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vincial theatres of England, was an object of attraction and delight to the warm-hearted sons of St. Patrick. He took possession of the Dublin stage without a struggle. There was no competitor; the throne was his own.
On Wednesday the 19th of November 1794, he made his first appearance in Dublin. The character he then played was Othello. Mr. Daly played Iago, and Miss Campion Desdemona. This lady married Mr. Pope, and died in 1803, having been taken ill while playing this same character, for Mr. Cooper's benefit, at Drury-Lane, when Mr. Cooke played Iago.
Most of the great characters of tragedy, such as Macbeth, Richard, Othello, Zanga, Shylock, and many others, with many first parts in comedy, were filled this season by Mr. Cooke, who complains in his journal of the want of ability, as well as discipline, in Mr. Daly's corps. "While I was in the Dublin theatre," says he," the celebrated personage, known by the name of the Chevalier D'Eon, used sometimes to fence at the end of the play, dressed as an officer of dragoons. The Dublin
theatre was at that time at a low ebb; the performers were ill paid, and the house, scenes, and dresses, very mean and bad. On the second or third of March 1795, I quitted the theatre: I was heartily sick of it; and being appointed to act Don Felix in the Wonder, and no dress provided, I embraced the
opportunity of taking my leave. From this period, until March 1796, I ceased to be an actor."
It is but too évident, that the cause here assigned was not sufficient of itself to produce the effect recorded. The truth is, that Mr. Cooke's want of prudence and common sense in the common transactions of life, drove him at this time from the stage. Intemperance, which long before had become a habit with him, and which tarnished his fame as an actor, marred his usefulness as a man, and finally produced, as its inevitable effect, disease and death, was the cause of a series of actions, during the twelve months now under consideration, which will scarcely appear credible to those who are not used to contemplate the romances of real life; romances much more strange than those of fiction, if we except the old and new tales of ghosts, and dragons, and giants, and certainly full as instructive. Let the picture of genius, degraded by weakness, and brought to shame, poverty, disease, and the brink of the grave, make its due impression.
The causes which removed Mr. Cooke from before the public in this instance I am enabled to state, as well as the circumstances which brought him back to the stage at the time he has mentioned.
Mr. Matthews, now and for some years a distinguished favourite with the London audience, at that time a very young man and actor, was a member of Daly's company, and lodged in the same house with
Cooke. One night after play and farce, in the latter Matthews having played Mordecai to Cooke's Sir Archy, and to the satisfaction of the veteran, was invited by him to take supper in his room tete-atete, and drink whisky punch. This high honour was gratefully received and accepted by the young comedian, who anticipated both pleasure and instruction from the society of the celebrated actor. Supper over, and Cooke's spirits elevated, the fatigues of the evening were forgotten; he was pleased with his young companion, whose tongue, freed from all shackles by the smoking liquor, glibly poured forth those praises which Cooke's superior talents prompted. One jug of whisky punch was quickly emptied; and while drinking the second, George Frederick in his turn begins to commend young Matthews...!..
“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 whisky punch, Mrs. Burns-you make it so good, Mrs. Burns; another jug."......
"Yes, Mister Cooke."
"In our profession, my young friend, dissipation is too apt to be the bane of youth- villanous 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 whisky punch, jug after jug, vànished, 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 whisky 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 astonishment, 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, excused himself by charging his stupidity on the whisky.
"There what's that?"
"Very fine, sir.”
"But what is it?"
"O-anger-anger, to be sure."
To be sure you're a blockhead-Fear! fear,
But when the actor, after making a hideous 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 this rudeness in his young guest, but Matthews had address enough to pacify him.
Mistress Burns, in the mean time, had protested against making any more whisky punch, and had brought up the last jug, upon Cooke's solemn promise that he would ask for no more. The jug is finished; and Matthews, heartily tired, thinks he shall escape from his tormentor, and makes a move
"Not yet, my dear boy; one jug more.” "It's very late, sir."
"Only one more.”
"Mistress Burns will not let us have it."
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, answersy ́› "What is it you want, Mister Cooke ?"...
"Another jug of whisky punch, Mistress Burns." "Indeed, but you can have no more, Mister Cooke."
"Indeed but I will, Mistress Burns."