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Lincoln and his cane?
08-09-2017, 11:25 AM
Post: #31
RE: Lincoln and his cane?
(08-08-2017 06:29 AM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  Thanks David - I now remember this and that I found it a remarkable statement. A self-carved stick with hidden practical features would match a boy (of every age), and what an un-fashy fashion association -
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/4...-merrilies

In the way that the story was told, I had assumed that Meg Merrilies was an actress that President Lincoln had seen in a play and not a subject of poetry by John Keats. So, I did a bit more research and found out that the poem was in a letter that Keats wrote to his sister.

Letter To Fanny Keats (his sister)

I will endeavour to get rid of my prejudices and tell you fairly about the Scotch.

[Dumfries, July 2nd, 1818.]

In Devonshire they say, “Well, where be ye going?” Here it is, “How is it wi’ yoursel?” A man on the Coach said the horses took a Hellish heap o’ drivin’; the same fellow pointed out Burns’s Tomb with a deal of life—“There de ye see it, amang the trees—white, wi’ a roond tap?”

Yesterday was an immense Horse-fair at Dumfries, so that we met numbers of men and women on the road, the women nearly all barefoot, with their shoes and clean stockings in hand, ready to put on and look smart in the Towns. There are plenty of wretched cottages whose smoke has no outlet but by the door. We have now begun upon Whisky, called here Whuskey,—very smart stuff it is. Mixed like our liquors, with sugar and water, ’tis called toddy; very pretty drink, and much praised by Burns.

Yesterday we visited Burns’s Tomb and this morning the fine Ruins of Lincluden.

[Auchencairn, same day, July 2.]

I had done thus far when my coat came back fortified at all points—so as we lose no time we set forth again through Galloway—all very pleasant and pretty with no fatigue when one is used to it—We are in the midst of Meg Merrilies’s country of whom I suppose you have heard.

Old Meg she was a Gipsy,
And liv’d upon the Moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
And her house was out of doors.

If you like these sort of Ballads I will now and then scribble one for you—if I send any to Tom I’ll tell him to send them to you.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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08-11-2017, 10:32 PM (This post was last modified: 08-11-2017 10:52 PM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #32
RE: Lincoln and his cane?
Has anyone else noticed that the last portion of Carpenter's story is illogical?

"Have you ever noticed how a stick in one's hand will change his appearance? Old women and witches wouldn't look so without sticks. Meg Merrilies understands that." (Six Months at the White House," F.B. Carpenter, 1879, page 256.)

I believe that Carpenter should have written: "The great actress Charlotte Cushman, playing the role of Meg Merrilies, understands that."

Note: The attached file is a Brady photograph of Charlotte Cushman in the role of Meg Merrilies. See Wikipedia - Charlotte Cushman - for a larger image.


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"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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08-13-2017, 12:57 PM
Post: #33
RE: Lincoln and his cane?
My previous post brings up an important point about the accuracy of historical quotations and stories relating to Lincoln. How do we know how accurate these quotations and stories are? This question applies even to honest and well-meaning sources of the time such as I consider F.B. Carpenter to be.

The John Keats' ballad to which Eva Elisabeth provided a hyperlink makes no mention of a stick being used by Meg Merrilies. This was a stage prop (as shown by the Brady photograph) used by one of the great actresses of Lincoln's time, Charlotte Cushman.

And, why, you may ask, do I believe specifically that the actress in question was Charlotte Cushman?

The source authority that I cite is Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book "Team of Rivals" at pages 610-611: "Seward and Miss Cushman had met in the 1850's and become great friends. When ever she was in Washington, she stayed at the Seward home. . . . Fred Seward recalled that Lincoln made his way to their house almost every night while Miss Cushman visited. Seward had introduced Cushman to the president in the summer of 1861."

