343I witnessed a strange instance once, of the Old Man Eloquent being beguiled into singularly incongruous exhibitions of action, look, manner, and, I was about to add, speech; but the speech was in his usual style of elocution and delivery. A literary gentleman entertained a party of friends in a small suburban gardener’s cottage, where he had hired lodgings for the summer. Of the party were Lockhart and Hook, the latter at the top of his most exuberant humour. Coleridge had never met Hook before, and seemed lost in wonder. Under Hook’s instigation, he took part in a scene of boisterous merriment, the philosopher being for the nonce like a wild schoolboy at play. Presently, he was diverted by a wonderful song, extemporized by Hook at the dictation of Captain Harris, who had suspected him of collusion and preparation in previous instances, and gave the untoward subject of “Cocoa-nut Oil.” On this theme the improvisatore descanted in the happiest vein, and brought the oil from the cocoa-tree under which the negroes danced in the Mauritius, through various stages of importation and manufacture, till it ended (as it had in reality done on the dinner-table) by refusing to bum in the lamp, and thus, by experiment, repudiating the patent then taken out for its enlightenment of mankind. It was certainly a marvellous display of the ready application of a remarkable talent. “Well,” said Coleridge, in his smoothest drawling manner, “I have met with many men of the readiest wit and resources, but, of all the men I ever met, Mr. Hook is the most extraordinary; for none could ever, like him, bring the vast stores of quick 344intelligence to bear upon the mere incidents of the moment.” With Coleridge still as the principal figure, it was a scene for photography to have depicted and preserved a sample of high jinks, such as elder authors have prescribed as pertaining to other epochs.