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."
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."