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Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars Paperback – December 20, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0195148152 ISBN-10: 0195148150 Edition: Oxford University Press pbk

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Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars + Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 (Brown Thrasher Books)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Oxford University Press pbk edition (December 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195148150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195148152
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,070,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This smashing new biography by historian Clinton (author of the controversial study The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South) should be as popular today as Fanny Kemble herself was in the 19th century. Scion of a famed theatrical family, Kemble was born in England in 1809 and debuted as an actress in 1829, playing Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. She earned not only the esteem of her familyDand the cash they so badly neededDbut also, when she came to these shores, the vibrant Kemble earned a cadre of American admirers who styled their hair in "Fanny Kemble curls," spent their savings on "Fanny Kemble caps" and planted "Miss Fanny Kemble" tulips in their gardens. Kemble also won the heart of Pierce Butler, the second largest landholder in Georgia. At 24, she married him, giving up the stage and settling into the role of plantation mistress. The Butlers' marriage was filled with tension from the beginning: Pierce's eye wandered, and Fanny, horrified by the realities of slavery, spoke privately against that practice and was friendly with the abolitionist Sedgwick family. In 1845, after several attempted reconciliations with her husband, a "morose and restless" Kemble sailed for England, where she became an abolitionist crusader (her Journal of a Residence of a Georgian Plantation was published in 1863, and many credited the book with England's refusal to recognize the Confederacy). Kemble's own writing is distinguished by a feisty verve, and she has long awaited a biographer who can match her. Clinton is Kemble's equalDthis biography is every bit as sharp, evocative and eloquent as Kemble's Journal. 64 b&w illus. (Sept.) FYI: Also in September, Harvard University Press will publish a volume of Kemble's journals, edited by Catherine Clinton.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Fanny KembleDEnglish-born actress, author, and abolitionistDcommanded center stage in the American drama over slavery and in her much-publicized personal civil wars of marriage to one of America's wealthiest slaveholders, bitter divorce, and publication of her private letters and her antislavery journal describing life on a Georgia plantation. Clinton (history, Baruch Coll.), the author of numerous books on Southern women, casts Kemble in a sympathetic light as a woman trapped by family and fame, even as she cultivated both, and as a metaphor for the battle over reform, marital relations, and slavery argued on both sides of the Atlantic. Clinton's great contribution to the thick literature on slavery, Kemble, and gender is to give Kemble her own voice and to offer original readings of Kemble's many writings. That the proslavery secessionist Butler comes off as a cad is no surprise, but that Clinton discovers Kemble's own flaws of ego and emotion gives her work a unique credibility. So, too, does Clinton's deft handling of the tangled Butler family history. Clinton's eloquent history is not quite Tara recast, but it is better than any fiction on the subject and should give Kemble a new audience in a new century. Highly recommended. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Steven S. Berizzi on August 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In 1836, just two years after famed British actress Fanny Kemble married Pierce Butler, he inherited the second largest plantation in Georgia. Her memoir of planter-society life, published in 1863 as Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, provided, according to Author Catherine Clinton, "a disquieting glimpse into the world the slaveholders made." Clinton holds the Ph.D. in history from Princeton University, and she has taught at several colleges and universities including Brandeis, Brown, and Harvard. She is widely regarded as one of the preeminent historians of the antebellum south and of American women in the 19th century, and her expertise and erudition come through on every page of this fascinating book. In the interest of fairness, I must disclose that Clinton and I were college classmates, and I took several courses with her. She was a brilliant student, and her success as a professional historian was predestined.
Kemble belonged to a family of prominent British Shakespearean actors, and her earliest fame came as the title heroine in Romeo and Julie and in performances in other classics in London beginning in 1829, when she was only 19. In 1832, she arrived in the United States for a two-year theatrical tour. We are, however, primarily interested in Kemble's life after her 1834 marriage to Pierce Butler, who inherited the plantations on Georgia's Sea Islands in 1836. Kemble and Butler lived for their first years together in Philadelphia, but Butler tenaciously held onto extreme social attitudes. In Southern antebellum culture, according to Clinton, "the white male patriarch ruled unchallenged, and "Fanny could best demonstrate her loyalty, Butler maintained, by agreeing with him in every regard.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I checked this book out from the library and read it the week prior to our family's vacation to Charleston, SC. I found it very informative and I enjoyed recognizing the names of families, towns and historical landmarks mentioned in the book, especially St. Simon's Island, which I enjoyed reading about in Eugenia Price's series of books on that particular area. I have a great interest in women's experiences, pre and post-civil war, and would not think twice about adding this book to my ever-growing collection of that era.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Habryl on September 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A combination of excellent writting and the fascinating subject -Fanny Kemble - make this a book you'll find difficult to put down. After reading this book, I, too, long to know more about this charismatic woman. Regardless of whether or not your interests lie in learning more about women during the Civil War, Fanny Kemble's life and times is a thoroughly compelling story.
I originally saw Catherine Clinton on C-Span Book TV (yes, I admit I do watch it! LOL). Her enthusiasm regarding Fanny Kemble was clearly evident and the book does not disappoint. I do want to point out that I've chosen to read Clinton's book before I've read the journals which she edited.
With respect to Fanny Kemble, I find her to be a study in contrast. On the one hand she craved independence of thought and financial means yet she appears to have despised the very things that would bring her either independence, financial security or both. For example, she clearly was an excellent performer - something which would have allowed her independence of both thought and financial security - yet it appears she in many instances indicates she disliked performing.
After reading Catherine Clinton's book, I can't help but wonder what the literary world lost when she married Pierce Butler. Would we have another Jane Austen if she had remained unmarried or if she had a supportive or better match for a husband? Unfortunately, we're only left to guess.
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Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars
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