Robert Hooke and Grace Hook: A Peculiar Relationship
Grace Hook, born to John Hooke and Elizabeth, his wife, was baptized on May 2, 1660, at the Newport Parish Church. She was brought up in a sizeable estate on Newport High Street. Her father, John Hooke, who was Robert Hooke’s brother, served as Newport’s mayor from October 16, 1668.
In the 1670s, John started borrowing money from his brother, Robert Hooke. Known for his frugality, Robert maintained a record of his brother’s debts. It was around this period that Grace moved to London to live with her Uncle Robert. The motives behind this move remain unknown. Did John hope to see Grace wed a wealthy, influential man from London, or was he merely trying to cut down on his household expenses?
Robert Hooke and His Diary
Robert Hooke began his diary when Grace was already living with him in London, which was in 1672. John would send periodic supplies of items like geese, hares, birds, grapes, and local honey. He also provided cash for food, housing, and Grace’s personal expenses. Grace was taught bookbinding by Robert, and they would often take walks in the fields north of Murfields or along the Thames.
The Relationship between Robert Hooke and Grace Hook
In 1676, Robert’s diary entries began reflecting a closer relationship with Grace. An entry on June 4 reads, “slept with Grace,” with similar notes appearing throughout that year and the next. By December 13, 1676, Hooke wrote, “Grace is behind. I decided to get rid of her.” In 1679, despite contracting smallpox, Grace was still living with Robert.
Robert J. Lloyd’s book “Bloodless Boy” is set during the time Grace was living with Robert Hooke.
What We Know About Grace Hook
Grace, daughter of Robert’s brother John, hailed from the Isle of Wight. They appear to have had a physical relationship, which, under incest laws, would have been considered a felony. She moved into Hooke’s Gresham apartment, but the exact details of their relationship are a mystery. It seems to have been a secret, only hinted at in Hooke’s diary.
Robert Hooke had a physically intimate relationship with many women who worked for him, including Nell Young. Mary Robinson, however, was an exception. In his diary, Hooke used a shorthand symbol for Pisces to represent his orgasms, a unique notation that sparked intrigue when discovered.
What Became of Grace Hook?
Grace stayed with her uncle Robert Hooke, serving as his housekeeper and companion until she passed away in 1687 at the age of 27. It’s unclear where she was buried. You can learn more about Robert Hooke in the 70th episode of our History of London podcast.