Thomas Posthumous Hoby

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Sir Thomas Posthumus Hoby (1566 – 30 December 1640), also sometimes spelt Hobie, Hobbie and Hobby, Posthumous and Postumus, was an English gentleman and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1589 and 1629.

A Puritan, he has been claimed as the inspiration for Shakespeare's character Malvolio in Twelfth Night.[1]


Portrait of Hoby's mother Elizabeth Hoby, at Bisham Abbey

Hoby was the younger son of Sir Thomas Hoby (1530–1566), the English Ambassador to France in 1557, by his marriage to Elizabeth Cooke, who was a daughter of the humanist Sir Anthony Cooke (1504–1576), one of four sisters notable for their learning. Hoby was born after his father's death, which led to his gaining the additional name of 'Posthumus'.[2] His sisters Elizabeth and Anne died within a few days of each other in February 1571, while his elder brother was the diplomat and scholar Sir Edward Hoby (1560–1617). Hoby was also a nephew of Sir Philip Hoby, Master-General of the Ordnance and an English ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire.[3]

Hoby was a very small boy and grew up to be nicknamed "the little knight" for his slightness and short stature.[4] He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Oxford, matriculating in 1574 at the age of eight.[5]

Also in 1574, some years after his father's death, Hoby's mother married secondly John, Lord Russell, the eldest surviving son of the Earl of Bedford, and with him had three further children, Elizabeth, Anne and Francis.[2] She was the sister-in-law of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of State, and Hoby was himself a first cousin of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who succeeded his father as the Queen's principal minister. As his mother pursued favours for herself and her friends, Hoby became a protégé of Burghley.[6][7] Among his many other first cousins were the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon and the spy Anthony Bacon.

Hoby's brother Edward in 1583

In 1589 Hoby was elected Member of Parliament for Appleby. He was re-elected MP for Appleby in 1593.[8] In 1595, Hoby married Margaret Sidney (1571–1633), daughter and heiress of Arthur Dakins, a landed gentleman of Linton, already the widow of two men, of Walter Devereux, a younger brother of the Earl of Essex, and of Thomas Sidney, a brother of the poet Philip Sidney. Hoby had been an unsuccessful suitor four years earlier, after Margaret had lost her first husband. They set up home at Hackness, Yorkshire, but had no children. Margaret Hoby is notable as a diarist.[9][10][11][12]

In 1597 Hoby was elected MP for Yorkshire and Scarborough but was declared ineligible at Yorkshire. He was elected MP for Scarborough again in 1604. In 1614 he was elected MP for Ripon and was re-elected MP for Ripon in 1621, 1624, 1625, 1626 and 1628.[8] He was Custos Rotulorum of the North Riding of Yorkshire from 1621 to 1626.[13]

A Puritan, in 1600 Hoby brought a legal action against William Eure (1579–1646) and several of his other neighbours, alleging that they had entered his house, taken drink, played cards, ridiculed Puritanism, and threatened to ravish his wife. In 1609 he alleged in the Star Chamber that Sir Richard Cholmley had twice spoken contemptuously to him in the hope of provoking a duel. One historian of the period has described Hoby as "that most overbearing, touchy, and resentful of Yorkshire magistrates".[13] It has been suggested that the character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is based on Hoby[1][14] and that his legal action of 1600 inspired Scene III of Act 2 of Twelfth Night, in which Malvolio is disturbed by drunken merry-making.[15]

As a magistrate, Hoby has been described as "exceptionally conscientious".[16]

On his mother's death in 1609 Hoby inherited from her "all my pastures of the manor of Gyfford in Gloucestershire",[17] and in 1617 he inherited the estates of his brother, Sir Edward.[4]

Death and memorials[edit]

Hoby died on 30 December 1640 and was entombed with the remains of his wife in the Hackness parish church. By a Will dated 28 March 1640 he left his manor of Hackness to John Sydenham of Brympton in Somerset, the son of his first cousin Alice Hoby, daughter of Sir William Hoby of Hayles, who was Hoby's uncle. He made further bequests to other members of the Sydenham family, and he also left each of his servants three years' wages.[18][19] A memorial to him was erected in the church at Hackness in 1682 by Sir John Posthumous Sydenham (1643–1696), the son of Hoby's principal heir and a knight of the shire for Somerset.[20] There is also a more impressive memorial to him in All Saints' Church, Bisham, where a painted statue of Hoby is among a family group in the Hoby chapel.[21][22]

