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Journal of a Residence on a Georgian…

Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 (Brown… (edition 1984)

by Fanny Kemble

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175167,867 (3.8)11
Title:Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 (Brown Thrasher Books) (Brown Thrasher Books)
Authors:Fanny Kemble
Info:University of Georgia Press (1984), Paperback, 415 pages
Collections:Your library, For School
Tags:diary, Southern, farm

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Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 by Fanny Kemble



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Published in 1863, this is a series of letters from Kemble to her friend E[lizabeth Sedgwick] describing her four months as the wife of a Georgian plantation owner, and going into considerable detail about the living conditions of the slaves. It is horrific stuff, an eloquent argument against slavery, published twenty-five years after the event in a deliberate attempt to undermine British sympathy for the Confederacy in the middle of the Civil War. I haven't read any of the editorials in the Times that she is reacting to, but I do remember the right-wing British press on apartheid, Northern Ireland, and (more dimly) Rhodesia. Sadly, I have little difficulty in imagining pompous British journalists of the day trying to reassure their readers that slavery was actually a very good deal for the slaves. (It is also a shameful fact, remembered by few, that Irish nationalists of the 1860s sympathised with the Confederacy too, as they sympathised with the Boers at the end of the century.)

Bearing in mind that the author was an actress, I was alert for clues that the letters might have been somewhat revised for publication to put her case in the best possible light. But I ended up doubting that this was the case - there are enough internal repetitions that a good editor would have taken out to ensure a better flow of the narrative. I am sure that she did delete certain more personal details about her husband and daughters, but I feel that otherwise this is pretty much the horrified account of a thirty-year-old woman trying (and ultimately failing) to come to terms with the society she had married into, rather then her fifty-five-year-old self retrospectively justifying it; a famous and glamorous English actress, who had married a rich and charming young American and only gradually come to a realisation of exactly how his family's fortunes were sustained.

Thank heavens there were people like her prepared to bear witness to what slavery actually meant. ( )
  nwhyte | Jul 14, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fanny Kembleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Scott, John AnthonyEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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For Elizabeth and Wendy

To Elizabeth Dwight Sedgwick,

This Journal,

Originally Kept for Her,


Most Affectionately

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(Editor's Intro)

Frances Anne Kemble recorded her stay in the Georgia Sea Islands twenty-two years before the outbreak of the Civil War; her book was the product of the fierce debate over slavery that exercised the minds of men and women on both sides of the Atlantic in the years following the end of the American Revolution.
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