Professor Emeritus Horace Ernst Hamilton passed away at the age of 94 on January 2, 2006. He is remembered by Rutgers English for being a dedicated professor during the many decades he taught here. He helped foster reading and creative writing at Rutgers, as a teacher and as faculty advisor to the Literature Club and The Anthologist, then in his retirement by faithfully supporting a creative writing award for students. Professor Hamilton was both a scholar of poetry and a poet himself; he published his first book of poems, Through the Moongate, in 1947, and he continued writing and publishing poetry for the rest of his life.
Professor Hamilton, “Ham” to his friends, was born in 1911 as the son of medical missionaries. He spent most of his childhood in China, until political troubles in 1927 forced his family to evacuate. He finished high school in Madison, Indiana, earned his B.A. at The College of Wooster in Ohio, then earned his Ph.D. at Yale, specializing in the work of eighteenth-century poet and playwright James Thomson. In 1941 he married Evelyn Arenhold. He served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946, then took up his post at Rutgers College after he returned to civilian life. Professor Hamilton taught at Rutgers English for more than thirty-five years, retiring in the early-1980s.
He greatly enjoyed teaching here. Although he was a scholar and teacher trained in the “old school,” Professor Hamilton was particularly interested in encouraging student participation and discussion. He published many articles of literary criticism, but his scholarly book is something different: a student guide to reading and understanding poetry called The Cage of Form: Likeness and Difference in Poetry that was used as a textbook in many courses.
Through the years, Evelyn was a loving wife and helpful first reader of his work. When she died in 1980, he commemorated her with the Evelyn Hamilton Award in Creative Writing, an annual writing prize that recognized the best student writers at Rutgers for twenty-five years.
Professor Hamilton loved Lake Champlain, and spent many family vacations there. He often said that if he hadn’t been a teacher, he would have wanted to be an architect, and even built his own cottage on the lake. He loved music and singing, and often hosted colleagues and visiting poets at his home. “Ham” will be fondly remembered by his family, his colleagues and students, and by lovers of poetry everywhere who read his works.