Kemble, the name of a family of British actors. I. Roger, the founder of the family, born in Hereford, March 1, 1721, died in 1802. He was during a great portion of his life an actor and the manager of provincial companies. He had 12 children, of whom the eldest was the celebrated Mrs. Siddons. (See Siddons, Sarah.) II. John Philip, eldest son of the preceding, born at Prescot, Lancashire, Feb. 1, 1757, died in Lausanne, Switzerland, Feb. 26, 1823. He was educated at a Roman Catholic seminary in Staffordshire and at the English college in Douai, France, and made his first appearance upon the stage, for which he showed a remarkable inclination, in the tragedy of "Theodosius," Jan. 8, 1776. In 1783 he first acted at Drury Lane, of which theatre he became manager in 1790. From this time until his retirement he stood at the head of his profession. In 1803 he became a part owner of Covent Garden theatre, which he managed prosperously until its destruction by fire in 1808. The opening of the new theatre in the succeeding year under his management was the signal for a series of tumults, known as the O. P. ("old price ") riots, excited by the increased prices required for admission.
For upward of 60 nights Kemble and the members of his family were obliged to endure every species of insult; but a compromise was finally effected, and the theatre was liberally and successfully managed until Kemble's retirement from the stage, June 23, 1817, an occasion commemorated by the poet Campbell in one of his most finished odes. The latter part of his life was passed in Lausanne, whither he had retired for the benefit of his health. In the personation of the dramatic heroes, Cato, Coriolanus, King John, Wolsey, Macbeth, and Lear, he had no rival among contemporaneous actors; and in characters of a reflective cast generally he is probably still unequalled on the English stage. As a manager he distinguished himself by many splendid revivals of Shakespeare's plays. In private life he was highly esteemed. III. George Stephen, brother of the preceding, born at Kington, Herefordshire, May 3, 1758, died near Durham, June 5, 1822. He was intended for the medical profession, but, following his inclination, went upon the stage, and made his debut in London in September, 1783. For many years subsequently he was the manager of a provincial company.
He was a good actor, but in the latter part of his fife became so corpulent as to be almost incapacitated for any other part than Falstaff, which he frequently acted. IV. Elizabeth (Mrs. Whitlock), sister of the preceding, born in Warrington, Lancashire, April 2, 1761, died Feb. 27, 1836. She first appeared at Drury Lane theatre in February, 1783, as Portia. In 1785 she was married to Charles Edward Whitlock, a provincial manager and actor, and seven years later accompanied her husband to the United States, where they performed for many years in the principal cities. Mrs. Whitlock became the most popular actress of the day in America, and in Philadelphia frequently performed before President Washington and other distinguished persons. She returned to England in 1807 with a competency, and retired from the stage. In personal appearance and voice she is said to have strongly resembled her sister Mrs. Siddons. V. Charles, the 11th child of Roger Kemble, born in Brecon, South Wales, Nov. 27, 1775, died in London, Nov. 12, 1854. He was educated at the English college in Douai, and upon returning to England in 1792 received a situation in the general post office.
He soon abandoned this for the stage, and, after several trials in the provinces, made his first appearance at Drury Lane in April, 1794, playing for the occasion Malcolm to John Kemble's Macbeth and Mrs. Siddons's Lady Macbeth. For several years he took only secondary parts, and by comparatively slow degrees indicated that he possessed the dramatic genius of the family. In 1800 he first appeared as a writer for the stage in an adaptation of Mercier's Deserteur, entitled " The Point of Honor," and subsequently he furnished many similar pieces from the German and French for the London theatres. He began meanwhile to acquire considerable repute in his profession, and was accounted one of the best genteel comedians of his time, excelling in such parts as Benedick, Petruchio, Archer, Ranger, Charles Surface, etc.; and also in that numerous class of serious characters represented by Faulconbridge, Edgar, Cassio, Mark Antony, etc, for all of which his handsome person eminently qualified him. In 1832 he made a successful tour in the United States with his daughter, Miss Fanny Kemble, and in 1840 closed his career as an actor.
Shortly afterward he was appointed examiner of plays in England. VI. Frances Anne (Mrs. Butler), best known as Fanny Kemble, daughter of the preceding, born in London in 1811. Her mother, long known on the English stage as Mrs. Charles Kemble, was originally a dan-seuse at the opera house, London, as Miss De Camp. She manifested no special predilection for the stage, but was induced, in consequence of the embarrassed circumstances of her family, to make her debut at Covent Garden, then under the management of her father, in October, 1829. On this occasion she played Juliet, her father taking the part of Romeo and her mother that of the nurse, with complete success, notwithstanding that six weeks previous she had no thought of embarking in a dramatic career. For the three succeeding years she performed leading parts in tragedy and comedy with great applause, distinguishing herself particularly in Juliet, Portia, Bianca in "Fazio," Julia in " The Hunchback" (the latter being originally personated by her), Belvidera, Isabella, Lady Teazle, and Louise de Savoy, in her own play of "Francis the First," written when she was 17 years eld, and received with great approbation. In 1832 she accompanied her father to the United States, and met with an enthusiastic reception in the chief cities.
In 1834 she was married to Mr. Pierce Butler of Philadelphia, and at the same time retired definitively from the stage. Incompatibility of tastes and temperament having rendered the union an unhappy one, a separation took place at the end of a few years, and Mrs. Butler subsequently fixed her residence in Lenox, Berkshire co., Mass. Previous to this she had published her first work in prose, "A Journal of a Residence in America" (2 vols., London, 1835), chiefly devoted to a description of her tour through the United States. It was followed in 1837 by a drama entitled "The Star of Seville," which was acted with success; and in 1844 she published a collection of her poems, a portion of which only had previously appeared. In 1846 she visited Europe, extending her travels as far as Italy, where her sister, Mrs. Sarto-ris, resided, and in 1847 published an account of her tour under the title of " A Year of Consolation." Shortly afterward steps were taken to procure a divorce from her husband, which was granted by the legislature of Pennsylvania in 1849, after which she resumed the name of Kemble. In the winter of 1848-'9 she commenced in Boston a series of Shakespearian readings, which drew crowded audiences; and during the next two years she repeated the course in some of the principal American cities.
In 1851 she returned to England, reappeared for a brief period on the stage, and after giving readings in London and other parts of the United Kingdom, made another long continental tour. In 1856 she returned to the United States, and continued at intervals to give readings in Boston and elsewhere, till February, 1860. She then returned to England, and while residing there in 1863 she published "Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-'9," in which she gives from personal observation her impressions of the system of slavery. In 1866 she returned to her former residence in Lenox, Mass., in 1868 gave public readings in various places, and in 1869 went to Europe. She returned in 1873, and has since resided near Philadelphia. VII. Adelaide, younger sister of the preceding, born in London about 1820, made .a brilliant debut at Covent Garden as an opera singer; but upon being married in 1843 to Mr. Edward Sartoris, she retired from the stage. In 1867 she published "A Week in a French Country House." Her son, Algernon Charles Sartoris, was married at Washington in May, 1874, to the daughter of President Grant.