To read Colley Cibber’s APOLOGY is to recapture intimate views of London theatrical, social, and literary life during the last decade of the seventeenth and the first quarter of the following century, as observed by a successful actor and theatrical manager, a playwright of sorts, and a man of shrewd insight into his own foibles and those of his fellows.
Published ten years after his retirement from the stage (1730) and his acceptance of the poet laureateship, this autobiography is a frank and engaging account of his childhood experiences as the son of a well-known sculptor, his schoolboy activities, his early days as a stage-struck youth, his long career in the theater, and his candid and unprejudiced observations of people and events. For this is an apology, not in the sense of an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, mistake, or regrettable circumstance, but as an explanation of the life of a man who was regularly and closely connected with the theater; who knew and talked with many of the most influential people of his day; who was acquainted with political actions, backstage gossip, and the infinite variety of public life and private in his time. Cibber was attempting, as he expressed it in the first chapter, to present “as true a picture of myself as natural vanity will permit me to draw,” since “a man who has pass’d above forty years of his life upon a theatre, where he has never appear’d to be himself, may have naturally excited the...
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