Guide to the Playbills Relating to the Theatrical Career of David Garrick
Scope and Content
This collection primarily contains call numbers scattered through ART Vol. d45; ART Vol. d94; BILL Box G2 D84 1752-1753 through 1775-76; BILL Box G2 G62 1741-42; BILL Vol G2 C85 1753-54 through 1765-66; Craven 242016 through 242037b; PN 2598 .G3 F5 copy 4 Ex.ill.; PN 2598 .G3 F5 copy 5 Ex.ill.; T.a.112; W.a.167 through 170; W.b.97; W.b.470 through 476; and W.b.481; plus a few individual items outside those call number ranges.
This Finding Guide offers pervasive access to playbills in the Folger Shakespeare Library relating to the professional career of David Garrick, as actor, manager, dramatist, and man of the theatre. Entries span the years 1741-1776, from Garrick's little-noticed pseudonymous appearances at Ipswich in June 1741 and his meteoric rise to fame in London, initially as "A Gentleman" and then under his own name, at Goodman's Fields beginning in October 1741, through several subsequent years at Drury Lane, in Dublin at Smock Alley, and for a single season at Covent Garden, and then, following on his purchase of a half-interest in Drury Lane, his embarkation on a management there that would span the decades of his increasing dominance over the English-speaking theatre of his time, to his retirement from the stage in 1776.
The record of his career as represented by these bills, though not full and in some cases fragmentary, is nonetheless substantial. The Folger has no bills for certain early segments of Garrick's burgeoning career (for Drury Lane for May 1742, for Smock Alley, Dublin, for June-August 1742, or for Covent Garden for the 1746-47 season); but there are bills (or, in the case of Goodman's Fields, facsimiles) for Ipswich in June 1741, for Goodman's Fields for 1741-42, and for the preponderance of Garrick's long management of Drury Lane, 1747-1776. Despite these gaps, Folger bills trace in bold and fascinating outline one of the most extraordinary careers in the English-speaking professional theatre.
Garrick figures in the Folger bills in specific and more general ways. He may play the title character, or some other named role, or he may be listed (always prominently) among the players performing principal characters but who have no specific roles ascribed to them. And he may appear in more than one role on a single night.
Garrick is also represented in less explicit ways. Although authorship is seldom identified in eighteenth-century playbills, plays written by Garrick and adaptations he made from existing works were frequently performed on the Drury Lane stage. This is the case with his very first work, which preceded Garrick himself onto the professional stage, the perennially popular and adaptable afterpiece Lethe (which sometimes has appended to it its subtitle Esop [or Aesop] in the Shades), a work in which at a certain point Garrick himself began to appear, as Lord Chalkstone, a character he created for himself. Another frequently seen Garrick afterpiece is Miss in Her Teens, in which Garrick played the foppish, faint-hearted suitor Fribble. Later in his career he joined authorial forces with George Colman the Elder to write one of the best comedies of the century, The Clandestine Marriage.
Garrick was, if anything, even more active as an adapter of other authors' plays. The most notable instances are Shakespeare's, as in the case of Garrick's extensively reworked Hamlet, his Romeo and Juliet with its gratuitious but spectacularly dramatic funeral procession and its altered tomb scene, his radically simplified Cymbeline (whose character of Posthumus was tailored to himself), and the afterpieces Florizel and Perdita and Catherine and Petruchio, distilled from two much longer works, The Winter's Tale and The Taming of the Shrew. Garrick also placed his imprint on the works of a number of other earlier authors, as instanced by his complete overhaul of Wycherley's The Country Wife as The Country Girl and his new version of Southerne's Restoration tragedy The Fatal Marriage; or, the Innocent Adultery, produced by Garrick as Isabella, or The Fatal Marriage, in which he took care to provide himself with the central male role of Biron.
And so, taking into account Garrick's constant presence in the theatre (except for his two-year "sabbatical" in 1763-65), as actor, manager, producer, dramatic author, adapter, correspondent, song-writer, chief contractor, publicist, auditioner, venture capitalist, general overseer of operations, inventor and executor of long-term strategies, and all-around man of the theatre, it can truly be said that every Drury Lane playbill from 1747 to 1776 reflects his watchful concern, unerring instinct for what would play and succeed, and unremitting attention to every aspect of the theatrical enterprise. By extension it reflects his unprecedented social status as the premiere representative of the English theatre to the English nation.
It is beyond the scope of this project to include Covent Garden and other contemporary playbills, although the Folger has approximately 450-500 of these playbills from the period of Garrick's career (however, we have no playbills during the 1745-46 season when Garrick performed at Covent Garden). It should be noted that a clearer understanding of how Garrick conducted the affairs of Drury Lane over the years of his tenancy there could be reached if bills for the rival theatre were more readily accessible. For example, there is the rivalry described by Kalman Burnim as the most famous of the century (David Garrick, Director, p. 129), beginning on 28 September 1750--a series of performances of Romeo and Juliet at Covent Garden and Drury Lane lasting twelve consecutive evenings through 11 October and concluding with a triumphant thirteenth performance at Drury Lane on 12 October. Other less spectacular instances could be found, and it is evident that the constant battle of the two theatres for audiences had a profound effect on their choice of plays old and new and the casting of their performers in them.
Given its intended use, this Finding Guide provides only a rigorously defined subset of all the kinds of information present in the bill. For example, information indicating some special feature of the performance or of its social context, such as the following, has been judged beyond the scope of this project and has been omitted: Part of the PIT will be laid into BOXES. Ladies are desir'd to send their Servants by Three o'Clock. Tickets and Places to be had of Mr. VARNEY at the Stage-door. On Monday, EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR.
Even information of greater importance such as cast lists has been excluded. Such information, of greater or lesser magnitude than what is necessary to identify a playbill with some specificity, may be found in the relevant entry in the calendar of performances for this period, The London Stage 1660-1800. One general observation is that most playbills after the accession of George III state at the bottom, "Vivat Rex" and later, "Vivant Rex & Regina."
