1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cook

Anonymous, "Memoirs of William Cooke" The Minerva [New York] NS 1 (18 September 1824) 376.



This gentleman, who had long been known in former literary circles, died last May at a very advanced age, at his house in London. He was born at Cork, which city he left in 1766. He went to England with strong recommendations to the first Marquis of Lansdown, the Duke of Richmond, Edmund Burke and Dr. Goldsmith; and retained an intimacy with all these distinguished characters through life. Soon after his arrival in London he entered a member of the Middle Temple, but after a circuit or two, purchased a share in two Journals, and devoted himself chiefly to the Public Press. His first poem was entitled The Art of Living in London, which was attended with considerable success. His next work was a prose essay, entitled Elements of Dramatic Criticism. He after wards wrote The Life of Macklin the actor, with a History of the Stage during the life of that Performer. He also wrote The Life of Foote, with whom, as well as with Macklin, he was on intimate terms. Both these works abounded with anecdotes, and judicious remarks on the merits of contemporary actors and actresses. Mr. Cooke, by desire of the Marquis of Lansdown, then Lord Shelburne, wrote a pamphlet on Parliamentary Reform, which contained true constitutional principles, expressed in nervous language. His chief poetical work was an excellent Didactic Poem, entitled Conversation, which passed through several editions, and is a work of considerable merit. In the last edition of this work, the author introduced sketches of all the members of Dr. Johnson's latest Club, of which Mr. Cooke was nominated one of the earliest members at the recommendation of the Doctor. He has drawn the characters of all the members with accuracy and spirit, particularly those of Johnson, Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Goldsmith; on the memory of the last he always dwelt with true friendship. The late Mr. Wyndham and Garrick are given with truth and energy. Boswell, Dr. Horsley, Brocklesby, Murphy, Mr. J. Nichols also, are well delineated. Mr. Cooke came from a long-lived family; his father was actually a class-fellow with the youngest son of Dryden, and well remembered the funeral of that great poet. Having by industry, and bequests of friendship, acquired considerable property, which he prudently managed, he had retired for many years into private life, and maintained an intercourse with a very few select friends. Mr. Cooke had a deep and comprehensive knowledge of mankind, and had stored his mind with anecdotes which he related with great case, spirit, and humour.