Aidé, (Charles) Hamilton
- Katherine Mullin
Aidé, (Charles) Hamilton (1826–1906), novelist and poet, born in the rue St Honoré, Paris, on 4 November 1826, was the younger son of George Aïdá (d. 1830), a diplomatist and the son of an Armenian merchant settled in Constantinople, and his wife, Georgina Collier (d. 1875), second daughter of Admiral Sir George Collier. Aidé's youth was marked by the deaths of his cosmopolitan father in a duel in Paris, when Aidé was only four years old, and of his brother Frederick (1823–31), killed in an accident in Boulogne the following year.
Taken by his mother to England, Aidé was educated privately at East Sheen and Greenwich until the age of sixteen, when he was sent to the University of Bonn. In 1846 he obtained a commission in the British army, serving with the 85th light infantry until 1853, when he retired with the rank of captain. After a period of foreign travel he settled in England, living chiefly at Lyndhurst in the New Forest with his mother until her death at Southsea, Hampshire, on 12 October 1875. He then took rooms in Queen Anne's Gate, London, where he entertained prominent figures in the British and French social and artistic worlds.
Aidé, who spoke and wrote French as easily as English, devoted himself to society, music, art, and literature. In 1856 he published his first volume of poems, Eleanore, and other Poems. His first novel, Rita, also appeared in 1856 and enjoyed greater popularity than his poetry, running to four editions within nine years and being translated into French in 1862. Aidé capitalized on his success, producing Confidences: by the Author of ‘Rita’ in 1859, which also sold well. His novels were light romances set in fashionable society and were simply written, under an obvious French influence. His frequent use of first-person female narrators led some early reviewers to believe that he was a woman. In 1868 he serialized a novel, The Marstons, in Fraser's Magazine, and he was to write a further fifteen novels over the next forty years, including Penruddock (1873), an autobiographical novel containing revealing sections on the protagonist's 'vexed relation with his mother' (Sutherland, 13) and his experiences in the army. Also of interest is A Voyage of Discovery (1892), which contains a depiction of American society that angered many transatlantic readers.
The Biograph and Review observed that 'Certainly the combination of poet, novelist, dramatist and musical composer is an unusual one, and exhibits Mr Aidé as a man of exceptional powers and accomplishments'. In the 1870s Aidé had turned his attention to the stage, and Philip, a romantic drama in four acts, was produced by Henry Irving at the Lyceum in London in February 1874, Irving taking the title role. A year later, A Nine Days' Wonder, adapted from Aidé's simultaneously published novel for copyright reasons, was staged at the Court Theatre by John Hare. It was compared to French drama and praised for its 'neatness of construction rare in English art' (Knight, 46).
Meanwhile, Aidé continued to write novels and poetry. Poet and Peer (1880) and Introduced to Society (1884) confirmed his reputation as a writer of light popular fiction. In 1882 he produced a collection of poetry, Songs without Music: Rhymes and Recitations, which was enlarged in 1889. Many poems appeared in popular Victorian anthologies, and he set many to music. 'The Danube River', 'The Spanish Boat Song', and 'Brown Eyes and Blue Eyes' were among his best-known songs. A collection of seven one-act plays entitled We are Seven: Half Hours on the Stage, Grave and Gay appeared in 1902, and his final collection of poems, Past and Present, in 1903.
Aidé died, unmarried, at 28 Half Moon Street, Piccadilly, London, on 13 December 1906 and was buried in the churchyard of All Souls, South Ascot, Berkshire. A novel, The Chivalry of Harold, was published posthumously in 1907.
- J. Knight, Theatrical notes (1893), 44–7
- A. T. C. Pratt, ed., People of the period: being a collection of the biographies of upwards of six thousand living celebrities, 2 vols. (1897)
- R. S. Gower, Old diaries, 1881–1901 (1902)
- Biograph and Review, 3 (1880), 171–2
- WWW, 1897–1915
- J. Sutherland, The Longman companion to Victorian fiction (1988), 12–13
- The Times (17–21 Dec 1906)
- G. Vapereau, ed., ‘Aidé (Hamilton)’, Dictionnaire universel des contemporains, 6th edn (Paris, 1893), 14
- J. D. Brown, Biographical dictionary of musicians: with a bibliography of English writings on music (1886), 9
- Biographical Magazine, 9 (1887), 56–66
- R. Gower, My reminiscences, 2 vols. (1883)
- William Allingham: a diary, ed. H. Allingham and D. Radford (1907)
- CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1907)
- NRA, corresp. and literary papers
- West Glamorgan Archive Service, Swansea, account book
- Trinity Cam., letters to F. H. W. Myers
- Yale U., Beinecke L., letters to Frederick Locker-Lampson
- S. Della Rovera, oils
Wealth at Death
£43,562 9s. 3d.: resworn probate, 15 Feb 1907, CGPLA Eng. & Wales