Emma Crow Cushman's Memoir about Charlotte Cushman: "A Memory" (1918)
Emma Crow Cushman emphasizes that she knew Charlotte Cushman "intimately." Emma and Charlotte met in 1858 when Charlotte brought two letters of introduction (by Hosmer and Kemble) to her father in St. Louis. Emma describes her as a "great artist and still greater woman." The first of Charlotte's plays which Emma witnessed was Romeo and Juliet (Charlotte as Romeo and Mary Devlin as Juliet): "Miss Cushman as Romeo seemed the incarnation of the ideal lover and realized all the dreams that had flitted through a girl's fancy. [...] It has been much questioned whether a woman can ever play the part of a man acceptably or so that her sex is forgotten, but Miss Cushman's success in this character of Romeo proves that in her case at least, there was no failure."
Emma mentions the many obstacles that Charlotte encountered on her way and she bases her account of Charlotte's earlier years on conversations with Sallie. In Rome, Charlotte was a "hostess" of a "salon" for which different people from all social ranks gathered in Charlotte's house in Rome. Emma's account includes a Cushman quote every now and then to adhere to the intimacy claim of the beginning. She also quotes from a letter that Charlotte sent in January 1861. Emma characterizes Charlotte as a hard-working, patriotic, and generous genius unlike any other actor or person.
She contradicts "some autobiographies written in which many misrepresentations have been made, notably one in which the writer says Miss Cushman's penuriousness was great, and that she was hated by those with whom she acted." Again, Emma gives proof by quoting from a letter. Even when she talks about Charlotte's private life, Emma stresses the significance of work. She devotes several pages to the friendship between William Seward, Secretary of State (Lincoln), and Charlotte. The latter wanted the correspondence between them to be destroyed. In terms of friendships, Emma states that Charlotte "had a genius for friendship."
Emma comments on a current shift of what is considered private/public: "The letters which Miss Cushman wrote to her friends were almost too intimate to publish, even in these days when nothing is too private or too sacred to be withheld from the public [...]."
CreditLibrary of Congress, Charlotte Cushman Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Auto/Biography Item Type Metadata
written in 1918 when Mrs. Cushman was 78 years old.