Godfrey, Thomas (DNB00)

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GODFREY, THOMAS (1736–1763), poet and dramatist, born in Philadelphia on 4 Dec. 1736, was the son of Thomas Godfrey (1704–1749), glazier and mathematician, who constructed an improved quadrant at about the same time as John Hadley [q. v.] He received an ordinary education, and was apprenticed to a watchmaker, though he wished, it is said, to become a painter. In 1758 he obtained a lieutenant's commission in the provincial forces raised for an expedition against Fort Duquesne. On the disbanding of the troops in the spring of 1759 he went to North Carolina, and found employment as a factor. Here he composed a tragedy called ‘The Prince of Parthia,’ which was offered to a company performing in Philadelphia in 1759. This piece, which was printed in 1765, is considered to be the first play written in America. After remaining in North Carolina for three years Godfrey was obliged by the death of his employer to return to Philadelphia. He subsequently went as supercargo to New Providence. In his homeward journey through North Carolina he caught a fever, from which he died near Wilmington on 3 Aug. 1763. Besides contributing verses to the ‘American Magazine,’ a Philadelphian periodical, Godfrey published in 1763 ‘The Court of Fancy,’ a poem modelled in part on the pseudo-Chaucer's ‘House of Fame.’ A volume of his poems, with a biographical sketch by his friend Nathaniel Evans, appeared in 1767.

[Baker's Biographia Dramatica (Reed and Jones), i. 279–80, iii. 180; Appleton's Cyclopæd. of Amer. Biog. ii. 669.]

G. G.