Although Hoby had no children, his brother Edward's natural son Peregrine Hoby (1602–1679) was the father of Sir Edward Hoby, 1st Baronet (1634–1675), whose baronetcy continued until the fifth Baronet died in 1766.[23]


  1. ^ a b J. L. Simmons, 'A Source for Shakespeare's Malvolio: The Elizabethan Controversy with the Puritans' in Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 36 (May 1973), pp. 181-201
  2. ^ a b The Ghost of Lady Hoby at, accessed 17 March 2011
  3. ^ James D. Taylor, Documents of Lady Jane Grey: nine days Queen of England, 1553 (2004), p. 47
  4. ^ a b John William Walker, ed., Hackness Manuscripts and Accounts (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record series: Volume 95, 1938), p. 5
  5. ^ Sir Wasey Sterry, The Eton college register, 1441-1698: alphabetically arranged and edited with biographical notes (Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co., 1943): "Hoby, Thomas Posthumus; 2nd s. of Sir Thomas H. of Bisham Abbey co. Berks and Elizabeth dau. of Sir Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall co. Essex ; b. 1566 ; commensal at the 2nd table ; matric. from Trinity College Oxford 11 Nov. 1574 aged 8."
  6. ^ The first edition of this text is available as an article on Wikisource:  "Hoby, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  7. ^ David Nash Ford, Elizabeth Cooke, Lady Hoby (1528-1609) (Royal Berkshire History, 2001), at, accessed 17 March 2011
  8. ^ a b History of Parliament Online - Hoby, Thomas Posthumous
  9. ^ Dorothy M. Meads, ed., The Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby (1930)
  10. ^ Joanna Moody, ed., The Private Life of an Elizabethan Lady: The Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby, 1599-1605
  11. ^ Sharon Cadman Seelig, 'Margaret Hoby: the stewardship of time' in Autobiography and Gender in Early Modern Literature: Reading Women's Lives, 1600–1680 (2006), pp. 15-33
  12. ^ Hoby, Lady Margaret (1571–1633) in A Historical Dictionary of British Women online, accessed 17 March 2011
  13. ^ a b A. J. Fletcher, Honour, Reputation, and Local Officeholding in Elizabethan and Stuart England online at, accessed 17 March 2011
  14. ^ James C. Humes, Citizen Shakespeare: a social and political portrait (University Press of America, 2003), p. 105: "The puritanical Malvolio may have been modeled from life. His original was Sir Thomas Hoby... who had made himself a figure of ridicule in a lawsuit."
  15. ^ Character Analysis of Malvolio from Twelfth Night at
  16. ^ The Yorkshire archaeological journal, volumes 55-56 (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1983), p. 117, footnote (9): "In practice the theory was not always implemented. For an exceptionally conscientious justice, Sir Thomas Postumus Hoby of Hackness, see Surtees Soc. CXXIV, 6."
  17. ^ Walker, p. 99
  18. ^ Walker, pp. 7-8
  19. ^ Joseph Jackson Howard, Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica, vol. 1 (1868), p. 143
  20. ^ Dorothy May Meads, ed., Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby, 1599-1605 (1930), p. 45
  21. ^ A SHORT HISTORY OF BISHAM CHURCH at, accessed 18 March 2011
  22. ^ photograph of monument at, accessed 18 March 2011
  23. ^ HOBY of Bisham,Berks at, accessed 17 March 2011
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Laurence Lister
Member of Parliament for Appleby
With: Ralph Bowes 1589
Cuthbert Reynolds 1593
Succeeded by
James Colbrand
John Lyly
Preceded by
Sir George Savile
John Aske
Member of Parliament for Yorkshire
With: Sir John Stanhope
Succeeded by
John Savile
Sir William Fairfax
Preceded by
Edward Gate
Roger Dalton
Member of Parliament for Scarborough
With: Walter Pye
Succeeded by
Edward Stanhope
William Eure
Preceded by
Edward Stanhope
William Eure
Member of Parliament for Scarborough
With: Francis Eure
William Conyers
Succeeded by
Edward Smith
William Conyers
Preceded by
Sir John Mallory
Sir John Bennet
Member of Parliament for Ripon
With: William Mallory 1614-1625
Thomas Best 1626
William Mallory 1628-1629
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640