Users of the Finding Guide will therefore find that the information provided falls somewhere between the intended coverage of The London Stage calendar and the Folger Library card catalogue and online catalogue. That is, it offers identifying, authenticating, and descriptive information about each individual playbill, far more than the summary designations and groupings found in the card catalogue, but in most respects less than what is provided in the daily calendar entries of The London Stage 1660-1800, where full cast lists and a wealth of ancillary and contextualizing information are presented and where performances of each piece over a given season are linked to one another by means of a "laddering back" system. This system, invented by the compilers of the calendar both to save space and to highlight the continuities inherent in the repertory theatre system, permits tracing a series of two or more performances of a given play from any point of performance in the season back to its first performance, noting at that point only the changes in cast or other significant aspects of the performance that differ from the reference entry. (Unfortunately, the laddering system works only backwards, not forwards; but this deficiency can be remedied by consulting Schneider's Index to The London Stage 1660-1800, where all performances of a given play at a given theatre in a given season are listed chronologically.) At the same time, unlike The London Stage 1660-1800, whose sole purpose is to provide information and which does not systematically document its use of playbills or other source materials, this Finding Guide, while providing basic information about performance, also identifies and offers direct access to the playbills on which that information is based.
Consequently, the user of the Finding Guide will be able to find and study a specific playbill and, through use of the search facility provided, to compare it to other similar bills. In addition (to the extent supported by Folger bills), the user may gain access to coherent groups of playbills--for example, to all benefit performances for Catharine ("Kitty") Clive over the length of her career at Drury Lane during the Garrick years, or to all performances of Garrick's perennially popular afterpiece Lethe in which Garrick himself performed.
The kind of research possible with the Finding Guide may be illustrated with an example drawn from benefit bills. Benefit bills were prepared in advance (often, ten days ahead of time) for actors and other theatrical personnel to circulate in order to encourage ticket purchases. These bills sometimes give the residence address of the beneficiary; alternatively, sometimes a convenient nearby venue, such as an inn or public house, is specified. In one instance, Miss Dawson's benefit bill for Drury Lane for Thursday, 16 April 1761, prints at the bottom: "Tickets and Places to be had of . . . Miss Dawson, at her House in Manchester-Buildings, Channel-Row, Westminster." Pursuing the presence of the "benefit" code in entries in the Finding Guide and examining the relevant bills, a researcher could compile a list of residences, or approximations of residences, of Drury Lane performers and other personnel, thus providing concrete demographic evidence of locales of actors and thus also of traveling distances to the theatre--information of use in studying the social history of the theatre.
In such ways, even as the Finding Guide provides pervasive access to actual Folger documents, it simultaneously offers opportunities for researchers to pursue answers to questions that The London Stage 1660-1800 cannot provide, or can provide only by means of unacceptably lengthy searching through hundreds of pages of daily calendar entries (though in some cases Schneider's Index can reduce search time considerably).
Chronology of Garrick's Professional Career
The following chronology was designed to assist in the identification of pertinent or significant playbills in the Folger collection. Where a specific date is given, the user may presume on the existence of a Drury Lane bill for that date in the Folger Library unless otherwise indicated. It should be noted that the Drury Lane theatre season ran from September to May. Sources: Kal Burnim, "Garrick, David," in Highfill, et al., A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 6, pp. 1-103; Ian McIntyre, Garrick (London: Allen Lane, 1999); Stone and Kahrl, David Garrick: A Critical Biography.
- 15 April 1740
- Drury Lane. Garrick's first play, Lethe, performed for Giffard's benefit [no Folger playbill]
- 1740-41 (winter)
- Goodman's Fields. Garrick steps in as Harlequin for the illRichard Yates for "2 or three scenes" in the pantomime Harlequin Student.
- June 1741
- Tankard Street, Ipswich. Garrick with Giffard's touring company,performing a range of parts as "Mr Lyddal" (Mrs. Giffard's maiden name).
- 17 July 1741
- Tankard Street, Ipswich., Garrick, billed as "Mr Lyddal," plays Captain Duretete in The Inconstant and Ventrebleu and Sir Roger Rakeit inLethe. Earliest Folger playbill.
- 19 October 1741-24 May 1742
- Goodman's Fields. Garrick, first as "a Gentleman," then under his own name, plays King Richard III and other roles. Some 31 Folger bills testify to the popularity of Garrick's Richard III, performed throughout his professional life in the version cobbled together by Colley Cibber over a generation before. A newspaper account of Garrick's season at Goodman's Fields, citing performances of eighteen characters, is preserved in ART Vol. d45, p. 15.
- 28 November 1741
- Goodman's Fields. First bill in which Garrick's name appears (as Chamont in The Orphan).
- 26-31 May 1742
- Drury Lane. Having signed articles of agreement, Garrick makes his debut there as Bayes in The Rehearsal and concludes, by command of the royal family, with Richard III. [No Folger bills for this week]
- 18 June-19 August 1742
- Smock Alley, Dublin. Garrick, accompanied by Mrs. Woffington, acts Richard III and other roles and performs a new role, Hamlet. [No Folger bills for this period]
- 5 October 1742 et seq.
- Drury Lane. Garrick begins a three-year period as a regular member of the Drury Lane company with the role of Chamont. [No Folger bills for these seasons]
- 16 November 1745
- Drury Lane. Garrick's first performance of Hamlet at Drury Lane, by command. [no Folger bill]
- Late November 1745
- Dublin. Garrick acts and co-manages (with Thomas Sheridan) the united companies at Smock Alley and Aungier Street, Dublin. Garrick performs at least 20 roles, departs 3 May. [No Folger bills for this season]
- Late May 1746
- Garrick returns to London, signs articles with Rich for Covent Garden for the 1746-47 season.
- 11 June 1746
- Acts at Covent Garden for fifteen days (his first appearance there). [No Folger bills for this period]
- Garrick performs regularly at Covent Garden. [No Folger bills for this season]
- 14 November 1746
- Garrick plays Lothario opposite Quin as Horatio in Rowe's The Fair Penitent for twelve performances, a series recalled by later biographers as one of the great theatrical events of the century.
