The Marquess of Linlithgow, Bryngwyn Hall
The sitters in this portrait were leading lights of theatre and entertainment in the 18th century, they collaborated both on and off stage and appeared in other portraits.
David Garrick, (1717–1779), actor and playwright, was born on 19 February 1717 at The Angel inn in Hereford, the third of the seven children of Peter Garrick (1685–1737), an army officer, and his wife, Arabella (d. 1740), the daughter of Anthony Clough, a vicar-choral of Lichfield Cathedral. His paternal grandfather, David de la Garrique, was among the many Huguenots to leave France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685. There was a distinct community of émigré Huguenots in London at the end of the seventeenth century, and the sparse journal kept by David de la Garrique (rewritten initially as Garric, and then as Garrick) from 1685 to 1701 bears witness to his devoutness. Imprecisely described as a merchant, he seems to have been prosperous enough to have purchased for his son Peter a commission in a regiment of foot in April 1706. It was his army service that took Peter Garrick to the garrison at Lichfield, Staffordshire, where the growing family lived close to the cathedral, in Bird (later Beacon) Street.
Lieutenant Peter Garrick was on a recruiting mission in Hereford when the future actor was born, but it was in Lichfield that the boy spent his formative years. The family was not, by contemporary standards, poor, but it was a struggle for Peter Garrick to maintain his wife and children, particularly after, as a career officer during a period of peace, he was reduced to half pay. The habitual prudence in financial matters that would earn for David Garrick a reputation for meanness owed something to family circumstance during his boyhood. There was, however, no social deprivation. As an officer in a garrison town Peter Garrick had easy access to the cream of Lichfield society, and the young David's close interest in many of the most prominent citizens is evident in his earliest surviving letters. The first of these, written when he was not quite sixteen, dates from the mid-point of Peter Garrick's prolonged absence in Gibraltar. Now with the rank of captain, and presumably under financial pressure, Peter had, in 1729, entered active service under Major-General Percy Kirke, with the Queen's Own 2nd regiment of foot. With his elder brother, also called Peter, serving as an ensign in the navy, and his mother and elder sister, Magdalen, in consistently poor health, David was, precociously, the virtual head of the household until his father's return in May 1736. To judge from the tone of his letters to his father, it was a job he generally relished, although his enjoyment of it was delayed by a curious episode. It was not only David's father who left home in 1729. At some time during that year he himself was sent to Lisbon to learn the wine trade from his uncle and namesake, who prospered as a vintner in that city. The decision to interrupt young David's schooling must have been taken for financial reasons, and it may have been his son's unhappiness in Portugal that persuaded Captain Garrick to volunteer for the Gibraltar posting. Within a year David was back at Lichfield grammar school.
There is presumptive evidence, despite the Portuguese venture, that Garrick's parents hoped to see their sons well educated. The regimen at the grammar school, under its headmaster Dr John Hunter, was a stern one, and it was probably outside school hours that the twelve-year-old Garrick first involved himself in theatrical activity. He was the prime mover in a children's performance of George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer at the bishop's palace, himself playing the role of the hard-drinking professional soldier Sergeant Kite. If the choice of play was Garrick's, it fairly represents his humorous but respectful relationship with his father, to whose recruiting activities he owed his place of birth. As a boy he was already displaying the extraordinary social energy that he sustained throughout his life. Looking back on his own early years in Lichfield, and contrasting David with his older brother, Dr Johnson observed to Boswell, ‘I don't know but if Peter had cultivated all the arts of gaity as much as David has done, he might have been as brisk and lively. Depend upon it, Sir, vivacity is much an art, and depends greatly on habit’ (Boswell, Life, 2.462). It was in Johnson's short-lived school, Edial Hall, that Garrick completed his Lichfield education. Less than eight years older than his pupil, Johnson was a friend as well as a mentor, but there has been a tendency to overstate his influence on Garrick. It was Gilbert Walmesley (1680–1751), registrar of the ecclesiastical court in Lichfield, who did most to stimulate, and sometimes to satisfy, the curiosity of the future actor. The scholarly Walmesley, a bachelor until his fifty-seventh year, opened his library to both Johnson and Garrick, and continued to interest himself in their careers long after they had left Lichfield. Learning of Garrick's intention to move to London, and believing him worthy of a university education, he pressed John Colson, headmaster of a free school in Rochester, to tutor him: ‘He is now nineteen, of sober and good disposition, and is as ingenious and promising a young man as ever I knew in my life’ (Stone and Kahrl, 13).
When Johnson and Garrick set off from Lichfield to London on 2 March 1737, neither had clearly mapped out a future. Captain Garrick had hopes of a legal career for his confidently loquacious son, who dutifully enrolled at Lincoln's Inn on 9 March. There is, however, no evidence of enthusiasm behind the enrolment, and the prospect of legal studies was summarily abandoned when Captain Garrick died untimely on 19 March (the date is disputed, though not the month). The captain's brother, David the vintner, had died the previous December, leaving £1000 to the nephew who bore his name ‘to be put out at interest by the Executors … until he is of age, or to be paid before in case there is a good place that offers in given money’ (Oman, 19). Knowing of this legacy, Captain Garrick left fairly substantial sums to six of his children, but only a shilling to David, a disparity which has given rise to unnecessary speculation. There is no evidence at all that the family suspected David of a duplicitous preference for the stage over the law, though it is possible that he harboured one. He later admitted to his brother Peter, in a letter probably written on 20 October 1741, that ‘My Mind (as You must know) has been always inclin'd to the Stage’ (Letters, 1.28). But his first moves, after his father's death, were not in that direction. During the summer of 1737, responsive to Walmesley's advice, he studied with John Colson in Rochester, dependent on gifts and loans to pay his way. It may have been in the hope of releasing his uncle's legacy in advance of his twenty-first birthday that he joined with his brother Peter, in the autumn of 1737, in a commercial enterprise to which he was only moderately suited, but one in which they could exploit some of Uncle David's business connections. As Garrick & Co., wine traders, they established a London office and cellars in Durham Yard, between the Strand and the River Thames. Peter Garrick remained a vintner for the rest of his working life, but in Lichfield, not London. To begin with, though, the brothers shared lodgings in the capital, working together to further the trade. Garrick had many of the attributes of an effective businessman, as he would prove during his thirty years of theatre management. The problem was that his professional engagement with wine had to give room to his amateur passion for the theatre.
The only asset Dr Johnson had brought with him to London was the manuscript of his tragedy Irene. Peter Garrick, who had some connection, perhaps through his naval career, with Charles Fleetwood, the manager of the Drury Lane theatre, pressed him to read Johnson's play. That is the only known evidence of Peter's interest in the theatre. Before his elder brother Garrick was consistently defensive, perhaps secretive, about his own involvement with the stage, and it was probably a relief to him when Peter entrusted the London end of the business to him while he set about establishing the Lichfield branch. Among his new London friends were two uncommonly forceful actors, Henry Giffard and Charles Macklin. It was for Giffard's benefit night at Drury Lane on 15 April 1740 that Garrick wrote his first play, Lethe, or, Esop in the Shades, little more than a jeu d'esprit, but clear evidence of the keenness of his observation. Short as it is, Lethe gave the leading players of the company rich opportunities to display their tricks. Kitty Clive and Henry Woodward made the greatest impression, but Macklin's drunkard was enjoyed too. The success of Lethe advanced Garrick's interest in the theatre. In the summer of 1740 he involved himself in Giffard's attempts to obtain a licence for his theatre in Goodman's Fields, even to the extent of pressing his brother Peter to use his influence on Giffard's behalf. In a devious letter of 5 July 1740 he reported to Peter some good news of their business enterprise: ‘I have the Custom of the Bedford Coffee House, one of the best in London by Giffard's means; I would help him all in our power, as I dare answer you would’ (Letters, 1.23–4). If he was already in rehearsal for an amateur production of Henry Fielding's The Mock Doctor, he neglected to mention it.
The performances of The Mock Doctor, with Garrick in the title role, took place in the early autumn of 1740, in an upstairs room of the St John's gatehouse, Clerkenwell. It was probably Dr Johnson who enticed Garrick into the project. Since 1731 the gatehouse had been the editorial base of the Gentleman's Magazine, for which Johnson was reporting parliamentary debates. The amateur theatricals there were sponsored by the magazine's eccentric founder, proprietor, and editor, Edward Cave. Garrick wrote an epilogue, the first of the many for which he was famous, which was published in the September issue of the Gentleman's Magazine. The episode seems to have been concealed from Peter Garrick, who was occupied during September with the last illness, death, and burial on 28 September 1740 of their mother. Increasingly obsessed by the theatre, Garrick was meanwhile gaining a reputation as an entertainer among his London friends: ‘He loved to indulge in a vein of criticism on the several performers, and, to illustrate his remarks, he mounted the table, and displayed those talents for mimickry, for which he has been much celebrated in the character of Bayes’ (Murphy, 1.15). His dislike of rant in tragedy, and of ‘airs, affectation, and Cibberisms’ (Letters, 1.44) in comedy, was shared by Macklin, whose iconoclastic performance of Shylock in February 1741 Garrick saw. Macklin later claimed: ‘I have often advised you upon many circumstances of your acting; which you have allowed to be right, and have accordingly adopted my advice’ (Appleton, 57). Together they challenged the prevailing artifice of Augustan acting, and it was Macklin's encouragement, as much as Giffard's entrepreneurial interest, that finally eased Garrick into acting.
