David Garrick was born on the 19 February 1717, in Hereford, his father, Peter, was a serving army officer and his mother Anabella, was the daughter of a Vicar Choral at Lichfield Cathedral. He was raised, along with his six siblings, in Lichfield and when he was sixteen he became Dr Samuel Johnson’s first pupil at Edial. With a keen interest in the written arts and acting, the two developed a strong working relationship and four years later they decided to leave Lichfield for London and a career in the law. As Dr Johnson was later to recall he had tuppence ha’penny (1p) and Garrick just three halfpence (.5p).
Once in London Garrick went on to make a name for himself as an actor, producer and dramatist, but acting wasn’t considered to be a serious profession and Garrick’s mother died thinking him to have been a wine merchant – Garrick had been apprenticed to a vintner uncle and had inherited £1,000 from his uncle and continued a wine business with his brother, Peter. But after initial anonymous appearances on the stage he forged a fine reputation as Shakespeare’s Richard III and went on to work in one of the first two licensed theatres in London, in Drury Lane.
Garrick did much to revive interest in Shakespeare, to introduce props into productions and to exclude the public from backstage areas and was largely responsible for the renaissance in British theatre. His interest in and collection of “old plays” was very much at the heart of it all.
His last stage appearance was in 1776 and he died a happy, and comparatively wealthy man, three years later. For his remarkable contribution to theatre he was buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.