Book jacket drawn by fellow member and actor, Clive Francis
The Exterior of the Garrick Club, Frank Marrable 1863, presented to the Garrick Club in 1886 by Mr Grisbrook.
Geoffrey Wansell's second history of the Garrick Club, published in November 2013, updated and expanded his first history in 2004. At more than 300 pages in length it details far more completely the story of the Club from its foundation in 1831, and the contribution of it's members in making it a truly memorable place.
Views of the Entrance to the Garrick Club, the Grand Staircase with Garrick's Chair on the first landing, the Reading Room and the Morning Room with Bill Packer.
Geoffrey Wansell describes the founders of the Garrick Club in 1831, as 'a marvellously assorted group of writers, actors, lawyers and landowners, convinced that there should be somewhere in London for actors to meet their friends.' Named in memory of the inimitable David Garrick, who had died more than half a century earlier, the Club was to be a place where 'actors and men of education and refinement might meet on equal terms ... Easy intercourse was to be promoted between artists and patrons ... Patrons of drama and its professors, and a rendezvous offered to literary men.' The character of the Club was to be social, and therefore the committee 'were compelled to exercise vigilant care, for it was clear that it would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than one terrible bore should be admitted.' So it has remained ever since.
Here below are just a few of the present Garrick Members.
Whatever the reason, no one could deny the Club's popularity and, from its early days in what had been Probatts Family Hotel in King Street, Covent Garden, the Club moved nearby in 1864 to its present more spacious premises designed by Frederick Merrable in the 'Italian style', has welcomed members of every kind. Dickens and Thackery were members, though hardly friends. Trollope and Galsworthy, Henry Irving and Squire Bancroft, A.A. Milne, Pinero and Somerset Maugham, Munnings, Lutyens and Millais were also members from past generations, as well as Olivier, Gielgud, Attenborough, Sinden, Rattigan, Osborne and Amis from more recent ones.
The Club's unique collection of theatrical memorabilia adorn the building, but its history is primarily about the members and staff who have made, and continue to make, the Garrick such a memorable institution. What is it about the atmosphere and tradition that flourish to this day? The late Sir Donald Wolfit once said it was a place 'where magic lies' and late Sir Donald Sinden added 'where everyone is your friend'.
Here is a quote from Stanley Owen Buckmaster, the first Viscount, and Herbert Henry Asquith’s Liberal Lord Chancellor. He put it so perfectly at the dinner to mark the Club’s centenary in 1931: ‘Old and young, wise and foolish, can all meet together on terms of common equality. Men are measured here not judged on achievement, or rank, or wealth, or fame, or power; they are judged on merits of gaiety and companionship; and upon that platform old and young can join hands’. The spirit of the Garrick Club has never been more eloquently explained and Buckmaster's description remains as true today as it did almost a century ago!
Please note that all the photographs of the Garrick Club on this page were taken by Geoffrey's fellow member and dear friend, John Rawnsley.
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