Richard Hooker, an English divine, born at Heavytree, near Exeter, in 1553 or 1554, died at Bishopsbourne, near Canterbury, Nov. 2, 1600. He became a scholar of Corpus Christi college, Oxford, in 1573, and a fellow and master of arts in 1577, was made deputy professor of Hebrew in 1579, was expelled from this office after three months with four other fellows of his college, but was immediately restored, and received holy orders in 1581. Being appointed to preach a sermon at St. Paul's cross, London, he lodged at the Shunamite's house, a dwelling appropriated to preachers, and was skilfully persuaded by the landlady " that it was best for him to have a wife that might prove a nurse to him, such an one as might prolong his life, and make it more comfortable, and such an one as she could and would provide for him if he thought fit to marry." The unsuspecting young divine agreed to abide by her choice, which fell upon her own daughter, who proved to be, as Anthony "Wood says, a " silly, clownish woman, and withal a mere Xantippe." Resigning his fellowship by his marriage, he was presented in 1584 to the living of Drayton-Beauchamp, Buckinghamshire. There he was visited by two of his former pupils, Edwin Sandys and George Cranmer, who found him reading Horace while tending the sheep in the field, his servant having gone to aid Mrs. Hooker in the household labors.
On going with them to the house, he was called to rock the cradle, and the lady gave such other samples of hospitality as made them glad to depart on the following morning. To their expressions of commiseration Hooker replied: "If saints have usually a double share of the miseries of this life, I, that am none, ought not to repine at what my wise Creator hath appointed for me; but labor, as indeed I do daily, to submit to his will and possess my soul in patience and peace." Sandys made an appeal to his father, the archbishop of York, in behalf of his former tutor, who was promoted to the mastership of the Temple in London in 1585. The morning and afternoon lectureship belonged respectively to him and to Walter Travers, the one inclining to the Arminian view and maintaining the Anglican form of government, the other maintaining Calvinistic opinions and inclining to the Presbyterian form; and it was soon observed that " the forenoon sermons spoke Canterbury, and the afternoon Geneva." A controversy arose which was the occasion of Hooker's great work on " Ecclesiastical Polity." Archbishop Whitgift prohibited the preaching of Travers, who appealed unsuccessfully to the privy council, and published his memorial, which, though answered by his opponent, gained for him many powerful adherents. " To unbeguile and win over those of Mr. Travers's judgment, Hooker designed to write a sober deliberate treatise of the church's power to make canons for the use of ceremonies, and by law to impose an obedience to them as upon her children." To secure the requisite quiet, he requested to be translated to some country parsonage, and received in 1591 the rectory of Boscombe, Wiltshire, where he completed the first four books of the "Ecclesiastical Polity" (London, 1594). In the following year he was presented to the rectory of Bishopsbourne, Kent, where he passed the remainder of his life.
The last four books were published at intervals, three of them posthumously, and the eight books were probably first collected in 1662, although some contend that all were published together as early as 1617. The sixth book is lost, that which passes for it having been proved to be a totally different production, and the eighth book seems to have been left incomplete. His life was written by Izaak Walton. The latest edition of his works was arranged by the Rev. John Keble (3d ed., 3 vols., Oxford, 1845).