Sunday, June 7, 2015

1756 Garden Folly - Actor David Garrick's (1717-1779) Temple to Shakespeare

Johann Joseph Zoffany (German-born artist, 1733-1810) David Garrick & his Wife by his Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton

Actor David Garrick's (1717-1779) Temple to Shakespeare is a garden folly erected in 1756, on the north bank of the River Thames at Hampton, London. It was built by Garrick to honor playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), whose plays Garrick performed to acclaim throughout his career. During his lifetime Garrick used it to house his extensive collection of Shakespearean memorabilia to entertain his family & guests.

View of the Seat of the late David Garrick Esqr. at Hampton, with the Temple of Shakespeare in the Garden from The Modern Universal British Traveller; or A New Complete, and Accurate Tour through England, Wales, Scotland, and the Neighbouring Islands. [London: J. Cooke] 1779. 

Garrick built the temple on land adjoining a villa, which he had bought in October 1754, to serve as his country retreat. The villa's riverside garden was separated from the main property by a road, so Garrick commissioned an elaborate grotto-tunnel under the road, illuminated by 500 lanterns, to allow him & his guests private access to the lawn from the house.

On 4 August 1755, his writer neighbor Horace Walpole (original name Horatio Walpole (1717-1797),  wrote to a friend: "I have contracted a sort of intimacy with Garrick, who is my neighbour...He is building a graceful temple to Shakespeare: I offered him this motto: Quod spiro et placeo, si placeo tuum est."  A year later, Walpole wrote in another letter: "He has built a temple to his master Shakespear [sic], and I am going to adorn the outside, since his modesty would not let me decorate it within."  Walpole donated a grove of Italian cypresses to plant in the garden.

Hampton House in Middlesex, the Seat of Mr Garrick after Metz, (1783) by John Walker, Exhibited Royal Academy 1796-1800.

The temple was widely admired in its time; & its idyllic prospect so moved Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), that he gushed to Garrick: "Ah, David, it is the leaving of such places that makes a deathbed so terrible."

One of Garrick's guests, the letter-writer Mary Granville Delany (1700-1788), described the scene at one such entertainment in a letter of 1770: "We had an excellent dinner nicely served, and then went over directly into the garden – a piece of irregular ground sloping down to the Thames, very well laid out, and planted for shade and shelter; and an opening to the river which appears beautiful from that spot, and from Shakespeare's Temple at the end of the Improvement, where we drank tea, and where there is a very fine statue of Shakespeare in white marble, and a great chair with a large carved frame, that was Shakespeare's own chair, made for him on some particular occasion, with a medallion fixed in the back. Many were the relics we saw of the favourite poet."

Daylesford View of the Seat of the late David Garrick Esqr. at Hampton

In August 1774, the temple & gardens were the centrerpiece of Garrick's elaborate silver jubilee celebrations to celebrate 25 years of marriage. The London Chronicle reported: "Last night Mr Garrick gave a splendid entertainment or Fete Champetre at his gardens at Hampton. Signior Torre conducted a most brilliant fire-work; an elegant concert of music was performed; and the company, which consisted of a great number of Nobility and Gentry, expressed the utmost satisfaction on the occasion. The temple of Shakespeare, and gardens, were illuminated with 6000 lamps, and the forge of Vulcan made a splendid appearance."

 Engraved print from Beauties of England & Wales by John John Britton (1771-1857) and E. W. Brayley.

Garrick also opened the temple & garden to the public for special occasions. Each May Day, seated on the chair accompanied by his wife, he would give the poor children of Hampton money & cakes. A woman who attended one such May Day event later recalled: "When I was called up, I took my six [children] into the Temple, where Mr Garrick was sitting by the fine bust with great cakes before him; he took down all their names, and then gave a shilling and a piece of plum-cake to every individual one; not even leaving out poor babes in their mothers' arms."

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