Fanny Kemble

Frances Anne Kemble (1809 - 1893)

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Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble
Born in Newman St, Paddington, Greater London, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Wife of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Paddington, Greater London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 14 Jul 2014 | Last significant change: 14 Nov 2018
14:22: Nicolas LaPointe edited the Biography for Frances Anne Kemble (1809-1893). [Thank Nicolas for this | 1 thank-you received]
This page has been accessed 413 times.

Categories: Stage Actors | Famous Actors of the 19th Century | Abolitionists | Poets | Playwrights | English Notables.


Fanny Kemble is Notable.

"Well-known British actress Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble (1809-1893) in Philadelphia (pictured)... Fanny was born in London from one of England’s most well-known family of actors. She reluctantly took the stage to save her family from financial ruin and was an immediate success. During an acting tour of the U.S. in 1832, she met Pierce, one of her most ardent admirers...." [1]

"Married Pierce Mease Butler, they later divorced, disagreeing on the issue of slavery, and she wrote a book about the poor slave conditions at the Butler plantations; in later life she toured England reading Shakespeare; she also published a volume of poems and several plays." [2]

"The following diary was kept in the winter and spring of 1838-9, on an estate consisting of rice and cotton plantations, in the islands at the entrance of the Altamaha, on the coast of Georgia. The slaves in whom I then had an unfortunate interest were sold some years ago. The islands themselves are at present in the power of the Northern troops. The record contained in the following pages is a picture of conditions of human existence which I hope and believe have passed away. LONDON: January 16, 1863." -Fanny Kemble [3]

"Adelaide and Fanny Kemble were sisters who advocated homeopathy... Adelaide Kemble was the younger daughter of actor Charles Kemble and sister to the noted actress and anti slavery activist Fanny Kemble..." [4]

"Their own private civil war would foreshadow the country's. Fanny Kemble was an abolitionist; her husband Pierce Butler was a slaveholder. With such diametrically opposed views, it's no wonder that their initially blissful marriage would end in divorce. .." [5]

Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble (1809-1893) was the daughter of Charles Kemble, a noted English actor and sometime manager of London's Covent Garden, and Marie Theresa de Camp Kemble. Her uncle John Philip Kemble and aunt Sarah Kemble Siddons were also well-known actors. Fanny joined the family business reluctantly, but was an immediate success. She met Pierce during an acting tour of the U.S. that she and her father undertook in 1832.

Pierce and Fanny married in 1834, but their marriage was plagued by rumors of infidelity on his part and disagreements over the Butlers' reliance on slavery. As described in her 1863 memoir, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, Fanny was appalled at the fact that nearly everything around her was produced by the toil of enslaved people. She left Pierce in 1845 to return to her native England, and they divorced in 1849.

Before they divorced, Pierce and Fanny had two children, Sarah (1835-1908) and Frances (1838-1910).

In 1847, Fanny returned to the stage. This was due more to a need to find a way to support herself following her separation and eventual divorce from Butler than to any real interest in acting. Later, following her father's example, Fanny Kemble appeared with much success as a Shakespearean reader, touring from Massachusetts to Michigan, from Chicago to Washington, winning new audiences to the Bard.

She kept a diary about her life on the Georgia plantation, which was circulated among abolitionists prior to the American Civil War, and was published both in England and the United States once the war broke out. She continued to be outspoken on the subject of slavery, and often donated money from her readings to charitable causes.

In Journal of A Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, published in 1863, Kemble wrote, "I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty. Knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution."

In 1877, Fanny returned to England, where she lived using her maiden name till her death. During this period, Fanny Kemble was a prominent and popular figure in the social life of London. She became a great friend of and inspiration for Henry James during her later years. His novel Washington Square (1880) was based upon a story Fanny had told him concerning one of her relatives.

Besides her plays, Francis the First (1832), The Star of Seville (1837), a volume of poems (1844), and an Italian travel book, A Year of Consolation (1847), she published the first volume of her memoirs, Journal in 1835, and in 1863, another, Journal of Residence on a Georgian Plantation (dealing with life on the Georgia plantation), as well as a volume of plays, including translations from Alexandre Dumas, père and Friedrich Schiller. These were followed by Records of a Girlhood (1878), Records of Later Life (1882), Notes on Some of Shakespeare's Plays (1882), Far Away and Long Ago (1889), and Further Records (1891). Her various volumes of reminiscences contain much valuable material illuminating the social and dramatic history of the period. [Bio author...?]


  1. "Historical Society of Pennsylvannia: 'Wealthy Philadelphian and Georgia plantation owner Pierce (Mease) Bulter married a famous British actress in 1834. What was her name?'; 2011-07-17."
  2. "The Weeping Time', by Jason Skog; Capstone; USA; 2008, p. 45."
  3. "Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839", by Fanny Kemble; New York; Harper and Brothers; 1863. (& Multiple formats at
  4. "The Kemble Sisters and Homeopathy"
  5. "Fold3 Ancestery: 'Fanny Kemble and Pierce Butler'"

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No known carriers of Fanny's mitochondrial DNA have taken an mtDNA test and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

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Images: 5
Fanny Kemble Image 1
Fanny Kemble Image 1

Fanny Kemble Image 2
Fanny Kemble Image 2

Frances Kemble, Author
Frances Kemble, Author


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Fanny is 26 degrees from Rosa Parks, 18 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 13 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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