Read THOMAS KILLEGREW of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. III, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

A Gentleman, who was page of honour to king Charles I. and groom of the bed-chamber to king Charles ii. with whom he endured twenty-years exile.  During his abode beyond sea, he took a view of France, Italy and Spain, and was honoured by his majesty, with the employment of resident at the state of Venice, whither he was sent in August 1651.  During his exile abroad, he applied his leisure hours to the study of poetry, and the composition of Several plays, of which Sir John Denham. in a jocular way takes notice, in his copy of verses on our author’s return from his embassy from Venice.


  Our resident Tom,
  From Venice is come,
  And hath left 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 was not,
  A man of much plot,
  May repent that false accusation;
  Having plotted, and penn’d
  Six plays to attend,
  The farce of his negotiation.

Killegrew was a man of very great humour, and frequently diverted king Charles ii, by his lively spirit of mirth and drollery.  He was frequently at court, and had often access to king Charles when admission was denied to the first peers in the realm.  Amongst many other merry stories, the following is related of Killegrew.  Charles ii, who hated business as much as he loved pleasure, would often disappoint the council in vouchsafing his royal presence when they were met, by which their business was necessarily delay’d and many of the council much offended by the disrespect thrown on them:  It happened one day while the council were met, and had sat some time in expectation of his majesty, that the duke of Lauderdale, who was a furious ungovernable man, quitted the room in a passion, and accidentally met with Killegrew, to whom he expressed himself irreverently of the king:  Killegrew bid his grace be calm, for he would lay a wager of a hundred pounds, that he would make his majesty come to council in less than half an hour.  Lauderdale being a little heated, and under the influence of surprize, took him at his word; Killegrew went to the king, and without ceremony told him what had happened, and added, “I know that your majesty hates Lauderdale, tho’ the necessity of your affairs obliges you to behave civilly to him; now if you would get rid of a man you hate, come to the council, for Lauderdale is a man so boundlessly avaricious, that rather than pay the hundred pounds lost in this wager, he will hang himself, and never plague you more.”  The king was pleased with the archness of this observation, and answered, ‘then Killegrew I’ll positively go,’ which he did. It is likewise related, that upon the king’s suffering his mistresses to gain so great an ascendant over him as to sacrifice for them the interest of the state, and neglect the most important affairs, while, like another Sardanapalus, he wasted his hours in the apartments of those enchantresses:  Killegrew went one day into his apartment dress’d like a pilgrim, bent upon a long journey.  The king being surprized at this extraordinary frolic, asked him the meaning of it, and to what distant country he was going, to which Killegrew bluntly answered, the country I seek, may it please your majesty, is hell; and what to do there? replies the king? to bring up Oliver Cromwel from thence, returned the wag, to take care of the English affairs, for his successor takes none. We cannot particularly ascertain the truth of these relations, but we may venture to assert that these are not improbable, when it is considered how much delighted king Charles the IId. was with a joke, however severe, and that there was not at court a more likely person to pass them than Killegrew, who from his long exile with the king, and being about his person, had contracted a kind of familiarity, which the lustre that was thrown round the prince upon his restoration was not sufficient to check.

Tho’ Sir John Denham mentions but six, our author wrote nine Plays in his travels, and two at London, amongst which his Don Thomaso, in two parts, and his Parson’s Wedding, will always be valued by good judges, and are the best of his performances.  The following is a list of his plays.

1.  Bellamira’s Dream, or Love of Shadows, a Tragi-Comedy; the first part printed in folio 1663, written in Venice, and dedicated to the lady Mary Villiers, duchess of Richmond and Lennox.

2.  Bellamira’s Dream, the second part, written in Venice; printed in folio, London 1663, and dedicated to the lady Anne Villiers, countess of Essex.

3.  Cicilia and Clorinda, or Love in Arms, a Tragi-comedy; the first part printed in folio, London, 1663, written in Turin.

4.  Cicilia and Clorinda, the second part, written at Florence 1651, and dedicated to the lady Dorothy Sidney, countess of Sunderland.

5.  Claracilla, a Tragi-comedy, printed in folio, London 1663; written at Rome, and dedicated to his sister in-law lady Shannon; on this play and another of the author’s called the Prisoners, Mr. Cartwright has written an ingenious copy of verses.

6.  The Parson’s Wedding, a Comedy, printed in folio, London 1663; written at Basil in Switzerland.  This play was revived at the old Theatre, at little Lincoln’s Inn-Fields, and acted all by women; a new prologue and epilogue, being spoken by Mrs. Marshal in Man’s cloaths, which Mr. Langbain says is printed in the Covent-Garden Drollery.  This was a miscellaneous production of those times, which bore some resemblance to our Magazines; but which in all probability is now out of print.

7.  The Pilgrim, a Tragedy, printed in folio, London 1663; written in Paris in the year 1651, and dedicated to the countess of Carnarvon.

8.  The Princess, or Love at first Sight, a Tragi-Comedy, printed in folio, London 1663; written at Naples, and dedicated to his niece, the lady Anne Wentworth, wife to lord Lovelace.

9.  The Prisoners, a Tragi-Comedy, printed in folio; London 1663; written at London and dedicated to the lady Crompton.

10.  Don Thomaso, or the Wanderer, a Comedy in two parts, printed in folio, London 1663; and dedicated to the fair and kind friends of prince Palatine Polexander.  In the first part of this play, the author has borrowed several ornaments from Fletcher’s play called the Captain.  He has used great freedom with Ben Johnson, for not only the characters of Lopus, but even the very words are repeated from Johnson’s Fox, where Volpone personates Scoto of Mantua.  I don’t believe that our author designed to conceal his assistance, since he was so just as to acknowledge a song against jealousy, which he borrowed from Mr. Thomas Carew, cup-bearer to king Charles the Ist, and sung in a masque at Whitehall, anno 1633.  This Chorus, says he, ’I presume to make use of here, because in the first design it was written at my request, upon a dispute held between Mrs. Cicilia Crofer and myself, when he was present; she being then maid of honour.  This I have set down, lest any man should imagine me so foolish as to steal such a poem, from so famous an author.’  If he was therefore so scrupulous in committing depredations upon Carew, he would be much more of Ben Johnson, whose fame was so superior to Carew’s.  All these plays were printed together in one volume in folio, London 1664.