William  Hamilton Maxwell

Hill Street, Newry, Co.Down
Egyptian Arch Newry, Co. Down
Rear View Carlow Castle
Musselburgh Mercat Cross, Scotland
Newry, Co. Down


Maxwell contributed several accounts of battles among his twenty or more works.  There have been disputed references as to whether or not he actually participated in some of those reported.

There appears to be no information on young William Hamilton Maxwell except that he was born in Newry, Co. Down on 30th June 1792.


He studied at Trinity College, Dublin where he graduated with a B. A. during 1812.  [i]


As his desire to join the military was opposed by his family on leaving college, he travelled to the peninsula.  This enabled him to report on his adventures in articles etc.  Prior to a return home William Hamilton Maxwell occupied his leisure time with poetry, romantic novels, military histories, hunting or shooting. [ii]


William Hamilton Maxwell decided on a church career.  He was ordained in Carlow. He was appointed a curate of Clonallon during 1813.  William Hamilton Maxwell was posted to Balla, Co. Mayo: http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

Publishing Career

Between 1829 & 1848 William Hamilton Maxwell produced historical studies, novels also accounts; they included a three-volume biography of the Duke of Wellington (that was described as “no rival among similar publications of the day’ )  [iii]

During these years the following were produced: Wild Sports of the West 1832  2 vols. (Richard Bentley London),The Field Book, or Sports and Pastimes of the United Kingdom 1833 (Effingham Wilson London), The Dark Lady of Doona 1834 (Smith, Elder London), My Life 1835 3 vols. (Richard Bentley London) & Do. as The Adventures of Captain Blake or My Life 1836  (Richard Bentley London), The Bivouac, or Stories of the Peninsular War 1837  3 vols. (Richard Bentley London), The Victories of the British Armies 1839  2 vols. (R. Bentley London),  Life of Field-Marshall His Grace the Duke of Wellington 1834-1841 3 vols. (A. H. Baily London), Rambling Recollections of a Soldier of Fortune 1842 (W. Curry Dublin), The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and His Man Mark Anthony O’Toole (R. Bentley London n.d.), Wanderings in the Highlands and the Islands 1844  2 vols. (A. H. Baily London), Hints to a Soldier on Service 1845 2 vols. (T. C. Newby), History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 in 1845 (Baily Bros, Cornhill London), Peninsular Sketches by Actors on the Scene 1845 2 vols. (H. Colburn London), Captain O’Sullivan, or Adventures, Civil, Military, and Matrimonial of a Gentleman on Half-Pay 1846 3 vols. (H. Colburn London), Hill-Side and Border Sketches 1847  2 vols. (Richard Bentley London), Brian O’Linn, or Luck is Everything 1848  3 vols. (Richard Bentley London), The Irish Movements: Their Rise, Progress, and Certain Termination 1848 (Baily Bros. London) also Erin Go Bragh, or Irish Life Pictures 1849  with a biographical sketch by Dr. Maginn, 2 vols. (R. Bentley London).  [iv]


He married Mary Dobbin, daughter of Armagh M P Leonard Dobbin. [v]


William Hamilton Maxwell’s demise occurred on 29th December 1850 in Musselburgh, Scotland.  He was at aged fifty-five years. [vi]


Dublin University Magazine reported of Maxwell that ‘If a brilliant fancy, a warm imagination, deep knowledge of the world, consummate insight into character, constitute a high order of intellectual gift, then he is no common man.  Uniting with the sparkling wit of his native country the caustic humours and dry sarcasms of the Scotch, with whom he is connected with the  strong ties of kindred, yet his pre – eminent characteristics is that sunshiney temperament which sparkles through every page of his writings.’ [vii]

In his notes Mc Kelvie Colin Bibliography of William Hamilton Maxwell 1976 vol. 3 no.1 (Irish Bookstore) stated that Maxwell wrote his first book O’ Hara or 1798 while at the Marquis of Sligo’s hunting lodge in Ballycroy, North Mayo. Mc Kelvie stated also that Maxwell’s history of the Irish rebellion was surprisingly free of partisanship; it contained accounts of 1798 also 1803 events from eye witnesses & participants. [viii]

Sutherland John called him ‘a rival for Lever also that Maxwell’s Dark Lady of Doona 1834 was a Gothic tale of seventeenth century Ireland; the vogue for bluff military adventures’ http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

Rafroidi Patrick vol 1 remarked that one of W. H. Maxwell’s stories in Erin Go Bra is devoted to Robert Emmet. (page 136): http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

In Brown Stephen’s Ireland in Fiction 1919 (Maunsel Dublin): these titles are  listed O’Hara, The Dark Lady of Doona & Fr. trans. Adventures of Capt. Blake, the Adventures of Hector O’Halloran and his Man, Mark Antony O’Toole, The Adventures of Captain Sullivan, Erin go Bragh 1859, Luck is Everything, or the Adventures of Brian O’Lynn (McCormac) & Irish Gothic and After 1820-1945: http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

In Deane Seamus’s The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature 1991  vol. II (pages 831-854) it was stated that Maxwell began to write ‘a kind of fiction in which rollicking narrative incorporated incidents of military life and harmless picaresque scenes’  : http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

Cleeve Brian & Brady Ann A Dictionary of Irish Writers 1985 (Lilliput Dublin) cites ‘Life of the Duke of Wellington 3 vols. History of the Rebellion in 1798 in 1845 Hints to a Soldier on Service 1845 1859, Erin-go-Bragh, or Irish Life Pictures 18592 vols. Several other works with novels listed above are listed at link: http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

McKenna Brian Irish Literature, 1800-1875, A Guide to Information Sources 1978  (Gale Research Co. Detroit) lists William Maginn, Literary Portraits No. 6 1840 in Bentley’s Miscellany 1 rep. as Biog. Sketch of William Hamilton Maxwell  in Erin go Bragh quotes Lever’s opinion] [ix]

Crone  J. S. Northern Whig 1906; also a pref. to the 1915 ed. of Sketches &c’s  ed. Earl of Dunraven, who called Maxwell ‘an intelligent Anglo-Irishman’ who tackles his subject ‘much as an explorer might visit a newly discovered savage island ’: http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

Notes that Maxwell wrote for Charles Dicken’s Pic-Nic Papers 1841 also Tales from Bentley 1859 (Dublin University Magazine):  http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

This quotation by is from Wild Sports of the West ‘I carried prejudices as unfair as they were unfavourable, found my estimate of their character false, for kindnesses were returned tenfold and the native outbreakings of Kilesion hospitality met me at every step.’ [x]




[i]   https://en.wikipedia.org

[ii] https://www.libraryireland.com/

[iii]  https://en.wikipedia.org

[iv]  www.ricorso.net

[v]   https://en.wikipedia.org

[vi]  Ibid

[vii] https://www.libraryireland.com/

[viii] http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/index.htm

[ix] Ibid

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org




No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.