Hoole, John (DNB00)

HOOLE, JOHN (1727–1803), translator, son of Samuel Hoole, a watchmaker and inventive mechanician, by Sarah, daughter of James Drury, clockmaker was born in Moorfields, London, in December 1727. He was ‘regularly’ educated (as Johnson put it) in Grub Street, under an uncle known as the ‘metaphysical tailor,’ whom Johnson used to meet at a club with Psalmanazar (Boswell, ed. Hill, iv. 187). He afterwards learnt Latin, French, and a little Greek in a school at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, kept by James Bennet, editor of Ascham's English works. His nearsightedness disqualified him for his father's trade, and a place was obtained for him in the accomptant's office of the East India Company. He often attended Covent Garden Theatre, to which his father was machinist; but, at his father's desire, repressed an ambition to become an actor. He once, however, acted the ghost in ‘Hamlet.’ He then spent his leisure in studying Italian in order to read ‘Ariosto,’ having been fascinated when a boy (probably at Bennet's) by Sir John Harington's translation.

In 1757 he married Susannah Smith of Bishop Stortford, known as ‘the handsome quaker,’ and through her became acquainted with John Scott of Amwell [q. v.], whose life he wrote in 1785. He had to eke out a small income by extra working as a clerk and translating documents relating to the French operations in India during the seven years' war. On his promotion to the office of auditor of Indian accompts, he became more independent, and was, it is said, encouraged by the head of the office, a Mr. Oldmixon, also an Italian scholar, to write his tragedy ‘Cyrus.’ It was written in ‘rural retirement’ in a house at Wandsworth, which he found so pleasant that he remained there for some years, going to the India House by water. A fracture of the kneecap in 1770, the consequences of which were cured by two subsequent fractures, is almost the only personal incident recorded of him. A ‘State of East Indian Affairs,’ drawn up under his inspection, was printed in 1772.

On Oldmixon's death he became principal auditor at the India House, and resigned his post about the end of 1785. In April 1786 he retired with his wife and son, the Rev. Samuel Hoole, to the parsonage at Abinger, Surrey. He afterwards lived at Tenterden, Kent, with his aged mother and two sisters. He died when on a visit to Dorking 2 Aug. 1803. Hoole's writings [see below] brought him the acquaintance of literary persons, and in 1761 he was introduced by Hawkesworth to Johnson. In 1763 Johnson wrote a dedication to the queen of Hoole's ‘Tasso,’ in 1774 corrected Hoole's tragedy ‘Cleonice,’ and in 1781 applied to Warren Hastings to patronise Hoole's ‘Ariosto.’ Boswell records several meetings at the house of Hoole, who got up a city club for Johnson about 1781, and was a member of the Essex Head Club in 1784 (Boswell, ed. Hill, iv. 86, 258). Hoole attended Johnson during his last illness, and kept a diary of his visits, printed in the ‘European Magazine’ for September 1799, and reprinted in Croker's ‘Johnsoniana.’ Hoole and his son were among the friends to whom Johnson left books in his last will.

Hoole's translations are taken by Macaulay (‘Addison’) as typical specimens of the smooth decasyllable couplets of Pope's imitators. Scott, Southey, and Lamb, who ironically calls Hoole ‘the great boast and ornament of the India House’ (Letters, by Ainger, i. 59), had anticipated Macaulay, and only Johnson's praise (see Life of Waller) and the sale of several editions convince us that they were ever read. His works are:

  1. ‘Monody on Death of Mrs. Woffington,’ 1760 (reprinted in Pearch's ‘Collection of Poems’ and Bell's ‘Fugitive Pieces’).
  2. ‘Tasso's Jerusalem delivered … from the Italian of Tasso,’ 2 vols. 8vo, 1763; other editions in 1767, 1783, 1797, 1807, 1816, 1818, 1819, and in Chalmers's ‘Poets,’ vol. xxi.
  3. ‘Dramas of Metastasio,’ 2 vols. 1767; and (with additional dramas) in 3 vols. 1800.
  4. ‘Orlando Furioso’ (first ten books), 1773, 1 vol.
  5. ‘Orlando Furioso,’ 5 vols. 1783; later editions in 1785, 1791, 1807, 1816, 1818, 1819, and in Chalmers's ‘Poets,’ vol. xxi. He also published ‘The Orlando of Ariosto, reduced to twenty-four books, the Narrative connected, and the Story disposed in a regular series,’ 1791.
  6. ‘Life of John Scott of Amwell,’ 1785 (prefixed to Scott's ‘Critical Essays’).
  7. ‘Tasso's Rinaldo,’ 1792.

He wrote three plays, all performed at Covent Garden, the two first with fair success, the last a failure:

  1. ‘Cyrus’ (from Metastasio's ‘Ciro Riconosciuto,’ first acted on 3 Dec. 1768), 1768; 3rd edit. 1772.
  2. ‘Timanthes’ (from Metastasio's ‘Demofonte;’ first acted 24 Feb. 1770), 1770; 3rd edit. 1771.
  3. ‘Cleonice’ (first acted on 2 March 1775), 1775.

‘Cleonice’ and ‘Cyrus’ are in Bell's ‘British Theatre,’ vol. xxiv.; and ‘Timanthes’ in the same collection, vol. xxxiv.

[Nichols's Anecdotes, ii. 404–7; Anecdotes … by John Hoole's surviving brother, Samuel Hoole, 1804; Biog. Dram.; Gent. Mag. vol. lxxiii.; European Mag. March 1792 (with portrait); Genest's Hist. of the Stage, iv. 238, 284, 463; Boswell's Johnson.]

L. S.