Cooke, Henry (d.1672) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

COOKE, HENRY (d. 1672), musician and royalist captain, was educated as a chorister in the Chapel Royal in the reign of Charles I. On the outbreak of the civil war he sided with the royalists, serving in the army in 1642, ‘and through inferior offices he became a captain’ (Wood, Bodl. MSS. 19 D. (4), No. 106). Later under the Commonwealth he seems to have settled in London as a teacher of music; for on 28 Nov. 1655 Evelyn records that during a visit to London there came to visit him ‘one Captain Cooke, esteemed the best singer, after the Italian manner, of any in England; he entertained us with his voice and theorbo.’ A similar visit is chronicled on 2 Oct. 1656. In the latter year Cooke took part in Sir William Davenant's operatic performances. In collaboration with Dr. Coleman, Lawes, and Hudson, he wrote the music for the ‘First Dayes Entertainment at Rutland House,’ which took place, according to a contemporary account (State Papers, Dom. Series, 1655–6, cxxviii. No. 108), on 23 May 1656, and does not seem to have been very successful, as, though there was room for four hundred admissions at 5s. a head, only a hundred and fifty came. In the ‘Siege of Rhodes,’ which followed the entertainment, Cooke not only played one of the principal characters, that of Solyman, but also composed the music of the second and third acts of the opera [see Coleman, Charles]. On the Restoration, Cooke was appointed master of the children of the Chapel Royal, with a salary of 40l. The warrant granting him this post is dated January 1660–1, but he seems to have been already entrusted with the task of reorganising the chapel, for Pepys, on a visit to Whitehall Chapel in August of the previous year, chronicles: ‘After sermon a brave anthem of Captain Cooke's, which he himself sung, and the king was well pleased with it;’ and again on 7 Oct.: ‘A poor dry sermon, but a very good anthem of Captain Cooke's afterwards.’ At the coronation of Charles II (23 April 1661) Cooke wrote all the special music performed in Westminster Abbey. In the State Papers for the same year his name is of frequent occurrence. He obtained a grant of 16l. 2s. 6d. for livery, on 25 July another yearly sum of 40l. was granted him for the maintenance and instruction of two choristers, and on 14 Oct. the former payment of 15l. 4s. 2d. per boy which he received as master of the children was increased to 30l. In 1662 he obtained another augmentation of 30l., and, according to an entry in the Chapel Royal Cheque Book, a third one of the like amount in 1663, but all these entries are somewhat obscure, and probably some of them refer to the same sum. In 1663 his name occurs in the list of the king's musicians in ordinary, and in May 1664 he was appointed ‘composer in his majesty's private musick for voyces,’ with a salary of 40l. At the festival of the knights of the Garter (17 April 1661) a hymn specially composed by Cooke was performed instead of the litany; he also acted as steward at the feast of the gentlemen of the chapel in 1662. On 28 Oct. of the latter year he became an assistant of the Corporation of Musicians, and in the same year appears to have acted as deputy marshal to Nicholas Laniere. On 31 May 1664 Cooke, with Hudson, Hingeston, and John Lilly, were deputed by the corporation to ‘meete fower of the musique of the cittie of London to treat upon such matters and things as concerne the good of the said corporation,’ and on 21 Jan. 1670 he succeeded Laniere as marshal, a post he held until 24 June 1672, when he requested the corporation to choose a successor, ‘he being by reason of sicknesse unable to attend the buysinesse of the said corporation.’ He died shortly after, and was buried on 17 July 1672, in the east cloister of Westminster Abbey, near the steps. According to Wood, Cooke ‘was esteemed the best of his time to singe to the lute till Pelham Humphrey came up, and then, as 'tis said, the captaine died in discontent and with grief.’ This story is probably mere idle gossip, though Cooke, great artist though he must have been, seems to have been a vain and conceited man. But on the other hand it is certain that Humfrey on his return from France made no secret of his contempt for English music and musicians, and the favour which Charles showed the vain young composer was probably galling to his old master. Cooke's merits as a teacher must have been very great, for he taught nearly all the composers who were the glory of the English school of the Restoration. Blow, Wise, Humfrey, and Purcell were all his pupils, and it must have been from him that they learnt the solid traditions of the Elizabethan school which form the real foundation of their peculiar merits. The notices in Pepys's diary of Cooke are numerous and amusing, but it is sometimes difficult to distinguish him from a Captain Cocke. On 16 Sept. 1662 Pepys at Whitehall ‘heard Captain Cooke's new musique … and very fine it is. But yet I could discern Captain Cooke to overdo his part at singing, which I never did before.’ On 22 Nov. 1661 there is an amusing account of a dinner at the Dolphin, where were ‘Captain Cook and his lady, a German lady, but a very great beauty … and there we had the best musique and very good songs, and were very merry, and danced, but I was most of all taken with Madam Cook and her little boy. … But after all our mirth comes a reckoning of 4l., besides 4s. of the musicians, which did trouble us, but it must be paid, and so I took leave.’ On 13 Feb. 1666–7 Pepys met Cooke at Dr. Clarke's, ‘where, among other vanities, Captain Cooke had the arrogance to say that he was fain to direct Sir W. Davenant in the breaking of his verses into such and such lengths, according as would be fit for musick, and how he used to swear at Davenant, and command him that way, when W. Davenant would be angry, and find fault with this or that note—a vain coxcomb he is, though he sings and composes so well.’

Cooke seems to have died intestate. Of his music very little remains, and that mostly in manuscript. The Music School and Christ Church collections at Oxford contain anthems and other pieces by him, and there are also a few pieces in the British Museum.

[Wood's Bodl. MS.; Harl. M.S. 1911; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey; Cheque Book of Chapel Royal, ed. Rimbault, pp. 125, 128, 215; Ashmole's Order of the Garter; State Papers, Charles II, Dom. Series; Pepys's Diary, ed. Braybrook; Evelyn's Diary; Baker's Chronicle, ed. 1684, p. 745; Dramatists of the Restoration, Davenant's Works, vol. iii.; Musical Times for 1881; Hawkins's and Burney's Histories of Music; Catalogues of the Music School and Christ Church Collections.]

W. B. S.