Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, May 11, 1865

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Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, May 11, 1865


Cushman, Edwin "Ned" Charles, 1838-1909
Relationships-- Intimate--Same-sex
Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882
Social Acceptance
Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Mercer, Sallie
Political Affairs
Gender Norms


Charlotte writes about Lincoln's assassination and its impact on her and people she knows. Additionally, she tells Emma Crow Cushman about guests who stayed in her house that were not particularly welcome. Most of all, this letter is about Charlotte's concerns regarding her partner Emma Stebbins. She is speaking about gossip that has been circulated particularly by Tilton and even Ned and Emma Cushman themselves. It is this gossip that inspired and further contributed to tensions between Emma Stebbins and her brother Col. Henry Stebbins. In particular, it is interesting to note how Charlotte Cushman describes her relationship to Emma Stebbins that is based on a promise, responsibilities, and a love over the course of several years that evoke the idea of a marriage between the two women. This letter makes clear how difficult it is for both Emma Stebbins and Charlotte Cushman to protect and justify their living arrangement and their relationship in a more public realm but also, more specifically, within the boundaries of their own families. The letter is also a prime example of how the women conceived the love between them, what role jealousy plays, and how Charlotte tries to both protect her relationships to Emma Stebbins and Emma Crow Cushman.


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


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


LoC, CCP 2:787-790





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[787] It has been so hard for me to write. during these last two[?] weeks. so difficult for me to possess my soul +++ any thing like quick[?] or peace. That any letters must have been very unsatisfactory always at the end of a Roman Season. +++ +++ +++ taking last words. goodbye[?]. &. &. the atmosphere is charged with an electricity which is distracting & disturbing +++ to the strongest. but to those who are a little worn by the excitements of six such winters & their consequences "+++ up". it is very ruinous! I have +++ felt so much. a spring. as I have done this one. Possibly, the longest wet winter, which has been so cold & so trying[?]. & the very seed & +++ of the spring [crossed out] summer. for we have had no spring - (in three days the trees were out in full leaf - from bare +++-) has had much to do with this - I only know I have never been so excitable - so tremulous - so shaky. so depressed & tearful as I have been this spring. and +++ I have had some disturbing elements too. which have helped the increase of this. I had some visitors in[?] the Dobles who were any thing but pleasant. they were +++ & I +++ to be of good to them. but I am afraid that save & except for the mere shelter I gave them I was not of much good. for shortly after they came. I found that they were not only southern Sympathisers but avowedly so - & that without a reason. nothing but prejudice - which they miscalled justice & right - & then when this dreadful blow fell upon us of Mr Lincolns [sic] assassination, the brutally cool way in which they (in common with all the other English) took it almost drove me mad. & for the first time I felt as though I could beat the prejudice out of them. They were united to occupy the rooms left vacantly, Miss Rodick & Miss Jones. for a week until after the 16' of april [sic]. rather than I should become responsible for an apartment for them. which I could not be sure would suit them. Even if I could have found one which +++ Easter & a crowded season. I could not. I expected them to find some place for themselves as soon as Easter was over. but he had an[?] attack of

[reverse] bronchitis. which kept them on[?] to the 29". having to send all their meals to their rooms. made double work in the house. & discomfort in many ways. then came the announcement that Henry Stebbins & Mrs Noble were coming then they came - & among other agreeable things during his visit to Rome - he took occasion to speak to dear aunt Emma - who was already so weak & so poorly. that she could bear nothing - about his trouble of last summer with me. opened up the whole matter. Telling her among other agreeable things, that her whole family utterly disapproved of her life with me - that they felt she was morally. socially, spiritually, physically injured by it. that my  family, all of them, resented her being with me & did not hesitate to express themselves with regard to it, & in such a way, that they had been obliged to give up going to see Mr & Mrs Edwin Cushman when they were in New York. for they had spoken entirely too freely of all the family. In short filling her poor dear head with the most miserable poison which has made her really ill, so ill that I am worried & distressed to death about her - & this makes me ill. for whatever affects her, affects me. I have loved & do love her too dearly & our lives have been far too intimately & sacredly associated not to make all her troubles reflect upon me. & I suffer, in her sorrows or sufferings. I have been obliged to cut Tilton in consequence of some miserable words of his. He took it upon himself to say to aunt Emma in reference to Col Stebbins coming to my house to stay that "of course Henry wont come there. Charlotte ought to be more careful what she says about him.'" Now considering I had not said half that I know to any one- & had only spoken to Tilton in entire confidence with regard to Henry Stebbins' anger of last summer against me & its reasons. it was a most contemptible thing for him to do. This made aunt Emma fear that perhaps he would try to influence Henry in the same way as he had done her. or perhaps had already said something which tempted Henry to speak to her as he did about me. & she wrote him Tilton [inserted] a note bidding him be careful what he said with regard to me. & he must +++ & took this note to Henry which of course made trouble again for poor dear aunt

