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became greater as circumstances depressed his spirits more and more, and yet, with every care upon his mind, he was expected, wherever he went, to amuse the guests with a display of his talent. He could not do so without stimulants, and, rather than give up society, fell into habits of drinking, which hastened his death.

We have thrown together the foregoing anecdotes of Hook, irrespective of time, in order to show what the man's gifts were, and what his title to be considered a wit. We must proceed more steadily to a review of his life. Successful as Hook had proved as a writer for the stage, he suddenly and without

any

sufficient cause rushed off into another branch of literature, that of novel - writing. His first attempt in this kind of fiction was “The Man of Sorrow," published under the nom de plume of Alfred Allendale. This was not, as its name would seem to imply, a novel of pathetic cast, but the history of a gentleman whose life from beginning to end is rendered wretched by a succession of mishaps of the most ludicrous but improbable kind. Indeed, Theodore's novels, like his stage pieces, are gone out of date in an age so practical that even in romance it will not allow of the slightest departure from reality. Their very style was ephemeral, and their interest could not outlast the generation to amuse which they were penned. This first novel was written when Hook was oneand-twenty. Soon after he was sent to Oxford, where he had been entered at St. Mary's Hall, more affectionately known by the nickname of “Skimmery." No selection could have been worse. Skimmery was, at that day, and until quite re. cently, a den of thieves, where young men of fortune and folly submitted to be pillaged in return for being allowed perfect license, as much to eat as they could possibly swallow, and far more to drink than was at all good for them. It has required all the enterprise of the present excellent Principal to convert it into a place of sober study. It was then the most “gentlemanly” residence in Oxford; for a gentleman in those days meant a man who did nothing, spent his own or his father's guineas with a brilliant indifference to consequences, and who applied his mind solely to the art of frolic. It was the very place where Hook would be encouraged instead of restrained in his natural propensities, and had he remained there, he would probably have ruined himself and his father long before he had put on the sleeves.

At the matriculation itself he gave a specimen of his “fun." When asked, according to the usual form," if he was willing to sign the Thirty-nine Articles," he replied, “Certainly, sir; forty if you please,” The gravity of the stern Vice-Chancel

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lor was upset, but as no Oxford Don can ever pardon a joke, however good, Master Theodore was very nearly being dismissed, had not his brother, by this time a Prebendary of Winchester, and "an honor to his college, sir," interceded in his favor.

The night before, he had given a still better specimen of his impudence. He had picked up a number of old Harrowvians, with whom he had repaired to a tavern for song, supper,

and sociability, and as usual in such cases, in the lap of Alma Mater, the babes became sufficiently intoxicated, and not a little uproarious. Drinking in a tavern is forbidden by Oxonian statutes, and one of the proctors happening to pass in the street outside, was attracted into the house by the sound of somewhat unscholastic merriment. The effect can be imagined. All the youths were in absolute terror, except Theodore, and looked in vain for some way to escape. The wary and faithful “bull-dogs" guarded the doorway; the marshal, predecessor of the modern omniscient Brown, advanced respectfully behind the proctor into the room, and passing a penetrating glance from one youth to the other, all of whom -except Theodore again—he knew by sight-for that is the pride and pleasure of a marshal-mentally registered their names in secret hopes of getting half a crown apiece to forget them again.

No mortal is more respectful in his manner of accosting you than an Oxford proctor, for he may make a mistake, and a mistake may make him very miserable. When, for instance, a highly respectable lady was the other day lodged, in spite of protestations, in the “Procuratorial Rooms,” and there locked up on suspicion of being somebody very different, the overzealous proctor who had ordered her incarceration was sued for damages for £300, and had to pay them too! Therefore the gentleman in question most graciously and suavely inquired of Mr. Theodore Hook

“I beg your pardon, sir, but are you a member of this university ?” —the usual form.

“No, sir, I am not. Are you ?”

The suavity at once changed to grave dignity. The proctor lifted up the hem of his garment, which being of broad velvet, with the selvage on it, was one of the insignia of his office, and sternly said, "You see this, sir."

“ Ah !” said Hook, cool as ever, and quietly feeling the material, which he examined with apparent interest, “I see; Manchester velvet: and may I take the liberty, sir, of inquiring how much

you have paid per yard for the article ?" A roar of laughter from all present burst out with such ve

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66 PUNNING” FACULTY.

hemence that it shot the poor official, red with suppressed anger, into the street again, and the merrymakers continued their bout till the approach of midnight, when they were obliged to return to their respective colleges.

Had Theodore proceeded in this way for several terms, no doubt the outraged authorities would have added his name to the list of the great men whom they have expelled from time to time most unprophetically. As it was, he soon left the groves of Academus, and sought those of Fashion in town. His matriculation into this new university was much more auspicious; he was hailed in society as already fit to take a degree of bachelor of his particular arts, and ere long his improvising, his fun, his mirth-as yet natural and overboiling—his wicked punning, and his tender wickedness, induced the same institution to offer him the grade of“ Master” of those arts. In after years he rose to be even “Doctor," and many, perhaps, were the minds diseased to which his well-known mirth ministered.