- 9 April 1747
- Garrick signs an agreement of partnership with the current patentee of Drury Lane, James Lacy. The joint management lasted until 1776.
- 9 September 1747
- Garrick buys a half-interest in Drury Lane from Lacy for £8,000.
- 15 September 1747
- Drury Lane opens for the first season under Garrick's management with Charles Macklin as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Garrick delivers a prologue written for the occasion by Samuel Johnson. [No Folger bills for this season]
- 29 November 1748
- Garrick's altered Romeo and Juliet first performed. By 1776 it would have over 140 performances. [No Folger bill for this first performance]
- 5 April 1750
- Lethe, Garrick's popular afterpiece, performed this night with Garrick in his familiar role of "The Frenchman" (i.e., Ventre-Bleu). Earliest Folger bill for Garrick's management at Drury Lane.
- 28 September 1750
- Romeo and Juliet. A series of rival performances at Covent Garden and Drury Lane begins, lasting twelve consecutive evenings through 11 October and concluding with a triumphant thirteenth performance at Drury Lane on 12 October. [No Folger bills for this sequence]
- 31 January 1751
- Romeo and Juliet. [Earliest Folger bill for Garrick's alteration of Shakespeare's play]
- May-July 1751
- Garrick and his wife visit Paris.
- 24 October 1752
- Queen Mab. Earliest of fourteen Folger bills, including two duplicates, for Woodward's brilliantly successful pantomime, first produced in the Christmas season of 1750, represented also by another Folger bill dating from as late as 26 November 1768.
- 30 November 1752
- Every Man in His Humour. Earliest Folger bill for this perennially popular play by Ben Jonson.
- 24 May 1753
- The Suspicious Husband. Earliest of ten Folger bills for this piece, whose popularity may be credited to Garrick's success in the role of Ranger.
- 4 October 1753
- The Lying Valet. Earliest Folger bill for this play by Garrick.
- 15 November 1753
- King Lear. Earliest Folger bill for Garrick's alteration of Shakespeare's play, supplying him with perhaps his most distinguished and effective role.
- 17 January 1754
- Hamlet. Earliest Folger bill for one of Garrick's most succesful adaptations of Shakespeare and one of his most memorable central roles.
- 16 April 1754
- Miss in Her Teens. Earliest Folger bill for this play by Garrick.
- 11 February 1755
- The Tempest. Earliest Folger bill for Garrick's adaptation of Shakespeare's play.
- 28 November 1755
- The Chances. Earliest Folger bill for Garrick's alteration of Fletcher's play, affording him the role of Don John, one of his most popular characters.
- 12 December 1755
- The Alchymist. Earliest of some nine Folger bills for this adaptation by Garrick of Jonson's comedy, in which he adapted the role of Abel Drugger to his own considerable talents for character acting.
- 21 January 1756
- Catharine and Petruchio. Earliest Folger bill for Garrick's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
- 22 April 1756
- Lethe. First Folger bill for this piece in which Garrick abandons his previous character, Ventre-Bleu, and comes forward in a "New Character," Lord Chalkstone, the role he would henceforth perform.
- 8 November 1756
- Cymbeline. Earliest bill for Garrick's alteration of Shakespeare's play.
- 25 November 1756
- The Chances. Earliest of nine Folger bills featuring Garrick in the signature role of Don Felix, the role he chose for his farewell on 10 June 1776.
- 18 January 1757
- Lilliput. Only Folger bill for this interlude by Garrick.
- 15 November 1758
- Isabella; or, The Fatal Marriage. Earliest Folger bill for this alteration by Garrick of Southerne's Restoration tragedy The Fatal Marriage; or, The Innocent Adultery.
- 27 February 1759
- The Guardian. Earliest Folger bill for this farce by Garrick.
- 31 March 1759
- The Male Coquette. Only Folger bill for this afterpiece by Garrick.
- 21 April 1759
- The Orphan of China. Earliest Folger bill for Arthur Murphy's splendidly produced adaptation of Voltaire, exemplary of the current vogue for chinoiserie.
- 12 January 1760
- Harlequin's Invasion. Earliest of seventeen Folger bills for this brilliant and exceedingly popular Christmas pantomime by Garrick, introduced in 1759 with the special effect of a tableau mouvant (Burnim, David Garrick, Director, pp. 81-82). The Folger collection of bills for this piece includes three pairs of duplicates (26 December 1760, 27 December 1760, and 26 May 1761) and a pair of variants (28 March 1761).
- 13 December 1760
- The Enchanter. Earliest Folger bill for this interlude by Garrick.
- 4 February 1762
- Florizel and Perdita. Only Folger bill for Garrick's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.
- 1 April 1762
- The Farmer's Return from London. Earliest Folger bill for this favorite interlude by Garrick, written for himself.
- 25 January 1763
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in a new version by the sometime historian of the British stage Benjamin Victor, whose sixth night benefit was this night. On the occasion, Garrick had withdrawn the customary privilege of half-price for those entering after the third act, precipitating riots in the auditorium and ending in the demolishing of the theatre.
- 15 September 1763
- Garrick and Eva depart for two years' travelling on the Continent. Garrick wrote to George Colman the Elder from Paris that he was "star'd at ye Playhouse," but it seems unlikely that Garrick actually performed on the Parisian stage.
- September 1765
- Over the decade beginning with this season and ending with his retirement in June 1776, Garrick introduced 37 new mainpieces, including The Clandestine Marriage in February 1766.
- 14 November 1765
- Garrick returns to the Drury Lane stage.
- 19 February 1766
- Garrick and Colman the Elder's The Clandestine Marriage, first performed on 20 February, announced in the bills of this date for the next day.
- 5 December 1768
- The Country Girl. Only Folger bill for this adaptation by Garrick of Wycherley's The Country Wife.
- 2 March 1769
- The Fatal Discovery. One of nine new mainpieces introduced by Garrick in the last decade of his management with new, custom-designed settings.
- September 1769
- Stratford-upon-Avon. Garrick organizes and administers the Shakespeare Jubilee, a disastrous failure because of inclement weather.
- 16 October 1769
- The Jubilee. Only Folger bill for Garrick's spectacular stage version of the Stratford Jubilee.
