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Worcester that the boys often neglected their lessons on a Monday, through young Sam's laughter-moving imitations : he usually dined on a Sunday with some of his relatives in the neighbourhood ; and the boy's peculiarities rarely failed to afford him a fresh supply of humorous personifications for the amusement of the school
FOOTE AT COLLEGE. In his seventeenth
Foote was elected scholar of Worcester College, in Oxford: thither he carried his love of ridiculing the authorities, and chose for his butt the provost of his college. This, of course, brought upon him penalties and impositions, but it did not check his humour. The provost was a stiff-necked pedant; and once, when Foote had to receive a reprimand, he presented himself with mock gravity, with a large dictionary under his arm: the Doctor began pompously with a startling long word, when Foote would open his dictionary, and pretending to have found the meaning of the word, would say: “ Very well, sir; now please to go on.” This infraction of discipline could not be tolerated; and in the third year of his undergraduateship, Foote quitted college, not solely on account of this breach, but also for having driven through the streets of Oxford a coach and six greys, with a freight of gay company, attended by two footmen, and with a ridiculous quantity of lace about his clothes. He was severely reprimanded for this indecorum, and he left the quiet rooms and gardens of Worcester college for the more congenial excitement of London life.
During Foote's studentship, Murphy tells us that he played Punch at Oxford in disguise, which might be expected from his success in mimicry. In one of the vacations, he had paid a visit to Bath, whose gaieties and theatrical tastes must have consorted with Foote's humour: the first theatre had then been built ten years, and gaming was the rage of that day; and some years elapsed before the Bath stage became the nursery for our metropolitan theatres.
A FAMILY TRAGEDY. Upon quitting Oxford, Foote repaired to the metropolis, and there entered himself of the Temple ; his choice of the law
* The mimes of ancient Rome seem to have been nothing but irregular harlequinades, probably the lineal ancestors of our Punch,
having been determined by his success in mimicking some justices of quorum at his father's dinner-table. Scarcely had he begun residence in the Temple, when this terrible catastrophe occurred :
A family quarrel of long standing existed between the two brothers of Mrs. Foote, (Sir John Dinely Goodere, and Capt. Samuel Goodere, R.N.), and it had very recently assumed a character of such bitterness, that the baronet, who was unmarried and was somewhat eccentric in his ways, had cut off the entail of the family estate in favour of his sister's issue, to the exclusion of the Captain, who, nevertheless, had seized the occasion of an unexpected visit of his brother to Bristol, in the winter of 1741, somewhat ostentatiously to seek a reconciliation with him; having previously arranged that on the very night of their friendly meeting a pressgang, partly selected from his own ship, the Ruby man-of-war, and partly from the Vernon privateer, both lying at the time in the King's road, should seize and hurry Sir John into a boat on the river, and thence secrete him in the purser's cabin of the Ruby. The whole thing was wonderfully devised to assume the character of one of those outrages far from unconimon in seaports in those days ; but as usual, the artifice was overdone. The Captain's publicly-acted recon. ciliation directed suspicion against him ; even among the savage instruments of this dreadful deed, some sparks of feeling and conscience were struck out; and one man, who saw through the crevice in the woodwork of the cabin two of the worst rụffians in the ship strangle the poor struggling victim, swore also, in confirmation of the evidence of others who had witnessed their commander's watch outside the door, at the supposed time of the murder, and his subsequent disappearance inside, that in about a minute after the deed was done, he saw an arm stretched out, and a white hand on the throat of the deceased. — Forster’s Essays.
The captain remained on board the ship with the dead body till he was apprehended. The plea of insanity failed : and Captain Goodere, and the two accomplices, were tried, and hanged at Bristol.
Murphy states that Foote's first production as an author was a version which he wrote of the above transaction
-“ a pamphlet giving an account of one of his uncles who was executed for murdering his other uncle.”
It was a sort of defence of the justly-hanged captain-an attempt to lessen the family discredit. Foote certainly wrote the pamphlet for ten pounds, for an Old Bailey bookseller, on condition that his name as its writer should be suppressed. Mr. Forster has seen what purports to be a copy of the pamphlet: it is the recent reprint of a sixpenny pamphlet published in the locality of the murder. It is stated on the title-page to have been written“ by the late S. Foote, esq., but the only evidence it bears of his authorship is an allusion
to the writer's relationship to the two brothers, both of whom, however, it does not endeavour to defend : it gives up the captain. It is so wretched a performance as to make it difficult to believe it to have been written by Foote.
Cooke, who wrote the Memoirs of Foote, relates that on the day he took the manuscript of the above pamphlet to the bookseller in the Old Bailey, such was his need, that he was obliged to wear his boots without stockings, and on receiving his ten pounds, he purchased a pair at a hosier's in Fleet. street. On coming out of the shop, he was recognised by two Oxford associates, who bore him off to dinner at the Bedford : as the wine passed round, the state of Foote's wardrobe came within view, and he was asked what the deuce had become of his stockings ? “Why," said Foote, quite unembarrassed, “I never wear any at this time of the year, till I dress for the evening; and you see,” pulling his purchase out of his pocket, and silencing the laugh of his friends, “I am always provided with a pair for the occasion."
