Kemble, E(dward) W(indsor) 1861-1933
KEMBLE, E(dward) W(indsor) 1861-1933
Born January 18, 1861, in Sacramento, CA; died September 19, 1933 in Ridgefield, CT; son of Col. Edward Cleveland Kemble (a newspaper publisher) and Cecilia Amanda Windsor; married Sarah Briggs, 1885; children: Edward Brewster, Beth Elsie, Schuyler, Frances Gail. Education: Attended Art Students' League, 1880.
Cartoonist and illustrator. Contributed illustrations to Harper's Bazaar; Daily Graphic, staff cartoonist from 1881, book illustrator from 1885; Century, illustrator from 1885, advertising illustrator from 1891; illustrator for New York World and New York Journal from late 1890s. Military service: Seventh Regular New York National Guard.
Manhattan Athletic Club; Lambs Club; Salmagundi Club.
Kemble's Coons: Drawings of Colored Children and Southern Scenes, Russell (New York, NY), 1896.
The Blackberries and Their Adventures, Russell (New York, NY), 1897.
A Coon Alphabet, Russell (New York, NY), 1898.
Comical Coons, Russell (New York, NY), 1898.
The Billy Goat and Other Comicalities, Scribners (New York, NY), 1898.
Coontown's Four Hundred, Life Publishing (New York, NY), 1899.
Kemble's Sketch Book, Russell (New York, NY), 1899.
Kemble's Pickaninnies, Russell (New York, NY), 1901.
SELECTED BOOKS; ILLUSTRATOR
Mark Twain (pseudonym of Samuel Clemens), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Webster (New York, NY), 1884.
Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Library of Humor, Webster (New York, NY), 1888.
Thomas Nelson Page, Two Little Confederates, Scribners (New York, NY), 1888.
Harry Stillwell Edwards, Two Runaways and Other Stories, Century (New York, NY), 1889.
Louis Beauregard Pendleton, King Tom and the Runaways, Appleton (New York, NY), 1890.
Francis Hopkinson Smith, Colonel Carter of Cartersville, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1891.
Joel Chandler Harris, On the Plantation, Appleton (New York, NY), 1892.
James Whitcomb Riley, Poems Here at Home, Century (New York, NY), 1893.
Washington Irving, Knickerbocker's History of New York, Putnam (New York, NY), 1894.
Mary Mapes Dodge, The Land of Puck, Century (New York, NY), 1894.
W. W. Jacobs, Many Cargoes, Stokes (New York, NY), 1895.
Joel Chandler Harris, Daddy Jake [and] The Runaway, Century (New York, NY), 1896.
Ruth McEnery Stuart, Solomon Crows Christmas Pockets and Other Tales, Harper (New York, NY), 1896.
Frank R. Stockton, A Story-Tellers Pack, Scribners (New York, NY), 1897.
Ruth McEnery Stuart, Moriah's Mourning, Harper (New York, NY), 1898.
Thomas Nelson Page, Two Prisoners, Russell (New York, NY), 1898.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, Folks from Dixie, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1898.
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, Harper (New York, NY), 1899.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Strength of Gideon, and Other Stories, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), c. 1900.
John Phoenix (pseudonym of Gorge Horation Derby), Phoenixianna; or, Sketches and Burlesques, Appleton (New York, NY), 1903.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Heart of Happy Hollow, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1904.
Joel Chandler Harris, The Tar-Baby. And Other Rhymes of Uncle Remus, Appleton (New York, NY), 1904.
Wallace Irving, At the Sign of the Dollar, Duffield (New York, NY), 1905.
Don Marquis, Danny's Own Story, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1912.
Ruth McEnery Stuart, Plantation Songs and Other Verses, Appleton (New York, NY), 1916.
Irwin Russell, Christmas Night in the Quarters. And Other Poems, Century (New York, NY), 1917.
Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings, Appleton (New York, NY), 1920.
Kenneth Brown, Putter Perkins, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1923.
John C. McNeill, Lyrics from Cotton Land, Stone & Barringer (Charlotte, NC), 1927.
Joseph Lincoln, Cape Cod Ballads, and Other Verses, Albert Brandt (Trenton, NJ), 1929.