I could not find a specific reference as to when President Lincoln saw her perform in the role but obviously the Brady photograph does prove that she did play this role in Washington DC.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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08-13-2017, 02:49 PM
Post: #34
RE: Lincoln and his cane?
(08-13-2017 12:57 PM)David Lockmiller Wrote:  I could not find a specific reference as to when President Lincoln saw her perform in the role but obviously the Brady photograph does prove that she did play this role in Washington DC.

David, I tried to find that Abraham Lincoln saw Charlotte Cushman in her most famous role as Meg Merrilies (in Guy Mannering), but so far I am drawing a blank. I checked Tom Bogar's American Presidents Attend the Theatre and found that President Grant saw her in this role on March 7, 1873, at Wall's Opera House in Washington. As far as I can tell, Lincoln saw Cushman at Grover's Theatre in a performance of Macbeth on October 17, 1863. So far I have not been able to find that he ever saw her as Meg Merrilies. As you correctly say, she did perform in this role in Washington (probably many times), but I cannot find that Lincoln ever was in attendance to see her in that particular role.
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08-26-2017, 01:11 PM
Post: #35
RE: Lincoln and his cane?
(08-13-2017 02:49 PM)RJNorton Wrote:  
(08-13-2017 12:57 PM)David Lockmiller Wrote:  I could not find a specific reference as to when President Lincoln saw her perform in the role but obviously the Brady photograph does prove that she did play this role in Washington DC.

David, I tried to find that Abraham Lincoln saw Charlotte Cushman in her most famous role as Meg Merrilies (in Guy Mannering), but so far I am drawing a blank. I checked Tom Bogar's American Presidents Attend the Theatre and found that President Grant saw her in this role on March 7, 1873, at Wall's Opera House in Washington. As far as I can tell, Lincoln saw Cushman at Grover's Theatre in a performance of Macbeth on October 17, 1863. So far I have not been able to find that he ever saw her as Meg Merrilies. As you correctly say, she did perform in this role in Washington (probably many times), but I cannot find that Lincoln ever was in attendance to see her in that particular role.

With Seward, Charlotte Cushman rode out the afternoon of July 1, 1861 to Arlington Heights to see the raw entrenchments and military camps springing up in a circle around Washington. Fifty thousand volunteers were already stationed in white tents in and about the city, and in the humidity the dust from marching feet, galloping cavalry, and rumbling wagons hung like a pall. To Seward she mentioned that Algernon Chase’s son, Lewis, hoped to obtain an appointment to the Military Academy. Would Seward help? The Secretary’s reply took her a little aback, but by the time they had returned to Lafayette Square, she gratefully accepted his offer. He would help her place her request where it would do the most good.

Together, they walked across the Square, through the iron gates, and entered the guarded white portals of the building where lamps burned throughout the night. Charlotte had seen the President on his rides about Washington, tall and sober in his dusty black suit and black stovepipe hat, his cavalry guard riding beside him with drawn sabres held upright. But only when Seward ushered her into Lincoln’s second-floor office at the White House did the new President become real.

The lanky figure that rose slowly to greet her was not prepossessing. There was an obvious backwoods clumsiness about the man, a deep lack of polish. But Charlotte quickly sensed in Lincoln a warmth and sentiment that made her forget everything else. Standing beside the flag in front of his marble fireplace, tilting back in this black leather chair, Lincoln drawled is eager references to the theatre, especially Shakespeare, to plays he had seen recently when he had slipped unannounced into a box. Regrettably, he said, he had not yet seen Miss Cushman herself on stage, especially since Macbeth was his favorite play. Smiling, pointing a bony finger at her, Lincoln hoped she would not retire – and mean it – before he could see her Lady Macbeth.

Charlotte thanked him. She had only slowly discovered, she confessed—that by bitter experience—that a workhorse was nervous without his harness, that an actor was lost with nothing to do. He saw a gentle envy play momentarily across Lincoln’s face, yet something in his somber manner, his character, and quick wit made her suddenly happier about this new president.

