Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Frances Anne Kemble, as John Anthony Scott portrays her in his biography Fanny Kemble’s America, was a woman of temperament, talent, and integrity. She was born into an English theatrical family: Her uncle, John Philip Kemble, was not only an actor but also the manager of Drury Lane and Covent Garden; her aunt was the famous actress Sarah Siddons; and her father was Charles Kemble, also an actor, and then manager of Covent Garden.

The opening two chapters of Fanny Kemble’s America are set in England. Scott outlines the first twenty years of Kemble’s life, which culminates in her reluctant debut on the stage as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and her immediate success as an actress.

In the major portion of the book, Scott concentrates upon Kemble’s experiences in the United States, beginning with her American tour. He describes her marriage to Philadelphian Pierce Butler and her reaction to the knowledge that her husband’s fortune derived from the products of a Georgia plantation and the labor of seven hundred slaves. As she wrote a friend, “I am an English woman in whom the absence of a prejudice against slavery would be disgraceful.” Her abhorrence of the institution of slavery increased when she and her husband visited the plantation. At first, she believed that together they could work to ameliorate the conditions under which the slaves lived and toiled. Butler did not share his wife’s social...

(The entire section is 468 words.)