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18 April 2010

Charles Hamilton (171? - ?) quack doctor.

Charles Hamilton was arrested in 1746 in Somerset for having married 14 different women. On Monday, 22 September 1746, Boddely's Bath Journal (of the town of Bath in Somerset) carried the following article:
'Tuesday last a Woman, dress'd in Man's Apparel, was committed to Shepton-Mallet Bridewell. She was detected at Glastonbury; and has for some Time follow'd the Profession of a Quack Doctor, up and down the Country. There are great Numbers of People flock to see her in Bridewell, to whom she sells a great Deal of her Quackery; and appears very bold and impudent. She seems very gay, with Perriwig, Ruffles, and Breeches; and it is publickly talk'd, that she has deceived several of the Fair Sex, by marrying them.'
And on 3 November:
'We hear from Taunton, that at a general Quarter Sessions of the Peace, for the County of Somerset, held there lately, Mary Hamilton, otherwise George, otherwise Charles Hamilton, was try'd ofr a very singular and notorious Offense: Mr. Gold, Council for the King, open'd to the court, That the said Mary, &c. prtending herself a Man, had married fourteen Wives, the last of whch Number was one Mary Price, who appeared in Court, and deposed, that she was married to the Prisoner, some little Time since, at the Parish Church of St. Cuthbert's in Wells, and lived as such for about a Quarter of a Year, during which Time she, the said Price, thought the Prisoner a Man, owing to the Prisoner's using certain vile and deceitful Practices, not fit to be mentioned.
'There was a great Debate for some Time in Court about the Nature of her Crime, and what to call it, but at last it was agreed, that she was an uncommon notorious Cheat, and as such was sentenced to be publickly whipp'd in the four following Towns, Taunton, Glastonbury, Wells and Shipton-Mallet: to be imprisoned for six Months, and to find Sureties for her good Behaviour, for as long a Time as the Justices at the next Quarter-Sessions shall think fit.'
On 13 September 1746, the day of her arrest, Mary Hamilton, 'daughter of Wm Hamilton & Mary his wife', made the following deposition before John Masters, Mayor and Thomas White, Justices of the Peace for the Town and Corporation of Glaston:
'This Examinant saith that she was Born in the County of Somerset aforesd but doe not know in what parish but went from whence to the shire of Angus in Scotland and there continued till I was about fourteen years of age, and then put on my Brothers Cloaths and travelled for England, and in Northumberland entered into the service of Doctor Edward Green, a Mountebank and Continued with him between two and three years, & then entered into the service of Doctor Finly Green & Continued with him near a twelve month and then set up for a Quack doctor myselfe, and travelled through several Counties of England, and at length came to the County of Devonshire, and from thence into Somersetshire aforesd in the Month of May Last Past where I have followed my aforesd business of a Quack doctor, Continuing to wear mans apparell ever since I came out of Scotland.
'This Examinant further saith that in the Course of her travels in mans apparel she came to the City of Wells in ye County aforesd and went by the Name of Charles Hamilton, and quartered in the house of Mary Creed, where lived her Neice Mary Price, to whome I proposed Marraige and the sd Mary Price Consented, and then I put in the Banes or Marrige to Mr Kinston Curate of St Cuthberts in the City of Wells aforesd and was by ye sd Mr Kingstone Married to the sd Mary Price, in ye parish Church aforesd, on the sixteenth day of July last past and have since travelld as a husband with her in severall parts of ye County to the day of the date above mentioned and further this Examinant saith not. 'ye mark of Mary Hamilton'
Mary Price, the complainant, made a statement on 7 October, the date of the trial:
'Who on her Oath saith that in the Month of May last past a Person who called himself by the name of Charles Hamilton introduced himself into the Company of the Examinant and made his Addresses to her, and prevailed on this Examinant to be married to him, which she accordingly was on the Sixteenth day of July last by the Revd. Mr. Kingstone Curate of the Parish of St. Cuthbert in Wells in the said County - And this Examinant Further saith that after their Marriage they lay together several Nights, and that the said pretended Charles Hamilton who had married her as aforesaid entered her Body several times, which made this Examint beleive, at first, that the said Hamilton was a real Man, but soon had reason to Judge that the said Hamilton was not a Man but a Woman, and which the said Hamilton acknowledged and confessed afterwards (on the Complaint of this Examint. to the Justices) when brought before them that she was such to the Great Prejudice of this Examinant. 'The Mark of Mary Price'.
Later Hamilton fled England for the American colonies, and was reported living in Philadelphia.

Henry Fielding fictionalized Hamilton’s story in his novella The Female Husband.  He also used it as a vehicle for his anti-Methodist prejudice, and recycled material from Jonathan Wild and Tom Jones, and anecdotes about Charlotte Charke.
  • Henry Fielding. “The Female Husband: or, the Surprising History of Mrs. Mary, alias George Hamilton, Who was convicted of having married a Young Woman of Wells and lived with her as her Husband. Taken from Her own Mouth since her Confinement”. In The Female Husband and Other Writings. English Reprints Series, Liverpool University Press. 1960 (orig 1746). Also in Castle, Terry. The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall. Columbia University Press. 1110pp, 2005.
  • Sheridan Baker. “Henry Fielding's 'The Female Husband': Fact and Fiction”. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America. 74,1959. Compares Fielding's novella to newspaper accounts and court records of the real event
  • Terry Castle. “Matters Not Fit to be Mentioned: Fielding's The Female Husband”. English Literary History 49,1982. A later commentary.
  • Clare A. Lyons. ”Mapping an Atlantic Sexual Culture: Homoeroticism in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia”. The William and Mary Quarterly January 2003, 60.1. Charles Hamilton fled England after her conviction and lived out his days in Philadelphia.
  • “Mary Hamilton A Woman who was imprisoned and whipped for marrying Fourteen Women, 1746” The Newgate Calendar - www.exclassics.com/newgate/ng217.htm or http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/lpop/etext/newgate3/hamilton.htm
  • Sheila Hannon. The Female Husband. First broadcast 20060221. With Sandy Toksvig as Mary Hamilton, and Adam Kotz as Henry Fielding. Broadcast on BBC Radio Four.
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Shepton Mallet is where the Glastonbury Rock Festival is held each year.  I attended the first one in 1970.

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