1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hamilton, Anthony

HAMILTON, ANTHONY, or Antoine (1646–1720), French classical author, was born about 1646. He is especially noteworthy from the fact that, though by birth he was a foreigner, his literary characteristics are more decidedly French than those of many of the most indubitable Frenchmen. His father was George Hamilton, younger brother of James, 2nd earl of Abercorn, and head of the family of Hamilton in the peerage of Scotland, and 6th duke of Châtellerault in the peerage of France; and his mother was Mary Butler, sister of the 1st duke of Ormonde. According to some authorities he was born at Drogheda, but according to the London edition of his works in 1811 his birthplace was Roscrea, Tipperary. From the age of four till he was fourteen the boy was brought up in France, whither his family had removed after the execution of Charles I. The fact that, like his father, he was a Roman Catholic, prevented his receiving the political promotion he might otherwise have expected on the Restoration, but he became a distinguished member of that brilliant band of courtiers whose chronicler he was to become. He took service in the French army, and the marriage of his sister Elizabeth, “la belle Hamilton,” to Philibert, comte de Gramont (q.v.) rendered his connexion with France more intimate, if possible, than before. On the accession of James II. he obtained an infantry regiment in Ireland, and was appointed governor of Limerick and a member of the privy council. But the battle of the Boyne, at which he was present, brought disaster on all who were attached to the cause of the Stuarts, and before long he was again in France—an exile, but at home. The rest of his life was spent for the most part at the court of St Germain and in the châteaux of his friends. With Ludovise, duchesse du Maine, he became an especial favourite, and it was at her seat at Sceaux that he wrote the Mémoires that made him famous. He died at St Germain-en-Laye on the 21st of April 1720.

It is mainly by the Mémoires ducomte de Gramont that Hamilton takes rank with the most classical writers of France. It was said to have been written at Gramont’s dictation, but it is very evident that Hamilton’s share is the most considerable. The work was first published anonymously in 1713 under the rubric of Cologne, but it was really printed in Holland, at that time the great patroness of all questionable authors. An English translation by Boyer appeared in 1714. Upwards of thirty editions have since appeared, the best of the French being Renouard’s (1812), forming part of a collected edition of Hamilton’s works, and Gustave Brunet’s (1859), and the best of the English, Edwards’s (1793), with 78 engravings from portraits in the royal collections at Windsor and elsewhere, A. F. Bertrand de Moleville’s (2 vols., 1811), with 64 portraits by E. Scriven and others, and Gordon Goodwin’s (2 vols., 1903). The original edition was reprinted by Benjamin Pifteau in 1876. In imitation and satiric parody of the romantic tales which Antoine Galland’s translation of The Thousand and One Nights had brought into favour in France, Hamilton wrote, partly for the amusement of Henrietta Bulkley, sister of the duchess of Berwick, to whom he was much attached, four ironical and extravagant contes, Le Bélier, Fleur d’épine, Zénéyde and Les Quatre Facardins. The saying in Le Bélier’ “Bélier, mon ami, tu me ferais plaisir si tu voulais commencer par le commencement,” has passed into a proverb. These tales were circulated privately during Hamilton’s lifetime, and the first three appeared in Paris in 1730, ten years after the death of the author; a collection of his Œuvres diverses in 1731 contained the unfinished Zénéyde. Hamilton was also the author of some songs as exquisite in their way as his prose, and interchanged amusing verses with the duke of Berwick. In the name of his niece, the countess of Stafford, Hamilton maintained a witty correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

See notices of Hamilton in Lescure’s edition (1873) of the Contes, Sainte-Beuve’s Causeries du lundi, tome i., Sayou’s Histoire de la littérature française à l’étranger (1853), and by L. S. Auger in the Œuvres complètes (1804).