- 8 April 1771
- Cymon. The only Folger bill for this dramatic opera by Garrick, with music by Michael Arne, notable for its great spectacular effects and transformations, first produced 2 January 1767 and still going strong.
- 22 May 1773
- The Irish Widow. Only Folger bill for this afterpiece by Garrick.
- 9 March 1775
- Braganza. Jephson's play represents one of the few excursions into legitimate drama of Phillipe Jacques de Loutherbourg, the brilliant young French designer hired by Garrick in 1772 as overseer of scenic effects at Drury Lane.
- Garrick's final season before retirement.
- 23 May 1776
- The Suspicious Husband. The young Sarah Siddons plays Mrs. Strictland to Garrick's Ranger, beginning a series of disappointing failures that would send her back to the provinces. Neither Garrick himself nor the Londonaudience had the prescience to realize what she might later become.
- 27 May 1776
- King Richard III. Mrs. Siddons plays Lady Anne to Garrick's Richard.
- 5 June 1776
- Bon Ton. Only Folger bill for this afterpiece by Garrick.
- 10 June 1776
- Garrick's farewell appearance, as Don Felix in The Wonder, concluding thirty years of management of Drury Lane and thirty-five years of preeminent acting for English and Irish audiences.
- Coalition headed by Richard Brinsley Sheridan purchases Garrick's half-interest in Drury Lane.
- 20 January 1779
- Garrick dies in London.
- 1 February 1779
- Garrick buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.
Language of Materials
A guide to the playbills in the Folger Shakespeare Library relating to the professional career of David Garrick, spanning the years 1741-1776.
The playbills are arranged chronologically by season. Each entry provides the following information (to the extent that it is present in the document itself):
- 1. shelf mark and page or other locating indication of source
- 2. theatre name
- 3. date of performance, in day-date-month-year order
- 4. title of mainpiece
- 5. title of afterpiece
- 6. indications of any role or roles performed by Garrick himself
- 7. special nature of the bill (as in the case of a benefit or a command performance)
- 8. unusual or distinguishing features
- 9. additional notes relating to its physical state (facsimile, duplicate, etc.)
- 10. codes recording authenticating data (see second paragraph of the section on Dating and Authentication: "gws" refers to George Winchester Stone; "jd" refers to Joe Donohue; "pc" refers to perpetual calendar; "LS" refers to The London Stage 1660-1800)
In compiling the Finding Guide, no attempt has been made to deal with provenance. The full provenance of a bill is often impossible to determine--Henry Folger acquired these playbills from a variety of sources, in many cases dealers, and usually they can be traced back no further than that. Still, given its nature, the very fact of a bill's existence may serve as "provenance" enough, since it originally derives from the playhouse. Though intended to serve only an immediate purpose, largely accomplished by the performances they document, playbills may have survived into later periods through any number of ways, including systematic collection by theatre personnel or actors (John Philip Kemble had a formidable personal collection), or by members of the playgoing public. Fortunately for theatre scholarship, in many instances playbills have survived in large, coherent assemblages that now reside in theatre archives and other collections in the United States and abroad. The Folger Library has one of the most extensive collections of playbills in existence. Contact the Reference staff for provenance information relating to specific playbills.
For background and source information on Garrick's professional career, see the two major modern biographies, Stone and Kahrl's David Garrick and McIntyre's Garrick, and the extensive article by Burnim in Highfill et al., Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 6. For Garrick's own writings and adaptations see Nicoll, A History of English Drama 1700-1750 and 1750-1800; The Plays of David Garrick, ed. Pedicord and Bergmann; and Berkowitz, Garrick: a Reference Guide.
David Garrick: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980.
A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800. 16 vols. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973-1993.
Drury Lane Calendar 1747-1776. Edited by Dougald MacMillan. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938.
The Dublin Stage, 1720-1745: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces. Edited by John C. Greene and Gladys L. H. Clark. Bethlehem, PA and London: Lehigh University Press and Associated University Presses, 1993.
The life of David Garrick: from original family papers, and numerous published and unpublished sources. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1868.
A new history of the English Stage, from the restoration to the liberty of the theatres, in connection with the patent houses. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1882.
Letters. 3 vols. Edited by David M. Little and George M. Kahrl. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1963.
Index to The London Stage 1660-1800. Compiled by Ben Ross Schneider, Jr. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979.
David Garrick. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1894.
The London Stage 1660-1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts and Contemporary Comment Compiled from the Playbills, Newspapers and Theatrical Diaries of the Period. 11 vols. Edited by William Van Lennep (Part 1, 1660-1700), Emmet L. Avery (Part 2, 1700-1729), Arthur H. Scouten (Part 3, 1729-1747), George Winchester Stone, Jr. (Part 4,1747-1776), and Charles Beecher Hogan (Part 5, 1776-1800). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-68.
Garrick. London: Allen Lane; Penguin Press, 1999.
A history of English drama, 1660-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952-59.
The Plays of David Garrick. Edited by Harry William Pedicord and Frederick Louis Bergmann. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1980-82.
Shakespeare in the Theatre 1701-1800: A Record of Performances in London. 2 vols. Edited by Charles Beecher Hogan. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952, 1957.
Thomas Sheridan of Smock-Alley: Recording his Life as Actor and Theatre Manager in both Dublin and London, and Including a Smock-Alley Calendar for the Years of His Management. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.
Some Account of the English Stage from the Restoration in 1660 to 1830. 10 vols. Compiled by Rev. John Genest. Bath, 1832.
David Garrick: A Critical Biography. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1979.
- David Garrick: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980.
- A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800. 16 vols. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973-1993.
- Drury Lane Calendar 1747-1776. Edited by Dougald MacMillan. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938.
- The Dublin Stage, 1720-1745: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces. Edited by John C. Greene and Gladys L. H. Clark. Bethlehem, PA and London: Lehigh University Press and Associated University Presses, 1993.
- The life of David Garrick: from original family papers, and numerous published and unpublished sources. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1868.
- A new history of the English Stage, from the restoration to the liberty of the theatres, in connection with the patent houses. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1882.
