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Frances Anne Kemble (American National Biography)

Scholarship

James Ross Moore, "Kemble, Fanny," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/18/18-00666.html.

By 1838, influenced by Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing's thoughts on slavery, Kemble had become a passionate abolitionist. She found her dependence on the profits of the family rice and cotton plantation intolerable. When [Pierce] Butler's father died and he was needed to take charge personally, she insisted on accompanying him and stayed for eighteen months. Inspired by the journal of Matthew Gregory Lewis, an Englishman who owned a West Indies sugar plantation, Kemble wrote Residence of a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. The work horrified Butler and remained unpublished until 1863.

Kemble returned to England in 1840; Butler followed, and for two-and-a-half years they appeared to have reconciled. They returned to the United States in 1843. Regarding their daughters as his possessions and threatening Kemble with their loss, Butler thwarted her attempts to return to the stage and to publish the plantation journal and articles on abolition. Once Butler sold Kemble's favorite horse, possibly because he knew that riding horseback gave her "a pleasurably unmarried feeling." Collecting and publishing ninety of her poems and securing the profits through her ingenuity, she bought the horse again. For a time Kemble and Butler lived apart within the same house, her access to the children limited to an hour daily.

How to Cite This Page: "Frances Anne Kemble (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/18531.