Procter's literary career began when she was a teenager; her poems were primarily published in Charles Dickens's periodicals Household Words and All the Year Round and later published in book form. Her charity work and her conversion to Roman Catholicism appear to have strongly influenced her poetry, which deals most commonly with such subjects as homelessness, poverty, and fallen women.
Procter was the favourite poet of Queen Victoria. Her poetry went through numerous editions in the 19th century; Coventry Patmore called her the most popular poet of the day, after Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Her poems were set to music and made into hymns, and were published in the United States and Germany as well as in England. Nonetheless, by the early 20th century her reputation had diminished, and few modern critics have given her work attention. Those who have, however, argue that Procter's work is significant, in part for what it reveals about how Victorian women expressed otherwise repressed feelings.
Adelaide Anne Procter was born at 25 Bedford Square in the Bloomsbury district of London, on 30 October 1825 to the poet Bryan Waller Procter and his wife Anne (née Skepper). The family had strong literary ties: novelist Elizabeth Gaskell enjoyed her visits to the Procter household, and Procter's father was friends with poet Leigh Hunt, essayist Charles Lamb, and novelist Charles Dickens, as well as being acquainted with poet William Wordsworth and critic William Hazlitt. Family friend Bessie Rayner Belloc wrote in 1895 that "everybody of any literary pretension whatever seemed to flow in and out of the house. The Kembles, the Macreadys, the Rossettis, the Dickens [sic], the Thackerays, never seemed to be exactly visitors, but to belong to the place." Author and actress Fanny Kemble wrote that young Procter "looks like a poet's child, and a poet ... [with] a preter-naturally [sic] thoughtful, mournful expression for such a little child".
Dickens spoke highly of Procter's quick intelligence. By his account, the young Procter mastered without difficulty the subjects to which she turned her attention:
When she was quite a young child, she learnt with facility several of the problems of Euclid. As she grew older, she acquired the French, Italian, and German languages ... piano-forte ... [and] drawing. But, as soon as she had completely vanquished the difficulties of any one branch of study, it was her way to lose interest in it, and pass to another.A voracious reader, Procter was largely self-taught, though she studied at Queen's College in Harley Street in 1850. The college had been founded in 1848 by Frederick Maurice, a Christian Socialist; the faculty included novelist Charles Kingsley, composer John Hullah, and writer Henry Morley.
Procter showed a love of poetry from an early age, carrying with her while still a young child a "tiny album ... into which her favourite passages were copied for her by her mother's hand before she herself could write ... as another little girl might have carried a doll". Procter published her first poem while still a teenager; the poem, "Ministering Angels", appeared in Heath's Book of Beauty in 1843. In 1853 she submitted work to Dickens's Household Words under the name "Mary Berwick", wishing that her work be judged on its own merits rather than in relation to Dickens's friendship with her father; Dickens did not learn "Berwick's" identity till the following year. The poem's publication began Proctor's long association with Dickens's periodicals; in all, Procter published 73 poems in Household Words and 7 poems in All the Year Round, most of which were collected into her first two volumes of poetry, both entitled Legends and Lyrics. She was also published in Good Words and Cornhill. As well as writing poetry, Procter was the editor of the journal Victoria Regia, which became the showpiece of the Victoria Press, "an explicitly feminist publishing venture".
In 1851, Procter converted to Roman Catholicism. Following her conversion, Procter became extremely active in several charitable and feminist causes. She became a member of the Langham Place Group, which set out to improve conditions for women, and was friends with feminists Bessie Rayner Parkes (later Bessie Rayner Belloc) and Barbara Leigh Smith, later Barbara Bodichon. Procter helped found the English Woman's Journal in 1858 and, in 1859, the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women, both of which focused on expanding women's economic and employment opportunities. Though on paper Proctor was merely one member among many, fellow-member Jessie Boucherett considered her to be the "animating spirit" of the Society. Her third volume of poetry, A Chaplet of Verses (1861), was published for the benefit of a Catholic Night Refuge for Women and Children that had been founded in 1860 at Providence Row in East London.
Procter became engaged in 1858, according to a letter that her friend William Makepeace Thackeray wrote to his daughters that year. The identity of Procter's fiancé remains unknown, and the proposed marriage never took place. According to her German biographer Ferdinand Janku, the engagement seems to have lasted several years before being broken off by Procter's fiancé. Critic Gill Gregory suggests that Procter may have been a lesbian and in love with Matilda Hays, a fellow member of the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women; other critics have called Procter's relationship with Hays "emotionally intense." Procter's first volume of poetry, Legends and Lyrics (1858) was dedicated to Hays and that same year Procter wrote a poem titled "To M.M.H." in which Procter "expresses love for Hays ... [Hays was a] novelist and translator of George Sand and a controversial figure ... [who] dressed in men's clothes and had lived with the sculptor Harriet Hosmer in Rome earlier in the 1850s." While several men showed interest in her, Procter never married.