Garrick's first professional appearance was almost accidental. In March 1741, at his still unlicensed playhouse, Giffard staged a pantomime, with Richard Yates as Harlequin. In December of that year, responding shamefacedly to his brother's reproaches, Garrick confessed that ‘Yates last Season was taken very ill & was not able to begin the Entertainment so I put on the Dress & did 2 or three Scenes for him, but Nobody knew it but him & Giffard’ (Letters, 1.34). It was not in Garrick's interest to let it be known that he had made his theatrical début in a vulgar pantomime. He preferred it to be believed that his first professional engagement was with Giffard's summer company in Ipswich, where he played Aboan in black-face in Thomas Southerne's Oroonoko. According to Murphy, ‘He used to say, that, if he had failed there, it was his fixed resolution to think no more of the stage’ (Murphy, 1.20). East Anglian audiences were satisfied with the performances of Mr Lydall (a pseudonym chosen because it was the maiden name of Giffard's wife) in Southerne's tragedy, and even more so in George Farquhar's comedy The Inconstant. The versatility that made him exceptional was already in evidence, and Garrick returned to London resolved to make his bid as an actor.
Garrick made his sensational London début as Richard III in Giffard's unlicensed Goodman's Fields Theatre on 19 October 1741. It was nearly two months before the playbills admitted that the unnamed ‘gentleman’ was David Garrick, but the public was undeterred: ‘From the polite ends of Westminster the most elegant company flocked to Goodman's Fields, insomuch that from Temple Bar the whole way was covered with a string of coaches’ (Murphy, 1.25–6). The vitality of the young actor, his expressive features, and his vivid eyes were the talk of the town. It was the aim of leading tragedians to express the universality of human passions, but the dynamic Garrick dared to break the mould by portraying Richard III in his particularity. Fumbling for definitions, audiences were gripped by a sense of newness; soon they would be agreeing that this young man embodied in performance the scope of the sympathetic imagination. In that first season they saw him in comedy too: as Clodio in Colley Cibber's Love Makes a Man on 28 October 1741 and as Bayes in the duke of Buckingham's The Rehearsal on 3 February 1742. But only those in the know realized that the new idol was also the author of the two-act farce The Lying Valet, first staged at Goodman's Fields on 30 November 1741 and destined for durable popularity. The plot was French, but the language was Garrick's, as was the title role of the mendacious Sharp. It was always his acting rather than his writing that singled him out. As a playwright, and as an adapter of old plays, he served the taste of the time; as an actor he was startlingly innovative. There is no exaggeration in the letter Garrick wrote to his brother five weeks after his London début: ‘I have the Judgment of the best Judges (Who to a Man are of Opinion) that I shall turn out (nay they Say I am) not only the Best Trajedian [sic] but Comedian in England’ (Letters, 1.32). He could cite the elder Pitt, George Lyttelton, and Alexander Pope, among many others.
Garrick continued at Goodman's Fields until towards the end of May 1742 and then embarked for a season at the Smock Alley playhouse in Dublin. Just before leaving he gave three special performances at Drury Lane—Bayes on 26 May, King Lear on 28 May, and Richard III on 31 May—tokens of his agreement to play there during the 1742–3 season. The Dublin triumph was shared with the fine Irish actress Margaret (Peg) Woffington (1720?–1760). By the time they returned to England, Garrick was in love with her. They are thought to have lived together at 6 Bow Street, in a house that belonged to Charles Macklin. Macklin had aspirations as a trainer of actors, and Garrick may briefly have shared them. But the demands of Drury Lane came first. Garrick's contract was a lucrative one (£500 for the season), and the company was strong: not only Garrick, Macklin, and Woffington, but also Hannah Pritchard and Kitty Clive. The rival house at Covent Garden had only one actor of comparable status, James Quin, the leading tragedian of the suddenly ‘old’ school. All should have been well for Charles Fleetwood, the manager of Drury Lane. Garrick's Hamlet drew crowds, and it was during this season that London first saw him in two of his finest comedy parts, Abel Drugger in a reshaping of Jonson's The Alchemist and Archer in Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem. But Fleetwood was a feckless housekeeper, and the season ended with actors unpaid. Garrick became their spokesman in a protracted dispute with Fleetwood and also the man deputed to petition the lord chamberlain for a licence to set up a rival company. To his dismay, the duke of Grafton dismissed the application outright. Fleetwood had meanwhile opened the new season on 13 September 1743, with a makeshift company, leaving the rebellious actors without employment. It fell to Garrick to make peace with Fleetwood, who expressed his willingness to welcome back all except Macklin. The outmanoeuvred Garrick agreed, and Macklin launched a ferocious pamphlet campaign against the friend who had betrayed him. Although the ferocity diminished over time, Macklin was never securely an ally again. When Garrick finally returned to the Drury Lane stage in December 1743 it was to confront a claque of Macklin's supporters. The idol of London was hissed off the stage.
The beneficial aspect of this experience was that it forced Garrick to take stock of himself. His lack of height (he was about 5 feet 6 inches tall) was compensated by fine proportions and physical grace, and he had a capacity, both on and off stage, to charm. He was better read, and had more business acumen, than most of his fellow actors, and he was making a lot of money. Having committed himself to the theatre, he found himself ambitious to improve it. There was shrewdness, as well as self-confidence, in the determination, arrived at in his twenties, to enter into management. Over the coming years, particularly in the prologues and epilogues through which he talked directly to his audience, he would develop an unrivalled skill in public relations. In the more private dealings that are the stuff of management, it was his natural inclination to be even-handed. He made enemies, sometimes he got things wrong, but the many extant letters to and from him place him predominantly in a good light. At the end of 1743, though, there were still storms ahead. Early in the new year (7 January 1744) he made his first appearance as Macbeth, a part which he found the most demanding in his repertory. Only in partnership with Hannah Pritchard as Lady Macbeth, after their first appearance together on 19 March 1748, did he feel at ease in it. The relationship with Peg Woffington was uneasy, too, though posterity has only hints and rumours to rely on. It was probably the quarrel with Macklin that led Garrick to move his lodgings to James Street, Covent Garden, but Woffington's suspected infidelity concerned him more. They were both sufficiently in the public eye to attract the attention of high society. In the summer of 1744, when Woffington was being courted at her Teddington villa by Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, Garrick was visiting the wealthy William Windham and Lord Rochford in Suffolk and assisting the duke of Bedford with some private theatricals at Woburn Abbey. They played together at Drury Lane through the 1744–5 season, with Garrick challenging Quin's possession of the part of Sir John Brute in Vanbrugh's The Provoked Wife opposite Woffington's Lady Brute. As Shakespeare's King John, though, Garrick played for the first time with Susannah Cibber, an actress with whom he would sustain a sentimental friendship until her death in 1766. Like Othello, which he played first on 7 March 1745, King John was a part soon dropped from Garrick's repertory. In the continuing turmoil of Drury Lane, he had his eye on management.
At the end of the 1744–5 season Fleetwood surrendered the management of Drury Lane to the pugnacious James Lacy, who immediately taxed Garrick with a failure to meet the terms of his contract. Indignantly, Garrick protested his April illness and the exhaustion of playing tragic roles on successive nights. From December 1745 to May 1746 he was in Dublin, sharing the management and the profits of two playhouses with Thomas Sheridan. Before leaving England he had made the final break with Peg Woffington: ‘What she does now, so little affects me, that, excepting her shewing my letters of nonsense and love to make me ridiculous, she can do nothing to give me a moment's uneasiness’ (Letters, 1.65). The fear of ridicule, which was Garrick's besetting weakness, was the final threat to his resolve. Whispers of a love child were revived in 1755 when Garrick assumed the guardianship of Samuel Cautherley (c.1747–1805), and it is certainly odd that Garrick never formally dispelled the rumours that he was Cautherley's father. But green-room gossip more often named Jane Hippisley (later Mrs Green) as the mother than Peg Woffington. The date of Cautherley's birth is not known for certain, and there is no mention of him in Garrick's correspondence until March 1759. There is scant information about Garrick's private life before his marriage, but 1745 was clearly a year of decision for him. In the autumn he was ready to volunteer for Lord Rochford's regiment, hastily assembled to meet the Jacobite invasion. As a precaution he entrusted his financial interests to James Clutterbuck, one of a number of lifelong friends from London's business community. The Dublin engagement was to be a first step on the road to management, and it was time to put his personal life in order.
In Dublin, Sheridan and Garrick collaborated warily, but the season was a financial success. Engraved plates of Hogarth's expressive portrait of Garrick as Richard III had helped to monumentalize his fame there as well as in London. He would become the most painted man in England, and a noted connoisseur and collector. Contemporaries drew comparisons between Hogarth and Garrick, masters of the informal and everyday. For Christopher Smart, in The Hilliad:
While thinking figures from the canvas start,… Hogarth is the Garrick of his art.(Collected Poems, 1.184)
The two men were convivial friends and mutual admirers, although Hogarth complained that the constant and complete mobility of Garrick's face made him a difficult subject for a portraitist. It was an essential part of Garrick's art to visualize himself in performance, as is very clear in the advice he gave to Francis Hayman, another artist friend, on the choice of apt Shakespearian scenes for illustration. Benjamin Wilson, Zoffany, Gainsborough, and, more circumspectly, Reynolds were also included in Garrick's unusually diverse circle of friends. Although he was alert to the commercial value of publicity portraits and prints, his friendships were motivated by more than self-interest. He made an art of sociability, and painters are prominent among those who repaid him. Garrick's career was the major inspiration to the extraordinary growth of interest in actors and acting during the second half of the eighteenth century.
