Зображення сторінки

THEODORE EDWARD HOOK. The brilliant meteor which, during its lastic power; and on the first night of brief but dazzling existence, outshines his entrance into Harrow School-whiall the other stars of heaven, and then ther he was soon after sent-he gave fades into impenetrable obscurity, is another illustration of his disposition, speedily forgotten when its transient by throwing a large piece of turf at the radiance has passed away. So is it window of a bed-room, in which a lady with the witty conversationalist—the was retiring to rest. There had been,, man of clever sayings—the unsalaried of course, not the slightest provocation ; jester, whose pleasant sallies have so and it would appear that no malicious often “set the table in a roar.” He is spirit influenced the deed. It was remembered while amusement is born merely done, at the suggestion of Lord with his smiles, while his lightest words Byron, then a mischievous inmate of are echoed in peals of laughter, and the School. Fortunately, a broken pane while even the mere rolling of his eye of glass was the only damage occasioned is a provocative of merriment; but by the act. Theodore Hook did not when sickness or age have lain their prove an attentive scholar, and obtained fingers upon his brow, or the tomb has no distinction by his studies. He conclosed upon him, he rarely occupies fesses that he had no application ; that even the humblest place in the memory tasks which could be done quickly he of his former admirers. Hook formed could do well : but that to devote himno exception to this rule. He was the self assiduously to any study, especially * comet of a season," praised, flattered, that of languages, he was quite unable. worshipped; but when he vanished, the What progress he might ultimately momentary inconvenience occasioned have made, what effect upon his nature by his loss was remedied by less gifted the stimulus of rivalry might have exbut equally amusing successors. In erted, it would be idle now to discuss. the mad whirlpool of fashion and plea- Unfortunately the death of his mother, sure he had been hurrying round year to whom he was deeply attached, preby year, drawing closer to the fatal maturely terminated his school life. He vortex, and when at last he was en- went home, his father found relief from gulfed beneath the tide, the waters sorrow in the lively conversation of his dashed on as rapidly and as laughingly young son, and would not hear of his as before.

return to Harrow. Theodore had no THEODORE EDWARD Hook was born desire to revisit that seat of learning. in London on the 22nd September, He preferred to remain with his father. 1788. His father was for many years Town talk was better than school musical director of Vauxhall Gardens, teaching. The last new song at Vauxand composed the music of upwards of hall was worth the whole Latin Dic2000 songs for operettas, vaudevilles, tionary, and we suspect he went little and other light dramatic pieces of that farther into that language than the day. An elder brother of Theodore was exempla minora. Accordingly Theodore destined for the church, took holy or- remained at home; but he was not alders, and became Dean of Worcester, together idle. Secretly, and no doubt but the embryo wit manifested decided with some little fear and trembling, he symptoms of unfitness to follow in the wrote two or three songs, composed the same course. At a very early age he music for them, and one day, to the displayed a talent for practical joking, astonishment and delight of his father, and scholastic rule, as may be supposed, produced these precocious evidences of was one of the first subjects against talent. That day decided Theodore which it was directed. From an aca Hook's fate. There could be no more demy in Soho Square, at which he had schooling after such a display of genius, been placed, he absented himself with- and, as author and composer, father and out permission for a fortnight. An ac- son now entered into partnership. But cident revealed this truant conduct of the young musical bard soon grew amthe boy, and parental hands soon pu-bitious; mere song-writing and songnished it. But to eradicate that, which singing-in both of which arts he had in Hook's case appears to have been become proficient-did not satisfy those inherent, was beyond parental or scho- yearnings for applause with which the