Procter fell ill in 1862; Dickens and others have suggested that her illness was due to her extensive charity work, which "appears to have unduly taxed her strength". An attempt to improve her health by taking a cure at Malvern failed. On 3 February 1864, Procter died of tuberculosis, having been bed-ridden for almost a year. Her death was described in the press as a "national calamity". Procter was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Charlotte Saunders Cushman (July 23, 1816 – February 18, 1876) was an American stage actress. (P: ©Thomas Sully (1783- 1872)/ Library Company of Philadelphia. Bequest of Anne Hampton Brewster, 1892. Charlotte Saunders Cushman, “of the Walnut Street Theater,” 1843 (©4))
She was a descendant in the eighth generation from Pilgrim Robert Cushman. Robert Cushman brought the family name to the United States on the Mayflower as a leader and great advocate for emigration to America. He became a preacher in the colonies, and was known to have given the first sermon in America. Her father, Elkanah, rose from poverty to be a successful West Indian merchant, but lost his fortune, and died, leaving his family in straitened circumstances. Charlotte was a remarkably bright, sportive child, excelling her schoolmates and developing a voice of remarkable compass and richness, with a full contralto register. Two friends of her father, one of them John Mackay (Mackey?), in whose piano factory Jonas Chickering was then foreman, provided her with the best musical instruction. Cushman was forced to take on serious responsibilities at a very young age. At the age of thirteen, her father underwent serious financial troubles and shortly after died, leaving his family with nearly nothing. This caused Charlotte to find her way to bring income to her family. Though Cushman was an incredibly great student and achieved much academically, she left school to pursue a career in the opera.
When Mrs. Joseph Wood visited Boston in 1834, Capt. Mackay introduced Cushman, who sang with her in two of her concerts. Through Mrs. Wood's influence she became a pupil of James G. Maeder, a lady's musical director, and under his instruction made her first appearance in opera in the Tremont Theatre as the Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro with great success, and her second as Lucy Bertram in Guy Mannering. She went with his company to New Orleans, where her voice, which had been strained by the soprano parts assigned to her, suddenly failed. Seeking the counsel of James H. Caldwell, manager of the principal theatre of New Orleans, she was advised by him and by Barton, the tragedian, to become an actress, and given the part of Lady Macbeth to study, in which she made her appearance with complete success in 1835.
Charlotte Saunders Cushman and Miss Matilda Hays, Artist: Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808–1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire) Date: ca. 1850 Medium: Daguerreotype Dimensions:21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.) Credit Line: Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937 (Holman's Print Shop, Boston), Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charlotte Saunders Cushman was an American stage actress. In 1848, Cushman met journalist, writer and part-time actress Matilda Hays. In 1854, Hays left Cushman for lesbian sculptor Harriet Hosmer. Hays eventually returned to live with Cushman, but by late 1857, Cushman was secretly involved with sculptor Emma Stebbins. Stebbins best-known work is the Angel of the Waters (1873), also known as Bethesda Fountain, located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York.
After a successful season in New Orleans, she returned to New York City under contract with the Bowery Theatre. She scored a success to rave reviews in Albany, New York, again playing Lady Macbeth.
By 1839, her younger sister Susan Webb Cushman became an actress, and at the age of 14 had married Nelson Merriman. Her husband abandoned her when she was pregnant and Charlotte cared for her sister. The two sisters became famous for playing Romeo and Juliet together, with Charlotte playing Romeo and Susan playing Juliet.
The Cushman sisters, Charlotte and Susan, as Romeo and Juliet in 1846
In 1843, Cushman became involved romantically with Rosalie Sully, a daughter of artist Thomas Sully. By 1844, the romance had ended. She began travelling abroad acting in theater, and Sully died shortly thereafter.
Thomas Sully, Blanche and Rosalie Sully, 1842
In 1848, Cushman met journalist, writer and part time actress Matilda Hays. The two women became close friends, and after a short amount of time and some correspondence, they became involved in a lesbian affair. For the next ten years the two would be together almost entirely. They became known for dressing alike, and in Europe were publicly known as a couple.
