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Kemble, Fanny


Author and stage actress Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble was born in London, England on November 27, 1806. Kemble came from a family of well-known actors, but was more interested in literature herself. However, financial problems of her father forced her onto the stage, her first role being that of Juliette. Kemble was an immediate success and embarked on an American tour in 1832. While in Philadelphia she met, and eventually married, Pierce Butler, grandson of a Georgia plantation owner. Kemble was an intelligent, independent woman who abhorred slavery and was not shy about speaking out against it. These abolitionist views did not sit well with her husband; yet she still strived to make the marriage work. When Butler inherited the Georgia plantation upon his grandfather’s death, she moved to Georgia with him. From December 30, 1838, to April 17, 1839, Kemble kept a journal of what she witnessed. Although she spent just over sixteen months of her life in Georgia, the result was one of the most powerful pieces of historical literature ever produced. Unable to reconcile their differences, Butler and Kemble were divorced in 1849, with Butler retaining custody of their two daughters. During the Civil War she published the journal she had kept some twenty-five years earlier - Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation. Her descriptions of the horrifying treatment of slaves is credited with doing much toward maintaining British neutrality during the war, when for economic reasons many favored the South - which produced cotton for British textile mills. Kemble went on to publish other thoughtful and intelligent works - Records of a Girlhood in 1878, Records of a Later Life in 1882, Notes Upon Some of Shakespeare’s Plays in 1882, Far Away and Long Ago in 1889, and Further Records in 1891. Kemble died in London on Jan. 15, 1893.

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Source: Library of Congress