Henry James called Fanny Kemble’s autobiography “one of the most animated autobiographies in the language.” Born into the first family of the British stage, Fanny Kemble was one of the most famous woman writers of the English-speaking world, a best-selling author on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to her essays, poetry, plays, and a novel, Kemble published six works of memoir, eleven volumes in all, covering her life, which began in the first decade of the nineteenth century and ended in the last. Her autobiographical writings are compelling evidence of Kemble’s wit and talent, and they also offer a dazzling overview of her transatlantic world.
Kemble kept up a running commentary in letters and diaries on the great issues of her day. The selections here provide a narrative thread tracing her intellectual development—especially her views on women and slavery. She is famous for her identification with abolitionism, and many excerpts reveal her passionate views on the subject. The selections show a life full of personal tragedy as well as professional achievements. An elegant introduction provides a context for appreciating Kemble’s remarkable life and achievements, and the excerpts from her journals allow her, once again, to speak for herself.