- Keywords = abolition
(BUTLER, Frances Anne, or Fanny KEMBLE).
Autograph letter, signed, from Elizabeth Sedgwick of Lenox (Massachusetts) to the Reverend William Henry Furness of Philadelphia.
Lenox (Mass.), 3 December,
An unpublished letter from Elizabeth Sedgwick imploring help for the English actor and abolitionist Fanny Kemble (Mrs. Butler) from William Furness of Philadelphia. Kemble was… (more)
An unpublished letter from Elizabeth Sedgwick imploring help for the English actor and abolitionist Fanny Kemble (Mrs. Butler) from William Furness of Philadelphia. Kemble was then resident in Philadelphia, as her marriage to the notorious philanderer and Georgia slave-owner, Pierce Butler was dissolving and Sedgwick here explains Kemble’s parlous situation and her abuse at Butler’s hands. In just over 1000 words Sedgwick mentions: Kemble’s abortive plan to publish her letters about her husband’s plantations, recounts news of Pierce Butler’s serial infidelities, of ‘the brutal manner in which for one year he attempted to crush her spirit’, her attempts at reconciliation for the sake of her children, her desire to not take anything from Butler by way of support and the instigation of the legal proceedings which would eventually lead to the couple’s divorce.(see full details)
The writer, Elizabeth Sedgwick (1801-1864) of Lenox, was Kemble’s closest confidante, to whom Kemble addressed her famous letters (referred to here) later published as the Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation (1863). The recipient of the letter was William Furness (1802-1896): a Transcendentalist, a prominent abolitionist and a lifelong friend of Emerson. Born in Boston in 1802, Furness graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1823, before becoming minister of the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia at the age of 22 in 1825. He was still at Philadelphia when the desperate Fanny Kemble came to the city with her family after a disastrous visit to England in which it became apparent that her marriage to Butler was over. ‘From the time of their return to their country until her arrangement was made since I left Phil[adelphi]a, he had never furnished her with a single cent … she had not a farthing in the world’.
‘In 1838 Fanny with husband and children went to Georgia to spend the winter on their plantations. From apparently knowing nothing of slavery, she was thrown into the thick of the problem. Butler was moderately considerate to his slaves, but nothing could disguise the horrors of a system in which one man lived by owning others, treating them precisely as he fancied in order to get the best investment out of them. Worst of all, Fanny recognized that the considerable wealth the Butlers enjoyed, and to which she owed every mouthful she ate, came from the hated system. As it turned out, she spent less than four months on the plantations, but that was enough to stoke her moral indignation over the atrocities she saw. Once more, as she had done on first going to America, she kept a journal of her experiences, which in 1863 finally saw print as Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–1839. It is a small masterpiece of generous outrage, arguing from the amply and sympathetically documented details of what she had seen, to generalized indignation that such treatment could be tacitly encouraged by part of a civilized nation. Although it was deliberately not published in the American south, copies soon found their way there and scarcely increased admiration for the meddling of an outsider who expressed herself on what was regarded as an indigenous issue’ (Oxford DNB).More details Price: £6,500.00
[SAINT-MÉMIN, Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de.
A RARE ‘PHYSIONOTRACE’ PORTRAIT OF THEODORE SEDGWICK (1746–1813), the American attorney, politician, and jurist who served in elected state government and as a delegate to… (more)
A RARE ‘PHYSIONOTRACE’ PORTRAIT OF THEODORE SEDGWICK (1746–1813), the American attorney, politician, and jurist who served in elected state government and as a delegate to the Continental Congress, a U.S. representative, and a senator from Massachusetts. He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate from June to December 1798. He also served as the fourth speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1802 and served there for the rest of his life. He died at Boston and he is buried at Stockbridge. A portrait by Gilbert Stuart of c. 1808 is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Sedgwick studied theology and law at Yale College and though he did not graduate, he continued in his study under attorney Mark Hopkins of Great Barrington. He played a significant role in the abolitionist movement. As a relatively young lawyer, Sedgwick and Tapping Reeve had pleaded the case of Brom and Bett vs. Ashley (1781), an early ‘freedom suit’, in county court for the slaves Elizabeth Freeman (known as Bett) and Brom. Bett (also known as MumBet)was a black slave who had fled from her master, Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, because of cruel treatment by his wife. Brom joined her in suing for freedom from the Ashleys. The attorneys challenged their enslavement under the new state constitution of 1780, which held that ‘all men are born free and equal.’ The jury agreed and ruled that Bett and Brom were free. The decision was upheld on appeal by the state Supreme Court. She was the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit in Massachusetts. She marked her freedom by taking the name of Elizabeth Freeman, and chose to work for wages at the Sedgwick household, where she helped rear their several children. She worked there for much of the rest of her life, buying a separate house for her and her daughter after the Sedgwick children were grown. On her death the Sedgwicks buried her at Stockbridge Cemetery in the family plot.
Before the advent of photography the physionotrace was ‘the first system invented to produce multiple copies of a portrait, invented in 1786 by Gilles-Louis Chrétien (1774–1811). In his apparatus a profile cast by a lamp onto a glass plate was traced by an operator using a pointer connected, by a system of levers like a pantograph, to an engraving tool moving over a copper plate. The aquatint and roulette finished engraved intaglio plate, usually circular and small (50 mm), with details of features and costume, could be inked and printed many times’ (Photoconservation.com, sub Printing Processes). The process was introduced to America by Charles Saint-Mémin.
The miniaturist Saint-Mémin (1770-1852) had emigrated from France in 1793 to Switzerland, where he practised as an engraver. Crossing the Atlantic to Canada and then the United States, he established a portrait business in New York with his compatriot Thomas Bluget de Valdenuit (who initially produced the drawings for Saint-Mémin to engrave). When Valdenuit returned to Paris, Saint-Mémin adopted an itinerant practice all over the East Coast states, working variously at Philadelphia, Richmond, Charleston and Burlington. He too returned to France in 1814, having destroyed his drawing apparatus in a symbolic end to a prolific artistic enterprise which produced more than a thousand different portraits of significant figures in American society, including Washington, Revere and Jefferson.(see full details)More details Price: £2,800.00