Cibber, Theophilus

, son of the above, was born in 1703, and about 1716 sent to Winchester school; from which, like his father, he passed almost directly to the stage, on which the power his father possessed as a manager, enabled him to come forward with considerable advantages, and, by his merit, he soon attained a share of the public favour. His manner of acting was in the same walk of characters which his father had supported, although, owing to some natural defects, he did not attain equal excellence. His person was far from pleasing, and the features of his face rather disgusting. His voice had the shrill treble, but not the musical harmony of his father’s. Yet still an apparent good understanding and quickness of parts, a perfect knowledge of what he ought to express, together with a confident vivacity in his manner, well adapted to the characters he was to represent, would have ensured his success, had his ‘private conduct been less imprudent or immoral. But a total want of ceconomy led him into errors, the consequences of which it was almost impossible he should ever be able to retrieve. A fondness for indulgences, which a moderate income could not afford, induced him to submit to obligations, which it had the appearance of meanness to accept; and his life was one continued series of distress, extravagance, and perplexity, till the winter, 1757, when he was engaged by Sheridan to go over to Dublin. On this expedition Cibber embarked at Park Gate, on board the Dublin Trader, some time in October; but the high winds, which are frequent tjien in St. George’s Channel, and which are fatal to many vessels in their passage from this kingdom to Ireland, proved particularly so to this. The vessel was driven on the coast of Scotland, where it was cast away; and Cibber lost his life. A few of the passengers escaped in a boat, but the ship was so entirely lost, that scarcely any vestiges of it remained, excepting a box of books and papers, which were known to be Cibber’s, and which were cast up on the western coast of Scotland.

As a writer, he has not rendered himself very conspicuous, excepting in some appeals to the public, written in a fantastical style, on peculiar circumstances of his own distressed life. He altered for the stage three pieces of other authors, and produced one of his own, viz. 1. “Henry VI.” a tragedy from Shakspeare. 2. “The Lover,” a comedy. 3. “Pattie and Peggy,” a ballad opera. 4. An alteration of Shakspeare’s “Romeo and | Juliet.” His name has also appeared to a series of “The Lives of the Poets,” 5 vols.,12mo, with which some have said he had no concern. Two accounts, however, have lately been published, which we shall endeavour to incorporate, as they do not difl’er in any material point, and indeed the one may be considered as a sequel to the other. The first is taken from a note written by Dr. Caider for the edition of the Tatler printed in 1786, 6 vols. 12mo. By this we learn that Mr. Oldys, on his departure from London, in 1724, to reside in Yorkshire, left in the care of the rev. Mr. Burridge, with whom he had lodged for several years, among many other books, &c. a copy r of Lang* baine’s “Lives, &c.” in which he (Mr. Oldys) had written notes and references for further information. Returning to London in 1730, Mr. Oldys discovered that his books were dispersed, and that Mr. Thomas Coxeter had bought this copy of Langbaine, and would not even permit Mr, Oldys to transcribe his notes from it into another copy of Langbaine, in which he likewise wrote annotations. This last annotated copy, at an auction of Oldys’s books, Dr, Birch purchased for a guinea, and left it by will, with his other books, to the British Museum. Mr. T. Coxeter, who died in April 1747, had added his own notes to those of Mr. Oldys, in the first copy of Langbaine above-mentioned, which, at the auction of Mr. Coxeter’ s books, was bought by Theophilus Cibber. On the strength of it, the compilation called “The Lives of the Poets” was undertaken.

The question now is, as to the share Cibber had in the compilation, The authority we have hitherto followed, attributes a very inconsiderable part to him, and makes Robert Shiels, one of Dr. Johnson* s amanuenses, the chief writer; but from an article in the Monthly Review, apparently drawn up by the late proprietor of it, and who must have been well acquainted with all the circumstances of compilation and publication, we learn that although Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work, yet, as he was very raw in authorship, an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of -Scotticisms, Cibber, who was a clever lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended to make only four volumes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked, and he was to supply notes | occasionally, especially concerning those dramatic poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant. He also engaged to write several of the lives; which (says this authority, “we are told”) he accordingly performed. He was further useful in striking out the Jacobitical and Tory sentiments, which Shiels had industriously interspersed whereever he could bring them in; and as the success of the work appeared, after all, very doubtful, he was content with 2 \L for his labour, besides a few sets of the books to disperse among his friends. Shiels had nearly 70l. besides the advantage of many of the best lives being communicated by his friends, and for which he had the same consideration as for the rest, being paid by the sheet for the whole. Such is the history of this work, in which Dr. Johnson appears to have sometimes assisted Shiels, but upon the whole it was not successful to the proprietors. 1


Biog. Dramatica.—Victor’s Works, vol. I. p. 20, 24, 201.—Tatler, vols. I. and IV. 8vo edit. 1806.—Johnson’s Works.—Boswell’s Life of Johnson.— Monthly Rev. for 1792, Review of Boswell’s Life.