Garrick returned from Dublin with an enhanced sense of his own value on 10 May 1746, and immediately engaged with John Rich, the manager of Covent Garden, for six end-of-season performances on a profit-sharing basis. Garrick had the management of Drury Lane in mind, but was not yet ready to show his hand. Instead, he contracted with Rich for the 1746–7 season at Covent Garden, confident that Lacy would feel his absence at Drury Lane. The company was a strong one. It included three of the actors Garrick most trusted, Hannah Pritchard, Henry Woodward, and Susannah Cibber. But Rich's particular coup was to bring together, for the first time, James Quin, the old king of the tragic stage, and the young pretender. In the event, they performed together in only three plays, Nicholas Rowe's two tragedies, The Fair Penitent (14 November 1746) and Jane Shore (2 January 1747), and I Henry IV (6 December 1746). As Falstaff, Quin held his own with Garrick's Hotspur, but the verdict of the town, which read the performances as a contest rather than a collaboration, was that Garrick had outfaced Quin in Rowe's tragedies. For the fourteen-year-old future playwright Richard Cumberland the contrast was thrilling: Lothario, ‘young and light and alive in every muscle and in every feature’, bounding onto the stage to meet a ‘heavy-paced Horatio’—‘It seemed as if a whole century had been stept over in the transition of a single scene’ (Cumberland, 59–60). Garrick's prestige was further increased by the success of his two-act farce Miss in her Teens, which opened on 17 January 1747 and ran for forty nights during the season. It was also at Covent Garden that, on 12 February 1747, he first appeared as Ranger in Benjamin Hoadly's The Suspicious Husband. A philandering rake, Ranger licensed Garrick to display himself at his most seductively charming. Over the next thirty years he played it 120 times, more often than any other role in his repertory. There is no surer evidence of his awareness of the female vote in his theatrical constituency.
We know from their correspondence that Susannah Cibber had been urging Garrick to share with her in the management of Drury Lane. She had written to him in Ireland, ‘I desire you always to be my lover upon the stage and my friend off it’ (Private Correspondence, 1.38–9). Garrick baulked at the idea, not least because he feared the intervention of her meddlesome husband, Theophilus Cibber. Through the spring of 1747 he negotiated with Lacy towards their joint purchase of the patent. Finally, and not without suspicion on both sides, a contract was signed on 9 April 1747. Garrick's share of the purchase price was £12,000. In return he was to be paid annually £500 as proprietor and 500 guineas as an actor. According to a division of responsibility finally agreed in 1750, Lacy was to manage the property and Garrick was to manage the stage. Despite occasional disagreements, that remained essentially true until Lacy's death in 1774.
While Garrick was engaged in the glittering Covent Garden season of 1746–7, the woman who was to become his wife was Lacy's principal dancer at Drury Lane. They are likely to have met first at one of the formal events in which London society delighted. Eva Maria Veigel (1724–1822) [see Garrick, Eva Maria] was born into a Roman Catholic family in Vienna. Exactly seven years Garrick's junior, she had travelled to England in 1746 to dance with the Italian Opera at London's King's Theatre, where she was initially known by her stage name of Violette. When Garrick met her, and fell in love, she was living with the earl and countess of Burlington, celebrated patrons of the arts. The countess initially opposed her charge's marriage to a player, and it was not until 22 June 1749 that the thirty-year partnership formally began. Garrick settled £10,000 on her, with a promise of £70 per annum. The Burlingtons awarded her the annual interest on their Lincolnshire estates. She made no attempt to resume her stage career, content to be identified as Garrick's wife for thirty years, and then, for more than forty, as his widow. Whatever his bachelor reputation, Garrick took his marriage seriously, and no scandal was ever attached to it.
Garrick was serious about his theatre management, too. He selected and contracted actors with care (over his period in management he would engage nearly 300 of them), and always with an eye to establishing a stable company and a high standard of performance. There were, inevitably, rivalries and desertions, but Garrick earned and cherished the loyalty of many of the finest actors: Woodward, Susannah Cibber, Catherine Clive, Hannah Pritchard, Thomas King, Jane Pope, James Love, John Moody, James Dodd. He had the good sense to recognize that, in serving the interests of the individual performers, he was also serving the interests of Drury Lane's managers. What his detractors called meanness was managerial prudence, what they called vanity was awareness of his own value. Over his first sixteen seasons as manager he averaged about ninety personal appearances, far more than most leading actors, but only half of the playing nights. Under Garrick, Drury Lane became unquestionably the leading theatre in Britain, but it was not, like Henry Irving's Lyceum, a one-man show. Sometimes he quarrelled with actors more temperamental than himself, and the antics of leading ladies such as Elizabeth Younge and, particularly, Frances Abington exasperated him into pronouncing, shortly before his retirement:
the present race of Theatrical Heroines with all their Airs, indispositions, tricks & importances which have reduc'd the Stage to be a dependant upon the Wills of our insolent, vain, & let me add insignificant female trumpery—there must be a revolution, or my Successors will Suffer much. (Letters, 3.1063)
His genuine feeling for his fellows is better represented by his foundation, in 1766, of the Theatrical Fund for the relief of actors in retirement or disability.
Garrick's relations with playwrights were, from the start, more contentious. His closest friend among them was George Colman, with whom he collaborated in The Clandestine Marriage (1766), one of the best eighteenth-century comedies, though the two were briefly estranged in 1767, when Colman bought into a share of the management of Covent Garden, the rival playhouse. With Arthur Murphy, later his biographer, he had a love–hate relationship of real complexity. It was, in general, the playwrights whose work he rejected who turned most savagely against him, but Garrick's letters to them were characteristically detailed and patient in explaining his decision. Political and sentimental material, he told John Home, is ‘of the least dramatic kind’ (Letters, 1.269), and he wrote to Edward Thompson, ‘I would not write a line till I had fix'd upon a good Story & consider'd it well upon paper—If you don't you will sail without rudder, compass or ballast’ (ibid., 2.542). The most vitriolic encounter was with William Kenrick, against whom Garrick instituted a suit for libel in July 1772, in response to Kenrick's scurrilous lampoon Love in the Suds. The affair ended in November 1772 with Kenrick's abject apology and promise to suppress sale of the lampoon, but he remained a voluble antagonist.
In keeping with his new status as manager, Garrick had moved his lodgings to King Street, Covent Garden. He had also taken under his wing his improvident younger brother George, who remained at Drury Lane as a company go-between for actors and managers for the rest of his life (he died two weeks after Garrick). Drury Lane had been refurbished ready for its opening on 15 September 1747. Garrick recited Dr Johnson's subsequently famous prologue:
The drama's laws the drama's patrons give,For we, who live to please, must please to live.
The Lichfield friends had clearly colluded in its composition, for, if the language is Johnson's, the theatrical sentiments are Garrick's. The opening play was The Merchant of Venice, featuring Macklin's Shylock. In an implied statement of managerial policy, Garrick delayed his own appearance in a favourite role until 15 October 1747, when he played Archer in The Beaux' Stratagem. Before that there was a revival of The Beggar's Opera and a chance to see the Hamlet of the handsome Spranger Barry, later to be more often a rival than a colleague of Garrick, who would soon offer his audience the contrast of himself in the part. Comparisons of this kind kept tongues wagging and furnished material for a growing journalistic interest in the theatre. With the assumption of management Garrick was moving towards a proprietorial interest in Shakespeare, whose cause he would increasingly promote. By 1751 he was ready to call Drury Lane ‘the house of William Shakespeare’ (Letters, 1.172). He was not so foolhardy as to present unimproved versions of Shakespeare, but his King Lear of 1747–8 pared away some of Nahum Tate's refinements and restored the Fool. Lear was considered, by many contemporaries, Garrick's finest tragic role. Sir Joshua Reynolds is said to have taken three days to recover from it. His recorded performances of it in London throughout his career number eighty-five, five less than Hamlet, two more than Richard III. Of his other roles in Shakespearian tragedy, he played Romeo sixty times, Macbeth thirty-seven, Falconbridge in King John twelve, King John and Iago nine, Antony in Antony and Cleopatra six, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, the Ghost in Hamlet, and Othello three. In all of these the text was arranged by, or with the sanction of, Garrick himself. His activity as an adapter of plays was a constant factor in his working life.
