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Early in 1738 Garrick returned to Lichfield. By this time his brother Peter had left the navy, and returned home. There were five brothers and sisters to be provided for, so Peter and he clubbed their little fortunes, and set up in business as wine merchants in Lichfield and London. David, by this time tolerably familiar with the ways of town, and not unknown at the coffee-houses where his wines might be in demand, took charge of the London business. Vaults were taken in Durham Yard, between the Strand and the river, where the Adelphi Terrace now stands, and here Foote, in his usual vein of grotesque exaggeration, used to say, he had known the great actor with three quarts of vinegar in the cellar, calling himself a wine merchant,'
Of Garrick at this period we get a vivid glimpse from Macklin, an established actor, who was then Garrick's inseparable friend, but was afterwards to prove a constant thorn in his side through life, and his most malignant detractor after death. Garrick 'was then' as Macklin told his own biographer Cooke, a very sprightly young man, neatly made, of an expressive countenance, and most agreeable manners.' Mr. Cooke adds, upon the same authority:—
The stage possessed him wholly; he could talk or think of nothing but the theatre; and as they often dined together in select parties, Garrick rendered himself the idol of the meeting by his mimicry, anecdotes, &c. With other funds of information, he possessed a number of good travelling stories,' (with which his youthful voyage to Lisbon had apparently supplied him), which he narrated, Sir (added the veteran), in such a vein of pleasantry and rich humour, as I have seldom seen equalled.'-Cooke's Life of Macklin, p. 96.
There could be only one conclusion to such a state of things. The wine business languished-that it was not wholly ruined, and Garrick with it, shows that with all his love of society he was able to exercise great prudence and self-restraint. Though on pleasure bent, he had a frugal mind.' Early habits of selfdenial, and the thought of the young brothers and sisters at Lichfield, were enough to check everything like extravagance, though they could not control the passion which was hourly feeding itself upon the study of plays and intercourse with players, and bearing him onwards to the inevitable goal. Their society, and that of the wits and critics about town, were the natural element for talents such as his. He could even then turn an epigram or copy of verses, for which his friend Johnson would secure a place in the Gentleman's Magazine.' Paragraphs of dramatic criticism frequently exercised his pen. He had a farce, 'Lethe,' accepted at Drury Lane, and another, 'The Lying Valet,' ready
for the stage. Actors and managers were among his intimates. He had the entrée behind the scenes at the two great houses, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, and his histrionic powers were so well recognised, that one evening, in 1740, when Woodward was too ill to go on as harlequin, at the little theatre in Goodman's Fields, Garrick was allowed to take his place for the early scenes, and got through them so well that the substitution was not surmised by the audience.
Nor had his been a mere lounger's delight in the pleasures of the theatre. The axiom that the stage is nought, which does not 'hold the mirror up to nature,' had taken deep hold upon his mind. But from the actual stage he found that nature, especially in the poetical drama, had all but vanished, and in its place had come a purely conventional and monotonous style of declamation, with a stereotyped system of action no less formal and unreal. There was a noble opening for any one who should have the courage and the gifts to return to nature and to truth, and Garrick felt that it was 'in him' to effect the desired revolution. That the public were prepared to welcome a reform had been demonstrated by the success, in February, 1741, of his friend Macklin at Drury Lane, in the part of Shylock, which the public had up to that time been accustomed to see treated on the stage as a comic part. Reading his Shakspeare by the light of his vigorous intellect, Macklin saw the immense scope the character afforded for the display of varied passion and emotion. Nature had given him the Shylock look, and in his heart he had 'the irrevocable hate and study of revenge,' of which the character is so grand an expression. In the early scenes he riveted the audience by the hard cutting force of his manner and utterance. The third act came, and here he says:
I knew I should have the pull, and reserved myself accordingly. At this period I threw out all my fire; and, as the contrasted passions of joy for the merchant's losses and grief for the elopement of Jessica, open a fine field for an actor's powers, I had the good fortune to please beyond my warmest expectations. The whole house was in an uproar of applause, and I was obliged to pause between the speeches, to give it vent so as to be heard.'
'No money, no title,' added the veteran as he recited his triumph 'could purchase what I felt. And let no man tell me after this what fame will not inspire a man to do, and how far the attainment of it will not remunerate his greatest labours. By G-d, sir, though I was not worth fifty pounds in the world at this time, yet, let me tell you, I was Charles the Great for that night.'-Cooke's Life of Macklin.-p. 93.
Macklin's powers were of an exceptional kind. He wanted
variety and flexibility, and those graces of person and manner which are indispensable to a great actor. His success was, therefore, only momentary; and it was left to his young friend and companion to complete the reform, of which his own treatment of Shylock was the first indication.
Nor was that reform far distant. The very next summer was to decide Garrick's career. His broodings were now to take actual shape. But before hazarding an appearance in London he wisely resolved to test his powers in the country; and with this view he went down to Ipswich with the company of Giffard, the Manager of the Goodman's Fields' Theatre, and made his appearance under the name of Lyddal as Aboan in Southern's tragedy of Oroonoko.' This he followed up by several other characters, both tragic and comic, none of them of first importance, but sufficient to give him ease on the stage, and at the same time enable him to ascertain wherein his strength lay. His success was unquestionable, and decided him on appealing to a London audience.
