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Chapter One: Enter Fanny Kemble
In 1809 Frances Anne Kemble was born into the most celebrated theatrical family in Europe. The decade of her birth, known among historians of the British theater as the Kemble era, marked the convergence of a powerful theatrical dynasty and the triumphant ascendancy of theater as an art form.
Led by patriarch Roger Kemble, the Kemble clan spearheaded the campaign waged by British actors throughout the eighteenth century to bring the theater into the rarefied circle of artistic esteem long accorded opera, ballet, and orchestral performances. Striving to reverse the prejudices his craft had faced for centuries, Kemble was steadfast in his efforts to help managers secure theater permits and establish permanent homes for acting companies. And he railed against the long-held stereotype that women who pursued careers on the stage were hardly a cut above the courtesans who filled the third tier of the gallery.
Roger Kemble defied that opinion in a most personal way, by taking an actress as his bride. He married Sarah Ward, the daughter of a popular actor acclaimed for his 1746 benefit performance at Stratford, Shakespeare's birthplace, to raise funds for the restoration of a monument to the playwright. The Kemble affinity for Shakespeare -- so evident in the superb performances of Roger's granddaughter Fanny Kemble -- had its roots in the world of eighteenth-century traveling troupes.
At that time, a royal license was required to operate a theater, and London supported just two patents: Covent Garden and the Drury Lane. Further, the Act of 1737 forbade performing plays for profit outside London, forcing theatrical companies to find a way around the law by transforming their troupes into musical companies that charged admission to concerts, but offered plays "free." The authorities turned a blind eye; by the end of the century, a crude circuit had been established among Bath, Bristol, and other provincial towns. It was into this bustling milieu that the Kemble clan threw its fortunes.
Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward produced twelve children, eight of whom survived childhood. Seven of the eight turned to the stage, but it was John, Sarah, and Charles who shone. Their father, however, prized education above celebrity, and if Roger Kemble had had his way, his children would never have achieved such fame. Hoping to achieve the distinguished status of father of a priest, he sent three of his sons to the seminary.
The oldest of the Kemble sons, John Philip, was the first to defy his father, leaving seminary in 1778 to join a reputable theatrical company in York. By 1783, he was ready to make his London debut at the Drury Lane, playing Hamlet. Just weeks before, his younger brother George had debuted at Covent Garden, as Othello. A theatrical sibling rivalry seemed imminent. But George's performances were less than memorable; John Philip went on to become the leading interpreter of Shakespeare for his generation.
John Philip Kemble's work at the Drury Lane made such an impression on its owner, the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, that by 1788 he offered John Philip Kemble the opportunity to manage the playhouse. Just as Roger Kemble had done in his day, John Philip seized the opportunity to innovate. He insisted on historical accuracy in costuming and staging, perfectly re-creating Elizabethan dress and de;cor. When Kemble broke with his mentor in 1802, he used his earnings from the Drury Lane to buy a one-sixth share of its rival.
Kemble's arrival at Covent Garden in 1803 seemed to assure the peak of the Kemble era. Sister Sarah and brother Charles claimed spots in the repertory company, and their popularity grew alongside John Philip's reputation. But other Kemble siblings, craving successes of their own, did not meet with the same good fortune. George, after his disastrous debut in London, reestablished himself in Edinburgh. Using his middle name, Stephen, he was founder of a successful theater company. Elizabeth Kemble Whitlock journeyed to America, where she won better roles than she could have expected at home. Frances married and retired from the stage entirely.
But it was Ann Kemble who found the most notoriety. She first married a bigamist, then embarked on a shady career as a public lecturer on sex which culminated in her being shot in the face in an altercation in a London bawdyhouse. The more distinguished Kembles put a stop to these antics by granting their sister an annuity, intended to prevent her from exploiting the family name on handbills. The payoff came at a high price -- expulsion from London.
In contrast, Sarah Siddons, born in a tavern in Wales while her parents were on tour, was destined to be John Philip Kemble's true rival. In 1773, traveling with her father's troupe, she married fellow actor William Siddons. But after an inauspicious London debut as Portia at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1775, she was banished to the provinces, where she remained for six full seasons.
