Frances Anne "Fanny" Kemble (27 November 1809 – 15 January 1893) was a notable British actress from a theatre family in the early and mid-nineteenth century. She was also a well-known and popular writer, whose published works included plays, poetry, eleven volumes of memoirs, travel writing and works about the theatre. In 1834 she married an American, Pierce Mease Butler, heir to cotton, tobacco and rice plantations on the Sea Islands of Georgia, and to the hundreds of slaves who worked them.
They spent the winter of 1838–39 at the plantations, and Kemble kept a diary of her observations. She returned to the theatre after their separation in 1847 and toured major U.S. cities. Although her memoir circulated in abolitionist circles, Kemble waited until 1863, during the American Civil War, to publish her anti-slavery Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. It has become her best-known work in the United States, although she published several other volumes of journals.
In 1877 Kemble returned to England with her second daughter and son-in-law. She lived in London and was active in society, befriending the writer Henry James. In 2000 Harvard University Press published an edited compilation of her journals.
Youth and acting career 
A member of the famous Kemble theatrical family, Fanny was the eldest daughter of the actor Charles Kemble and his Viennese-born wife, the former Marie Therese De Camp. She was a niece of the noted tragedienne Sarah Siddons and of the famous actor John Philip Kemble. Her younger sister was the opera singer Adelaide Kemble. Fanny was born in London and educated chiefly in France.
On 26 October 1829, at the age of 20, Fanny Kemble first appeared on the stage as Juliet in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at Covent Garden Theatre. Her attractive personality at once made her a great favorite, and her popularity enabled her father to recoup his losses as a manager. She played all the principal women's roles of the time, notably Shakespeare's Portia and Beatrice (Much Ado about Nothing), and Lady Teazle in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal. Perhaps her greatest role, although not as a lead, was that of Julia in James Sheridan Knowles' The Hunchback; he wrote it especially for her.
Marriage and daughters 
In 1832, Kemble accompanied her father on a theatrical tour of the U.S. While in Boston in 1833, she journeyed to Quincy to witness the revolutionary technology of the first commercial railroad in the United States. The Granite Railway was among many sights which she recorded in her journal.
In 1834, Kemble retired from the stage to marry an American, Pierce Mease Butler. Grandson of the Founding Father Pierce Butler, he had adopted his grandfather's surname in order to be made heir to part of his large fortune, founded on his wife's inheritance and invested in plantations for the commodities of cotton, tobacco and rice. By the time their two daughters, Sarah and Frances, were born, Butler had inherited three of his grandfather's Sea Island plantations and the several hundred slaves who worked them. His grandfather's plantation manager had been Roswell King, who had left to go into cotton manufacturing in the Georgia Piedmont. Major Butler had hired his son, Roswell King, Jr., as plantation manager in 1820, and he was kept on by the estate and Pierce (Mease) Butler.
Sea Islands 
Fanny Kemble and the children accompanied Butler to Georgia during the winter of 1838–39, where they lived at the plantations at Butler and St. Simons islands, in conditions primitive compared to their house in Philadelphia. They were first at Butler Island for three months, then at St. Simons. Kemble was even more shocked by the living and working conditions of the slaves and their treatment at the hands of the managers. She tried to improve their conditions and complained to her husband about slavery, and the mixed-race slave children attributed to King, Jr. When she left the plantations in the spring of 1839, she and her husband were experiencing marital tensions. Historian Malcolm Bell has said there was spousal infidelity by both Kemble and her husband. Butler threatened to deny Kemble access to their daughters if she published any of her observations about the plantations.
Separation and divorce 
In 1847, Kemble returned to the stage in the United States, as she needed to make a living following her separation. Following her father's example, she appeared with much success as a Shakespearean reader rather than acting in plays. She toured the United States from Massachusetts to Michigan, from Chicago to Washington.
The couple divorced in 1849; Butler kept custody of their two daughters. Fanny was not reunited with her daughters until each came of age at 21.
The fortune 
Her ex-husband squandered a fortune estimated at $700,000. He was saved from bankruptcy by his sale on 2–3 March 1859 of his 436 slaves at Ten Broeck racetrack outside Savannah, Georgia. It was the largest single slave auction in United States history and was covered by national reporters. Following the American Civil War, Butler tried to run his plantations with free labor, but he could not make a profit. He died of malaria in Georgia in 1867. Neither he nor Fanny remarried.
In the twenty-first century, historians Catherine Clinton and Deirdre David have studied Kemble's Journal and raised questions about her portrayal of the Roswell Kings, who managed Pierce Butler's plantations, and Kemble's own racial sentiments.
