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Hamilton, John (1761-1814) (DNB00)


HAMILTON, JOHN (1761–1814), Scottish song-writer, was a music-seller in the North Bridge, Edinburgh. He would appear to have been a teacher of instrumental music, and he is said to have married one of his pupils, 'a young lady of fortune and rank,' against the will of her parents. He was a close friend of Sibbald, the Edinburgh book-seller, and author of the 'Chronicle of Scottish Poetry.' He died 23 Sept. 1814, in his fifty-third year. The 'Scots Magazine,' intimating his death, describes him as 'late music-seller in this city, author of many favourite Scots songs, and composer of several melodies of considerable merit.'

Hamilton contributed to Johnson's 'Museum,' and Scott acknowledges him as a helper in the 'Border Minstrelsy.' In his 'Up in the Mornin' Early' Hamilton succeeded, where Burns failed, in constructing upon an old basis a humorous and tuneful modern Scottish song. One of his best and most popular lyrics is ' Miss Forbes's Farewell to BanfF' and he is author of a breezy recitative piece entitled 'The Ploughman,' and of a short and vigorous ballad, The Rantin' Highlandman.' In some respects his most remarkable contribution to Scottish verse is the addition he was daring enough to make to Burns's 'Of a' the Airts.' His two stanzas are very commonly sung as an integral part of the song although their drift is slightly incongruous with what precedes and their excellence induced Cunningham, Lockhart, and Professor Wilson to regard them as the work of Burns himself.

[Chambers's Life and Works of Burns, ii. 268; Scott Douglas's Works of Burns, ii. 156; Stenhouse's Poetry and Music of Scotland; Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland.]

T. B.