It was her 1782 return to London, leading the popular tragedy The Fatal Marriage, that made her the most respected and awe-inspiring actress of her generation. Madame de Stael described Siddons's spellbinding performance: "At last comes the moment when Isabella, having broken free from her women, who wish to prevent her from killing herself, laughs, as she stabs herself, at the uselessness of their efforts. The effect of this laugh of despair is the most extraordinary and difficult achievement of dramatic art; it is far more moving than tears; misery finds its most heart-rending expression in its bitter irony."
A commanding presence on stage, Siddons was equally comfortable in the presence of aristocratic admirers. During her second season in London, Sir Joshua Reynolds painted her portrait as "the Tragic Muse." Edward Gibbon, Edmund Burke, and William Pitt the Elder all fawned over her, and King George III brought members of the royal family to her performances until she retired in 1812. Lord Byron exulted, "Nothing ever was or can be like her."
Despite her impeccable paternal bloodline, Fanny Kemble always believed that "whatever qualities of mind or character I inherited from my father's family, I am more strongly stamped with those I derived from my mother." A popular starlet in her own right, Maria The;rèse de Camp began performing song, dance, and theatrical roles at age six, when her Swiss mother and French father emigrated to England. Named for the archduchess of Austria because she was born in Vienna, Maria The;rèse displayed courtly manners well suited to entertaining in society parlors, including the drawing room of the prince regent's mistress, Mrs. Fitzherbert, where she would delight the future king with her dancing. When her father died, leaving her mother indigent, Maria The;rèse -- the eldest of five, though not yet in her teens -- became the family breadwinner. Two of her younger siblings, Adelaide and Vincent, later followed her on stage.
After her critically acclaimed theatrical debut at the Drury Lane, scandal struck in 1795 when a drunken theatrical manager burst in on the twenty-one-year-old Maria The;rèse in her dressing room. She was able to fight him off, but, like all actresses, she feared her reputation might be tainted by sexual innuendo. She demanded a formal apology from the offending cad, who was none other than John Philip Kemble. His fondness for drink had no ill effects on his stage performances, but all too often clouded his judgment offstage. Kemble apologized in the newspaper for his transgression and absolved Miss de Camp of any blame, and that seemed to be the end of the story.
But the entire family was shocked anew when Charles Kemble, after appearing with the young Maria The;rèse de Camp in several dramas, professed his love for the former object of his brother's lust. In 1800 he announced his intention to marry Maria The;rèse, who returned his affections. The Kemble family voiced strong objections, and went to great lengths to prevent the union. An even greater obstacle, however, was the wrath of John Philip Kemble, whose power in London theatrical circles was so great that defying him meant professional doom.
Charles pleaded with his brother. John Philip finally consented -- on one condition: Charles must postpone the wedding until he reached the age of thirty, more than five years distant. Presumably John Philip hoped his baby brother would outgrow his infatuation. But Charles's feelings never faltered. And so it was that John Philip himself gave the bride away when his brother and Maria The;rèse were wed in 1805.
Maria The;rèse may have been a Kemble by marriage, but the family never regarded her as one of their own. That her mother was perpetually made to feel an outsider, perhaps even an outcast, was painfully clear to Fanny. Late in life she reflected: "The great actors of my family have received their due of recorded admiration; my mother has always seemed to me to have been overshadowed by their celebrity." Fanny longed for affirmation of her mother's worth.
Fanny's very birth occurred in the midst of a Kemble family crisis. In 1808 Covent Garden burned to the ground, destroying many valuable costumes and props owned by the Kembles, along with the grand old structure itself. John Philip Kemble received an outpouring of support from aristocratic patrons, which allowed him and his partners to undertake rebuilding. But the new plans called for a theater much grander and more elaborate than its predecessor, and the project was slowed by ballooning costs and dueling egos.
In the fall of 1809 Covent Garden once again opened its doors to the public. Theatergoers quickly discovered that this ornate replacement bore little resemblance to their old favorite. Especially offensive was the owners' decision to increase the number of expensive private boxes by limiting that of more reasonably priced gallery tickets. Seats in the pit, previously affordable by patrons of even the most modest means, had gone up in price. In effect, Roger Kemble's crusade to raise the profile of the theater as an art form had been reborn -- through economic means.
A chorus of complaint broke out on opening night, and protests continued unabated. Audiences incessantly booed, catcalled, and chanted "Old Prices" so loudly that performers were drowned out by the din. Favorite players, trotted onstage in attempts to appease the angry mob, did little to soothe them; they waved banners and tossed orange peels at the likes of Charles Kemble as Cromwell in Henry VIII, Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth, and even Maria The;rèse Kemble -- seven months pregnant -- as Lucy in The Beggar's Opera.
