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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 art 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, as 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.