- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 20, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195148150
- ISBN-13: 978-0195148152
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,393,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Clinton doesn't insist that her subject was flawless, but she finds her irresistible."--The New Yorker
"[Clinton] compellingly recreates the trials and torments of one of the 19th century's most remarkable women."--Parade
"Having brought Fanny Kemble to our attention is a worthy accomplishment, one all readers, theatre-goers, and champions of human rights ought to be thankful for."--The Boston Sunday Globe
"Catherine Clinton tells this story very well, adeptly mixing the strands of Kemble's multidimensional and bicontinental life...[T]he author traces both the exotic and the typical qualities of this saga."--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Kemble's life wasn't entirely devoted to the rights of women and the wrongs of slavery: she acted and wrote, had triumphs, pleasures, and friends, and she often feels like our contemporary. Clinton doesn't insist that her subject was flawless, but she finds her irresistible."--The New Yorker
"The interweaving of the institutionalized slavery of African-Americans with the civil subjugation of white, privileged, married women--Kemble's two civil wars--packs this biography with a complex and chilling commentary that reverberates under its rapid presentation."--The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Fanny Kemble is probably the most famous person of the 19th century that no one has heard of....Catherine Clinton's new biography traces the life of this extraordinay woman, whose exploits include writing one of the earliest firsthand accounts of Southern plantation life that is openly critical of slavery....Having brought Fanny Kemble to our attention is a worthy accomplishment, one all readers, theatregoers, and champions of human rights ought to be thankful for."--The Boston Sunday Globe
"This smashing new biography...should be as popular as Fanny Kemble herself was in the 19th century....Clinton is Kemble's equal--this biography is every bit as sharp, evocative and eloquent as Kemble's Journal.--Publisher's Weekly
About the Author
Catherine Clinton is a writer and historian who has published widely in the fields of southern studies, African American studies, women's studies and the American Civil War. She is the Mark Clark Visiting Chair of History at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina for 2001-2002 and an affiliate of the Gelder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University. She is currently completing a biography of Harriet Tubman. She lives in Riverside, Connecticut.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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." That was virtually impossible for the spirited Kemble, who found her husband to be "rude and unkind" and his mental faculties "lackluster." In contrast, the portraits of Kemble in this book show her to be a woman of obvious intelligence and seriousness of purpose. The Butler-Kemble union failed from the beginning and, in 1835, according to Clinton, Kemble expressed willingness to give Butler custody of their infant daughter if he would allow her to leave. Butler rejected the idea, and Kemble remained miserable until their divorce in 1849.
From an early age, Kemble had imagined herself to be a "literary lioness," and, in despair, she turned to writing. In the spring of 1835, Kemble wrote a "long and vehement treatise against negro slavery." According to Clinton, Kemble was "[a]lways given to social commentary with a theatrical flair." Clinton observes that "Kemble's vivid writings [are] replete with insights on women's rights, slavery, and race," and they offer valuable insights into the realities of plantation life. But Clinton notes that "[a]s Mrs. Pierce Butler, the wife of the second largest slaveholder in Georgia," Kemble "found herself in a precarious position." The peculiar institution afforded her a life of leisure, but, according to Clinton, she "found herself increasingly drawn to the plight of the slaves." After arriving in Georgia in 1838, Kemble established a slave hospital and a slave nursery, and, in defiance of state law, she taught the alphabet to a bright slave. It was not until 1863, however, that Kemble consented to the publication of Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, which Clinton describes as "the vivid and haunting diatribe against human bondage composed during her stay on the Butler plantations in the winter of 1838-39." According to Clinton: "Fanny Kemble...characterized Butler as a despot; Butler's friends portrayed him as a peerless master. The truth lay somewhere in between." A review in the Atlantic Monthly called Kemble's Journal "the first ample, lucid, faithful, detailed account, from the actual head-quarters of a slave plantation in this country, of the workings of the system." Horace Greeley's Tribune also had high praise for Kemble's Journal. But Kemble's younger daughter, who supported the Confederate States during the Civil War, wrote in 1881 that "nothing would ever induce me to have [the Georgia Journal] in my house....I never can forgive it." According to Clinton: "One intimate of both women complained that Fanny Kemble thought all the South's problems stemmed from slavery, while [the younger daughter] believed all the problems of the South were created by African Americans." Clinton remarks that "the book has more greatly influenced twentieth-century historians than Civil War-era politicians," and she notes that, beginning in the 1950s, slavery scholars began citing Kemble as an authority.
Clinton makes extensive use of Kemble's memoirs and correspondence, but I was a bit surprised that Clinton did not quote more extensively from the Georgia Journal in this book. Clinton may have hoped to inspire readers to delve more deeply into Kemble's impressive oeuvre in the original, including Fanny Kemble's Journals, edited by Clinton and published earlier this year by Harvard University Press. That book offers selections from Kemble's 11 volumes of autobiographical writings and is, I suspect, fascinating. I do not understand precisely why this book is subtitled "The Story of America's Most Unlikely Abolitionist." Early in the book, Clinton writes that Kemble developed a "renowned affinity for `plain folk,' and she clearly had a gift for social commentary. So, her marriage to a wealthy planter notwithstanding, I do not find it surprising that Kemble took a public position on the most serious question in mid-19th century America. But I consider this point a quibble: Despite the subtitle, this book is wonderful. Although generally devoted to significant political and social questions, cameo appearances by Kemble's circle of noteworthy friends and acquaintances, including Washington Irving, Louis Agassiz, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Henry James, make it fun as well. So does the fact that Kemble's elder daughter married a Pennsylvania physician in 1859, and their son, Owen Wister, Jr., achieved fame in his own right as the author of the novel The Virginian and the commentary for a famous volume of illustrations of Frederic Remington. This biography details a remarkable 19th-century life. I recommend Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars and everything else written by Catherine Clinton without qualification.
The Kembles were England's leading theatrical family. Sarah Siddons was her aunt, but Fanny became equally celebrated. Despite this, her family were chronically in debt, and the American tour was one of innumerable unsuccessful efforts to make money. Soon after arriving she fell in love with Pierce Butler, a Georgia plantation owner, who made her stop working after they married. She quickly regretted her decision, but there was little a woman could do in that era. When Butler moved to his plantation, Fanny encountered slavery first hand and did not like what she saw. She complained bitterly and protested the slaves' treatment. Worse, she outraged her husband and the neighbors by expressing her opinions in print and in the north. Perhaps her most impressive accomplishment was getting a divorce, a nearly impossible feat in the nineteenth century. It took fifteen years. Except for public readings she never acted again, but her personality and writing sustained her celebrity until the end of the century.
Like many nineteenth century figures, Kemble seemed to spend half her day writing. She kept a journal, sent and received a torrent of letters, published a dozen books and scores of articles and essays. Catherine Clinton, Professor of History at Baruch College (The Plantation Mistress, 1982) has obviously read it all and transformed it into an entertaining account of one of the most colorful women of her time.