But it was John Philip Kemble who bore the brunt of the public's displeasure. He was hissed off the stage nightly and he was serenaded with rude songs at his home. Theater protests were not uncommon and the vitriol of boisterous crowds was an ordinary part of doing business -- but the intensity and duration of the "O.P. riots" were extraordinary. Finally, on December 15, after sixty-seven nights of protest, John Philip Kemble conceded defeat and rolled back the price of admission. Given the debt he had incurred rebuilding Covent Garden, this decision would prove financially ruinous. But after months of violence and mayhem, the show could go on only by the grace of the public.
Maria The;rèse's brush with the "Old Price" mob was enough to keep her off the Covent Garden stage indefinitely. She secluded herself at the family home on Newman Street in the Soho district, where, on November 27, 1809, as the riots raged on, she gave birth to Frances Anne Kemble. The Kembles' third child (after John Mitchell, two years her senior, and a boy who died in infancy) and their first girl, she was named Frances after her father's sister, the retired actress who became her godmother, and Anne after one of her mother's dear friends. She was always known as Fanny.
True to her dramatic roots, as a child Fanny took every opportunity to steal the show, even when she shared the scene with Aunt Sarah Siddons. One family story recalls a severe lecture delivered by the theatrical legend on the subject of rude behavior. Fanny listened solemnly to the scolding, then delivered a perfectly timed compliment of her imposing aunt's "beautiful eyes," which were indeed Sarah's most impressive feature. Siddons melted.
But while Kemble's childhood had its share of precious moments, disruption and upheaval were just as common. She learned from an early age that the wages of an artist yielded few comforts. As a mother of young children, Maria The;rèse found the clamor and squalor of London's most populous neighborhoods increasingly difficult to endure, and episodes of parental discord erupted frequently. Charles harbored thwarted ambitions of his own: "The fame of my brother John in tragedy caused me for long to avoid trespassing upon his ground."
Although the time when the Kemble family would depend on Fanny for its livelihood was not far off, her rebellious early years proved difficult for her parents. Long anxious that Charles's indulgence toward Fanny was spoiling her, Maria The;rèse believed that the only cure was discipline and training outside the household. In 1814 -- following the birth of Adelaide, nicknamed Totty -- Fanny was sent away, the first of many exiles, to a girls' school in Bath run by her aunt Frances Twiss. But as Twiss discovered over Fanny's twelve-month stay, her niece had already developed a stubborn streak that made her indifferent to punishment.
She was sent back to London, where her family had found a larger home to accommodate two more additions -- Fanny's baby brother Henry, nicknamed Harry; and Maria The;rèse's sister, Adelaide de Camp, called Dall. Dall had been a member of Stephen Kemble's Edinburgh troupe, but retired to her sister's household after a bitter disappointment in love. She never married, and devoted the remainder of her life to her sister's family, especially her nieces.
By 1816 Fanny was sent away for a second time, to a boarding school in Boulogne, France. It was not unusual for a family of means to have a daughter spend her formative years away from home, but young Fanny found the arrangement unbearable. That Boulogne was actually closer to London than Bath was didn't make the renewed separation any easier.
Fanny earned stellar marks in her lessons, and her instructors in French and Italian discovered a facility for languages. While her intellect was beyond dispute, her willfulness remained unchecked. For punishment, she was shut into an attic room, but she soon learned to climb out onto the roof. When a passerby caught sight of her, alarm ensued, and from then on Fanny's errant behavior was corrected in the escape-proof cellar. The French schoolmistress, finding Fanny incorrigible, called her "cette diable de Kemble" -- dubious praise that the nine-year-old proudly repeated upon her return to England.
By this time, Maria The;rèse had relocated the household yet again, this time to the farthest edge of London: Craven Hill, in Bayswater. Although his wife's desire for fresh air and open spaces was assuaged to a degree, Charles Kemble, unable to afford a coach, was forced to walk five miles daily each way between home and work. Eventually he was able to lease a small flat in Soho, which eased his commute and allowed the family overnight city excursions.
John Philip Kemble finally retired in 1819; in early November 1820, he signed over to Charles his one-sixth share of Covent Garden and moved permanently to Switzerland.
Now Charles had a chance to truly make his mark. By the time he was able to wrest management of the theater from his partners two years later, he had waited so long in the wings that critics were intensely eager to judge his abilities.
