Cibber family



  • The British actor-manager, playwright, and poet laureate ColleyCibber (1671 - 1757) and his children, the actor Theophilus Cibber(1703 - 58) and the actress Charlotte Charke (1710 - 60).Theophilus's second wife Susanna Maria Arne (1714 - 66) was alsoan actress.

    Colley Cibber was born in London, the son of a Danishsculptor, and in 1690 joined Thomas Betterton's company atDrury Lane. In one of his first roles, as a messenger to Betterton,Cibber became so nervous that he spoilt the whole scene. Bettertondemanded that Cibber forfeit part of his salary. Told that Cibberwas paid nothing, Betterton replied, "Then put him down 10 shillingsa week and forfeit him 5 shillings."

    Cibber's first great success was in his own play Love'sLast Shift (1696), usually considered the first sentimental comedy.He also played in Vanbrugh's The Relapse (1697), a sequel tothis play. His successes as a writer included The Careless Husband(1704), in which Anne Oldfield made her name. He also producednumerous adaptations, including a version of Richard III(1700) that held the stage until Irving restored the original in 1871.Cibber's version contained the infamous line, "Off with hishead! So much for Buckingham!" In 1710 he became part of thefamous Triumvirate that managed Drury Lane.

    Cibber was generally disliked because of his rudeness. Afterspeaking the line "I was then in Rome" in one performance,he suddenly went blank and waited for the prompter's aid. When nonecame, he dragged the man by the collar to the footlights growling,"Hang you, you scoundrel, what was I doing in Rome? Why don'tyou tell me?"

    He was appointed (a much ridiculed) Poet Laureate in 1730and retired from the stage four years later. His autobiography Apologyfor the Life of Mr Colley Cibber, Comedian (1740) gives a valuabledescription of theater life during his time.

    Theophilus Cibber began to act at the age of 16 andcame to specialize in Irish and eccentric roles. He was notoriousfor his unreliability and dissolute behaviour. On one occasion hefought a harmless duel with his fellow actor James 'Bellower' Quin.On another he fled abroad to escape creditors but was bailed out by hislong-suffering wife, Susanna Arne. His career later declined and he sankinto poverty. In 1758, while sailing to make an appearance at Dublin'sSmock Alley Theatre, he was drowned in a shipwreck.

    His wife, Susanna Maria Arne, was the sister of thecomposer Thomas Arne. In 1736 her budding career as an actress wasalmost destroyed by scandal, owing to a bizarre plot by her husband,who deliberately led her into an affair with her friend, William Sloper,and then brought an action against them both. Nevertheless, she wenton to become an acclaimed tragic actress and one of Garrick's leadingladies at Drury Lane. She also excelled in comedy, making her finalperformance as Lady Bute in Vanbrugh's The Provok'd Wife.

    Charlotte Charke, Colley Cibber's daughter, was awild and rebellious child. She apparently took to the stage to avoidher cruel husband. Renowned for her eccentricities, she often imitatedher father on stage and once rubbed fish over his face during a performance.She preferred male roles, such as Captain Macheath in The Beggar'sOpera. Once, she disguised herself as a man and robbed her fatherat gunpoint on the highway. Her autobiography, A Narrative of theLife of Mrs. Charlotte Charke, appeared in 1755.