Greetings from Hamilton

What of the people?

Well we've seen what tourists think of sports, weather, hotels and all sorts of other aspects of Hamilton . What of the people? How does the average Hamiltonian impress, or not impress, the visitor?

Talbot, he who earlier in 1824 had nothing good to say about sports continues in this vein as regards the inhabitants.

"In their persons the Upper Canadians are tall, slight, and not badly complexioned. The men, though in their complexions little fairer than their Indian neighbours are nevertheless not ordinary. Their features are generally good, but entirely void of intelligence and expression. Inured to hardships from their infancy, and always accustomed to labour, in the open air, they are strong, athletic, and active...the women are in general above the middle size, slight but not elegantly formed. Their complexion is perfectly sallow; and, though some of them are possessed of the finest black eyes, they can boast of very few of those irresistible charms which captivate the heart and enslave the affections...Their conversation, - if they may be said to converse at all, - is seldom interesting, never sprightly, and tends little to atone for the almost total absence of personal attractions."

Of course one of Talbot's contemporaries was a little luckier in the people he visited. John McTaggart writes of a visitor to Ancaster, in 1829:

"Well it is curious, and will you believe me? that the most beautiful girl I have hitherto seen in this country, is from the States. What a Venus! I saw her in a small inn away in the wilds of Ancaster; but she being a rigid Methodist, and surrounded by disagreeable relations, prevented me from speaking of love: However, I am glad to find there are such creatures in existence."

Unfortunately, Talbot does not seem to have been alone in his dismal view of the people. In 1842 Captain Barclay of Ury was in Hamilton to visit his daughter and tell prospective immigrants what they could expect.

"On entering Canada I had been impressed with a marked difference between it and the United States . In the latter, the people were everywhere distinguished by that cheerfulness and appearance of contentment which attend activity and exertion in peaceful pursuits. In Canada there prevailed an almost universal gloom, the consequence of recent internal commotion; of the still existing conflict and rancour of political feeling; or of the withered hopes of many who, having speculated largely in land, have received little or no return for their money. This was my early impression, and anything I have since observed, or by inquiry ascertained, has served to confirm it, and to satisfy me that of the two countries the States hold out for agricultural pursuits, by far the greatest advantages to persons possessed of any capital."

Horton Rhys, the cricket-loving actor of 1861, was slightly, less pessimistic:

" Hamilton is curiously inhabited. There are more Englishmen there without any apparent occupation, and living upon apparently nothing, than in any other town in Canada . There are lots of billiard tables, and they (the inhabitants) play; -there is a cricket ground - but I never saw any of them there, except in the capacity of lookers on. They seem to be an exiled lot, always looking out for, and expecting something that never turns up. They are constantly in the various stores - i.e. shops - which here are good, without display, but never seem to purchase anything; and, in short, I never could make head or tail of them."

Of course he also admits that some of the pleasantest hours spent on his tour were spent in Hamilton so the peculiar inhabitants cannot have been too off-putting. As a matter of fact he even re-visited Hamilton as a break after a visit to Belleville which he describes with such phrases as "melancholy, miserable, misanthropic, cold, and of exceeding dullness."

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