- Letters. 3 vols. Edited by David M. Little and George M. Kahrl. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1963.
- Index to The London Stage 1660-1800. Compiled by Ben Ross Schneider, Jr. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979.
- David Garrick. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1894.
- The London Stage 1660-1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts and Contemporary Comment Compiled from the Playbills, Newspapers and Theatrical Diaries of the Period. 11 vols. Edited by William Van Lennep (Part 1, 1660-1700), Emmet L. Avery (Part 2, 1700-1729), Arthur H. Scouten (Part 3, 1729-1747), George Winchester Stone, Jr. (Part 4,1747-1776), and Charles Beecher Hogan (Part 5, 1776-1800). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-68.
- Garrick. London: Allen Lane; Penguin Press, 1999.
- A history of English drama, 1660-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952-59.
- The Plays of David Garrick. Edited by Harry William Pedicord and Frederick Louis Bergmann. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1980-82.
- Shakespeare in the Theatre 1701-1800: A Record of Performances in London. 2 vols. Edited by Charles Beecher Hogan. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952, 1957.
- Thomas Sheridan of Smock-Alley: Recording his Life as Actor and Theatre Manager in both Dublin and London, and Including a Smock-Alley Calendar for the Years of His Management. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.
- Some Account of the English Stage from the Restoration in 1660 to 1830. 10 vols. Compiled by Rev. John Genest. Bath, 1832.
- David Garrick: A Critical Biography. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1979.
Playbills: Definitions and Issues
A playbill is a broadside (a single sheet printed only on one side) issued by a theatre for a given performance on a certain date, containing information identifying the plays and other pieces and the performers and others concerned, along with other information useful or interesting to the audience. The earliest surviving playbills date from the years following the Restoration of King Charles II to the English throne in 1660. Playbills were normally printed and issued on the day of performance and made available in the theatre, though bills for benefits might be printed as much as ten days in advance to assist beneficiaries in attracting audiences and selling tickets. The history of playbill printing remains to be written, but evidence such as press figures and perfecting errors (see playbills for 16 December and 27 December 1760; 1, 5, 14, 15, 17 January; 2 February, 23 February, 11 April, 1761) provide important evidence for future study.
Among the great range of documents associated with the eighteenth-century English theatre, playbills are undoubtedly the single most valuable source for knowledge about theatrical activity and practice in the period. Without them, we would be reduced to making hopeful deductions and inferences from other kinds of records and documents (notices in newspapers, letters, prompters' notes, actors' contracts, illustrations of actors in character, and so on), resulting largely in fortuitous but fragmentary information leading to vague generalization and summary. With them, we can document with great confidence exactly what was performed for an audience on a given night at a given theatre; beyond that, we can form a detailed understanding of the nature and character of the theatre of the age. And by reading surviving texts of plays and afterpieces identified in the bills (some of which exist only in manuscript copies preserved by the official censor), and correlating the information to be found in other kinds of documents, we may derive a much more full and concrete sense, not only of the theatre itself and the impact of its performances upon assembled audiences, but of the relationship between the fictive reality presented on stage and actual contemporary life.
Playbills have the unique and double advantage of having been issued nightly, for every performance, and of presenting in systematic ways a great deal of useful information. A bill may include most or all of the following items (not necessarily in the order mentioned): the name of the theatre where the performance takes place; the day and date of performance (sometimes omitting the year); the time of commencement of performance and, sometimes, the time when the doors of the theatre will be opened; the title or titles of the piece or pieces to be performed; the names of the performers (usually only the surnames, and sometimes only the names of the chief performers); the names of the characters they play (sometimes only the chief characters); the title of, performer(s) of, or other identifying information about entr'acte or other incidental performance; information about the special character of the performance (most often, a benefit or a command performance); information about special attractions; indications of special circumstances, conditions, opportunities, or limitations; information about venues for tickets; instructions to audiences (or their servants or coachmen); announcements of future performances; endorsements; rarely if ever in this period, the name and address of the printer of the bill.
The most important and frequent omission of information in playbills is undoubtedly the name of the authors (or composers, or devisers) of the plays, musical pieces, pantomimes, and other entertainment whose titles, along with the names of performers, make up the most important category of information on the bill. Following the lead of contemporary playbills themselves, The London Stage 1660-1800, a comprehensive daily calendar of performances for the period, does not provide the names of authors in its entries. It is nevertheless possible to determine the authorship of plays in the bills by consulting the indexes to the five parts of The London Stage or, alternatively, Schneider's Index to The London Stage 1660-1800, comprised of a single alphabetical sequence listing all plays by a given author along with titles cross-referenced to the author.
The Playbill and the Problem of Nomenclature
The question may arise, what are the effective limits of the term "playbill"? An example from the beginning of Garrick's London career provides a convenient means of testing these limits. Garrick made his London debut as "a Gentleman" at Goodman's Fields Theatre on 19 October 1741. Preserved in the Folger Library are two documents, the first glued to the back of the second, that provide information about the event. The first is a small-format announcement about the width of a newspaper column, but clearly not a clipping from a newspaper, since the document is blank on either side of the vertical rules delineating the column of print. It has the appearance of a proof, though it seems unlikely that that is what it is. Dated 19 October 1741, this document, whose text is formatted in block paragraphs (i.e., not laid out in discrete centered lines, like playbills), provides many details about the performances at the theatre in Ayliff Street, Goodman's Fields, on this night. The document announces "a Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music" presented in two parts. Between the parts will be performed "an Historical Play called the Life and Death of King Richard the Third." It further explains: "The part of King Richard by a Gentleman (who never appeared on any stage)."
The second document is a broadside the usual size of a playbill of the period. The printer of this document has laid out the same information appearing on the newspaper-column-size announcement in the usual playbill format. The information appears to be, word for word, exactly the same as that provided in the small-format announcement; there are a few differences in punctuation. At the top of the document is printed "The Play Bill that announced the first appearance of Mr. Garrick." The clear intention behind the printing of this document is to present a facsimile of an original playbill, close enough in format, layout, and type font and size to represent the characteristic features of an actual bill.
