William Hamilton Drummond (1778-1865)


Life
[William Hamilton James Drummond; Dr. W.H. Drummond]; b. Aug., Larne, ed. Belfast Academical Institute, under James Crombie; attended Glasgow but studied independently by reason of poverty; ord. minister and colleague of James Armstrong at Strand St., Dublin, 1815; to the Second Belfast Congregation, 1800; Marischal College, Aberdeen DD, 1810; ministered at Strand St., Dublin, from 1815; member of RIA and Belfast Literary Society;
 
verse publications incl. Juvenile Poems (1795), The Man of Age (1797); Hibernia (1797), followed by The Battle of Trafalgar (1806) and First Book of Lucretius (1808), a metrical translation; The Giant’s Causeway (1811), poem in support of ‘Neptunian’ theory of marine erosion; The Doctrine of the Trinity (1827) is a prose defence of Unitarianism; also poems on Clontarf (1822) and Bruce’s Invasion of Ireland (1826);
 
contrib. verse translations to Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy (1831), incl. “Gerald Nugent’s Ode on Leaving Ireland”, winning praise from Samuel Ferguson; contrib. to Ancient Ireland in the 1830s, calling the Irish language a green patch in Ireland where all political factions and religious denominations could unite in interest; also issued Who Are the Happy? (1818) and The Pleasure of Benevolence (1835) are philosophical poems; enthusiastic life of [Michael] Servitus (1848); also An Elegiac Ballad on the Funeral of Princes Charlotte (1817);
 
issued his own Ancient Irish Minstrelsy (1852), containing verse translations of poems from the Fionn cycle, &c., based on texts supplied by Eugene O’Curry Nicholas O’Kearney, and Hardiman; The Preacher (posthum.); prose works incl. Autobiog. of A. H. Rowan (1840). d. 16 Oct., Dublin; Irish Book Lover, Vol. 5. PI CAB DIL ODNB MKA RAF JMC IBL

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Works

  • Hibernia (Belfast 1797);
  • The Man of Age (Belfast 1797);
  • The Battle of Trafalgar (Belfast: Archer & Ward 1806);
  • The Giant’s Causeway (Belfast: Longman 1811);
  • An Elegiac Ballad on the Funeral of Princes Charlotte (Dublin: Graisberry & Campbell 1817);
  • Who Are the Happy? (Dublin: Graisberry & Campbell 1818);
  • Clontarf (Dublin: Hodges and McArthur 1822);
  • Bruce’s Invasion of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges & MacArthur 1826) [Intro. 6pp., Poem, 82pp.; Notes, 107pp.];
  • The Pleasures of Benevolence (London: Hunter, Dublin: Wakeman, Hodges & Smith 1835);
  • Life of Michael Servitus (London: Chapman 1848);
  • Ancient Irish Minstrelsy [1st Edn.] (1852), xxiii, 292pp.

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Criticism
Terence Brown, Northern Voices, Poets from Ulster (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975), pp.18-24; also Robert Welch, A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross 1988), pp.133-38.

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Commentary
Samuel Ferguson, review of Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy (1831), in Dublin Univ. Magazine, Oct. 1834 [Pt. 3]: ‘One name of a higher grade in literary reputation, appears among the translators. Dr. Drummond’s legitimate achievements about Bunamargy and Duluce go far to neutralise whatever censure of enfeebling refinement we might be induced to change upon his versions of the elegies on Oliver Grace or Mac Donnell Claragh; but his ode to the Hill of Howth, and adieu of Gerald Nugent, come close on our idea of the happy mean, and induce us to part with him on better terms, so far as he has gone, than we can accord to any of his companions in the work. Perhaps we may be prejudiced in Dr. Drummond’s favour, in consequence of the absence of anything like political hatred or sectarian malignity in his contributions. […].’

