WHEN DAVID GARRICK returned to London from his second visit to the Continent ( 1763-65) in the spring of 1765, he found himself engaged in a struggle for his health, for his rights as manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, and for his reputation as an actor and champion of the works of William Shakespeare. He was also no little disturbed by the fact that John Beard and Mrs. Rich, joint patentees of the rival theatre, Covent Garden, had established in his absence and without consulting him a theatrical fund for the relief of sick, indigent, and aged actors. He was, he thought, weary of management, cautious about resuming his career as England's foremost actor, and increasingly fond of the easier life of a gentleman in his country house at Hampton. Despite his poor health, a command performance brought him back to the stage as Benedict in Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing on 14 November 1765. When he discovered his reception to be quite extraordinary, Garrick determined to continue functioning as actor-manager, thus taking his career into perhaps its greatest years.
It is significant, we think, that the first collection of Garrick's plays was published soon after this period of indecision. Under the general title The Dramatic Works of David Garrick, sixteen plays and alterations of plays were published by an unknown printer in three duodecimo volumes. Volume 1 contained The Lying Valet, Miss in Her Teens, Lethe, The Guardian, The Male-Coquette, and Lilliput. Volume 2 included some of his alterations and adaptations--Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline, Catharine and Petruchio, Florizel and Perdita, and Every Man in His Humour. Volume 3 consisted of The Gamesters, Isabella, The Enchanter, The Farmer's Return from London, and The Clandestine Marriage.
Five years later, R. Bald, T. Blaw, and J. Kurt brought out The Dramatic Works of David Garrick in two volumes, duodecimo, 1774. This edition contained the same sixteen plays as the 1768 publication,