Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


Great King Street1 SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON. 195 Royal Circus, was built in 1820, and in the following year it was proposed to erect at the west end of it an equestrian statue to the memory of George III., for which subscription lists had been opened, but the project was never carried out. In Great King Street have resided, respectively in Nos. 3, 16, and 72, three men who are of mark and fame-Sir Robert Christison, Sir William Hamilton, and Sir William Allan. When the future baronet occupied No. 3, he was Doctor Christison, and Professor of medical jurisprudence. Born in June, 1797, and son of the late Alexander Christison, Professor of Humanity in the University of Edinburgh, he became a student there in 1811, and passed with brilliance through the literary and medical curriculum, and after graduating in 1819, he proceeded to London and Paris, where, under the celebrated M. Orfila, he applied himself to the study of toxicology, the department of medical science in which he became so deservedly famous. Soon after his return home to Scotland he commenced practice in his native capital, and in 1822 was appointed Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the University, and was promoted in 1832 to the chair of materia medica. He contributed various articles to medical journals on professional subjects, and wrote several books, among others an exhaustive ? Treatise on Poisons,? still recognised as a standard work on that subject, and of more than European reputation. At the famous trial of Palmer, in 1856, Dr. Christison went to London, and gave such valuable evidence that Lord Campbell cornplimented him on the occasion, and the ability he displayed was universally recognised and applauded. He was twice President of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh-the first time being in 1846-and was appointed Ordinary Physician to the Queen for Scotland. He received the degree of D.C.L. from Oxford in 1866, was created a baronet in 1871~ and was made LL.D. of Edinburgh Universityin 1872. He resigned his chair in 18.77, and died in 188% In No. 16 lived and died Sir William Hamilton, Bart., of Preston and Fingalton, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh from 1836 to 1856, and Fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. He had previously resided in Manor Place. He was called to the Scottish bar in 1815, at the same time with Duncan McNeill, the future Sir Archibald Alison, John Wilson, and others, and in 1816 assumed the baronetcy as twenty-fourth male representative of Sir John Fitz- Gilbert de Hamilton, who was the second son of Sir Gilbert, who came into Scotland in the time of Alexander III., and from whom the whole family of Hamilton are descended. The baronetcy is in remainder to heirs male general, but was not assumed from the death of the second baronet in 1701 till 1806. It was a creation of 1673. With his brother Thomas lie became one of the earliest contributors to the columns of Blucku~oad?s MRgazine. Besides ?? Cyril Thornton,? one of the best military novels in the language, Thomas Hamilton was author of ?LAnnals of the Peninsular Campaign? and of ? Men and Manners in America? In ? Peter?s Letters? heis describedas ?afine-looking young officer, whom the peace has left at liberty to amuse himself in a more pleasant way than he was accustomed to, so long as Lord Wellington kept the field. He has a noble, grand, Spaniardlooking head, and a tall giaceful person, which he swings about in a style of knowingness that might pass muster even in the eye of old Potts. The expression of his features is so very sombre that I should never have guessed him to be a playful writer (indeed, how could I have guessed such a person to be a writer at all?). Yet such is the case. Unless I am totally misinformed, he is the author of a thousand beautiful jeux $esprit both in prose and verse, which I shall point out to you more particularly when we meet.? He had served in the 29th Regiment of Foot during the long war with France, and died in his fiftythird year, in 1842, In April, 1820, when the chair of moral philosophy in the University of Edinburgh fell vacant by the death of Dr. Thomas Browne, the successor of Dugald Stewart, Sir William Hamilton became a candidate together with Johr: Wilson. Others were mentioned as possible competitors, among them Sir James Macintosh and Mr. Malthus, but it soon became apparent that the struggle-one which had few parallels even in the past history of that University-lay between the two first-named. ? Sir William was a Whig ; Wilson was a Tory of the most unpardonable description,? says Mrs. Gordon in her ?Memou,? and the Whig side was strenuously supported in the columns of the Srotsnian-?and privately,? she adds, ?in every circle where the name of Blackl~ lood was a name of abomination and of fear.? But eventually, in the year of Dr. Browne?s death, Wilson was appointed to the vacant chair, and among the first to come to hear, and applaud to the echo, his earliest lectures, was Sir William Hamilton. In 1829 t k latter married his cousin, Miss Marshall, daughter of hlr. Hubert Marshall, and
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