Kemble, Fanny

BORN 27 Nov 1809, London: Newman Street, Oxford Road - DIED 17 Jan 1893, London: 86 Gloucester Place
BIRTH 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 although 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 successfully 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. In 1878 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. Although they rarely met over the years they remained close friends and corresponded 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.

Fanny 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).

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

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

5/10/1829Debut 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. 
9/12/1829Fanny Kemble appears in "Venice Preserved" at Covent Garden. It was her first appearance in this play. 
25/1/1830Fanny Kemble appears in "The Grecian Daughter" at Covent Garden. It was her second appearance as Euphrasia in this play. Charles Kemble played Evander. [Kemble, Charles]
28/4/1830Fanny 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. [Kemble, Charles]
22/6/1832Last performance of Fanny Kemble at Covent Garden as Julia in "The Hunchback". She was going to tour in the USA with her father. 
7/12/1846Fanny 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 she knelt and drank all the same. 
16/2/1847Fanny 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. 
4/3/1847Fanny Kemble performs in Liverpool 
14/3/1847Fanny Kemble performs in Dublin 
25/3/1848Fanny Kemble gives her first public Shakespeare reading in London. These readings were very successful and she continued them for many years. 
2/9/1876Fanny 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. 
0/1/1877Fanny 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. 


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


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

Kemble, John Mitchell

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 25 Apr 2022