« AnteriorContinuar »
full of wit, and whim, and anecdote---benevolent and of great suavity of manners ;;—such was Cooke in his better moments, in his own' moments.'
• I led,' says Mr. D. my companion to my home, and never man appeared to greater advantage in the quiet of a domestic circle, than he did for the remainder of this day and evening. Attentive, polite, full of cheerfulness, and abounding with anecdotes, which he related with all the urbanity of the finished gentleman of the vieille cour, giving and asking for information, he seemed to forget the evils ot the past, and to anticipate for the future nothing but good.' Vol. II. p. 217.
And yet this same man, when poison'd hours had shut him up from his own kpowledge, became noisy, savage, and disgusting; a bully and a bragg rt; a misery to himself, and a terror to those about him ;+ now a sensible man, by-and-by a fool, and presently a beast.' Yet no one saw more plainly than Cooke the wretchedness and degradation in which drunkenness ended, and no one could speak more feelingly of the evils of intemperance than he often does in his journals. For instance,
• Called at the Bull's Head, and drank some brandy and water. - Among some other persons there, was a certain clergyman, who is said to be a man of literature and abilities ; certain he writes A.M. after his name. He was dirty, drunk, and foolish —Some of the company, though they all professed a respect for him, seemed to use him as an object of their mirth. I could not help viewing him with pity ;-not that sensation which approaches to contempt, but a real sorrowful feeling, as I cannot, to please myself, otherwise express it. In viewing him I thought of others, Drunkenness is the next leveller to death ; with this difference, that the former is always attended with shame and reproach ; while the latter, being the certain lot of mortality, produces sympathy, and may be attended with honour.' Vol. I. pp. 59, 60.
• The society, if I may profane the word, with whom I join at this place, is disgusting, to say no worse of it. Some individuals I could wish to select, and the time we might be together would, I believe, pass tolerably; but there are others it shocks me even to think of.' p. 103.
• It will very little assist me in defending myself, to say that I have frequently wasted my time in a much worse manner. When a man reconciles himself to himself by making degrees of sin, he is in the utmost danger of advancing to, instead of receding from, the most abomin ble depravity. It is a doubt with me, whether a gamester (here I take the word in its utmost latitude) or drunkard be the most vicious character, or the most
dangerous to society. The former, without deranging his faculties, exerts them all for the avowed purpose of plundering every one he plays with, his dearest friends not excepted, if such a wretch can have a friend ; and when, by superior villany, or some unforeseen chance, he is in his turn beggared, he is ready fitted for the most atrocious crimes, robbery,” murder, or suicide. Drunkenness, in addition to the high degree of wickedness attached to it, has the melancholy and woeful effect of degrading the human beneath the brute creation. What confidence can be placed in those persons who are in the habit of rendering themselves incapable of rational exertion.' Vol. I. pp. 95, 96.
His advice to others was in perfect consistency with these reflections.
* Master Payne very properly took every opportunity of cultivating an acquaintance with the veteran tragedian, and frequently visited him, and sat with him for hours. On these occasions, whether with other company or not, the bottle was always present, but Cooke not only did not offer wine to his young companion, but told him he ought to avoid it. Master Payne, in the course of these visits, could not but witness such behaviour on the part of his sage adviser, as would operate with more force than his admonitions.
Mr. Duffie, said he to another 'friend who was by, help your self to a glass of wine ; John, I don't ask you to drink. - 'Ö that I had had some friend when I was at your age to caution, to prevent, me from drinking! Mr. Duffie, your good health. Yes, John, I should have been a very different man from what I am. It's too late now.' pp. 208, 209.
Poor Cooke! that after such' reflections as these, he should be the hero of such scenes as we are about to quote! 'O, that men should put an enemy in their mouths, to steal away their brains : that we should with joy, revel, pleasure, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts !! : When not yet thirty, a fellow-actor describes him as of much the same habits of living as afterwards in America ; now behaving with the greatest propriety; and now not to be heard of for several days.' Indeed, at one time, there is a blank' of twenty months, during which there seems reason to believe that he served in our army in America. Be this as it may, in 1795 we'find him acting at Dublin, and ' at Dublin the following scene took place. The story affords a fair specimen of the insanity which drunkenness with him was almost sure to produce. Cooke, one night invites home an actor with whuin he has been pleased, and they sit down to drink :
• One jug of whiskey punch was quickly emptied, and while drinking the second, George Frederick in his turn begins to com. mend young Matthews.
• 6 You are young, and want some one to advise and guide you: take my word for it, there is nothing like industry and sobriety -Mrs. Burns! Another jug of whiskey punch, Mrs. Burns you make it so good, Mrs. Burns, another jug."
*6 Yes, Mister Cooke.”
«“ In our profession, my young friend, dissipation is too apt to be the bane of youth" Villainous company," low company,
leads them from studying their business and acquiring that knowledge which alone can make them respectable.”
· Thus he proceeded drinking and uttering advice (not the less valuable because in opposition to his own practice,) and assuring Matthews of his protection, instruction, and all his influence to forward his views, while the whiskey punch, jug after jug, vanished, and with it all semblance of the virtues so eloquently praised. Though maddened by the fumes of the liquor, the chain of his ideas continued still unbroken, and he began a dissertation on the histrionic art, proceeding from first principles to a detail of the mode of exhibiting the passions, with a specimen of each by way
of illustration. . It is impossible to describe, but the reader may perhaps imagine, the ludicrous effect of this scene. The power of the whiskey operating in diametric opposition to the will on his strong and flexible features, produced contortions and distortions, of which he was insensible, while Matthews sat gazing with astonishiment, and at times in an agony, from the effort to restrain his risible faculties ; but to add to his torture, Cooke began to question him, after each “ horrible face,” as to the meaning of it, or the passion expressed. Matthews, totally in the dark as to Cooke's meaning, made every possible mistake; and when set right by Cooke, ex. cused himself by charging his stupidity on the whiskey.
