Monday, May 9, 2011

Cozeners

May 9.[1828]—Grounds of Foote's farce of the Cozeners. Lady ——. A certain Mrs. Phipps audaciously set up in a fashionable quarter of the town as a person through whose influence, properly propitiated, favours and situations of importance might certainly be obtained—always for a consideration. She cheated many people, and maintained the trick for many months. One trick was to get the equipage of Lord North, and other persons of importance, to halt before her door as if the owners were within. With respect to most of them, this was effected by bribing the drivers. But a gentleman, who watched her closely, observed that Charles J. Fox actually left his carriage and went into the house, and this more than once. He was then, it must be noticed, in the Ministry. When Mrs. Phipps was blown up, this circumstance was recollected as deserving explanation, which Fox readily gave at Brooks's and elsewhere. It seems Mrs. Phipps had the art to persuade him that she had the disposal of what was then called a hyæna—that is, an heiress—an immense Jamaica heiress, in whom she was willing to give or sell her interest to Charles Fox. Without having perfect confidence in the obliging proposal, the great statesman thought the thing worth looking after, and became so earnest in it, that Mrs. Phipps was desirous to back out of it for fear of discovery. With this view she made confession one fine morning, with many professions of the deepest feelings, that the hyæna had proved a frail monster, and given birth to a girl or boy—no matter which. Even this did not make Charles quit chase of the hyæna. He intimated that if the cash was plenty and certain, the circumstance might be overlooked. Mrs. Phipps had nothing for it but to double the disgusting dose. "The poor child," she said, "was unfortunately of a mixed colour, somewhat tinged with the blood of Africa; no doubt Mr. Fox was himself very dark, and the circumstance might not draw attention," etc. etc. This singular anecdote was touched upon by Foote, and is the cause of introducing the negress into the Cozeners, though no express allusion to Charles Fox was admitted. Lady ——— tells me that, in her youth, the laugh was universal so soon as the black woman appeared. It is one of the numerous hits that will be lost to posterity. Jack Fuller, celebrated for his attempt on the Speaker's wig, told me he was editing Foote, but I think he has hardly taste enough. He told me Colman was to be his assistant...

Samuel Foote's comedy "The Cozeners" opened in 1774.  It was performed at the Theater Royal in the Haymarket.  Foote himself acted, and was known for his mimicry of public figures.  The Whig politician Charles James Fox that Scott discusses in his Journal entry of May 9, 1828, served in Parliament for 38 years.  His personal life was the subject of scandal, as can be inferred from the text above.

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