Eminent Women of the Age: Being Narratives of the Lives and Deeds of the Most Prominent Women of the Present Generation

By James Parton ; Horace Greeley et al. | Go to book overview

MRS. FRANCES ANNE KEMBLE.

BY JAMES PARTON.

THERE was excitement and expectation among the playgoers of New York, in the early days of September, 1832. Stars, new to the firmament of America, were about to appear, -- a great event in those simple days, when Europe supplied us with almost all we ever had of public pleasure. Charles Kemble, brother of Mrs. Siddons the peerless, and of John Kemble the magnificent, was coming to America, accompanied by his daughter, "Fanny Kemble," the most brilliant of the recent acquisitions to the London stage. Charles Kemble was then an exceedingly stout gentleman, of fiftyseven, fitter to shine in Falstaff than in Hamlet; yet such is the power of genuine talent to overcome the obstacles which nature herself puts in its way, that he still played with fine effect some of the lightest and most graceful characters of the drama. He played Hamlet well, and Benedick better, when he must have weighed two hundred and fifty pounds; and people forgot, in admiring the charm of his manner, and the noble beauty of his face, that he had passed his prime. His daughter, at this period, was just twenty-one years of age, and stood midway in her brief and splendid theatrical career, which had begun two years before, and was to end two years after.

The play selected for the first appearance of the young actress in America was Fazio. The old Park theatre was

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