66 There-what's that?" • Very fine, Sir.” 6" But what is it ?" •“ (anger-anger, to be sure.” • “ To be sure you're a blockhead-Fear ! fear, Sir !" • But when the actor, after making a brideous face, compounded of satanic malignity and the brutal leering of a drunken satyr, told his pupil that that was love, poor Matthews could resist no longer, but roared with convulsive laughter:
Cooke was surprised and enraged at his rudeness in this young guest, but Matthews had address enough to pacify him.
• Mistress Burns, in the mean time, had protested against making any more whiskey punch, and had brought up the last jug, upon Cooke's solemn promise that he would ask for no
The jug is finished'; and Matthews heartily tired, thinks he shall escape from his tormentor, and makes a move to go.
"“ Not yet, my dear boy, one jug more."
6 - Wo'nt she? I'n show you that presently."
• Cooke thunders with his foot, and vociferates repeatedly « Mistress Burns !" At length honest Mrs. Burns, who had got to bed, in hopes of rest, in the chamber immediately under them answers, " " What is it you want, Mister Cooke;"
“ Another jug of whiskey punch, Mistress Burns." "“ Indeed but you can have no more, Mister Cooke." « « Indeed but I will, Mistress Burns.” « « Remember your promise Mister Cooke." • " Another jug of punch, Mistress Burns." 6 « Indeed, and I will not get out of my own bed any more at all, Mister Cooke, and so there's an end of it!" • “ We'll see that, Mistress Burns.”
When, to Matthews's further astonishment, he seized the jug and smashed it on the floor over the head of Mistress Burns, exclaiming, “ Do you hear that, Mistress Burns ?”
• “ Yes I do, Mister Cooke."
• Ile then proceeded to break the chairs, one by one, after each, exclaiming, “Do you hear that Mistress Burns ?” and receiving in reply,
Yes I do, Mister Cooke, and you'll be very sorry for it to: morrow, so you will.”
• He then opened the window, and very deliberately proceeded to throw the looking-glasses into the street, and the fragments of broken tables and chairs. Matthews had made several attempts to go, and had been detained by Cooke : he now ventured something like an expostulation; on which his Mentor ordered him out of his apartment, and threw the candle and candlestick after him. Matthews; having departed, the wretched madman sallied out, and was brought home next day, beaten and deformed with bruises.
The disgrace attending the notoriety of this transaction, drove him on to* further mad intemperance: the stage was abandoned, and in a fit of drunkenness and despair, he enlisted as a private, in & regiment destined for the West-Indies. Vol. I. pp. 67–70.
He got his discharge by the interference of a friend, and returned to the Manchester theatre, and to his accustomed intemperance.
• Of the extravagant profusion which marked his mad prodigality, the reader will have several opportunities of judging; I will mention one here as a case in point.
• Having received the amount of a benefit and the proceeds of an engagement at Manchester, he pocketed the whole, three or four hundred pounds, and that evening fell into company at a public-house with some republican manufacturers of the neighbourhood. The loyalty of our hero was always great, but increased in warmth thermometrically with his stomach and head. One of the mechanics entered the field of political disputation with George Frederick, who soon became intemperate in words as well as conduct, and finally challenged his antagonist' to determine the controversy by the list. The man, who knew him and his reputation, endeavoured to avoid the necessity of beating him, and excused himself by “ Nah now, Mr. Cooke, you know I would not harm you if I could; you take the liberty of abusing me and challenging me, because you are rich, and know I am a poor man.
“Do I?” says George, “ I'll show you that. There, look,” pulling all the bank notes from his pocket, “ there-that's all I have in the worldthere,' putting them in the fire.
“ Now I am as poor as you are-now, come on!” Vol. I, pp. 337, 338.
Against such destructive profusion this wretched man would guard himself--not by abstaining from the poisonous liquor ---but by entrusting his money to the care of some person, with a charge to refuse it to him, should he ask for it, when intoxicated. The recompense which any one. might expect for compliance with so childish a request, the reader may guess from the following story :
• In Liverpool, in 1809, on his arrival, he gave his money into the keeping of a lady, at whose house he boarded, charging her pot to give him any if he demanded it when under the influence of liquor. Then, having made provision to secure a little paltry pelf, the wretched man flies to the sacrifice of health and reputation, as things of no consequence. The state of insanity, so deliberately provided for, having arrived, Mr. Cooke' came and demanded 50 guineas. The lady, true to her promise, refused it. The madmau in a rage flies to the police, and procures a warrant and officers to enforce his demand. "The money was still resused, and the doors shut against him. The next day he returns with fruitless humiliation and repentance, to thank the lady, who, by faithfully performing her promise, had saved his money, and made his shame more conspicuous.' Vol. II. pp. 253-4.
In 1800 he appeared at Covent-Garden, and the ambition of popularity, and desire of rivalling Kemble, kept him in his senses for one season, But the reader will easily believe that the effect of such motives could not be permanent. He became the favourite of the public, and was held by many superior to his rival. The consequence was, that at the beginning of the following season, on the night he was advertised for in London, and for a month after, he was wandering with a small undisciplined set of country actors. At length, however, he appeared, apologized, and was again taken into favour. But the
invisible spirit of wine haunted him, and he had now no motive sufficiently powerful to break the spell. The morning bill would be made out, and Cooke put down in it: but in the course of the day he would be making potations pottle deep, apd in the evening would · lack of what he was in the morning.'