Cobbe's Autobiography Life of Frances Power Cobbe (1894)

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Cobbe's Autobiography Life of Frances Power Cobbe (1894)


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908
Relationships-- Intimate--Same-sex
Stebbins, Emma, 1815-1882


The excerpt gives insights into Charlotte Cushman's household in Rome and the introduction of Cobbe to Mary Lloyd in 1861-62.


Hathi Trust


Cobbe, Frances Power, 1822-1904


Richard Bentley & Son





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[page 27]
"In Florence my friends had been principally literary men and women. In Rome they were chiefly artists. Harriet Hosmer, to whom I had letters, was the first I knew. She was in those days the most bewitching sprite the world ever saw. Never have I laughed so helplessly as at the infinite fun of this bright Yankee girl. Even in later years when we perforce grew a little graver, she needed only to begin one of her descriptive stories to make us all young again. I have not seen her now for many years since she has returned to America, nor yet any one in the least like her; and it is vain to hope to convey to any reader the contagion of her merriment."
[page 28]
"Jealous rivals in Rome spread abroad at one time a slanderous story that Harriet Hosmer did not make her own statues. I have in my possession an autograph by her master, Gibson, which he wrote at the time to rebut this falsehood, and which bears all the marks of his quaint style of English composition."
[page 29-31]
"A merry party, of whom Mr. Gibson was usually one, used to meet frequently that winter at the hospitable table of Charlotte Cushman, the actress. She had, then, long retired from the stage, and had a handsome house in the via Gregoriana, in which also lived her friend Miss Stebbins and Miss Hosmer. Our dinners of American oysters and wild boar with agro-dolce-sauce, and dejeuners including an awful refection menacing sudden death, called "Woffles," eaten with molasses (of which woffles I have scon five plates divided between four American ladies !) were extremely hilarious. There was a brightness, freedom and joyousness among these gifted Americans, which was quite delightful to me. Miss Cushman in particular I greatly admired and respected. She had, of course, like all actors, the acquired habit of giving vivid outward expression to every emotion, just as we quiet English ladies are taught from our cradles to repress such signs, and to cultivate a calm demeanour under all emergencies. But this vivacity rendered her all the more interesting. She often read to us Mrs. Browning's or Lowell's poetry in a very fine way indeed. Some years after this happy winter a certain celebrated London surgeon pronounced her to be dying of a terrible disease. She wished us farewell courageously, and went back to New England, as we all sadly thought to die there. The next thing we heard of Charlotte Cushman was, that she had returned to the stage and was acting Meg Merrilies to immense and delighted audiences ! Next we heard that she had thus earned £5,000, and that she was building a house with her earnings. Finally we learned that the house was finished, and that she was living in it ! She did so, and enjoyed it for some years before the end came from other causes than the one threatened by the great London surgeon. One day when I had been lunching at her house, Miss Cushman asked whether I would drive with her in her brougham to call on a friend of Mrs. Somerville, who had particularly desired that she and I should meet,—a Welsh lady, Miss Lloyd, of Hengwrt ? I was, of course, very willing indeed to meet a friend of Mrs. Somerville. We happily found Miss Lloyd, busy in her sculptor's studio over a model of her Arab horse, and, on hearing that I was anxious to ride, she kindly offered to mount me if I would join her in her rides on the Campagna. Then began an acquaintance, which was further improved two years later when Miss Lloyd came to meet and help me when I was a cripple, at Aix-les-Bains ; and from that time, now more than thirty years ago, she and I have lived together. Of a friend ship like this, which has been to my later life what my mother's affection was to my youth, I shall not be expected to say more. On my way home through France to Bristol from one of my earlier journeys and before I became crippled, I had the pleasure of making for the first time the acquaintance of Mdlle. Rosa Bonheur. Miss Lloyd, who knew her very intimately and had worked in her studio, gave me an introduction to her and I reported my visit in a letter to Miss Lloyd in Rome."


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Hathi, Accessed 12 April 2021.

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Cobbe, Frances Power, 1822-1904, “Cobbe's Autobiography Life of Frances Power Cobbe (1894),” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed April 22, 2024,

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