[788] Emma. & this again reflected on me. aunt Emma so stonily defended herself & me - & I cut Tilton completely. That Henry saw that he had made a mistake & tried to be conciliatory but he went away on Tuesday 9". & I was very glad he had gone. for his +++ has been productive of much unhappiness & discomfort to me. He has again excited[?] in poor dear aunt Emmas breast. thoughts innimical [sic] to my peace & the peace & happiness of my future home life. She had heard in america [sic]- that things had been said with regard to her life with me - by members of my family. & although my family have always treated her well. you cannot do away - with an impression produced in such a way, when there is any reason to justify it. For myself I know no reason why any member of my family should object in any way to an association wh. has been productive of so much happiness to me. wh. has put an element into my life that ["which" crossed out] was nescessary [sic!] to it. I have even held it the largest privilege of my life to have known & lived in the association which I have been allowed to do with her. She is high, true, noble & self sacrificing - she has made me happy. & for that my family - not being able to live with me themselves, ought to be so grateful to her. as never to have allowed themselves in any way to give an impression that they were dissatisfied with her life with me - My family have never missed any love from me, because of my love for her. they have never lacked any favours from me. because she shared my home. & if they have ever let drop a word on account of this - they were so unworthy - as to plant a dragons tooth a the garden of my life. I can account for it in no way but this. I think Col Stebbins has been jealous of Louises[?] association with you. I think he has dropped a +++ to that effect which the old Kellogg has taken advantage of - & when the Col. has complained to the mother of the indifference of the daughter - the old woman has told him that [inserted] the daughter was influenced by things you or Ned said to her! and this has poisoned his mind - so that he +++ to attack her in one of the very +++ & most tender points of my life. He told aunt Emma [inserted] that you & Ned had spoken of him & his daughters in such a way. that they now never called upon you when you were in New York or paid any attention to you. He said that he knew that Ned way very anxious about the money that was in

[reverse] his hands. & that this had influenced me in trying +++ it but of them. that my family had expressed themselves [?] very freely with regard to him & his.&.&.&. This came at a time when aunt Em & I had had some little misunderstanding. one of the very first we +++ has of +++  importance - & it had had a terrible effect upon her +++ made me very miserable indeed - I love her so dearly so truly - that any thing which makes her unhappy make me so. she is a part of me. as much as  a life[?] of eight years of the most intimate association +++ make her - & to see her made ill through the +++ of those whom she dispenses as much as I do [last five words inserted] makes me _____self reproachful & +++. My dear children who I so faithfully & truly love. for whom I would do so much - must try[?] by their affection & consideration & thoughtfulness towards her to do away with these miserable impressions - Will they not? They will love dear aunt Em for all her sweetness & goodness & love +++ they will be sorry for the hurts she has received +++ & by then aunties' action, in removing her +++ Col Stebbins' hands - they will be +++ with her +++ & +++. & only see that she is one of the noble of Gods[?] +++ - true - upright. worthy to be loved and respected & admired. She has fallen into very ill health. so poor that I do not know whether she can long remain in Rome. a worker. and the thought[?] that my children are coming into my life - not like her - "determined to thrust her out"."+++ & +++of her". will put the finishing +++ to a life. What has been too +++ tried already - I look upon +++ obligations with regard to her - which perhaps I have not been overscrupulous in filling . . I have allowed myself to be [a word crossed out] untrue to much I have promised her. but circumstances  have +++ to make these defections - when I first knew her & took the obligation of her life & future upon me. I[?] did not know of other cares which were to fall upon me - of other loves & affections which  were in store for me. I was then [inserted] free to promise. I have not kept my word too well - for I have tried to reconcile

