Luke Joseph Hooke (Dublin, 1714-St. Cloud, near Paris, 1796) was a priest and theologian caught up in the great intellectual ferment known as the French Enlightenment.
The Hookes were an illustrious family, with a pedigree stretching back to the first Anglo-Norman settlers who arrived in Ireland in the 12th century. Luke Joseph Hooke went with his father, Nathaniel Hooke, to Paris to study for the priesthood in the late 1720s. He stayed first with his great uncle—also called Nathaniel Hooke—somewhere in the vicinity of the church of St. Jacques du Haut Pas (rue St. Jacques, fifth arrondissement), while he pursued his studies.
Luke Joseph Hooke’s father worked for a time as private sector to the maréchal, while Luke Joseph himself undertook studies at the seminary of St. Nicholas du Chardonnet (seminary no longer exists but church does, Square de la Mutualité, 5th arrondissement). In 1742, he was appointed to one of the six chairs of theology at the University of Paris, upon the death of James Wogan, a fellow Irishman.
Hooke was forced to resign from his position for his part in the affair. He was readmitted to the faculty in 1754, but had to wait until 1762 before he was reinstated as a professor of theology. Alas, Hooke was not at the end of his professional difficulties. Hooke was mistrusted by the archbishop Christophe de Beaumont of Paris because of his involvement in the Prades affair and because of his association with Prades’ rival, the Archbishop of Lyon, a rival. While the faculty backed Hooke’s reappointment to the chair of theology, Beaumont had ordered Paris seminarians to boycott his lectures, leaving Hooke in the painful position of having next to no students at his lectures. Persistent episcopal opposition forced Hooke gave up the chair of theology, although his friends managed to obtain for him a position as professor for the interpretation of Hebrew and Chaldean scripture, a post he occupied until 1778.
Hooke seems to have lived for a period in St. Cloud (perhaps because he had relatives there). Samuel Johnson, in his diary of a trip through France, noted that in October 1775 he went “with the prior to St. Cloud to see Dr. Hooke—We walked around the palace and had some talk” and that the following day “Hooke came to us at the inn”.
Although Hooke was 61 when Johnson visited, the Irishman’s professional life—and his problems with officialdom—were far from over. In 1778, he was appointed librarian at the Bibliothèque Mazarine, France’s oldest public library (23, Quai de Conti, 5th arrondissement, part of the Institut de France). Hooke managed to expand the library’s collection, although his duties were probably not all that onerous. Louis-Sébastien Mercier in his Tableau de Paris tells us that the library was closed for three and a half months holidays each year and “only opens its doors when the cold weather renders study impossible in such an immense building where fires are forbidden”. Installed comfortably in an official apartment, and with income from tithes in a parish in Normandy as well as his salary from the Mazarine, Hooke might reasonably have supposed his material needs were satisfied until the end of his days.
Lettre de M. l’Abbé Hooke, docteur de la maison et société de la Sorbonne, professeur de théologie, à Mgr. l’archevêque de Paris qui avait interdit son cours aux séminaristes (1763)
Luke Joseph Hooke
Requête au Roi (1791)
Luke Joseph Hooke
A Messieurs les députés de l’Assemblée Nationale (1791)
Luke Joseph Hooke
An Irish Theologian in Enlightenment France, Luke Joseph Hooke, 1714-96 (1995)
Histoire de la Bibliothèque et du Palais de l’Institut (1901)
Biographie Universelle Ancienne et Moderne (1857)
The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D (1791)
“Surviving the Civil Constitution of the Clergy: Luke Joseph Hooke, 1714-1796”, Thomas O’Connor in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Iris an dá Chultúr, vol. 11 (1996)
“A Displaced Intelligensia: Aspects of Irish Catholic Thought in Ancien Régime France”, Liam Chambers, in:
The Irish In Europe (2001)
Various, ed. Thomas O’Connor
“Nathaniel Hooke (1664-1738) and the French Embassy to Saxony, 1711-1712”,
Thomas Byrne, in:
Irish Communities in Early-Modern Europe
Various, ed. Thomas O’Connor & Mary Ann Lyons (2006)
“A Forgotten Irish Theologian”, Aubrey Gwynn in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, vol. 63, no. 251 (Autumn 1974)