Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Killigrew, Thomas (1612-1683)

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KILLIGREW, THOMAS (1612–1683), dramatist, son of Sir Robert Killigrew [q. v.], by Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Woodhouse, born in Lothbury, London, 7 Feb. 1611–12, was baptised on the 20th at St. Margaret's, Lothbury. While a child he used, according to Sir John Mennis, to go to the Red Bull, and when the manager asked for boys to personate devils, to volunteer and thus see the play for nothing. Appointed in 1633 page to Charles I, he remained constant to the fortunes of that monarch and his successor. He married, 29 June 1636, Cecilia or Cicely, daughter of Sir John Crofts of Saxham, Suffolk, by whom he had a son Henry. A dispute on jealousy between Killigrew and Miss Crofts supplied Thomas Carew [q. v.] with the subject of a duet, which, with full acknowledgment of indebtedness, is printed by Killigrew at the close of part ii. of his ‘Cicilia and Clorinda,’ whence it was transferred to the 1671 edition of Carew's poems. Carew also wrote a poem ‘On the Mariage of T. K. and C. C. The morning stormie,’ which appears in his ‘Poems,’ ed. 1640, and an anonymous epithalamium was among Sir Thomas Phillipps's MSS. 4001. The lady died 1 Jan. 1637–8, and in 1640 Quarles issued his ‘Sighes at the contemporary deaths’ of ‘Mistress Cicely Killegrve’ and her sister the Countess of Cleveland.

Killigrew was in France in 1635, and while there wrote a letter concerning the ‘Possessing and Dispossessing of several Nuns in the Nunnery at Tours in France,’ three sheets folio, dated Orleans, 7 Dec. 1635. Manuscripts of this are in the Bodleian (Ashmolean MS. 800, art. iii. ff. 21–7) and in the library of Magdalene College, Cambridge (Pepys Coll. No. 8383). It is reprinted in the ‘European Magazine,’ 1803, xliii. 102–106. This was followed by the ‘Prisoners’ and ‘Claracilla,’ two tragi-comedies, 12mo, 1641. In the 1664 collection of Killigrew's works the former, the scene of which is Sardinia, is dedicated to his ‘Dear Niece, the Lady Crompton,’ and is the only play in the collection which is said to have been written in London; the second piece, ‘Claracilla,’ which is dedicated to his ‘Dear Sister, the Lady Shannon,’ and has its scene in Sicily, was written while he was in Rome. Both were produced at the Phœnix, otherwise the Cockpit, in Drury Lane. Mr. Fleay puts the date of both performances before 1636, and dates the representation of a third play by Killigrew, the ‘Parson's Wedding,’ his best-known comedy, between 1637 and 1642. This piece, written at ‘Basil in Switzerland,’ seems to have first seen the light in the folio of 1664.

Killigrew was in London on 3 Sept. 1642, when he was committed by a warrant from the parliament to the custody of Sir John Lenthall, on a charge of taking up arms for the king. On 16 May 1643 he successfully petitioned the House of Lords from the King's Bench prison to make void all suits begun against him since he was in confinement. After his release he went to Oxford in 1644, and seems to have subsequently continued his travels; in 1647 he joined Prince Charles in his exile in Paris. A brilliant conversationist, and a man little disturbed by moral scruples, Killigrew warmly commended himself to Charles II, by whom, in spite of some remonstrances, he was appointed resident at Venice in 1651. His proceedings there, the manner in which, with royal connivance, he borrowed money for his master and for his own subsistence, and his general debauchery led in June 1652 to his compulsory withdrawal and a complaint to Charles from the Venetian ambassador in Paris. Killigrew's vindication is among the Clarendon MSS. (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 143). His recall from Venice was the subject of some waggishness on the part of the English poets. Denham's lines concerning him are well known:

Our resident Tom
From Venice is come,
And has left all the statesman behind him;
Talks at the same pitch,
Is as wise, is as rich,
And just where you left him you find him.

But who says he is not
A man of much plot
May repent of his false accusation,
Having plotted and penned
Six plays to attend
The Farce of his negotiation.

His travels during this, his second continental tour, included Italy and Spain, and he spent some time in Florence, Turin, and Madrid, as well as in Paris and Venice. He occupied part of his time in writing a new series of plays. Besides his plays Killigrew brought back with him, on returning to London at the Restoration, a second wife, Charlotte, born 16 July 1629, daughter of John de Hesse, whom he married at the Hague 28 Jan. 1654–5. She was appointed keeper of the sweet coffer for the queen in May 1662, and first lady of the queen's privy chamber 4 June 1662 (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 20032, f. 44).

