Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fanny Kemble (1809-1893)

Fanny Kemble

Fanny Kemble was born in 1809 in England to an actor and actress which I believe led to the inevitable, her also being an actress. She lived her life during the Industrial Revolution. One of her first theatrical appearances was in 1829 when she was Juliet in her father’s production of Romeo and Juliet. She was also the first person to ride The Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
After Kemble’s ride on The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, she wrote a letter about her first ride on a steam engine. In this letter she wrote “…I felt as if no fairy tale was ever so wonderful as what I saw.” (page 491, line 16) I believe in this passage that she was referring to her ride on the steam engine being better than any thing she has ever imagined or thought about.
In this letter Kemble talks about how powerful and fast that the steam engine was when she wrote “…swifter than a bird flies…” Even though the textbook makes reference to an experiment with a snipe, with the travel speed of up to 35 miles per hour, the reference that the train traveled very fast.
Kemble traveled to New York with her father’s theater company. She eventually met Pierce Butler who would eventually become her husband. Butler was a southern man who was referred to as a “Southern Planter.” She moved to Georgia with Butler and gave up her acting career with her father’s theater company. While married to Pierce, Kemble kept a journal about her life in Georgia on a plantation.
After a rather short marriage Kemble and Pierce was divorced. Something that was not very common during this time. The era was becoming more progressive allowing for divorces. After the divorce Kemble returned to acting and reading Shakespeare.
The journal that was kept by Kemble during her marriage to Pierce was eventually published. Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation was published over objections and requests by Pierce’s family. It was believed that this journal was a real attempt to try and get England not to support the Confederacy. The journal made a link between the oppression of slave women and her own oppression in the legal and social systems during the 19th century in the United States.
She acted and wrote for several years after her divorce until she retired in Massachusetts. After retiring from the stage Kemble wrote several autobiographies of her life. Kemble eventually traveled back to London where she died in 1893 and was buried in a cemetery just outside of London.
I believe that Kemble’s writing helped enlighten England and others about how women were an important part of the society and how they could write and people read their works and them not be poetic. I personally liked was interested in Kemble because of the Georgia ties to her writings. Even though she was from Britain, she moved to Georgia and wrote with attempts to sway the English not to promote the Confederacy movement


TonyP said...

I also wrote about Fanny Kemble and her letter describing her first ride on the steam engine. I really enjoyed her letter and her enthusiam and joy from taking that first ride. What had impressed me the most was the way she described the steam engine, even though she was an actress by profession and not an engineer. It was also interesting how she compared the ride to that of riding a horse. I must agree with you that from the way she describes the ride it was like a fairy tale referring to her ride on the steam engine much better than anything she had imagined.

Jonathan.Glance said...


Good collection of factoids about Fanny Kemble, although I would have preferred less of a recap of the biographical notes and more analysis and discussion of her letter and experience.