Passing again through the gates, she still felt mixed emotions, she told Seward, about this brooding man who had gravely shaken her hand, yet a quality in him set him apart somehow from all other men she had known. Only the next week in Boston did she remember the point of her White House visit. “I was so completely taken up with him and his humour,” she wrote Seward, “that I forgot my mission and came away.”

Looking toward Rome, Charlotte answered her own heart’s dictates. . . . On the seventeenth of July, 1861, she headed home.

-- (“Bright Particular Star, The Life and Times of Charlotte Cushman,” by Joseph Leach, 1970, pages 310-312.)

So, according to Lincoln’s own words, he had not yet seen the great actress Charlotte Cushman on stage as of July, 1861, but he had had the personal opportunity to express his desire to see her one day in her famous Shakespearean role of Lady Macbeth.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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10-29-2017, 09:58 AM
Post: #36
RE: Lincoln and his cane?
(08-26-2017 01:11 PM)David Lockmiller Wrote:  The lanky figure that rose slowly to greet [Charlotte Cushman] was not prepossessing. There was an obvious backwoods clumsiness about the man, a deep lack of polish. But Charlotte quickly sensed in Lincoln a warmth and sentiment that made her forget everything else. Standing beside the flag in front of his marble fireplace, tilting back in this black leather chair, Lincoln drawled his eager references to the theatre, especially Shakespeare, to plays he had seen recently when he had slipped unannounced into a box. Regrettably, he said, he had not yet seen Miss Cushman herself on stage, especially since Macbeth was his favorite play. Smiling, pointing a bony finger at her, Lincoln hoped she would not retire – and mean it – before he could see her Lady Macbeth.

Charlotte thanked him.

[In 1863], a break in Charlotte's empty routine [in Rome, Italy] came in a letter from Henry W. Bellows, director of the American Sanitary Commission, the country's civilian effort to assure its fighting men that American homes and hearths still cared about them. Volunteer women all over the Union were knitting sweaters, folding bandages, serving as nurses -- yet the Commission itself need funds. Would Miss Cushman come home to act in benefits in the major cities?

By June 6, she and Sallie Mercer, her dresser assistant and a free woman of color, were on the high seas. To limit her temptations to make a full acting tour, she had packed costumes for only two roles, Lady Macbeth and Meg.

For the benefit in Washington, D.C., on October 17, Charlotte could have used either of Washington's two theaters, Leonard Grover's lavish new National on Pennsylvania Avenue or John Ford's older house on Tenth near F Street. Both managers begged her, but she selected the National because of its Shakespeare company -- and because rumor held that Ford, willy-nilly, catered to Rebel sympathizers.

Grover spared no cost in presenting the star whom his ads hailed "the most gifted actress of the present age." He brought in J.W. Wallack, Jr., for Macbeth and E.L. Davenport for Macduff. The night's program was printed in red ink on a lacy sheaf of white satin edged in ribbon.

At her entrance, Charlotte found the theater jammed. To her left, in the President's flag-draped box, she saw Lincoln sitting grave and stiff in his chair. With him sat his wife, his young son Tad, and his private secretary, William Stoddard. In the box to her right, she saw Seward, Fanny, Emma Crow (Charlotte's aunt), and Frederick Seward, all cheering. Every part of the house was crowded with dignitaries.

Watching Charlotte's Lady Macbeth glower and swoop and wander in her sleep, Emma Crow sensed the joy of a veteran newly returned to battle. Auntie's power on stage was mainly a matter of voice. With it she could cast any spell, move any crowd to feel whatever she wished. One never missed a whisper, however far back he might be sitting.

At the end of the play, when Charlotte came through the curtains for her bow, a smiling Lincoln and his family stood cheering, and the women in Seward's box tossed her an elegant bouquet. The night had brought the Sanitary Fund over $2,000.

(Source: Bright Particular Star, The Life & Times of Charlotte Cushman, pages 320-24)

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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