Immediately after his return home Killigrew was appointed in 1660 groom of the bedchamber to Charles II, and subsequently chamberlain to the queen. The greatest proof of royal favour consisted, however, in the grant by Charles II, in August 1660, to Killigrew and Sir William D'Avenant [q. v.] of patents to erect two new playhouses in London, Westminster, or the suburbs thereof, to raise two new companies of players, and to have the sole regulation thereof. Leave was also given to the two managers to license their own plays. This interference with the privileges of Sir Henry Herbert, the master of the revels, involved both managers in disputes and litigation with that functionary [see Herbert, Sir Henry.] More pliable or amenable than D'Avenant, Killigrew came to terms with his opponent, and articles of agreement between them were signed 4 June 1662, by which ‘a firme amity’ was concluded, and Killigrew, who is described as ‘Thomas Killigrew of Covent Garden, Esq., agrees to pay before 4 Aug. next all monies due to Sir Henry Herbert from the King and Queenes company of players … for the new plays at forty shillings a play, and for the revived plays at twenty shillings a play.’ This agreement carried costs and a solatium of 50l. to Sir Henry for the damage he had suffered. Killigrew also formally abjured D'Avenant and all his works with ‘any of his pretended company of players,’ or any other company of players (Halliwell, Ancient Doc.) On 15 Jan. 1662–3 a second patent was granted to Killigrew; it is identical with one given to D'Avenant at the same time (cf. Colley Cibber, Apology, ed. Lowe, preface).

Killigrew's actors were soon officially recognised as the king's servants, but the exact date is not clear. His company seems, according to Downes, who received the information at second hand, to have first ‘Acted at the [Red] Bull, and [to have] Built them a New House in Gibbon's Tennis Court in Clare Market, in which Two Places they continu'd Acting all 1660, 1661, 1662, and part of 1663.’ Malone gives a list of the stock plays of the king's company at the Red Bull, twenty in all. They include Shakespeare's ‘First Part of Henry IV,’ ‘Merry Wives,’ and ‘Othello,’ Killigrew's ‘Claracilla,’ and some pieces by Beaumont and Fletcher. On 4 July 1661 Pepys saw ‘Claracilla’ at ‘the theatre’ for the first time, and on 5 Jan. 1662–3 the same play at the Cockpit done by the king's players. Killigrew's company then consisted, according to Downes, of Theophilus Bird, Hart, Mohun, Lacy, Burt, Cartwright, Clun, Baxter, Robert and William Shatterel, Duke, Hancock, Wintersel, Bateman, and Blagden; Mrs. Corey, Mrs. Ann Marshall, Mrs. Eastland, Mrs. Weaver, Mrs. Uphill, Mrs. Knep, and Mrs. Hughs, besides Kynaston, whose feminine characters did something to popularise the king's company, and at least eleven other boys.

Meanwhile, Killigrew and the principal actors of his company obtained from the Earl of Bedford a lease for forty-one years of a piece of ground lying in the parishes of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and St. Paul's, Covent Garden, known by the name of the Riding Yard, the lessees engaging to pay a ground-rent of 50l. and to erect a theatre at an expense of 1,500l. On this site, which is now occupied by Drury Lane Theatre, Killigrew built a house 112 feet in length from east to west, and 59 feet in depth from north to south. It was known at first as the Theatre Royal, and subsequently as Drury Lane, and was opened 8 April 1663 with the ‘Humourous Lieutenant’ of Beaumont and Fletcher, which was acted twelve days consecutively. ‘Rule a Wife and Have a Wife,’ by Beaumont and Fletcher, was given during the same season, when the company was strengthened by the accession of Mrs. Boutel, Mrs. Ellen Gwin, Mrs. James, Mrs. Rebecca Marshall, Mrs. Rutter, Mrs. Verjuice, and Mrs. Knight; Hains, Griffin, Goodman, Lyddal, Charleton, Sherly, and Beeston.

Killigrew revived his ‘Parson's Wedding’ at the Theatre Royal or Drury Lane in October 1664, and again in 1672 or 1673 at Lincoln's Inn Fields, which was then occupied by his company. On both occasions it was acted, presumably on account of its obscenity, only by women, Mrs. Marshall at each revival speaking the prologue and epilogue (included in ‘Covent Garden Drolleries’) in masculine attire. On 11 Oct. 1664 Luellin remarked to Pepys: ‘What an obscene loose play this “Parson's Wedding” is, that it is acted by nothing but women at the king's house!’

