'The Kembles strike one somehow as a race apart...and reading of them, one is reminded sometimes of those deities who once visited the earth in guise of shepherds, as wanderers clad in lion skins, as muses and huntresses, not as Kembles only.' Mrs Richmond Ritchie, a family friend. Part of a circle of famous literary women, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Fanny Kemble stood out in her refusal to submit to 19th century models of womanhood and defer to men. Fanny Kemble grew up among the celebrities of her generation - she was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, rode on the Rocket with George Stephenson and knew Sir Walter Scott, Tennyson, Thackeray and the Brownings. At the age of nineteen, Fanny was reluctantly put on to the stage to help the family's finances and became an overnight star. But she fell passionately in love with Pierce Butler, an American, and abandoned the stage to live out the young Victorian woman's dream of marriage to a wealthy man on his Georgian plantation.
However, the young couple clashed over everything from her writing career, her subordinate wifely role, to, most publicly, her aversion to slavery, which was aired in her vivid first-hand account of slavery in action, SOJOURN ON A GEORGIAN PLANTATION. Fanny was forced to choose between romantic love and her own integrity and this culminated in a high profile divorce. Disgraced and unable to have any contact with her two beloved daughters, but free, Fanny returned to England. Fanny Kemble was a cross-Atlantic celebrity of the 19th century. Leading a colourful, dramatic and vivid life, Fanny struggled and succeeded to become a woman worthy of her soul.
Rebecca Jenkins was born in Oxford and spent her childhood in England and Switzerland. After studying History at Somerville College, Oxford, she took up journalism and now freelances. She has previously written a historical detective novel, THE DUKE'S AGENT, based in Regency England, and is the co-writer of FREE TO BELIEVE. This is her first biography.