He chose to open his first season with The School for Scandal, casting the popular William Macready in the lead and himself as a supporting player. The critics applauded, welcoming the "superior taste" of a "scholar, gentleman, and perfect master of his art." Charles Kemble's brilliant success ensured that even after John Philip's retirement and his death in 1823, the Kemble name would continue to thrive. The family finances were another matter.
Fanny Kemble recalled the elation the family had felt at this seeming windfall -- presumably worth more than £40,000 -- that her uncle had granted them. She was only eleven then; years passed before she understood that her father's stake in Covent Garden made him liable for the theater's enormous debts. She later characterized Covent Garden as "a hopelessly ruined concern" and blamed it for the collapse of the Kemble family fortunes.
Under extreme financial pressure, the Kembles could ill afford to be distracted by their daughter's more and more outrageous antics. When, following minor infractions, she resorted to such drastic measures as running away from home, hiding in a neighbor's cottage, or throwing herself in a pond, they became desperate for a solution. In Paris they found a school run by a Mrs. Rowden, a pious and austere Englishwoman who brooked no interference with her rigid routine. She required her pupils to attend mass at a French convent as well as Anglican services at the British embassy. Fanny remembered an increasing appreciation of the Bible and its lessons during these four years; Mrs. Rowden also fostered in her a love of literature -- French writers, Italian writers, and even Byron, in purloined copies. She was to embrace these incongruous passions -- for writings both sacred and profane -- throughout her lifetime.
Mrs. Rowden believed that another of her pupil's passions, the theater, was ill-suited to her. Fanny had learned to love the great dramas of Racine, even playing the lead in a school production of Andromaque, but Rowden pronounced her talent for the stage "nonexistent."
Throughout her lonely years in Paris, Fanny worried constantly that she might forget her mother's face. Their reunion -- at the family's new home in Weybridge, a village twenty miles southwest of London -- was touching. A renewed intimacy helped Fanny heal the wounds caused by their time apart. Kemble's troubled youth was filled with torments about her relationship with her distant and demanding mother.
Fanny had become aware at an early age that her mother suffered from some kind of nervous disorder. Her attacks grew increasingly debilitating over the years of Fanny's childhood. From the time of her retirement from the stage until her premature death, Maria The;rèse became more and more reclusive, and less capable of dealing with the demands of her family and household. Her family coped with her mental decline. She tried to soothe her fraying nerves with bracing fresh air, sedentary routines, and the slower pace of country life. She especially enjoyed fishing, and would invite Fanny along to while away the afternoons along a riverbank.
Yet their pastoral reunion was marred when Maria The;rèse allowed Fanny to be exposed to smallpox; a mild case of the disease would immunize her for life. However, there was no way to control the severity of the resulting infection, and Fanny suffered a serious bout. As a result, her lovely face was marked by a murky complexion ever after. Maria The;rèse protected Adelaide from exposure, and both Kemble boys were enrolled at boarding school in nearby Bury St. Edmunds, so they too escaped the virus. But the damage Fanny had already suffered was irreversible.
During her convalescence, her brothers' schoolmaster Dr. Arthur Malkin visited the Kemble home and was impressed by Fanny's lively intellect. Malkin became something of a mentor to the sixteen-year-old, providing her with reading lists, tutoring her in German, and suggesting ambitious translation projects to sharpen her already keen mind.
Maria The;rèse was well pleased with her daughter's progress, but the hours spent poring over lessons made no improvement on Fanny's adolescent slouch. This had to be corrected, for carriage was a mark of breeding. The Kembles had the novel idea of hiring a member of the Royal Foot Guards to teach their daughter proper posture. Fanny's mother also tried to train Fanny's singing voice, but eleven-year-old Totty chimed in with perfect pitch while Fanny struggled to keep in tune, and the lessons were soon abandoned. Fanny eventually developed a strong singing voice, but she chose to use it for her own pleasure, rather than for public entertainment.
During the period from 1825 to 1826, Fanny was a frequent guest at Heath Farm, an estate owned by the Earl of Essex and currently on loan to John Philip Kemble's widow. Fanny greatly enjoyed these expeditions to Hertfordshire, especially because it was there that she met Harriet St. Leger in 1826.
