The Life & Career of an English Actor 1717 - 1779

Life

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David Garrick was a man of many parts. Born and brought up in the provinces, he came to dominate the London stage in the mid-18th century. He was a fine actor, equally skilled in comic and tragic parts a playwright and also an astute businessman. As actor-manager at the Royal Theatre Drury Lane from 1747 until his retirement in 1776 he introduced a number of innovations in stagecraft and in theatrical management. He was influential in the revival of interest in the plays of Shakespeare. Not only did he put on, and star in, many Shakespearian productions, but also staged the first Shakespearian festival, the Jubilee, in Stratford in 1769.

He became a very wealthy man, enabling him to purchase both a town and a country house, furnishing both with taste and luxury. He acquired a large collection of paintings, prints, seals and cameos. He also had an extensive library of books in English, French and Italian. He left his collection of early English drama to the British Museum.

Although he was very famous, and courted by many people, he had a talent for real friendship. His circle of friends ranged from an army tailor turned theatrical costumier, to the first Earl Spencer of Althorp. One of his most enduring friendships was with Dr Samuel Johnson, who had taught him as a youth in Lichfield and with whom he remained friends until his dying day. His long marriage to Eva Maria Garrick appears to have been a faithful and happy one.