22 JULY 1882, Page 15


FANNY KEMBLE'S RECORDS OF LATER LIFE.t Mts. KEIS1BLE'S Records of Later Life is a book of great interest, but it is not a good autobiography. The records which the reader cares for are seldom those which concern herself. In- deed, considering that it is an autobiography, we hear wonder- fully little of the writer's life. There is a good deal about what she thought, but not much about what she did. Under the cir- cumstances, this is a distinct merit. The incidents of Mrs. Kemblo's married life concern no one but herself; but for all that, many women might have been tempted to treat the public as a judge before whom the facts were to be laid with all the fullness that would enable him to give a decision in the cause. Still, the omission, praiseworthy as it is, makes the interest of the records entirely an outside interest. An American writer once published a book called People I Have Met, and that would. be a more descriptive title for Mrs. Kemble's work than any other that could be devised, except, perhaps, "People I Have Written To." The first volume, how- ever, does say something of her life in America. As a young woman, newly married, she gives her impressions of the rough. and-ready life that Philadelphia afforded in the year 1834. The house she lived in, although designated by the fine-sounding name of " Butler Place," was " in no respect superior to a, second-rate farm-house in England." In this she says she might have been content, if she had been allowed to work her will on garden and household. In neither, however, could she do what she wanted to do. The garden was forbidding in its soil and aspect, the household unamenable through the stern American independence of those who composed it. Probably the way in which Mrs. Kemble went to work accounts somewhat for her want of success. She evidently had not grasped the essential elements which make up Ameri- can character ; and her statement that her " first attempt at cultivating the neighbour's goodwill was a ludicrous and lament- able failure" does not surprise us, "I offered," she says, "to teach the little children of my garden and farm, and as many of the village children as liked to join them, to read and write ; but found my benevolent proposal excited nothing but a sort of con- • On this lino, Daniel has the following note :—" Constantin felt fills Constan- tini, gravi quidem morbo affects. Quin auditis rairnantis a Domino "or henbans Agnetern footle, vond oil sins fraud= recuperanthe annitotis gratin. Neirto owns spas fefellit."—Tholaures, Vol. IL, p. 7D.

t Records of Later Life. By Frances Anne Ramble. London: Richard Bentley and Ben. 11392.

temptuous amazement,"—an amazement which any American would justify, when she goes on to say that " there was a village school where they received instruction, for which they were obliged and willing to pay, to which they were accustomed to go, which answered all their purposes, fulfilled all their desires, and where the small students made their exits and their entrances without bob or bow, or any other superstitious observance of civilised courtesy." A feast she gave on her first 4th of July, in honour of American Independ- ence, was no more successful. "Beer and wine were liberally provided," but " neither wine nor beer was touched ;" a deplor- able determination on the part of feast-partakers, which may ultimately prove fatal to festivities. Her efforts to attain fresh butter more than twice a week proved equally fruitless. " Fresh butter every morning ! who ever heard the like P Twice-a-week butter not good enough for anybody ! who ever dreamt of such vagaries ?" naturally led ou to the honest avowal, on the part of the sober young American dairymaid, that, not to put it too finely, her mistress might whistle for the butter.

