James Hook (composer)

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James Hook, portrait by Lemuel Francis Abbott .

James Hook (born June 3, 1746 in Norwich , † 1827 in Boulogne , France) was an English composer and organist.

Live and act

James Hook was born with a club foot and therefore limped all his life. He was a child prodigy on the harpsichord, which he had already mastered at the age of four. From the age of six he gave concerts. At the age of eight he composed his first ballad opera . He spent his youth performing and teaching music in Norwich . Hook learned from Thomas Garland (1731-1808), the organist at Norwich Cathedral , possibly also from Charles Burney .

Hook went to London around 1763. In February 1764 he worked as an organist in the tea garden of the White Conduit House, Pentonville . He gained a reputation as an organist, teacher and composer of catchy music, mostly of songs. In 1765 his round song I wish you all good night was awarded the gold medal of the Catch Club . On September 9, 1765, some of his songs (later published as Opus 1) were performed at the New Theater in Richmond as part of a benefit concert for John Fawcett, where Hook performed his newly composed harpsichord concerto. In July of the following year Thomas Arne's opera The Sacrifice of Iphigenia was performed at the same theater; Hook had composed the overture to this opera.

Hook's songs were performed more and more regularly in the great London pleasure gardens. In 1767 one of his song collections was published for the Gardens of Marylebone and Vauxhall. In 1768 he was employed as an organist and composer at Marylebone Gardens, where he mostly played the organ, occasionally also the harpsichord. He was given the opportunity to give concerts in the theaters between the main performances. On July 24, 1771, his first comic opera, Dido, was performed at the Little Theater on Haymarket , followed by Cupid's Revenge on July 27, 1772. On August 28, 1772, at Hook's annual gala concert in Marylebone Gardens, he gave a concert on the piano; this was the first time a piano had played in Marylebone Gardens.

In September 1768 he got a job as organist at Saint John's in Horselydown, Bermondsey . The portion of his income earned from teaching keyboard instruments is said to have reached the high of £ 600 annually. Hook stayed at Marylebone Gardens until the end of the 1773 season and moved to Vauxhall Gardens in 1774, where he stayed on until 1820. During this time he composed operas, most of which were performed at the Drury Lane Theater and the Covent Garden Theater . That he left Vauxhall Gardens in 1820 came as a surprise; his reasons for this decision are not known.

Hook's only oratorio The Ascension was performed on March 20, 1776 at Covent Garden.

Hook married Elizabeth Jane Madden on May 29, 1766 at Saint Pancras Old Church. His wife was artistically gifted. She wrote the libretto for her husband's opera The Double Disguise (1784) and the lyrics for some of his Vauxhall songs; she made the flower decorations for the pillars at Vauxhall's anniversaries in 1786. His wife died on October 18, 1805. A year later he married Harriet Horncastle James.

Hook died in Boulogne, France, in 1827. On January 30, 1874, his music library was auctioned off at Puttick & Simpson's in London.

His son of the same name James Hook (1772-1828) wrote the libretti for Jack of Newbury (1795) and Diamond Cut Diamond (1797). His second son Theodore Edward Hook (1788–1841) wrote the lyrics to many of Hook's songs; between 1805 and 1809 he wrote the libretti for eight of his operas (English)


Hook's 20 operas, all performed on London stages between 1769 and 1813. In addition to the operas, he composed 20 cantatas, around 2000 songs for performances in London amusement parks. The instrumental works include several concerts for organ or harpsichord and orchestra, as well as an extensive oeuvre of chamber music.

Stage works

  • Trick Upon Trick (pantomime), July, 1772 Op. 3
  • Cupid's Revenge (pastoral farce), June 1772, Op. 8th
  • The Lady of the Manor (comic opera), November 1778, Op. 20th
  • Too Civil by Half (farce), November 5, 1782, Op. 25th
  • The Double Disguise (farce), March 8, 1784, Op. 32
  • The Fair Peruvian (comic opera), March 18, 1786, Op. 45
  • The Feast of Anacreon (serenata), May 24, 1788, Op. 53
  • Look ere you Leap (serenata), June 2, 1792, Op. 69
  • Jack of Newbury (comic opera with masque), May 6, 1795, Op. 80
  • Diamond Cut Diamond, or Venetian Revels (comic opera), May 23, 1797, Op. 89
  • The Wreath of Loyalty, or British Volunteer (serenata), July 31, 1799, Op. 94
  • Wilmore Castle (comic opera), October 21, 1800, Op. 96
  • The Soldier's Return or What Can Beauty Do? (comic opera), April 23, 1805, Op. 108
  • The Invisible Girl (operatic farce), April 28, 1806, Op. 112
  • Catch him who Can (farce), June 12, 1806, Op. 113
  • Tekeli, or the Siege of Montgatz (melodrama), November 24, 1806, Op. 114
  • The Fortress (melodrama), July 16, 1807, Op. 117
  • Music Mad (comic sketch), August 27, 1807, Op. 119
  • The Siege of St Quintin, or Spanish Heroism (drama), November 10, 1808, Op. 122
  • Killing no Murder (farce), August 21, 1809, Op. 129
  • Safe and Sound (comic opera), August 28, 1809, Op. 130
  • Sharp and Flat (operatic farce), August 4, 1813, Op. 140


  • Guida di musica , with 24 lessons for beginners on the harpsichord or piano Op. 37 (1785)
  • Guida di musica , Part 2 Op. 75 (1794)
  • The Preceptor for piano, organ and harpsichord (1795)
  • New Guida di musica Op. 81 (1796)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Curriculum vitae on the “Norwich Composers” website ( memento of the original from June 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.heritagecity.org
  2. Short biography at hoasm.org