Garrick, David, 1717–79, English actor, manager, and dramatist. He was indisputably the greatest English actor of the 18th cent., and his friendships with Diderot, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and other notables who made up “The Club” resulted in detailed records of his life. Garrick made his formal debut in 1742 as Richard III and was an immediate success. He was noted for his versatility, playing the tragic heroes of contemporary drama as well as Shakespearean roles. His King Lear was especially praised. Although he was short in stature and had a mercurial nature, his straightforward diction and unpretentious demeanor swept the declamatory school from the stage. From 1747 until his retirement in 1776, he was the manager of Drury Lane, where he initiated many reforms, including the concealment of stage lighting (1765) from the audience. He also wrote many plays himself, the most successful being the farces Bon Ton (1775) and Miss in Her Teens (1747); he collaborated with George Colman the elder in writing The Clandestine Marriage (1766).
See his diary, ed. by R. C. Alexander (1928, repr. 1971); his letters, ed. by D. M. Little and G. M. Kahrl (3 vol., 1963); biographies by C. M. A. Lenanton (1958), K. A. Burnim (1961, repr. 1973), F. A. Hedgcock (1912, repr. 1969), G. W. Stone, Jr. and G. M. Kahrl (1979), and A. Kendall (1986); studies by E. P. Stein (1938, repr. 1967), F. M. Parsons (2d ed. 1969), and C. Price (1973).