David Garrick

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David Garrick, 1717–79, English actor, manager, and dramatist. He was indisputably the greatest English actor of the 18th cent., and his friendships with Diderot, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and other notables who made up "The Club" resulted in detailed records of his life. Garrick made his formal debut in 1742 as Richard III and was an immediate success. He was noted for his versatility, playing the tragic heroes of contemporary drama as well as Shakespearean roles. His King Lear was especially praised. Although he was short in stature and had a mercurial nature, his straightforward diction and unpretentious demeanor swept the declamatory school from the stage. From 1747 until his retirement in 1776, he was the manager of Drury Lane, where he initiated many reforms, including the concealment of stage lighting (1765) from the audience. He also wrote many plays himself, the most successful being the farces Bon Ton (1775) and Miss in Her Teens (1747); he collaborated with George Colman the elder in writing The Clandestine Marriage (1766).

See his diary, ed. by R. C. Alexander (1928, repr. 1971); his letters, ed. by D. M. Little and G. M. Kahrl (3 vol., 1963); biographies by C. M. A. Lenanton (1958), K. A. Burnim (1961, repr. 1973), F. A. Hedgcock (1912, repr. 1969), G. W. Stone, Jr. and G. M. Kahrl (1979), and A. Kendall (1986); studies by E. P. Stein (1938, repr. 1967), F. M. Parsons (2d ed. 1969), and C. Price (1973).

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Garrick, David (1717–79). Actor and manager. Reared in Lichfield, Garrick accompanied Johnson to London (1737), but soon abandoned law studies for the wine trade; the appeal of acting and overnight success as Richard III (1741) led to further change, since his naturalistic style, expressive eyes, and versatility refreshed audiences weary of attitudinizing. Having purchased a share of Drury Lane's lease, he set about reforming plays, players, and audiences, with modifications to theatre layout, stage design, and eventual introduction of concealed lighting. Despite fluctuating fortunes and accusations of vanity and meanness, he raised his theatre from penury to prosperity. A devotion to Shakespeare motivated reclamation of his texts from Restoration adaptations, though not always creditably, and his cherished Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford-upon-Avon (1769) was washed out. Garrick's own farces and burlesques have faded into obscurity, but this contributor to the ‘gaiety of nations’ lies buried in Westminster abbey.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Garrick, David (1717–79) English actor, theatre manager and dramatist. A pupil of Samuel Johnson, he is credited with replacing the formal declamatory style of acting with natural speech. Garrick made his acting debut (1741) in Richard III. He was manager (1747–76) of Drury Lane Theatre, London.