The modest and unassuming merit of this Gentleman has long commanded the respect of his private friends. Be it our task to make known to posterity, that those who may hereafter be pleased with the specimens which will be left of his genius and learning, would have been, had they lived in the present day, equally delighted with the affability, integrity, and obliging manners of the Author.
JOHN HOOLE is, we are informed, the son of Samuel Hoole, of the City of London, watch-maker, by Sarah his wife, the daughter of James Drury, a clockmaker, whose family came from Warwickshire. Mr. Hoole the father was born about the Year 1693, at Sheffield in Yorkshire, which place he left at the age of nine years, and came to an uncle in London, by whom he was educated. At an early period of life this gentleman displayed a strong propensity to the study of mechanics, and for many years had the management of the machinery at Covent-Garden Theatre, in the time of the late Mr. Rich; and among many pieces of mechanism constructed the celebrated Serpent in ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE, exhibited the first time in the 12th of Feb. 1739-40.
Our Author, JOHN HOOLE, was born in Dec. 1727, and was educated at a private boarding-school in Hertfordshire, kept by Mr. James Bennett, the Publisher of Roger Ascham's works. In 1744, being then seventeen years of age, he was placed as a Clerk in the East India House; and having a great delight in reading, particularly works of imagination, he employed his leisure-hours in his favourite amusement, and at the same time endeavoured to improve himself in the knowledge of the Latin tongue, and of the Italian; which last he earnestly wished to acquire, that he might peruse in the original his favourite Author Ariosto, of whom when a boy he became enamoured from reading the Orlando Furioso in Sir John Harrington's old translation.
In 1757 he was married to Susannah Smith, of Bishop Stonford in Hertfordshire, and in January 1758 he suddenly lost his father, who died on the 12th of that month, leaving behind him a striking example of noble-minded integrity in his intercourse with mankind, an of indefatigable industry in the application of his talents for the maintenance of a numerous family. In this year Mr. Hoole undertook the translation of TASSO'S JERUSALEM DELIVERED, laying aside his design of translating Ariosto, or which he had already finished some of the first Books. About this time he was introduced to the knowledge of Dr. Hawkesworth, by whom he was encouraged in his intended work. Through this Gentleman became acquainted, in 1761, with the late Dr. Samuel Johnson; which acquaintance grew to a friendship that only terminated with the lamented death of that excellent man, whose loss he regretted as that of a second father.
On the death of Mrs. Woffington, which happened in March 1760, Mr. Hoole published a Monody, which has been since printed in Pearch's Collection of Poems. In 1763 he printed his translation of the "Jerusalem," which procured him the acquaintance of Mr. Glover, Author of Leonidas. This was his first avowed publication, having before only printed two or three little poetical Essays, which, with the Monody, were without any name. In the year 1764 Dr. Johnson introduced him to Dr. Warton, of Winchester. In 1767 he published two volumes of the Dramas of Metastasio, a copy of which book he transmitted to the Author at Vienna, and was in return honoured with a very elegant letter from Metastastio. Of this we are not without hopes of obtaining a copy for a future Magazine. In the same year he wrote the Tragedy of CYRUS, professedly taken from the CIRO RECONOSCIUTO of that celebrated Italian; which Tragedy he first communicated to Mrs. Anna Williams, the well known friend of Dr. Johnson, a lady of uncommon talents, to whose benevolent and friendly disposition all that knew her were indebted. Encouraged by her, he read his play to Dr. Johnson, who told him "he might send his Play to the Stage." The Tragedy was accordingly accepted by Mr. Colman, and exhibited at Covent-Garden Theatre in Dec. 1768 with great success, being strongly supported by the performance of Mr. Powell and Mrs. Yates in the parts of Cyrus and Mandane, the last of which characters was particularly adapted to the tragic powers of that excellent Actress.
