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Records of a Girlhood by Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893

Records of a Girlhood by Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Records of a Girlhood, by Frances Ann Kemble

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
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with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

Title: Records of a Girlhood
Author: Frances Ann Kemble
Release Date: August 8, 2005 [EBook #16478]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Louise Pryor and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

[Transcriber's note: The spellings in this book are inconsistent in
the original, and have not been corrected except in the index as
explicitly noted below.]

[Illustration: Fanny Kemble]



JOHN A. GRAY, Agent,


Considerable portions of this work originally appeared in the _Atlantic Monthly_, but there is added to these a large amount of new matter not hitherto published, and the whole work has been thoroughly revised.


A few years ago I received from a friend to whom they had been addressed a collection of my own letters, written during a period of forty years, and amounting to thousands--a history of my life.

The passion for universal history (_i.e._ any and every body's story)
nowadays seems to render any thing in the shape of personal
recollections good enough to be printed and read; and as the public
appetite for gossip appears to be insatiable, and is not unlikely some
time or other to be gratified at my expense, I have thought that my own
gossip about myself may be as acceptable to it as gossip about me
written by another.

I have come to the garrulous time of life--to the remembering days,
which only by a little precede the forgetting ones. I have much leisure,
and feel sure that it will amuse me to write my own reminiscences;
perhaps reading them may amuse others who have no more to do than I
have. To the idle, then, I offer these lightest of leaves gathered in
the idle end of autumn days, which have succeeded years of labor often
severe and sad enough, though its ostensible purpose was only that of
affording recreation to the public.


There are two lives of my aunt Siddons: one by Boaden, and one by the
poet Campbell. In these biographies due mention is made of my paternal
grandfather and grandmother. To the latter, Mrs. Roger Kemble, I am
proud to see, by Lawrence's portrait of her, I bear a personal
resemblance; and I please myself with imagining that the likeness is
more than "skin deep." She was an energetic, brave woman, who, in the
humblest sphere of life and most difficult circumstances, together with
her husband fought manfully a hard battle with poverty, in maintaining
and, as well as they could, training a family of twelve children, of

whom four died in childhood. But I am persuaded that whatever qualities
of mind or character I inherit from my father's family, I am more
strongly stamped with those which I derive from my mother, a woman who,
possessing no specific gift in such perfection as the dramatic talent of
the Kembles, had in a higher degree than any of them the peculiar
organization of genius. To the fine senses of a savage rather than a
civilized nature, she joined an acute instinct of correct criticism in
all matters of art, and a general quickness and accuracy of perception,
and brilliant vividness of expression, that made her conversation
delightful. Had she possessed half the advantages of education which she
and my father labored to bestow upon us, she would, I think, have been
one of the most remarkable persons of her time.

My mother was the daughter of Captain Decamp, an officer in one of the
armies that revolutionary France sent to invade republican Switzerland.
He married the daughter of a farmer from the neighborhood of Berne. From
my grandmother's home you could see the great Jungfrau range of the
Alps, and I sometimes wonder whether it is her blood in my veins that so
loves and longs for those supremely beautiful mountains.

Not long after his marriage my grandfather went to Vienna, where, on the
anniversary of the birth of the great Empress-King, my mother was born,
and named, after her, Maria Theresa. In Vienna, Captain Decamp made the
acquaintance of a young English nobleman, Lord Monson (afterwards the
Earl of Essex), who, with an enthusiasm more friendly than wise, eagerly
urged the accomplished Frenchman to come and settle in London, where his
talents as a draughtsman and musician, which were much above those of a
mere amateur, combined with the protection of such friends as he could
not fail to find, would easily enable him to maintain himself and his
young wife and child.

In an evil hour my grandfather adopted this advice, and came to England.
It was the time when the emigration of the French nobility had filled
London with objects of sympathy, and society with sympathizers with
their misfortunes. Among the means resorted to for assisting the many
interesting victims of the Revolution, were representations, given under
the direction of Le Texier, of Berquin's and Madame de Genlis's juvenile
dramas, by young French children. These performances, combined with his
own extraordinary readings, became one of the fashionable frenzies of
the day. I quote from Walter Scott's review of Boaden's life of my uncle
the following notice of Le Texier: "On one of these incidental topics we
must pause for a moment, with delighted recollection. We mean the
readings of the celebrated Le Texier, who, seated at a desk, and dressed
in plain clothes, read French plays with such modulation of voice, and
such exquisite point of dialogue, as to form a pleasure different from
that of the theatre, but almost as great as we experience in listening
to a first-rate actor. We have only to add to a very good account given
by Mr. Boaden of this extraordinary entertainment, that when it
commenced Mr. Le Texier read over the _dramatis person _, with the


little analysis of character usually attached to each name, using the
voice and manner with which he afterward read the part; and so accurate
was the key-note given that he had no need to name afterward the person
who spoke; the stupidest of the audience could not fail to recognize

Among the little actors of Le Texier's troupe, my mother attracted the
greatest share of public attention by her beauty and grace, and the
truth and spirit of her performances.

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