Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hook, James (1772?-1828)

1395599Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 27 — Hook, James (1772?-1828)1891Richard Garnett

HOOK, JAMES (1772?–1828), dean of Worcester, son of James Hook [q. v.], musical composer, and brother of Theodore Edward Hook [q. v.], was born in London, probably in 1772 (his son's biographer says June 1771, but as he is recorded to have entered Westminster School in 1788 at the age of fifteen, and to have died in February 1828, aged 55, this cannot be the case). While at Westminster he edited the school magazine, ‘The Trifler,’ and by an unlucky attempt to satirise Eton provoked the well-known epigram of Canning on the ‘heavy fellows’ of Westminster in the ‘Microcosm,’ the Etonian Magazine. He made the best retort possible, but the honours of the contest certainly did not rest with him. He inherited his father's skill in music and his mother's skill in painting: he wrote in youth the librettos of two of his father's musical entertainments, ‘Jack of Newbury’ and ‘Diamond cut Diamond,’ which were performed, but never printed; and his juvenile sketches, which included a set of caricatures of leading public men, induced Sir Joshua Reynolds to recommend that he should be educated as an artist. In 1792 he was a candidate for election from Westminster to Christ Church, Oxford, but was excluded for ‘acts of insubordination,’ to which he had also invited others. He proceeded to Oxford nevertheless, and graduated from St. Mary Hall in 1796. In the same year, yielding to the strong wish of his mother, he took holy orders, and in the following year contracted a most advantageous marriage with Anne, daughter of Sir Walter Farquhar, bart. [q. v.], physician and confidential friend of the Prince of Wales, whose private chaplain he became. His rise in the church was consequently very rapid. After having held livings in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, and Hertfordshire, he became in 1814 archdeacon of Huntingdon, in 1817 rector of Whippingham in the Isle of Wight, and in 1825 dean of Worcester, an appointment bringing with it two valuable livings. He did not enjoy it long, dying at Worcester 5 Feb. 1828. He was buried in the cathedral, and his epitaph was written by the bishop (Folliott H. W. Cornewall). Notwithstanding his accumulated preferment, he left his family in straitened circumstances. Walter Farquhar Hook [q. v.] was his son.

Hook published (1802) ‘Anguis in Herba,’ a defence of the clergy against certain imputations, and some sermons and charges. The review of Moore's ‘Loves of the Angels,’ published among his brother's works, is probably from his pen. He was also author of a pamphlet against Paine and other revolutionary writers, signed ‘Publicola;’ of ‘Al Kalomeric [i.e. Bonaparte], an Arabian Tale,’ satirising Napoleon; and of ‘The Good Old Times, or the Poor Man's History of England.’ His anonymous novels, ‘Pen Owen,’ 1822, and ‘Percy Mallory,’ 1824, exhibit a strong family likeness to his brother's, and would be readable at the present day but for the antiquated style of treatment. The former, which is considerably the better, has a lively portrait of the younger Sheridan, under the appellation of Tom Sparkle, and a spirited picture of the Cato Street conspiracy.

[Barham's Life of Theodore Hook; Stephens's Life of Walter Farquhar Hook (1878); Gent. Mag. 1826; Welch's Westminster Scholars.]

R. G.