David & Eva Garrick

On the west wall of Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey is a white and grey marble monument to the famous actor David Garrick. It consists of a standing figure of the actor who holds aside curtains, as if taking a bow after a performance, and on either side are seated the figures of Tragedy and Comedy. Above Garrick's head is a medallion portrait inscribed 'Shakspeare'. The sculptor was Henry Webber and the inscription, written by actor Samuel Jackson Pratt, reads:

To the memory of David Garrick, who died in the year 1779, at the age of 63. To paint fair Nature, by divine command, her magic pencil in his glowing hand, a Shakspeare rose, then to expand his fame wide o'er this "breathing world", a Garrick came. Though sunk in death the forms the poet drew, the actor's genius bade them breathe anew; though, like the Bard himself, in night they lay, immortal Garrick call'd them back to day: and till eternity with power sublime, shall mark the mortal hour of hoary time, Shakspeare & Garrick like twin stars shall shine, and earth irradiate with a beam divine. S.J.Pratt. This monument, the tribute of a friend, was erected in 1797.

The spelling of Shakespeare is in its 18th century form. The friend who erected the monument was Albany Charles Wallis (who is buried in the east cloister) and the fee for its erection had been paid in 1794 by Edmund Burke. Garrick was buried in a lead coffin in a new brick grave, arched over, in front of Shakespeare's statue. The inscription in brass letters on the gravestone reads:

DAVID GARRICK BORN 20th FEBRUARY 1716 DIED 20th JANUARY 1779. EVA MARIA GARRICK BORN 29th FEBRUARY 1724 DIED 16th OCTOBER 1822.

The date for his birth is given in Old-Style dating (now reckoned as 1717). Samuel Johnson is buried next to Garrick, with the graves of Sir Henry Irving and Laurence Olivier just to the south.

Garrick was born in Hereford, one of several children of Peter Garrick (d.1737) and his wife Arabella (Clough). His grandfather, David de la Garrique, was a Huguenot refugee who fled from France. Peter and his family lived in Lichfield and David was educated partly at Samuel Johnson's school there. Johnson and Garrick left for London in 1737 to seek their fortunes. David wrote his first play in 1740 and his London debut was in Richard III the following year. He had immense success in both comic and tragic roles, producing many of Shakespeare's dramas at Drury Lane theatre where he was actor-manager. On 22nd June 1749 he married Eva Maria Veigel. She was born in Vienna and came to London as a dancer with the Italian Opera. They had no children.

Garrick retired from the stage and survived for only a few more years. His funeral was a lavish affair and the procession of nearly fifty coaches made its way from his house on Adelphi Terrace to the Abbey with crowds lining the streets. The coffin was covered with crimson velvet and silver nails and was met by the Dean and the choir at the west door at about 3pm on 1st February. It was conducted to the grave with the choir singing Purcell's setting of the funeral service. The pall supporters were the Duke of Devonshire, Earl Spencer, Viscount Palmerston, Sir W.Wynne, Albany Wallis, Lord Camden, the Earl of Ossory, Rt.Hon. Mr Rigby, Hon.Mr Stanley and J. Patterson. Two nephews, Nathan Garrick and Mr Carrington, were the only family present.  Dr Johnson, Edmund Burke and many representatives of London theatres and Society also attended.

Eva survived him for many years and died aged 99 and was buried with him.

Further reading for David and Eva

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 for David Garrick and Eva Garrick.

David Garrick. A critical biography, by George W. Stone and George Kahrl, (USA 1979)

The extensive undertaker's bill for the funeral procession etc. is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust archive www.shakespeare.org.uk 

Garrick Club

David Garrick The Life & Career of an English Actor

Occupation

Actor

Location

South Transept; Poets' Corner

Memorial Type

Statue

Material Type

Marble

David & Eva Garrick
David Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough

© National Portrait Gallery, London [Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]

David & Eva Garrick
Mrs Eva Garrick

Langely Collection

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

David & Eva Garrick
David Garrick memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster