1760 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hamilton of Bangour

Anonymous, "To the Reader" in Hamilton, Poems on Several Occasions (1760) iii-vi.



The public, or those who had not occasion to be acquainted with the author of the following poems, may perhaps desire to know something more of him than his name.

To gratify this reasonable curiosity, it is proper the reader should know that WILLIAM HAMILTON of Bangour, Esq; was a gentleman of an opulent fortune, and of an antient and honourable family.

He was born in 1704, and had all the advantages of a liberal and polite education. His taste, like his studies, was unconfined, but his peculiar genius for poetry appeared at an early time of life. It was improved by a lively imagination, an exquisite delicacy of sentiment, an extensive acquaintance with the Belles Lettres, and a thorough knowledge of the world.

As he wrote entirely for his own amusement, and that of his particular friends, few, if any, of his pieces were prepared for the press by himself. A Collection of several of them was first published at Glasgow in 1748 (and afterwards reprinted) not only without his name, but without his consent, and even without his knowledge. He was then abroad, and it was hoped the appearance of that collection would have drawn from him a more perfect edition. But tho' after his return, he corrected many errors of the Glasgow copy, occasioned by the inadvertency of the transcribers, and considerably enlarged some of the poems, he did not live to make a new and compleat publication. The improvements he made, are, however, carefully inserted in the present posthumous edition, with the addition of a great many valuable pieces taken from his own original manuscripts.

Mr. HAMILTON possessed the social virtues in an eminent degree. His writings breathe he passions which he felt, and are seldom cold or inamimated. The qualities of his heart and head were equally remarkable; and, in short, he was in the proper sense of the word, a fine gentleman.

He was twice married into families of distinction, and by his first lady, daughter of Sir James Hall, Bart. left an only child, a promising youth, who inherits his estate.

Mr. HAMILTON was of a delicate constitution, and in his later years his health was greatly impaired. This decay made him again try the benefit of a warmer climate, in which he had formerly passed a considerable part of his time. It had not, however, the desired effect. He died at Lyons on the 25th of March 1754, in the 50th year of his age. His corpse was brought to Scotland, and interred in the Abbey Church of Holy-rood-house.

The reader is left to the perusal of Mr. HAMILTON'S works for the forming an adequate opinion of his merit as a poet. It is hoped such of his poems, as are here first published, will appear equally beautiful with those which, in their former more careless dress, and even without a name, were received with the highest approbation. Tho' the author's finishing hand has been wanting to many, the same admirable genius shine thro' the whole; and the editor is persuaded, that in making this edition as compleat as possible, he has performed an acceptable service to the public.