Friday, 10 December 2010
27 Southampton Street WC2
The plaque is unusual on several counts. Firstly, its quality and cost (it is cast bronze). Secondly, unlike most plaques it is the work of a top-flight sculptor, Henry Fehr. And thirdly, it was paid for by the freeholder, the Duke of Bedford, who was not known for his generosity. He even got his personal architect, Charles Fitzroy Doll, to sketch out the design.
A bust of Garrick circled with a laurel wreath stands on a plinth with the inscription. On either side stand two Muses, helpfully labeled. Less helpfully for today's Londoners, the labels are in Greek, but one of the advantages of a scientific education is a working knowledge of the Greek alphabet so I was able after only a bit of head-scratching to identify them as Melpomene (left) and Thalia (right).
Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, holds her dagger in her right hand. She traditionally also carries a club but Fehr clearly thought that would be rather unladylike so she holds a slim, elegant mace with a crown hanging round it instead.
Thalia holds the mask of comedy and a shepherdess's crook. Both are sad and pensive