Son of Thomas Godfrey (1704–1749), a Philadelphia glazier and member of Benjamin Franklin’s Junto Club, Godfrey produced some significant work in his short life.
Well known in literary circles in Philadelphia, he was a close friend of the poet Nathaniel Evans and the college provost William Smith. In 1758 he left Philadelphia for Wilmington, North Carolina, to enter business.
In 1762 he published the long poem The Court of Fancy and also published occasional pieces in local magazines. His most memorable work is a blank-verse play, The Prince of Parthia, A Tragedy, which appeared in a posthumous volume, Juvenile Poems on Various Subjects, that Evans published in 1765, which also included elegies from Evans and J Green.
The play, which echoes Shakespeare’s political tragedies, was first staged in 1767. Critic Moses Coit Tyler remarked that “Thomas Godfrey is a true poet, and ‘The Prince of Parthia’ is a noble beginning of dramatic literature in America.”