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26 1921
























Von der philosophischen Fakultat auf Antrag
des Herrn Prof. Dr. E. Miiller-Hess an gen o mm en.

Bern, 14. Mai 1917.

Der Dekan:
Prof. Dr. Harry Maync.

John Hoole his Life and his Tragedies.

JOHN HOOLE was born in Moorfields, London, in De-
cember 1727. Both his parents came of middle class families.
His father Samuel Hoole (c. 1693 — 1758), watchmaker, born
at Sheffield in Yorkshire, left this place at the age of nine
years, and went to an uncle in London by whom he was edu-
cated. When still very young he displayed a strong incli-
nation, to the study of mechanics, and soon also showed his
inventive genius. For, when he had learnt his trade, and com-
menced a branch of the watch-making business, he rendered
it very profitable by the use of engines of his own invention
and construction. With his son's, our poet's, assistance he also
set up the machinery at Covent Garden Theatre and managed
it himself for many years. He suddenly died on the 12th.
Jan. 1758 ''leaving behind him a striking example of noble-
minded integrity in his intercourse with mankind, and of inde-
fatigable industry in the maintenance of a numerous family". i

Hoole's mother, Sarah Drury, was the daughter of James
Drury, a clock-maker, whose family came from Warwickshire.

I have not been able to find out exactly how ''numerous''
Samuel Hoole's family was. I could only ascertain that our
poet had at least one brother and two sisters. ^ I think that
this brother is identical with the one who survived him and
published in 1804: Anecdotes by John Hoole's surviving
brother, Samuel Hoole. ^

^ European Magazine and London Review for March 1792, Vol. XXI, p. 163.

- In autumn 1767, at the time when Hoole was busy with his "Cyrus''
at Wandsworth, Mrs. Sarah Hoole "lived in Moorfields with her youngest
son and daughter" (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the 18 th. Century, Vol.11,
p. 404 ff.), and according to the Dictionary of National Biography, Mrs. Sarah
Hoole, and two sisters of our poet lived with him at Tenterden, Kent, after
he had left his son's parsonage at Abinger, Surrey, to which he had retired
in 1786.

3 I was not able to obtain for reference a copy of this book. — Accor-
ding to the Encyclopaedia Britannica Hoole's brother Samuel had taken orders.

Hoole received his first education from an uncle in Grub
Street, a tailor, in whose care he was given. This man was with
Dr. Johnson and George Psalmanazar* of an alehouse-club in
Old Street, City, and was known as the metaphysical tailor'^
Afterwards he was sent to a private boarding-school at Hoddes-
don in Hertfordshire, kept by James Bennet, who later edited
Roger Ascham's English works. There according to Nichols^
he learnt Latin, French and a little Greek. He did very well
in arithmetic, was a most excellent pen-man, and possessed a
good talent in drawing. He was already then fond of litera-
ture, which made him a favourite with his schoolmasters. His
schoolfellows liked him for his harmless and gentle disposition.

* George Psalmanazar (c. 1679—1763), is the assumed name of a French
adventurer and literary impostor, who pretended to be a native of Formosa.
In 1704 author of a fictitious "Historical and Geographical Description of
Formosa". Became penitent at the age of thirty-two. Johnson sought much
after him and respected him for his piety.

= Boswell (Life of Johnson, vol, IV, p. 187) records the following anec-
dotes about Hoole's uncle :

a) ""Mr. Hoole told him( Johns(jn), he was born in Moorfields and had
received part of his early instruction in Grub Street. "Sir", said Johnson
smiling, „you have been regularly educated." Having asked who was his
instructor, and Mr. Hoole having answered, "My uncle, Sir, who was a tay-
lor", Johnson, recollecting himself, said, "Sir, I knew him, we called him the
metaphysical taylor. He Vv^as of a club in Old Street with me and George
Psalmanazar, and some others: but pray, Sir, was he a good taylor?" Mr.
Hoole having answered that he believed he was too mathematical, and used
to draw squares and triangles on his shop-board, so that he did not excel
in the cut of a coat; — "I am sorry for it", said Johnson, for I would have
every man to be a master of his own business'""

b) ""Hawkins, recording how Johnson used to meet Psalmanazar at an
ale-house, says that Johnson one day remarked on the human mind, that it
had a necessary tendency to improvement, and that it would frequently
anticipate instruction. "Sir", said a stranger that overheard him, "that I deny ;
I am a tailor, and have had many apprentices, but never one that could
make a coat till I had taken great pains in teaching him"". (Quot. from
Hawkins, Life, p. 547.)

c) ""Robert Hall was influenced in his studies by his intimate association
in mere childhood with a tailor, one of his father's congregation, who was
an acute metaphysician"" (Quot. from Hall's Works VI. 5).

^ Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the 18th. Cent , vol. II, p. 404 ff.

When he had left school his father at first tried to bring
him up in his own trade, and began to teach him the use of
his tools. But although he had some mechanical talents, com-
pleted some pieces of work with his own hands, and at this
time assisted his father in constructing the above-named ma-
chinery for Covent Garden Theatre, he was not fit for this
sort of work. His short-sightedness hindered him much in
following this occupation, it being attended by great incon-
venience and danger, owing to the exposure of his eyes to the
flying splinters of brass and steel.

In 1744 he was therefore placed as a clerk in the Accoun-
tant's office of the East India Company, under one Mr. Hort,
the Chief Accountant, who, as Nichols' states after Hoole's own
words, treated the young men under his care with great kind-
ness. In the East India House Hoole made friends with several
fellow-clerks of his own age. Nichols^ gives the names of four
of his companions i. e. Peter Corbett, John Winter, Ranceford
Tookey and John Tristram. Probably none of them rose to
notice in later years like Hoole; at least no references to any
of them could be procured. Nichols calls them ''young men of
good sense, but all singular or eccentric characters"'', who
often dined and supped together, but whose parties, although
they were always entertaining and often whimsically diverting,
were never followed by any nocturnal revels, in which young
gentlemen of their age not seldom indulged.

Hoole's principal amusements, however, were reading and
theatre-going. He frequently attended Covent Garden Theatre,
where he had free access behind the scenes by virtue of his
father's post as a machinist. His enthusiasm for theatrical life
was so great that he seriously thought of becoming an actor;
but as his father entirely disapproved of this wish, he suppres-
sed his ambition of going on the stage, but amused himself
privately with his friends by the rehearsal of different plays. lo

' Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the 18th. Cent., vol. II, p. 404 ff.
« Ibid.
■• Ibid.

>" Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the 18th. Cent., vol. II., p. 404 ff. relates
the following humorous story, which Hoole himself used to tell ""of a whim-


From his school-days at Bennet's Hoole had retained his
great delight in reading, and passed his leisure-hours by this
means, preferring above all works of fiction. He had already
shown the same taste when still a boy, and probably at Bennet's
had particularly been struck by Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso",
which he had read in Sir John Harrington's ^ old translation,
and even now, he studied Italian in order that he might peruse
his favourite author in the original; at the same time he also
improved himself in the Latin tongue.

In 1757 Hoole was married to Susanna Smith, of Bishop
Stortford, Hertfordshire, *Svho was frequently called the hand-
some Quaker,*' 12 and was connected by this marriage with
some worthy Quaker-families. Through them he became ac-
quainted with and befriended by John Scott of Amwell,i3 whose
biography he wrote in 1785. Though the Quakers do not like
marriages with those of other sects Hoole's gentle disposition
and peaceful character met with every testimony of regard from

sical distress he was brought into by his short-sightedness, while performing
the part of the Ghost in "Hamlet", at the Little Theatre in Lincoln's - inn -
fields ; for after having almost finished his speech to Hamlet, and coming
near to the period when the Ghost descends, he was not able to discern
the place where the trap-door would open, and, fearing either to miss the
spot, and to be left standing on the stage, or of meeting with some accident
by the trap-door opening Adhere he did not expect it, he protracted his speech
as much as he could-

"But soft- methinks, 1 scent the morning air-
Brief let me be-" etc.
at the same time feeling about the stage with his foot for the trap-door,
while his friend, who acted as promptor, in as great distress as himself,
cried in a whisper: "Here Jack, here Jack, a little more this way !" He,
however, luckily hit the right place, and descended with proper ghostly

" Sir John Harrington (1561 — 1612), godson of Queen Elizabeth, pub-
lished in 1591 "Orlando Furioso, translated into Heroical English Verse".
It is the first English version of Ariosto, but incorrect and without spirit.

'-' Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the 18th. Cent., vol. II. p. 404 ff.

'"John Scott (1730-1783). a Quaker- poet and prose writer. He cele-
brated his village in "Amwell; a Descriptive Poem", 1776. Author of „Four
Elegies" (on the seasons), 1760, "Observations on the Present State of the
Parochial and Vagrant Poor", 1773, and other works.

them. I believe that Samuel Hoole,!'^ who took orders, was the
only issue of this marriage.