Clinton noted that in 1930, Julia King, granddaughter of Roswell King, Jr., stated that Kemble had falsified her account about him because he had spurned her affections. There is little evidence in Kemble's Journal that she encountered Roswell King, Jr., on more than a few occasions, and none that she actually knew his wife, née Julia Rebecca Maxwell, whom she nevertheless denounced as "a female fiend" because a slave named Sophy told her that Mrs. King ordered the flogging of Judy and Scylla "of whose children Mr. K[ing] was the father." In fact, Roswell King, Jr., was no longer in the employ of her husband when Pierce Butler and Kemble took up their short residency in Georgia, King having tendered his resignation since there had been "growing uneasiness. . . . born of the dispute between the Kings and the Butlers over fees the elder King thought were owed him as co-administrator of Major Butler's estate."
Before arriving in Georgia, Kemble had already concluded, “It is notorious, that almost every Southern planter has a family more or less numerous of illegitimate coloured children.” It is significant that her statements about Roswell King, Sr., and Roswell King, Jr., and their alleged status as the white fathers of enslaved mulatto children are based on what she was told by slaves who themselves were in some cases inclined to accept hearsay accounts about their paternity. The mulatto Renty, for example, "ashamed" to ask his mother about the identity of his father, believed he was the son of Roswell King, Jr., because "Mr. C[ouper]'s children told me so, and I 'spect they know it.' However, John Couper, the Scottish-born owner of a rival plantation adjacent to Pierce Butler's Hampton Point on St. Simon's Island, had had marked disagreements with the Roswell Kings in the past, and Kemble's partiality towards Couper is tellingly in evidence.
David noted Kemble's quotation of Roswell King, Jr.'s statement against slavery in her journal. He had published a long letter in The Southern Agriculturalist on 13 September 1828, in which he blamed overseers for many of the problems of cruelty. According to the letter, he supervised a relatively healthy diet for the slaves, which claim is at variance with what Kemble reported in her journal.
Some have noted passages in Kemble's writings describing the physical characteristics and behavior of blacks that suggest she harbored racist prejudices even though she represented herself as a supporter of abolitionism. David attempted to explain that Kemble's contradictory attitudes are not uncommon in English-language sources of the period, and in that context, her descriptions of blacks were "relatively mild and moderately conventional."
Later life 
In 1877, Kemble returned to London when her younger daughter Frances moved there permanently with her British husband and child. Kemble used her maiden name and lived there until her death.
During this period, Fanny Kemble was a prominent and popular figure in London society. She became a great friend of Henry James during her later years. His novel Washington Square (1880) was based upon a story Kemble had told him concerning one of her relatives.
Literary career 
Kemble wrote two plays, Francis the First (1832) and The Star of Seville (1837). She also published a volume of poems (1844).
Kemble published the first volume of her memoirs, entitled Journal, in 1835, shortly after her marriage to Butler. In 1863, she published another volume in both the United States and Great Britain. Entitled Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, it included her observations of slavery and life on her husband's Southern plantation in the winter of 1838–39.
Following her separation from Butler in the 1840s, Kemble traveled in Italy. She wrote a book based on this time, A Year of Consolation (1847), in two volumes.
In 1863 Kemble also published a volume of plays, including translations from Alexandre Dumas, père and Friedrich Schiller. These were followed by additional memoirs: Records of a Girlhood (1878); Records of Later Life (1882); Far Away and Long Ago (1889); and Further Records (1891). Her various volumes of reminiscences contain much valuable material illuminating the social and theatrical history of the period. She also published Notes on Some of Shakespeare's Plays (1882), based on her long experience in acting and reading his works.
Her older daughter, Sarah Butler, married Owen Jones Wister, an American doctor. They had one child, Owen Wister, who grew up to become a popular American novelist, authoring the 1902 western novel The Virginian.
Fanny's other daughter, Frances, met James Leigh in Georgia. He was a minister born in England. The couple married in 1871. Their one child, Alice Leigh, was born in 1874. They tried to operate Frances' father's plantations with free labor, but could not make a profit. Leaving Georgia in 1877, they moved permanently to England. Frances Butler Leigh defended her father in the continuing postwar dispute over slavery as an institution; based on her experience, Leigh published Ten Years on a Georgian Plantation since the War (1883), a rebuttal to her mother's account.
Alice Leigh was with her grandmother Fanny Kemble when she died in London in 1893.
Numerous books have been written about Fanny Kemble and her family, including Deirdre David's A Performed Life (2007) and Vanessa Dickerson's inclusion of Kemble in Dark Victorians (2008). Earlier works were Fanny Kemble (1933) by Leota Stultz Driver and Fanny Kemble: A Passionate Victorian (1938) by Margaret Armstrong.
