Finding Aid for the G.V. Hamilton, M.D., Poems, undated
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Library staff; machine-readable finding aid created Caroline Cubé.
Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections
for the Sciences
History and Special Collections Division for the
12-077 Center for Health Sciences
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1798
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Title: G.V. Hamilton, M.D., Poems.,
Date (inclusive): undated
Collection number: 442
Creator: Hamilton, G.V. (Gilbert
Van Tassel) 1877-1943
1 box (0.5 linear ft.)
University of California, Los Angeles. Library.
Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections
for the Sciences
Los Angeles, California 90095-1490
Abstract: Poems written by G.V. Hamilton, M.D., a psychiatrist
who studied animal behavior mainly in primates, then became interested in human
sexual behavior, especially that of married couples, and spent approximately the
last fifteen years of his life as a clinical psychoanalyst. Dr. Hamilton
published his research findings in books and articles, but also published one
novel and composed the unpublished poems that make up this collection. Included
are approximately 30 short poems which look back upon various life stages, and
one long narrative poem titled "Limbo", a Dante-like guided journey of a poet
seeking the meaning of life and death.
Physical location: Biomed History and Special Collections Cage
Language of Material: Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Property rights in the physical objects belong to the UCLA Biomedical
Library. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and
their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds
the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission
to publish if the Biomedical Library does not hold the copyright.
[Identification of item], G.V. Hamilton, M.D. poems (Manuscript collection 442). Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History
and Special Collections for the Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles.
The Hamilton poems were donated to UCLA Neuroscience History Archives in 1982
by Mr. Philip R. Sisson of Hope Valley, Rhode Island. Dr. Hamilton's mother's
maiden name was Mary Sisson, but Philip's relationship to her has not been
determined. The UCLA Neuroscience History Archives subsequently transferred the
collection to the UCLA Biomedical Library.
G. V. Hamilton (Gilbert Van Tassel) was born in Ohio in 1877. He graduated
from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1898 and received his M.D. from Jefferson
Medical College in 1901. Interested in the relationship between psychology and
mental diseases, he became a resident medical officer at McLean Hospital in
Waltham, MA from 1905 to 1907, and concurrently studied at Harvard University
Graduate School. At McLean, Hamilton collaborated with the chief psychologist,
Shepherd Ivory Franz, who had done studies on the effects of brain lesions on
learned behavior; together they published a study on exercise and depression. At
Harvard, he met R. M. Yerkes, who steered him to a comparative approach in the
study of behavior, and who remained a valued colleague.
A resident patient at McLean under Dr. Hamilton's care was Stanley McCormick,
son of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the automatic reaper. Mrs. S. McCormick
trusted Dr. Hamilton's treatment approach but wanted her husband out of the
hospital and moved to the McCormick estate in Montecito (near Santa Barbara, CA)
named Riven Rock, with Dr. Hamilton to attend him there as his personal
physician/psychiatrist. Hamilton was interested but wished to continue his
research in primate behavior, so Mrs. McCormick agreed to fund the establishment
of a small primate colony on the estate and to support him as an independent
investigator. In 1915 Hamilton invited Dr. Yerkes for a six-months stay to work
with the colony primates; there Yerkes began the series of anthropoid studies
which occupied the rest of his career, and for a time there were hopes that he
and Hamilton might create a Primate Research Center in Montecito. This plan
encountered difficulties and delays and ended completely in 1917, when Hamilton
left Riven Rock because of a disagreement about Mr. McCormick's treatment. The
American novelist, T. C. Boyle, has written a fictionalized account of Stanley
McCormick, his family, and life at Riven Rock, which includes chapters on each
of the three psychiatrists who provided his major care over the years, starting
with Dr. G.V. Hamilton ["Riven Rock", N.Y.: Viking, 1998]. After military
service in World War I Dr. Hamilton returned to the Midwest to practice
psychiatry, and started writing "An Introduction to Objective Psychopathology"
(published 1925). Then he moved to New York to head a National Research
Council-supported survey of marital sexual problems and adjustments; the results
were published in "A Research of Marriage" [N.Y., Boni, 1929]. He was Director
of the Division of Psychobiological Research, New York Bureau of Social Hygiene,
from 1924 to 1928.