The quality in which Garrick then and throughout his career surpassed all his contemporaries was the power of kindling with the exigencies of the scene. He lost himself in his part. It spoke through him; and the greater the play it demanded of emotion and passion, the more diversified the expression and action for which it gave scope, the more brilliantly did his genius assert itself. His face answered to his feelings, and its workings gave warning of his words before he uttered them; his voice, melodious and full of tone, though far from strong, had the penetrating quality hard to define, but which is never wanting either in the great orator or the great actor; and his figure, light, graceful, and well balanced, though under the average size, was equal to every demand which his impulsive nature made upon it. We can see all this in the portraits of him even at this early period. Only in those of a later date do we get some idea of the commanding power of his eyes, which not only held his audience like a spell, but controlled, with a power almost beyond endurance, his fellow performers in the scene. But from the first the power must have been there. He had noted well all that was good in the professors of the art he was destined to revolutionise; and he had learned, as men of ability do learn, even from their very defects, in what direction true excellence was to be sought for. Long afterwards he used to say that his own chief successes in 'Richard the Third' were due to what he had learned through watching Ryan, a very indifferent actor, in the same part. Richard was the character he chose for his first London trial; a choice made with a wise
estimate of his own powers, for the display of which it was eminently fitted. At this time the part was in the possession of Quin, whose manner of heaving up his words, and laboured action,' as described by Davies, were the best of foils to the fiery energy and subtle varieties of expression with which Garrick was soon to make the public familiar. He appeared, by the usual venial fiction on similar occasions, as a gentleman who never appeared on any stage.' The house was not a great one; still the audience was numerous enough to make the actor feel his triumph, and to spread the report of it widely. They were taken by surprise at first by a style at once so new and so con
sonant to nature.
To the just modulation of the words,' says Davies, and concurring expression of the features, from the genuine workings of nature, they had been strangers, at least for some time. But, after Mr. Garrick had gone through a variety of scenes, in which he gave evident proofs of consummate art, and perfect knowledge of character, their doubts were turned into surprise and astonishment, from which they relieved themselves in loud and reiterated applause.'
Macklin, of course, was there, and often spoke of the pleasure that night's performance gave him.
'It was amazing how, without any example, but on the contrary, with great prejudices against him, he could throw such spirit and novelty into the part, as to convince every impartial person, on the very first impression, that he was right. In short, Sir, he at once decided the public taste; and though the players formed a cabal against him, with Quin at their head, it was a puff to thunder; the east and west end of the town made head against them; and the little fellow, in this and about half a dozen other characters, secured his own immortality.'-Cooke's Life of Macklin, p. 99.
The Daily Post' announced his reception next day, in terms which, however little they would be worthy of belief in any journal of the present day, at that time were enough to arrest attention, as the most extraordinary and great that was ever known on such an occasion' as a first appearance. Another critic in 'The Champion,' who obviously was equal to his work, a phenomenon at no time common in newspaper critics of the stage, called attention to his nice proportions, his clear and penetrating voice, sweet and harmonious, without monotony, drawling, or affectation; neither whining, bellowing, or grumbling,' -tragedians of those days must have been marvellously like our own,- -'but perfectly easy in its transitions, natural in its cadence, and beautiful in its elocution,'
'He is not less happy in his mien and gait, in which he is neither strutting nor mincing, neither stiff nor slouching. When three or
four are on the stage with him he is attentive to whatever is spoke, and never drops his character when he has finished a speech, by either looking contemptuously on an inferior performer, unnecessary spitting, or suffering his eyes to wander through the whole circle of spectators. His action is never superfluous, awkward, or too frequently repeated, but graceful, decent, and becoming.'
This is invaluable, both as showing what Garrick was, and what the actors of that time-in this also, unhappily, too like the actors of our own-were not. He was terribly in earnest.' He did not play with his work. He had transported himself into the ideal Richard, and his strong conception spoke in every flash of his eyes, every change of his features, every motion of his body. It is characteristic of the fervour with which he threw himself into the part, that before the fourth act was over he had all but run out of voice, and was indebted to the seasonable relief of a Seville orange from a chance loiterer behind the scenes for getting articulately to the end of the play. This failure of the voice often happened to him afterwards, and from the same cause. It is one of the characteristics of a sensitive organisation, and did not arise in him from any undue vehemence, but evidently from the intensity which he threw into his delivery.
A power like this was sure of rapid recognition in those days, when theatres formed a sort of fourth estate. Garrick's first appearance was on the 19th of October, 1741. He repeated the character the two following nights, then changed it for 'Aboan,' his first part of the Ipswich Series. The audiences were still moderate, and his salary, a guinea a night, moderate in proportion. But fame had carried the report of the new wonder from the obscure corner of the city, near the Minories, in which his friend Giffard's theatre was situated, to the wits and fashionable people in the West-end. Richard was restored to the bills. Goodman's Fields,' says Davies, 'was full of the splendours of St. James's and Grosvenor Square; the coaches of the nobility filled up the space from Temple Bar to Whitechapel.' What Garrick valued more than all this concourse of fashionables, men of high character and undoubted taste flocked to hear him; and on the 2nd of November, Pope, ill and failing, who had come out early in the year to see Macklin's 'Shylock,' and had recognised its excellence, was again tempted from his easy chair at Twickenham by the rumour of a worthy successor having arisen to the Betterton and Booth of his early admiration.
'I saw,' said Garrick, describing the event long afterwards to the somewhat magniloquent Percival Stockdale, our little poetical hero, dressed in black, seated in a side-box near the stage, and viewing me