Article Title

Politesse and the Woman at Risk: The Social Comedies of Marie-Thérèse De Camp


This essay reviews the playwriting career Marie-Thérèse De Camp (1774–1838). The actress De Camp, who is more frequently remembered as the wife of Charles Kemble and the mother of Fanny Kemble, also achieved good popular success as the playwright of a series of four plays and interludes presented in London between 1799 and 1815. With examples drawn from her two interludes—Personation (1803), and The Day After the Wedding (1808)—and two full-length plays—First Faults (1799) and Smiles and Tears (1815)—the essay explores De Camp’s dramaturgical and narrative concern with the (sexual) tensions contained within the artifice and politesse of society. Her plays are set in polite and respectable contemporary society but explore the threat of expulsion from that society with a narrative interest in seduction plots, the nature of reputation, and in the complex role of the gentlewoman at moral risk. The essay, then, charts De Camp’s dramaturgical engagement with these social and moral dissonances, her exploration of themes of public and private, of passion and regulation, transgression and penitence, image and reputation.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.