The Farmer's Return, an interlude written by Garrick himself for the benefit of Mrs Pritchard, was first produced at Drury Lane on 20 March 1762 with Garrick as the Farmer and Mrs Mary Bradshaw as the Farmer's wife. In the play the Farmer had been to see the coronation of King George III on 22 September 1761, and is relating to his incredulous family his supposed adventure with the Cock Lane Ghost, a nine days wonder of 1762, eventually exposed as a hoax. In it we see Garrick rapping the table as he exclaims '..for yes, she knocked once - and for no she knocked twice...'
The prime version of this work is in an English private collection, and was painted between the first performance of the play and the end of April 1762, when the Society of Artists exhibition opened, in which it was instrumental in establishing Zoffany's reputation. Sir Horace Walpole approved of the work, noting 'Good, like the actors, and the whole better than Hogarth's' (Whitley, I, p.180).
There are small but distinct differences between the two versions; for instance, in the present picture the little boy has raised his left arm in exclamation, where in the original it is by his side.