Thomas Hamilton (1789-1842)

Thomas Hamilton (1789-1842)

Hamilton was born into a distinguished family in Glasgow. His father, William Hamilton, was Professor of Anatomy and Botany at Glasgow University and his grandfather, William Stirling, was a Glasgow merchant. His brother, William Stirling Hamilton (1788-1856), went on to become a distinguished philosopher. Thomas Hamilton entered Glasgow University in 1803.

His major literary contribution was The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton (1827), which features representations of late-Georgian-era Glasgow. A popular debut, it was republished three times during his lifetime. Two years later, his Annals of the Peninsular Campaign was published. His military career, which ended around 1818, saw Hamilton in the Peninsula, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and France. Like John Wilson/ ‘Christopher North’, Hamilton settled in Edinburgh, becoming close with John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854) and other Blackwoods associates. 

His Men and Manners in America (1833) features satirical accounts of his time in the New World. Hamilton married his second wife a year later (his first wife died in 1829), and they moved to Elleray, where John Wilson had an estate. Becoming friends with Wordsworth, Hamilton’s late literary career indeed reads like the other literary figures from Glasgow who moved to the Lake District. A 1990 reprint of Cyril Thornton, however, has re-established the importance of the work, and the vivid details of Georgian Glasgow it captured.