Theophilus Cibber in the role of Ancient Pistol.
Theophilus Cibber (November 26, 1703 - 1758) was an English actor, playwright, author, and son of the actor-manager Colley Cibber.
Theophilus Cibber began acting in the Drury Lane Theatre in 1721. In 1727, Alexander Pope satirized Theophilus Cibber in his Dunciad as a youth who "thrusts his person full into your face" (III 132). On the stage, he was famous for playing Pistol in Henry IV, part 2 and some of the comic roles his father had played when younger, but his private life later led Theophilus into bad reputation and scandal. He died in a shipwreck while bound for Ireland and a season in Dublin.
Adultery case scandal
Cibber was married to the singer and actress Susannah Maria Arne, and both were members of the Drury Lane theatre company managed by Cibber's father. In 1737-38 the couple were involved in a notorious lawsuit which drew public attention to the problem of connivance between husband and wife in a wife's adultery. The Cibbers had established a ménage à trois with William Sloper, their lodger, who paid for the rent and full maintenace for all three. Becoming greedy, Cibber sued the lodger for £5,000 damages for criminal conversation, which he described as threatening "his peace of mind, his happiness, and his hopes of posterity". There were witnesses, however, and Sloper's defence counsel demolished Cibber's case: "He takes his money, lets him maintain his family, resigns his wife to him, and then comes to court for justice, for reparation in damages." Counsel concluded that "there is no denomination in coin small enough to give in damages" and the jury concurred, awarding Cibber a nominal £10.
Next year, when his wife, her lover and their child had all disappeared, Cibber brought an action against the lodger for £10,000 for "detaining" his wife. This time he was awarded £500. Susannah went to Ireland and a concert season with Handel while the scandal died down, but later returned to have a successful career at Drury Lane, working with David Garrick and becoming famous as a tragic actress.
Theophilus and Susannah authored some plays which are universally described as being of no great merit. They were published in a modern edition by David Mann in 1981.
Theophilus Cibber appears as the author on the title pages of two other books. He is obviously not the real author of the An Apology for the Life of Mr. T[heophilus] C[ibber], Comedian: Being a Proper Sequel to The Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber, Comedian, with an Historical View of the Stage to the Present Year / Supposed to be Written by Himself in the Stile and Manner of the Poet Laureate, which is an anonymous attack patterned on Colley Cibber's succès scandale autobiography An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber, Comedian. His authorship of Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, to the Time of Dean Swift (1753) is also disputed, most of the text being lifted from earlier works by Gerard Langbaine and Giles Jacob.
- Anon. (Theophilus Cibber on the title page) (1740). An Apology for the Life of Mr. T[heophilus] C[ibber], Comedian: Being a Proper Sequel to The Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber, Comedian, with an Historical View of the Stage to the Present Year / Supposed to be Written by Himself in the Stile and Manner of the Poet Laureate. London: Printed for J. Mechell.
- Cibber, Theophilus (putatively). Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, to the Time of Dean Swift. London.
- Mann, David (ed.) (1981). The plays of Theophilus and Susannah Cibber. New York : Garland Pub.
- Stone, Lawrence (1990). Road to Divorce:England 1530–1987. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Truelove, F. (1739). The Comforts of Matrimony, Exemplified in the Memorable Case and Tryal Lately Brought by T. C. against W. S. Esq. for Criminal Conversation with the Plaintiff's Wife. London.
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