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erected in pursuance of an Act of Parliament passed in 1750, in favour of James Clarke, then lessee of the ferry under the Crown. It is a light wooden structure of eleven arches.
Sir Christopher Wren while engaged in his renovation, or as we should take the liberty of calling it, desecration of Hampton Court Palace, resided on Hampton Green.
The most distinguished inhabitant of Hampton was, however, the celebrated David Garrick, who became a resident here in the middle of the last century. Among many other alterations and improvements he built a new part to the house from a design by Adam, and having made several purchases to extend his premises, the gardens were laid out with much taste, under his own direction. Of this house, a local writer in the time of Garrick observes, that "it stands in the town of Hampton, but is quite concealed from view by a high wall; nothing can be neater or fitted up with more decent elegance than this little box; every room shows the true taste and genius of the owner : the whole is like a fine miniature picture perfectly well finished, though extremely small. The drawing-room is, however, of a handsome size, and may be called a large room ; 'tis hung with canvas painted in all greens in the most beautiful colours imaginable, and decorated with carvings of the same colour. The garden is laid out in the modern taste, with a passage cut under the road to a lawn, where close by
the water-side stands the Temple of Shakspeare. This is a brick building in the form of a dome, with a handsome porch, supported by four pillars. Opposite to the entrance, in a niche, stands a statue of the poet, by
Roubillac, as large as life, at his desk in an attitude of thought. The figure is bold and striking, the drapery finished in the most delicate manner.”
The statue has been since removed to the British Museum.
Of the life of the celebrated and fortunate David Garrick few particulars will suffice. He was born at the Angel Inn, Hereford, the quarters of his father, Captain Peter Garrick, then employed upon the recruiting service: the family was originally French. His mother was a daughter of one of the Vicars of Lichfield Cathedral. In youth he was sprightly and eccentric, and the sallies of his fancy were noticed with partiality by Gilbert Walmesly, his friend, and the friend of Johnson. He received his education at the Grammar School of Lichfield ; and his journey to London with Samuel Johnson, who was going to “try his fate with a tragedy," is matter of literary history.
It is a circumstance somewhat remarkable, and not likely again to occur, that two men, then almost friendless and utterly obscure, should have plodded their weary way together to the great metropolis, impelled by the desire of bettering their condition, and probably imagining that, with humble employments and remuneration adequate to their wants, their fortunes would have been made.
It was extraordinary, too, how altered by future circumstances were the views of these two men; now, the ci-devant pedagogue was ambitious of the honours of the stage, and the former pupil emulous of distinction at the bar : strange that he who had no idea at that time of the stage as a profession, should have afterwards become its miracle—its phenomenon, and by it should have acquired fame and fortune beyond the utmost dreams of vanity or avarice; while the other, whose ambition was success as a tragic writer, should in after days, when holding the highest rank in the literary world, have repined that his fate had not permitted him to make choice of the law as a profession.
It is a curious fact that Garrick like Pope, when a mere boy, patched up a play from Ogilby's Homer; his earliest attempt in private theatricals was the part of Sergeant Kite, in Farquhar's Recruiting Officer.
During a short visit he paid to Lisbon in 1727, he was the delight of the English residents, for his powers of social converse and entertainment; and many of the natives of rank and distinction were glad to cultivate his acquaintance.
In March 1737, the future monarch of the stage entered himself of
the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn. About this time his uncle, a wine-merchant, dying, left him a legacy of a thousand pounds, with which he purposed to support himself until his profession should remunerate him ; but the stage had taken too strong a hold upon his affections to allow him to apply himself to less attractive avocations.
About this time his father died, leaving a numerous family slenderly provided for, and Garrick seems to have suffered that most disagreeable of all sensations to a young man entering the world, a difficulty to know what to do with his present time, or how to decide upon a settled plan of action for the future.
The thousand pounds left by his uncle suggested the choice of a profession, and we now see David metamorphosed into a wine-merchant, and occupying, in conjunction with his brother, vaults in Denham Yard. He had the success in business which might have been expected from the bent of his disposition. No man ever yet was great behind the scenes and behind the counter, and the play-bill and the petty cash-book are things incompatible. David and his brother differed so seriously, that at last the interference of their common friends became necessary, and the partnership between them was dissolved.
Garrick now led a life into which the students of our Inns of Court have long shown a disposition to plunge: he got introduced to managers, became the coffee-house acquaintance of players : he studied their profession infinitely more than the statutes, became the faithful mimic of their various manners, and wrote criticisms upon their performances, which gave him the newspaper celebrity of a diurnal wit.
