1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hoole

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 18:145-47.



JOHN HOOLE, a dramatic poet and translator, was the son of Samuel Hoole, of London, watchmaker, by Sarah his wife, the daughter of James Drury, a clockmaker, whose family came from Warwickshire. He was born in Moorfields, in December 1727, and received part of his early instruction from his uncle, a taylor, who lived in Grub-street. He was afterwards sent to a private boarding-school in Hertfordshire, kept by Mr. James Bennet, the publisher of Roger Ascham's works, where he acquired an accurate knowledge of the Latin and French languages, and a small portion of the Greek. His father, who had carried on the business of watch-making to considerable advantage, in consequence of some newly-invented machinery of his own construction, wished to have his son brought up to his own trade, but his being extremely nearsighted proved an insuperable objection, and therefore, at the age of seventeen, he was placed as a clerk in the East-India-house, in the accountant's office. At this time, as he often accompanied his father to the theatre, who had access behind the scenes, and assisted in constructing some of the pantomime scenery, he contracted a fondness for this amusement which might have been fatal to him, for he had no qualifications for the stage, had not his father prevented him. He employed his leisure hours, therefore, more profitably, in improving himself in the Latin, and especially the Italian tongue, which last he studied with a view to be able to read in the original his favourite Ariosto, of whom, when a boy, he became enamoured by reading the "Orlando Furioso" in sir John Harrington's old translation.

From admiring he proceeded to translate this poet, but laid this task aside for some time, to execute a translation of Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered," which he began in 1758, and printed in 1761 a specimen for the perusal of his friends, who probably encouraged him to proceed, as in 1763 he published the whole, and was permitted to dedicate and present it at court to the queen. The dedication was written by Dr. Johnson. This was Mr. Hoole's first avowed production, but he had before printed a few poetical essays without his name, and a Monody on the death of Mrs. Woffington, which is in Pearch's collection. In 1767 he published two volumes of the dramas of Metastasio, consisting of six pieces, a copy of which he transmitted to the author, who wrote a very elegant letter to him. His own dramas were, "Cyrus," 1768; "Timanthes," 1770; and "Cleonice," 1775; none of which had success on the stage.

In 1773, the first volume of his " Orlando Furioso" appeared, and was favourably received, but the farther prosecution of the work was interrupted by his appointment to the office of auditor of Indian accounts to the East India company, which occupied much of his time and attention. Returning again, however, to his task, he completed the "Orlando Furioso" in 1733, in 5 vols. 8vo. In 1785 he wrote the life of his friend Mr. Scott, the poet of Amwell, with whom he had become acquainted in 1757, by marrying a quaker lady, Susannah Smith, of Bishop Stortford. About the end of 1783 he resigned his employment in the India-house, after a service of nearly forty-two years; and in April 1786 retired with his wife and son, the rev. Samuel Hoole, to the parsonage-house of Abinger, near Dorking. Here, adverting to the objections which had been made to the length and perplexity of Ariosto's poem, he published "The Orlando, reduced to twenty-four books, the narrative connected, and the stories disposed in a regular series," 1791, 2 vols. 8vo; but this has not prevented the republication of his former edition, which, with all it imperfections, conveys the truest idea of the tedious and extravagant original. In 1792 he gave to the English public Tasso's juvenile poem of "Rinaldo." His last production was a more complete collection of Metastasio's "Dramas and other Poems" in 3 vols. 8vo. In this, if we mistake not, Mr. Hoole has displayed more poetical energy and variety than in his translations of Tasso and Ariosto, in which his chief merit is smooth versification, and his chief defect a want of variety in his harmony. Mr. Hoole died at Dorking, Aug. 2, 1803, leaving the reputation of an amiable and estimable man in his private character; a man of taste, and a good scholar. He lived much in habits of friendship with Dr. Johnson, and attended that eminent man in his last illness, of which he left an interesting diary.