According to Malone, Killigrew drew from the profits of the theatre in 1666 two shares and three-quarters out of a total of twelve shares and three-quarters. Each share was supposed to produce 250l. Cibber declares that Killigrew's company was better than that of his rival D'Avenant until D'Avenant gained superior popularity by adding spectacle and music to his performances. But Killigrew also interested himself in the improvement of the scenery of the theatre, and in the introduction of good music. He told Pepys that he had been eight or ten times to Rome to hear good music (12 Feb. 1666–7), but had not been able to supply his English patrons with anything better than ballads. In August 1664 he announced his intention of building a theatre in Moorfields in order to have common plays acted. ‘Four operas were to be given in the year for six weeks each, with the best scenes, music, and everything as magnificent as is in Christendom, painters and singers to be brought from Italy’ (Pepys). On 12 Feb. 1666–7 Pepys was told that Killigrew was about to produce an opera by Giovanni Battista Draghi [q. v.], but nothing further is known of the intention. In January 1672 Drury Lane Theatre was burnt down, and Killigrew's company played at Lincoln's Inn Fields till Drury Lane was rebuilt and reopened 26 March 1674 (cf. Shakespeare Society's Papers, iv. 147 sq.) On the death of Sir Henry Herbert in 1673, Killigrew succeeded him as master of the revels. Herbert gave to Killigrew some manuscript directions concerning the duties of the office on 29 March 1664 (see Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 279).

Oldys spoke of Killigrew as the king's jester, and Pepys was told on 13 Feb. 1667–8 that ‘Tom Killigrew hath a fee out of the wardrobe for cap and bells under the title of the king's jester, and may revile or geere anybody, the greatest person without offence, by the privilege of his place.’ Pepys calls him ‘a merry droll, but a gentleman of great esteem with the king,’ and says that he ‘told us many merry stories’ (24 May 1660).

Killigrew is certainly best remembered as a wit, and he appears to have treated his royal master with remarkable freedom. He told Charles on one occasion that he was going ‘to hell to fetch back Oliver Cromwell, that he may take some care of the affairs of England, for his successor takes none at all.’ He is said to have won a wager of 100l. from the Duke of Lauderdale, who was deploring Charles's continued absence from the council-table, by persuading the king to repair thither immediately. According to Pepys, when Charles spoke of the Duke of York as Tom Otter, a henpecked husband in Ben Jonson's ‘Epicœne,’ Killigrew remarked to him, ‘Sir, pray which is the best for a man to be, a Tom Otter to his wife or to his mistress?’ a reference to the king's relations with Lady Castlemaine. Nor, it is said somewhat apocryphally, did he treat Louis XIV more ceremoniously. When Louis showed him at Paris a picture of the crucifixion hanging between portraits of himself and the pope, Killigrew is alleged to have remarked: ‘Though I have often heard that our Saviour was hanged between two thieves, yet I never knew who they were till now’ (Hals, Parochial History of Cornwall, under ‘Falmouth’). Grammont (Memoirs) speaks of Killigrew as a man of honour, and tells stories concerning him that at any other period, and in most other courts, would have deprived him of all claim to the title. He mentions, however, that Killigrew, while returning from the Duke of York's, received three passes with a sword through his chair, one of which went entirely through his arm, the cause of the attack being his intemperate language. This was not the only occasion on which he had to pay for the license he allowed himself. On 16 Feb. 1668–1669, Rochester, while in the company of the king, gave Killigrew a box on the ear. Instead of resenting this violence in his presence, Charles shortly afterwards took the earl's arm, and Killigrew was forced to stomach the affront.

Killigrew survived the union of the two companies—the king's and the duke's—in 1682, though his name does not appear to the agreement [for which see Betterton, Thomas, and Hart, Charles, d. 1683)]. He died at Whitehall on 19 March 1682–3, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Fifty pounds was paid by the king towards his funeral charges (Akerman, Secret Service Money of Charles II and James II, Camd. Soc.) His wife survived him. Letters of administration were granted to her estate, 15 May 1716, when she was in her eighty-seventh year (see Howard, Monthly Miscellanea, i. 370). By her Killigrew had four sons and two daughters. She and three of her sons by Killigrew were naturalised by act of parliament, 3 June 1664 (Lords' Journals, xi. 420). Killigrew's eldest son Robert, brigadier-general, was killed at Almanza 14 April 1707, aged 47. His younger sons Charles and Thomas are separately noticed.

Portraits of Killigrew and Carew in the same picture are in the Vandyck Room at Windsor Castle. Faithorne has engraved many portraits. One represents Killigrew in the dress of a pilgrim, with the distich

You see my face, and if you'd know my mind,
'Tis this: I hate myself and all mankind.

His portrait with that of Lord Coleraine, appears in an engraving known as ‘The Princely Shepherds.’ It is supposed to have been done for a masque. Another portrait was purchased in 1892 for the National Portrait Gallery.

