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Farewell Speech

November 7, 1874 — Farewell tour, after her appearance as Lady Macbeth, Booth’s Theatre, New York City


“Beggar that I am, — I am even poor in thanks,” but I thank you! Gentlemen, the heart has no speech; its only language is a tear or a pressure of the hand, and words very feebly convey or interpret its emotions. Yet I would beg you to believe that in the three little words I now speak — “I thank you” — there are heart-depths which I should fail to express better though I should use a thousand other words. I thank you, gentlemen, for the great honor you have offered to me. I thank you not only for myself, but for my whole profession, to which, through and by me, you have paid this very graceful compliment.

If the few words I am about to say savor of egotism or vainglory, you will, I am sure, pardon me, inasmuch as I am here only to speak of myself! You would seem to compliment me upon an honorable life. As I look back upon that life it seems to me that it would have been absolutely impossible for me to have led any other. In this I have, perhaps, been mercifully helped more than are many of my more beautiful sisters in art. I was, by a press of circumstances, thrown at an early age into a profession for which I had received no special education or schooling, but I had already though so young, been brought face to face with necessity. I found life sadly real and intensely earnest; and in my ignorance of other ways of study, I resolved to take therefrom my text and my watchword; to be thoroughly in earnest, intensely in earnest, in all my thoughts and in all my actions, whether in my profession or out of it, because my one single idea. And I honestly believe herein lies the secret of my success in life. I do not believe that any great success in any cart can be achieved without it!

I say this to the beginners in my profession; and I am sure all the associates in my art, who have honored me with their presence on this occasion, will indorse what I say in this. Art is an absolute mistress; she will not be coquetted with or slighted; she requires the most entire self-devotion, and she repays with grand triumphs!

To you, Gentlemen of the Arcadian Club, and to all who have united to do me honor; to the younger poet who has enthroned me in his verse, and to the older poet who brings the prestige of his name and fame to add a glory to the crown he offers me; to the managers of this theatre, who have so liberally met all my wishes and requirements during this engagement, s well as to the members of the company who have so cheerfully seconded my efforts; and last, not least, to the members of my profession who have so graciously added by their presence to the happiness of this occasion, — I return my cordial thanks.

To my public, — what shall I say? From the bottom of my heart I thank you, who have given me always consideration, encouragement, and patience; who have been ever my support, my comfort, my main help! I do not now say farewell to you in the usual sense of the word. In making my final representations upon the mimic scene, in the various cities of the country, I have reserved to myself the right of meeting you again — where you have made me believe that I give you the pleasure, which I receive myself at the same time — at the reading desk. To you, then, I say, may you fare well, and may I fare well, until at no distant day we meet again there. Meanwhile, good, kind friends, good-night! and God be with you.



Source: Charlotte Cushman, by Clara Erskine Clement (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company) 1882, pp. 120-122.