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friends and relatives from that contagious fervour to which they are by nature liable, not so much by combating its errors as by confessing the truths with which they are mingled ;-knowing, that whatever charm a woman's heart may find in the apparent self-devotion contained in the doctrines we have described, the union of sound manliness and sound religion in the other sex has in the same heart, by the blessing of Providence, a higher charm still.
Art. III.- Peregrine Bunce. By the Author of 'Sayings and
Doings,' &c. &c. 3 vols. London, 1842.
this work, announced as the sole literary legacy of a very popular writer. But whatever we had allowed ourselves to expect, we have been disappointed. The execution is in no part good; a very large proportion' we cannot believe to be Mr. Hook's at all. Towards the beginning there are a few flashes of his old merriinent, but the general effect is poor and dull. Above all, we look in vain for any of those pithy obiter dicta, or brief rapid sketches of character, which in the better clay startled us ever and anon in the midst of his broadest extravaganzas, marking with what acute sagacity life had been analyzed by one who passed with many for a mere sportive satirist of its surface. We had hoped, in short, to gather from these posthumous volumes some additional materials for estimating this prodigal son of genius; but we must be contented with those that had been supplied by earlier publications, and what we may contrive to glean from the perusal (kindly permitted) of some hasty diaries and other MS. remains. · Our own acquaintance with him commenced twenty years ago, and had long been familiar, but it never reached intimacy; and these papers have opened many new lights both of the character and the history of Theodore Edward Hook.
He was born in Charlotte Street, Bedford Square, on the 22nd of September, 1788, the son of a musical composer, who enjoyed in his time success and celebrity, by his first wife (Miss Madden), a woman distinguished for beauty, talents, accomplishments, and genuine worth. There was but one other child of that marriage, the late Dr. James Hook, Dean of Worcester, and he, being Theodore's senior by not less than eighteen years, had of course left the paternal roof long before the latter was sent to school. The Dean, with a great deal of the wit and humour that made
his brother famous,* and with perhaps much the same original cast of disposition and temper generally, had possessed one great advantage over him at the start of life. His excellent mother watched over him all through the years of youth and early man. hood. Theodore could only remember her, and fondly and tenderly he did so to the last, as the gentle parent of a happy child. He had just approached the first era of peril when this considerate and firm-minded woman was lost to her family. The composer soon afterwards married again, but Theodore found not, what in spite of a thousand proverbs many men have found under such circumstances-a second mother. But for that deprivation
can hardly doubt that he might, like his more fortunate brother, have learned to regulate his passions and control his spirits, and risen to fill with grace some high position in an honourable profession. The calamitous loss of his mother is shadowed very distinctly in one of his novels; and the unlucky hero (Gilbert Gurney) is represented as having a single prosperous brother, exactly eighteen years older than himself. But indeed that novel is very largely autobiographical: when his diary alludes to it as in progress, the usual phrase is working at my Life.'
Born in the same year with Lord Byron and Sir Robert Peel, he was their schoolfellow at Harrow, but not in the same memorable form, nor do we see any trace of his having been personally acquainted in those days with either of them, though he often alluded to the coincidence of dates with an obvious mixture of pride and regret, perhaps we ought to say, remorse. We have met with no account of him whatever by any one who knew him familiarly at that period. That he was as careless and inattentive to the proper studies of the place as he represents his Gurney to have been will not be thought improbable by most of his readers. But his early performances, now forgotten, display many otiose quotations from the classics, and even from the modern Latin poets; and these specimens of juvenile pedantry must be allowed to indicate a vein of ambition which could hardly have failed, with a mind of such alacrity, to produce some not inconsiderable measure of attainment. The author of the " Sayings and Doings' had, no doubt, outlived all his Greek and most of his Latin. But how many men are there of good, even of great talents, who, long before they reach middle life, have forgotten far more than he ever knew of either! Let any scholar of
* Dr. Hook amused himself, about twenty years ago, by writing two novels, Pen Owen, and Percy Mallory,' which at the time were commonly ascribed to Theodore, and which would hardly have done bim any discredit. They have been lately republished, as they well deserved to be, in a cheap form. The picture of the Cato-street Couspiracy in one of them is most striking.
mature standing run over a list of his contemporaries at the University, and think how few of them could now construe a strophe of Æschylus, or even a page of Livy, were some lost Decade to be dug up to-morrow at Pompeii, or a Trilogy deciphered on a Palimpsest of Moscow.
Mrs. Hook died in 1802, and the widower, a clever but weak man, was easily persuaded not to send Theodore back to Harrow. He was proud already of his boy, found his company at home a great solace at first, and even before the house received its new mistress, had begun to discover that one of his precocious talents might be turned to some account financially. Theodore had an exquisite ear, and was already, living from the cradle in a musical atmosphere, an expert player on the pianoforte : his voice was rich, sweet, and powerful: he could sing a pathetic song well, a comic one charmingly. One evening he enchanted the father especially by his singing, to his own accompaniment, two new ballads, one grave and one gay. Whence the airs whence the words? It turned out that verse and music were alike his own: in the music the composer perceived much that might be mended; but the verses were, to him, faultless-meaning probably not much, but nothing more soft than the liquid flow of the vocables, nothing more easy than the balance of the linés. Here was a mine for the veteran artist; hitherto he had been forced to import his words: now the whole manufacture might go on at home. Snug, comfortable, amiable, domestic arrangement! The boy was delighted with the prospect--and at sixteen his fate was fixed.
