HOOK, Theodore Edward (1788–1841), writer and hoaxer. ALS to a Miss Hutton 1837

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HOOK, Theodore Edward (1788–1841), writer and hoaxer. Autograph letter signed to a Miss Hutton, 8vo, 2 sides of a bifolium with integral blank, Athenaeum Feb 4th 1837, thanking her for her “very flattering letter and kind present of a purse”, and saying he has “just finished another book called Jack Brag which I hope will amuse you as much as you are good enough to say Gilbert Gurney did – nothing can be more agreeable for an author than such encouragement as you have been pleased to give me”.

Theodore Hooke was, according to his own account, principally distinguished at school for mischief, deceitfulness, and a lack of serious application, but his talents began to show through an early introduction to the theatrical world as author of the lyrics of his father's comic operas. His achievements as a writer were at least matched by his penchant for clever practical jokes and, in particular, by his skill in perpetrating hoaxes, of which the most celebrated was the Berners Street hoax of 1809. He later obtained the post of accountant-general and treasurer at Mauritius, but after four years in post an examination into the state of the treasury revealed a shortfall of $62,000 for which Hook could offer no explanation. His property was seized and upon his return to England he was imprisoned from 1823 to 1825. (ODNB)

In troubled times he maintained himself in writing, compiling 9 volumes of stories during his confinement, and launching the newspaper John Bull in 1820. He had 38 volumes of writings published, including novels amongst which he mentions two in this letter - Gilbert Gurney (published 1836) a semi-autobiographical work, and Jack Brag (published 1837) a satire on freeloading.

Upon his death his effects were seized by the crown, but his family were provided for by subscription. John Gibson Lockhart, editor of the Quarterly Review, wrote of him as ‘human, charitable, generous. … and there was that about him which made it hard to be often in his society without regarding him with as much of fondness as of admiration’, Coleridge described him as being ‘as true a genius as Dante’ (ODNB).

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