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HAMILTON OF GILBERTFIELD.
The name of Hamiltou of Gilbertfield has suffered in celebrity from its similarity to that of a greater poet; but, if not illustrated by works of such merit as those of Hamilton of Bangour, it is connected with productions of too much merit to justify a slight regard. A writer, whose strains could inspire an Allan Ramsay with emulation, could not have been of a class doomed to be forgotten. Oblivion will be kind to him on this account alone, as Sir Walter Raleigh beautifully tells us she has been to the adorer of Laura :
Oblivion laid Petrarch on Laura's tomb.*
Mr. Hamilton, of Gilbertfield, was the son of Hamilton of Ladylands. He entered the army early in life; but, after considerable service, returned to his paternal home with no higher rank than that of a lieu
Raleigh must of course be presumed to express somewhat hyperbolically his opinion of the Italian poet. The line occurs, I believe, in a set of verses in commendation of some very inferior poet, on whose appearance Oblivion is said to have performed this service for Petrarch.
tenant. His time was now divided between the sports of the field, the cultivation of several valued friendships with men of genius and taste, and the occasional production of some effusion of his own, in which the gentleman and the poet were alike conspicuous. His intiinacy with the author of the Gentle Shepherd, three of bis Epistles to whom are to be found in the common editions of Ramsay's works, commenced in an admiration, on Ramsay's part, of some pieces which had found their way into circalation from Hamilton's pen.
When I begoud first to con verse,
It warm’d my breast;
Whilk since near ceast.
May I be licket wi’ a bittle,
But blyth and gabby;
Of standart Habby.
Ramsay to Hamilton.
Towards the close of his life, Hamilton resided at Letterick, in the county of Lanark, and there he died at a very advanced age in 1751.
His principal productions are to be found in Watson's Choice Collection of Scots Poems. One of these, an Elegy on Habbie Simpson, the piper of Kilbarchan, records a very poetic circumstance in the ancient manners of our country.
- wha will cause our shearers shear? Wha will bend up the brags of weir." It appears, that, in former times, it was the custom for a piper to play behind the reapers while at work ; and to the poetical enthusiasm thus excited and kept alive, we are probably indebted for many of those airs and songs which have given Scotland so unrivalled a celebrity, while the authors of them remain as unknown as if they had never existed.
In 1722, Mr. Hamilton published an abridgement, in modern Scottish, of Henry the Minstrel's Life of Wallace; but it has not added any thing to his fame. Dr. Irving has only recorded the general opinion, when he says, that it was “an injudicious and useless work."
It is a matter of literary history, of which the Scotch have perhaps no great reason to be proud, that among the crowd of imitators of Butler's admirable poem of Hudibras, Scotsmen should hold the foremost place. There has been a Lundon Hudibras* and an Irish Hudibras, and even a Dutchf Hudibras ; but it is generally allowed that they all fall short of what is called the Scotch Hudibras, or more properly speaking“The Whigs' Supplication," by Samuel Colvil; and that again is as far exceeded by the Knight of the Kirk, and other works of Meston. To be the best of imitators, however, is but sorry renown. They are, indeed, servum pecus. To use a simile which Butler, in his Characters, seems to have provided for these Scotch followers an imitator " catches his wit like the itch, of somebody else that had it before, and when he writes he does but scratch himself; his muse is not inspired, but infected with another man's fancy."
Vulgus Britannicus; or, The British Hudibras: containing The Secret History of the Late London Mob,” &c. 1710.
+ “The Irish Hudibras ; or, Fingalean Prince," 1695.
I Hogan Moganides; or, The Dutch Hudibras,” 1674.
Of Colvil's personal history nothing is known. His first appearance as a writer is supposed to have been in 1673. A work printed at Edinburgh in that year is extant, entitled “ An Historical Dispute of the Papacy and Popish Religion," which bears to be written by “ Sam. Colvil,” but whether this was the same individual who wrote the “ Whigs' Supplication" is not certain. The latter work was published at London, in duodecimo, in the year 1681. It was much read, and has even continued to be read, down to a late period. Many editions of it have been printed, and one at St. Andrew's in 1796.
The degree of popularity which a work has maintained is usually allowed to indicate its degree of merit: but this conclusion, which would hold in any other case, scarcely holds in the present. Colvil has borrowed so largely from the original Hudibras, that it is impossible to say, how far he is indebted for the reputation of his work to his own genius, and how far to Butler’s. It is not the design and manner, merely, which he has borrowed; he has actually adopted a great many entire passages, without the slightest alteration.
As Butler's Hudibras was a satire on the zealots of the reign of Charles the First, so Colvil's relates to the insurrection of the Scottish Covenanters, in the reign of Charles the Second. After much wrestling of the spirit, they resolve to indite a supplication to the king; and the Gude Man, their chief, despatches his 'squire to London; to present it to his Majesty. The 'squire meets, in London, with his prototype, Ralpho, and a dispute commences between them, on the merits of Presbytery, which the former defends against the rail