Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, James Alexander
HAMILTON, JAMES ALEXANDER (1785–1845), compiler of musical instruction books, the son of a dealer in old books, was born in London in 1785. He studied the books in his father's shop and acquired a knowledge of languages and of music sufficient not only to translate important foreign publications such as Cherubini's 'Counterpoint and Fugue,' and treatises by Vierling, Baillot, Rode, &c., but to compile numberless instruction books and other works on musical theory and practice. The best known of these is the 'Pianoforte Tutor,' which reached its thirteenth edition in 1849,and after some fifty years of popularity has now (1890) reached its 1728th edition. Others of Hamilton's publications are : 'Dictionary of ... Musical Terms ' (1836 ?), 'Musical Grammar,' 'Rudiments of Harmony,' 'Catechisms of Counterpoint, Double Counterpoint, and Fugue,' 'Art of Writing for the Orchestra and Playing from Score,' 'Invention, Exposition, Development, and Concatenation of Musical Ideas ' (1838), 'Modulation, the Organ, Singing, Violin, Cello,' ' Tuning Piano-forte,' Maelzel's 'Metronome,' Kalkbrenner's ' Handguide,' 'New Daily Exercise,' 'Introduction to Choral Singing' (1841), 'Method for Double Bass.' In parts vii. to xi. of D' Almaine's Library of Musical Knowledge, appeared Hamilton's 'Choral Singing as adapted to Church Psalmody, Order ... of Morning and Evening Services, 'Method of Chanting the Psalms and Catechism of Modulation,' 1841-1843; 'Sacred Harmony,' 1843, and some primers.
Hamilton, although industrious,was neither temperate nor provident; he lived in difficulties, and died in extreme poverty, 2 Aug. 1845.
[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 647 ; Fetis, iv. 213 ; Musical Times, i. 123 ; Hamilton's Works ; Messrs. R. Cocks & Co.'s Catalogue of Educational Works.]