Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tooke, William (1777-1863)
TOOKE, WILLIAM (1777–1863), president of the Society of Arts, was the younger son of William Tooke (1744–1820) [q. v.], chaplain to the factory of the Russia Company at St. Petersburg. Thomas Tooke [q. v.] was his elder brother. Born at St. Petersburg on 22 Nov. 1777, William came to England in 1792, and was articled to William Devon, solicitor, in Gray's Inn, with whom he entered into partnership in 1798. Subsequently he was for many years at 39 Bedford Row, in partnership with Charles Parker, and latterly in the firm of Tooke, Son, & Hallowes. In 1825 he took a prominent part in the formation of the St. Katharine's Docks, and was the London agent of George Barker [q. v.], the solicitor of the London and Birmingham railway. He shared in the foundation of the London University (afterwards called University College) in Gower Street, was one of the first council (19 Dec. 1823), and continued his services as treasurer until March 1841. In procuring the charter for the Royal Society of Literature he showed his liberality by refusing any remuneration for his professional services. For many years he was an active member of the council of the society, and one of the chief promoters of Thomas Wright's ‘Biographia Britannica Literaria.’ In 1826, in conjunction with Lord Brougham, Dr. Birkbeck, George Grote, and others, he took part in the formation of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; but in 1846, like many others, he disapproved of the publication of the society's ‘Biographical Dictionary’ (Gent. Mag. 1846, i. 511).
Tooke was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 12 March 1818. He was present at the first annual meeting of the Law Institution on 5 June 1827, and was mainly instrumental in obtaining a royal charter of incorporation for that society in January 1832. For some years he was the usual chairman of the meetings and dinners, and when Lord Brougham was meditating a measure for the establishment of local courts, he addressed to him a letter in defence of the profession of an attorney (ib. 1831, i. 74). From an earlier period he was a leading member of the Society of Arts; in 1814 he was the chairman of the committee of correspondence and editor of the ‘Transactions,’ and in 1862 he was elected president of the society. For services rendered to the Institution of Civil Engineers he was elected an honorary member of that corporation. From 1824 he was honorary secretary and from 1840 one of the three treasurers of the Royal Literary Fund Society.
At the general election of 1830, in conjunction with his friend Sir John William Lubbock [q. v.], Tooke unsuccessfully contested the close borough of Truro. After the passing of the Reform Bill, however, he on 15 Dec. 1832 was elected, and represented the borough until July 1837 (Courtney, Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall, 1889, p. 14). He was afterwards a candidate for Finsbury, but did not proceed to a poll, and on 30 June 1841 he unsuccessfully contested Reading. During the five sessions that he sat in parliament he supported reform, and gave his vote for measures for the promotion of education and for the abolition of slavery; but in later life his views became more conservative. He died at 12 Russell Square, London, on 20 Sept. 1863, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. In 1807 he married Amelia (d. 1848), youngest daughter of Samuel Shaen of Crix, Essex, and by her he left a son—Arthur William Tooke of Pinner, Middlesex—and two daughters.
Though assiduous in business, Tooke had an hereditary taste for literature. In 1804 he published anonymously, in two volumes, ‘The Poetical Works of C. Churchill, with Explanatory Notes and an Authentic Account of his Life’ (Annual Review, 1804, pp. 580–5; Critical Review, May 1804, pp. 17–23). This was republished in three volumes in 1844 under his own name in Pickering's ‘Aldine Poets’ (Gent. Mag. 1844, ii. 161–4), and was reprinted in two volumes in the same series in 1892. In 1855 he compiled ‘The Monarchy of France, its Rise, Progress, and Fall,’ 2 vols. 8vo (Gent. Mag. 1855, ii. 47). More recently he privately printed verses written by himself and some of his friends, under the title of ‘Verses edited by M.M.M.,’ 1860. These initials represented his family motto, ‘Militia Mea Multiplex.’ He also wrote a pamphlet, signed W. T., entitled ‘University of London: Statement of Facts as to Charter,’ 1835. He was a contributor to the ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ the ‘Annual Register,’ and the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’
His portrait was painted by J. White for the board-room of the governors and directors of the poor of the parishes of St. Andrew, Holborn, and St. George's, Bloomsbury, and engraved in mezzotint by Charles Turner.[Gent. Mag. 1863, ii. 656–9; Illustr. London News, October 1863, p. 373, with portrait; Men of the Time, 1862, p. 753.]