Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Jane Welsh Carlyle, Nov 16, 1861

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Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Jane Welsh Carlyle, Nov 16, 1861


Relationships-- Intimate--Same-sex
Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


Charlotte Cushman writes a glowing letter of affection to Jane Welsh Carlyle. Cushman admires her, speaks of mutual love, begs Jane to write to her. She mentions  Rosa Bonheur as a mutual friend.


National Library of Scotland


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


NLS, ms1774, 216-217





Letter Item Type Metadata


[216] The note which came to me on the 8" of Sept from you has made a part of my every day since then. You, who believe in the most subtle magnetism will +++ this for you willed it to be so. when you said I do love you. I do want to hear from you! Sweet soul, you knew you were then buckling to you with firm clasps a strong & loving nature. & you will "kill me with mocks" before you shake off  my claim upon your heart. To possess the assurance under your hand. as well as your eyes that cared for me made & makes me very rich indeed! But now comes the difficulty this same precious note. which makes me just as

proud[?] & happy. when I read it today, as it did the day I received it. said. "You will write to me when you are settled! I mean, when you have leisure of mind & body! I dont [sic] want a letter written in a  "worry of things!" Alas, if I wait for this. utopia. you never hear from me save through those who knowing from all time, my, almost nescessitated [sic] life of unsettled +++ & "worry of things", recognise the fitness of the destiny & accept the unworthy droppings from my pen. for just what they are worth, a mere general record of every day facts which find value only through their memory of & sympathy for & with my old time working days — & striving's to dought-fail[?] as I did & do to +++ it! But how can I write to you in this way? how can I come to the sanctuary with a +++ & soul — with my brain full of cares and occupations, with which every day in every land is full for me? Alas I must come then +++ pause at the +++ & only look longingly, lovingly in, eating any bread & drinking my water outside the portal with only enchanted meanings, instead of doings. Will she

[216 reverse] break the crust with me there. will she drink from my wooden bowl. She who sits at the high alters of great minds, its ministering arch priestess. She must. if she would have the poor +++ soul to kiss her hands. I cannot write to you. I love you. but I fear you & my soul blushes as I recognise the fear within the fear that it may be more my self love which fears you. than my heart. You are so wonderful to me. I think of you ever — of all that you said & did on that first & only day I saw you when a new heaven & a new earth were revealed to me. I remember all your looks. all your tones. all your unchecked flow of marvellously fitting words — all your far seeings — all your subtle fancies — your facile dissections — your graphic descriptions — your inimitable behaviour. your perfect knowledge of & yet, indifference to what you were doing — your selfpossession. your evident indwelling sense of power to have & to hold. Even that which was ridiculous to you through its unfitness. & the undoubtable fearless ness with [inserted] which you held it up to my new — all, all, all, are stamped upon my memory — with an elective fire which burns me yet! I find you marvellous! What have I to do wish communion with such! What though I am kindly biddin — what can I offer in exchange? Oh poverty of soul & nature. why should I think of barter. can I not accept the bounty & be thankful. beggar that I am. without this miserable self rising up to refuse an obligation? There is but one of you. none other in the world like you! I cannot hope to speak or think or write like you why should I consider myself. Why should I not minister[?] in my own poor way? Because — I want your consideration I want your respect — I want your care for me — your thought of me to be as good as my admiration of you & I fear to lose all through my desire to possess all. But I cannot bear not

[217] to hear from you — to hear of Cheyne Row through Barnesbury Park is very dear to me. but I want more. the crumbs which fall from your table will make high Carnival for me & I cannot wait any longer in the hope that I shall ever be "settled." ever have "leisure of mind or body." Ever be less occupied with the "worry of things". or in the frame of mind which these would induce & in which alone I ought to write to you. Dear soul, I will not misjudge you. I will not misdoubt you. I will try to deserve[?] & with this frank avowal of my conscious poverties & my absolute needs. I will beg you to write me. when you can. Let me hear from you. if it be ever so little. Tell me of yourself. if you are well. if you have enjoyed your summer. if you have ever thought of me. cared to know of me! — I know through my friends that you will be glad to hear from me now. I hear of you & your sayings — for my little friend is clever & knows how to fill her letter acceptably in all ways. [illegible crossed out] I give[?] her this letter to give to you. in gratitude, for it will please her! My journeyings were pleasant to Rome. Weather delightful we remained in Paris ten days — I had — oh such a lovely day beautiful pride satisfying day with Rosa Bonheur. down at her house in the forest of Fontainbleau. I wish I could describe it to you — it was so pretty & she was so beautiful & natural & took me up to her platform. without any ceremony! I was very pleased & contented with this day. When I see you. I must describe her studio to you. a new one which she has just been building down in the forest among all sorts of wild things I saw some very good acting. bought two dresses — which I think you would approve — an unexceptionable bonnet — which took much consideration — for I very much prefer & live in a hat! — Pushed one hard & earnest worker. to the very highest round in the ladder. +++. a young & gifted country woman of mine, — with a contralto voice. which has divine meanings — whom I found despairing in Paris. & whom God in his goodness gave me the opportunity of helping to a find success at the Italian opera — in short did much in a little time. for I had the need of many to look after — then on to +++ —where we paused to see the

[217 reverse] statues — Then to Bologna – Then to Florence — when the exhibition surprised & delighted us. & then to Rome — And +++ after an absence of seventeen months — I found Ruin & Rack in full possession! The work of ejection has been +++ but is at last "got under". I am not well! A cough which I brought from Paris. seemed determined to be taken back there — for it refuses [illegible rossed out] yielding to remidies. The climate so far is delightful but very very warm. too warm! Sirocco blowing all the time relaxing to the last degee! Of my occupations here — I wonder if you will care to know them. in case you should not. I will spare you — & in case you do. my friend who brings you this will read them to you from her letter which is an envelope to this

I wish I could show you Rome! Will that time ever come I wonder! What a pleasure it would be to me. Do you dream how happy it would make me? No. you cannot! I want to write to Emilie[?] Hawkes. did she not make you see me. & how much do not owe her. where is she? Will you make her to know where I am. or me to know where she is? Will you write to me. Miss Stebbins is very busy making her sketch for a statue to Horace Mann. She hopes you will not forget her! "Commend me in all humility unto his highness!" the King maker! & hold me in all truth & loving sincerity your faithfully affectionate
Charlotte Cushman


Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


Carlyle, Jane Welsh, 1801-1866


38 Via Gregoriana, Rome, Italy

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Secondary Texts: Comments

"Cushman left for Rome, and on 16 November wrote from her mansion there a letter which demands to be taken into account: [quoted letter above] How Jane took this we have to infer from her silence and replies. She was presumably interested, flattered and in a cooler way ready to meet her friend when the chance arose, but there were to be delays, only partly explained by her ill health." (Carlyle, Jane Welsh, et al. Jane Carlyle: Newly selected letters /  edited by Kenneth J. Fielding and David R. Sorensen. Routledge, 2017, pp. 267-268)

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Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876, “Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Jane Welsh Carlyle, Nov 16, 1861,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed September 28, 2023, https://archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/952.

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