The first document is quite clearly not a playbill, though it would appear to serve the same function. Is the second document a playbill? It makes a point of saying it is, explicitly. But playbills, to be playbills, do not have to say they are playbills; they simply are playbills, instantly recognizable as such. Moreover, any document that declares itself a playbill will immediately be suspected of not being one. (One is reminded of the painting by Maigret of a pipe, captioned "This is not a pipe.") And yet this document has the look of a real playbill and provides information of just the sort that an audience would expect to find on a bill. Is it then a "playbill," in some extended or metaphorical, or perhaps virtual sense, if not actually a playbill? We may decide to call this second document a facsimile playbill. Yet, if we do, we must confront the fact that this facsimile bill provides exactly the same information as does the first, newspaper-format document. Does that make the first document a "playbill," in some figurative sense, though not an actual bill?
We have asserted that a playbill is a broadside identifiable by the kinds of information it provides, but in grappling with these two documents containing information about Garrick's London debut we come squarely up against the question of content versus format. When is a playbill a playbill, and when is it an announcement, a facsimile, or something else? If we had the original manuscript draft that served as copy text for the Goodman's Fields playbill, would we designate that manuscript a playbill also? Or would that be, by analogy, a "manuscript playbill" despite the oxymoronic locution?
Although they do not always convey as much information as a playbill does, advertisements of performances carried in newspapers comprise a valuable adjunct to playbills. And, where a playbill is not extant for a given performance, an advertisement offers information perhaps otherwise unavailable. The compilers of The London Stage 1660-1800 calendar depended on newspaper advertisements to a great extent to supplement or, sometimes, to corroborate information gleaned from playbills. In the period before Garrick's time, for which playbills less frequently survive, advertisements are a more important resource than they are for the age of Garrick. Although their format is sometimes that of a playbill, however, newspaper advertisements lack the authority and the cachet of the primary document recording a performance event, partly because a newspaper advertisement must be prepared more (though perhaps not much more) in advance and therefore cannot reflect, as a playbill can, last-minute alterations of information intended for playhouse audiences and not, like advertisements, for potential playgoers among the general reading public. Notwithstanding the lesser authority of advertisements, the residue of such documents is very large. Entire scrapbooks and boxes of such ads occur not infrequently, and they turn up in many an extra-illustrated volume (see, for example, W.b.481, p. 125). To attempt to come to terms with such a voluminous amount of ancillary material is beyond the scope of this project.
It appears that our basic definition of a playbill must be qualified to include, first of all, an indication of format as well as of content. It is important to be quite specific about format; the term "broadside" by itself may not be enough. Can we solve the problem by saying that a playbill is a broadside of a certain size? But then how do we deal with the fact that not all broadsides intended as playbills have the same measurements? Some are larger or smaller than others. If they are of a sufficiently large size, do they become posters instead of playbills? Of course, there does seem to be a standard size for playbills issued by major London theatres in any given span of years in the eighteenth century. Still, this size is sometimes departed from on special occasions, and in any case, as time moves on, playbills become larger, more detailed and cumbersome affairs, finally reaching a zenith a century later in the double-fold, large format playbills, almost as long as their arms, issued by Charles Kean to audiences at the Princess's Theatre in Oxford Street in the decade beginning in 1850.
Considering these factors, we may need to fall back on a more phenomenological understanding of what a playbill is, defining it by its intention and use, rather than solely in terms of its format and content. The very fact that a document of this kind is given out to members of a theatre audience in the theatre is finally what differentiates it from other, similar documents. And yet, when we return to the newspaper-column-like document, our puzzlement may also return, at least a little. For we might ask ourselves, is this document as it survives something that might have been given to audiences at the Goodman's Fields theatre on that eventful night of 19 October? And, just supposing it were, is the fact that the information it contains is printed like newspaper articles, in block paragraphs, the only thing that prevents this document from finally being called a playbill? Or do we want to say that, despite its format, it is by intention a playbill, if our surmise about its being handed to Goodman's Fields audiences is on the mark? Is it therefore a virtual playbill, if not an actual one?
Finally, we must rest content with an approximate, or "fuzzy," definition of a playbill that includes recognizable combinations of features: format, size, layout of text, informational content, historical period, implicit intention, and place of issue. If these features are present, to an estimable degree, and if they coalesce into a coherent document, then we may use the term playbill with reasonable confidence.
Duplicates and Variants
What is a duplicate playbill? What is a variant playbill?
Duplicates. In the common-sensical way of thinking, a duplicate playbill is any bill for a given performance (i.e., at a given theatre on a given date) of which more than one copy is known; for purposes of the Finding Guide we restrict that knowledge to Folger holdings. Once a bill has been identified, any other bill or bills that turn up are commonly considered a "duplicate." Yet, by the same token, the first bill is of course as much a duplicate as any other, since it is of no significance which bill turned up first. When G. W. Stone Jr. was preparing Part 4 of The London Stage 1660-1800 calendar, he examined a large number of Folger bills; where he found more than one bill for a given performance, he often identified the others as duplicates. Such annotations as "duplicate in loose bills" (with his initials "gws" appended) frequently occur.
Variants. It is apparently not on record how extensively the compilers of the London Stage calendar were able to compare duplicates to determine whether any variant information occurred in them. All the same, it is in the very nature of playbills that variants can and do occur. Playbills were usually printed on the day of performance, using as copytext a manuscript bill provided by the stage manager (see, for example, ART Vol d45, p. 162, a manuscript bill for a Drury Lane performance of Congreve's The Double Dealer, Friday, 29 October ). Sometimes in the course of the day the information provided earlier had to be changed, perhaps because of the indisposition of a performer. The name of a substitute performer might need to be inserted, or, less frequently, even the play itself might have to be changed, requiring additional new information about the cast. Bills already printed before the change was made might be used anyway since paper was expensive and time was in short supply. Hence the presence of variant information in playbills that on first inspection might be perceived as identical. Playbills with different press figures indicate that they were printed from different formes, usually with very minor variants.
