Janet Hamilton

(1795-1873 / Scotland)

Biography of Janet Hamilton

Janet Hamilton was a nineteenth century Scottish poet.

Was born as Janet Thomson at Carshill, Shotts parish, Lanarkshire, 12 Oct. 1795, the daughter of a shoemaker. In her childhood the family moved to Hamilton, and then to Langloan, in the parish of Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. For a time her parents became farm labourers, and Janet, remaining at home, span and worked at the tambour-frame. Her father at length settled down in business for himself as a shoemaker, and John Hamilton, one of his young workmen, married Janet in 1809. They lived together at Langloan for about sixty years, and had a family of ten children. Having learnt to read as a girl, Janet Hamilton in her early years became familiar with the Bible, with Shakespeare and Milton, with many standard histories, biographies, and essays, and with the poems of Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns. Before she was twenty she had written numerous verses on religious themes, but family cares prevented further composition until she was about fifty-four. Then she began to write essays for a supplement to Cassell's ‘Working Man's Friend,’ as well as poems in English and Scots and reminiscences of village and rural Scotland during her youth. During her last eighteen years she was blind, and her husband and her daughter Marion read to her, while her son James served as her amanuensis. She was visited in those years by many notable people, including a son of Garibaldi, of whom she afterwards spoke with affectionate recollection. She died on 27 Oct. 1873, having never been ‘more than twenty miles from her dwelling.’ A large crowd of people attended her funeral, and a memorial fountain has been placed nearly opposite her cottage.

Hamilton's poems manifest a deep understanding of working-class experience at many levels. Her abilities to articulate the values of a nineteenth-century regional culture now nearly lost to memory merit attention for their humor, public spiritedness, linguistic and social realism, and ability to convey ideals of Victorian Scottish working-class life.

Janet Hamilton's Works:

* Poems and essays of a miscellaneous character on subjects of general interest. 1863 Glasgow
* Poems of purpose and sketches in prose of Scottish peasant life and character in auld lang syne, sketches of local scenes and characters : with a glossary 1865. Glasgow.
* Poems and Ballads. With introductory papers by G. Gilfillan and A. Wallace. 1868. Glasgow
* Poems, essays, and sketches. 1870. Glasgow A compilation of the best of the 1863 and 1865 poetry books.
* Pictures in Prose and Verse; or, Personal recollections of the late Janet Hamilton together with several hitherto unpublished poetic pieces. 1877. Edited by John Young. Glasgow.

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Bothwell Brig

O, Bonnie Clyde! a shimmering gleam
Oot owre thy rippling bosom plays,
Whan frae the bricht blue sky o' June
The sun leuks doun on simmer days.


But ne'er did glancin' sunbeams glint,
An' owre thy dancin' waters play
Mair bricht, than whan to 'Bothwell Brig'

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