[James Kenney, Irish dramatist.] Autograph Letter Signed ('Jas Kenney.') to 'Loo Loo' ('Mademoiselle Holcroft'), i.e. wife Louisa, discussing their home situation, education of children, theatrical affairs, personal news.

James Kenney (1780-1849), Irish dramatist [Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809), author and radical]
Publication details: 
Versailles. 15 June 1822.
SKU: 23065

3pp, 4to. Bifolium. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn. Addressed, with Versailles postmark, on reverse of second leaf, 'A Mademoiselle Holcroft | Chateau de Pinon | près | Chavignon | Dep. de l'Aisne'. The background to the letter requires some explanation. In 1812 a prosperous Kenney had married Louisa Mercier (c.1780-1853), daughter of the French dramatist Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814), and fourth wife and widow of the playwright Thomas Holcroft, a leading radical who had assisted his friend Thomas Paine publish 'The Rights of Man'. As Kenney's entry in the Oxford DNB explains: 'When Holcroft died in March 1809, Louisa was left in sole charge of their twin daughters and of two daughters from Holcroft's third marriage. She and Kenney were married on 5 March 1812, and had four further children […] The struggle to maintain his extended family was a given circumstance for the rest of Kenney's working life.' The present letter is an excellent one, filled with intimate and professional information, in the light of the following passage from Kenney's Oxford DNB entry: 'After his marriage to Louisa, Kenney lived for several years in St Valéry-sur-Somme, where Louisa [who was the may have plumped the family income by instructing private pupils.' The letter begins: 'Dear Loo Loo, | As my Conscience is apt to reproach me with having much more love for you than is your lawful allowance, I write to you seldomer & less amply than my Inclination would have me, as one of my means of making up amounts with her. | I have Betsy & Ellen at Versailles with me. The former is busy answering your Letter. She will write upon his own account she says, and have nothing to do with Sophy. The sudden change from her habits of racket & turbulence with Sophy & the rest, made her at first cry with Ennui, but every day shews me more & more that it is what she wants. Her little heart at present is quite full of her Letter to you, that at present she shall send you.' He plans to send two other children 'to the School, and you can attend the former there, & give them their music & English Lesson, &c'. He discusses measures which may help her in 'procuring you other Scholars; and without a School, & school discipline, it would be impossible to control the twins at home'. He gives details of the rental of 'The House', which 'is ample for the family, or even more than the family, were there occasion, & I have a snug study without proscribing any other part of it, for my security'. He reports on 'Payne', i.e. American actor John Howard Payne (1791-1852), who has 'been here for a couple of days at a time. He writes a Piece for Burrows [Watkyns Burroughs, manager of the Surrey Theatre] every three days. His Solitaire has had a splendid success entirely owing to the manager taking the pains to instruct himself in the proper way of getting it up.' He sent 'John Buzzby [Kenney's latest play] to Morris [David Edward Morris (1773-1842), manager of the Haymarket Theatre] by the last Bag. I have no great fancy for following him, but I think the Journey will be worth my while – tho' it is now less pressing as the Piece is gone. Stephen Kemble [George Stephen Kemble (1758-1822), actor-manager] is dead, & Harry Harris has been [?] in an unaccountable way & advertised by plackards, but I find he has come to light in Dublin.' He has abandoned plans for a journey to London, '& I mean if the Comedy has a full success, to have Harwood over for a month'. He ends with 'respects to Madame [his mother in law?] or Courval, if you think she will receive them graciously & likewise | Dear Girl your affectionate friend | Jas Kenney.'