The Twickenham Museum
People : Actors and Actresses

Colley Cibber
Actor-manager, Poet Laureate & dramatist
1671 - 1757

Colley Cibber

Colley Cibber was born at Southwark, the son of Caius Gabriel Cibber the Danish sculptor, and his second wife Jane Colley, an heiress. The Colleys came from Rutland and Colley was sent to school in Grantham displaying, according to the DNB, "a special sharpness of intellect and aptitude for verse writing which gained him consideration from his masters, and a conceit which rendered him unpopular with his fellows". His mother was held to enjoy descent from William of Wykeham but his application for entry to Winchester College was unsuccessful. He directed his subsequent attention to the theatre and stage.

Caius Gabriel Cibber, sculptor, father of Colley

Although an enemy of Alexander Pope from 1717 he was later the hero of the New Dunciad published in 1742. He was made Poet Laureate in 1730 in preference to Lewis Theobald, Matthew Concannen and Stephen Duck and Pope wrote to David Mallet saying that he was "sorry, not surprised".

At Strawberry Hill

He was a tenant, around 1715, of the cottage built by Lord Bradford's coachman, known as Chopp'd Straw Hall, and later converted by Horace Walpole to make Strawberry Hill. This was before Pope came to Twickenham.


In 1756 his son Theophilus (1703-1758) by his first marriage re-opened the theatre on Hill Rise, Richmond as a warehouse for cephalic snuff, in which the public were allowed in, free of charge to witness theatrical rehearsals. This was a device for circumventing the licensing laws.

Theophilus married Susannah, one of Handel's favourite singers and sister of Thomas Arne (1710-1786).

Further reading:

Dictionary of National Biography
B R S Fone (ed), An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber, 1968
Richard H Barker, Mr Cibber of Drury Lane, 1939

back to top