( David Garrick, the leading actor of his time, was also...)
David Garrick, the leading actor of his time, was also one of its most accomplished dramatists, and The Clandestine Marriage is perhaps his finest play. Its story centres on the household of a wealthy merchant, Mr. Sterling, whose main concern is that his two daughters marry men of wealth. Fanny has defied her apprentice; her sister Betsey is engaged to be married to Sir John Melvil. But Melvil and his friend Lord Ogleby both fall in love with Fanny. It is up to Lovewell to persuade both men that marriage to Fanny is out of the question?without revealing to them that he has already married her. The action of the play and also its setting (a landscape garden designed after the fashion of the time to provide artificial wildness and commanding views) give ample scope for Garrick and Coleman to satirize the mercantile mind?yet the plays comic spirit holds appeal to those on all points of the political compass. First produced in 1766, The Clandestine Marriage was revived to great acclaim in 1995 in a London production starring Nigel Hawthorne. Full-length plays of the late eighteenth century were usually performed together with short plays (or afterpieces) to form a full evening of entertainment. In accordance with that tradition this edition is completed by two of the most interesting examples of the genre: Charles Burneys The Cunning-Man (which in fact was several times performed alongside The Clandestine Marriage during the 1766-67 season) and The Rehearsal; or Bayes in Petticoats by Catherine Clive (who played Mrs. Heidelberg in the original production of The Clandestine Marriage).
On his father's return from Gibraltar, David, who had previously been educated at the grammar school of Lichfield, was, largely by the advice of Gilbert Walmesley, registrar of the ecclesiastical court, sent with his brother George to the "academy" at Edial.
This seminary was, however, closed in about six months.
His first dramatic piece, Lethe, or Aesop in the Shades, which he was thirty-seven years later to read from a splendidly bound transcript to King George III and Queen Charlotte, was played at Drury Lane on the 15th of April 1740; and he became a well- known frequenter of theatrical circles.
On the 19th of October 1741 he made his appearance at Goodman's Fields as Richard III and gained the most enthusiastic applause.
Among the audience was Macklin, whose performance of Shylock, early in the same year, had pointed the way along which Garrick was so rapidly to pass in triumph.
On the morrow the latter wrote to his brother at Lichfield, proposing to make arrangements for his withdrawal from the partnership, which, after much distressful complaint on the part of his family, met by him with the utmost consideration, were ultimately carried into effect.
Meanwhile, each night had added to his popularity on the stage.
The town, as Gray (who, like Horace Walpole, at first held out against the furore) declared, was " horn-mad " about him.
Before his Richard had exhausted its original effect, he won new applause as Aboan, and soon afterwards as Lear and as Pierre in Otway's Venice Preserved, as well as in several comic characters (including that of Bayes).
Glover (" Leonidas ") attended every performance; the duke of Argyll, Lords Cobham and Lyttelton, Pitt, and several other members of parliament testified their admiration.
Within the first six months of his theatrical career he acted in eighteen characters of ail kinds, and from the 2nd of December he appeared in his own name.
Before next spring he had supped with " the great Mr Murray, counsellor, " and was engaged to do so with Mr Pope through Murray's introduction, while he was dining with Halifax, Sandwich and Chesterfield. "
In June of that year he went over to Dublin, where he found the same homage paid to his talents as he had received from his own countrymen.
He was accompanied by Margaret (Peg) Woffington, of whom he had been for some time a fervent admirer.
From September 1742 to April 1745 he played at Drury Lane, after which he again went over to Dublin.
Here he remained during the whole season, as joint-manager with Sheridan, in the direction and profits of the Theatre Royal in Smock Alley.
In September 1747 it was opened with a strong company of actors, Johnson's prologue being spoken by Garrick, while the epilogue, written by him, was spoken by Mrs Woffington.
The negotiations involved Garrick in a bitter quarrel with Macklin, who appears to have had a real grievance in the matter.
Garrick took no part himself till his performance of Archer in the Beaux' Stratagem, a month after the opening.
He had to encounter very serious opposition from the old actors whom he had distanced, and with the younger actors and actresses he was involved in frequent quarrels.
But to none of them or their fellows did he, so far as it appears, show that jealousy of real merit from which so many great actors have been unable to remain free.
For the present he was able to hold his own against all competition.
The naturalness of his acting fascinated those who, like Partridge in Tom Jones, listened to nature's voice, and justified the preference of more conscious critics.
Of his best supporters on the stage, Mrs Cibber, with whom he had been reconciled, died in 1766, and Mrs (Kitty) Clive retired in 1769; but Garrick contrived to maintain the success of his theatre.
He sold his share in the property in 1776 for £35, 000, and took leave of the stage by playing a round of his favourite characters - Hamlet, Lear, Richard and Benedick, among Shakespearian parts; Lusignan in Zara, Aaron Hill's adaptation of Voltaire's Zaire; and Kitely in his own adaptation of Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour; Archer in Farquhar's Beaux' Stratagem; Abel Drugger in Ben Jonson's Alchemist; Sir John Brute in Vanbrugh's Provoked Wife; Leon in Fletcher's Ride a Wife and have a Wife.
( David Garrick, the leading actor of his time, was also...)
Quotes from others about the person
“Historian Rev Nicolas Tindal when he said that: The 'deaf' hear him in his 'action, and the 'blind' see him in his 'voice'.”
Garrick had in 1749 married Mademoiselle Violette (Eva Maria Veigel), a German lady who had attracted admiration at Florence or at Vienna as a dancer, and had come to England early in 1746, where her modest grace and the rumours which surrounded her created a furore, and where she found enthusiastic patrons in the earl and Countess of Burlington.