Fanny Kemble (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Kemble was one of the finest actors on the British and American stage. Her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 is one of the best firsthand accounts of slavery in the United States.
Frances Anne Kemble was born on November 27, 1809, into the most famous acting family in Great Britain. Her father, Charles Kemble, had succeeded his brother John as the manager of the Covent Garden theater in London, and two of her aunts were well-known actresses. Her mother, Maria Therese De Camp, was an actress who appeared on the London stage with her husband.
Frances, known as Fanny, was largely reared by her aunt, Adelaide (“Dall”) De Camp, but because of her excitable temperament she was sent to France for her elementary schooling. Her antics soon caused the school’s neighbors to refer to her as “cette diable Kemble” (that devil Kemble). She returned to France for a finishing-school education in Paris. She became fluent in French, developed a lifelong interest in religion, and began to read Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott. She was a natural bookworm despite her excitable nature. During her years in Paris, Fanny also discovered her histrionic ability when acting in a school production.
Aside from singing and piano lessons, she spent the next three years in England pondering the question of a career, finding herself drawn to writing except...
(The entire section is 2043 words.)
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