It was during this period that some of his talents were displayed in the manner we have described, though his great fame as an improvisatore was established more completely in later days. Yet he had already made himself a name in that species of wit—not a very high one-which found favor with the society of that period. We allude to imitation, “taking off,” and punning. The last contemptible branch of wit-making, now happily confined to “Punch,” is as old as variety of language. It is not possible with simple vocabularies, and accordingly is seldom met with in purely-derived languages. Yet we have Roman and Greek puns; and English is peculiarly adapted to this childish exercise, because, being made up of several languages, it necessarily contains many words which are like in sound and unlike in meaning. Punning is, in fact, the vice of English wit, the temptation of English mirth-makers, and, at last, we trust, the scorn of English good sense. But in Theodore's day it held a high place, and men who had no real wit about them could twist and turn words and combinations of words with great ingenuity and much readiness, to the delight of their listeners. Pun-making was a fashion among the conversationists of that day, and took the place of better wit. Hook was a disgraceful punster, and a successful

He strung puns together by the score-nothing more easy-in his improvised songs and conversation. Take an instance from his quiz on the march of intellect:

“Hackney-coachmen from Swift shall reply, if you feel

Annoyed at being needlessly shaken;
And butchers, of course, be flippant from Steele,

And pig-drivers well versed in Bacon.

one.

OFFICIAL LIFE OPENS.

423

From Locke, shall the blacksmiths authority brave,

And gas-men cite Coke at discretion;
Undertakers talk Gay as they go to the grave,

And watermen Rowe by profession.” I have known a party of naturally stupid people produce a whole century of puns one after another, on any subject that presented itself, and I am inclined to think that nothing can, at the same time, be more nauseous, or more destructive to real wit. Yet Theodore's strength lay in puns, and when shorn of them, the Philistines might well laugh at his want of strength. Surely his title to wit does not lie in that direction.

However, he amused, and that gratis ; and an amusing man makes his way any where if he have only sufficient tact not to abuse his privileges. Hook grew great in London society for a time, and might have grown greater if a change had not come.

He had supported himself, up to 1812, almost entirely by his pen; and the goose-quill is rarely a staff, though it may sometimes be a walking-stick. It was clear that he needed what so many of us need and can not get-a certainty. Happy fellow; he might have begged for an appointment for years in vain, as many another does, but it fell into his lap, no one knows how, and at four-and-twenty Mr. Theodore Edward Hook was made treasurer. to the Island of Mauritius, with a salary of £2000 per annum. This was not to be, and was not, sneezed at. In spite of climate, musquitoes, and so forth, Hook took the money and sailed.

We have no intention of entering minutely upon his conduct in this office, which has nothing to do with his character as a wit. There are a thousand and one reasons for believing him guilty of the charges brought against him, and a thousand and one for supposing him guiltless. Here was a young man, gay, jovial, given to society entirely, and not at all to arithmetic, put into a very trying and awkward position-native clerks who would cheat if they could, English governors who would find fault if they could, a disturbed treasury, an awkward currency, liars for witnesses, and undeniable evidence of defalcation. In a word, an examination was made into the state of the treasury of the island, and a large deficit found. It remained to trace it home to its original author.

Hook had not acquired the best character in the island. Those who know the official dignity of a small British colony can well understand how his pleasantries must have shocked those worthy big-wigs who, exalted from Pump Court, Temple, or Paradise Row, Old Brompton, to places of honor and high salaries, rode their high horses with twice the exclusive

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CHARGE OF EMBEZZLEMENT.

ness of those “ to the manor born." For instance, Hook was once, by a mere chance, obliged to take the chair at an official dinner, on which occasion the toasts proposed by the chairman were to be accompanied by a salute from guns without. Hook went through the list, and seemed to enjoy toast-drinking so much that he was quite sorry to have come to the end of it, and continued, as if still from the list, to propose successively the health of each officer present. The gunners were growing quite weary, but, having their orders, dared not complain. Hook was delighted, and went on to the amazement and amusement of all who were not tired of the noise, each youthful sub, taken by surprise, being quite gratified at the honor done hin. At last, there was no one left to toast; but the wine had taken effect, and Hook, amid roars of laughter inside, and roars of savage artillery without, proposed the health of the waiter who had so ably officiated. This done, he bethought him of the cook, who was sent for to return thanks; but the artillery officer had by this time got wind of the affair, and feeling that more than enough powder had been wasted on the health of gentlemen who were determined to destroy it by the number of their potations, took on himself the responsibility of ordering the gunners to stop.

On another occasion he incurred the displeasure of the governor, General Hall, by fighting a duel-fortunately as harmless as that of Moore and Jeffrey

“When Little's leadless pistol met his eye,

And Bow-street myrmidons stood laughing by," as Byron says. The governor was sensible enough to wish to put down the “Gothic appeal to arms,” and was therefore the more irate.

These circumstances must be taken into consideration in Hook's favor in examining the charge of embezzlement. It must also be stated that the information of the deficit was sent in a letter to the governor by a man named Allan, chief clerk in the Treasury, who had, for irregular conduct, been already threatened with dismissal. Allan had admitted that he had known of the deficit for fifteen months, and yet he had not, till he was himself in trouble, thought of making it known to the proper authorities. Before his examination, which of course followed, could be concluded, Allan committed suicide. Now, does it not, on the face of it, seem of the highest probability that this man was the real delinquent, and that, knowing that Hook had all the responsibility, and having taken fair precautions against his own detection, he had anticipated a discovery of the affair by a revelation, incriminating the treasurer ? Quien sabe ; —dead men tell no tales.

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