Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Porter, Thomas

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1195477Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46 — Porter, Thomas1896Charles Harding Firth

PORTER, THOMAS (1636–1680), dramatist, born in 1636, fourth son of Endymion Porter [q. v.], began his career by abducting, on 24 Feb. 1655, Anne Blount, daughter of Mountjoy Blount, earl of Newport [q. v.] For this he was for a short time imprisoned, and the contract of marriage between Porter and the lady was declared null and void by the quarter sessions of Middlesex on 17 July following (Middlesex Records, iii. 237; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655, pp. 74, 577; Mercurius Politicus, p. 5164). Nevertheless, a valid marriage subsequently took place, as Porter had a son George by her (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. ii. 123). On 26 March of the same year Porter killed a soldier named Thomas Salkeld in Covent Garden, probably in a duel, and was consequently tried for murder. He pleaded guilty of manslaughter, was allowed benefit of clergy, and was sentenced to be burned in the hand (Mercurius Politicus, 22–9 March, 1655, p. 5228; Middlesex Records, iii. 233). On 28 July 1667 Porter had a duel with his friend, Sir Henry Bellasis, ‘worth remembering,’ says Pepys, who relates it at length, for ‘the silliness of the quarrel. Bellasis was mortally wounded, and Porter, who was also hurt, had to fly the kingdom’ (Pepys, Diary, 29 July 1667; Report on the MSS. of M. le Fleming, p. 52). Porter subsequently married Roberta Anne Colepeper, daughter of Sir Thomas Colepeper, knt., and died in 1680 (Fonblanque, Lives of the Lords Strangford, pp. 15, 83; Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, p. 172).

He was the author of the following plays: 1. ‘The Villain,’ a tragedy, 4to, 1663, 1670, 1694. This play was acted at the Duke's Theatre in October 1662 for ten nights in succession to crowded houses (Genest, English Stage, i. 42, x. 246; Downes, Roscius Anglicanus, p. 23). Young Killigrew commended the play to Pepys ‘as if there never had been any such play come upon the stage,’ but Pepys was dissatisfied when he saw it, finding ‘though there was good singing and dancing, yet no fancy in the play’ (Diary, 20 Oct. 1662). Its success was chiefly owing to Sandford's performance of the part of Maligni (ib.; Langbaine, p. 407). The epilogue to this play was written by Sir William Davenant, and is printed in his works (ed. 1673, p. 440). 2. ‘The Carnival,’ a comedy, 4to, 1664; acted at the Theatre Royal (Genest, x. 248). 3. ‘A Witty Combat, or the Female Victor, written by T. P. Gent.,’ 4to, 1668. It is said on the title-page to have been ‘acted by persons of quality’ in the Whitsun week with great applause. Genest (i. 51) identifies it with the ‘German Princess’ which Pepys saw performed on 15 April 1664. 4. ‘The French Conjuror: a Comedy by T. P., acted at the Duke of York's Theatre,’ 4to, 1678. This was licensed on 2 Aug. 1677. The plot of the play is derived from two stories in the ‘Spanish Rogue, or the Life of Guzman de Alfarache’ (Genest, i. 210). The similarity of the initials is the only reason for attributing the last two plays to Porter.

[Biographia Dramatica, ed. 1782, i. 348; other authorities mentioned in this article.]

C. H. F.