Hoole's clerkship at the East India House brought him but
a small income. He, however, bettered it by assiduous extra-
work during his spare-time, making out the invoices of the
Company's outward-bound ships, and translating French publi-
cations relating to the French operations in India during the
Seven Years' War. Only when he had been promoted to the
office of auditor of Indian accounts, was he more independent
than before, and besides this was in constant touch with Mr.
Oldmixon, the chief of that office, like himself an Italian reader
and lover of poetry.

On the death of Mrs. Woffingtoni'^ in March 1760 Hoole
published anonymously a Monody, his first work. Two or
three small poetical essays, the subjects of which' I could not
bring to my knowledge, were likewise without name. In 1763
he finished his translation of Tasso's ''Oerusalemme liberata,*'
which now appeared under his full name. It is recommended
in the Gent. Mag.i*^ as a '^Fountain of Entertainment which has
hitherto been sealed''. It must have sold well, for up to 1819
there appeared nine editions. Johnson's praise of the work has
certainly to a great deal brought about this favourable recep-
tion. i"^ Later critics, i^ however have deducted much from John-
son's estimate. In 1767 followed ''The Works of Metastasio,

'* Samuel Hoole, minister of Poplar and Abinger. He published a) Poems:
"Modern Manners", 1781, "Aurelia", 1783, "Edward", 1787. "Miscellaneous
Poems", 1790. b) Sermons in 1786 and 1804. c) Translations of the Select
Works of A. Van Leuwenhoeck, from the Dutch and Latin, 1798-1810.

"* Mrs. Woffington, celebrated actress, died on the 28th. March, 1760.

"^ Gentleman's Magazine for June 1763. vol. XXXIII, p. 266.

" Johnson prophesied in his "Life of Waller" that Fairfax's version of
Tasso (1st. ed. 1600) "after Mr. Hoole's Translation will perhaps not be soon
reprinted". (Johnson, Lives of the English Poets: Waller, Milton, Cowley
Cassell's National Library, p. 50).

'* Walter Scott says in his autobiography (written in 1808) that about
the time he left Edinburgh High School he read „Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered
through the flat medium of Mr. Hoole's translation" (Lockhart, Memoirs of
Sir Walter Scott, vol. I, p. 29). On the 4th. June 1826 Scott wrote in his
Journal : "Lady Louisa Stuart used to tell me of Mr. Hoole, the translator of
Tasso and Ariosto, and in that capacity a noble transmuter of gold into


translated from the Italian," the first English version of six of
Metastasio's dramas i. e. Artaserse ( Artaxerxes), TOlimpiade
(the Olympiad), Issipile (Hypsipyle), La Clemenza di Tito
(Titus) Demetrio (Demetrius), and Demofoonte (Demophoon).
Hoole dedicated a copy of his translation to the author at
Vienna, who had little or no knowledge of the English lan-
guage, and was honoured in return by an Italian letter from
Metastasio, part of which is inserted in the preface to the se-
cond edition (publ. in 1800, with additional dramas and poems),
in which he says: 'To per mia disgracia, non posso ragionar
con le muse Inglese che per interprete, mancanza, che mi a obli-
gato gia a contentarmi d'ammirar' nelle copic i grandi originali
de' quali ridonda la colta sua e ingegniosa nazione, e ora a ri-
corere all'benevola assistenza d'abile amico per concepir la sua

Probably at Oldmixon's instance Hoole wrote in the same
year (1767) "Cyrus'*, his first tragedy. For this purpose he
retired for some time to Wandsworth and got such a liking for
this place that he took up his abode there for several years,
travelling to his office by boat. On the 24th. Febr. 1770 his
second tragedy, "Timanthes", was acted for the first time, and

lead, that he was a clerk in the India House, with long ruffles and a snuff-
coloured suit of clothes, who occasionally visited her father (John, Earl of
Bute). She sometimes conversed with him and was amused to find that he
did exactly so many couplets day by day, neither more or less ; and habit
had made it light to him, however heavy it might seem to the reader". (The
Journal of Sir Walter Scott 1825-1832, p. 204).

Leigh Hunt charges Hoole for his translation with „vagueness and
cant phrases, and want of strength". (Critic on Fairfax's Tasso. Quot. from
Allibone, art. Hoole.)

