Among the many treasures from the Theatre Collection of the University of Adelaide Library is the 18th century wedding apron of Mrs Eva Maria Garrick, the wife of the famous 18th century actor David Garrick.
Eva-Maria Garrick was born in Austria, and came to England on a Dutch packet ship, disguising herself as a boy for the crossing. Using the stage name of or Mlle Violette, she achieved immediate success as a dancer at the Opera House in the Haymarket.
In 1749 ‘the finest and most admired dancer in the world’, according to Horace Walpole, gave up her career to marry David Garrick and devoted herself to him until his death, enjoying, by all accounts, a perfectly happy marriage.
The wedding apron is of embroidered cream coloured silk edged with guipure lace. A ms label on the verso reads: “Mrs Garrick’s (La S. Violette) wedding apron. Given to my wife by her Godmother Mrs J.G. Payne (nee Kitty Garrick). Kitty (Catherine) Garrick was David Garrick’s niece.”
It conforms with the descriptions in Carola Oman’s biography of David Garrick (p. 123) and Mrs Clement Parson’s ‘Garrick and his Circle’ (p. 143). Her biographers recount that Eva-Maria loved to recall her wedding day and had preserved a piece of her wedding dress, ‘a cream coloured silk apron edged with guipure’.
The wedding apron was bequeathed to the University of Adelaide Library in 1976, along with books, programmes, manuscript items and other realia, by Miss Angel Symon to form the Allen Wilkie – Frediswyde Hunter-Watts Theatre Collection.
Angel Symon was one of five daughters of Sir Josiah Symon, lawyer and politician, who helped to write the Australian Constitution. Josiah Symon was a great aficionado of Shakespeare and was a supporter of the actor-manager Allen Wilkie. Angel also had a great love of Shakespeare and the theatre and spent much time in England and Europe attending performances.
Angel actively collected material in her travels and purchased material from catalogues and auctions. She was friendly with many people in the British Society of Theatre Research, including Ifan Kyle Fletcher, who I am sure assisted Angel with acquisitions. A listing of Angel’s papers is available on our website. In addition there are numerous separate listings of the illuminated addresses presented to Barry Sullivan, Irene Vanbrugh and Dion Boucicault, the prompt books of Mrs Patrick Campbell, among others.