Hamilton, Patrick, 1904 March 17-1962

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1904-03-17
Death 1962-09-23
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

English playwright and novelist; b. Anthony Walter Patrick Hamilton.

From the description of Patrick Hamilton collection, 1937-1939. (Boston University). WorldCat record id: 70922495

Patrick Hamilton, playwright.

From the description of Rope's end: typescript, 1939. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122431845

From the description of Gas light: typescript, n.d. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 144652479

British author and playwright.

From the description of Patrick Hamilton Collection 1915-1984 (bulk 1925-1969). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 84696484

Epithet: dramatist

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001569.0x000230

Anthony Walter Patrick Hamilton was born on St. Patrick's Day in 1904 at Hassocks, Sussex, England. Patrick was the last of three children-Helen (known as Lalla to the family and Diana to her friends in the theater), Bruce, and Patrick-born to Bernard and Ellen Adèle Hockley Hamilton. Although Bernard, Patrick's father, had inherited a considerable sum of money at age twenty-one, by the time Patrick was born very little of the inheritance remained, forcing Patrick to spend the latter years of his youth in a variety of middle-class boarding houses and rented rooms. His experiences and memories from these rented quarters helped to shape the characters, described in the September 1951 Times Literary Supplement as the faithless, the uprooted, the lonely souls, in his early fictional work.

Patrick Hamilton's earliest published piece, a poem titled Heaven, appeared in the respected journal Poetry Review in 1919. His first novel Monday Morning was published by Constable six years later in 1925. Michael Sadleir, a book collector and noted Victorianist, had accepted the novel for Constable and it was during the publishing of Monday Morning that the two men began a career-long friendship. Hamilton's most famous work Rope, originally presented on stage in 1929, enjoyed success as a theater and radio production and eventually as an Alfred Hitchcock film. Rope's success brought critical acclaim and monetary compensation to Hamilton for the rest of his life.

The 1930s were a tumultuous time for Patrick and the Hamilton family. In August 1930 Patrick secretly married Lois Martin just days after his father's death. Lois seemed to have a good effect on Patrick. She took over his finances, suggested a move to the countryside, and limited (and eventually temporarily banned) his consumption of alcohol during his composition of The Siege of Pleasure in 1931. Despite his newfound responsibility, tragedy struck in 1932. While walking with his sister and wife in London, Hamilton was struck by a drunk driver and dragged through the street. His injuries were devastating. After a three-month hospital stay, multiple surgeries, and a period of convalescence, Hamilton suffered physical and emotional scars that would continue with him for the rest of his life. His accident appeared in his work after he added a drunken driving accident into the Siege of Pleasure before its late 1932 publication. Two years later in 1934 Hamilton's mother committed suicide in response to a devastating illness. During this difficult period, Hamilton focused his creative energies to write The Plains of Cement (1934), the third novel in a trilogy about a pub called the Midnight Bell and the characters that frequented it. In 1935, Constable published the trilogy under the title Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy . Noted author J. B. Priestley wrote a preface for the book signaling Hamilton's growing literary fame.

In 1933, Hamilton began to study Marxism, possibly stemming from his brother Bruce's letters during a trip to the Soviet Union, or his reading of Karl Marx and Lenin. Hamilton's interest in Marxism and his compassion for the semi-proletariat, his term for people living life on the margins, explain his humanistic tendency to tell stories of the poor and underrepresented.

After 1937, Hamilton enjoyed a productive few years publishing a range of successful and critically acclaimed novels and plays including Impromptu in Moribundia (1939), Money with Menaces (1939), To the Public Danger (1939), Hangover Square (1941), The Duke in Darkness (1943), and The Slaves of Solitude (1947). Additionally, in 1947 Hamilton advised Alfred Hitchcock on the production of the film version of Rope ; however, the relationship soured due to Hamilton's perceived lack of influence over the film and was eventually so displeased with the final result that he went on an alcoholic binge resulting in a brief stay at a nursing home to recover.

Although Hamilton was succeeding professionally, personally his life was becoming more chaotic. Sometime during 1948-1949 Hamilton began an extra-martial affair with Ursula Stewart, born Lady Ursula Chetwynd-Talbot, an author who published under the name Laura Talbot. For years Hamilton would live with La, as her friends called her, during the week and return to his wife Lois on the weekend. Even after Hamilton's divorce from Lois in 1953 and his marriage to La in 1954, this triangular love affair continued until Hamilton's death. Despite his tumultuous private life, Hamilton was able to write three novels about the sociopath and criminal Ralph Ernest Gorse, The West Pier (1951), Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Gorse (1953), and Unknown Assailant (1954). The Gorse novels were moderately successful and were made into a television mini-series in the 1990s. His final play The Man Upstairs (1953) was not critically acclaimed and although it was published as a book in 1954, the play never made it to the West End in London.

The final years of Hamilton's life were unproductive and difficult. In times of sobriety, Hamilton worked on two novels The Happy Hunting Grounds and Memoirs of a Heavy Drinking Man, but neither were completed or published. Hamilton's alcoholism and dysfunctional private life eventually lead to a bout of depression. On the advice of La's former husband, Hamilton underwent electroshock therapy, but to no avail. Still plagued by alcoholism, Hamilton died September 23, 1962.

From the guide to the Patrick Hamilton Collection None., 1915-1984, (bulk 1925-1969), (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)

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Subjects:

  • Playwriting
  • Drama
  • Literature, English
  • Authors--20th century
  • Publishers and Publishing
  • Drama--Promptbooks and typescripts
  • English drama--20th century
  • College theater
  • Authors, English--20th century
  • Drama (English)

Occupations:

  • Dramatists, English

Places:

  • English (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Connecticut (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)