Harriet St. Leger was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, the spinster mistress of Ardgillan Castle (near Dublin), fourteen years older than Fanny and known for her eccentric tastes. St. Leger's costume always consisted of a gray riding habit embellished with cashmere collar and cuffs, handmade leather boots, and a distinctive beaver hat. Her wardrobe and her outdoorsy manner made her the frequent subject of idle gossip.
But Fanny was plainly smitten with this handsome woman, so confident in her demeanor. Throughout the time when they were both at Heath Farm, Harriet and Fanny shared a bedroom, where they talked into the night about religion, politics, and whatever caught their fancy. When St. Leger returned to Ireland, the two promised to begin a correspondence.
They kept this pledge all their lives, and through their letters a deep and lasting friendship grew. Although they rarely met over the next fifty years, Harriet St. Leger became Fanny's sounding board, her confidante, and -- thanks to the shared passion for religion and theology revealed in their letters -- soul mate. Kemble's attachment was permanent and lasting, although it did not have the homoerotic component that imbued many female friendships during this era. St. Leger never married and spent most of her adult years with a female companion, Dorothy Wilson, but, as with many similar arrangements, this relationship never interfered with her devotion to Kemble.
In Harriet, Fanny found the best friend she so sorely needed. Her parents were so preoccupied with Covent Garden that they had little attention to spare her. Aunt Dall was a comforting presence, but even she could not provide the stimulation seventeen-year-old Fanny craved. Fanny began to cultivate intimacies outside the family: she befriended Caroline Norton, a granddaughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, visited Lord and Lady Egerton (later Earl and Countess Ellesmere) at Oatlands, their nearby estate, and made the acquaintance of such famous personages as the writer Anna Jameson. On rare occasions, she explored London in the company of her father, most memorably touring the Thames Tunnel with its engineer, Sir Marc Isambard Brunel. But these diversions were not enough to satisfy her restless curiosity.
In an effort to capture her thoughts and emotions, Fanny began to keep a diary, but was frustrated by the artifice of solitary conversation and longed for company. She preferred "the sifting, examining, scrutinizing, discussing intercourse that compels one to analysis of one's own ideas and sentiments." Fanny was fond of society, especially its capacity to foster intellectual discussions. As a young woman lacking the means to make a formal social debut, she was dismayed to find herself on the sidelines. Her parents had neither the means nor the inclination to allow their daughter to mix in high society.
Fanny's relative isolation compounded her inherent lack of confidence. Throughout her adolescence she constantly measured herself against the only society available to her: her brothers and sisters. While her older brother John had won academic distinction and her sister Adelaide had musical gifts, Fanny feared she possessed no talents of her own. Deep in the throes of schoolgirl melancholy, she especially envied her younger siblings' natural buoyancy; she was certain that her mother's critical supervision had robbed her of her natural good humor. Her "exacting taste," Fanny confessed, "made in her everything most keenly alive to our faults and deficiencies....The unsparing severity of the sole reply or comment...'I hate a fool' has remained almost like a cut with a lash across my memory."
Whatever her mother's lacerating criticisms, Fanny was vivacious and ambitious, with a natural verbal flair. She eventually cast aside her doubts and set her sights on an exalted goal: she wanted to become a writer.
The opening decades of the nineteenth century were a grand time for British women writers; among their ranks were the likes of the Bronte sisters, Maria Edgeworth, Hannah More, and Jane Austen, whom Fanny passionately admired. Also, a long line of distinguished Kemble authors preceded her. John Philip Kemble had produced verse and essays; Sarah Siddons had published Shakespearean criticism; and Fanny's parents had published original dramas (Charles) and "stage adaptations" (Maria The;rèse). These Kemble authors had gained entre;e into the publishing world through their stage reputations. But the Kemble name was well known among readers and playgoers alike, so Fanny believed that there might be a ready literary market for another Kemble scribbler.
When Fanny confessed her ambitions to Harriet St. Leger, she had her heart set on creating a novel and had gone so far as to choose a historical theme. This plan met with Harriet's approval. Halfway through her story Fanny decided to turn the project into a play, "Francis the First." When she gathered her family in the parlor for a dramatic reading from the script, her parents praised it extravagantly and her older brother John, home from school, pronounced it full of true literary merit.
Fanny accepted the compliments gracefully, but remained privately discouraged about her prospects. Her writing, she explained to Harriet St. Leger in February 1828, amounted to "a clever performance for so young a person, but nothing more." Yet she guarded her ambitions fiercely, vowing to "exercis[e] and develop the literary talent which I think I possess. This is meat, drink, and sleep to me; my world, in which I live, and have my happiness; and moreover, I hope by means of fame (the prize for which I pray)."
