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Lot 617

Sold for £ 16,800 (US$ 23,083) inc. premium
The celebrated diaries kept by John Hamilton of Donegal from 1828 to 1852, comprising six volumes covering the years 1828 (beginning at Dublin on 30 March 1828: “O Lord make the keeping of this journal, which I now begin – a means of drawing me unto thee by encreasing my humility…”) to December 1829, January 1830 to July 1831, August 1831 to September 1833, September 1833 to June 1836, May 1839 to April 1845 with an additional entry of February 1850, and April 1851 to December 1852; together with retained copies of letters by Hamilton and letters received by him chiefly in 1847; and a further fourteen volumes of sermons and journals kept by members of his family, etc., Hamilton’s journals approximately 1,200 pages, half calf, vellum, etc., minor wear, 8vo, St Ernan’s, Donegal, and elsewhere, 1828-1852


  • THE CELEBRATED JOURNALS OF JOHN HAMILTON OF DONEGAL, THE ‘RECKLESSLY GENEROUS LANDLORD’ AND HERO OF THE IRISH FAMINE, which form the basis of two well-known sources for Irish history and the Famine, Sixty Years Experience as an Irish Landlord: memoirs of John Hamilton, DL, edited by H.C. White [1894], and John Hamilton of Donegal 1800-1884: ‘The Recklessly Generous Landlord’ by Dermott James. They have also toured Ireland and Canada as part of the exhibition to mark the Centenary of the Irish Famine. These journals cover at their fullest the early famine of 1830-31, the contemporaneous outbreaks of cholera, political and religious agitation at the time of Catholic Emancipation, and Hamilton’s struggles to improve the lot of his tenants. He appears not to have kept a journal during the Great Famine itself (1845-48), although this lacuna is to some extent compensated for by the surviving group of correspondence from this period (1847). To quote some sample entries from the earlier journals: “…The political prospect of the times is indeed critical & calls for anxious prayer. All the dissenting places of worship were filled – for prayer for Divine guidance to the parliament…the D of W[ellington] proposes to give full em[anci]pation to R Caths. God only knows how far this may tranquilize…I am much in doubt whether the strength of Christians be not to sit still, having confidence in God & to abstain from every violence…”(13 February 1829); “…I…have imported four cargoes of potatoes…These arrived in time to seed the ground & there is the best crop growing that ever was known here – and the season has been most favourable. So great is the distress now, that at Donegal above 1000 persons came on our sale day last week to buy provisions – potatoes – in quantities not above four stone…Now the famine is at its worst. The Government bounty is done. My own means are nought – there being no rent to signify this year, & my bank credit being overloaded. Tonight I got letters praying me for Gods sake to send help to thousands who are famishing…These things concurred in making me despair of going on doing anything except for my own tenantry to whom I am bound…I asked thee O God – in a cast down & a wretched spirit to prove thy power, thy being -- & to manifest thyself to me by making me an instrument of good to my neighbours…” (16 June 1831); “…Our poor are still in great want – my means are nearly done…strangers have sent our poor much. Their Landlords little so little as to be a mockery of charity…” (11 July 1831); “…A busy day I had. One man stood by me Richard Corscadden a shop keeper in the town – who had been the only stable & ready assistant to TS & me in the times of famine no other of the board of health was to be seen at all. On going to the infected house I found the man lying in the last stage of Cholera & his wife lying helpless having had a child a few hours before. The man was attacked with cholera while the woman was ill, & as soon as the nurse tender had dressed the child she fled, & no one had been in the house to help them since dawn, this at 1 P.M. Their two poor little children about 8 & 6 years old or less were in the house, & the infant. I gave the man what might be useful & repeated the doses frequently, but could get no one to attend him or her – tho R.C. & I searched all the neighbourhood & offered large pay for a nurse – at length at evening g we got one & I was permitted to return home but the man died shortly after…” (8 March 1832); “Cholera has appeared in Donegal…6 or 7 had died at 7 this evening, and 4 more are apparently hopeless. I spent yesterday & today chiefly ministering to them – but my poor wife is so nervous about my risk, that I know not if I can do so any more. She seems to think I care less for her & my children than for those whom I have no such tie, because I unhesitatingly leave their society to attend the sick…” (14 March 1834).
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