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The chest, however, was examined, and the deficit found far greater yet than had been reported. Hook could not explain, could not understand it at all; but if not criminal, he had necessarily been careless. He was arrested, thrown into prison, and by the first vessel dispatched to England to take his trial, his property of every kind having been sold for the Government. Hook, in utter destitution, might be supposed to have lost his usual spirits, but he could not resist a joke. At St. Helena he met an old friend going out to the Cape, who, surprised at seeing him on his return voyage after a residence of only five years, said, “I hope you are not going home for your health.” “Why," said Theodore, "I am sor
” ry to say they think there is something wrong in the chest.” “Something wrong in the chest” becamre henceforward the ordinary phrase in London society in referring to Hook's scrape.
Arrived in England, he was set free, the Government here having decided that he could not be criminally tried ; and thus Hook, guilty or not, had been ruined and disgraced for life for simple carelessness. True, the custody of a nation's property makes negligence almost criminal; but that does not excuse the punishment of a man before he is tried.
He was summoned, however, to the Colonial Audit Board, where he underwent a trying examination; after which he was declared to be in the debt of Government: a writ of extent was issued against him; nine months were passed in that delightful place of residence--a sponging-house, which he then exchanged for the “Rules of the Bench”—the only rules which have no exception. From these he was at last liberated, in 1825, on the understanding that he was to repay the money to Government if at any time he should be in a position to
His liberation was a tacit acknowledgment of his innocence of the charge of robbery; his encumberment with a debt caused by another's delinquencies was, we presume, a signification of his responsibility and some kind of punishment for his carelessness. Certainly it was hard upon Hook, that, if innocent, he should not have gone forth without a stain on his character for honesty; and it was unjust that, if guilty, he should not have been punished. The judgment was one of those compromises with stern justice which are seldom satisfactory to either party.
The fact was that, guilty or not guilty, Hook had been both incompetent and inconsiderate. Doubtless he congratulated himself highly on receiving, at the age of twenty-five, an appointment worth £2000 a year in the paradise of the world; but how short-sighted his satisfaction, since this very appoint
ment left him some ten years later a pauper to begin life anew with an indelible stain on his character. It was absurd to give so young a man such a post; but it was absolutely wrong in Hook not to do his utmost to carry out his duties properly. Nay, he had trified with the public money in the same liberal -perhaps a more liberal—spirit as if it had been his ownmade advances and loans here and there injudiciously, and taken little heed of the consequences. Probably, at this day, the common opinion acquits Hook of a designed and complicated fraud; but common opinion never did acquit him of misconduct, and even by his friends this affair was looked upon with a suspicion that preferred silence to examination.
But why take such pains to exonerate Hook from a charge of robbery, when he was avowedly guilty of as bad a sin, of which the law took no cognizance, and which society forgave far more easily than it could have done for robbing the state ? Soon after his return from the Mauritius, he took lodgings in the cheap but unfashionable neighborhood of Somers Town. Here, in the moment of his misfortune, when doubting whether disgrace, imprisonment, or what not awaited him, he sought solace in the affection of a young woman, of a class certainly much beneath his, and of a character unfit to make her a valuable companion to him. Hook had received little moral training, and had he done só, his impulses were sufficiently strong to overcome any amount of principle. With this person-to use the modern slang which seems to convert a glaring sin into a social misdemeanor—" he formed a connection." In other words, he destroyed her virtue. Hateful as such an act is, we must, before we can condemn a man for it without any recommendation to mercy, consider a score of circumstances which have rendered the temptation stronger and the result almost involuntary. Hook was not a man of high moral character-very far from it—but we need not therefore suppose that he sat down coolly and deliberately, like a villain in a novel, to effect the girl's ruin. But the Rubicon once passed, how difficult is the retreat! There are but two paths open to a man who would avoid living a life of sin: the one, to marry his victim; the other, to break off the connection before it is too late. The first is, of course, the more proper course; but there are cases where marriage is impossible. From the latter a man of any heart must shrink with horror. Yet there are cases, even, where the one sin will prove the least—where she who has loved too well may grieve bitterly at parting, yet will be no more open to temptation than if she had never fall
Such cases are rare, and it is not probable that the young person with whom Hook had become connected would have
ATTACKS ON THE QUEEN.
retrieved the fatal error. She became a mother, and there was no retreat. It is clear that Hook ought to have married her. It is evident that he was selfish and wrong not to do so; yet he shrank from it weakly, wickedly, and he was punished for his shrinking. He had sufficient feeling not to throw his victim over, yet he was content to live a life of sin and to keep her in such a life. This is, perhaps, the blackest stain on Hook's character. When Fox married, in consequence of a similar connection, he "settled down," retrieved his early errors, and became a better man, morally, than he had ever been. Hook ought to have married. It was the cowardly dread of public opinion that deterred him from doing so, and, in consequence, he was never happy, and felt that this connection was a perpetual burden to him.
Wrecked and ruined, Hook had no resource but his literary talents, and it is to be deplored that he should have prostituted these to serve an ungentlemanly and dishonorable party in their onslaught upon an unfortunate woman.