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. I; The one exception among the Dromore group is William Hamilton Drummond, who shows hope of thematic change - at least - in his The Giant’s Causeway, exploring topography and geology, and called by him “loco-descriptive”, ‘some particular landscape to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical reetrospection or incidental meditiation ... Description [i.e., naturalism] soon satiates the reader. Tired with contemplation of woods and lakes, rocks and mountains, he longs for subjects of higher moment; ... the action of human beings stamp true importance on every celebrated region.’ (Remarks from his Clontarf, 1822, pp. xiii-iv.). For remarks on Dromore school of poets, see Thomas Percy [q.v.].

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Robert Welch, A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross 1988), pp.133-38 passim, including ‘The authenticity of the Poems of Ossian’; contributed to Hardiman; ‘the shadow of Moore fell heavily [on him]’ [134]; in language, temperament and sympathy, Drummond belonged to the late eighteenth century ... Not that he did not take account of the labours of the younger scholars; the preface and notes to his Ancient Irish Minstrelsy make it clear that he did consult with and receive translations from Nicholas O’Kearney, Hardiman, and Eugene O’Curry [but he] heterogeneously yokes these together with such unreliable authorities as Vallancey and Mr & Mrs Hall, reminding the reader of JC Walker’s lax and bellelettristic attitude ... failed to realise that ... O’Donovan and O’Curry had shown the insubstantiality and aery-fairyness of much late eighteenth century Gaelic scholarship’ [135].

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J. W. Foster, Colonial Consequences (Dublin: Lilliput 1991), William Drummond, ‘Clontarf’ (1822), remarks: ‘The Giant’s Causeway’ (Belfast 1811), occupies an entire vol., divided into three books, with long pref., and 100pp. of geological and historical notes; he [Drummond] was a Neptunian - one of those who gave a large place to the influence of water in shaping rock; Drummond, a controversal essayist and sermoniser, b. Larne Co. Antrim, ed. Belfast and Glasgow; pastor of the 2nd Congregation in Belfast. Wilson points to Drummond’s share in the propensity for Irish clergymen to write topographical poems, and notes the ‘geological controversies and topographical poems arising therefrom’ (Wilson, p.23ff.)

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Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), quoting, ‘As reliques of the minstrelsy which once flourished in Ireland, these Lays have a claim to as much attention as any other objects of antiquity - as much, as least, as is paid to broken columns, illegible inscriptions, and cenotaphs abroad - or dilapidated round towers, fractured urns, trilithons, and ogham epitaphs at home.’ (Ancient Irish Minstrelsy, Hodges & Smith, 1852, p.xxvii; here 105.)

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References
Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); selects “Ode written on Leaving Ireland”, from the Irish of Gerald Nugent, ‘What sorrows wring my bleeding heart / to feel from Innisfail !/ Oh, anguish from her scenes to part, / Of mountain, wood, and vale! / Vales that the hum of bees resound / And plains where generous steeds abound. // ... //Farewell, ye mind and generous bards, / Bound to my soul by friendship strong; / And ye Dundargvais’ happy lands, / Ye festive halls - ye sons of song; / Ye generous friend in Meath who dwell, / Beloved, adored, farewell! farewell!’ [Available at Internet Archive - online.]

Libraries & Booksellers
Belfast Public Library holds Ancient Irish Minstrelsy; Letters to a Young Naturalist; Battle of Trafalgar (1806); Bruce’s Invasion of Ireland; The Giant’s Causeway (1811); Belfast Linen Hall Library holds Trafalgar (1806); Clontarf (1822); Giant’s Causeway (1811); Hibernia (1797); Who are the Happy[?], poems of the Christian beatitudes (n.d.); Cathach Books (Cat. 12) lists The Giant’s Causeway, A Poem (Belfast 1811) [gilt tooled Morocco; raised bands; gilt edge; map of Antrim coast facing t.p.; 3 pullout plates on Causeway by J Martyn; £250.

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Notes
John Hewitt: Hewitt recalled that once in Edinburgh while he was working on his edition of Ulster poets he instinctively went straight for a copy of Drummond’s Trafalgar (recounted in Martin Wallace, Belfast Telegraph, 15 March, 1957; cited in James Morrow, UUC, MPhil, 1997.)

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