On Drury Lane Theatre’s opening day of September 15, 1763, Garrick set out with Eva Maria for the Continent on a trip that was to last until the spring of 1765. Drury Lane Theatre was left in the hands of his partner James Lacy, his brother George Garrick, and his friend and theatrical collaborator George Colman the elder. Mr. and Mrs. Garrick both suffered chronic illnesses while abroad, but the trip was a great success. The Garricks were welcomed on their travels with enthusiasm by literary, theatrical, and high society.
In this caricature "par un ami intime de Mr. G," Garrick is assaulted by representatives of Paris theaters and the press in response to his 1765 visit. Note the boy’s abandoned coat with papers inscribed ‘J.J. Rousseau’ and ‘Voltaire.’ There was a lively debate in France over the merits of Shakespeare, and in England over these opinions of the French. In a 1772 conversation with Richard Neville (1717–1793) Voltaire is quoted as saying: “I am vilified in London as an enemy of Shakespeare; it is true that I am shocked and discouraged by his absurdities, but I am no less struck by his beauties…”
Garrick’s health was always fragile, and in 1764 he was sick enough — being laid up for five weeks — to have cancelled a planned visit with Voltaire who had prepared a theater ready to receive him. He found the strength, however, to rework his own epitaph with multiple crossings-out and substitutions. Revisions to the last two lines include the crossed-out line
Fitzp — k was my foe,
referring to actor Thaddeus Fitzpatrick who organized "half-price riots" at Drury Lane and Covent Garden just before the Garricks’ departure in 1763 over attempts to abolish the practice of charging half-price entrance after the third act. Jump to The Audience and The Stage for more on these riots.
In July of 1763 the Comédie Française provided Garrick with this “freedom of the theatre” naming him ”le Premièr Des comédièns De londre.” Arriving in Paris on September 19, 1763, Mr. and Mrs. Garrick the following day saw Mlle Marie-Françoise Dumesnil act on that stage in Pierre-Claude Nivelle de La Chaussée’s La Gouvernante. Garrick noted in his Journal both his pleasure at receiving “…the freedom of the house not excepting the King’s box when unengaged by the Royal family…” and his displeasure with Mlle Dumesil’s acting, “…she is made up of trick; looks too much upon ye ground & makes use of little startings and twitchings which are visibly artificial….”