Journal of Frances Anne Butler

‘Mr Kean as Othello’, lithograph print, c.1830, via Victoria and Albert Museum

Source: Journal of Frances Anne Butler (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835), vol. 1 (of 2), p. 147

Text: Kean is gone — and with him are gone Othello, Shylock, and Richard. I have lived among those whose theatrical creed would not permit them to acknowledge him as a great actor; but they must be bigoted, indeed, who would deny that he was a great genius, a man of most original and striking powers, careless of art,perhaps because he did not need it; but possessing those rare gifts of nature, without which art alone is as a dead body. Who that ever heard, will ever forget the beauty, the unutterable tenderness of his reply to Desdemona’s entreaties for Cassio. “Let him come when he will, I can deny thee nothing;” the deep despondency of his “Oh now farewell;” the miserable anguish of his “Oh, Desdemona, away, away.” Who that ever saw, will ever forget the fascination of his dying eyes in Richard; when deprived of his sword, the wondrous power of his look seemed yet to avert the uplifted arm of Richmond. If he was irregular and unartist-like in his performances, so is Niagara, compared with the water works of Versailles.

Comments: Frances Anne ‘Fanny’ Kemble (1809-1893) was a British stage actress and writer, a member of the celebrated Kemble theatrical family. She married Pierce Mease Butler in 1834. The British actor Edmund Kean died 15 May 1833.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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