Lethe was Garrick’s first play, written for Henry Giffard’s benefit night at Drury Lane, April 15, 1740, and its success encouraged the young author to continue writing for the stage. In it, characters are ferried across the river Styx to Elysium, where Aesop decides whether or not they may drink from the waters of Lethe to forget their troubles. A sequence of satirical portraits makes up the farce, with fools and fops coming forward for comic turns.
Brief as it is, the jeu d’esprit gave the leading actors of the day opportunities to shine. This early printing of Lethe, from before Chalkstone was created, shows Garrick in the roles of Poet, Frenchman, and Drunken Man. The character of Chalkstone was added in 1756, sixteen years after the first performance of Lethe.
Jump directly to Comic Characters in the online exhibition for more on Garrick's portrayal of Lord Chalkstone.