London: Henry Colburn, 1822.
Graham Hamilton (1822) is Lady Caroline Lamb’s second novel. It consists of a dialogue between the title character and the physically repulsive and amoral Mr. M, who occasionally interrupts Graham with deflating remarks (Graham Hamilton 1:26). Graham Hamilton is a male version of Lady Calantha from Lady Caroline’s first novel, Glenarvon (1816). Hamilton has “struggled against discipline, and rejected instruction, preferring ignorance and liberty to accomplishments, rewards, and praise. . . Not only did I not see things as they were--but I saw them as they were not” (1:20-21) Mr. Hamilton informs us simply, “I was spoiled” (1:33). As in Glenarvon, “disturbed characters see not things as they are,” and guileless, sincere people become “desperate and hardened” (Glenarvon 2:144-45).
As in Glenarvon also, cousins who are meant to marry do not. Hamilton loves his cousin Gertrude, a modest girl who loves to read. He doesn’t care for reading, but will become an heir and can marry her if he can endure the tutoring of his miserly Scotch uncle, Sir Malcolm, who instructs Hamilton in how to protect his wallet and character in London—though the instruction is rather sarcastic: “[A]cquire an easy, and something of an insolent manner; look nae modest, nae sharp, Have eyes that see not, ears that hear not; and repress every voice that would utter the genuine feelings of human nature . . . Form no intimate friendships . . . associate with the worthless . . . Call feeling hypocrisy. . . .” (Graham Hamilton 1:57-59). Young Hamilton fails to heed this ironically expressed advice, becomes entrapped in a hypocritical social circle, and sacrifices Gertrude, his true love, for the worldly Lady Oroville, with the result that the latter’s reputation is ruined.
After renewing his engagement to Gertrude, Hamilton is thrown into debtor’s prison when he tries to save Lady Oroville from the same fate. He emerges to find that both Gertrude and Lady Oroville are deathly ill. Lady Oroville survives, but Gertrude does not. When his uncle dies, Hamilton departs for America to make a fresh start. Having heard this confession, Mr. M encourages him to make the best of a bad job, and Graham promises to do so, but seems to feel he would prefer to die sooner rather than later.
When Graham Hamilton was published, Caroline had two copies specially bound for herself and her husband William. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine praised it as “belonging to the class of proper and good novels,” and Lady Caroline was patted on the head for having “learned to restrain her exuberant imagination within the bounds of good taste,” although the reviewer thought the book’s moral was certainly peculiar. It has never been reprinted.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1822), 731-33.
General Weekly Register no. 2 (April 14, 1822), 68-70.
Gentlemen’s Magazine 92 (Nov. 1822), 441-42.
Literary Museum no. 1 (1822), 2-4.
Monthly Censor 1 (1822), 349-53.
Monthly Literary Register 1 (1822), 28-30.
Monthly Review Series 2 v. 99 (1822), 135-43.