Whatever may be now thought of the queen of “the greatest gentleman”-or roué-of Europe, those who hunted her down will never be pardoned, and Hook was one of those. We have cried out against an Austrian general for condemning a Hungarian lady to the lash, and we have seen, with delight, a mob chase him through the streets of London and threaten his very life. But we have not only pardoned, but even praised, our favorite wit for far worse conduct than this. Even if we allow, which we do not, that the queen was one half as bad as her enemies, or rather her husband's toadies, would make her out, we can not forgive the men who, shielded by their incognito, and perfectly free from danger of any kind, set upon a woman with libels, invectives, ballads, epigrams, and lampoons, which a lady could scarcely read, and of which a royal lady, and many an English gentlewoman, too, were the butts.
The vilest of all the vile papers of that day was the “ John Bull,” now settled down to a quiet periodical. Perhaps the real John Bull, heavy, good-natured lumberer as he is, was never worse represented than in this journal which bore his name, but had little of his kindly spirit. Hook was its originator, and for a long time its main supporter. Scurrility, scandal, libel, baseness of all kinds formed the fuel with which it blazed, and the wit, bitter, unflinching, unsparing, which puffed the flame up, was its chief recommendation.
No more disgraceful climax was ever reached by a disgraceful dynasty of profligates than that which found a King of England-long, as Regent, the leader of the profligate and degraded-at war with his injured queen. None have deserved.
AN INCONGRUOUS MIXTURE.
better the honest gratitude of their country than those who, like Henry Brougham, defended the oppressed woman in spite of opposition, obloquy, and ridicule.
But we need not go deeply into a history so fresh in the minds of all, as that blot which shows John Bull himself upholding a wretched dissipated monarch against a wife, who, whatever her faults, was still a woman, and whatever her spirit-for she had much of it, and showed it grandly at need
was still a lady. Suffice it to say that “ John Bull” was the most violent of the periodicals that attacked her, and that Theodore Hook, no Puritan himself, was the principal writer in that paper.
If you can imagine “Punch” turned Conservative, incorporated in one paper with the “Morning Herald,” so that a column of news was printed side by side with one of a jocular character, and these two together devoted without principle to the support of a party, the attack of Whiggism, and an unblushing detractation of the character of one of our princesses, you can form some idea of what “John Bull” was in those days. There is, however, a difference: "Punch" attacks public characters, and ridicules public events; “ John Bull” dragged out the most retired from their privacy, and attacked them with calumnies, for which, often, there was no foundation. Then, again, “Punch” is not nearly so bitter as was "John Bull :' there is not in the “ London Charivari” a determination to say every thing that spite can invent against any particular set or party; there is a good-nature, still, in Máster “Punch.” It was quite the reverse in “ John Bull," established for one purpose, and devoted to that. Yet the wit in Theodore's paper does not rise much higher than that of our modern laughing philosopher.
Of Hook's contributions the most remarkable was the “Ramsbottom Letters,” in which Mrs. Lavinia Dorothea Ramsbottom describes all the memory billions of her various tours at home and abroad, always, of course, with more or less allusion to political affairs. The "fun" of these letters is very inferior to that of “ Jeames” or of the “Snob Papers,” and consists more in Malaprop absurdities and a wide range of bad puns, than in any real wit displayed in them. Of the style of both, we take an extract any where:
“Oh! Mr. Bull, Room is raley a beautiful place. We entered it by the Point of Molly, which is just like the Point and Sally at Porchmouth, only they call Sally there Port, which is not known in Room. The Tiber is a nice river; it looks yellow, but it does the same there as the Tames does here. We hired a carry-lettz and a cocky-olly to take us to the Churcı
HOOK'S SONG ON CLUBS.
of Salt Peter, which is prodigious big; in the centre of the pizarro there is a basilisk very high, on the right and left two handsome foundlings; and the farcy, as Mr. Fulmer called it, is ornamented with collateral statutes of some of the Apostates.”
We can quite imagine that Hook wrote many of these letters in his cups. Some are laughable enough, but the majority are so deplorably 'stupid, reeking with puns and scurrility, that when the temporary interest was gone, there was nothing left to attract a reader. It is scarcely possible to laugh at the Joe-Millerish mistakes, the old-world puns, and the trite stories of Hook “remains.” Remains ! indeed; they had better have remained where they were.
Besides prose of this kind, Hook contributed various jingles—there is no other name for them-arranged to popular tunes, and intended to become favorites with the country people. These, like the prose effusions, served the purpose of an hour, and have no interest now. Whether they were ever really popular remains to be proved. Certes, they are forgotten now, and long since even in the most conservative corners of the country. Many of these have the appearance of having been originally recitati, and their amusement must have depended chiefly on the face and manner of the singer-Hook himself; but in some he displayed that vice of rhyming which has often made nonsense go down, and which is tolerable only when introduced in the satire of a “Don Juan” or the firstrate mimicry of “Rejected Addresses.” Hook had a most wonderful facility in concocting out-of-the-way rhymes, and a few verses from his song on Clubs will suffice for a good specimen of his talent: “If any man loves comfort, and has little cash to buy it, he
Should get into a crowded club-a most select society;
Bow, wow, wow, etc. “Yes, clubs knock houses on the head ; e'en Hatchett's can't demolish them;
Joy grieves to see their magnitude, and Long longs to abolish them.
Bow, wow, wow, etc.
That has not sense enough for six (in fact, that is the plan of it);
Bow, wow, wow, etc.
“E'en Isis has a house in town, and Cam abandons her city.
The master now hangs out at the Trinity University.