By the spring of 1748 Garrick was ‘often troubled with Pains in my Breast, arising from Colds’ (Letters, 1.93). The strains of management were exacerbated by anxiety about his marriage prospects. Lady Burlington was pressing Eva Maria to marry the superannuated earl of Coventry, and Garrick sought solace at Chatsworth House, where he was the guest of the Burlingtons' son-in-law, the marquess of Hartington. Despite the inequality of rank, this was a genuine friendship. Without Hartington's support it is unlikely that Garrick would ever have gained the consent of Lady Burlington to pursue his courtship. Now in his thirty-second year, he opened his second season in management as the bachelor Benedick in a revival of Much Ado about Nothing. His Beatrice was the commanding Hannah Pritchard, notably taller than he when fully wigged. The partnership was a popular triumph, and Benedick became Garrick's favourite role in Shakespearian comedy. He performed it 113 times in London, making it a close second to Ranger in The Suspicious Husband. His other favoured comic roles were non-Shakespearian eccentrics: Sir John Brute in Vanbrugh's The Provoked Wife (105 times), Archer in The Beaux' Stratagem (100), Bayes in The Rehearsal (91), Kitely in his own adaptation of Jonson's Every Man in his Humour (81), Abel Drugger (80), and Don Felix in Susannah Centlivre's The Wonder (70), the part in which he took his final farewell in 1776. In comedy Garrick relished opportunities for virtuoso display and inspirational improvisation. His management policy was less showy. For the 1748–9 season he featured Spranger Barry and Mrs Cibber in Romeo and Juliet and Robert Dodsley's musical entertainment The Triumph of Peace, a celebration of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which signalled a lull in hostilities between England and France. Dodsley was soon to join the number of playwright complainants against Garrick, whose record in the staging of new plays is easy to defend. Drury Lane, during his seasons in management, presented sixty-one premières of full-length plays and ninety-six new afterpieces. Covent Garden, over the same period, premièred, respectively, forty-nine and forty-two. In general Garrick effectively balanced novelty and the well-tried in his repertory. The two new mainpieces for 1748–9 were both hazardous: Johnson's stodgy Irene, staged out of friendship rather than conviction, barely survived its nine performances, and Aaron Hill's Merope, well puffed, soon languished.
The marriage of Garrick and Eva Maria Veigel on 22 June 1749 was discreetly managed, combining an Anglican ceremony in Bloomsbury with a Roman Catholic blessing in the chapel of the Portuguese embassy. The couple honeymooned in Mereton, Surrey, and were, for several years, regular guests of the reconciled Burlingtons, both on their Palladian estate in Chiswick and in their Yorkshire residence at Londesborough. There was much repair work to be done in the house at 27 Southampton Street, which Garrick bought for 500 guineas in July 1749, and it was not until 14 October that they moved in. It remained their city home for twenty-three years, its four storeys tastefully furnished by Mrs Garrick and its walls decorated by Garrick's growing collection of books and pictures. His unique dramatic library was eventually bequeathed to the British Museum. His purchases of play-texts served both to enhance Drury Lane's repertory and to satisfy his bibliomania. He bought volumes on the fine arts, too, and collected emblemata, engravings, and a variety of prints. Among the paintings at his houses, originals as well as copies, were works by artists as various as Watteau, Andrea del Sarto, Hals, Poussin, Lely, and Gainsborough. Pride of place went to the four great oils of Hogarth's Election sequence, which Garrick bought from the artist in 1762.
The Garricks, to David's certain regret, were childless. Had he had children, he would have lavished on them the kind of attention he paid to his books and pictures. Fanny Burney was one of many to comment on the lack: ‘How many pities that he has no children; for he is extremely, nay passionately fond of them’ (The Early Diary of Frances Burney, 1768–1778, ed. A. E. Ellis, 2 vols., rev. edn, 1907, 1.144). He was uncle and playmate to his brother George's children, an active governor of London's lying-in hospital from 1756, a solicitous guardian to Samuel Cautherley, and, over the last years of his life, a fatherly friend to Hannah More. There is an indicative passage in a letter to George Colman, dating from 30 June 1766. Colman had gone to Paris, leaving his four-year-old son in the charge of nannies:
I must tell, that yr sweet boy is at this instant as happy & as well as Ever I knew him. … We have work'd very hard in the Garden togeather, & have play'd at Ninepins till I was oblig'd to declare off. (Letters, 2.520)
Having last played Benedick as a bachelor, Garrick determined to open his third season in the same part: a public statement that the bachelor had reformed to respectability. He explained the decision to Lady Burlington on 19 September 1749: ‘I shall open with Benedick the Married Man; I have so resolv'd, & I find the People are very impatient to laugh with Me & at Me’ (Letters, 1.128). Marriage had confirmed Garrick's resolution to raise the moral and social status of himself and, by association, his profession. He had a taste and a talent for brilliant society, as did his young wife, and enjoyed being a celebrity. There is an ill-concealed delight in his narration of an episode, in September 1749, when, while walking in the Strand, he found that the sign being erected outside a bookseller's was his own portrait, ‘& My Name written about it, in Letters as tall as Myself’ (ibid., 1.124). The season, though successful, ended disconcertingly with Barry, Macklin, and Mrs Cibber announcing their intentions to join the Covent Garden company. Garrick's response was to engage the attractive but comparatively inexperienced George Anne Bellamy. The stomach disorder that took him to Bath in March 1750 may have been the first grumbling of the kidney stones that plagued his last years. It was revealed at the post-mortem that Garrick was born with only one kidney, and it was through energy, stamina, and professionalism that he sustained his uncommonly demanding public career. The Garricks kept house for the Burlingtons at Chiswick through May 1750, and Garrick did some electioneering in the whig interest. Still smarting over the defections of some of his leading actors, he began the 1750–51 season in open competition with Covent Garden. For 28 September both houses announced Romeo and Juliet, with Garrick and Bellamy at Drury Lane challenging Barry and Cibber at Covent Garden. Honours were divided, but the spectacle was undignified, and Garrick submitted to the public will by presenting a pantomime for Christmas. Henry Woodward's Queen Mab was staged forty-five times in its first season and appeared in fifteen later seasons under Garrick's management. It is evidence of his capacity to compromise with his public that a pantomime was, by some way, the most frequently performed piece in Garrick's Drury Lane repertory.
Before the completion of the 1751 benefit performances the Garricks were in Paris, which they reached on 23 May. They were enthusiastic sightseers and theatregoers, though not yet fêted as they would be twelve years later. Jean Liotard produced portraits in pastel of both of them, Garrick looking altogether heavier than in the putative Van Loo portrait of 1741, Mrs Garrick expensively dressed and straight-backed. It was probably in this summer that Garrick met Jean Monnet, a bookseller and theatre manager, through whom he was able to keep in touch with the latest theatrical developments in Paris, and to whom he was much later indebted for the recommendation of the innovatory stage designer Jean Phillipe de Loutherbourg. The Garricks returned to London in July, in good time to prepare the theatrical programme. The Drury Lane routine was fairly well established by now: revivals until Christmas, supported sometimes by new afterpieces, pantomime into the new year, premières in February and March, benefit performances to end the season. By 1753 the Garricks were prosperous enough to plan the purchase of a house and estate in the country, something with ‘taste in it’, and the four requisites for ‘a good Situation’—‘Wood, Water, Extent, & inequality of Ground’ (Letters, 1.193). They looked first in Derbyshire, in the vicinity of Chatsworth House, where they enjoyed the hospitality of Lord Hartington still, but the property they first rented and then, on 30 August 1754, bought was Fuller House, in Hampton-on-Thames. Garrick employed Robert Adam to supervise alterations to the house and Capability Brown to lay out the garden. In August 1755 Adam designed for him an octagonal temple to Shakespeare in the grounds. Johann Zoffany later painted a conversation piece depicting the Garricks, two of their dogs, an unidentified boy, and a servant outside the temple, through whose open door Roubiliac's life-size statue of Shakespeare is just visible. Hampton was their summer home for the rest of their lives together, and Mrs Garrick's thereafter. The purchase price is not recorded, but on 20 April 1757 Garrick paid £13,038 for the manor of Hendon, Essex, a purely commercial speculation. Ten years later he refused to sell it for less than £20,000.
Theatre management had, inevitably, its ups and downs. On 8 November 1755 Garrick promoted at Drury Lane The Chinese Festival, an audacious ballet by the great Swiss choreographer Jean Georges Noverre. It was the eve of the Seven Years' War, and most of the dancers were French. Xenophobes succeeded in arousing hostile patriotism, and much damage was done to the theatre in the ensuing riots. Garrick's attempt to recompense Noverre by employing him for the 1756–7 season ended in mutual misunderstanding, but Noverre never questioned Garrick's genius as an actor. He is said to have used him as a model for his reformation of the ballet, and his description of Garrick's acting in Lettres sur les arts imitateurs en général et sur la danse en particulier is one of the finest known. There were compensations in friendships with remarkable men—Edmund Burke most enduringly, but also Reynolds and the much less respectable John Wilkes. Charles Churchill, whose Rosciad (1761) brilliantly confirmed the triumph of the Garrick revolution in acting styles, was part of Wilkes's circle, and a useful man to have on your side in the satirical newspaper campaigns of the period. Garrick was a regular contributor to newspapers, owned shares in four dailies, and was closely involved with the influential St James's Chronicle. In his later years he became oversensitive to criticism, but he was rarely silenced by it. Mrs Garrick excelled as a hostess, and some of the highest in the land dined at Hampton. That Garrick was gratified by his social success is less surprising than that he should have maintained his intense interest in the affairs of Drury Lane. His afterpiece The Male Coquette appeared there on 24 March 1757. Though light-hearted, its attack on male effeminacy reflects a constant prejudice of Garrick's. When Woodward, for whose benefit it was written, left Drury Lane in 1758, Garrick compensated for the loss of his pantomime writer by himself providing Harlequin's Invasion for the Christmas entertainment in 1759. His efforts to regularize the conduct of the theatre continued. He had had the support of his audience when he banished self-displaying loungers from the stage during performances and restricted their admission to the green room. But he encountered outrageous opposition during the 1762–3 season, when he attempted to abolish the custom of half-price admission after the third act of the main piece. The outcome, in January 1763, was dictated by a mob under the leadership of a man about town, Thadeus (or Thomas) Fitzpatrick. The riots that interrupted performances of The Two Gentlemen of Verona spread, in February 1763, to Covent Garden, where John Beard had similarly determined to end the custom of half-price. Garrick was mortified by his impotence in the face of mob rule, and there is a strong possibility that it was this episode that motivated him to take a holiday from the theatre. The young William Powell showed promise of filling the gap during his absence, Mrs Garrick was suffering from rheumatism, and he himself was exhausted after twenty-two unbroken years of work. Colman stood in as joint manager with Lacy.
The Garricks embarked for their grand tour on 15 September 1763 and reached Paris four days later. By 8 October Garrick was truthfully writing: ‘You can't imagine, my dear Colman, what honours I have receiv'd from all kind of People here—the Nobles & the Literati have made so much of Me that I am quite asham'd of opening my heart Ev'n to You’ (Letters, 1.387). The same applied throughout a tour that took the Garricks through Lyons and Mont Cenis to Turin, to Rome, and, through the famine of 1764, to Naples, back to Rome, to Parma, Venice, and Padua, then to Munich and Spa, and back to Paris by way of Strasbourg and Nancy. Garrick was a celebrity. He was given the freedom of the Comédie Française and entertained by its leading actors, and he mingled at salons with Diderot and the encyclopaedists. In Naples he was a guest of the expatriate nobility, especially intimate with the Spencers of Althorp (he remained in correspondence with Lady Spencer until his death). But for ill health, he would even have visited, by invitation, the great Voltaire. On the surface it was an uninterrupted triumphal progress, and one which led to enduring friendships—not least with Madame Riccoboni, whose literary cause he championed in England. Beneath the surface, though, there were constant anxieties about Mrs Garrick's health. Wherever possible she took the waters in the hope of alleviating her rheumatic pains, and then, in August 1764, as her health improved and they began the homeward journey, Garrick fell seriously ill with what was probably a severe attack of hepatitis. Warned that her husband might be dying, Mrs Garrick nursed him devotedly in the Munich inn at which he had arrived in near-delirium. While he was recuperating in Paris in November 1764 Garrick joked to Colman, ‘Eight Physicians, my good friend, & still alive! & very likely to continue so’ (ibid., 2.429). Convalescence was made easier after Christmas, when John Wilkes gave the Garricks the use of his comfortable lodgings in the rue Niçaise. As his health improved, Garrick's thoughts turned back to Drury Lane and his young protégé William Powell, through whom he glimpsed his own past. ‘When the publick has mark'd you for a favourite’, he wrote to Powell on 12 December 1764:
(& their favor must be purchas'd with Sweat & labour) You may chuse what Company you please, and none but the best can be of service to you. … But above all, never let your Shakespear be out of your hands, or your Pocket. (ibid., 2.436)
After two years' absence from the stage, Garrick experienced an unfamiliar crisis of confidence as the time to return to London approached. From Paris, on 10 March 1765, he wrote to Colman: ‘do the Town in general really wish to see me on the Stage?’ (Letters, 2.449), and he took the extravagant precaution of sending in advance, for anonymous publication, a satirical pamphlet on his own career, The Sick Monkey. It was not until 25 April 1765 that the Garricks finally set foot in their Southampton Street home.
The experience of illness, of Europe, and of Parisian culture in particular affected Garrick's personal and theatrical life. The French literati thought and wrote seriously about art, even about the ‘art’ of acting, but lived well and stylishly. So would he. As a young man he had written an ‘Essay on acting’ (1744). Now he contemplated a book (untraced, if ever started). The lighting of the Parisian stage had impressed him more than the acting. He would introduce a new technology to Drury Lane, and live to see it further advanced after 1771 by de Loutherbourg. His evident reluctance, over the summer of 1765, to return to the stage may have been a ploy to excite public demand. When he finally appeared, on 14 November 1765, as Benedick again, it was by royal command. It was one of only ten performances that season, and Garrick rarely went above thirty in his remaining years. Increasingly troubled by gout and arthritis, he was more worried by ‘the Bile, which is my chief complaint. … so very uncertain in Its motions that it comes upon me like a Thief in the Night’ (Letters, 2.507). It became his custom to take the waters in Bath during the theatre's spring benefits, prior to summer visits to country houses. Lord Camden, formerly the attorney-general, was a particularly cherished new friend and a frequent host to the Garricks at Camden Place, Kent. The major event of the 1765–6 season was the première of Colman's and Garrick's The Clandestine Marriage, on 20 February 1766. Colman was disappointed when Garrick chose not to act in it, though King made a success of the Garrick part of Lord Ogleby. As he acted less, Garrick wrote more for Drury Lane: two-act farces such as Neck or Nothing (1766), The Irish Widow (1772), and Bon Ton (1775); musical pieces such as Cymon (1767), A Christmas Tale (1773), and May-Day (1775); and theatrical in-jokes such as A Peep behind the Curtain (1767), The Meeting of the Company (1774), and The Theatrical Candidates (1775).
In terms of popular acclaim, Garrick's most successful piece was the processional entertainment The Jubilee (1769), a resourceful outcome of an episode that carried him to the brink of ridicule. In May 1769 Garrick received, from the corporation of Stratford upon Avon, the freedom of the borough, sealed in a box made from Shakespeare's mulberry tree. Eight days later the corporation invited him to accept the stewardship of the first Shakespeare jubilee in the town. It seemed a fitting recognition of his staging twenty-seven of Shakespeare's plays at Drury Lane, and Garrick entered into planning the September festival with almost callow enthusiasm. There would be an octagonal amphitheatre, nightly fireworks, a grand masquerade, banquets, the whole to be topped by a procession of characters from Shakespeare's most popular plays. The orchestra and most of the acting company from Drury Lane would be there; so would the local aristocracy and many of Garrick's friends. It was a problem that Stratford had insufficient accommodation for all the visitors, but the first day, 6 September 1769, passed off in great good humour, and was pronounced a success. That night and all the next day it rained. The fireworks got wet, the amphitheatre flooded, the great procession was cancelled. It was a fiasco, and Garrick's enemies exulted in his discomfiture. But Garrick's love of Shakespeare was genuine, and he understood his audience's delight in spectacle. Loosely accommodated in a comic plot, the grand procession of Shakespearian characters (Garrick himself was always Benedick) was staged ninety-one times at Drury Lane between 14 October 1769 and the end of the season. Nothing quite like it had ever been seen. It was a triumph of showmanship.
Through the early 1770s, despite bouts of ill health, Garrick continued in effective management of Drury Lane. He continued, also, to accumulate wealth and property. In February 1771 he completed the purchase of the manor of Copford, near Colchester, and a year later, having sold the Southampton Street house, bought number 5 (later renumbered 4) in the newly built Adelphi Terrace. He was feeling his age: ‘I will not stay to be Sixty with my Cap & bells’, he wrote to John Hoadly on 3 January 1776 (Letters, 3.1063). Once his imminent retirement was made public, there was a clamour for tickets for his farewell performances in the spring of 1776. He responded with nineteen appearances in eleven different parts between 11 April and early June. They were all old favourites, even Don Felix in Mrs Centlivre's The Wonder, in which, rather surprisingly, he made his final bow on 10 June 1776. He had been negotiating the sale of his share of the Drury Lane patent, which was valued at £35,000, since the previous December. The first refusal was offered to George Colman, but it was the playwright Sheridan who led the group that eventually bought it. By the time negotiations were complete the Garricks were at Wilton House, as guests of the earl of Pembroke.
Garrick had less than three years to live when he retired from acting. Much remained the same: winters in Adelphi Terrace, summers at Hampton and on country-house visits. Garrick attended meetings of the Club, the self-selecting élite group with Dr Johnson at its centre, of which he had been a member since 1773. Sometimes he was seen at Almack's, the fashionable Pall Mall club to which he had been elected in 1773. He continued to interest himself in the fortunes of his nieces and nephews, George's children, and of his wife's niece, Elisabeth Fürst. There was no diminution in his correspondence, and only a slackening—never an abandonment—of his concern for the fortunes of Drury Lane. Clear of everyday controversy, he remained high in public esteem. There were even rumours of a baronetcy, promptly dismissed in a letter to Lady Spencer. Sir John Fielding, a zealous magistrate with whom Garrick had what was at best a strained friendship, was honest enough to summarize the general opinion when he wrote, on Garrick's retirement, ‘the Chastity of Mr Garrick, as a manager of a Public Theatre, and his exemplary Life as a Man, have been of great service to the Morals of a dissipated Age’ (Letters, 3.1117). It is doubtful whether a single actor has ever done as much as he did to raise the standing of his profession. Contemporaries recognized in his performances a new and wonderful truth to life: ‘He is a little man’, wrote Sylas Neville, ‘but handsome and full of that fire which marks the stronger, and of the softness natural to the tender passions’ (Stone and Kahrl, 336), and for William Hopkins, prompter at Drury Lane, ‘suffice it to say that he was what he represented’ (ibid., 28). Garrick was disarmingly open about the pleasure he took in high society: ‘It is my utmost pride and ambition to deserve the kind thoughts of the great and good’ (Letters, 2.765), and it is, perhaps, apt that the onset of his final illness coincided with a visit to the Spencers at Althorp House in the new year of 1778–9. The blockage in his kidney was too severe to be treated, and he was carried home to Adelphi Terrace, where he died on 20 January 1779.
