Fanny Price’s name used to be quite common. According to Grace Hamlin in her book The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book, the name “was a favorite name among the Victorians, and appears often enough in literature to suggest that it was a neutral, nondescript name for a well-educated woman.” 1 Jane Austen was related to several people with the name Fanny (and also Francis). It is a fairly common name in literature, and quite a few historical people have borne the name. For my own amusement (and inspired by this list on Enchanted Serenity), I have collected some information about various of these people here. Because there are so many of them, I have divided them into separate posts. So, without further ado, here is part III of my Fanny Hall of Fame:
Historical persons bearing the name Fanny, or Frances
Frances (Fanny) Brawne – (August 9, 1800 – December 4, 1865) the love interest of the poet John Keats (October 31, 1795 – February 23, 1821). Fanny and Keats first met in October 1818 and became officially engaged in October 1819. Their relationship was a tempestuous one, but some of Keats’s best poetry was written in 1819, after he met Fanny Brawne, including “The Eve of St. Agnes”, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”, “Lamia”, and his six great odes, “Ode to Psyche”, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “Ode on Indolence”, “Ode on Melancholy”, “Ode to a Nightingale”, and “To Autumn”. Fanny’s engagement to John Keats was ended by his death of tuberculosis in February 1821. The last poem that Keats ever wrote was an ode, “To Fanny”. Here is the second stanza:
Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears, And hopes, and joys, and panting miseries,— To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears A smile of such delight, As brilliant and as bright, As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes, Lost in soft amaze, I gaze, I gaze!
In his book Darkling I Listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats, John Evangelist Walsh (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999) notes that, even in the midst of writing serious poetry, “Keats frequently interrupted himself to rhapsodize about Fanny in verse”2 — writing, among other things, his sonnet “Bright Star”. Walsh states that, besides the “Ode to Fanny”, “it is impossible to date precisely any of the verse Keats wrote to and about Fanny. … The truth is, everything Keats wrote after meeting Fanny can without too much strain be tied to his feelings for her, at least in part, …”3
John Keats’s mother was also named Frances, and Keats had a sister Frances, whom Fanny Brawne corresponded with during the time that Keats was dying in Rome and after his death. After Keats’s death, Fanny Brawne went into mourning. She eventually married Louis Lindon on June 15, 1833. Some accounts state that Fanny wore a widow’s cap and mourning and wandered the Heath late into the night after Keats’s death, but these are probably not reliable. It is also unlikely that, as has been said by some, that she wore the ring that Keats gave her the rest of her life. She did keep the ring, but, as she always concealed her relationship with him from her husband, she probably would not have worn it openly. John Keats was not the only person in Fanny’s life to die of consumption, or tuberculosis. Fanny’s father died of the disease in 1810, before she ever met the poet, and, in 1828, several years after Keats’s death, Fanny’s brother Samuel died of the same disease. In Keats’s family, his mother and his brother Tom both died of consumption — his mother in 1810 (only slightly before Fanny’s father died) and his brother in 1818. The love story of John Keats and Fanny Brawne was made into a film, Bright Star (2009), with Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne.
Frances (Fanny) Burney – (June 13, 1752 – January 6, 1840) an English novelist. She wrote the novels Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer. Cecilia and Camilla, along with Maria Edgeworth’s novel Belinda, are mentioned in Jane Austen’s famous defense of the novel.
Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding—joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens—there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel-reader—I seldom look into novels—Do not imagine that I often read novels—It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss—?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language. (Northanger Abbey, Chapter V).
Evelina, Fanny Burney’s first novel, was a success, and Dr. Johnson, among others, praised it. It is thought that the title for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice may have been taken from a passage in Fanny Burney’s second novel, Cecilia:
“The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr Lyster, “has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE. Your uncle, the Dean, began it, by his arbitrary will, as if an ordinance of his own could arrest the course of nature! and as if he had power to keep alive, by the loan of a name, a family in the male branch already extinct. Your father, Mr Mortimer, continued it with the same self-partiality, preferring the wretched gratification of tickling his ear with a favourite sound, to the solid happiness of his son with a rich and deserving wife. Yet this, however, remember; if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination: for all that I could say to Mr Delvile, either of reasoning or entreaty,—and I said all I could suggest, and I suggested all a man need wish to hear,—was totally thrown away, till I pointed out to him his own disgrace, in having a daughter-in-law immured in these mean lodgings! (Book X, Chapter X).
In chapter 20 of Persuasion, Anne Elliot compares herself, or, rather, does not compare herself with “the inimitable Miss Larolles”, characters from Cecilia. Camilla is mentioned in Jane Austen’s unfinished Sanditon, and Fanny Burney’s novels are occasionally mentioned in Jane Austen’s letters. Fanny Burney also wrote plays and a couple of works of non-fiction, including Memoirs of Doctor Burney, a memoir of her father.
Frances Cleveland (July 21, 1864 – October 29, 1947) – the wife of Grover Cleveland (the only president of the United States to serve two non-consecutive terms). She was the youngest first lady (she was 21 when she married Grover Cleveland on June 2, 1886) and also the first to be married in the White House. Grover Cleveland was 27 years older than Frances, the second largest age gap of any Presidential couple. She also became the first presidential widow (her husband died in 1908) to remarry when she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr. on February 10, 1913. Frances Clara Folsom was born in Buffalo, New York. Her name was originally Frank, but she later changed it to Frances. She had five children by her first husband: Ruth, Esther, Marion, Richard Folsom, and Francis Grover. Like her husband, Mrs. Cleveland was opposed to women’s suffrage. She, rather, supported “an exalted role for women in the home”.4
Frances Cleveland on Wikipedia.
