Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Samuel Johnson and David Garrick

David Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough
Do doubt everyone knows the provenance of the phrase, 'to eclipse the gaiety of nations' which the Manchester Guardian's obituary writer borrowed after Mark Twain's death (see yesterday's post); but I certainly didn't, so here it is anyway:

David Garrick was an actor, theatre director and manager (of Drury Lane, which became one of Europe's best-known theatres during his stewardship), and is reckoned to have had more influence than any other on the English stage of the eighteenth century. As an performer and director, he championed the idea of natural acting as a reflection of real life - a departure from the rather loud, oratorial style of his predecessors. He was a friend and protege of Dr Samuel Johnson, who said of him, 'his profession made him rich and he made his profession respectable'.

When garrick died in 1779 at the age of sixty-one, he was given a public funeral in Westminster Abbey and laid to rest in Poet's Corner. His friend Dr. Johnson declared: 'I am disappointed by that stroke of death which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.' 
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