Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tuke, Samuel (1784-1857)

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TUKE, SAMUEL (1784–1857), philanthropist, born at York on 31 July 1784, was eldest son of Henry Tuke [q. v.] who married Mary Maria Scott in 1781. Samuel was sent as a very young child to a school established by his grandparents in Trinity Lane, York, and when he was eight his name was placed (No. 1429) on the roll of the scholars of Ackworth school, which had also been founded by his grandfather, William Tuke [q. v.] in conjunction with Dr. Fothergill. After two years there he was transferred to Blaxland's school at Hitchin, whence at the age of thirteen he entered his father's wholesale tea and coffee business.

Like his father, Tuke was desirous of adopting medicine as a profession; but in deference to his father's wish he remained in business. This decision did not prevent him from entering on a wide and systematic study of medical literature. He was intimately familiar with the designs of his father and grandfather in founding the York Retreat for the insane in 1792, and with all the details of that institution's management. As early as 1804 he corresponded with Dr. Thomas Hancock [q. v.] on the influence of joy in mental diseases and similar subjects; and in 1809 he resolved to collect all the information possible on the theory of insanity, on the treatment of the insane, and on the construction of asylums. He lost no opportunity of ascertaining from personal inspection the condition of the insane in various localities. In 1811 he contributed two short papers to the ‘Philanthropist’—‘On the State of the Insane Poor,’ and ‘On the Treatment of those labouring under Insanity, drawn from the Experience of the Retreat.’ These works give the earliest account of humane ideas consistently applied to the treatment of insanity. At his father's request, after two years' careful preparation, he produced his ‘Description of the Retreat,’ 1813, 4to. Sydney Smith in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ highly praised the institution and the book which it had called forth; but both met with vehement detraction. The work directed attention to the abuses common in the madhouses of the period, and exerted a strong influence in the direction of urgently required reforms. The physician of the York County Asylum, in defence of the old system, wrote to a local newspaper an anonymous letter, which raised a controversy that only died when that asylum was purged of abominable abuses at the instance of Godfrey Higgins [q. v.] actively supported by the Tuke family. Tuke's advice was soon sought by the magistrates of the county in York in regard to the erection of the Wakefield Asylum. In 1815 he accordingly produced a smaller work, entitled ‘Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums.’ These works, together with Tuke's introduction to the English edition of Jacobi's work on the ‘Constitution and Management of Hospitals for the Insane’ (1841), epitomise the best methods of the treatment of the insane known at the period. Until the end of his life Tuke maintained his interest in whatever was wisely designed to ameliorate the condition of the insane.

Meanwhile other questions affecting public welfare occupied his attention. When Wilberforce contested the county of York in 1807, Tuke subscribed 50l. to his election expenses. His mind was naturally of a conservative tendency, although he acted with the whigs. In 1833 he declined an invitation to contest the parliamentary representation of the city of York. At the election of 1835 bribery was so rampant that he refused to vote. Thereafter he placed small reliance on the power of political changes to effect social progress.

Tuke, who began to speak as a minister in the prime of life, occupied various positions of eminence in the Society of Friends, and at the time of the ‘Beacon’ controversy he was clerk to the yearly meeting [see Crewdson, Isaac]. It was his duty to give due expression to conflicting opinions, and he fulfilled his task with great ability. His efforts to befriend the helpless and the afflicted issued in the establishment of the Friends' Provident Institution in 1832, which proved at once successful. No inconsiderable part of his time was spent in founding or administering schools. He taught the prisoners in the York gaol, and he aided in founding a lending library in that city. His expositions of the philosophy of education and the duties of teachers were principally delivered at Ackworth school; but he also published ‘Five Papers on the Past Proceedings and Experience of the Society of Friends in connection with the Education of Youth’ (1843).

In 1849 Tuke withdrew from active life in consequence of a paralytic seizure, and lived in retirement until 14 Oct. 1857, when he died at York at the age of seventy-three. He was buried in the Friends' burial-ground, Heslington Road, York.

Tuke married, in 1810, Priscilla, daughter of James Hack of Chichester, by his wife, Hannah Jeffreys of St. James's, Westminster. She died in 1828, leaving a large family; James Hack Tuke [q. v.] and Daniel Hack Tuke [q. v.] were his sons.

Tuke was intimately acquainted with the works of the early writers belonging to the Society of Friends. While his attitude towards them was sympathetic, he was no indiscriminate apologist. He published: 1. ‘Memoirs of Stephen Crisp, with Selections from his Works,’ 1824. 2. ‘Selections from the Epistles of George Fox,’ 1825. 3. ‘Memoirs of George Whitehead,’ 1830. 4. ‘Plea on behalf of George Fox and the early Friends,’ 1837. He was also editor for many years of the ‘Annual Monitor.’

[Memoirs of S. Tuke, 2 vols., with portrait, privately printed for the use of the family only; Memoir by John S. Rowntree, reprinted from the Friends' Quarterly Examiner for April 1895.]

A. R. U.