The New York years (ca. 1925-1928) were filled not only with intense
immersion in the world of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, but also close contact
with the city's literary coterie, including the dramatist Eugene O'Neill. In a
presentation to the American Academy of Psychoanalysis titled "American
psychoanalysts who influenced Eugene O'Neill's 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'
", Ann-Louise S. Silver, M.D., states: "Eugene O'Neill's finest play ... owes
enormously to the direct and personal influence of two American psychoanalysts,
Smith Ely Jelliffe and Gilbert VanTassel Hamilton." She explains that they
steered O'Neill and his friends to psychoanalytic theory and its important
writers, and discussed this new material with them. Hamilton, "... this
pioneering analytically informed couples' therapist and researcher, ... acted as
a powerful catalyst for constructive change in O'Neill, who credits Hamilton
with curing his alcohol addiction." Also, Silver quotes from Lesley Scheaffer,
O'Neill's biographer, "... his [O'Neill's] consultations afterward with Hamilton
(which he incorrectly used to call his "analysis") launched O'Neill on a journey
into the past that led to his drawing up two papers in which he summarized his
early years and the familial forces that had shaped him....Taken as a unit, the
two papers can be considered his first step toward writing, some fifteen years
later, "Long Day's Journey Into Night" [Silver, Ann-Louise S. "J. Amer. Acad.
Psychoanal." 29(2): 305-318, 2001].
From 1928 until his death in 1943 Hamilton lived and worked in Santa Barbara
as a clinical psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, although he was actually never
formally credentialed as an analyst. Silver quotes him as writing "...some
experience as an analysand in 1925 made it emotionally possible for me to begin
what has become a final shift from psychiatric behaviorism to
In addition to his scientific publications Hamilton produced a popularized
version of his "Research in Marriage" volume, and one novel "The adversary in
Tomika", N.Y., Sears Pub. Co.1930, which may be rooted in stories from his
childhood. Nothing written by or about him indicates that he also wrote poetry,
and no such output seems to have been published. Yet the content of this small
collection proves that Hamilton was, indeed a poet of considerable skill.
Scope and Content
The collection's donor, who may be a member of G.V. Hamilton's wife's family,
refers in a letter to the contents as "The Diary" and "The Poem".
The former is actually not a diary, but rather a number of free verse
remembrances and musings about the author at various stages of his life,
written, most probably, in his later years. The tone is serious, though
sometimes wryly so, and deeply introspective - a man who is both a scientist and
a poet, non-religious, looking for meaning and understanding. The poems are
easily readable, pleasant, evoke the natural surroundings of Santa Barbara, and
muse about the boy that was and the man that is.
"The Poem" is an 134-page narrative poem titled "Limbo" written in both free
and blank verse, divided into nine Books, each with an introductory short prose
"Argument". The "Argument" for Book One: "A prophet in quest of final adventure
discovers a never-ending one". The prophet turns out to be the author. The
Revelator, who will guide the prophet, is Jesus Christ, and the journey will
take them through Limbo. On the journey the author prophet encounters other
prophets, saints, saviors, messiahs, and philosophers from ancient or not-so
ancient days and from many lands. Again, the tone is serious, pleasant, not
without humor, philosophical, introspective, and always seeking for a
reconciliation of reason and faith, or, perhaps, biological psychiatry and
Additional important Hamilton material is available in the UCLA Neuroscience
History Archives: Hamilton-Robert Yerkes correspondence, 1907-1944; 2 essay
manuscripts; Hamilton article reprints and photocopies. Contact UCLA Biomedical
Library History and Special Collections for the Sciences Department for access
UCLA Catalog Record ID
Box 1, Folder 1
Communications between Philip R. Sisson, donor, and Dr.
Horace Magoun, recipient of the gift to the UCLA Brain Research Institute's
Neuroscience History Archives.
Box 1, Folder 2
ca. 30 poems typed on 110 5x8" pages.
Box 1, Folder 3
"Limbo: a narrative poem", typed on 134 8.5x11" pages.