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Lawyers are petitioning the Garrick Club for female membership for the first time in its 189-year history


The Garrick Club is one of the oldest men's clubs in the world. Past members include Charles Dickens, HG Wells, JM Barrie, AA Milne, Kingsley Amis, Charles Charles Kean, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and Laurence Olivier

The club was named in honor of actor David Garrick (pictured), whose acting and management at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane, represented a golden age of British drama in the past century in the 1830s

The club was named in honor of actor David Garrick (pictured), whose acting and management at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane, represented a golden age of British drama in the past century in the 1830s

The Garrick Club is one of the oldest men's clubs in the world.

Past members include Charles Dickens, HG Wells, JM Barrie, AA Milne, Kingsley Amis, Charles Charles Kean, Henry Irving, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Arthur Sullivan, and Laurence Olivier.

The club was formed at a meeting in the Theater Royal's committee room on Drury Lane. Present were the strollers James Winston, the playwright Samuel James Arnold, the hero of the Napoleonic Wars general Sir Andrew Barnard, and the timber merchant Francis Mills. It was decided to write down a number of names to invite them as original members of the Garrick Club.

The club's stated purpose was "to take care of the regeneration of the drama". It should be a place where "actors and men of refinement could meet on equal terms," ​​at a time when actors were generally not viewed as respected members of society.

The club's stated purpose was "to take care of the regeneration of the drama". It should be a place where “actors and men of refinement could meet on equal terms,” at a time when actors were generally not viewed as respected members of society

The club's stated purpose was "to take care of the regeneration of the drama". It should be a place where “actors and men of refinement could meet on equal terms,” at a time when actors were generally not viewed as respected members of society

The club is named in honor of actor David Garrick, whose acting and management at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane, represented a golden age of British drama in the 1830s.

Less than six months later the members had been recruited and a clubhouse on King Street, Covent Garden had been found and furnished. In 1832, it was reported that the writer and journalist Thomas Gaspey was the first member to enter at 11am and that "Mr. Beazley gave the first order (a mutton chop) at ½ past 12".

The list of those who took up the original membership runs like a Who's Who of the Green Room for 1832: actors including John Braham, Charles Kemble, William Macready, Charles Mathews, and his son Charles James; the playwrights James Planché, Theodore Hook and Thomas Talfourd; Scene painters such as Clarkson Frederick Stanfield and Thomas Grieve.

Even the patron saint, the Duke of Sussex, had an element of theater to him as he was a noted mesmerist. There are also numerous barons, counts, dukes, counts and lords, soldiers, parliamentarians and judges.

Edmund Yates, a friend of Dickens', posted abusive remarks about William Makepeace Thackeray that could only be heard at the club. Yates was angrily championed by Dickens, and the discontent between him and Thackeray continued until shortly before his death.

The club's popularity in the early 1860s resulted in an overcrowding of the original clubhouse. The slum clearance just around the corner provided an opportunity to move into a brand new purpose built house on Garrick Street. The move was completed in 1864 and the club is now in this building.

All new candidates must be proposed by an existing member in a secret ballot before the election. The committee's original assurance was, "It would be better to expel ten unobjectionable men than to allow a terrible boredom." This club's exclusivity was highlighted when reporter Jeremy Paxman applied to join but was initially blacked out, though he was later admitted, an experience he shares with Henry Irving, who despite being the first actor to do so received a knighthood, was even blackened in 1873.

As of 2016, the club has around 1,400 members (with a seven-year waiting list), including many actors and writers in the UK. New candidates must be proposed by an existing member in a secret ballot before the election

As of 2016, the club has around 1,400 members (with a seven-year waiting list), including many actors and writers in the UK. New candidates must be proposed by an existing member in a secret ballot before the election

The club's stated purpose was "to take care of the regeneration of the drama". It should be a place where “actors and men of refinement could meet on equal terms,” at a time when actors were generally not viewed as respected members of society

The club's stated purpose was "to take care of the regeneration of the drama". It should be a place where “actors and men of refinement could meet on equal terms,” at a time when actors were generally not viewed as respected members of society

The club remains "male only" – limited to male members – although female guests are welcome as visitors to most parts of the club.

Several previous attempts to open the club to female members failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority, although the most recent poll in mid-2015 achieved a majority of 50.5 percent.

Baroness Hale, as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, protested against the club's continued exclusion of women and its members' approval of this policy.

She said, "I think it's pretty shocking that so many of my colleagues are Garrick, but they fail to see what all the fuss is about and argue that judges should be committed to the principle of equality for all." & # 39;

In response to the recent vote, Dinah Rose QC, a senior lawyer specializing in human rights and public law, urged leading lawyers, including members of the Supreme Court, to reconsider their membership in the club.

The club has a remarkable collection of works of art depicting the history of British theater. There are over 1,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures, a selection of theater memorabilia, and thousands of prints and photographs.

The collection was created with actor Charles Mathews; They were once exhibited by him in a gallery in his home, Ivy Cottage, in Highgate, north London. Mathews managed to secure a large number of pictures from the collection of Thomas Harris, who had been manager of the Theater Royal in Covent Garden and which included paintings by Johann Zoffany, Francis Hayman and Gainsborough Dupont. He also actively commissioned artists such as Samuel De Wilde to paint all the popular stars of the stage at the time (the collection contains 196 works by De Wilde).

In 1956, the rights to AA Milnes Pooh books were given to four beneficiaries: his family, the Royal Literary Fund, Westminster School and the Garrick Club

In 1956, the rights to AA Milnes Pooh books were given to four beneficiaries: his family, the Royal Literary Fund, Westminster School and the Garrick Club

Mathews had hoped to sell the collection to the club and it appears that lengthy negotiations have begun with no result. It was eventually bought by a wealthy stockbroker and donated to the club that had been on the walls for several years.

The collection continued to grow, and many were featured by artists such as Clarkson Frederick Stanfield and David Roberts, who, along with their scene painter Louis Haghe, painted a number of large canvases specially for the smoking room in the old clubhouse. Roberts & # 39; Temple in Baalbec is one of the most important paintings by this artist to this day. Sir John Everett Millais is represented by one of his most important portraits, that of Henry Irving, which he painted in 1884 and introduced to the club.

The picture collection was further expanded in the course of the 20th century with artists such as Edward Seago and Feliks Topolski.

In 1956, the rights to AA Milnes Pooh books were given to four beneficiaries: his family, the Royal Literary Fund, Westminster School and the Garrick Club.

As of 2016, the club has around 1,400 members (with a seven-year waiting list), including many actors and writers in the UK. New candidates must be proposed by an existing member in a secret ballot before the election.

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