David Garrick, (1717 – 1779)
David Garrick, renowned British theatrical actor and manager, was born in Hereford, England February 19, 1717, to his father Captain Peter Garrick and his mother Arabella Clough. With his father away on numerous, long voyages, “little Davy’s” letters to him became infamous and his talent for writing was discovered at an early age. Initially educated at the grammar school of Lichfield, Garrick luckily found himself at Samuel Johnson’s acclaimed academy at Edial later in his life as his secondary education. Although Samuel Johnson’s seminary school doors closed less than six months later, Garrick remained friends with its namesake. The two companions continued on into London, where Garrick entered into an unsuccessful family venture with his brother. The wine merchandizing partnership between the two siblings left Garrick with less than half of his original capital in the middle portion of the 18th century.
Following this misfortune, the brit found himself incredibly enamored with the theatre and its components and was driven to attempt a career in the field. In the beginning, Garrick’s endeavors leaned toward literary works, including his first dramatic piece, Lethe, or Aesop in the Shades, which he read to King George III thirty-seven years after its publication. Garrick’s success with Lethe offered him the in with the theatrical circles of the time and before making a conscious decision to act, he found himself stepping in for an ill actor. Causing a tremendous reaction from the audience for his unexpected part in Harlequin Student, or The Fall of Pantomime with the Restoration of the Drama, Garrick’s career as a thespian began.
In the fall of 1741 he took on the protagonist role of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, which would be the first of at least 17 Shakespearian plays that he would act in. During the first six months of his career, audiences, which included members of the parliament, raved over his performance and reveled in his more than eighteen roles during the period. These performances included, but were not limited to Garrick as Aboan and King Lear. Amongst the every-day fans, Alexander Pope frequented Garrick’s first performances and hailed his talent. In addition to Pope’s attention, Garrick received renowned notice from the artist William Hogarth, through a painting that depicted the actor in his role of Richard III.
After a successful career in acting, Garrick transposed his role in the theatre to that of manager of the Drury Lane – one of the most popular theatres in London – for the season of 1742. Five years later in 1747 he was able to purchase the venue, giving him total artistic control. During his ownership, Garrick was known to have staged numerous successful productions of several of Shakespeare’s works including Macbeth, Hamlet and a Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the year of 1779, Garrick’s career in theatre and his time on earth both came to an end. As homage to the actor, author and producer, Garrick’s final resting place can be found at the Westminster Abbey at the foot of a Shakespearian statue. Reaching the age of 62, his infamy as an actor would last for many years past his time. For most concerned, his contributions to the early eighteenth century theatre are considered unequaled.