Letter from Charlotte Cushman to George Combe, Nov 21, 1845
Cushman presents herself as shocked and surprised at the "gross motive [that] might be attributed" to her performance of Romeo on stage together with her sister Susan: "your hints have only plunged me into trouble — for I find the subject, in a new light entirely." She explains her reasons for signing a contract, which is binding and forces her to continue playing. Cushman wanted to provide for her sister and "divide criticism" to "shield" her sister. The letter is an attempt to defend her and her sister's respectability inmidst of accusations surrounding her gender-bending role on stage.
CreditNational Library of Scotland
Letter Item Type Metadata
21 Nov 1845
My dear Mr Coombe [sic].
I have been hoping to be able to come to you to day that I might [illegible crossed out] endeavour [inserted] to reply to your kind note in person — but a succession of visitors & engagements, prevented me. I should wish I had more time now, to give you my views of the exact position. in which I placed myself with regard to [inserted] the assumption of the character of "Romeo" – at some future day. I may trouble you with them. at present — I can only assure you, the ideas you have been kind enough to give me — are entirely new to me. I never having given the subject
[28 reverse] the thought which you have bestowed upon it — the objections that you mention never entered my head. I dare say as far as you know my ideas & motives — you may be very right. & could I have had the benefit of your advice before. I would have availed myself of the considerations you have now favoured me with — as it is, your hints have only plunged me into trouble — for I find the subject, in a new light entirely. & myself, bound under a penalty of £200 to fulfill my engagement[?] What am I to do? I am not able
 to pay the penalty of my [forfieted] engagement contract [inserted] & can only hope for the indulgence of my friend in the mistake (— which without the slightest notions of indelicacy) I have made – I only looked to giving my sister that support — which I felt knew [inserted] she required & would never get from any gentleman that could be got to act with her. I felt that to divide criticism — was, in a measure, to shield her as my sister & to bring her out . a thought of indelicacy in the assumption never crossed my mind.
[29 reverse] I see however, that a gross motive might be attributed to it & can only hope that those who know me will acquit me of an intentional [illegible, crossed out] immodesty [inserted]! At the same time I submit to you. The idea. whether of the two. Juliets [sic] character is not more strongly imbued with the influence of the [organ]. you +++ than Romeos [sic] — a careful reading leaves me so impressed = & it strikes me more forcibly that there might be more [illegible crossed out] impropriety [inserted] in a father & daughter or brother & sister. performing the two characters. Than two sisters — which seems to me to banish indelicacy. I have troubled you longer & more +++
 than I intended — however. I thank you sincerely for the kind interest you show for me. & only regret that it is too late for me to give it the [inserted] thought I could wish! The old saw says "two wrongs can never make a right" — (& if this be a wrong) I have a precedent in Mrs Kean's having acted "Romeo" & "Ion" repeatedly without bringing upon herself the charge of indelicacy Pray. present my most sincere regards to Mrs Coombe [sic]. & believe me (though in great haste) – most faithfully
[30 reverse] Edin. [Edinburgh?] 21 Nov 1845 Miss Cushman ed[?] Romeo Geo. Coombe [sic] Esq