1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Gerard Hamilton

William Tooke, Note to Independence; Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 2:350n.



Those who stand fairest to the public view
Take to themselves the praise to others due,
They rob the very 'Spital, and make free
With those, alas who've least to spare — we see
—hath not a word to say,
Since winds and waves bore Singlespeech away.

The gentleman distinguished by this name, was the Right Hon. William Gerrard Hamilton, who was so called from the circumstance of his having, as his first speech in the House of Commons, delivered a very forcible and eloquent harangue, which, despairing of ever being able to surpass, he determined never again to gratify the house with any farther specimens of his oratory. In 1761, he went to Ireland, in the capacity of principal secretary of state to the then Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Halifax, and in 1763, we find him Chancellor of the Exchequer for that kingdom. Having secured a pension of 2,000 a year on the Irish establishment, he returned to England, and died in 1796, in the 69th year of his age. He was suspected of having been the author of Junius's Letters, a suspicion which he endeavoured to strengthen by an affected mystery whenever the subject was introduced; what store of literary merit he possessed to countenance such a rumour, we are unacquainted with, for excepting his celebrated speech, the composition of which was by many attributed to Burke, we are unacquainted with any anecdote favourable to his talents, either as an author or a politician. He derived all his notoriety from his nick-name of Singlespeech, of which he was reminded by Mr. Bruce, the Egyptian traveller, when on an insinuation of Mr. Hamilton's, that it was highly improbable any man should make such fine drawings as Mr. Bruce exhibited for his own, without ever having been known to excel in design, Mr. Bruce said, "Pray, sir, did you not once make a famous speech in the House of Commons?" "Yes, I did." "And, pray, sir, did you ever make another?" "No, I did not."