In 1849, Cushman returned to the United States and by 1852 had decided to retire from the stage. She took up residence with Hays in Rome, Italy. They began living in an American expatriate community there, made up mostly of many lesbian artists and sculptors of the time. Cushman used her notoriety to promote the works of African American/Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, who had become a close friend, and whom Cushman greatly admired.
In 1854, Hays left Cushman for lesbian sculptor Harriet Hosmer, which launched a series of jealous interactions between the three women. Hays eventually returned to live with Cushman, but the tensions between her and Cushman would never be repaired. (Picture: Harriet Hosmer, Library of Congress)
By late 1857, Cushman was secretly involved with lesbian sculptor Emma Stebbins. One night while Cushman was writing a note, Hays walked in on her. Suspecting that the note was to Stebbins, Hays demanded to see it. Although Cushman maintained that the note was not to Stebbins, she refused to show it to Hays. The altercation that followed was implosive. Hays became enraged, and began chasing Cushman around the house pounding her at every opportunity with her fists. The relationship ended immediately, and Hays moved out. She then sued Cushman stating in her claim that she had sacrificed her own career to support Cushman's career, and therefore was due a certain payment. Cushman paid her an unknown sum, and the two women parted company forever.
Emma Stebbins moved in with Cushman shortly after the break-up. Cushman traveled to America for a short tour a couple of months later. Although Cushman maintained that she was devoted to Stebbins, she became involved with another woman not long after her relationship with Stebbins began. Cushman met an 18 year old actress, Emma Crow, the daughter of Wayman Crow, and fell for her. The two women began an affair, and Cushman often called her "my little lover".
Before her departure to Italy, Cushman offered a farewell performance at the Washington Theater in the title role of Hamlet. The poster advertising her appearance describes her as "a lady universally acknowledged as the greatest living tragic actress".
When Cushman returned to Italy, Crow followed. Not long after arriving in Italy, Crow attracted the attention of Cushman's nephew, Ned Cushman. In April 1861, Ned Cushman and Emma Crow married.
In 1860 she again acted in New York, and appeared on several occasions for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission. During the last six year's of her life Cushman developed a remarkable ability as a dramatic reader, giving scenes from Shakespeare, ballad poetry, dialect poems, and humorous pieces with a success not less decided than her earlier dramatic triumphs. In 1871, after a residence in Europe, she resumed her career in the United States as a reader, besides fulfilling several dramatic engagements.
Her farewell appearance was announced at least seven times in as many different years. Her final performance in New York was at Booth's theatre, where she played the part of Lady Macbeth. She took a similar demonstrative farewell in the same character in Philadelphia and other cities, and her career closed in Boston, at the Globe Theatre, on 15 May 1875. After a reading-tour to Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse, she retired with a large fortune to her villa at Newport, where she was seized with her final illness, and in October went to Boston and placed herself under medical treatment.
In 1869, Cushman underwent treatment for breast cancer. Stebbins ignored her own sculpting career and devoted all of her time to caring for Cushman.
Charlotte Cushman died of pneumonia in her hotel room on the third floor at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston in 1876, aged 59, and was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1915 she was elected to the New York University Hall of Fame.
She made England her home for several years, becoming friends with the author Geraldine Jewsbury, who is said to have based a character on Cushman in her 1848 novel The Half Sisters.
Burial: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Emma Stebbins (1 September 1815 — 25 October 1882) was among the first notable American woman sculptors. (Picture: Emma Stebbins (1815 - 1882 ), US Sculptor and lesbian pioneer; Stebbins best known work is the Angel of the Waters (1873), also known as Bethesda Fountain, located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York)
Stebbins was born and died in New York City. Raised in a wealthy New York family, she was encouraged by her family in her pursuit of art from an early age. In 1857, sponsored by her brother Col. Henry G. Stebbins, head of the New York Stock Exchange, she moved to Rome where she moved in with sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who had established herself there in 1852. She studied under John Gibson an English neoclassicist working there at that time. In Rome she fell in love with actress Charlotte Saunders Cushman, and quickly became involved in the bohemian and feminist lesbian lifestyle, which was more tolerated there than it would have been back in New York.
Cushman was confident, strong, and charismatic, and recently recovering from a break up following a ten-year relationship with the actress Matilda Hays. Cushman and Stebbins began traveling together, immediately taking a trip to Naples. Upon their return, they began spending time in a circle that included African American/Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, many celebrities, and fellow lesbians that included Harriet Hosmer. In this environment, the women flourished without regard for showing outward affection for one another.
