1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Cooke

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 1:75-77.



THE COMEDIAN, OR PHILOSOPHICAL ENQUIRER. The author of this work, which came out monthly in 1732, was Mr. Thomas Cooke. He was born at Braintree in Essex, in 1707, was educated at Felsted school in the same county, and at the age of nineteen printed an excellent edition of Andrew Marvel's Works, with a life of the author. In the year 1728 he brought before the public his principal literary labour, a translation of Hesiod, with notes; of which notes part was contributed by Theobald, and part by the Earl of Pembroke, whose patronage he had been fortunate enough to obtain. This is a respectable effort, though by no means superseding the necessity of a more modern version, the elegance and sweetness of Hesiod's versification demanding all the melody which the most polished English poetry can communicate. The fragment of his "Shield of Hercules" has met with an adequate translator in the volume entitled "Exeter Essays." Mr. Cooke, whose pen was seldom unemployed, published likewise translations of Cicero do Natura Deorum, of Terence, and of the Amphitryon of Plautus; he contributed also to the British, London, and Daily Journals, and wrote several plays and farces which met with little success. One of these, entitled, "Penelope, a dramatic opera," and his poem called "The Battle of the Poets," in which Phillips and Welsted are the victors, to the discomfiture of Swift and Pope, gave him a ready passport to the Dunciad. He died, in distressed circumstances, about the year 1750. The Comedian, which is censured for its ignorance and impiety, in the Memoirs of the Society of Grubstreet, vol. 2, p. 310, was continued but for eight months, and then expired, from its inability to defray the expences of printing and paper.