[789] too many things. trusted too much to others & not preserved my life as much intact for her as I promised to do when I took the responsibility of her life upon myself! She has always been a little afraid of you. afraid of your little satirical speeches [inserted] ways & thoughts. afraid of your absorbing too much of my love & devotedness. afraid that you did not love her & would be glad to take me away from her. and she has +++ all these fears in secret. +++ them well & nobly.. Last summer it appears she suffered more than any one (but Sallie) knew & did not trouble me for she saw I was anxious & troubled enough. I have not been considerate or thoughtful enough of & for her. This winter & last winter I have given myself too much to society. & been too little with her. considering how little I was really with her last summer. & now that [inserted] she is ill & weak & ++ tired all this has come out & I feel how wrong I have been. You dont [sic] know how very poorly she is. & the Docter[sic!] tells me I may lose her if I am not very careful to keep her mind free from anxiety & disturbance. and the mortal terror of this possesses me as I see her pale wasted cheeks. & she is like a skeleton, she is so thin. My darling child is coming to help me, is she not. she is coming to try to share her aunties duties & cares & anxieties. & she will help me in this - will she not. she will love aunt Em. for all the love & devotion she has given to her auntie - for all she has suffered on account of her love for her auntie. No one member of the Stebbins family has ever really liked me but aunt Emma - they have been always jealous of her love for me I[?] mean among her own brothers & sisters (only her mother has ever behaved truly kindly & well & affectionately and gratefully to me). & she has had some terrible passages with them in consequence. but always remaining true & devoted to me through all. The children of Col Stebbins have always been jealous of his kindness to me. not knowing or believing that he was paying himself out of the rise of my securities - & also conscious that I saw through all their doings. I have been a moral rebuke to them they +++ +++ annoyed at the Sewards taking no notice of them in Washington & believed I could have made them do this if I would - then- the old Kellogg. who has always had the +++ of my seeing through her & exposing

[reverse] her. & the daughter who was jealous of my being held up as a shining example - have all felt envious of me & my social position. and they have combined & brought all their influences to bear upon this our poor devoted head - who although she has sufficient love for me. to withstand the +++ so physically weak as to be broken to pieces under it. ah it has been too cowardly & mean - but I have the satisfaction of having beaten them all. & hold her faster than ever - poor dear soul. and you will love her & be sorry for her will you not my own darling. You who have so much of me. & belong to me & have a right in[?] me - will not only spare me to one who has been made to suffer for me. but love her for her suffering & abiding faith in me. and now to other matters! Your letter of the 11" 13 May was with me on the 5" of May since when - I have nothing - although there has been a steamer which could have brought me a weeks later letter In that letter which brought me dear Neds [sic]. I learn that you will sail on the 7" of June. so you must be now in Boston I imagine - or on your way there. My last letter I sent to the care of +++: it contained one to Mrs Stebbins & I hope you will have forwarded it. I am afraid it was our +++. if so you must charge[?] it to me! If by any chance you should arrive in England before I do. you will make your own way to your grandmother. & I shall hear of your +++ in Paris when a letter will be waiting for me I hope you will let me know as soon as you arrive you will get this letter on the 1st of June. & will have no chance of receiving another. until you arrive in Liverpool - when I shall send one to await you at Mrs Williams' - to whom I shall write to have accommodation for you. against you[?] arrive[?]. Perhaps I may send a letter[?] by an occasional steamer. but I may not. On Saturday night tomorrow I am going out to +++. with aunt Em & Sallie. to pass the night. & Sunday to Subiaco. to return here on Monday perhaps the mountains are maybe of good to aunt Em & cure her dreadful rheumatism. from which she suffers much in her right arm & shoulder & which prevents her working. on my return on Monday night. I shall get you dear letter. & I +++ hope something more definite from Mr Macalister. I am so anxious to have this matter settled off my mind. Perhaps too you father may have come to some reason about your sister & Miss +++ coming abroad. He hopes to send your mother & Mabel with you. - Hattie is very charmed with the