The absence of success in household duties no doubt contri- buted to a depression that prevented Mrs. Kemble from throw- ing herself heartily into books, which might have done much to make her comparative solitude more endurable. Her past life, however, was no good training for that. As she more than once says of herself, she never really cared for reading. Books were not companions to her, and they were more often read at the request of friends, than from any instinctive desire for reading on the part of Mrs. Kemble. Her vocation clearly Iay among her fellow-creatures. A quick sense of humour and a consider- able power of telling a story so as to make it vivid to her hearers, fitted her to take her place among those whose reputation for creating or repeating anecdote still survives. With Sydney Smith she was on terms of intimacy, while Lady Holland, Mrs. Grote, Charles Greville, and others all helped to provide her with copious materials. The treatment to which Lady Holland subjected her guests was an insuperable barrier to Mrs. Bemble's intercourse with her. "The spoonfuls of dirt Lady Holland occasionally administered to her friends" were too serious a price to pay for the delights of what Lady Tankerville called Lady Holland's "pleasant 'ouse," unique although it was at that time. The anecdotes of Sydney Smith abound, and are far too numerous to be quoted here ; but his horror of a dream he once had in illness, when he dreamt he "was chained to a rock, and being talked to death by Harriet Martineau and Macaulay," was a horror with which we can sincerely sympathise. Of the poet Rogers Mrs. Kemble had fully as high an opinion as he deserved. d propos of a charm- ing story, told by Harness, of a poor woman who, when one of his curates pointed out that Providence had been, upon the whole, very good to her, replied, " So he 'aye, sir, so he 'aye, mostly—I don't deny it, but I sometimes think he 'ave taken it out in corns "—Mrs. Kemble admits that " Rogers took out his benevolence in the same direction,—in the corns he inflicted, or at any rate trod upon in others." One delightful battle of wit she gives between him and Sydney Smith, in re- ference to a bon-mot of Rogers upon Lady Morley, a social favourite, who was lacking in the charm of a musical voice. "There is but one voice against her in all England, and that is her own," said Rogers, which epigram, when repeated to Sydney Smith, he could not contentedly credit to Rogers. "He never made it; it is not his ; it isn't a bit like him." And on his way home—so short was the interval of time he allowed to elapse— he sent to Mrs. Kemble, under the signature of a French lady of the eighteenth century, the following quotation :—" Dane toute l'Angleterre, it n'y a qu'une voix contre moi, et c'est la mienne," adding, " What a dear, innocent, confiding, credulous creature you are ! and how you do love Rogers 1" The most human of Mrs. Kemble's anecdotes are those she tells of Mrs. Grote, who, consciously or unconsciously, managed to give her friends boundless amusement by her mental and physical quali- ties combined. Those who have known " Grote.," as she was unceremoniously dubbed, will never forget the large, square- built figure, with high shoulders and commanding presence, that tramped across country, regardless alike of ploughed fur- rows and social conventionality. Those who associate such masculine traits with Mrs. Grote will be amused with the de- scription given by Mrs. Kemble of her dress and appearance; when she first came across her :—" She was dressed in a bright, brimstone-coloured, silk gown, made so short as to show her feet and ankles, having on her head a white-satin

hat, with a forest of white feathers ; and I remember her stand- ing, with her feet wide apart and her arms akimbo, in this cos- tume before me, and challenging me upon some political ques- tion, by which and her appearance I was much astonished, and a little frightened." Mrs. Kemble—like others who knew Mrs. Grote—recognised in her the somewhat pardonable vanity she had of her remarkably handsome feet and legs. Her efforts to display these advantages were not so pardonable. One of her favourite modes of calling attention to what she con- sidered her charms was to lie ttpon .a sofa, with her feet clothed in scarlet, somewhat in a higher line than her head, the better to display their fine form. She has been even known to feign sleep, in order to afford a longer period for admiring contemplation. Dressed in white at an evening party, sho pro- voked the question, " Who is the gentleman in the white-muslin gown ?"—while she played the part of a veritable woman in. the capricious manner in which she made and dropped her friends when they ceased to give her any excitement.

Such anecdotes might be multiplied indefinitely, if we had space enough to give. The description given of Mademoiselle d'Este is humorous in the extreme. The marriage of the Duke of Sussex with Lady Augusta Murray could not be recognised at Court, but it afforded Mademoiselle d'Este some gratification to play the part of a Princess of the Blood, at least before her own servants. When staying at Belvoir Castle, she each evening delayed entering the dining-room until all the guests were seated, to avoid the slight of being handed in to dinner after the other women of rank who might be staying at the castle. In her own house, she sent her servants out of the room, to avoid being helped by them after any guest that happened to be there.

These amusing anecdotes grow more rare as the Records pro- ceed. Clouds were gathering over the life of Mrs. Kemble, and her letters become more full of her own mental ques- tionings, or else are merely a diary of where she went and what she looked forward to doing. The year 1845 found her back in the theatrical profession. The circumstances leading to it are very properly veiled in secrecy. That it was a great trial to her once more to return to the theatre is not denied. The life she had led for nine years had not been one which had helped to keep up her gifts. Probably, however, the experience she had gained of life—completely apart as it was from her early pro- fession—increased her powers of representation. At least she had gained in depth and passion, if she felt she had lost in versatility and physical charm. That this was the case, the success which attended her return amply proves. The Eng- lish public received their old favourite with warm welcome. If at first London was somewhat shy of giving her an opening,. the winter of 1847-48 found her acting with Macready at the Princess's, and shortly after the Records come to an end. In the summer of 1848, Mrs. Kemble returned to America, and through the money she earned by giving readings she was soon able to realise her "long-cherished hope of pur- chasing a small cottage and a few acres of land in the beau- tiful and beloved neighbourhood of Lenox." In America these Records open, in America they close. Their form—that of- private letters to her friends—affords little opening for criti- cism. Her religious questionings, if not original, are at least genuine; and when they are taken in combination with the qualities which made her great in her profession and sought after in society, they help to make up a character and a career of which the English Stage may well be proud. The Records themselves, written as they are without malice, and with that amount of reserve which commands respect, are a pleasant addi- tion to the memoirs of well-known people, and unlike most memoirs, they leave no unpleasant feeling behind.