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WILLIAM HAMILTON (1704-1754)

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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 888 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WILLIAM HAMILTON (1704-1754), Scottish poet, the author of "The Braes of Yarrow," was born in 1704 at Bangour in Linlithgowshire, the son of James Hamilton of Bangour, a member of the Scottish bar. As early as 1724 we find him contributing to Allan Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany. In 1745 Hamilton joined the cause of Prince Charles, and though it is doubtful whether he actually bore arms, he celebrated the battle of Prestonpans in verse. After the disaster of Culloden he lurked for several months in the Highlands and escaped to France; but in 1749 the influence of his friends procured him permission to return to Scotland, and in the following year he obtained possession of the family estate of Bangour. The state of his health compelled him, however, to live abroad, and he died at Lyons on the 25th of March 1754. He was buried in the Abbey Church of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. He was twice married—" into families of distinction " says the preface of the authorized edition of his poems. Hamilton left behind him a considerable number of poems, none of them except " The Braes of Yarrow " of striking originality. The collection is composed of odes, epitaphs, short pieces of translation, songs, and occasional verses. The longest is "Contemplation, or the Triumph of Love" (about 500 lines). The first edition was published without his permission by Foulis (Glasgow, 1748), and introduced by a preface from the pen of Adam Smith. Another edition with corrections by himself was brought out by his friends in 176o, and to this was prefixed a portrait engraved by Robert Strange. In 1850 James Paterson edited The Poems and Songs of William Hamilton. This volume contains several poems till then unpublished, and gives a life of the author.several 'treatises on earthquakes and volcanoes between 1776 and 1783. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Dilettanti, and a notable collector. Many of his treasures went to enrich the British Museum. In 1772 he was made a knight of the Bath. The last ten years of his life presented a curious contrast to the elegant peace of those which had preceded them. In 1791 he married Emma Lyon (see the separate article on Lady Hamilton). The outbreak of the French Revolution and the rapid extension of the revolutionary movement in Western Europe soon overwhelmed Naples. It was a misfortune for Sir William that he was left to meet the very trying political and diplomatic conditions which arose after 1793. His health had begun to break down, and he suffered from bilious fevers. Sir William was in fact in a state approaching dotage before his recall, a fact which, combined with his senile devotion to Lady Hamilton, has to be considered in accounting for his extraordinary complaisance in her relations with Nelson. He died on the 6th of April 1803. See E. Edwards, Lives of the Founders of the British Museum (London, 1870) ; and the authorities given in the article on Emma, Lady Hamilton.
End of Article: WILLIAM HAMILTON (1704-1754)
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