The printing of playbills could occur much earlier than the day of performance, however, in the case of benefit bills. The actor or actress (or other theatre functionary) whose benefit it was took care to enlist willing colleagues well in advance to perform on his or her behalf, and took care also to have bills printed up before hand, sometimes as early as ten or twelve days before the event, for circulation among potential playgoers in order to secure a large house and thereby maximize the proceeds of the benefit.
A fine example of advance bill printing occurs in the case of two bills in the Craven Collection of playbills (No. 242037). On a single broadside, two Drury Lane bills appear, one for "This present Thursday, the 2d of March, 1769" and another dated "On Tuesday, the 14th of March, 1769," the latter a benefit bill for King and evidently printed twelve days in advance.
Benefit bills were tailored especially to the needs of the beneficiary; and in any case, despite the best intentions of all, by the actual date of performance the information might well have changed. As a result, a benefit bill (less authoritative by reason of its clear precedence) is often at variance with a bill for the same performance printed on the day.
Consequently, variance among bills for a given performance may be small-scale or large-scale. Two bills as yet uncompared may be designated mutually as presumptive duplicates; but the only way to determine if bills are actually duplicates or variants is to make a close visual comparison of all available bills-a time-consuming business even in a well-catalogued archive (and a much more difficult task where the two or more presumed duplicates reside in different collections).
Conclusion. The term duplicate must therefore be used with caution and should be considered to have merely presumptive status until a definitive comparison with other available ostensible duplicates can be made. The term variant must also be used systematically and carefully. The identification of one bill, whether issued on the date of performance or before, as the most authoritative one and any other or others as less authoritative and therefore "variant" remains arbitrary until proven to be so.
For the purposes of this Finding Guide, in cases where two or more presumptively duplicate bills exist for a given performance, an indication of "duplicate" is entered. Where two or more such bills have been collated and found to be at variance, each bill is labelled as a "variant." Caveat: users should note that collation has not been done in all cases and, consequently, that bills identified as duplicates may in fact prove on inspection to be variants.
Dating and Authentication
Establishing the authenticity of a bill can be an exacting task. The vast majority of playbills for the period are easily recognized as genuine, though some are facsimiles, and only a very few have proved to be spurious. Three such bills occur among the Garrick bills in the Folger collection. In 1776, the year of his retirement from the theatre, Garrick closed out his last Drury Lane season with performances of a number of his most popular roles, including Ranger in Benjamin Hoadly's comedy The Suspicious Husband, King Richard the Third (in the Cibber redaction of the Shakespeare play by that title), and Don Felix in Susannah Centlivre's The Wonder. The Folger collection has anywhere from three to six bills for a given performance of these three plays.
Five bills for The Suspicious Husband for 23 May 1776 are archived together in BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76, and another may be found in W.b.474, p. 453. Five of these six seem unexceptionable, but one (BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76 No. 2, copy 5) has previously been identified as a forgery. The suspect bill for The Suspicious Husband appears to be typographically indistinguishable from its counterparts, right down to such details as a turned "s" and the broken descender of a "g". Visual comparison of this bill with another, evidently genuine bill (BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76 No. 2, copy 1) using the Hinman Collator demonstrates that copy 1 and copy 5 are typographically identical. Indeed, the correspondence is almost uncannily close, given the fact that other, evidently genuine bills for the same performance bear subtle variations in register and lineation attributable to the slight movement of type or the stretching of paper under pressure in the press as bill after bill is printed. Setting typographical identity aside for the moment, it is clear that copy 5 is printed on paper different from that used for all other copies of the bill. The paper of copy 5 is heavier and somewhat larger in size than the paper used for these (and hundreds of other) playbills; and it bears prominent chain lines and a watermark that distinguish it further. On the other hand, the pressure of the press produces a reverse impression on the back side of a bill as it is printed, significant enough to be felt. The same reverse impression is discoverable on the back of the suspect bill.
Those who have examined the suspect bill in the past, notably Professor George Winchester Stone, Jr., have concluded that the bill is a forgery. Professor Stone annotated the bill as follows: "confirmed in loose bills" and appended his initials ("gws"). On the reverse of the bill another person, presumably a member of the Folger staff, wrote: "Forged bill from large Garrick portfolio - 236 cs 1253." However, no notes seem to exist recording the reasons for making this judgment. The answer to the question of how and why the forgery was "confirmed" remains uncertain. A fresh consideration of the question on this date by two current Folger staff members, Erin Blake and Kim Tully, suggests that the bill may well be a forgery but that additional proof is required to confirm the fact. What may be concluded from the evident fact of typographical identity but different paper--if the paper is indeed not genuine, that is, not paper that could have originated in the shop of the customary printer of Drury Lane playbills? The paper could indeed be eighteenth-century paper, available to the printer of theatre bills; alternatively, it could be of later manufacture. Research would be required into watermarks and other physical evidence (the chemical makeup, notably the acidity, of the paper, for example, and the genuineness of the chain lines and watermark) in order to establish its provenance. Common sense suggests how doubtful it is that the original printer of bills for Drury Lane Theatre at this time would have paused long enough, in the rush of preparing hundreds of bills for an imminent performance, to print a seemingly special copy from the same type on other than ordinary paper. But if someone else outside the print shop printed it, either at the same time or later, the only way to account for the observed typographical identity is to posit the photographic copying of an authentic existing bill and the subsequent creation of a stereotype that could then be used to forge one or more copies of the original bill.
Such a process of deception is well within the realm of possibility. Adding to the likelihood of forgery here is that the bill contains very "high profile" information, documenting one of Garrick's last performances in a role he made famous and therefore adding to its value for collectors. All the same, pending confirmation of the nature of the paper (or discovery of further notes on the question), we should probably conclude that the bill is a "presumed," but not quite a "confirmed," forgery.
