Mowatt's Autobiography of an Actress; or, Eight Years on the Stage (1854)

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Mowatt's Autobiography of an Actress; or, Eight Years on the Stage (1854)


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Macready, William Charles
Muspratt, Susan Cushman, 1822-1859
Relationships--Patrons and Protégés
Actors and Actresses--US American


Mowatt is an actress that performs with/meets Susan and Charlotte Cushman as well as Macready. She serves as an example of annother actress carefully analyzing press coverage.


Hathi Trust


Ritchie, Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt, 1819-1870


Ticknor, Reed, and Fields





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about the profession as an actress:
"My views concerning the stage, and my estimate of the members of dramatic companies, had undergone a total revolution. Many circumstances had proved to me how unfounded were the prejudices of the world against the profession as a body. The communication into which I had been brought, by the production of Fashion, with the managers and members of the Park company and the managers of the Walnut Street Theatre, added to all I heard of their private histories, convinced me that I had formed unjust conclusions. Rather, I had adopted the conclusions of those who were as ignorant on the subject as myself who, perhaps, cared as little as I had done to ascertain the truth." (214)

Susan Cushman behind the scenes - Maddox and Susan Cushman fight over engagement:
"But this was not my only or most serious annoyance. Miss Susan Cushman was to enact the character of Helen. She sent an apology for her absence at rehearsal on the plea of indisposition. The manager chose to imagine that she entertained some theatrical jealousy towards a countrywoman, and purposed to absent herself on the night of our first appearance. No substitute for so important a part as Helen could be provided at short notice, and the play would necessarily have to be withdrawn the anticipated début postponed. I see no reason for supposing that Miss Cushman meditated any such unamiable intentions as were attributed to her by the manager. We were very slightly acquainted, but our intercourse had been agreeable. Miss Cushman's name was unceremoniously expunged
from the "cast;"; and Miss Emmeline Montague, the leading lady of the theatre, was persuaded by Mr. Maddox to undertake the rôle of Helen. At the last rehearsal, for we had several, just as Miss Montague commenced rehearsing, Miss Susan Cushman walked upon the stage. She inquired by what right the character belonging to her was given to another lady. The manager, who was not celebrated for a conciliatory demeanor towards his company, bluntly informed her of his suspicions. An angry scene ensued, such as I never before, and I rejoice to say never after, witnessed in any theatre. Rehearsal was interrupted. I sat down at the prompter's table in a most unenviable state of mind. The actors stood in clusters around the wings, enjoying the dispute. Miss Cushman and Mr Maddox occupied the stage. A casual spectator might have supposed they were rehearsing some tempestuous passages of a melodrama. Miss Cushman declared that she would play Helen, for that she had done nothing to forfeit her right to the performance. Mr. Maddox maintained that the part should be played by Miss Montague. Miss Cushman was very naturally exasperated. I remained silent, but internally wishing that the disputants might suddenly disappear through some of the trap doors that checkered the stage and were devoted to the use of fairies and hobgoblins. Finally Mr. Maddox ordered that the stage should be cleared and rehearsal continued. Miss Cushman was forced to retire. Just as she reached the wing, she turned back and offered me her hand. I gave her mine she departed, and rehearsal proceeded. This extraordinary scene in the drama of real life thoroughly unnerved and unfitted me for the business of the hour; and that night I was to make my London début!"

social capital, Macready:
"At a dinner party given by Mr. Macready, we be came acquainted with Mr. Oxenford, the theatrical critic of this influential journal. A species of half friendship sprang out of the introduction, and lasted several years. Mr. Oxenford said to me one day,
"Would you like to know how the Daily Times chanced to notice you after giving you the go-by through your first engagement ?"; I replied, that there were few subjects upon which my curiosity had been so much excited ; consequently, the information would be particularly interesting.
"You are indebted to a friend," he answered.
"To what friend?"
"To the Earl of Carlisle."
Mr. Oxenford then told me that he had always lacked faith in America s ability to produce theatrical genius of high order making Miss Cushman an exception to this sweeping scepticism. When he heard of the new American artists in England, he thought it "too great a bore" to go and see them. A note from the Earl of Carlisle induced him to visit the theatre on my benefit night. The contents of this note he did not repeat, but I presume it requested for us an impartial criticism. Henry Clay's letter to the Earl of Carlisle, with one of my own, were, I believe, enclosed in the earl's missive to the editor of the Times. It was, then, to our own beloved and distinguished countryman not wholly to a foreign nobleman that we owed our indebtedness for this important service." (285-286)

Mowatt's speaks to the advantages of Macready's acquaintance: "Our personal acquaintance with Mr. Macready was the source of mingled gratification and advantage. A dinner was given at his house for the express purpose of making us acquainted with persons of literary, editorial, and social influence. Nor was this the only means by which he generously endeavored to promote our professional interest." (287)


Boston, MA

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Hathi,, accessed 2020-01-22

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Ritchie, Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt, 1819-1870, “Mowatt's Autobiography of an Actress; or, Eight Years on the Stage (1854),” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed March 4, 2024,

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