply when I see that cannot help you either by my influence & my love. or my judgment. God alone who knows my heart. knows that my will has little to do with the matter. But you must not any more imply the reproach of a "wasted life". I can not bear it. & think as worthily of you, as I wish to do.

[1139 reverse] Darling. I will not go [rest of line illegible] you any where +++ my house. It is sufficient mortification to me that I +++ leave Rome. I can no longer keep up my life there. my health & my +++ cannot [?] bear it & I dont [sic] know how to stop it except by leaving. The triumph this will be to a few of my friends. is +++ to me. but I cannot bear to give them the opportunity of failing [?] that run [?] my children +++ continue to live with me. I cannot give this triumph even to your father. who I confess gives me as little love. as he owes me. Therefore if you make up your mind that you cannot go back to my house with "the influence" there. I will make up my mind not to go back there. I am too physically weak. & am too nervous about this trouble. which I am fearful is growing upon me in my breast. to have any heart trouble weighing upon me as this mortification would. It may not be possible for my children to live with me. but in my heart

[1140] I know it is not +++ fault of my want of love for them. & they will find all that out [?] in their future, separated from me. as it can be whenever & wherever it will be best for their pride to this well. anywhere but in Rome & this I must ask of you! If you must be in Rome next winter it must be my house. with me or without me as you think will be most fitting for you. I can live elsewhere, my life will always have a pain. separated from the dear children whom I so heavily love. But there is not enough of me left to care for. to make that a matter of consequence against what is painful to you. or what is "impossible" for you to have. ah. Heaven forgive you my child. for what you have made me suffer. even in this last letter!— +++. I will see what can be done about +++ but they will not give a refusal of anything" for +++ trial" so long beforehand

[1140 reverse] I think & shall have to wait until the 6" or the day before you come. before I do any thing & then only taking for a week. you can judge for yourself about going any where else: I would not wait at +++ dear. The passage is mere [?] bad [?] +++ to stop me. Even the +++ just dread +++ day +++ +++ we did not suffer from seasickness. & it is such a saving of trouble to come straight through with your luggage. & if you write to Uncle Charles. he will see & arrange about some rooms for you for the night some where. at Morleys [sic] perhaps. come here as soon as you can. That I may have as much of the children as possible before the 1st of anguish. for I feel in my soul. that if I would try to be rid of this incubus. it is not here that I shall lose it. & I must wander else where for help. If you only knew what a dreadful night +++ it is to me & have when I awake from sleep. I do so with such a start. & so wide awake

[1141] in a moment with such pang of heart +++. Let your [+++?] much clearly know exactly when you will be in London & tell him what you want. & then let her know exactly when you will arrive here & your lodging shall be made for you. Even +++ candles tea coffee & sugar & bread & butter.
Did I tell you about poor Clanson, being thrown +++ this pastime. +++ such a +++ +++ +++. I saw the Dr today & he dont [sic] change my very light treatment. for the reason that if this breast trouble is a serious thing. the water treatment would aggravate it. so he proceeds very cautiously. I am better because I am quiet & have no disturbing troubles. but I see by my nervous state this morning after your letter that I have not in reality a whole nerve left in my body. for I tumbled [?] like a child & have done all day since — Goodbye darling. please send this to Dr Sims for me. He is in

[1141 reverse] +++. +++ the Rue Faubours [?] +++ & hope. beyond the English +++ +++ Even my love to kid & write a million kisses to my +++ children whom I just +++ upon.
Believe me your faithful fond auntie & +++
Darling would you. see Franco for me & tell him that this place in my breast is larger & harder. should I take the medicine any stronger. you can +++ to him. if too busy to go. I have Sims to send a note for me to you. To bring To me.


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


Cushman, Emma Crow, 1839-1920


Great Malvern, Worcestershire, UK

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Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876, “Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, June 28, 1869,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed June 25, 2024, https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/888.

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