Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hook, James (1746-1827)

HOOK, JAMES (1746–1827), organist and composer, born at Norwich in 1746, was the only son of John Hook, minister of the Norwich Tabernacle. He showed a talent for composition before he was seven years old, and was placed under Garland, the cathedral organist, for musical instruction. Migrating to London, he published a ‘Collection of new English Songs sung at the new Richmond Theatre’ (about 1765); was for a long time organist of St. John's, Horselydown; was organist and composer at Marylebone Gardens from 1769 to 1773; and at Vauxhall Gardens from 1774 to 1820. He gave music lessons, and excelled as an organist, performing an organ concerto every night at Vauxhall (Parke). He died at Boulogne in 1827. Hook's first wife was Miss Madden (d. 1795). Their two sons were James [q. v.], afterwards dean of Worcester, and Theodore [q. v.], the humorist. Hook, the composer, was himself a wit. His second wife died 5 April 1873.

Hook composed over two thousand songs, and wrote music for the organ, pianoforte, and other instruments, an oratorio, catches and glees, dramatic pieces, and an instruction book, ‘Guida di Musica.’ His knowledge of the works of other musicians was great, and he was charged by his contemporaries with unscrupulously adapting their musical ideas to his own purposes. Hook probably appropriated much that would have otherwise been sooner forgotten or never even known. His choice of materials and his perception of the public mood rendered him very popular. The originality of his most famous songs does not appear to have been questioned. His ‘Scotch’ ballad ‘Within a mile’ was sung by Incledon in the ‘Gentle Shepherd’ in 1795, and with the ‘greatest applause by Mrs. Mountain in Harlequin Faustus,’ probably in the same year. ‘The Lass of Richmond Hill,’ as happily ‘English’ as the former was ‘Scotch,’ was composed about 1787, and sung by Incledon probably in the following year. (See Notes and Queries, 5th ser. ix. 495, and x. 169.)

Among Hook's dramatic and concerted vocal pieces, some of them with words by Theodore Hook, are: ‘Ode on the Opening of the new Exhibition Room’ (on the site of which the Lyceum now stands), 1765; ‘Dido,’ 1771; ‘The Divorce,’ 1771 (produced in 1781 at Drury Lane), ‘Trick upon Trick,’ ‘Il Dilettante,’ ‘Cupid's Revenge,’ ‘Country Courtship’ (Sadler's Wells), and ‘One Morning Dame Turner’ (prize catch), all in 1772; ‘Apollo and Daphne,’ 1773; ‘The Ascension’ (oratorio), and ‘The Fair Peruvian,’ 1776; ‘The Lady of the Manor,’ 1778; ‘Come, kiss me, dear Dolly’ (prize catch), 1780; ‘Ode on the Return of Peace,’ and ‘Too civil by half,’ 1783; ‘The Double Disguise’ (written by Miss Madden), 1784; ‘Jack of Newbury,’ 1795; ‘Diamond cut Diamond,’ 1797; ‘Wilmore Castle,’ 1800; ‘The Soldier's Return,’ 1805; ‘Tekeli,’ and ‘Catch him who can,’ 1806; ‘Music Mad,’ and ‘The Fortress,’ 1807; ‘The Siege of St. Quintin’ (at Drury Lane), 1808; ‘Killing no Murder,’ and ‘Safe and Sound,’ 1809. Many of Hook's songs appear in ‘Collections of Songs sung at Vauxhall,’ ‘The Anchoret,’ ‘Hours of Love,’ ‘L'année,’ ‘The Aviary,’ ‘Nursery Songs,’ &c. Eleven of his glees and catches are published in ‘Warren's Collections,’ vols. i–iii.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 746; A.B.C. Dario; Dict. of Music, 1827, i. 374; Pohl's Mozart in London, p. 50; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. viii. 208, 436; Parke's Musical Memoirs, pp. 36, 66, 253; Barham's Life of Theodore Hook; Quart. Rev. lxxii. (Essay on Theodore Hook).]

L. M. M.