Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/24

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Garrick
Garrick
18

friend Macklin and with Mrs. Woffington, with whom he maintained an intimacy productive of some scandal, and for whom he wrote his delightful song of ‘Pretty Peggy.’ He quarrelled with both. The rupture with Mrs. Woffington was made up after leading to a return of presents, with the exception of a pair of valuable diamond buckles, which Garrick, it is said, craved permission to keep. A more serious quarrel with Macklin initiated the charges of meanness Garrick had henceforward to endure. Fleetwood's extravagant management of Drury Lane had ended in bankruptcy. Garrick, as the heaviest sufferer, invited the actors of the company to meet him at his house in King Street, Covent Garden (‘Mr. West's, Cabinet Maker’), and asked them to sign an agreement to stand by each other in refusing to act. He relied upon his popularity to obtain from the Duke of Grafton, the lord chamberlain, a license to open a new theatre. The duke, finding that Garrick drew 500l. a year, asked contemptuously if that ‘was too little for a mere player,’ and declined to give the license. A scheme of Garrick's to take the Lincoln's Inn Theatre fell through, and in the end the seceders made terms with their former manager, while Macklin, who is said to have opposed the original action, was made the scapegoat by Fleetwood and excluded. Garrick's endeavours to mediate between the manager and Macklin were vain, and a bitter and lasting quarrel between the two actors ensued. On 13 Sept. 1743 Drury Lane reopened, but the first appearance of Garrick was deferred until 6 Dec., when he appeared as Bayes. Two days previously he had written to the ‘ London Daily Post’ a letter explanatory of his conduct. On the day of his appearance a pamphlet entitled ‘The Case of Charles Macklin’ was published, and a large party of Macklin's friends went to Drury Lane. Garrick had dispersed a ‘handbill requesting the public to suspend their judgment.’ His appearance provoked a storm of opposition, and he was not allowed to speak. On the 8th Garrick's explanation, said to be written by Dr. Guthrie the historian, and a letter from ‘A Bystander,’ appeared in the ‘Daily Post.’ Garrick was once more attacked. Fleetwood had, however, sent thirty prize-fighters into the pit; the dissentients were driven out of the house, and the riot ceased. Garrick's behaviour was scarcely chivalrous; but as others would have suffered by the fulfilment of his engagements to Macklin the general verdict was in his favour.

The great event of the season was Garrick's appearance, 7 Jan. 1744, as Macbeth, ‘as written by Shakespeare.’ D'Avenant's version had till then held possession of the stage since the Restoration. Garrick's claim to have restored Shakespeare must be accepted with some allowance. At the subsequent revival, 19 March 1748, when Mrs. Pritchard played her great part of Lady Macbeth, he is known to have added a dying speech to his own part. Mrs. Giffard was Garrick's first Lady Macbeth. Samuel Foote [q.v.] , destined to be a thorn in the side of Garrick, this season appeared at Drury Lane. The season of 1744–5 saw Garrick's first appearance as Sir John Brute in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ Scrub in the ‘Beaux' Stratagem,’ King John, Othello, and Tancred in the ‘Tancred and Sigismunda’ of Thomson. After 4 April Garrick, on account of illness, played no more. At the end of the season Fleetwood sold the patent to Lacy. Garrick renewed his intimacy with Mrs. Woffington, and even proposed marriage; but a total estrangement followed. During his illness Garrick declined advances from Mrs. Cibber to join her and Quin in taking Drury Lane, with which Lacy, it was supposed, could be induced to part. He accepted an invitation from Thomas Sheridan, the joint manager of the theatres in Aungier Street and Smock Alley, to appear in Dublin and share the profits with him. He appeared at Smock Alley as Hamlet 9 Dec. 1745. Lord Chesterfield, the lord-lieutenant, treated Garrick with studied coldness. The result was none the less a financial success. Orestes, a part he never essayed in England, Faulconbridge, and Iago were the new characters in which he appeared. Arriving in London 10 May 1746, Garrick arranged with Rich for six performances on sharing terms. On the 11th, accordingly, as King Lear he made his first appearance at Covent Garden. Hamlet, Richard, Othello, Archer, and Macbeth followed. He accepted also an engagement for Covent Garden for the following season. He associated himself, however, financially with Lacy, the manager of Drury Lane, whose resources had been crippled by the troubles of 1745, and became his partner in the new patent obtained from the lord chamberlain, the Duke of Grafton. Garrick appears to have paid 8,000l. for his share. The agreement, which bears the date 9 April 1747, is published in the ‘Garrick Correspondence.’ Hotspur was his only new Shakespearean character, but he was, 17 Jan. 1747, the original Fribble in his own farce of ‘Miss in her Teens, or the Medley of Lovers,’ and 12 Feb. 1747 the original Ranger in Dr. Hoadly's ‘Suspicious Husband.’ Quin had on other nights played in characters ordinarily taken by Garrick.