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William Hamilton (1704—1754)

Scottish poet, the author of “The Braes of Yarrow,” was born in 1704 in Linlithgowshire, the son of James Hamilton, 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. 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” 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 1760, and to,this was prefixed a portrait engraved by Robert Strange.

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