Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hammond, James

HAMMOND, JAMES (1710–1742), poet and politician, born on 22 May 1710, was second son of Anthony Hammond (1668–1738) [q. v.] of Somersham Place, Huntingdonshire, but descended from a family long resident at Nonington, Kent, who married at Tunbridge, 14 Aug. 1694, Jane, only daughter of Sir Walter Clarges. The mother was famous for her wit; the father, both a wit and a keen politician, was a reckless spendthrift, though from an extract from his commonplace-book (Rawlinson MSS. Bodl. Libr. A. 245, printed in Notes and Queries) it seems that he had sufficient forethought to obtain for his son James a commission as ensign in March 1713, when the child was only three years old. Hammond was educated at Westminster School; at about the age of eighteen he was, by means of Noel Broxholme, M.D. [q. v.], who afterwards married his sister, introduced to Lord Chesterfield, and soon became a member of the clique, comprising Cobham, Lyttelton, and Pitt, which gathered round Frederick, prince of Wales. In 1733 his relative, Nicholas Hammond, left him the sum of 400l. a year, and he became attached to the prince's court as one of his equerries. His tastes varied. At one time he would plunge deeply into the pleasures of social life—in December 1736 Lyttelton calls him ‘the joy and dread of Bath’—at another he withdrew into the country to bury himself among books. Through the prince's influence, as Duke of Cornwall, Hammond was returned to parliament on 13 May 1741 as member for Truro, and Horace Walpole records that ‘he was a man of moderate parts, attempted to speak in the House of Commons and did not succeed,’ but it should be borne in mind that the prince's friends and Sir Robert Walpole's adherents were bitter enemies. Hammond fell into bad health, and died at Stowe in Buckinghamshire on 7 June 1742 while on a visit to Lord Cobham. Erasmus Lewis was left sole executor, but he declined to act, and Hammond's mother administered to the estate. By the will his body was to be buried where he died, but this injunction was disregarded.

The popular tradition is that Hammond fell in love with Catherine (commonly called Kitty) Dashwood, the toast of the Oxfordshire Jacobites, and the intimate friend of Lady Bute, who was afterwards bedchamber woman to Queen Charlotte, and that she at first accepted, then rejected, his suit for prudential reasons. He, so the story adds, died of love; she survived until 1779. Walpole asserts that the lady, though much in love with Hammond, broke off all connection with him on ‘finding that he did not mean marriage.’ Beattie was informed on good authority that Hammond was not in love when he wrote his elegies (Dissertations, Moral and Critical, 1783, p. 554). He undoubtedly lived for ten years after he had composed the effusions in which he set out his passion. His volume of poems was entitled ‘Love Elegies by Mr. H——nd. Written in the year 1732. With Preface by the E. of C——d., 1743,’ in which Chesterfield wrote that his friend ‘died in the beginning of a career which, if he had lived, I think he would have finished with reputation and distinction.’ The elegies are included in Johnson's, Anderson's, and Chalmers's collections of English poets, and were often republished, e.g. by Thomas Park in 1805 and George Dyer in 1818. They were mostly inscribed to Neæra or to Delia, but one was in praise of George Grenville, and another was pointedly addressed to Miss Dashwood, and to this Lord Hervey wrote an answer, also printed in Dodsley's collection, iv. 73–8. In 1740 Hammond wrote the prologue for Lillo's posthumous tragedy of ‘Elmerick,’ which was acted at Drury Lane Theatre, and some additional poems by him and references to his compositions are in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1779, 1781, 1786, and 1787. Hammond's elegies are avowedly imitations of Tibullus, and Johnson condemned them as having ‘neither passion, nature, nor manners,’ nothing ‘but frigid pedantry.’ These strictures produced a quarto pamphlet of ‘Observations on Dr. Johnson's Life of Hammond,’ 1782, but time has given its verdict in favour of the critic. Thomson's ‘Winter’ includes a glowing apostrophe to Hammond.

[Johnson's Poets, ed. Cunningham, ii. 329–332, iii. 431; Berry's Genealogies (Kent), pp. 94–5; Pope's Works, ix. Letters (iv.); Miscell. Works of Lord Chesterfield, 1777, i. 47–8, 133, 277; Walpole's George III, i. 71; Notes by Walpole in Philobiblon Soc. Miscellanies, vol. xi.; Courtney's Parl. Rep. of Cornwall, p. 11; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 348, 430–1, 493–4, xii. 33, 56.]

W. P. C.