Fanny Kemble and Charles— autograph supplier and autograph hunter

Eaton Place, off Belgrave Square, has always been one of the most exclusive addresses in London. In the 1840s, no 99 was the home of the opera singer Mrs Adelaide Sartoris, younger sister of famous actress, novelist and memorialist Fanny Kemble. It was here too, on 23 June 1848, that Chopin gave his first public concert in London before a select audience of 150 that included Swedish diva Jenny Lind.

We don’t know if Fanny was present on this occasion, but thanks to the letter, which was discovered among a pile of other miscellaneous correspondence, we can guess that she occasionally stayed with her sister at no 99 following the breakdown of her own marriage to an American slave-owner. This undated letter, to ‘Charles’, possibly Charles Legh Arkwright (born 1845), a scion of the wealthy Arkwright family of Cromford, Derbyshire, into which the Kembles married, was sent in response to his  letter thanking her for sending him some signatures of her aunt, the celebrated Mrs Siddons. We don’t know whether by ‘signatures’ Fanny meant signed letters, or whether Charles had originally asked for many more autographs of famous actors and actresses, but Fanny could only find a few examples. Here anyway is her reply:

Dear Charles,
You owe me no thanks for the autographs I sent you & I am very glad that they were acceptable. I have only signatures of Mrs Siddons’, so could give you nothing else---I am very glad to hear of the favourable results of the examination---your father & grandmother are well, likewise poor Beppo, whose London existence seems to be like my own, lamentable.
Believe me, my dear Charles,
Yours very truly,
Fanny Kemble.

Who this Beppo was is not certain. We know that Fanny became 'infatuated' with Byron’s poetry, which included Beppo (1817),so perhaps Beppo was a pet name for a close friend or relative. [RR]

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