extravagant praises of indulgent friends tioneering contest for Westminster, the had filled his breast. His pen took a whole of the company were amazed by higher flight, and in 1805 his first dra- the power which I look displayed. She matic effort, “ The Soldier's Return," ridan was gratified beyond measure with (the music of which was composed by the young author, congratulated him his father,) was produced at Drury Lane upon the possession of such peculiar Theatre. This piece, flimsy enough in and brilliant talent, and afterwards itself, and no doubt borrowed without mentioned his name in terms of high acknowledgment from some French eulogy to many aristocratic friends. author-as almost every piece produced Thenceforth Hook became a “lion." at the present day is met with a high-He was invited to noble houses to disly favourable reception, and Theodore play his surprising genius--as profesTlook, at the age of sixteen, found him-sors of parlour legerdemain are intro self a successful dramatist. To all those duced into festive parties at Christmas mysterious fascinations generally sup-time—and delighted his high-born paposed to exist "behind the scenes," trons with an exhibition of wit and Hook was now admitted. The com-cleverness, which quite enchanted them panion of Liston, Terry, Mathews, and by its novelty. Even royalty became other popular actors, he kept the green anxious to hear the performances of room and the entire company of the Mr. Hook, and one evening, at a surtheatre in a constant state of merriment per in Manchester Square, the Prince by his sprightly manners, his witty of Wales attended for the express pursayings, and his practical jokes. While pose of gratifying his curiosity, gracepassing through this dangerous exist- fully acknowledged the pleasure which ence he did not forget to exercise those the improvisatore had afforded him, and talents which had thus early received left Hook in a perfect flutter of delight. the stamp of public recognition and In fact, it was not surprising, at such approval. In rapid succession he con- an early age, with a mind comparatively tributed several farces, vaudevilles and unstrengthened by education, and filled melodramus, to the Haymarket and with the most extravagant ideas of its Lyceum theatres. Of these pieces own powers, that he should become inscarcely one is now to be met with on toxicated with the incense of flattery the stage. “Tekeli,” a violent melo- and applause which had risen around drama, of the transpontine school, is him. He soon felt a distaste for his occasionally performed at some of the dramatic avocations, and looked upon minor theatres of the metropolis, and the stage with the most intense con“ Killing no Murder," Hook's best tempt. The glimpses he had seen of farce, now and then undergoes repro- fashionable life were sufficiently dazduction : but despite its real wit, the zling to render him discontented with coarse and meagre character of the a less glittering existence. He began plot renders the piece disagreeable to a to fancy himself fitted only for that modern audience. But Hook soon be- sphere in which he had gained so much gan to be known in another capacity distinction. He entered into all the besides that of a successful dramatic gaieties and amusements of the town, writer. As an extempore versifier and soon rendered himself famous by and composer, he had by turns asto- the originality and impudence of his nished and delighted a large circle of exploits. He formed a “ Museum of friends. He would sit down to the Practical Jokes," in which knockers, piano and pour forth verse after verse sign-boards, barbers' poles, gigantic of unpremeditated song, --some incident Highlanders, &c.—the glorious trophies that had occurred during the evening, of many a midnight deed--were dissome peculiarity in the name or appear played for the gaze of admiring friends. ance of the guests, interwoven with Hook, therefore, had the miserable disallusions to passing topics and well | tinction of founding, that cruel, thoughtgarnished with puns-generally form-less, and unmanly school of practical ing the material of these efforts of im- jokers, the greatest disciples of which provisation, which, although brilliant, were the Marquis of Waterford, and had in them no real merit. His fame certain medical students. . Foreign naspread rapidly. At a dinner given by tions looked with surprise at an Engthe actors of Drury Lane, to congratu- lish lord going about attended by a late Sheridan on the success of his elec- prize-fighter, who, at a sign by his lordship, seized an unconscious policeman wide, a laughing crowd gathered around and threw him over his head, the the spot, and it was late into the evenjoke (?) consisting probably in the ing before the commotion subsided. broken bones or perhaps total incapa- There was such an outburst of indignacitation of an inoffensive and useful tion at this occurrence, that Hook found man. During these attacks, thieves it prudent to withdraw into the country and burglars were left unwatched, and for a few weeks until the storm of pubno doubt thanked the friendly offices lic anger had blown over. of his lordship. Another of these play. He was now twenty-one years of age. ful sallies resulted in the death of a He had determined to write no more cabman, who had a whole bottle of for the stage, but he was too restless to strong rum given him to drink at a allow his pen to remain inactive. He draught, for the purpose of earning a wrote a novel, “The Man of Sorrow,” sovereign given by this noble (3) man. and published it under the pseudonym After his lordship's marriage, his fol- of Alfred Allendale, expecting no doubt lowers dwindled dowu to students, a repetition of that applause which his shopmen, and “gents," of which Mr. dramatic pieces had gained for him. Albert Smith is the historian, and one He was disappointed; the work, an feat of theirs, which Mr. Smith related ornate specimen of the Minerva Press in an early number of " Punch,” doubt- School of fiction, slumbered placidly lessly for the purpose of creating a upon the shelves of the publisher, and laugh, was to obtain a red lamp of a but for resuscitation in another form doctor, whose house was near a railway, some years afterwards, would have and by its aid to stop the advance of sunk into oblivion. With his expanded the mail train. Proh Pudor! Well prospects new ideas arose. The educamight the French term us farouches, tion begun at Harrow must be finished and represent on their stage, each lord at Oxford, and to Oxford Hook accordaccompanied by his boxeur, and well ingly went. The frame of mind in may future times, possibly reverting to which he entered upon his studies is the manners and customs of the nine- best illustrated by the reply which he teenth century, presume us to be but made upon being presented for matrihalf civilized. Hook gave rise to the culation. When asked by the Vice“ Tom and Jerry” school, or perhaps, Chancellor if he was prepared to submore correctly speaking, gave a strong scribe to the thirty-nine articles, “Oh, impulse to it, which lapsed into the yes," said the accommodating and unclass of young men just mentioned, venerating Theodore," forty if you but which is now, by the stringent please.” measures of the magistrates and the It needed all the eloquence of his ridicule of the satirists, nearly if not brother to prevent the wit'sexpulsion quite extinct. But the most daring of from the university after such a proof his jokes (?) was the celebrated Berners of orthodoxy. But the dull routine Street hoax, and the amount of time of college life, though enlivened by and positive labour bestowed upon its amusements permitted or forbidden, was arrangement were indeed worthy of a not likely to prove agreeable to one better cause. Six weeks were consumed who had tasted so largely the pleasures in preparations. Upwards of 4,000 of the metropolis. Theodore was soon letters were written, and on a certain tired with this second version of schoolday, tradesmen of every description, boy days, and after remaining at Oxford with every variety of their wares-visi- during two terms, only was again in tors of every rank, from the Lord Mayor London. to the Duke of York, from ladies of His singing and joke-making were title to servants in search of situations, not forgotten, but on the contrary, were presented themselves at the house of destined to receive tangible recompense. an unfortunate lady in Berners Street, Inquiries had been made concerning who had in some manner offended Mr. Hook, his position, his means, his Hook and two friends. The scene prospects. It was found that he was throughout the day was most exciting. without any fixed income, and no doubt, The street was completely blockaded the fact was regarded as a sort of nawith carts, waggons, and carriages, the tional disgrace. Royal intimation was traffic in the neighbourhood was sus- given that something must be done for pended, and as the news spread far and him; and something was done for him