Bethesda Fountain by Elisa Rolle, October 2012
Emma Stebbins was among the first notable American woman sculptors. Stebbins best known work is the Bethesda Fountain, located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York. In 1857 she moved to Rome and fell in love with actress Charlotte Saunders Cushman. In 1869, Cushman was treated for breast cancer. Stebbins devoted all her time during that ordeal to nursing her lover, ignoring her work during the next two years. Cushman died of pneumonia in 1876. Stebbins died in New York in 1882.
The Bethesda fountain, unveiled in 1873, is topped by a sculpture called “Angel of the Waters,” by Emma Stebbins. She was the first woman commissioned to create art in a city park.
One of Stebbins' early commissions was a portrait bust of Cushman between 1859-1860. In 1869, Cushman was treated for breast cancer. Stebbins devoted all her time during that ordeal to nursing her lover, ignoring her work during the next two years. The following year, the couple returned to the United States. Cushman died of pneumonia in 1876 at the age of 59. Following the death of Cushman, Stebbins never produced another sculpture. She released the correspondence, Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memories of Her Life in 1878. Stebbins died in New York in 1882, at the age of 67.
Stebbins best known work is the Angel of the Waters (1873), also known as Bethesda Fountain, located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York. According to Central Park historian Sara Cedar Miller, Stebbins received the commission for the sculpture as a result of influence from her brother Henry, who at the time was president of the Central Park Board of Commissioners. Henry was proud of his sister's talent and hoped to have many examples of her art in Central Park.
'Angel of the Waters,' created to celebrate the clean healthful water from New York's Croton Aqueduct, completed in 1842, with an oblique reference to the biblical "healing waters of Bethesda." The fountain complex is widely considered to be one of the great works of nineteenth century American sculpture.
Her bronze statue of educator Horace Mann was installed outside the State House in Boston in 1865.
Emma Stebbins and her brother Henry are buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, New York.
Matilda Mary Hays (8 September 1820 – 3 July 1897) was a 19th-century English writer, journalist and part-time actress. With Elizabeth Ashurt, Hays translated several of George Sand's works into English. She co-founded the English Woman's Journal. Her love interests included the actress Charlotte Saunders Cushman, with whom she had a 10-year relationship, and the poet Adelaide Anne Procter.
Matilda Hays was born in St Pancras London on 8 September 1820, the daughter of corn merchant John Hays (1768–1862) and his wife Elizabeth. Hays came from a long line of Thames lightermen. Hays was identified as a Creole or half Creole; if this is so, at most she can only have been half Creole through her mother; her father's origins are Londoners going back at least three generations. She wrote articles for periodicals, often regarding women's issues, starting about 1838. The periodicals included The Mirror and Ainsworth's Magazine. (P: Adelaide Anne Procter, Undated portrait by Emma Gaggiotti Richards)
Hays, influenced by George Sand, was a journalist and novelist who was "determined to use her writing to improve the condition of women." In her novel Helen Stanley, Hays wrote that until "Women teach their daughters to respect themselves,... to work for their daily bread, rather than prostitute their persons and hearts" in marriages, women would not have secure financial and social futures.
At a period in time when George Sand's free-love and independent lifestyle was quite unusual for a 19th-century woman, Hays and her friend, Elizabeth Ashurst were "broad-minded" and intrigued by the political and social messages addressed in Sand's books. Hays had received support and encouragement from William Charles Macready and George Henry Lewes to translate Sand's novels into English. Both wrote to Sands encouraging the arrangement and a friend of Hays, chaplain Edmund Larken provided funding for the enterprise.
The initial translations of Sand's works were done beginning in 1847 by Hays, Ashurst and, Larken. La Derniere Aldini, the first volume, was translated by Hays. Ashurst translated Les Maitres mosaistes and it was published in 1844. Mazzini wrote a preface for Ashurt's translation of Lettres d'un voyageur. Sand, at Mazzini's urging, invited Ashurt to her home in Nohant. Olive Class reported that "Sand was unsettled by the superficial display of feminist rebellion exhibited by her as yet still unmarried disciple and characterized her as 'a prude without modesty.'"
George Henry Lewes suggested to Hays that the translation to the English language also toned down some of the rhetoric with an English cultural sensibility. Mazzini, aware of Lewes suggestion to Hays, wrote to Sands, referring to Hays: "My friends and I consider it unthinkable that you would be willing to give such license to someone whose ideas are unknown to you."
