Ward's Book of Days.
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On this day in history in 1717, was born David Garrick.
Garrick was an actor, producer and dramatist who transformed the acting profession and brought new life to the theatre.
Garrick was born on 19th February 1717, in Hereford, the son of an army recruiting captain. Young Garrick was one of seven children in a family brought up in Lichfield, by their mother while their father was generally away in Gibraltar. Garrick was educated at Lichfield Grammar school and later at Edial Hall School, where he became friends with Samuel Johnson, and displayed a remarkable talent for theatrical productions.
In 1737, Garrick and his brother started a wine business, with operations in Lichfield and London but the venture was not an outstanding success, possibly due to distractions offered by the London theatres. Garrick managed to obtain some small parts at the Theatre Royal and Goodman’s Fields Theatre and, in 1741, took the lead part in Shakespeare’s Richard III, and received universal critical acclaim. This success led to 18 other parts in various London theatres. Alexander Pope remarked that “This young man never had his equal as an actor, and will never have a rival”.
Garrick had adopted a particular acting style of his own. He despised the grandiloquent method that then prevailed in the theatres, and chose a more relaxed and natural approach, portraying characters as they would appear in reality, rather than in a melodramatic creation.
In 1747, the owners of the Drury Lane Theatre declined to renew their licence, as the business was not profitable. Garrick found a partner, James Lacy, and the two took over the management of the theatre. They dedicated the Drury Lane Theatre to the principles of acting integrity and producing those plays which pleased the audiences best. Their slogan was:
‘The drama’s law, the drama’s patrons give
For we that live to please, must please to live’
Garrick died on 20th January 1779, and was buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. A monument to Garrick in Lichfield Cathedral bears Dr Johnson’s observation ‘I am disappointed by that stroke of death that has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the publik stock of harmless pleasure’.
Benedetti, Jean. David Garrick and The Birth of Modern Theatre.
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