Like any young writer, Fanny indulged her fantasies freely, even imagining herself as a literary "lioness." But such whimsical moments were curtailed all too often by the daunting realities of money. Writing, Fanny realized, would be "to earn hard money after a very hard fashion." She identified acting as a fallback career, reasoning that "if my going on the stage would nearly double that [Charles Kemble's] income, lessen my dear father's anxieties for us all...would not this be 'consummation devoutly to be wished'?"
Fanny worried constantly over her family's financial situation. From an early age, she complained of suffering from "blue devils," which may have been clinical depression. Her mother's illness manifested itself in frequent outbursts of manic behavior. Fanny and her siblings never knew when they might come home to find their mother collapsed in bed, or on the other hand rearranging the furniture with plans to remodel a home for which they could barely afford the upkeep. These disruptive family scenes contributed to Fanny's bleak moods and emotional instability. She confided to Harriet in January 1828 that she had once tossed a manuscript of eight hundred pages into the fire, destroying her only copy. She immediately regretted the impulsive action, admitting that her year's work "should not have been thrown away in a foolish fit of despondency."
News of her father's ongoing struggles at Convent Garden did nothing to raise Fanny's low spirits. Charles Kemble's long and contentious dispute with Henry Harris, a business partner, dragged through Chancery Court, sadly depleting the household coffers. Kemble's offstage appearance was so threadbare and bedraggled that he joked about wearing nothing but his "Chancery suit."
Lackluster theater receipts compounded his legal woes. This situation, Charles Kemble surmised, would be easily remedied by the arrival of a promising young actress on the London scene. But none emerged, and not for lack of searching. Managers scoured provincial theaters with no success, while Maria The;rèse scouted the talent among the acting students she taught at the Kembles' Soho flat. Theatergoers, it seemed, would continue mourning the retirement of her remarkable sister-in-law, Sarah Siddons, until a replacement was offered.
Many of the Siddons clan -- Fanny Kemble's distant cousins -- were living in Edinburgh. Sarah's son Henry Siddons, known as Harry, had been a popular actor in his day, and his widow, Harriet, was an actress so beloved by the Scots that fans called her "our Mrs. Siddons." In 1828, eighteen-year-old Fanny accepted Harriet Siddons's invitation to make a visit. She looked forward to the change of scene and to escape from her own increasingly volatile home life.
Fanny spent a blissful year with this favorite cousin, but perhaps it was the attentions of young men that persuaded her to linger. Maria The;rèse wrote Harriet frequently, imploring her to strictly monitor Fanny's circle of friends. These came to include the physician Andrew Combe and his brother George, a lawyer whose career took a well-publicized turn toward the "science" of phrenology, the practice of reading bumps on the skull to ascertain moral character.
Both men later professed to have been half in love with Fanny Kemble. But it was Cecilia Siddons, Sarah's daughter and Fanny's favorite first cousin, whom George eventually married; Andrew, a confirmed bachelor, remained a devoted friend to Fanny over the years. Harriet Siddons's own son, Harry, made romantic overtures toward Fanny, going so far as to have her name engraved on his sword blade before he shipped out for military service in India. But these were all innocent flirtations.
As much as she enjoyed the company of friends and relations, Fanny was becoming increasingly introspective. To truly know herself, she realized, she must experience life outside her own limited sphere. She was especially drawn to the villages along the Scottish coast, where she explored the seaside shanties. Here she developed her renowned affinity for "plain folk"; for the rest of her life she devoted time and energy to those "less fortunate" than herself.
Fanny would later pronounce this year of spiritual reflection the best of her life. She drew strength and comfort from the serenity of Harriet Siddons, an antidote to her mother's erratic ways. Harriet Siddons devoted a part of each day to religious reflection, an example that inspired Fanny to imbue her own daily Bible readings with deeper meaning, pausing often to ponder the verses and their lessons. Under Harriet's gentle influence, Fanny even gave up reading Byron. Although years apart in age and vastly different in temperament, Fanny and Harriet Siddons became extremely close. Fanny tried to emulate this woman she so came to admire.
She returned to London in 1829 with her spirits lifted, to find that the Kemble house on St. James's Street had become the site of frequent gatherings of