Mills, Charles (DNB00)

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MILLS, CHARLES (1788–1826), historical writer, born on 29 July 1788 at Croom's Hill, Greenwich, was youngest son of Samuel Gillam Mills, surgeon. He was educated privately, and, after a brief experience in a merchant's counting-house, was articled in 1804 to a firm of solicitors. In 1810 he placed himself for a year's study in conveyancing under James Humphreys. From boyhood he had always been a hard reader, and he now permanently injured his health by studying through the night. An attack of lung disease compelled him to winter in Nice in 1814–15. He had no liking for the law, and, on inheriting a moderate fortune, abandoned it for literature. Neglecting the directions of his doctors, he died of a recurrence of his old complaint at Southampton on 9 Oct. 1826. He was a bachelor. A few months before his death he was elected one of the knights of Malta, in recognition of his allusions to that fraternity in his ‘History of the Crusades.’

Mills was a man of learning, but as an historian was a very humble follower of Gibbon. His first work, ‘An History of Muhammedanism,’ 8vo, London, 1817 (2nd edit. 1818), had been accidentally seen in manuscript by Sir John Malcolm [q. v.], who not only warmly recommended its publication, but aided in the revision by the loan of many valuable Oriental treatises from his own library. It was translated into French by G. Buisson, 8vo, Guernsey, 1826. His next book ‘The History of the Crusades,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1820 (4th edit. 1828), bears fewer traces of the influence of Gibbon, and was praised by Sir Walter Scott, who assisted him with notes from the Scottish chronicles (letter of Scott to Mills in Book Circular of William Downing of Birmingham, No. 254, p. 9). An ambitious imitation of the ‘Travels of Anacharsis’ entitled ‘The Travels of Theodore Ducas of Candia in Various Countries in Europe at the Revival of Letters and Art,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1822, followed. It proved unsuccessful, and only the first part, comprising ‘Italy,’ appeared. A design of writing a history of Rome came to nothing. Mills soon afterwards became absorbed in his last and most popular book, ‘The History of Chivalry, or Knighthood and its Times,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1825 (2nd edit. 1826). Scott was delighted with it, and, through the medium of Constable, sent the author a letter full of generous praise. Mills's collective works were translated into French by P. Tiby (7 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1825).

A bust of Mills was executed about 1824 by Sievier, from which a portrait was engraved.

[Memoir (by A. Skottowe), 1828; Gent. Mag. 1826 pt. ii. pp. 559–60.]

G. G.