William "Conversation" Cook was born in Ireland of an English family and educated at the grammar school at Cork. He married a wealthy woman but lost his fortune in the woolen trade. After the death of his wife he emigrated to London in 1766, where he studied at the Inner Temple, being called to the bar in 1777. He soon left off practice however, and lived as a man of letters. He was a close friend of Oliver Goldsmith, and later in life was a member of Samuel Johnson's Essex-street Club.
The elements of dramatic criticism. 1775.
The royal naval review, or a late trip to the Nore. Being a poetical epistle from Hodge in town to Dick in the country. 1781.
The capricious lady: a comedy. 1783.
The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. 1785.
Conversation: a didactic poem, in three parts. 1796.
Memoirs of Charles Macklin. 1804.
Memoirs of Samuel Foote, with some of his writings. 3 vols, 1805.
The Pleasures of conversation. 1822.