The Life & Career of an English Actor 1717 - 1779


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Garrick was well-educated in French, Latin and Italian, had a good ear for dialogue and a facility with verse. He wrote plays of social satire, sentimental comedy, burlesque interludes and prologues– some twenty-two plays in all.

The Hereford Collection includes the script and list of characters for the pageant scene for The Jubilee, based on his Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford in 1769.

The first theatrical pieces he wrote appeared on stage in 1740: Lethe and The Lying Valet. The latter was the first of a number of plays he adapted from French. He also freely adapted other works, as seen by his copy of The Rehearsal, in which he altered lines to make the then fifty year-old play more topical.

Even Shakespeare was not immune from his pen, as he cut scenes and added new speeches.

He scribbled a great quantity of verse and sketches to entertain his friends and to lampoon his detractors. He wrote a charming ode, ‘A Present for my Wife, on her Birthday’ and an epitaph for his friend Thomas Beighton. He wrote annual epilogues to support the Theatrical Fund, which he had founded in 1766; it is still a registered charity. For an example of his more satirical verse, see his riposte to Sir Adrian Woodhouse’s derogatory comments on him (DG) and the other guardians of William Windham junior.

A very irreverent playlet, Ragandjaw, was written to be privately performed in July 1746, at the home of Garrick’s friend, the Reverend John Hoadly. It is a parody of a scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and contains many puns and innuendos, surprising to have been performed in the home of a minister.

Garrick’s Plays

In chronological order:

Lethe (Drury Lane, April 15, 1740)

The Lying Valet (Goodman’s Fields Theatre, November 30, 1741)

Miss in her Teens (Covent Garden, January 17, 1747)

Lilliput (Drury Lane, December 3, 1756

The Male-Coquette (Drury Lane, March 24, 1757)

The Guardian (Drury Lane, February 3, 1759)

Harlequin’s Invasion (Drury Lane, December 31, 1759)

The Enchanter; or, Love and Magic (Drury Lane, December 13, 1760)

The Farmer’s Return from London (Drury Lane, March 20, 1762)

The Clandestine Marriage (Drury Lane, February 20, 1766)

Neck or Nothing (Drury Lane, November 18, 1766)

Cymon (Drury Lane, January 2, 1767)

Linco’s Travels (Drury Lane, April 6, 1767

A Peep behind the Curtain; or, The New Rehearsal (Drury Lane, October 23, 1767)

The Jubilee (Drury Lane, October 14 1769)

The Irish Widow (Drury Lane, October 23, 1772)

A Christmas Tale Drury Lane, December 27, 1773)

The Meeting of the Company; or, Bayes’s Art of Acting (Drury Lane, September 17, 1774)

Bon Ton; or, High Life above Stairs (Drury Lane, March 18, 1775)

The Theatrical Candidates (Drury Lane, September 23, 1775)

May-Day: or, The Little Gypsy (Drury Lane, October 28, 1775)

Taken from Elizabeth P. Stein, David Garrick, Dramatist (1938, New York), p. 275.