Hamilton, Thomas (1789-1842) (DNB00)

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HAMILTON, THOMAS (1789–1842), miscellaneous writer, was the second son of William Hamilton (1758–1790) [q. v.], professor of anatomy and botany, Glasgow, and was younger brother of Sir William Hamilton (1788–1856) [q. v.], the metaphysician. After preliminary education at Glasgow, he was placed in 1801 as a pupil with the Rev. Dr. Home, Chiswick, and some months later with the Rev. Dr. Scott, Hounslow. For several months in 1803 he was with Dr. Sommers at Mid-Calder, Midlothian, preparatory to entering Glasgow University, where he matriculated the following November. He studied there three winters, proving himself an able if not very diligent student. His close college companion, of whom he saw little in after life, was Michael Scott, the author of 'Tom Cringle's Log.' Hamilton's bias was towards the army, and in 1810, after fully showing, in Glasgow and Liverpool, his incapacity for business, he got a commission in the 29th regiment. Twice on active service in the Peninsula, he received from a musket bullet, at Albuera, a somewhat serious wound in the thigh. He was also in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with his regiment, which at length was sent to France as part of the army of occupation. About 1818 Hamilton retired on half-pay, fixing his headquarters at Edinburgh. He became a valued member of the 'Blackwood' writers. He is specially complimented in the song of personalities in the 'Noctes Ambrosianæ' for February 1826 (Noctes, i. 89). Hogg in his 'Autobiography' credits him with a considerable share in some of the 'ploys' led by Lockhart. Hamilton married in 1820, and for several summers he and his wife lived at Lockhart's cottage of Chiefs wood, near Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott finding them very congenial neighbours and friends (Life, vi. 326, 337). In 1829, Captain and Mrs. Hamilton went to Italy, and at the end of the year Mrs. Hamilton died and was buried at Florence. Some time after his return, Hamilton visited America, bringing back materials for a book on the Americans. Marrying a second time, the widow of Sir R. T. Farquharson, bart., governor of the Mauritius, he settled at Elleray and saw much of Wordsworth, whom he was one of the first Scotsmen rightly to appreciate. Visiting the continent with his wife, Hamilton was seized with paralysis at Florence, and he died at Pisa of a second attack 7 Dec. 1842. He was buried at Florence beside his first wife. Hamilton's novel 'Cyril Thornton' appeared in 1827. Apart from its considerable merits as a work of fiction, it remains a bright and valuable record of the writer's times, from his early impressions of Scottish university life and Glasgow citizens when as yet he could call Govan (chap. x.) 'a pretty and rural village' on to his varied military experiences. The book went through three editions in the author's lifetime, and it is still one of 'Blackwood's Standard Novels.' In 1829 Hamilton published his energetic and picturesque 'Annals of the Peninsular Campaign.' His 'Men and Manners in America' appeared in 1833. Here his fund of humour and his genial satire characteristics that struck Carlyle in his interviews with him in 1832-3 found scope, but his fun, if occasionally extravagant, was never unfair, nor were his criticisms directed by prejudice or charged with ill-nature. The book was popular, and in ten years had been translated once into French and twice into German.

[Blackwood for 1843, vol. i.; Noctes Ambrosianæ, vol. i.; Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk, iii. 140; Professor Veitch's Memoir of Sir William Hamilton.]

T. B.