The funeral on 1 February was a theatrical occasion in its own right. The procession took more than an hour to travel from the Adelphi to Westminster Abbey, where the actor was buried in Poets' Corner. There were crowds in the streets and upwards of fifty coaches in the cortège. The funeral service was read by the bishop of Rochester, and the pallbearers included Lord Camden, the earl of Ossory, Earl Spencer, Viscount Palmerston, and the duke of Devonshire, all aristocrats, all friends. The chief mourner was Sheridan. On 11 March 1779 Sheridan's Monody to the Memory of Mr Garrick was elaborately staged at Drury Lane, with music by Sheridan's father-in-law, Thomas Linley, scenery specially designed by de Loutherbourg, and the words solemnly spoken by Mary Ann Yates. Garrick's estate at death has been plausibly estimated at £100,000. It was sufficient, certainly, to keep the chief beneficiary, his widow, in comfort for the remaining forty-three years of her life. Garrick did not neglect his immediate family in his bequests, but his faithful wife came first.
While it is generally recognized that actors belong irretrievably to their own age, it must also be conceded that the impact of great actors outlives them. The young George Frederick Cooke saw Garrick perform in 1774 and vowed to emulate him. The young Edmund Kean was inspired by Cooke when many people thought Cooke a drink-sodden shadow of his former self. The extraordinary Frederick Robson (1821–1864), diminutive and terrorized by stage fright, was called a second Garrick because of his capacity to juxtapose laughter and anguish. Robson's model was Edmund Kean. More than any other single actor, Garrick changed the acting style of the nation, above all because he engineered a shift in the expectations of audiences. In place of the accuracy and control of a James Quin, Garrick gave them energy and engagement. He was most exuberantly himself when exploiting with extravagant eagerness the theatrical high points, whether comic or tragic, of a role. Like all great actors, he drew attention to himself (even so evidently unobtrusive an actor as Sir Alec Guinness did that). Enemies might call that vanity, egotism, or exhibitionism, but these are words that translate into generosity in the present tense of performance; and Garrick was so much more a generous actor than Quin. It was his versatility that confirmed his pre-eminence for contemporaries. They found him natural and the old school artificial, but that is a judgement repeated by each new generation of theatregoers as they discard old stars in favour of new ones. Garrick did not dispense with the rhetorical style he inherited; he changed its timing. It was a subtle, not a flagrant, desecration. He was not inimitable, as Samuel Foote and Tate Wilkinson delighted to demonstrate. If he had been, his ‘revolution’ would have remained a personal one.
Garrick's legacy was not confined to acting. He presided over the creation of Shakespeare as the national poet and icon, always shaping the texts he admired to suit the taste of the patrons he courted. He was the first theatre manager to set about mastering the craft of public relations—but not to the neglect of in-house discipline. Neither before nor after Garrick's period of management did Drury Lane achieve such sustained supremacy. There would be nothing like it in England until Irving's reign at the Lyceum, which began a century after Garrick's death, and Irving had no other model but Garrick. The Lyceum, though, had an almost sacerdotal air: it was a temple of dramatic art. Garrick's Drury Lane, like Garrick himself, was convivial. Both performers and spectators were participants in a social act. The pubs and busy streets that bear his name are monuments to Garrick's conviviality. So, supremely perhaps (though only if you are one of its 700 members), is the Garrick Club. Founded in 1831, and housed now in one of the narrow streets actors still use on their way to Drury Lane, the Garrick Club displays its priceless collection of theatrical portraits as carelessly as postcards on a student's wall; but the food is choice and the cellar fine.
Garrick [née Veigel], Eva Maria [performing name Violette] (1724–1822), dancer, is best-known as the wife of David Garrick (1717–1779), whom she married on 22 June 1749. She was born into a Roman Catholic family in Vienna, the daughter of Johann Veigel, a former valet, and his wife, Eva Maria Rosina, on 29 February 1724. She became the favoured pupil of the dancing-master Franz Hilverding. At the age of ten she danced the part of Psyche in Hilverding's ballet Amour and Psyche, and her talent and delicate manners brought her frequent invitations to entertain the Austrian aristocracy. It was rumoured that the empress Maria Theresa, jealous of the emperor's interest in the graceful young dancer, encouraged her to leave Vienna. In 1746, under her stage name, Violette, she contracted to dance with the Italian Opera Company at London's King's Theatre, and was at once the talk of the town.
Violette's passage into London society was eased by the patronage of the earl and countess of Burlington, at whose artistically buzzing house in Piccadilly she lodged until her marriage to Garrick. The couple met socially, probably in 1747 when London society was pressing invitations on the city's two most celebrated performers, and they were mutually attracted, but the match was initially opposed by the countess of Burlington, who may have heard rumours of Garrick's earlier liaisons and who had higher aspirations for her protégée. In 1746–7, while Violette was dancing at Drury Lane, Garrick was at Covent Garden, and in the following season, when Garrick began his long association with Drury Lane, she was at Covent Garden. The marriage settlement, when it was reached, was a virtual guarantee of prosperity for Violette. Not only did she receive £10,000 from Garrick, together with £70 per year, but also the annual interest on Lady Burlington's estates in Lincolnshire. There followed thirty years of contented marriage and forty-three of dignified widowhood. Eva Maria was Garrick's constant companion at home and abroad, his supporter and adviser in theatrical affairs, a gracious hostess on social occasions, and a welcome guest in the grand houses the couple visited. Garrick's social aggrandizement is inconceivable without her. Her taste and intelligence are discernible in the books and paintings they bought, in the way they furnished their houses, and between the lines of Garrick's voluminous correspondence. The Garricks were childless, but there was maternal generosity in Eva Maria's quiet care for Garrick's difficult protégé, Samuel Cautherley, and in her relationship with the children of Garrick's brother George. She was less at ease with her own siblings and with her widowed mother, all of whom were tempted to take advantage of her. Fluent in French and Italian, she spoke English with a trace of an Austrian accent, and wrote it stiltedly.
After Garrick's death in 1779, Eva Maria maintained their house in Adelphi Terrace and the large house and estate in Hampton that was her summer resort. Perhaps to save her from exploitation by her family, Garrick had stipulated in his will that she would forfeit the greater part of his legacy if she ceased to live in England, but there is no evidence that she wished to do so. Widowhood gave her time to develop her interest in mesmerism and alchemy. She continued to purchase books and to worship according to the forms of Roman Catholicism. After refusing two proposals from the extraordinary Lord Monboddo in 1782, she settled into a semi-reclusive way of life, happiest with friends and acquaintances when speaking of her dead husband or displaying mementoes of their time together. She died suddenly, on 16 October 1822 and in her ninety-ninth year, in the Adelphi Terrace house, and was buried beside her husband in Westminster Abbey nine days later. Of a multiplicity of detailed bequests in her will, many were to charities.
Peter Thomson DNB
Foote, Samuel (bap. 1721, d. 1777), actor and playwright, was baptized on 27 January 1721 at St Mary's, Truro, the fourth son and fifth child of Samuel Foote (1678–1754), a lawyer and magistrate and MP for Tiverton, and his wife, Eleanor Dinely, the daughter of Sir Edward Goodere, bt, of Hereford. Two of Samuel's siblings, Eleanor (b. April 1712) and Samuel (b. November 1715), had died in infancy. His elder surviving brother, Edward, baptized on 5 November 1716, was educated for the clergy but did not flourish as a minister. Although there is no definite information on his second brother, John, baptized on 14 August 1718, he may have gone to Jamaica. Samuel Foote attended the grammar school at Truro and Worcester College, Oxford, but was dismissed from Oxford on 25 February 1740 ‘after a course of many irregularitys’ (cited in P. Fitzgerald, Samuel Foote: a Biography, 1910, 17–18). He entered the Inner Temple, presumably to study law, but failed to register.
About 1740 or 1741 Foote published The Genuine Memoirs of the Life of Sir John Dinely Goodere, Bart., an account of the murder of his maternal uncle, Sir John Dineley Goodere, by his brother, Captain Samuel Goodere; young Foote received only £20 for his efforts. His next business venture, a partnership with a Mr Price to make and sell small beer, failed. On 10 January 1741, at St Clement Danes in London, Foote married Mary Hickes (bap. 1724), the daughter of John and Chastity Hickes. A pretty neighbour of sixteen or seventeen from Truro, she brought a good dowry, which Foote quickly squandered. Besieged by creditors, including his mother and Frances Wandesford, Viscountess Castlecomer (the sister of Henry Pelham and the duke of Newcastle), he was confined in the Fleet debtors' prison on 13 November 1742, where his wife joined him—although thereafter she disappears from his life. Released after a few months, he was soon recommitted on the same charges until finally released on 7 September 1743, following the passage of the bill for the relief of insolvent debtors.
After receiving instruction from the veteran actor Charles Macklin, Foote appeared at the Haymarket on 6 February 1744, as Othello, to ‘Universal Applause’ (Daily Advertiser, 21 Feb 1744). Foote performed the role five additional times at the Haymarket (13, 20, 23 February, 2 March, 26 April) and once at Drury Lane (10 March). He completed the season acting Lord Foppington in Sir John Vanbrugh's The Relapse at the Haymarket on 6 and 9 April and at Drury Lane on 13 April.
At Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre, Foote acted Bayes in The Rehearsal by George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, on 25 October 1744 and Lord Foppington on 15 November, performances that Robert Hitchcock grants were ‘well received’ (Hitchcock, 1.147). An enthusiastic unknown letter writer maintained that Foote played Wildair, Bayes, and Pierre five times each at the Capel Street Theatre ‘to as crowded Audiences as ever were known’ (Highfill, Burnim & Langhans, BDA, 5.327). Surviving notices document his appearances as Wildair in George Farquhar's The Constant Couple (28 January), Tinsel in Joseph Addison's The Drummer (8 February), Pierre in Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd (9 February), and Fondlewife in The Credulous Husband (authorship unknown; probably an adaptation of Congreve's The Old Batchelor; 9 February). On his return to London, Foote played significant comic roles at Drury Lane during the 1745–6 season: Wildair, Tinsel, Bayes, Sir Novelty Fashion in Colley Cibber's Love's Last Shift, Dick in Vanbrugh's The Confederacy, Young Loveless in The Scornful Lady, by Beaumont and Fletcher, and Sir Courtly Nice in Crowne's play of that name. Throughout his career he added other roles, including Brazen in Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer, Hartop in his own The Knights, Lady Pentweazle in Taste, also his own play, Myrtle in The Conscious Lovers, by Richard Steele, Sir Paul Plyant in William Congreve's The Double Dealer, Gomez in John Dryden's The Spanish Fryar, the Scotchman in The Register Office, by Joseph Reed, and Don Lewis in Cibber's Love Makes a Man, but he seemed unable to captivate an audience. After watching Foote perform Sir Paul Plyant and Buck in his own The Englishman Return'd from Paris on 1 November 1756, the prompter Richard Cross could only note in his diary: ‘Mr. Foote brings sad houses’ (Stone, pt 4, 2.562). Thomas Davies thought his playing ‘despicable’ (Davies, 1.228), but granted that his performances were better in parts he himself wrote. Essentially, because Foote did not excel in standard repertory roles he could not obtain a permanent position with either company, and, on account of that, he assumed an entrepreneurial role and devised innovative theatrical modes.
The resourceful Foote rented the Haymarket, assembled an acting company during the 1746–7 season, and created the dramatic form that became the staple of his career, the satirical revue effected through mimicry of well-known persons. His first entertainment was The Diversions of the Morning, or, A Dish of Chocolate on 22 April. To conform to the Licensing Act, the performance was given gratis, following a concert. To avoid conflict with the patent theatres Foote soon scheduled performances for 12 noon. Diversions met with immediate success and was acted thirty-five times, drawing great crowds through its exaggerated imitations of popular performers such as James Quin, Dennis Delane, Lacy Ryan, Peg Woffington, Charles Macklin, and David Garrick. On 1 June Foote retitled his work Tea, more appropriate for his new performance time of 6 p.m.
The next season Foote performed Tea only thirteen times at Covent Garden because, according to Genest, the play ‘having now lost its novelty, had in a great degree lost its attraction’ (Genest, Eng. stage, 4.247). On 18 April 1748 Foote retitled his revue An Auction of Pictures, exploiting the current popularity of auctions. The new orientation allowed him to pretend to auction detailed portraits of his favourite satiric targets. The Auction attained thirty-six performances by 16 June 1748. Foote began his next season of the piece on 1 December 1748. Despite the fact that virtually all his properties for the production were destroyed in a riot, unrelated to him, at the Haymarket on 16 January 1749, the resilient satirist was back on stage nine days later, auctioning his wares on 25 January. By 18 February he had achieved eighteen performances. On 3 April he introduced his own two-act comedy, The Knights, featuring a duet of Italian cats, an overt attack on Italian opera.
Following a continental sojourn Foote returned to London with another of his own plays, a farce, Taste, which he maintained in the ‘Preface’ was genuine comedy. Even with Garrick dressed as an auctioneer, delivering his Prologue, the play failed on 11 January 1752 at Drury Lane, but, slightly altered, it was successfully brought back the following week. Foote's The Englishman in Paris was unsuccessful at Covent Garden on 24 March 1753, with Charles Macklin as Buck, but when the author took that role at Drury Lane the following season, the play achieved great popularity.
Foote again produced Tea during the 1753–4 season, and on 3 February 1756 he brought out The Englishman Return'd from Paris, a sequel to his Englishman in Paris, having stolen the idea from Arthur Murphy, who had confided in him that he was working on such a play. Foote's next play, The Author, which satirized an uncle of Foote's friend Francis Delaval, a Mr Apreece, was soon withdrawn from the repertory after pressure exerted on Garrick by the influential Apreece.
Foote, still without a permanent position at either theatre, tried to invigorate his career by using life-size puppets in place of actors during a performance of Diversions in October 1758, thereby earning the anger of London performers. His ingenuity not exhausted, he set out, with Tate Wilkinson, for Edinburgh, using £100 that Wilkinson had borrowed from Garrick. The Scots received him with enthusiasm at the Canongate theatre, where he put on The Author, The Diversions of the Morning, and The Englishman Return'd from Paris. In addition he performed the roles of Shylock, Gomez, Bayes, Sir Paul Plyant, and the Earl of Essex. Back in London he appeared at the Haymarket on 9 November 1759, promising Comic Lectures, but angered the audience by presenting only himself on a darkened stage reading aloud parts of his next play, The Minor. He quickly left for Dublin, where The Minor failed at Crow Street, probably because Henry Woodward gave a poor performance. When Foote returned to London he succeeded with the play, which he enlarged from two acts to three and brought out at the Haymarket on 28 June 1760, with a group of virtually unknown performers. An uncompromising satire on George Whitefield and the Methodists, The Minor was both a theatrical and personal success for Foote, who played three roles—those of Shift, Smirk, and Mother Cole. As a virulent paper war of letters, essays, and tracts, both for and against the Methodists, flooded London, Garrick's interest was aroused, and the play, with excisions made by the lord chamberlain under pressure from the archbishop of Canterbury and George Whitefield's patroness, Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon, opened at Drury Lane on 22 November 1760.
Unable to lease the Haymarket during the summer of 1761, the ever-resourceful Foote rented Drury Lane from Garrick and went into partnership with Arthur Murphy. Each man promised to write three new plays for the summer season. Murphy fulfilled his contract, producing All in the Wrong on 15 June 1761, and The Citizen and The Old Maid, both on 2 July 1761, but Foote failed to write any new plays. The season ended with performances on only twenty-three of the projected forty-eight nights; nevertheless, it was profitable for the co-managers, who made over £300 each.
Early in the 1761–2 season Foote's career went into temporary eclipse, with only a single performance of The Minor, on 10 November 1761, and the failure of his comedy, The Lyar, on 12 January 1762, which lasted only four performances. But by 28 April 1762 he had leased the Haymarket to institute a ‘Course of Lectures on English Orators’. The Orators exploited his considerable talent in topical satire and mimicry for thirty-eight performances. Two of Foote's most successful satiric attacks were on Thomas Sheridan and George Faulkner, the one-legged Dublin printer whom Foote mocked as Peter Paragraph. In January he printed in the Gentleman's Magazine ‘An address to the public’, a mock suit for libel by Peter Petros against Aristophanes, capitalizing on his nickname ‘the English Aristophanes’.
On 20 June 1763 Foote played Major Sturgeon in his new comedy, The Mayor of Garratt. During the following summer he introduced his three-act comedy The Patron, on 13 June 1764, taking the roles of Sir Thomas and Sir Peter Pepperpot. On 10 June 1765, as Zachary Fungus in his new comedy The Commissary, Foote brought his career to its high point: he had finally attained theatrical recognition and financial independence.
But, however successful, Foote's career had always been marked by his continual feuding with London personalities, among them Henry Fielding, Henry Woodward, Charles Macklin, and Arthur Murphy. As far back as 1748, after Foote targeted Fielding in his 18 April Auction, the latter responded by presenting, in Panton Street, a satiric puppet show, which he called Madam de la Nash's Breakfasting Room. Foote and Fielding continued their quarrels through broadsides for several months, to the delight of Londoners. The next year Foote reignited a feud with Woodward, which had been simmering since March 1748, when both actors were performing in Dublin. Woodward, at the Crow Street theatre, had written Coffee, an obvious satire on Foote's Tea. During a performance of Auction of Pictures at the Haymarket on 7 January 1749 Foote mimicked Woodward's performance in Lethe, which he was acting at Drury Lane. The contentious Foote further publicly twitted Woodward in the General Advertiser of 10 March. Woodward retaliated with his own afterpiece Tit for Tat, or, One Dish of his Own Chocolate, on 18 March at Drury Lane. He drew a large crowd and enjoyed ‘uncommon applause’ (General Advertiser, 21 March 1749) at Foote's expense; Tit for Tat was performed five more times at Drury Lane through 26 April. To counter, Foote inserted Woodward once again into his Auction of Pictures on 8 April, referring to his rival as Harry the Smuggler. Although Foote left England and lived on the continent for the next two years, Woodward kept the feud brewing, announcing that he would mimic the playwright in the role of Malagene in Otway's Friendship in Fashion, to be performed in January 1750. From the continent Foote protested to Garrick at Drury Lane, to no avail. In an open letter to Woodward placed in the Daily Advertiser, Foote argued ‘the dignity of the stage’ and hinted darkly to Woodward about ‘my future vengeance’ (Stone, pt 4, 1.169). Woodward persisted and played the role of Malagene on 22 January 1750, but the audience was not amused, and the feud died.
In December 1754 Foote initiated another feud, this one with his one-time teacher, Charles Macklin, who, in his retirement, had established a school of oratory in the Great Room at Hart Street. Not only did Foote visit the Great Room and personally heckle Macklin, interrupting his performance, but on 16 December, in the rented Haymarket Theatre, Foote produced a comic lecture obviously aimed at Macklin. Meanwhile, Macklin was attacking Foote in the Great Room in Hart Street under the name of Sam Smatter, ‘alias Mimic, alias Buffon’. Fortunately, the venture seems to have been profitable for Foote and did little damage to his friendship with Macklin. And on 6 April 1761, in a performance of Taste at Drury Lane, Foote retaliated against Charles Churchill and Robert Lloyd for recent public criticism of him, presenting them as puppets.