A PLEASANT INTRODUCTION. Out of the tragical episode just narrated sprung the following strange incident:
Foote, when at the age of one-and-twenty, was introduced to a club of wits, by Mr. Cooke, who translated Hesiod. “ This," said Mr. Cooke, presenting Foote, “is the nephew of the gentleman who was lately hung in chains for murdering his brother.” This announcement we have seen, was literally true; and Mr. Cooke, who most ingeniously lived in idleness by his wits, thought of nothing in making the strange announcement but Foote's luck and advantage in having come to a portion of the family inheritance by such windfalls as a murder and an execution.
FOOTE FIRST APPEARS ON THE STAGE. To recruit his wasted fortunes, the tendency of Foote's habits and tastes pointed to the stage; and encouraged by the well-known Delavals, he became enlisted in the service of the public. He joined Macklin, who seceded from Drurylane, and with the best company he could get, went to the little “ wooden theatre” in the Haymarket. Foote chose Othello for his opening part; and the Haymarket bill, of the 6th of February, 1744, announced the play—“Othello by a gentleman, being his first appearance on any stage,”-the character “ dressed after the custom of the country." Foote failed in Othello; though, Macklin said, “not but one could discover the scholar about the young fellow, and that he perfectly knew what the author meant." Still, he repeated it three times ; and next month he acted it for a benefit at Drury-lane. His next part was Lord Foppington, which was so successful as to make safe his ground in comedy. In 1744-5, he went over to Dublin, to play at the new Smockalley theatre; and in 1754-6, he was installed as one of the regular company at Drury-lane.
FOOTE'S “HAMLET.” Foote's Othello is described as a masterpiece of burlesque ; but it fell short of Hamlet, which he attempted, in the early part of his life, for his benefit. He went through the play tolerably well until he came to the last act; but in the scene where he quarrels with Laertes
What is the reason that you use me thus ? "
The cat will mew—the dog will have his dayhe entered so much into the quarrel, as to throw himself out of the words, which he jumbled thus: “I lov'd you ever ;but it's no matter. Let Hercules himself do what he may, the dog will mew-no, that's the cat; the cat will bark—no, that's the dog ; the dog will mew-no, that's the cat; the cat will no, the dog ; the cat, the dog,-pshaw-pho-it's something about mewing and barking ; but as I hope to be saved, ladies and gentlemen, I know nothing more of the matter."
FOOTE AND THE DELAVALS. Foote is known to have spent three fortunes : the third fell to him from the death of a relation of his mother's, and on the strength of it, he set up a gay carriage, with iterum, iterum, iterumque painted on the panel. Foremost among his companions were the Delaval family, in connexion with whom he is mentioned, by Horace Walpole, 13th of March, 1751, as one Foote, a player.” This is the first time he is mentioned by Walpole, who afterwards regarded him with oddly mingled feelings of deference and admiration, dislike and fear.
Foote is said to have been once extricated from his difficul.
ties by a very dishonourable piece of service to the head of the Delavals, Sir Francis, who, being himself of ruined fortune, looked forward to marriage with a rich lady, as the means of repairing it. Foote, discovering a wealthy dame, who was prepossessed with fortune-tellers, got a friend to personate a conjuror, and recommended Sir Francis as a husband. The scheme succeeded, and Foote was rewarded by Sir Francis with an annuity. The story is told with a scandalous addition, by Walpole ; Mr. Forster, we perceive, considers the charge to be altogether unfounded.
However, the association with Delaval was not altogether a course of dissipation: it had more intellectual aims ; for Foote, in dedicating his comedy of Taste to his friend Sir Francis, reminds him how often their conversations had turned to the distinctions between comedy and farce; " for in whatever dissipation the world may suppose our days to have been consumed, many, many hours have been consecrated to other subjects than generally employ the giddy and gay.”
When Foote heard of Sir Francis Blake Delaval's death, the shock of losing so intimate a friend had such an effect on his spirits that he burst into tears, retired to his room, and saw no company for two days; the third day, Jewel, his treasurer, calling in upon him, he asked him, with swollen eyes, what time the burial would be ? “Not till next week, sir," replied the other, as I hear the surgeons are first to dissect his head.” This last word recovered Foote's fancy, and, repeating it with some surprise, he asked, “ And what will they get there ? I am sure,” said he, “I have known poor Frank these five-and-twenty years, and I never could find anything in it."
FOOTE'S PERSONAL SUCCESS. George Colman the younger has well observed that “the paradoxical celebrity which Foote maintained on the stage was very singular: his satirical sketches were scarcely dramas, and he could not be called a good legitimate performer. Yet there is no Shakspeare or Roscius upon record who, like Foote, supported a theatre for a series of years, by his own acting, in his own writings, and, for ten years of the time, upon a wooden leg !"!
Here are strong evidences of his success, by three of his contemporaries :