William Hoste was born in 1780 at Ingoldisthorpe, Norfolk. His father was an Anglican minister. Young William seems to have been destined for a life at sea from an early age. His father had sufficient social connections to get young William entered on the books of HMS Europa at age five. Through the good offices of his landlord, the elder Hoste was introduced to Horatio Nelson, then commanding HMS Agamemnon, who agreed to take William on board as his servant in April 1793.
Hoste quickly impressed Nelson and became one of his favorites. He was rated midhipman in February 1794. When Nelson moved to HMS Captain in 1796, Hoste followed him. He was with Nelson at the Battle of St. Vincent and again at the Tenerife where Nelson lost his arm. After than battle, Nelson had Hoste promoted to lieutenant at age 18. Following the Battle of the Nile, he was made commander into HMS Mutine and was made post into HMS Greyhound in 1802.
Hoste was an energetic officer and had several successes in the Mediterranean. His initiative and daring led Admiral Collingwood to send him on an independent cruise into the Adriatic. It turned out to be profitable for both as Hoste took or sunk over 200 ships in about 18 months. Collingwood sent Hoste back to the Adriatic in 1810, this time leading a small squadron consisting of his own frigate HMS Amphion (36), HMS Active (36), and HMS Cerberus (32). This deployment culminated in the Battle of Lissa, described below. Hoste returned to the Adriatic in 1812 in command of the 38-gun HMS Bacchante and actively collaborated with local forces allied with Britain to harry the French and their allies.
Unfortunately, his long service in the Mediterranean ruined his health. He acquired malaria and repeated infections in his lungs, returning to England in 1814. He was made baronet upon his return and knighted in 1815. In 1817 he married and had 6 children before his death from tuberculosis in 1828.