Kemble, Fanny

ACTOR, POET (ENGLAND)
BORN 27 Nov 1809, London: Newman Street, Oxford Road - DIED 17 Jan 1893, London: 86 Gloucester Place
REAL NAME Kemble, Frances Anne
GRAVE LOCATION London: Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, Kensal Green (055/PS (11981))

Frances Anne Kemble was the daughter of actor Charles Kemble and Marie-Thérèse de Camp. She was educated in Paris and made her debut as Julia (while her father played Mercutio) on October 5, 1829 at the Covent Garden Theatre in London.

She played most of the major female Shakespeare parts and together with her father she toured the US. There she met E.J. Trelawny, who told her his fantastic tales about Byron and Shelley, whom he had known in Italy. In 1834 she married the rich American Pierce Butler in Phildelphia and she retired from the stage. Two years after the marriage her husband inherited plantations that made him the owner of a large number of slaves. Fanny saw their misery with her own eyes and became a formidable opponent of slavery. They had two daughters, but after years of quarrels and reconciliations the marriage broke up and they divorced in 1849. She wasn't allowed to see her daughters until they were 21 years old. Her sister Adelaide was opposed to her divorce and allthough she supported Fanny publicly, they quarelled continuously in private.

In 1847 Fanny had returned moderately successful to the stage as Mrs. Butler. It was not because she wanted to but because she had to make a living. Additionaly, smallpox had damaged her beauty and, in her own words, she was 'a stout woman' now.

She turned to lecturing on Shakespeare like her father had done and succesfully toured the USA. It enabled her to buy an American home around 1850, The Porch in Lenox, Massachusetts. However, in 1850 she left for England and she didn't return to the USA until 1856.

In 1863 her "Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Platation" had an enormous impact on the abolition debate and influenced European public opinion in favour of the northern states.

In 1877 she returned to London to live with her daughter Frances. In 1879 Adelaide suddenly died but fortunately they had recently spent a pleasant holiday together. Recently another friend, Harriet St. Leger, had died as well. She had met Harriet in 1826. Harriet was fourteen years older and owned Ardgillan Castle near Dublin. Allthough they rarely met over the years they remained close friends and correspondend intensively for over fifty years. In 1874 Harriet had fallen ill and returned thousands of letters from Fanny so that she could use them for writing her memoirs. Fanny burned most of the letters that she had written during her marriage.

She died in 1893 in London and was buried in the grave of her parents at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Apart from publishing her memoirs, she had written poetry and had translated work from Schiller and other authors.

Autobiographical publications: "Records of a Girlhood" (1878); "Records of Later Life "(1882); "Far Away and Long Ago" (1889); "Further Records" (1891).

Family
• Father: Kemble, Charles
• Sister: Kemble, Adelaide
• Brother: Kemble, John Mitchell

Related persons
• was a friend of Martineau, Harriet
• was a friend of Norton, Caroline Elizabeth Sarah
• is nephew/niece of Siddons, Sarah
• corresponded with Thackeray Ritchie, Anne
• was a friend of Trelawny, Edward John

Events
1829/10/5: Debut of Fanny Kemble as Juliet at Covent Garden, London
She became popular immediately and this enabled her father Charles Kemble to straighten out his losses as a theatre manager.
1830/1/25: Fanny Kemble appears in "The Grecian Daughter" at Covent Garden
It was her second appearance as Euphrasia in this play. Charles Kemble played Evander.
1830/4/28: Fanny Kemble appears in "Isabella: or, The Fatal Marriage" at Covent Garden
It was her first appearance as Isabella in thay play. Charles Kemble played Biron.
1846/12/7: Fanny Kemble drinks from the fountain of Trevi in Rome
It was raining fast but she noted that for those who drink of it sweet waters return and knelt and drank all the same.
1847/2/16: Fanny Kemble returns to the stage in Manchester
She played Julia in "The Hunchback". Her dear friend Henry Greville was in the audience and this gave her some comfort. Thirteen years earlier she had ended her short acting career after marrying Pierce Butler. The was, in her own words, a stout woman now and she was not very pretty. She was received well by the public and performed in Manchester until 27 Feb 1847.
1847/3/4: Fanny Kemble performs in Liverpool
1847/3/14: Fanny Kemble performs in Dublin
1848/3/25: Fanny Kemble gives her first public Shakespeare reading in London
These readings were very successful and she continued them for many years.
1876/9/2: Fanny Kemble visits the grave of her aunt Adelaide in Cambridge, Massachusetts
It was a few days after she left Lenox for good. Some time before she had commissioned a stone for the grave of her aunt who had died in 1834. She noted that Mount Auburn cemetery had changed from a wild picturesque piece of irregular ground to a marble wilderness. She managed to find the grave of Adelaide de Camp and was overtaken by emotion.
1877/1/0: Fanny Kemble crosses the Atlantic Ocean for the last time
She left the USA to spend the rest of her life in England. She travelled on the White Star steamer Brittanic.
1929/12/9: Fanny Kemble appears in "Venice Preserved" at Covent Garden
It was her first appearance in this play.

Sources
• Clinton, Katherine, Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, Oxford University Press, New York, 2001
• Jenkins, Rebecca, Fanny Kemble, A Reluctant Celebrity, Simon & Schuster, London, 2005
• Wright, Constance, Fanny Kemble and the Lovely Land, Robert Hale and Company, London, 1974
• Ransome, Eleanor, The Terrific Kemble, A Victorian Self-Portrait from the writings of Fanny Kemble, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1978
• Marshall, Dorothy, Fanny Kemble, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1977
• Crawford, Anne and others, The Europa Biographical Dictionary of British Women, Europa Publications Ltd, London, 1983
Paths of Glory, The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery, London, 1997
• Schöne, Günter, Bühnenstars, Florian Noetzel, Wilhelmshaven, 1998

Images

The grave of Charles Kemble and his daughter Fanny Kemble at Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (10 Aug 1997)

 


Kemble, John Mitchell

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 27 Apr 2017