immediately. He was appointed Comp- announcements been made when a setroller of the Exchequer at the Mauri- rious charge of misappropriation of the tius, with a salary of £2000 per annum, public money, to the extent of 37,150 and setting sail from England, entered dollars, was brought against Hook, by upon his duties in 1813. Why Theodore one of his subordinates who a few days Hook was selected to occupy a position afterwards committed suicide. Although for which he was in no degree qualified it was proved that the man was insane, by habits or education, appears rather the accusation was of too grave a nature surprising. His knowledge of accounts to be entirely passed over. Another must have been small. His familiarity scrutiny of the books was commenced. with the intricacies of colonial finance Accounts which only a few weeks becould not have been extensive. Even fore had been examined and passed, his intimacy with practical arithme- were now found to be teeming with tic might have been open to dispute. errors. A deficit of 62,717 dollars was But no thoughts of his own unfitness discovered. Hook was arrested at middisturbed his mind. He evidently went night; placed in confinement; the whole out under the impression that his la- of his property sold by the Crown, and bours would consist in seeing somebody he himself, shortly afterwards, sent else perform his duties; in killing time prisoner to England The voyage was as he best might, in receiving his salary a long and trying one. Nine months by quarterly payments. Of course, he at sea, and during a portion of that led an easy untroubled life. The stern time, with bad provisions doled out in realities of office were but as shadows small quantities, Hook, despite the buoy. which scarcely for a moment flitted ancy of spirit which he continually across his path, and dimmed the light exhibited, must have spent many weary which streamed upon it. “We break hours reflecting upon his carelessness. fast," said he in a letter to Mathews, That he was guiltless of everything ex“we breakfast at eight. Always up by ceptextreme inattention, has been placed gun-fire. Five o'clock bathe and ride beyond all doubt; indeed on his arrival before breakfast. After breakfast lounge in England, he was at once acquitted about. At one have a regular meal of any criminal act, and set at liberty. yclept a tiffen, hot meat, vegetables, &c., But the mystery of the deficit had yet and at this we generally sit through the to be explained, and Hook, summoned heat of the day, drinking our wine, and before the Colonial Audit Board, undermunching our fruit; at five, or half- went many disagreeable and perplexing past, the carriages come to the door, and examinations. It was to but little purwe go either in them, or in palanquins pose. He could explain nothing. His to dress; which operation performed, signature, the supposed guarantee for we drive out to the race ground and correctness, was appended to accounts the Champs de Mars, the Hyde Park of the most confused and irregular deLane, till half-past six; come into scription. Some mistakes were evident town, and at seven dine, where we almost at a glance; others were discoremain until ten, and then join the vered only after a long and wearisome French parties, as there is regularly examination, but mistakes there were in a ball somewhere or other every night. abundance. Amounts entered on the These things blended with business make debtor side of the page instead of the out the day and evening."

