Mary Devlin Booth to Emma Cushman


Mary Devlin Booth to Emma Cushman


Mary Devlin Booth writes a ten page letter to actress Emma Cushman reporting on Edwin's opening as Shylock; discussing his reviews in great detail; giving her opinion of the English; mentioning the child she is expecting; and sharing news of the Civil War.


Booth, Mary Devlin


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum




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London Oct 2nd

My cherished friend

Your letter, longed for most impatiently by me - came duly: 'per Arabia' - no doubt, you were prompted by some good spirit who watches over ladies in my condition to keep me no longer longing but to send instantly, without waiting a further summons, news of your sweet self, and husband. By the same mail my letters from Cambridge arrived - from my dear friends there - and all strange to say (for good news seldom comes when most needed) on the very day, the eve of which Edwin was to make his début: of course this cheered and made me feel, less a stranger in a strange land. He opened

in "Shylock" - and made quite as great a success, as he could have wished - with the large audience assembled - but the next day the morning papers came out most unkindly in their censure - at all of which he 'snaps his fingers' for really their criticism is not worth the perusal, however I fear he has a hard hill to climb, for there seems to be a pre-existing prejudice against him; of course the press might have been secured, but I am happy to say, Mr Booth has too much dignity of character to buy praise; "Shylock" was perhaps the worst part he could have chosen for an opening - but he dared not trust his strength in any more powerful character, after his long rest, and absence from

the footlights: but I have confidence in the public whose approval only an artist should look for - and that eventually the press will do him justice.

How I should love to have spent that one day with you at Mrs [Name's?] although you tell her for me, I feel myself forgotten by her - she has not written to me, since our departure.

I am writing, dear child, in the quiet of my room, alone and by gas-light - Mr Booth being at the play : quiet did I say? oh, word uncommon in London, a lonely organ-grinder begins, as I fear he would, to mutilate beneath my window some lovely operatic air! In the day time I have all the disposition to write, but the atmosphere is so smoky, so fogey, and bewildering, that really I yearn for the day to close, that I may shut close the blinds, and

read in artificial light. They tell me, I have nothing now to complain of - and promise that I shall see fogs in November, that penetrate and surround one completely! No wonder the English are so un-progressive, so thoroughly conventional: all that I have met know a great deal more of English nature than of human nature. My dear baby, my looked for blessing, is to be born here, however, so I must not be too severe, though I shall never look upon the little darling as indigenous to this soil; no, an American he must be! You see I have fixed upon the sex - if I am disappointed now! - My health continues excellent, would that yours were better than you lead me to believe it is; of course your whole constitution received a terrible


shock that in time only you will recover from : you must be most prudent - and guard yourself well from the cold and damp of Boston. Their winters are frightfully trying to those unaccustomed to them. I promise that you shall be apprised as soon after as possible of the forthcoming of my expected little treasure - I endeavour not to think of the suffering I must inevitably bear, but look only on the bright side. - London is terribly dull. The season has not begun - everybody out of town they say - and the only objects worthy of notice are the shops: they are truly gay, and most beautiful: England was aptly named "a nation of shop-keepers" for I am learning they surpass ours - in fact the people seem

wholly devoted to and occupied with this deportment of the social system. Dress of every description is very much cheaper here - and I long for the period when I may indulge in my favorite pass time - money spending.

We are deeply interested in everything pertaining to our country now, and await with anxiety every post arrival; I am constantly in ill humour with the press here - who agravate, but give no sympathy. There is not a monthly or periodical of any description now being published in London but contains at least two articles on the "American Crisis" : The writers of which are not only ignorant on the subject but deny, with an effrontery unparalleled, established and incontestable facts. I can only hope, that the strength of the American people will soon be

so well confirmed by success that the darling wish of a vast number on this side of the water will fall to the ground - and the fallacy of a dissolution of the Union decided upon forever. A letter from Captain Cary at Maryland now, intimated to us that a ,u>great battle</u>, and a decisive one, was not far distant - and assured us at the same time of the efficiency of our army. So before this reaches you I hope the day will be ours: You no doubt have recent accounts of the loss of the G Eastern: but you will be glad to learn that it was not total: the great strength of the monster withstood the terrific shock it received in the storm - and it found after days of suffering to those on board safe harbour. This last disaster will I think effectively cure people of a desire to voyage

in so vast a ship. - I'm sure I would not like to trust myself in her.

Your [name?] is ere this I presume at Rome: where no doubt Cherie would like to be too - although I'm sure that you will find in Boston the right kind of society as well as surrest friendship. I have great faith you know in every thing 'stamped Boston'. - Your Grandma was to have accompanied me to the theatre on Monday but I received a note from her, urging sickness as an excuse, so I was deprived of the pleasure; she is not very strong - yet I hope will grow better.

I must wait until Spring before visiting the Continent - where I long with all my soul to


wander : we will be joined there by friends of mine - the Grahams of New York; they are now in Edinbourg - where Mrs Graham was sent for her health to be under the care of Prof Simpson : if you don't recover shortly you must come and test his skills : although I doubt, darling if you care for the present to be cured, as my friend hopes to be. - Mrs Tilton of Cambridge is so solicitous in her letters to me - for a 'Carte' of myself that after a great deal of deliberation and many times viewing myself in the glass - I have concluded that I may be taken en négligé and in my next you shall have one. I will close now - having prolonged this to a tedious length - and I fancy

your impatient for the end.

Give my kind regards to Mr Cushman - in which Mr Booth joins - with the same to your little self. Please give my best love to [Miss Smith?] - tell her she shall hear from me before the event: Write me soon darling and believe me very sincerely and

affectionately yours

Mary Booth

Best love to Lucy

I have written her



Percent Completed




Original Format

paper and ink
10 p
21 x 13 cm


Booth, Mary Devlin, “Mary Devlin Booth to Emma Cushman,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed July 15, 2020,