Contributed to periodicals, including Harper's Bazar, Harper's Young People, Harper's Weekly, Life, St. Nicholas, Century, Harper's Monthly, Youth's Companion, Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Round Table, Leslie's Weekly, Collier's, Good Housekeeping and Judge.
E. W. Kemble is best known for his guffawing, pen-and-ink drawings from the late nineteenth century. Known primarily as a book and magazine illustrator, he published a few collections of his caricatures as children's books—many of them his trademark "black comicalities." As Francis Martin, Jr. wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: "Kemble is so identified with these comicalities that there is often the erroneous impression that he worked exclusively with this theme." Moreover, those drawings have become important to more recent scholars; Kemble's references to disturbing issues prove a valuable reflection of public sentiment at the turn of the twentieth century.
Edward Windsor Kemble's parents were affluent people from established New York families; Kemble's father was a descendant of William Whipple, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Kemble was encouraged in his artwork from an early age—perhaps because his father, a publisher, recognized the value of a controlled pen. By 1880, Kemble showed his comic drawings to Charles Parsons, the art editor of Harper and Brothers Publishers. Parsons purchased the teenager's drawings for seventy dollars in gold; Kemble became a working artist on the spot.
In New York, Kemble soon found a steady income as a staff artist at the Daily Graphic, where he was encouraged to pump out drawings quickly. One sketch impressed writer Samuel Clemens Mark Twain so much that he hired Kemble to illustrate his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published under Clemens' pseudonym Mark Twain. Kemble composed 175 penand-ink drawings, each rendering Clemens's world visually. Martin noted: "The illustrations were a critical success and are in many ways the perfect visual counterpart to Twain's great novel, and they certainly made Kemble's reputation as one of the most recognized illustrators of his day." Kemble's work, however, ultimately wore on Clemens, who called it "blackboard outlines and charcoal sketches." The humorist also complained of Kemble's lack of imagination; in an 1884 letter to his publisher, Clemens sighed: "If Kemble's illustrations for my last book were handed me today, I would understand how tiresome to me the sameness would get to be, when distributed through a whole book, and I would put them promptly in the fire."
During the 1880s Kemble was nonetheless called upon increasingly to sketch scenes of "southern life" for Century, a new magazine. In its pages, Kemble drew illustrations for stories by writers such as Richard Malcolm Johnston, Frank R. Stockton, Joel Chandler Harris, Maurice Thompson, Thomas Nelson Page, and James Whitcomb Riley. During this period, Kemble also married Sarah Briggs, with whom he raised four children. The Kembles lived in northern Manhattan, New Rochelle, New York, and finally in Ridgefield, Connecticut. In his spare time, Kemble, a member of the Manhattan Athletic Club, would often perform there with the Lambs Star Minstrel on weekends.
In 1890 Kemble traveled south, wanting even more to depict rural life. During the 1890s he illustrated several significant books, including Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom at Home in Kentucky, Riley's Poems Here at Home, Washington Irving's Knickerbocker Historyof New York, Harris's Daddy Jake. The Runaway, Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins and Paul Laurence Dunbar's Folks from Dixie,
For Folks from Dixie, a collection of poems by a prominent black author that was published in 1898, Kemble and Dunbar were both criticized for creating "comical" and undignified stereotypes of black people. Martin suggested: "They (the cartoons) were meant to entertain in a period when racial themes formed a large part of the humor found in many of the leading magazines and newspapers; however, Kemble drew them with more sympathy and understanding than many artists." Nevertheless, Kemble's collections of drawings in this vein—collections with titles such as Kemble's Coons: Drawings of Colored Children and Southern Scenes, and Kemble's Pickaninnies—would soon seem repugnant to readers.
Not surprisingly, then, Kemble's work fell out of favor in his later years. Though he kept publishing political cartoons for magazines such as Collier's and Harper's Weekly into the 1910s, his eyesight and reputation declined sharply. Moreover, much of Kemble's original artwork was destroyed in a house fire. Kemble's work is also remembered for reminding viewers of stereotypes of the late nineteenth century. Kemble died in his home after completing one final "comical" drawing.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 188: American Book and Magazine Illustrators to 1920, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.*