In 1664 was published the folio edition of Killigrew's ‘Works,’ with a portrait by Faithorne of the author with a dog. It is entitled ‘Comedies and Tragedies written by Thomas Killigrew, Page of Honour to King Charles the First, and Groom of the Bed Chamber to King Charles the Second,’ London, by Henry Herringman. The volume contains: (1) ‘The Princesse, or Love at First Sight,’ a tragi-comedy; (2) ‘The Parson's Wedding,’ a comedy, which has been reprinted in successive editions of Dodsley's ‘Old Plays;’ (3) ‘The Pilgrim,’ a tragedy; (4) the first part of ‘Cicilia and Clorinda, or Love in Arms,’ a tragi-comedy; (5) the second part of the same; (6) ‘Thomaso, or the Wanderer,’ a comedy; (7) the second part of ‘Thomaso;’ (8) ‘Claracilla,’ a tragi-comedy; (9) ‘The Prisoners,’ a tragi-comedy; (10) the first part of ‘Bellamira her Dream, or the Love of Shadows,’ a tragi-comedy; (11) the second part of ‘Bellamira.’ Each of these plays, or parts of plays, has a separate title-page dated 1663 or 1664. Three of them (Nos. 1, 2, and 8) were, as has been seen, acted before the civil war, and there is no record of a performance of any of the others. Few of them, indeed, seem to have been intended for the stage, those that are in two parts consisting, as Genest observes, of plays in ten acts divided into halves, the first part bringing with it nothing in the shape of a dénouement of action. The ‘Parson's Wedding’ is outspoken enough for Wycherley, and verbose enough for the Duchess of Newcastle. It has wit of a sort, and Congreve has condescended to adopt some of its jokes. According to Langbaine, its intrigue of ‘Careless and Wild circumventing the Lady Wild and Mrs. Pleasance into marriage is an incident in several plays, as “Ram Alley,” “Antiquary,” &c., but in none so well managed as in this play.’ Killigrew's other comic pieces are less flagrantly indecent, but also less amusing. In his serious pieces Killigrew is seen to no great advantage. Genest affirms that the ‘Pilgrim’ is a good tragedy, which, with judicious alterations, might have been made fit for representation. Portions of it are indeed written with some vigour, but poetry and imagination are absent, and the excisions that would fit it for performance would have to be numerous. Of the second part of ‘Cicilia and Clorinda’ Langbaine says that the first scene between Amadeo, Lucius, and Manlius ‘seems copied from the characters of Aglatidas, Artabes, and Megabises in the “Grand Cyrus:” see “The History of Aglatidas and Amestris,” pt. i. bk. iii.’ In affirming that ornaments in ‘Thomaso’ are taken from the ‘Captain’ by Fletcher, and that a character and some words are copied from Jonson's ‘Fox,’ Langbaine acquits Killigrew of the intention to conceal his theft, and adds that ‘if every poet that borrows knew as well as Mr. Killigrew how to dispose of it, 't would certainly be very excusable.’ In Moseley's edition of William Cartwright's ‘Poems,’ 1651, are lines of somewhat turgid praise dedicated to ‘Mr. Thomas Killigrew on his two playes, the “Prisoners” and “Claracilla.”’ Killigrew's separate plays are dedicated mostly to ladies of rank. The opinion generally entertained of Killigrew is expressed in two lines of Denham—

Had Cowley ne'er spoke, Killigrew ne'er writ,
Combin'd in one, they'd made a matchless wit.

Manuscripts relating to Killigrew are in various collections. The most important of these, ‘An Account of T. Killigrew's Residence at Venice,’ with many documents in his handwriting, 1649, is in the British Museum (Add. MS. 20032). Other papers relating to his residence in Venice are among the Clarendon MSS. in the Bodleian Library. Killigrew's abstract of title to the playhouse, Drury Lane, from 14th Charles II to 1684, is in the Addit. MS. 20726, f. 1, British Museum. Suggestions for alterations in ‘Julius Cæsar,’ signed T. Killigrew, are in Add. MS. 22629, art. 41. Numerous indentures and agreements concerning Drury Lane Theatre also exist in manuscript, and ‘Mr. Thomas Killigrew's Letters of his Travels,’ in the manuscripts of Trinity College, Dublin, seem to call for publication.

[Books cited; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; Langbaine's Dramatic Poets; Genest's Account of the Stage; Malone's Suppl. to the Biographia Dramatica; Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus; Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses, ed. Bliss; Halliwell's Ancient Documents concerning the Office of Master of the Revels; Lowndes's Bibl. Man.; Williams's Dramatic Censor; Notes and Queries, 1st and 3rd ser.; Cibber's Apology; Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers; information kindly supplied by Prof. C. H. Firth.]

J. K.