Theodore Edward Hook was an English man of letters and composer, and briefly a civil servant in Mauritius. He is best known for his practical jokes, particularly the Berners Street Hoax in 1809.
Hook was born in Charlotte Street, Bedford Square, London. His father, James Hook, was a composer of popular songs; his elder brother, also James Hook, became Dean of Worcester.
He spent a year at Harrow School, and subsequently matriculated at the University of Oxford, but he never actually resided at the university. His father took delight in exhibiting the boy's musical and metrical gifts, and the precocious Theodore became a pet of the green room. At the age of sixteen, in conjunction with his father, he scored a dramatic success with The Soldier's Return, a comic opera, and this he followed up with a series of popular ventures with John Liston and Charles Mathews, including Teleki.
Hook then became a playboy and practical joker, best known for the Berners Street Hoax in 1809, in which he arranged for dozens of tradesmen, and notables such as the Lord Mayor of London, the Governor of the Bank of England, the Chairman of the East India Company, and the Duke of Gloucester to visit Mrs Tottenham at 54 Berners Street, to win a bet that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address within a week.
A tunnel underneath the sea from Calais straight to Dover, Sir,
The squeamish folks may cross by land from shore to shore,
With sluices made to drown the French, if e'er they would come
Has long been talk'd of, till at length 'tis thought a monstrous