Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/69

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Cook
Cook
57

week in November, the task undertaken was accomplished (Business of Travel, pp. 189, 191). The secretary for war expressed his opinion in writing that 'great credit is due to you for the satisfactory way in which your contract was performed.'

At a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society held on 5 Jan. 1885, J. M. Cook narrated some discoveries concerning the navigation of the Nile. The river had been surveyed when in flood, while the expedition was undertaken at low water. Going in a small boat from the Lower Nile to Dongola, he ascertained that the third cataract placed at Hannek did not exist, while there were four or five cataracts between the second and the so-called third one. Cook's mastery over the Nile was completed in 1889, when the Egyptian government granted him the exclusive right of carrying the mails, specie, and the civil and military officials between Assiout and Assouan. A like contract was made with the British government, under which stores and troops were despatched to the Soudan to overthrow the Mahdi. He bought a large piece of land at Boulac, where he erected works for constructing and repairing steamers, and brought a graving dock from England to be used in the process. At the launch in 1889 of his new steamer, Rameses the Great, Cook said that twenty years before there were 136 dahabeahs and one steamer on the river, while thirty dahabeahs and nineteen steamers were then at the service of tourists. Since that time the business has grown so large as to be conducted by an independent company with the title of 'Egypt, Limited,' which was formed on 1 May 1894.

Meanwhile Cook had greatly developed touring arrangements in Norway, where he opened operations in 1875. He had also acquired the railway up Mount Vesuvius, working it successfully and safely. In 1880 he travelled through India and arranged for the issue of international tickets over all the railways there, opening branches at Bombay and Calcutta. He had the sanction and help of Gladstone, the prime minister ; of Lord Hartington, secretary of state for India ; and Lord Salisbury, who had filled that office. He returned to India in 1885, being invited by Lord Duft'erin, the gover- nor-general, to co-operate in devising plans for the safer travel and better treatment of pilgrims to Jeddah and Yambo, and to Mecca and Medina. He devised a scheme which worked well, with the qualification that it brought him no pecuniary return (ib. pp. 209, 215). He was experienced in conducting pilgrims, a party of 1,004 having been led by his agents from France to and through the Holy Land.

The jubilee of the firm was celebrated on 22 July 1891, by the publication of a book for private circulation, entitled 'The Business of Travel, a Fifty Years' Record of Progress,' and by a banquet to eminent representatives of all classes of the public at the Hôtel Métropole. 'A serious and enthusiastic letter was read from Mr. Gladstone, and another, full of gratitude for real services, from Lord Wolseley, giving it as his opinion that the good work done by Messrs. Cook in the Nile campaign could have been done by nobody else ' (Times, 23 July 1891). Cook gave the following figures to illustrate the growth of his business. In 1865 the total receipts for the year were under 20,000l; in 1890 no less than 3,262,159 tickets had been issued, and they had refunded 44,644. for unused tickets. In 1865 the staff consisted of his father, himself, and two assistants ; in 1890 the fixed salaried staff was 1,714, while the offices numbered eighty-four, and the agencies eighty-five. His tourist business had expanded into a banking and shipping business as well.

In the autumn of 1898 the German emperor and empress, whom he had previously conducted up his railway on Mount Vesuvius, visited the Holy Land under arrangements made by Cook. His health at this time was feeble. He rose from a sick bed to greet the imperial party on entering Jerusalem (Blackwood's Magazine, clxxxvi. 220). The pressure of work broke down his health prematurely. He had a fine physique, and, like his father, he was a water drinker ; but he had always taxed his powers to the uttermost. While in the service of the Midland Railway Company he worked eighteen hours out of the twenty-four; later he passed a hundred nights at a stretch without sleeping in a bed. Attacks of influenza eventually undermined his constitution. He never rallied from an illness in Jerusalem, with which he was seized in October 1898, and on 4 March 1899 he died in his house, Mount Felix, at Walton-on-Thames.

According to the 'Times' for 6 March 1898, 'his real work consisted in breaking down the obstructiveness of foreign railway managers, and even governments, and in making journeys all over the world possible and easy to any one who might choose to buy a bundle of coupons at Ludgate Circus.'

On 29 Dec. 1861 J. M. Cook married Emma, daughter of T. W. Hodges of Mayfield, Leicestershire ; she survived him with three sons and daughters. His sons Mr.