Macauiay compares Ben Jonson and Hoole: "Ben Jonson was a great
man, Hoole a very small man. But Hoole, coming after Pope, had learned
how to manufacture decasyllable verses ; and poured them forth by thousands
and tens of thousands, all as well turned, as smooth, and as like each other
as the blocks which have passed through Mr. Brunell's mill, in the dockyard
at Portsmouth. Ben's heroic couplets resemble blocks rudely hewn out by
an unpractised hand, with a blunt hatchet." (The Edinburgh Review for July
1843, vol. LXXVIIl, p. 201 )

'" Hoole, Dramas and other Poems of the Abbe Pietro Metastasio,
vol. 1, p. XXI.


published the same year. Both these tragedies are adapted
from dramas of Metastasio.

After the publication of ''Timanthes'* most of Hoole's time
was taken up by office-\vori<, and his poetical studies were for
a considerable period nearly completely discontinued. On ac-
count of the Parliamentary inquiries into the disarranged affairs
of the East India Company Hoole had to make out accounts
and estimates for the House of Commons. Under his inspection
a ''State of East Indian Affairs" was drawn up and printed in
1772; during these inquiries Hoole was examined at the bar
of both Houses.

In 1773, however, he found leisure in producing a trans-
lation of the first ten books of Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso"
to which undertaking he had been urged especially by Glover, ^o
whose acquaintance he had made after the publication of the
translation of Tasso in 1763, and Dr. Hawkesworth.-i The
latter only lived to see the first two books in manuscript, but
declared himself even more pleased than with the "Jerusalem
delivered". Hoole would have gone on translating also the
remaining thirty-six books, had it not been for the increase
of his office-work already referred to. Besides his spare-time
was spent in finishing and staging of his third and last tragedy
"Cleonice" which was both acted and published in March 1775.
After Oldmixon's death he had become principal auditor at the
India House. His new duties allowed him only in 1777 to re-
turn to his translation of the "Orlando Furioso" and publish
it complete in 1783.

Hoole's literary and theatrical tastes, and his writings pro-
cured him the acquaintance and friendship of many of the
leading literary persons of his time. The most conspicuous
among these is Dr. Johnson, to whom he was introduced in
1761 by Hawkesworth. They were soon on terms of intimacy.

'" Richard Glover (1712— 1785), a London merchant, Greek scholar, poet
and politician. His best known work is "Leonidas", an epic poem, 1737.

^' John Hawkesworth (1715 or ' 19—1773), essayist. Close imitator of
Johnson's style and thought. Contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine and
editor of the "Adventurer". He was commissioned in 1771 to edit the
"Account of the Voyages'* (to the South Seas) of Byron. Cook and others.


Although Boswell22 only mentions four dinner-parties at Hoo-
le's, where Johnson was present, and a few other meetings
with Hoole — in addition to the daily visits that Hoole paid
to Johnson during his last illness — they must have seen each
other very often at their own and at others' houses, and at
the Clubs, to which they both belonged. Boswell, who was
one of their party gives some names of the other guests at
Hoole's table i. e. Joshua Reynolds, 23 Mickle,^^ Nicol,25 Bou-
chier26 and Orme^^ and acquaints us with some of the topics of
conversation. But as for Boswell, of course, Johnson is the
chief acquaintance, we only learn what the Doctor said, and do
not know, what share Hoole had in the talk; also we cannot
judge what figure our poet made in the company of Johnson.

The three letters of Johnson to Hoole that are printed in
Boswell 28 are evidence that Johnson had a great liking for
Hoole and numbered him among his best friends, e. g. letter 2:

Aug. 13.29

"I thank you for your affectionate letter. I hope we shall
both be the better for each other's friendship, and, I hope we
shall not very quickly be parted. Tell Mr. Nichols 30 that I shall
be glad of his correspondence, when his business allows him
a little remission, though to wish him less business, that I may
have more pleasure, would be selfish. To pay for seats at the
balloon is not very necessary, because in less than a minute,
they who gaze at a mile's distance will see all that can be seen.

-* Boswell's Life of Johnson.

2' Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723—1792). Portrait-painter.

2* William Julius Mickle (1735-1788) a Scotchman. Translator and
poet. His chief work is "The Lusiad, or The Discovery of India" from the
Portuguese of Camoens, 1771 (1st. book) and 1775 (complete).

'^^ George Nicol, bookseller.

^^ Bouchier, Governor, had long been in the East-Indies.

" Orme, Captain, had long been in the East-Indies.

^« Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. IV, p. 359-60.

-'■' On the 13th. of July 1784 Johnson had set out on a jaunt — his last
— to Staffordshire and Derbyshire to improve his shattered health.

