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Memoirs on the Life and Travels of Thomas Hammond, 1748-1775

Thomas Hammond. Edited by George E. Boulukos

BUY Cloth · 400 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813939674 · $45.00 · Jul 2017
BUY Ebook · 400 pp. · ISBN 9780813939681 · $45.00 · Jul 2017

A lavishly illustrated manuscript from the eighteenth century now being published for the first time, Thomas Hammond's memoirs are a major discovery. Hammond was a self-educated but remarkably gifted writer with a knack for seizing unlikely opportunities for adventure. We follow this abandoned waif as he embarks on a long journey through bewildering foreign lands—working by turns as a stableboy, jockey, servant to French nobles, itinerant circus rider, and entertainment entrepreneur—only to recover his home and father at the end of his travels.

Personal narratives by the eighteenth century’s non-elites are exceedingly rare, and Hammond’s memoir provides a wonderfully vivid depiction of the texture of everyday life in that era. Possessed of a dry wit, Hammond can be hilarious, offering uproarious descriptions of stableboy pranks or the highly unsanitary conditions of a Portuguese inn; but he can also be compellingly frank about his emotions, revealing how deprived of love he felt as a young boy, describing climbing into an oven for warmth after having lost his mother to smallpox, or earnestly recounting how he fell in love with his master's (supposed) wife.

This edition includes numerous illustrations from the original manuscript—Hammond’s own hand-drawn travel maps and depictions of bullfighting as well as various images of the equestrian life collected by Hammond, many in brilliant color.


Hammond led a fascinatingly diverse life, and his memoirs will add a great deal to our understanding of eighteenth-century status systems, the life experience of the non-elite, the fields of early modern entertainment and sport, and how national and religious differences and boundaries were experienced by an individual who had not only to encounter them but to incorporate them into his own life.

Kristina Straub, Carnegie Mellon University, author of Domestic Affairs: Intimacy, Eroticism, and Violence between Servants and Masters in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Once every generation a new text, recovered from obscurity, challenges how we think about the received wisdom that defines multiple fields of inquiry. George E. Boulukos’s ground-breaking edition of Memoirs on the Life and Travels of Thomas Hammond, 1748-1775 is precisely such a text. Hammond was a stableboy, a jockey, a trick rider, a showman, and perhaps above all a writer; but all of these identities were undertaken in service, and thus one would be hard pressed to point to a more complex and exhaustive account of eighteenth-century laboring-class life. Earthy, sometimes violent, often hilarious, always direct, Hammond guides his readers through the race meetings of Newmarket and Odsey before taking them on one of the strangest tours of Europe that one is ever likely to read. The fascinating illustrations that Hammond included with his memoir have been beautifully reproduced, and the text has been lovingly edited. Boulukos’s introduction situates Hammond’s writings, and his annotations elucidate previously obscure subcultures, but everything is handled so that Hammond’s hugely entertaining voice remains front and center. A singular, revelatory edition.

Daniel O'Quinn, University of Guelph, author of Entertaining Crisis in the Atlantic Imperium, 1770-1790

Sympathetic and restrained... [Boulukos] does a great service in bringing an almost entirely unknown text to life, and allowing a very particular 18th-century voice--unpolished, unmannerly, thoroughly impolite--to speak.

London Review of Books

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