Some recent biographies have focused on Kemble's role as an abolitionist, such as Catherine Clinton's Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars: The Story of America's Most Unlikely Abolitionist (2000). Others have studied the theatrical careers of Kemble and her family. In the latter category, Henry Gibbs' Affectionately Yours, Fanny: Fanny Kemble and the Theatre was published in eight editions between 1945 and 1947.
|About Fanny Kemble|
|By Fanny Kemble|
- Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. New York: Harper & Bros., 1863, ISBN 0-8203-0707-6.
- Record of a Girlhood. London: R. Bentley and Son, 1878.
- Records of Later Life. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1882.
- Further Records, 1848-1883: a series of letters. London: R. Bentley and Son, 1890.
- Francis the First, a drama (London, 1832; New York, 1833)
- Journal (2 vols., London, 1835; Philadelphia and Boston, 1835)
- The Star of Seville, a drama (London and New York, 1837)
- Poems (London and Philadelphia, 1844; Boston, 1859)
- A Year of Consolation, a book of Italian travel (2 vols., London and New York, 1847)
- Plays, including translations from Dumas and Schiller (London, 1863)
- Notes on Some of Shakespeare's Plays (London, 1882)
- Far Away and Long Ago (1889)
- Works by Fanny Kemble at Project Gutenberg.
Several editions of her journals have been published in the twenty-first century:
- Kemble, Fanny. Fanny Kemble's Journals, Edited and with an Introduction by Catherine Clinton, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Kemble, Fanny. (1835). Journal, edited by Murray (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00401-5)
- Kemble, Fanny (1863). Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838 - 1839. Longman Green (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00393-3)
Representation in other media 
- People & Events: Fanny Kemble and Pierce Butler: 1806 - 1893, pbs.org.
- Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble(film) (1999), fictionalized made-for-TV movie adapted from her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, starring Jane Seymour and Keith Carradine.
See also 
- Bell, Malcolm. Major Butler's Legacy: Five Generations of a Slaveholding Family, Athens and London: University of Georgia, 1987, pp. 288-310
- David (2007), A Performed Life, p. 154
- "Great Auction of Slaves at Savannah, Georgia", New York Tribune, March 9, 1859, at American Memory, Library of Congress.
- Kemble, Fanny. Fanny Kemble's Journals/ Edited and with an Introduction by Catherine Clinton. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000, pp. 15-16
- Kemble 269
- Bell 254, 271
- Kemble 10
- Kemble 249
- Kemble 265–67, 391–92
- David (2007), A Performed Life, 161
- Kemble/Clinton (2000), Journals, p. 16
- David, Deirdre. Kemble: A Performed Life, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2007, pp. 162-163
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Kemble, Charles". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kemble". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble (TV movie, 2000), IMDB.com
- Armstrong, Margaret. Fanny Kemble: A Passionate Victorian, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938
- Bell, Malcolm Jr., Major Butler's Legacy: Five Generations of a Slaveholding Family, Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987
- Cate, Margaret Davis. "Mistakes in Fanny Kemble's Georgia Journal," Georgia Historical Quarterly 44 (March 1960).
- Clinton, Catherine (2000). Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars: The Story of America's Most Unlikely Abolitionist. Simon & Schuster. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-86484-414-1|0-86484-414-1 [[Category:Articles with invalid ISBNs]]]] Check
- David, Deirdre. Kemble: A Performed Life, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2007.
- Dickerson, Vanessa D. Dark Victorians, Urbana: University of Illinois, 2008.
- Driver, Leota Stultz. Fanny Kemble, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1933
- Gibbs, Henry (1945-1947). Affectionately Yours, Fanny: Fanny Kemble and the Theatre. Jarrolds Publishers (London) Ltd.
- Jenkins, Rebecca (2005). Fanny Kemble: A Reluctant Celebrity. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0918-2.
- Kemble, Frances Anne (1984). Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–39. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-0707-6 (pbk,).
- King, Julia. Julia King to ____, 24 October 1930. Julia King letters and clippings, MS 1070, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia.
- Leigh, Frances Butler. Ten Years on a Georgian Plantation since the War (1883)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Frances Anne Kemble|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Fanny Kemble|
- Harvard University Library Open Collections Program. Women Working, 1870–1930, Fanny Kemble (1809-1893). A full-text searchable online database with complete access to publications written by Fanny Kemble.
- Enslavement:The True Story of Fanny Kemble - 1999 - fictionalized made-for-TV movie starring Jane Seymour based on Fanny Kemble's Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. (ISBN 0-8203-0707-6)
- Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble at the Internet Movie Database
- "Fanny Kemble", New Georgia Encyclopedia
- Archival material relating to Fanny Kemble listed at the UK National Archives
- People & Events:Fanny Kemble and Pierce Butler:1806 - 1893 at pbs.org.
- The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor commemoration of her birthday on Nov. 27.
- Fanny Kemble at Find a Grave