Fanny Kemble, a Passionate Victorian

Fanny Kemble, a Passionate Victorian

Fanny Kemble, a Passionate Victorian

Fanny Kemble, a Passionate Victorian

Excerpt

"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn."

--SHAKESPEARE.

THE STORY begins a long way back, on an August morning in the year of Our Lord 1676 and in Hereford gaol where John Kemble, a priest of the old religion, sat waiting for the cart that was to carry him to Widmarsh and the gallows. Of an ancient Wiltshire family and nephew of that George Kemble who had saved the life of Charles II after the battle of Worcester, Father John had been wont to think rather well of his family in general and of Uncle George in particular. But now, in common with other Roman Catholic subjects of King Charles, he was beginning to wonder whether George Kemble's noble deed had been worth doing; for Father John was a victim of the Popish Plot. He had nothing to hope for from the King. At best, the Stuart memory was conveniently short and with England in hysterics Charles was too distracted to remember such unimportant friends as the Kembles.

As everybody knows, the Popish Plot was an imaginary conspiracy invented by Oates and developed by Bedloe, whose tales of vast armies mustering in Spain and Flanders to invade Great Britain filled English gaols, kept the hangman busy and, incidentally, added several names to Rome's list of martyrs. Why Father John Kemble should have been singled out remains a mystery; he was an inconspicuous old man, living in retirement in Pembridge Castle. But if the offer of a martyr's crown came as a surprise, it was accepted with alacrity. According to his chronicler: "When Mr. Kemble was apprised of some being come to take him, he replied that he had but a few years to live, and that it would be an advantage to . . .

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