I remained at home,' says Gurney, “and was my father's darling—he fancied nothing on earth was like me: I was the wittiest, if not the wisest, fellow breathing--and I have seen my respectable parent shake his fat sides with laughing at my jokes and antics till the tears ran down his cheeks.' This beardless merry-maker was now in fact a partner in his father's business; whatever there had been of authority was virtually at an end. Whenever Mr. Hook got his five guineas, two perhaps were of right Theodore's. He felt the joy, the pride, the exultation of independence: he could make money, he must of course be a man and entitled to a man's privileges. And what were the privileges he was most likely to covet and seize upon? His father's friends and boon companions were musicians and players, male and female. He was a comely youth, in all respects precocious. The talents of so mere a stripling were eagerly appreciated, rapturously commended; he had not written three songs that took on the stage before he was the little pet lion of the Green-room. Free admission before the curtain and behind
it was a thing of course. Night after night he hung about the theatres ; popular actors laughed at his jokes, and pretty actresses would have their bouquets handed them by nobody but Theodore.
One effort was made to stop this headlong career. we believe, on the very urgent remonstrance of his brother, already advancing in the Church, that his father agreed to continue his education with a view to the bar; and he went down with the future Dean to be entered accordingly at Oxford. But accustomed to be his own master with his father, he was not likely to treat a brother, though twice his own age, with much submission. He carried the spirit of rebellious frolic with him. When the Vice-Chancellor, noticing his boyish appearance, said, “ You seem very young, Sir; are you prepared to sign the 39 Articles ?? • Oh yes, Sir,' answered Theodore briskly— quite ready-40 if you please.' The Dignitary. shut the book ;- but the brother apologized the boy looked contrite-and in the end the ceremony of matriculation was completed. The solemn monastic quadrangles, however, had made no very favourable impression on the juvenile intrant. He was not to reside until after the expiration of a couple of terms, to be devoted to a certain prescribed course of reading. He parted with his brother and returned to London - his head full of nothing in fact but an embryo farce. He had not been an inattentive lounger at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. He had released his father from the necessity of fitting music to other people's words :—why might he not emancipate himself from the drudgery of adapting songs to other people's dialogues ? · Few men of great abilities are modest,' says Sydney Smith ;-Few clever boys are 'modest,' would, we think, have been a safer maxim. Theodore Hook in our opinion lived to be a modest man; but he considered himself at seventeen as quite on a level with the best melodramatists of the time; and, after all, so the case turned out to be when he made his attempt. The truth is, the literature of the stage was forty years ago almost as bad as it is now: it could hardly have been worse.
The little back drawing-room was now allotted to Theodore, and we have before us an early associate's reminiscences of the sanctum of 1804—'tables, chairs, mantelpiece, piano, all covered with a litter of letters, MS. music, French plays, notes, tickets, rhyming dictionaries—not a seat to be had.' * Already,' this gentleman continues, he possessed all the powers of entertainment which have since made him so celebrated as a tablecompanion, and in the confined circle of the family he would exhibit them with the same zeal and effect as when in the most brilliant society, with the eyes of the gifted and the great upon him. His wit was never dependent upon excitement, but flowed
spontaneously on every occasion, early or late. · He was from the first enthusiastically loyal--and if during dinner a street-organ played God save the King, he would insist on everybody standing up, lead the chorus, and not sit down till the anthem was closed.'
To work I went,' says Gurney, 'bought three or four French vaudevilles, and filching an incident from each, made up my very effective drama. This was The Soldier's Return, or What can Beauty do ? a Comic Opera in Two Acts, as performed at the T. R. Drury Lane. The Overture and Music entirely new, composed by Mr. Hook. Theodore is not named on the titlepage (1805)—but the success was totally unlike what is described in ‘Gurney'—it was great—the applause vociferous; and the author's secret was not kept for a day. The contempt, however, with which Mr. Gurney describes his coup d'essai was, we have no doubt, an exact transcript of Hook's own feelings on that subject in 1837. It would be as absurd to criticise such a piece as last year's pantomime—like that, it answered its purpose and its author's, and no more is to be said. At the same time, amidst all its mad impudent nonsense, there are here and there jokes which, if unborrowed, deserved the applause of the pit. A traveller coming up to an inn-door says, “Pray, friend, are you the master of this house ? — Yes, Sir,' answers Boniface, my wife has been dead these three weeks.' We might quote one or two more apparently genuine Theodores. The dialogue, such as it is, dances along, and the songs read themselves into
singing. Among other advantages this trifle brought Hook into contact with two bright theatrical stars, neither as yet advanced to the destined zenith : these were Mathews and Liston, both considerably his seniors, but both still wantoning in animal spirits almost as wild as his own. These first-rate comedians excelled in totally different styles, and the peculiar capacity and resources of neither were fully apparent until they trod the stage in juxtaposition. It was for this purpose that Hook planned his second afterpiece, “Catch Him who Can,' (1806) in which abundant opportunity was contrived for exhibiting the grave irresistible drollery of Liston in contrast with the equally matchless vivacity and versatility of the prince of mimics and ventriloquists. In the course of the farce Mathews figured in, we think, seven different disguises. Such acting would have insured the triumph of even a worse thing than the 'Soldier's Return'- but this was better than that in every respect. One of Liston's songs was long in Yogue, perhaps still survives
I sing the loves, the smiling loves,
Of Clutterbuck and Higgen bottom.' And there are not a few meritorious points in the dialogue.