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Hooke, Luke Joseph (1714–1796), Roman Catholic theologian, was born in Dublin, one of three children of , historian of Rome, and his wife, Mary Gore, an English protestant. He was brought to Paris in the 1720s probably by his father, who acted as secretary to his uncle, Nathaniel Hooke (1664–1738), Jacobite and French diplomatic agent. When his father quit Paris for England, his son remained with his grand-uncle and his wife, Lady Eleanor McCarthy Reagh (1683–1731), in the rue St Jacques du Haut-Pas.

Hooke took the degree of master in arts in 1734, and it is likely that he got to know Denis Diderot at this time. The following year he entered the Seminary of St Nicolas du Chardonnet, as a student for the Dublin archdiocese. A bachelor of theology of Paris University in 1737, he succeeded as prior of St Germain-des-Vaux in 1738. In 1739 his thesis for the licence in theology, which defended the ecumenicity of the Council of Florence, was referred to the parlement of Paris. He received his licence in 1740 and was appointed professor of theology in 1742 to succeed his countryman James Wogan (d. 1742). He supported the Jacobite rising of 1745. Building up a reputation as a modernizing theologian and keeping abreast of intellectual developments in England, he prepared his lecture notes for publication in 1751. However, before the text appeared Hooke agreed to preside over the examination of the thesis of Jean Martin De Prades, a priest of Montauban diocese and contributor to the second volume of the Encyclopédie. Although the faculty awarded the grade, De Prades was subsequently charged with deism. Hooke was implicated and, a victim of faculty politics, lost his chair. Despite this set-back he published two volumes of his Religionis naturalis et revelatae principia in 1752, a third appearing two years later with a Monitum lectori.

The Principia, often mistaken for mere apology, actually sought to build bridges between traditional theology and the new science. It abandoned the scholastic system of presentation and attempted to integrate the work of Isaac Newton into its theological system. It included a remarkably positive assessment of human desire. There were Venetian (1763) and German (1783) editions. Reprinted in Jacques Paul Minge's Theologiae cursus completus (1860) it influenced generations of Catholic theological textbooks. In 1762 Hooke was appointed chairman of a faculty of theology committee set up to examine J. J. Rousseau's Émile. Buoyed up by the successful conclusion of this charge, he put his name forward for election to a vacant theology chair. Nevertheless, his election was contested by the archbishop of Paris, who later ordered a boycott of his lectures. In the ensuing legal wrangle Hooke published his Lettre de M. l'Abbé Hooke à Mgr l'archevêque de Paris (1763). He was forced to resign his chair in 1766; however, he retained the support of many of his colleagues, and in 1767 was appointed professor of Hebrew and Chaldean.

Hooke developed strong links with the English Benedictines resident in Paris. Among these was Dom John Bede Brewer, who in 1774 undertook to republish and expand the Principia. Hooke translated into French some of his father's writings on Roman history under the title Discours et réflexions critiques sur l'histoire et le gouvernement de l'ancienne Rome (1770–84). He participated in public debates concerning Roman history. In 1775 he welcomed Samuel Johnson to Paris. ‘We walked round the palace and had some talk’, wrote Johnson, and the next day Hooke returned his call at Johnson's inn (Boswell, Life, 2.397). Hooke edited Les mémoires du maréchal de Berwick in 1778. In the same year he was appointed chief librarian at the Mazarine Library, and under his enlightened rule the collection grew considerably. In 1791 he refused to take the oath to the civil constitution of the clergy. This exposed him to a plot mounted by his assistant, Le Blond, to remove him from the library. He fought back through a series of published letters and petitions to the king, the national assembly, and, later, the provisional executive of the French Republic. In 1791 he published Principes sur l'origine, la nature, la souveraineté, l'étendue et l'alliance des deux puissances, an important pamphlet on the relations between ecclesiastical and civil powers. It contains a strong argument for an independent state church. Deprived of his position at the Mazarine he retired to St Cloud where he died, in poverty, on 12 April 1796.

Thomas O'Connor


T. O'Connor, An Irish theologian in Enlightenment France: Luke Joseph Hooke, 1714–96 (1995) · T. O'Connor, ‘Surviving the civil constitution of the clergy: Luke Joseph Hooke's revolutionary experiences’, Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 11 (1996), 129–45 · A. Gwynn, ‘A forgotten Irish theologian’, Studies: an Irish Quarterly Review, 63 (1974), 259–68 · L. W. B. Brockliss and P. Ferté, ‘Biographical register of Irish clerics educated at the universities of Paris and Toulouse–Cahors’, Royal Irish Acad. · Boswell, Life · R. R. Palmer, Catholics and unbelievers in eighteenth century France (1939) · série E, Notariat de Saint Cloud, Archives Départementales, Hauts-de-Seine, 27 Germinal AN IV · Correspondence of Colonel N. Hooke, ed. W. D. Macray, 2 vols., Roxburghe Club, 92, 95 (1870–71)


Archives Nationales, Paris, MM 257–259 |  Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Collection Joly de Fleury, 194, f.5 · Royal Arch., Stuart


bust, 1760–99, Mazarine Library, Paris

Wealth at death  

died in poverty; odd clothes, a wig, five books in English, two assignats of 5 livres, one of 25 sols: Archives Départementales, Hauts-de-Seine, série E, Notariat de Saint Cloud, 27 Germinal AN IV