^" John Nichols (1745—1826), printer, antiquary and collector. Editor of
the Gentleman's Magazine from 1778—1826. Author of "Literary Anecdotes
of the 18th. Century", "Illustrations of the Literary History of the 18th. Cen-
tury" and other works.


About the wings^i I am of your mind; they cannot at all assist
it, nor do I think regulate its motion. I am now grown some-
what easier in my body, but my mind is sometimes depressed.
About the Club I am in no great pain. The forfeitures32 go on,
and the house, I hear, is improved for our future meetings. I
hope we shall meet often and sit long."

Hoole owed very much to his powerful friend, whose ad-
vice about his writings he asked on several occasions, and who
used his influence and his connections to help him on in his
literary career. Already in 1763 Johnson wrote the elegant
Dedication to the Queen of Hoole's translation of Tasso.^s

*' i. e. wings of a balloon. People's minds were filled with balloons at
this time Johnson writes on the 18th. of Sept. to Sir Joshua Reynolds : "I
have three letters this day. all about the balloon, I could have been content
with one. Do not write about the balloon, whatever else you may think
proper to say" (Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. IV, p. 368). — Lunardi, an
Italian, secretary to the Neapolitan Ambassador had made on the 15th. Sept.
his first balloon ascent in England.

^- See p. 14.

^* "Madam,

To approach the high and the illustrious has been in all ages the pri-
viledge of Poets; and though translators cannot justly claim the same honour,
yet they naturally follow their authours as attendants ; and I hope that in
return for having enabled Tasso to diffuse his fame through the Britisch
dominions, I may be introduced by him to the presence of Your Majesty.

Tasso has a peculiar claim to Your Majesty's favour, as follower and
panegyrist of the House of Este, which has one common ancestor with the
House of Hannover ; and in reviewing his life it is not easy to forbear a
wish that he had lived in a happier time, when he might, among the des-
cendants of that illustrious family, have found a more liberal and potent

I cannot but observe, Madam, how unequally reward is proportioned
to merit, when I reflect that the happiness which was withheld from Tasso
is reserved for me ; and that the poem which once hardly procured to its
authour the countenance of the Princess of Ferrara, has attracted to its
translator the favourable notice of a British Queen.

Had this been the fate of Tasso, he would have been able to have
celebrated the condescension of Your Majesty in nobler language, but could
not have felt it with more ardent gratitude than


Your Majesty's
Most faithful and devoted servant."

(Printed in Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. 1, p. 383).

At the end of 1767 or in 1768 Hoole read his newly finish-
ed "Cyrus" to Johnson, who e^ncouraged him to put it on the
stage. In 1774 Johnson corrected "Cleonice" for him and found
it excellent. 3J^ On the 9th. Jan. 1781, at the time when the
complete version of Ariosto was in hand, Johnson wrote to
Warren Hastings, then Governor of Bengal, that he might pa-
tronise the clerk-translator in the India House. ^'^

Hoole's kind services in return to Johnson look but very
small compared with the latter's mighty help. We know that
he obliged Johnson several times in affairs concerning their
clubs. During Johnson's last illness in Nov. 1784 he copied an
epitaph for him — Hoole had already excelled in calligraphy
when he was a boy at Bennet's school — which Johnson had
written for his father, mother and brother. He also wrote
Johnson's last will on the 27th. Nov. 1784.

On the 6th. April 1781 Johnson asked Hoole at a Club in
St. Paul's Church-Yard to get up for him a City Club, but added
the injunction not to invite any patriots. ^*^ In January 1784 they
were both members of the Essex Head Club.'" Johnson, who

^* The London Review for March 1775, vol. I, p. 234—35, questions in
its notice on "Cleonice" Johnson's competence to judge Hoole's productions
on account of his "personal" partiality" for the author. It is quite possible
that Johnson was prejudiced in favour of his friend ; but there is nothing
except a quotation in the same article which could make us believe that
Johnson's esteem for Hoole's faculties as a poet and translator, and his pro-
testations of friendship were not sincere. For the critic of the London Review
— from whose spiteful article with personal insults to Johnson certainly
follows that he is prejudiced against Johnson — reproaches Johnson with
having said of Hoole's writings in general that "they are of such a kind,
that a sensible man would not wish to remember a single line of them."
This utterance, attributed to Johnson, is not supported by any further state-
ments. It is in contradiction to every circumstance, known and based on

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Online LibraryArthur SägesserJohn Hoole, his life and his tragedies .. → online text (page 1 of 6)