Foote's life—acting, writing, and feuding—was irrevocably changed in February 1766, when he was a guest of John Savile, first earl of Mexborough, and his countess, Sarah Delaval, at Cannon Park in Hampshire at a reception honoring Edward, duke of York, the brother of George III. The Delavals and the duke of York shared a passion for the theatre, and the countess's father was the dedicatee of Taste. Foote allowed himself to be teased by several of the socially renowned guests about his horsemanship and to be challenged to ride the duke of York's spirited horse. He accepted the challenge and in a very short time was thrown from the horse, fracturing his leg in two places; it was soon clear that his leg had to be amputated. Refusing to allow this tragedy to dominate his life, the resilient and practical-minded Foote requested that the duke of York obtain for him a patent for the Haymarket Theatre. The patent was granted on 5 July 1766, allowing Foote to operate the Haymarket from 15 June to 15 September. Although Foote had requested a patent for year-long performance, he accepted the shorter summer one and proceeded to have two wooden legs crafted, one a simple stick and the other decorated with a silk stocking and a gold-buckled polished shoe, to be used on stage. He also obtained a gold crutched cane to aid his walking.
Foote returned for his first performance since the accident to a large and enthusiastic audience on 18 June 1766, acting Mother Cole in The Minor. Soon he performed in The Orators, The Commissary, and The Credulous Husband, proudly advertising his theatre as ‘the Theatre Royal’ on the bills and describing his company as ‘His Majesty's Company of Comedians’. John O'Keeffe recalled in his Memoirs how Foote ‘looked sorrowful’ as a servant attached his stage leg before a performance, but then how he ‘hobbled forward, entered the scene, and gave the audience what they expected—their plenty of laugh and delight’ (O'Keeffe, 1.328). On 15 July Foote rode a hobby horse onto the stage in the role of Zachary Fungus. On 20 August he acted in The Minor at the King's, but he ended his season abruptly the next day, on 21 August 1766. In 1767 Foote purchased the Haymarket from the executors of John Potter, the original builder, and improved and enlarged it by adding an upper gallery. He also purchased a house on Suffolk Street which he used for living and wardrobe space. In May the following year his satire on the medical profession, The Devil upon Two Sticks, in which he played a lame devil, was very successful at the Haymarket and later at Smock Alley, where he brought it in November.
In November 1770 Foote took his Haymarket company to Edinburgh, where he had leased the Theatre Royal from David Ross for three years. He presented The Commissary, Garrick's The Lying Valet, and The Minor, the last of which upset the local clergy with its satire on George Whitefield; Foote also acted the roles of Shylock and Fondlewife. James Boswell wrote to Garrick, ‘We have been kept laughing all this winter by Foote, who has made a Very good Campaign of it here’ (Letters, no. 628, 2.733 n. 2). Despite the fact that he reported to Garrick that he made upwards of £1000 in Edinburgh, in 1771 Foote sold his lease at a loss to the actors West Digges and James Bland and returned to London. On 26 June 1771 he presented his own The Maid of Bath at the Haymarket and ended the season with a £3700 profit. That winter he renovated the Haymarket, doubling the size of the stage. In 1772, after the successful run of The Nabob, his satire on the East India Company, he petitioned the king for permission to operate the Haymarket all year but received no answer. Despite this, he produced the Primitive Puppet Shew on 15 February 1773, with life-size puppets manipulated by wires or strings. The Morning Chronicle of 16 February was enthusiastic about the puppets, which were ‘managed with great adroitness’. The puppet show, somewhat altered, was produced an additional sixteen times by 16 April. Foote also introduced The Bankrupt on 21 July 1773. He travelled to Dublin in November and acted in The Maid of Bath, The Nabob, and other pieces before going to Edinburgh for three weeks in February, where he performed for seven nights for £250. During the 1774 season at the Haymarket he brought out The Cozeners on 15 July, acting the part of Aircastle. Weary, he went to the continent for vacation after the 1774 season but returned to London in December ‘in great Spirits’ (Letters, no. 873, 3.971).
Foote's next play, originally titled The Siege of Calais, was an overt attack on Elizabeth Chudleigh, duchess of Kingston, an influential figure who was currently facing trial on charges of bigamy. Foote dramatized Chudleigh as Lady Crocodile, but the lord chamberlain rejected his play during the summer of 1775. The feud between Foote and the duchess heated up as Foote first threatened to publish the play, then rejected a bribe from her, and later claimed he had lost £3000 by the work's suppression. Determined to silence the persistent and obstreperous Foote, William Jackson, publisher of the Public Ledger and a supporter of the duchess, initiated and printed rumours that Foote was homosexual. Although Foote hurriedly tried to clear his name, the attacks continued: in August 1775 the duchess declared in the public press that she would ‘prostitute the term of manhood by applying it to Mr. Foote’ (Public Advertiser, 16, 18 Aug 1775). On 8 July, John Sangster, a servant of Foote, charged the actor with an attempted homosexual attack, a capital offence. Foote's sense of personal security collapsed under the repeated and vicious attacks. His case came to trial on 9 December 1776 and he was quickly acquitted, but his spirit was broken. His biographer noted that, when Arthur Murphy, who acted as Foote's attorney, visited the actor to tell him he had been acquitted, Foote collapsed on the floor ‘in strong hysterics’ (Cooke, 1.231–2).
Unable to continue his professional life with vigour and enthusiasm, Foote leased his patent at the Haymarket to George Colman. The announcement was made in January 1777 that Foote would receive an annuity of £1600 in quarterly payments, and £500 for his unpublished plays, which included The Trip to Calais, The Nabob, The Capuchin, The Maid of Bath, The Devil upon Two Sticks, and The Cozeners. Foote agreed to perform for six nights at the Haymarket in 1777 and to act nowhere else. He fulfilled his agreement, appearing on stage at the Haymarket in 1777, but he was then shrunken in appearance and almost inanimate in personality.
In an effort to regain his health, Foote planned to spend the winter in southern France. All seemed well when he arrived at Dover on 20 October before sailing to Calais, but a shivering fit and chills overcame him, and he died on 21 October 1777. His body was taken to his house on Suffolk Street by his friend William Jewell, treasurer of the Haymarket, who announced the funeral for Monday 3 November. Foote was buried in Westminster Abbey; although no monument was erected to him in the abbey, Jewell had a memorial tablet installed in St Mary's Church, Dover, ‘plac'd here by his Affectionate Friend’.
Foote's will had been drawn up in 1768, and, although some of its provisions were invalidated by changing circumstances, it demonstrated the depth of his regard for Jewell and his concern for his relatives. To Jewell he bequeathed ‘my Theatre Royal in the Haymarket and all my buildings thereto belonging’ and various privileges pertinent to the theatre. To others he made several small sentimental gifts. The remainder of the estate was bequeathed to his two illegitimate sons, Francis and George Foote, equally upon their reaching their majority. Foote also made provision for his mother (by then deceased) and his brother Edward.
Foote died as a controversial and celebrated public figure, an actor, playwright, wit, and brilliant conversationalist. The usually urbane Garrick commented that he ‘had much wit, no feeling, sacrific'd friends & foes to a joke, & so has dy'd very little regretted even by his nearest acquaintance’ (Letters of David Garrick … Countess Spencer, 39). Dr Johnson once said of him, ‘Foote is quite impartial, for he tells lies of everybody’ (Boswell, Life, 2.434), but he later wrote to Mrs Thrale that ‘he was a fine fellow in his way’ (ibid., 3.185). Though often brusque and abusive in public, Foote maintained close friendships with Jewell, Francis and James Delaval, and Arthur Murphy.
As an actor Foote fared best in roles he wrote for himself, as Thomas Davies noted, for here he fully exploited his theatrical gifts: mimicry, exuberant energy, the acute observation of character, and the ability to render witty dialogue. Unfortunately, poor judgement often led him to overact and allow his instinct for farce to degenerate into buffoonery and his satiric energy to malign his enemies. Mimicry was his most natural approach to acting, for he had much to overcome in physical appearance: he was short and corpulent and visually unconvincing in many tragic roles.
Foote, as a writer, has been largely undervalued because his critical writing, which is clear, logical, and forcible, is often unread and because his subjects are usually topical, holding little interest for succeeding generations. In The Roman and English Comedy Considered and Compared he claimed the object of comedy is ‘the Correction of Vices and Follies of an inferior sort’. In his prologue to Tea, on 21 January 1748, he praised the personal satire of Aristophanes as a significant contribution to Greek virtue (Genest, Eng. stage, 4.248). And Foote is a distinct forerunner of Goldsmith's ‘Essay on laughing comedy’ in his ‘Dedication to Francis Delaval’ prefaced to Taste (1752), when he identifies himself as ‘a Rebel to this universal Tyrant [Love]’ that has subjected both tragedy and comedy to its power. Arthur Murphy recognized the power of Foote's attack on sentimental comedy, noting that he ‘brought that species of composition into disrepute’ (Murphy, 2.52). A minor but important playwright of the Garrick era, Foote made a significant contribution to English drama, deriving his form from the petit pièce developed by Fielding, writing in the tradition of old comedy, and anticipating the return of laughing comedy.
Phyllis T. Dircks DNB