[790] thought of +++ sister in July +++ - & I think it would be a very nice thing for sister[?] to come & spend a part of the next winter with Hattie. who is fitting up a room in expectation of it - when the children are fixed comfortably at a school. why should she not come & have some little comfort of her life? Hattie owes so much to your father that she can afford to +++ sister with hospitately. & as it has cost her nothing to live for the last six winters. she can afford to entertain someone else in her new house. - we have continued to feel in great trouble about the dreadful event which has happened in Washington. It has been the opportunity for the English to turn. more pacefully [peacefully?] than if they had not had any.  all peoples write in expressing heir honor at the act. & we have now the telegram which informs us of the +++ of the poor misguided fool. who planned & +++ it - I only hope +++ that they may the assasin of Mr Seward. & +++ him to the ext---- of the law. We[?] hear that Mr Seward & Fred are better. but my old friend Preston King. who you remember as the very fat man who came to Washington which[?] [when?]we were there. & was closeted with Mr Seward sometime to persuade him to go to the [crossed out] New York to +++ the state for the election of Mr Lincoln when Mr Seward so +++ protested that it would be undignified. It was +++ who +++ let me in a Philo----. on the floor of the Senate in albany years ago. he who loves Mr Seward like the apple of his eye - has been called to[?] administer the state department  while Mr Seward is so ill. This is very good & shows plainly to the abolition part of whom Johnson is the right & left hand - that he is not going to clean[?] his secretary of state Nothing in all the world can be better than this! I hope +++ that you may have got on to Washington to see the Sewards. Give them my dear love: In all their anxiety. they have had a sympathising heart over here in Rome - I have wept as though the grief were my own - as indeed it is - for I love free people in the world. as I love Mr Seward & my +++ for their sorrow. & the countrys [sic] danger. has been as profound as if I had been an individual member of the +++ I hope to hear from Farmer soon. She wrote me such a sweet letter about her fathers accident - that I am hoping soon to hear from her own hand about their fearful tragedy.

[reverse] Saturday morning Postday. I am poorly this morning I had a sulphur bath yesterday. & I have had the trial of seeing aunt Emma ill. she had the Doctor las night & this morning & I am greatly troubled!. By the bye. I find that Tilton has been much at the bottom of much of this trouble. It appears that when he was in Boston. Ned spoke to him  +++ freely about Henry Stebbins. & his daughter & the Kelloggs & that Tilton has said before and[?] that he would +++ any thing to do with [?] Ned again in consequence of these when he found that Ned was coming here. as consul already +++ with me. for the part I took in his affairs last summer +++ +++. he became poisonous with regard to me. & whispered such things in Col Stebbins ears. as justi---- +++ +++ speaking to aunt Emma. She can bear that I +++ speak of her family - where she cannot well bear to hear that Ned or you should. she can fight with them. again as I am convinced - but when they demand of her that she should not +++ +++ to throw of my family who have defamed or spoken disrespectfully of the (for whatever they may be - they are of +++ & if she does not resent for them, who will?) - she is less able to stand up in opposition. & bends render their cruelty. I wish you could write to me quite frankly all. & to whom. you have ever spoken about Col Stebbins & his family. and tell Ned he must write to me what he ever said to Mr Tilton to any one else about them. I want to be able to place your letters before aunt Em. even though she may +++ against you. But I am so unhappy about this matter that I do not exactly know what to do. But be very cautious about it. I beg of you for my sake. . = Dear you are quite right about your silence. bring it with you you & Mr Sherlock will receive you & get your things through customs- Dont [sic] bother about your +++ if you have not already sent it - Tell dear Ned. not to bring neither pork balls I can get them cheaper her - if need be! I am sorry to hear that Ned had had an ill turn as he did not mention it in his letter. I hope it was nothing very important. Dearest sweetest little baby. I pray that you may not have to lance his +++ - it is so bad for the teeth[?] afterwards kiss him ten thousand kisses for me. I love him- oh, so dear you can never know. & I only pray that God may spare him be a comfort to me - +++ I +++ comfort. You will answer the letter to Paris, my darling, & shortly after I get it we shall +++ I have not heard from your grandmother for some little thing she was very weak & miserable & seemed only kept alive with +++. God bless you my beloved. +++ +++ +++. Kiss me & love me as your fond & faithfull adoring auntie Ladie


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


Cushman, Emma Crow, 1839-1920


Rome, Italy

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Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876, “Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, May 11, 1865,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed June 15, 2024, https://archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/110.

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