creditor-bills confused with notesThe only business which Hook is dollars with rupees, and altogether recorded to have performed, consisted of such an incoherent jumble of figures occasionally signing his name in the that the experienced accountants of the account books, playing off most unoffi- Audit Board became as thoroughly concial jokes upon visitors, and receiving fused as even Hook himself. his salary at the intervals before alluded. The ex-Comptroller of the Mauritius to. But this butterfly life was destined Exchequer found himself compelled to to meet with a harsh interruption. In begin the world anew. He had arrived 1817, a new governor was appointed to in England penniless, and be now comthe island, and some formal investiga- menced working hard for existence, by tions into the state of the Exchequer contributing to magazines and other were made. The accounts were pro- periodicals. It was at this time, and nounced correct, the examination satis- when residing in a small house in the factory. Scarcely, however, had these outskirts of London, that he formed an unhappy acquaintance with a young to discover the writers, but all in vain. girl. She bore him children. She A well-arranged system between publived with him. She loved him fondly. lisher and editor effectually prevented She was all to him that woman can be detection. The Queen's death, in 1821, to man in the days of sorrow and mis- | fortunately put an end to the fierceness fortune. But though he felt and ac- of the John Bull. Its tone changed, knowledged the warmth of her affection, and although the circulation decreased, though Þis own heart yearned towards yet as editor and part-proprietor, the her, he shrunk with trembling from a paper yielded Hook for some time a marriage that might fetter him when yearly income of £2000. brighter days arrived. He loved her too The alteration in his prospects conmuch to cast her off, but loved her too sequent upon the success of the John little to make her his wife. There is Bull must have been of the most granot one fact in the record of his life tifying nature; but Hook was soon which is more painful to dwell upon reminded that former carelessness had than this; not one that shows the in- yet to be atoned for. In 1823 he was nate weakness of his character in a arrested for the Mauritius debt, and more pitiable light. e pitiable light.

his effects were seized by the Crown. The stage, so much despised in the Believing that his efforts in the John first flush of his prosperity, was not Bull had given him some claim to now thought unworthy of attention, royal favour, he remained for nine and a farce, “Exchange no Robbery," months in a dirty sponging-house in for which he received £60, soon sprang Shire Lane, in almost daily expectation from his pen. With the exception of that he would be set at liberty, and the an attempt which he made to establish claim of the Colonial Audit Board be a periodical, called The Arcadian, discharged by funds from the privy and which lived through only two purse. At the expiration of this term, numbers, Hook did nothing worthy of his health beginning to suffer by conspecial mention until the commence- finement, he removed to more commoment of the John Bull newspaper in dious lodgings in Temple Place, within December, 1820.

the rules of the King's Bench Prison. It has been asserted that the John It was not until nearly two years after Bull was called into existence by a his arrest that he was finally set at royal suggestion, and that a royal purse liberty. The Audit Board then settled supplied funds for the undertaking; their claim at £12,000. All further but these statements, although far from proceedings were to be stayed, but it improbable, have never risen above the was distinctly announced that he was rank of the on dit. The object of the to be still held liable for the amount. paper was to crush the supporters of Instead of making any attempt to pay Queen Caroline, the Brandenburgh-even a portion of it—as an earnest of House party, by merciless ridicule and his desire—thoroughly to clear himself bitter sarcasm. Hook was editor, and in the eyes of all men, Hook still clung he devoted himself to the task with an to the belief that the Crown would reeagerness, stimulated no doubt by his lease him from his responsibility. Had circumstances and hopes. His favourite he offered to pay even a small sum, it axiom was, “that in every family there would no doubt have worked interest is some weak point, some secret cancer, in his behalf. He was in a position to the lightest touch upon which is tor- make a considerable payment. His inture." Upon this belief he acted, and come was large, and in the preceding with such effect, that "it seemed,” to year it had been increased by the proquote the language of the Quarterly duction of a series of tales, under the Review, "as if a legion of sarcastic title of “Sayings and Doings," for devils had brooded in synod over the which he received £750; but he looked elements of withering derision.” The upon himself as a martyr to the cause success of the paper was without pre- of colonial finance, and made no effort cedent. Every copy of the first num- to shake off the bonds of debt by which ber was sold in a few hours, and the he was surrounded. A second series circulation increased week by week. of the “Sayings and Doings” yielded The adherents of the Queen were in their author £1,000; and then, in 1827, dismay, their opponents were in rap- the quiet little villa at Putney, to which tures. Extraordinary pains were taken he had removed on regaining his liberty,

« НазадПродовжити »