Here’s an ex-Highgate-resident’s well-researched book
On the Regency journalist, Theodore Hook.
He was songster and punster, ‘fast master’ of rhyme,
And the funniest prankster alive, in his time.
John Bull was his organ of satire and wit,
Though he scarcely admitted to editing it.
Snow was falling on Highgate: they all had to wait
When their Sage, their Panjandrum, their Coleridge came late,
From the Grove, down West Hill, to the comedy shrine,
Millfield Lane’s Ivy Cottage, to dazzle and dine:
Yes, to prattle and tipple, to guzzle and shine.
The host was Charles Mathews, celebrity mimic,
Big draw at the Garrick. Hook borrowed his gimmick:-
‘So inveterate (said he) was the wild element
(Hook was aping the Sage) in its fleecy descent,
Dr Gillman and I…’ They all laughed; then the bell
Craved silence for Coleridge (and Gillman as well).
‘So inveterate (said he) was the wild element …’
How they roared! It was perfect, one hundred per cent.
The King (George the Fourth) said ‘John Bull did more good
Than all of my Judges and Ministers could.’
For with barbed, biting comments and barely a bad jest he
Snagged and harpooned and lambasted Her Majesty.
Coleridge and Byron, and Sheridan too,
Reckoned Hook was a genius: so, reader, might you.
Hook unjustly succumbed, came unstuck: full of fun, but too
trustful, a touch unsuspicious,
When his unscrupulous underlings plundered huge sums
from the Treasury Funds in his care, on Mauritius.
P.S. Wait! This is wrong: it was Mathews, not Hook,
Who ‘pre-quoted’ the Sage, if you re-read the book.
And James Smith wasn’t there (wrote smash hits: only one’ll
Be mentioned in BUZZ, on the failed Highgate Tunnel),
When in Highgate, upstairs in a gardener’s cottage,
Old Coleridge waxed roseate in full anecdotage:
Hair floating, eyes bright, he recited and chattered,
Chucked forks at a glass, which he finally shattered…
Hook extemporised songs as if quality mattered
On Coconut Oil and on Mrs MacPherson,
The gardener’s wife, a respectable person.
Her husband and she practised husbandry (tillage),
Like crowds of BUZZ readers who live in the village.
Published in the Highgate Society Buzz, T. Ades, Ed.