Four volumes of Sand's work were translated by Hays and Amhert and published, but they floundered. In attempting to tone down Sand's ideas, the translated books were "stripped it of its power," according to Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian revolutionary and friend of George Sand. The translations were "a smuggler's attempt to conceal the real nature of his infamous cargo," reported the Quarterly Review.
Both Hays and Amherst also had poor financial rewards, due to the arrangement that they had made with a "bad business publisher." Amherst and Hays worked to find publishers for their translated and edited versions of Sands' work.
Larken's work with Hays and Amhurst came to an end in 1847.
Hays translation of Fadette was published in 1851, separate from Ashurst.
In 1847 Hays pursued creation of a Woman's journal, patterned after the American Godey's Lady's Book, to offer a vehicle for women writers and to provide a platform for discourse about women's rights, including better educational and occupational opportunities. Her goal was to afford "free discussion of a subject for which at that time it was impossible to obtain a hearing through ordinary channels of the Press." Charlotte Cushman and her friend, Mary Howitt, helped her explore opportunities to have the journal founded, but realized it was not quite the time to launch the journal and decided to focus her energy on advocacy for the present.
Shortly after Hay's unsuccessful attempt, poetess Eliza Cook started a self-named journal and Hays was a journalistic contributor to the magazine. The journal was "a compendium of essays, poetry, reviews, and fiction that particularly addressed issues such as women's education, dress reform, temperance, and the plight of the working class and domestic servants.
Hays was one of the co-founders and editor of the English Woman's Journal in 1858. It was in 1858 founded by Barbara Bodichon and Bessie Rayner Parkes, with others, Bodichon being the major shareholder.
The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women and the Victoria Press, which Hays helped found, met at the Langham Places offices of the journal. She left the journal by 1864, reputedly because of her "difficult temperament." She had often disagreed with Parkes, her co-editor, about the journal's direction.
In 1848 there was a convergence of financial need, the "small fortune" she received was lost due to her father's depleted financial situation, and Charlotte's sister was leaving the stage, which created an acting opportunities. Charlotte's sister Susan Webb Cushman who played Juliet to Charlotte's Romeo left the stage to marry a successful Liverpool scientist, James Sheridan Muspratt.
The women practiced together at the Yorkshire estate of the Duke of Devonshire for the 6 October 1848 opening in Bath. Hays acted with Cushman for just a few months, as Cushman increasingly became a star.
She had close personal relationships with Charlotte Saunders Cushman, Adelaide Anne Procter and Harriet Hosmer.
Hays and Charlotte Saunders Cushman met after 1846, but by 1848. Soon after, they began a lesbian affair and in Europe were publically known as a couple. They had a relationship for nearly 10 years and were known for dressing alike. Elizabeth Barret Browning has commented, "I understand that she (Cushman) and Miss Hays have made vows of celibacy and of eternal attachment to each other -- they live together, dress alike,... it is a female marriage." They wore tailored shirts and jackets and Matilda was often referred to by their friends as Mathew or Max.
In 1852 Cushman retired from the stage and joined Hays in Rome, Italy, where the lived in an American expatriate community, made up mostly of lesbian artists and sculptors. In 1854, Hays left Cushman for lesbian sculptor Harriet Hosmer, which launched a series of jealous interactions among the three women. Hays eventually returned to live with Cushman, but the tensions between her and Cushman would never be repaired. By late 1857, Cushman was secretly involved with lesbian sculptor Emma Stebbins. One night while Cushman was writing a note, Hays walked in, suspected that the note was to Stebbins, and demanded to see it. Cushman refused and Hays became mad and chased her round the house, hitting her with her fists. The relationship ended and Hays sued Cushman, claiming that she sacrificed her career to support Cushman's career. Cushman made a payment to Hays and their relationship ended.
Hays was believed to have had a love interest in Adelaide Anne Proctor, who dedicated Legends and Lyrics to her with:
Our tokens of love are for the most part barbarous, Cold and lifeless, because they do not represent our life. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Therefore let the farmer give his corn; the miner, a gem; a sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; and the poet, his poem. --EmersonShe also wrote a love poem for Hays entitled, A Retrospect. Hays oversaw the tending of Procter's grave after her death and mourned her passing throughout her later years.
Hays was a companion to Lady Monson in her later year, and died in Liverpool at 15 Sefton Drive in Toxteth Park, on 3 July 1897. Although Adelaide Procter had died 30 years before Hays, the Liverpool Echo obituary stated that she had been "the dear friend of Adelaide Procter, gone before." It did not mention her literary accomplishments.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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