Fanny Crosby (March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915) – a hymnwriter. Frances Jane Crosby was born in New York. While still an infant, she developed inflammation of the eyes due to an illness. Owing to a mistaken treatment, she became blind. Fanny became a student at the New York Institute for the Blind, and later became a teacher there. “In 1843, she joined a group of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. arguing for support of education for the blind.”5 She married fellow teacher Alexander van Alstyne, who was also blind, in 1858. They had one daughter, also named Frances, who died in infancy. Fanny Crosby wrote various poetry from the age of eight years old, but she is mostly remembered for her hymns, of which she wrote over 8,000 under a variety of pseudonyms. Some of her best known hymns are ‘All the Way My Savior Lead Me’, ‘Blessed Assurance’, ‘Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today’, ‘He Hideth My Soul’, ‘My Savior First of All’, ‘Praise Him, Praise Him’, ‘Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!’, ‘Rescue the Perishing’, and ‘To God Be the Glory’.
There are other hymnwriters with the name Fanny: Frances Eugenia Bolton (also known as Fannie Bolton—1859-1926—she wrote ‘Not I, but Christ’ and others), Frances Elizabeth Cox (1812-1897—she wrote ‘Jesus Lives!’), Fannie Chadwick (late 19th century—she wrote ‘Christian Soldier, Wake’ and others), Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879—she wrote ‘Like a River Glorious’, ‘Take My Life and Let It Be’, ‘Who Is on the Lord’s Side?’, and many others), Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde (Lady Wilde—1821-1896—she translated ‘Jesus, Refuge of the Weary’), and many others.
Fanny Kemble (November 27, 1809 – January 15, 1893) – a British actess and author. Her full name was Frances Anne Kemble. She was the daughter of actor Charles Kemble. She made her first appearance on stage on October 26, 1829 as Juliet. Beginning in 1832, she travelled with her father in the United States. There she met Pierce Butler. She married him in 1834. After he inherited plantations from his grandfather, he and Fanny went there in 1838-39. Fanny was shocked by the treatment of the slaves. Eventually, largely due to increasing tension over the slavery issue, Fanny left her husband, returning to the theatre. They were divorced in 1849. Pierce Butler was given custody of his two daughters, Sarah and Frances, but Fanny was allowed to spend two months a year with them and received $1,500 a year in alimony. Neither Pierce nor Fanny remarried. Fanny published several works of anti-slaverly literature, including Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. She also published some plays and poetry. Fanny had much success giving Shakespearian readings in the United States. Her family was divided on the issue of the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865). Fanny and her daughter Sarah were pro-North, while Pierce and her daughter Frances were pro-South. In 1877, Fanny returned permantly to England. There she became a friend of author Henry James. Fanny died in London.
Fanny Cäcilie Mendelssohn (November 14, 1805 – May 14, 1847) – a German pianist and composer. She was named after her aunt Fanny von Arnstein, a music lover and patroness of a well-known salon. Fanny Mendelssohn was the sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn. Fanny married the painter Wilhelm Hensel in 1829. They had one child, Sebastian Ludwig Felix Hensel. Hensel was supportive of her composing, but was himself completely unmusical. Fanny died of a stroke. Her brother Felix composed his String Quartet No. 6 in F minor in her memory, two months before his death (he died only six months after Fanny). Fanny composed 466 pieces of music, some of which were originally published under Felix’s name. One of her songs, “Italien” (Italy), was said to be a favorite of Queen Victoria’s — although the queen thought that it was composed by Felix.
On Wikipedia: Fanny Mendelssohn, Fanny von Arnstein, Felix Mendelssohn, William Hensel, String Quartet No. 6, the Mendelssohn family, and a List of compositions by Fanny Mendelssohn. Fanny (Mendelssohn) Hensel on the International Music Score Library Project. A website devoted to Fanny Hensel and an encyclopedia entry on her.
Frances Trollope (March 10, 1780 – October 6, 1863) – an English novelist and mother of novelist Anthony Trollope (author of the well-known Chronicles of Barsetshire, the Palliser novels, and The Way We Live Now). She was born Frances Milton in Stapleton, Bristol. In 1809 she married Thomas Anthony Trollope. Her eldest son, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, was also an author, writing fiction, history, and travel books. In 1827, she and her family moved to an “utopian community” in America founded by Fanny Wright. The community failed, and the Trollopes moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. They eventually returned to England, where, in 1832, Frances Trollope published Domestic Manners of the Americans, an unflattering view of her travels in America. She went on to write several other travel books. She also published several novels of social protest, Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy (the first industrial novel to be published in Britain), Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw (the first anti-slavery novel), and The Vicar of Wrexhill (a novel dealing with corruption in the church). “Possibly her greatest work is the Widow Barnaby trilogy”.6 The title character of the first novel, The Widow Barnaby, according to William Rose Benét’s The Reader’s Encyclopedia, “is a vulgar, pretentious husband-hunter, wholly without principle. She marries a degenerate cleryman in the sequel”.7 In all, Frances Trollope wrote over 100 volumes. She died in Florence, Italy.
1 Grace Hamlin, The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book: 2,000 Names from the World’s Great Literature (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 2001), pp. 312-13.
2 John Evangelist Walsh, Darkling I Listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), Ch. 2, p. 34.
3 Ibid., Notes and Sources, pp. 170-71.
4 Frank. Suny Press, n.d. <http://www.sunypress.edu/p-4835-frank.aspx>
5 Fanny Crosby. Wikipedia, 8 August 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Crosby>
6 Frances Trollope. Wikipedia, 23 August 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Trollope>
7 William Rose Benét, The Reader’s Encyclopedia (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1969), pp. 1027, 1089.