Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theater History & Dramatic Arts > 240. Frances Anne Kemble

240a.  Frances Anne Kemble (1809-1893).  Muslin bodice of the costume worn as Juliet, debut appearance, Covent Garden, London: 5 October 1829. RBML, Dramatic Museum Collection

240b.  Frances Anne Kemble (1809-1893).  Journal by Frances Anne Butler, with the author's ms. annotations. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835. RBML, Dramatic Library

Fanny Kemble was not yet twenty when she made her debut as Juliet at Covent Garden on 5 October 1829, wearing this bodice. The London Times reported: "Upon the whole, we do not remember to have ever seen a more triumphant debut. That Miss Kemble has been well and carefully instructed, as, of course, she would be is clear; but it is no less clear that she possesses qualifications which instructions could not create, although it can bring them to perfection." Some critics thought she was even better than her famous aunt, Sarah Siddons, had been at the same age.

In 1832 she traveled to the United States with her father, the actor Charles Kemble, and was an immediate success in New York and during a tour that lasted for two years. She married Pierce Butler in 1834. Butler was a retired actor and Philadelphian who owned a plantation in Georgia. Her diary from this time was published in two volumes in 1835, and in this copy she has made annotations throughout. Visiting Butler's plantation, she was shocked to see the institution of slavery first-hand. Other parts of her diary were published as Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1835, and reissued in New York and London during the American Civil War in order to influence British opinion against slavery and the South.

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