At length, believing that he who could judge so well of the performances of others must needs make an actor himself, and wisely providing against the ridicule attending failure, by assuming the name of Lyddall, he tried his fortune at Ipswich, in the part of Aboan, in the play of Oroonoko. He became at once the delight of the town of Ipswich, where they long considered him the first of actors; and themselves, in having displayed a prophetic judgment, the first of critics.
His appearance on the London boards confirmed the judgment of Ipswich. Mr. Pope went to see his Richard. “As I opened the part,” says the tragedian, “I saw our little poetical hero, dressed in black, seated in a sidebox near the stage, and viewing me with an earnest and serious attention. His look shot and thrilled like lightning through my frame, and I had some
hesitation in proceeding, from anxiety and joy. As Richard gradually blazed forth, the house was in a roar of applause, and the conspiring hand of Pope shadowed me with laurels."
The poet, it is said, was so struck with the performance, that, turning to Lord Orrery, he said, “That young man never had his equal as an actor, and he never will have a rival.”
Horace Walpole, like himself, believed, or rather affected to believe, that Garrick was an empiric—an overrated nobody; and in order that his judgment might be the more secure, refused to go to see him act. The truth is, Walpole could not descend to think with the public; and preferred error by himself, to truth in which multitudes participated. Quin, too, considered Garrick as the founder of a new sect, and thought himself witty in prophesying the “return of the people to church again :” the new actor demolished this sarcasm in the following lines :
“ Pope Quin, who damns all churches but his own,
Complains that heresy infects the town;
will and to church again!'
It is not heresy, but reformation." Of his extraordinary versatility we need say no more, than that if any other evidence of a mind superior to the ordinary standard were wanting, it is to be found in that amazing power of change possessed by Garrick in so eminent a degree.
Few great minds are destitute of the power of transition ; greatness is never exhibited with so much effect as in occasional descents from greatness; to move tears and laughter at will, and with equal force, would seem to be the exclusive attribute of the loftiest genius.
This power of transition, Garrick, in an eminent degree, possessed; he was great in great and in little things; he acted Master Johnny, a lad of fifteen, in The Schoolboy, a farce by Colley Cibber, after amazing the town by his inimitable performance of King Lear.
The representation of boyhood and extreme age, by the same individual, in the same evening, with complete success, has never been attempted since Garrick's time, by any British actor.
In the full splendour of his success he married Mademoiselle Violette, a popular dancer, and protégée of the Countess of Burlington, who settled upon her at her marriage six thousand pounds.
In this, the most important step in life, Garrick was as fortunate as in meaner matters, and was probably thus fortunate, because he was prudent.
After having been for thirty years deservedly at the head of his profession, Garrick determined to retire brilliantly, and with éclat, that there might be none to say
Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage.” After performing Don Felix in the Wonder, Mr. Garrick advanced and delivered a farewell address, remarkable for eloquence and feeling, and bowing repeatedly to all parts of the house, with much hesitation and a lingering step, withdrew for ever from their
presence. Perhaps not the least graceful part of his behaviour upon this occasion, was his devoting the last fruits of his professional exertion to the cause of charity- by paying over to the Actors' Fund the whole of the moneys received on his farewell night.
A good picture of his powers as an actor has been drawn by a friendly hand :
“ The justice with which you conceive and exhibit the poet's meaning are in general masterly. You act with much greater truth, spirit, and variety than any man I ever saw. It may be said I take you at a disadvantage in the decline of life. I believe not. In those tragic parts where your organs seem to have had a power, almost peculiar, to represent the poet's meaning, your execution is masterly. Your province lies principally where the passions are exhibited by the poet as agitated or wrought up to a high degree; your perfection consists in the extreme. In exaggerated gesture and sudden bursts of passion, given in a suppressed and under manner, you are inimitable. In the struggles and conflicts of contradictory passions, or in their mixture and combination, and when their effects are drawn by the author to a point of instant and momentary expression, there you are often excellent. But the expression must be in the extreme, or you are not Garrick.”
His retirement (to Hampton Court, after quitting the stage) was dignified by every charm that rank and accomplishments could confer upon it. One of the first of ladies—Lady Georgiana Spencer-considered him as her most brilliant guest. The hospitalities of the gay Rigby awaited him at Mistley, and Lord Camden hailed a period with joy when he could profit by