Thomas Killigrew


Killigrew and the Stage

Thomas Killigrew, brother of Sir William Killigrew, is best remembered as the theatrical manager and entrepreneur who in 1660 was given by Charles II a joint-monopoly, with Sir William Davenant, of forming two companies for the newly established Restoration theatre. His contributions to the stage also, however, included a number of plays written by him from the the mid-1630s onwards, some written during his travels on the continent while in the service of the exiled King. These include three plays of which his or contemporary manuscripts survive (KiT 3-5), the third of them, Claracilla, becoming one of Killigrew's most successful on the stage, both at its clandestine interregnum performance in 1653 and after the Restoration. Killigrew eventually published a collection of his plays as Comedies and Tragedies (London, 1664), and the annotations in his own surviving exemplum of the collection (*KiT 1, *KiT 2, KiT 6-8, *KiT 11) show the preparations he made to fit them for the new London stage.

Letters and Documents

Apart from the occasional manuscript circulation of songs in his plays (KiT 9, KiT 10, KiT 12), Killigrew's output of manuscripts is otherwise confined to the letters and documents he wrote or signed. A number of these currently known are given entries below, although no doubt many more exist in libraries and archives.

It may require more research, too, in these and other papers, to distinguish accurately Thomas Killigrew's own hand (it has also been suggested that he may have suffered from dyslexia). In addition, there was more than one T or Thomas Killgrew in his day. For instance, there is a series of interesting suggestions for a possible adaptation of Julius Caesar ‘By T Killigrew’, written in a rounded hand on a bifolium in British Library Add. MS 22629, ff. 238r-9v. In a typescript at the Folger (Y.a.548), the theatre historian Edward A. Langhans suggests that the author is probably the playwright's grandson or grandnephew Thomas Killigrew.

One of Killigrew's letters — his account of the notorious case of supposed possession by the Devil of nuns at Tours or Loudun in 1635 — had probably some commercial manuscript circulation (KiT 13-20), whether initiated by him or by someone else with access to the original. Yet other copies of this letter are likely to survive. Another of his letters, which apparently survives in a single contemporary copy (KiT 26), is also of particular interest in being a virtual tract expounding Killigrew's views on religion.

Various other documents relating to Killigrew survive, including political appointments and memoranda, as well as patents and agreements concerning theatre companies, and are widely dispersed. These have not been given entries below.

One notable manuscript erstwhile associated with Killigrew is a substantial verse miscellany in the University of Texas at Austin, Ms (Killigrew, T) Works B Commonplace book. Although clearly associated with interregnum and Restoration royalists, this volume bear no handwriting by Killigrew nor any other evidence of compilation or ownership by him.

Peter Beal