Lord Hamilton, 1798.

Letters from the Past

Lord Archibald Hamilton, London, 1798

Lord Archibald Hamilton (born 15 July 1740, died 16 February 1819).

As we have three letters to this man, I searched on the internet and found basic information about him from Wikipedia.

Archibald Hamilton, 9th Duke of Hamilton and 6th Duke of Brandon was a Scottish peer and politician.

He was the second son of the 5th Duke of Hamilton, by his third wife, Anne Spencer, and was educated at Eton.

His political career began in 1768, when he became Member of Parliament for Lancashire and held the seat until 1772 when he was appointed a Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds. This meant in effect that he retired from parliament.

In his private life, he was was a prominent figure in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing. Between 1786 and 1814 his horses won seven runnings of the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster.

On 25 May 1765, he married Lady Harriet Stewart (a daughter of the 6th Earl of Galloway) and they had five children.


So now back to the letters. The second letter in very poor condition, looks as though it has been torn on opening, or after reading it! The letter is undated, but has a London Penny Post triangular stamp Dockwwra type, poorly applied and pretty much indecipherable. The watermark is a crest with the letters GR but no date.

Is is addressed simply “Lord A. Hamilton Uppr Gros. Place”, then on the other side what looks like Conway Ho., but I could find no information about a Conway House in London at this time.

The letter begins with what sounds like a suggestion that Lord Archibald pulls himself together, as his friend is concerned about him.

For some days past mon ami I have been so extremely indispose’d as scarcely to be able to crawl about, but still I exert and have even dragg’d myself out of doors, let me beg of you to make some exertions yourself and try to surmount difficulties and even indisposition.
You tell me you are harrass’d and ill, I believe it all, but you must not give way too much, I should be sorry again to see you in the state I saw you the last time, I do assure you I suffered a great deal after you was gone.

He then continues with information about Calais in France. It surprised me how much travel was taken on the continent in the 18th century, but his friend knows and shares it, so he had probably been there.

There is no consecrated ground for the Protestants in Calais nor I believe in any part of France, but there is a piece of ground allotted for the English in Calais.

When you do favor me with your company in Buckinhamsh. let me know the time, that I may not be from home. Let me again take the liberty of repeating how anxious I am for your making efforts to compose your mind, that will be a great matter towards the restoration of your health, and add greatly to the comfort of your affectionate
S.M.


The third letter is possibly written by the same person who wrote the second one, and about the same time, as it is also addressed to Grosvenor Place, and the writing is similar but in a hurry and distress so it is probably S. Massey.

   

The small image shows how the postmark was stamped across the fold of the letter beside the wax seal.

As the large illustration shows, it was addressed to Lord A Hamilton 11 Gro Place. This is Grosvenor Place in London, which is still there. It was a Penny Post letter, which is evident from the postmarks.

First, CHARING CROSS unpaid PENNY POST, Transfer stamp of the Penny Post 7 o’clock night 19 MY 98. The ‘1’ charge mark which has been crossed out and a figure 2 inserted and initialled.

The only explanation for this increase in the postage charge is that in 1794 the regulations had changed for the Penny Post, and letters which were posted from the Country area to the Town area had to carry an extra 1d for delivery. As the only address on the letter is 18 Buckingham Street there is no way to tell whether that was in the Country area or not.An internet search of the current address shows it is in St Martins in the Fields, and about 2 or 3 streets away from Charing Cross Station,(which of course was not there in the 1790s) so this should have been in the Town area of the Twopenny Post.

I put a query onto the GBPS discussion board and one of the members gave this extremely helpful and likely suggestion.

I wonder if (Upper) Grosvenor Place in 1798 was considered ‘country’?

It was just within the town area in a Map of London, shewing the BOUNDARIES of the GENERAL and Two Penny Post of 1830 that you can see from the British Library in the Crace collection of London maps

However the area to the west of Buckingham Palace had been essentially countryside. The only buildings on (Upper) Grosvenor Place were two or three hospitals until about 1780. Town was defined by custom, until the three mile radius from the GPO was set in 1831 that included Grosvenor Place. Thus my working supposition is that the area to the west of Buckingham Palace including Grosvenor Place had been considered country and perhaps it took a little while after Grosvenor Place became more built up in c1780 for the town area to be extended westwards slightly and for the area that included Grosvenor Place to get town status. If I'm right, that would explain the 2d charge, with your letter going from town to country.


So now, to the contents of the letter. It is obvious from reading this letter that his previous comments were not well received by his aristocratic friend, who has not bothered to answer his letter and has ignored him when they met in the street. It is a plea for understanding.

My Lord

Can it be possible that my last letter to your Lordship can be taken in any other light than with the best intentions, I was convinc’d from the style of your note that you was not well, and that also your spirits were depress’d and that exertion was necessary, but you take every thing in an unkind and ungenerous way that I take the liberty of saying so to you, but this I must say that I do not merit such unkindness. I wish you had been so kind this morning when you met me to have spoke or at least made me a salutation, but instead of that there seem’d to be that compacted frown which I have before experienced from you, Perhaps it might arise from your not being well which from your pallid countenance is, I am afraid true. That you may soon be better is the sincere wish of
S. Massey - 18 Buckingham St.


I find it interesting that in these old personal letters, writing styles were very personal, with some people using capital letters for any nouns in the letter, or, as in this case, the apostrophe inserted instead of the letter e at the end of some of the words such as convinc’d and depress’d . This seems an odd abbreviation, as it would not save much ink or time, but it is one found in many of our old letters. Gro shortened for Grosvenor is more understandable, and the postman would have known the address.


As this was written in 1798, this was a year before a momentous change in Lord Hamilton’s life. In 1799, he inherited his half-nephew’s titles and was appointed his successor as Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire.

As I have no further letters to Lord Archibald, I wonder if they continued as friends, once Lord Archibald Hamilton had succeeded to his Ducal title.


NOTE The previous letter written is also on the website and can be found on the Letters page under the title Lord Archibald Hamilton, 1764 Lord Archibald .

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