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Hamilton, Catherine

Catherine Hamilton commonplace book.

Physical Description:
1 volume (94 pages) : illustrations ; 31 cm
Rare Books and Manuscripts
PN6245 .H36 1822+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Archives & Manuscripts
The compiler's marriage is noted in an 1844 issue of The Court magazine and belle assemblée: "Hamilton, Catherine, eldest d. of the late Robert Hamilton, esq., of Fenton, Staffordshire, to Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser, Royal Artillery; at St George's Church, Hanover-square, May 11."
Bound in contemporary red half morocco and marbled boards; original clasps partially intact.
Commonplace book compiled by Catherine Hamtilton, from 1822 to circa 1832. The first preliminary leaf bears an inscription from Catherine to her sister Maria, in which Catherine presents the album as a birthday gift, September 30, 1880. On the title leaf that follows, Catherine has included a drawing of a similar looking album (in content and layout), accompanied by quotes from James Grainger and Michel de Montaigne, the latter of which reads “J'ai seulement fait ici un amas de fleurs étrangères, n'y ayant fourni du mien que le filet à les lier" (“I have but gathered a cluster of stranger's flowers here, and nothing but the thread that ties them together is my own"). The volume includes pieces signed by Catherine Hamilton, Emily Hamilton, Thomas Hamilton, and Gilbert Hamilton.
The album begins with a reflection on the idea of home, with a graphite drawing ("from recollection") of Fenton, in Staffordshire. Underneath this image of a country home is an excerpt from a poem by Robert Southey, which reads “Home, there is a magic in that little word...” Below this text is another excerpt this time from L'enfance de René by the 19th century poet François-René de Chateaubriand, which reads “Oh! Quel Coeur si mal fait, n'a tressailli au bruit des cloches de son lieu natale.” This poetic and bilingual nostalgia continues throughout the volume, which also reflects the sentimentality of the gift. Themes that arise include sisterhood, female friendship, love, nostalgia and identity. On love, Catherine quotes from Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld who writes, “Il n'y a q'une sorte d'amour, mais il y en a mille différentes copies.” Catherine conveys these ideas in her illustrations. For instance, she sketches forget-me-not flowers and trompe l'oeil letters alongside texts on nostalgia. There is also a feeling that Catherine is leaving advice for her sister in some of these pages. An example of this can be seen where she draws stick figures to help explain different styles and steps in partner dancing. Catherine also includes three musical scores (albeit short), numerous poems in French, a glossary with humorous definitions such as, “buying: ordering things with no intention of paying,” or “common sense: a vulgar quality,” and “truth: meaning not certain.”
Catherine also shows herself to be a worldly, and likely well-traveled, woman. Content include Irish melodies from Thomas Moore, a curse of Scotland, and sketches of Yorkshire, as well as writing on subjects beyond the commonwealth. She includes an address by Napoleon Bonaparte and a watercolor of a Russian couple. Also present is a full-page graphite sketch of “the King of Persia," i.e. the second Shah of Iran, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar. One of the last and most impressive drawings in this volume is of Canterbury Cathedral.
The watercolors include numerous vivid depictions of flowers, birds, and butterflies, often in combination. The species are sometimes identified, with their common names. The layout of pages is uncommonly dynamic, with interesting juxtapositions of text and image.
Subject Terms:
Birds -- Pictorial works.
Butterflies -- Pictorial works.
English poetry -- 18th century.
English poetry -- 19th century.
Flowers -- Pictorial works.
French poetry -- 18th century.
French poetry -- 19th century.
Hamilton, Catherine.
Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821.
Qājār, Fatḥ ʻAlī Shāh, Shah of Iran, -1834.
Women in natural history.
Commonplace books.
Graphite drawings.
Ink drawings.
Botanical illustrations.
Hamilton, Emily.
Hamilton, Gilbert.
Hamilton, Maria.
Hamilton, Thomas.

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