On 27 May 1776, Garrick presented the character for which he first became famous, King Richard the Third. Four bills for this performance survive in Folger collections: three in BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76 and a presumed variant bill for this date in Scrapbook [from Wright sale], Richard III, item 2. One of these bills has also been identified as a forgery. Still a third set of bills, three in number, for Garrick as Don Felix in Susannah Centlivre's The Wonder on 10 June (BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76) include a bill identified as a forgery. The same conclusion should be drawn in the case of the forged bills for Richard the Third (BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76 No. 3, copy 3) and The Wonder (BILL Box G2 D84 1775-76 No. 6, copy 4). These bills also have been annotated by Stone: "original in loose bills gws", and a Folger staff member has written on the reverse: "Forged bill from large Garrick portfolio - 236 cs 1253." Although these latter two bills have not been checked on the Hinman Collator against other, genuine bills for their date, the paper on which they are printed is different. In fact, the paper in all three instances of presumed forgery is a close if not exact match-adding to the likelihood of forgery in these three instances.
One might further observe that the very fact (putative or certain) of existence of forged bills for performances by a famous actor suggests what great cultural significance this actor had in his own time and continues to have for subsequent generations.
Whereas the authenticity of a bill is seldom in doubt, the dating of a playbill can sometimes prove a troublesome task. Playbills in the Garrick period regularly provide the day, the date, and the month of performance (for example, "This present Monday, May 21st"), but not always the year. A perpetual calendar must therefore be consulted to determine the year date, and several choices almost always occur. Information extrinsic to the bill (advertisements and notices in newspapers, prompters' diaries, letters, contemporary accounts, and other identifying or corroborating sources) must therefore be consulted to determine the full date in question.
Fortunately, the preparation of the current Finding Guide postdates the compilation of the five-part calendar of theatre performances for the period, The London Stage 1660-1800. In preparing Part 4 of the calendar, George Winchester Stone, Jr. made an extensive search of Folger bills and found a great number that either lacked a year date or bore a date entered by an unknown hand that required verification. Stone went to considerable effort to date these bills, often finding that a date entered after the fact was mistaken. In every case where verification was required and accomplished, Stone left his initials ("gws") in pencil in the margin of the bill opposite the date. No instance has been found in which Stone was in error (a tribute to his skill and persistence). In every instance where Stone has verified or corrected a date, his initials are included in the Finding Guide entry. In a much smaller number of instances where a bill was not seen and verified by Stone, The London Stage has been used in combination with a perpetual calendar to verify the correct date of a bill lacking a year date. In such instances, the initials of the principal scholar involved in the preparation of this Finding Guide ("jd") have been added. The interested user may of course consult the London Stage entry for any performance date represented by a Folger bill.
Another important factor affects the dating and authentication of a bill. Because the Julian calendar gave way to the Gregorian calendar during the Garrick period, dating a bill by means of a perpetual calendar must be done with this change in mind. The Gregorian calendar began in 1752: 2 September 1752 was followed by 14 September 1752, resulting in a gap of twelve days. Thus, to find the actual day-date for the period before the change, 12 days must be subtracted from the Gregorian date. It is of course much easier simply to use a perpetual calendar that incorporates this change from Julian to Gregorian. Wherever the day or the year has been supplied editorially in the present Guide for entries falling in the pre-Gregorian period, the pre-Gregorian day-date has been ascertained and entered.
Still another aspect of authentication is found in the troublesomely contradictory nature of variant bills for a given date-very often for a benefit performance. It was sometimes the case that a cast list sent to the printer on the day before or on the morning of performance would have to be altered owing to the sudden indisposition of a performer. In most cases only a role-actor pairing would have to be changed, but sometimes an entirely new piece had to be substituted. The evidence is quite inconclusive as to whether bills already printed before the change was made went into circulation anyway or not. (If the eighteenth-century printing house was anything like the Elizabethan printing house, uncorrected sheets might well find their way to the reading public along with those more up to date.)
The London Stage 1660-1800 calendar does not provide a census of bills, whether variant bills or not; it simply presents what in the view of the editor comprises the most authoritative information. In the case of benefit bills the information available may be less reliable. Although playbills were normally printed on the day of performance (it being too uncertain a venture to print them before then, and in any case these decisions were typically made at the last minute), benefit bills were regularly printed in advance, as we have seen, in order to allow the beneficiary or beneficiaries to circulate them and thus drum up ticket sales. Whether a benefit bill or not, the verbal formula used in stating the date makes the distinction clear: "This present Friday [or other day] . . ." indicates a bill printed on the day of performance; "On Friday [followed by a date] . . ." or "On Friday [or other day] next" signals an advance bill. This is a basic distinction reflecting playhouse and hence printer's practice. It would, of course, be unacceptably consumptive of space and time to try to provide information of this kind in the Finding Guide. It is significant, in this context, that The London Stage 1660-1800 does not discriminate between advance and date-of-performance bills. All the same, a bill printed on the day of performance has at least potentially more authority than one printed before the fact.
In a telling example, Miss Dawson's benefit at Drury Lane on Thursday, 16 April 1761, was originally intended to include a performance of As You Like It, but a notice printed at the bottom of a surviving benefit bill, and also at the bottom of a bill printed on the day of performance, indicates a sudden change (the suddenness emphasized by some syntactical confusion): "At the indisposition of a Principal Performer has obliged Miss DAWSON to change her Play, Tickets deliver'd for As You Like It, will be taken." We may deduce from this evidence that benefit bills, as well as tickets, for As You Like It were printed well in advance; such bills, once superseded by later ones, would lose their authority and, if consulted without comparison with other bills for the date, would prove misleading. In the present case of Miss Dawson's benefit, The London Stage 1660-1800 is up to the challenge, giving the information on the changed, day-of-performance bill and printing the statement explaining the change.
In another instance, however, the challenge produces confusion. Two advance bills for the performance at Drury Lane on Friday, 17 April 1761 ("On Friday next" and "On FRIDAY" respectively) give two different performers of the role of Anne Lovely in A Bold Stroke for a Wife: Miss Haughton (given also in The London Stage 1660-1800) and Mrs. Clive. Other information, preferably a bill printed on the day of performance and corroborated by a notice in the newspaper, an entry in the prompter Hopkins's diary, or some other information would need to be found in order to determine which actress actually ended up playing the role.
- Guide to the Playbills Relating to the Theatrical Career of David Garrick, 1741-1776
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