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Finding Aid for the G.V. Hamilton, M.D., Poems, undated
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: G.V. Hamilton, M.D., Poems.,
    Date (inclusive): undated
    Collection number: 442
    Creator: Hamilton, G.V. (Gilbert Van Tassel) 1877-1943
    Extent: 1 box (0.5 linear ft.)
    Repository: 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 Hamilton published his research findings in books and articles, but also published one novel and composed the unpublished poems that make up this collection.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 Manuscripts
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [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.

    Acquisition Information

    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 psychoanalysis".
    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 psychoanalysis?

    Related Material

    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 information.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7328431