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The irresistible Samuel Foote

Found- in the The common-place book of literary curiosities, remarkable customs, historical and domestic anecdotes, and etymological scraps by Rev. Dr. Dryasdust, of York. (London: John Bumpus 1825) these amusing anecdotes about Samuel Foote (1720 – 1777) the British dramatist, comic actor and theatre manager. Probably the best known quotation associated with him is a put down of an unnamed ‘law lord’. Foote said of him- ‘What can he mean by coming among us? He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.’ Dr. Dryasdust provides six anecdotes about Foote. The first concerns Samuel Johnson, who tried very hard not to be amused by him..the last, where he messes up his lines in Hamlet, has the spirit of Tommy Cooper or Stanley Unwin. His Othello was apparently a ‘masterpiece of burlesque..’

1. Life's a poor player.

"Dr Johnshon said, 'The first time I was in company with Foote, was at Fitzherbert's. Having no good opinion of the fellow, I was resolved not to be pleased; and it is very difficult to please a man against his will. I went on eating my dinner pretty sullenly, affecting not to mind him; but the dog became so irresistibly comic, that I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork, throw myself back in my chair, and fairly laugh out. Sir, he was irresistible!"

2. Foote was one day invited to dine at Merchants Tailors' Hall; and so well pleased was he with the entertainment, that he sat till the chief part of the company had left the hall. At length, rising, he said, 'Gentlemen, I wish you both very good night.' 'Both!' exclaimed one of the company, 'Why you must be drunk, Foote, here are twenty of us.' 'I have been counting you, and there are just eighteen; and as Nine Tailors make a Man, I'm right; I wish you both very good night."

3.Dining at the house of a gentleman, where the Bishop of --- was present, Foote was in high spirits, and as full of efferversence as a bottle of spruce beer. The bishop being angry at the entire usurpation of the conversation by Foote, after waiting with considerable impatience, exclaimed, 'When will that player leave off preaching?' 'Oh! my Lord,' said Foote, 'the moment I am made a bishop!"

4. "Pray, Maister Foote," said a Scotchman to him one day, "did you not see some very fine timber when you were in Scotland?' 'Oh, yes, I did indeed; I saw a bird sitting on as fine a thistle as ever was seen."

5. "Were you ever at Cork, Mr. Foote,' said an Irishman to him. 'No, I never was at Cork, but I have seen a great many drawings of it.

6."Foote's Othello was a master-piece of burlesque but it fell very short of the Hamlet which he attempted in the early part of his life for his benefit. He went through the play tole-
rably 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 ?
I lov'd you ever:-but 'tis no matter.
Let Hercules himself do what he may.
Tho cat will mew -the dog will have his day;"

stimulated by a desire, he entered so much into the quarrel as to throw him out of the words,and he spoke it 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."

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