William Tooke

William Tooke (1777-1863) was a prominent legal, political, and cultural figure in London throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. He became a solicitor in 1798, working out of his offices in 39 Bedford Row, eventually forming the firm of Tooke, Son, and Hallowes. Like his friend Crabb Robinson, he played a central role in the founding of London University (now University College) in the mid-1820s, serving as its treasurer until 1841, and in the formation of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1826. He served as MP for Truro, 1832-37. He became friends with Mary Hays in the 1790s and assisted her with her contracts with Richard Phillips, most likely becoming known to Elizabeth Hays at that time as well. The Tookes and the Hayses had met as early as 1796, for on 9 June Godwin writes in his diary that he had tea that day at the home of Mary and Elizabeth Hays, joined by Amelia Alderson, Mary Wollstonecraft, the Tookes and the Hayeses. Most likely William Tooke, Sr., joined the younger Tooke that day, but Tooke had other members of his family known to the Hayses as well, for as Mary Hays writes in a letter to Tooke on 19 May 1803, she was expecting a visit (at that time she was living with her relations in Camberwell), noting that ‘The ladies of your family, to whom present my respects, have promised a visit to my little retreat. Your father & yourself will, I hope, accompany them.’ The Miss Tooke who appears in the subscription list to Elizabeth Hays Lanfear's novel, Fatal Errors (1819), may be his sister, but mostly likely the two names included in that list are his wife and daughter, joined by his older brother, Thomas Tooke (1774-1858), and his wife.