Kemble, John Philip (1757 -1823)
John Philip Kemble, the famous actor, was the eldest son of Roger Kemble, manager of an itinerant company of actors, and his wife Sarah Ward. Educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood at Sedgley Park in Staffordshire 1767 1771, he went from there to the English College at Douai in 1771, but left and returned to England in 1775, joined Chamberlain and Crump's Company of Players, and, after many vicissitudes, established himself as an actor, making his debut at Drury Lane in 1784 as Hamlet. In 1787, he married Mrs Brereton, but they had no children. In 1788, he was appointed Stage Manager at Drury Lane, a post he held until 1801, when he went to Paris, purchasing a sixth share in Covent Garden on his return in 1803. An extremely successful tragedian, but not at home in comedy, he collected a large library of dramatic and general literature. In 1798 Thomas J. Mathias wrote in The Grove “Mr Kemble, having no children, has now adopted the offspring of ancient authors. His fondness for obsolete books has obtained him, among the book auction cognoscenti, the name of Black Letter Jack. In the pursuit of his propensity [he] will outbid titled heads, and even Nicol [the King's bookseller] himself”. After his retirement to Lausanne in 1817, as the result of asthma, he sold four thousand plays and forty volumes of playbills to William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire for £2,000. These with the Duke's own additions are now in the Henry E. Huntington Library. The remainder of his library, “choice prints and theatrical portraits” were sold at auction by R.H. Evans at 96 Pall Mall in London in a ten day sale starting on 26 January 1821. After his death, at Lausanne on 26 February 1823, his widow had his Lausanne library shipped home to London.