In 1770 Mr. Hoole produced another Tragedy, called TIMANTHES, taken from the DEMOFONTE of Metastasio, which was likewise successful, though the Author sustained a great loss in the death of Mr. Powell, which happened in the summer of 1769, the part of Timanthes being expressly written for that very forcible and pleasing Actor. In 1773 Mr. Hoole published a volume containing the first ten Books of ORLANDO FURIOSO, intending to have proceeded with the entire translation; but being at this time established in an office of consequence as Auditor of Indian Accounts to the East India Company, his poetical studies were discontinued; the great business arising from the Parliamentary Enquiries calling for all his exertions in preparing Accounts and Estimates for the House of Commons, during which Enquiry he was examined as the bar of both Houses.
In 1775 he found leisure to produce an original Tragedy, called CLEONICE PRINCESS of BITHYNIA; but the introduction of this piece this piece to the Stage was attended with many difficulties: objections were made to it, and the matter was finally referred to Dr. Johnson, who having approved the Play gave an opinion in its favour. The Play was then put in rehearsal, but Mrs. Barry (now Crawford) refusing to perform the part of Cleonice, it was given to Mrs. Hartley. Mr. Barry rejecting the part of Lycomedes, intended for him, took a subordinate character, and even that he relinquished on the second night. The Play thus left to itself, without either of the popular Actors, languished out the nine nights, and from that time Mr. Hoole bid adieu to the Stage.
In the year 1777 he again turned his thoughts to the completion of his version of Orlando, to which he had been formerly urged by many friends, particularly by the late Mr. Glover, a great admirer of the works of imagination, and by Dr. Hawkesworth, who lived only see the first two Books of Orlando in manuscript, with which he professed himself to be more struck than with the more classical performance of Tasso. Dr. Hawkesworth died in 1773. In 1783 Mr. Hoole published his complete translation of the ORLANDO FURIOSO in five volumes; and at the end of the year 1784 he lost his great and respected friend Dr. Johnson, who died in the month of December, from whom, during an intimacy of twenty-three years, he had experienced every mark of kindness and affection. He constantly attended the Doctor during the last three weeks of his life, and daily contemplated, with feelings not easy to he expressed, his nearer approaches to dissolution.
In the year 1785 Mr. Hoole became the Biographer of his friend Mr. Scott, of Amwell, a work intended to have been executed by Dr. Johnson; and at the end of that year he resigned his employment in the East India House, after a service of near forty-two years; and in April 1786 he retired, with his wife and son, to the parsonage-house of Abingor, near Dorking; his son, who was in orders, having taken the Curacy of that place. While he resided there, he considered the objections that some readers had made to the length and perplexity of Ariosto's poem, and employed his leisure in reviewing the work, retrenching some parts, and giving the whole more connection; and in 1791 he published this new edition or refacciomento of Ariosto under the title of "The Orlando of Ariosto reduced to XXIV. Books, the Narrative connected, and the Stories disposed in a regular series." In the year 1790 he was the Editor of a little elegant Tale entitled DINARBAS, being a continuation of Dr. Johnson's Rasselas. This performance came from the pen of a Lady of very uncommon genius and acquirements, who resides with her mother in Italy. She was well known to Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Williams, and the MS. was sent over to Mr. Hoole, in order to be put to the press. This work was very favourably received; and we are informed, that the fair Author has consigned to the care of Mr. Hoole a second production for the public, which exhibits a view of the Military, Political, and Social Life of the Romans, conveyed in the pleasing vehicle of an interesting Story, in a Series of Letters from a young Patrician to his Friend. The last work which Mr. Hoole has given to the world, it a translation of the juvenile poem of TASSO entitled RINALDO, which must be considered as a literary curiosity, being, independent of the poetical merit of the original, an extraordinary specimen of early genius. — Mr. Samuel Hoole, the son of Mr. Hoole, has likewise given to the world some productions of his pen; as one volume of Sermons, published in 1786; and two volumes of Poetical Pieces, published at different times, containing, Modern Manners, Aurelia, Edward, or the Curate, and other poems.