Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Miller, Thomas (1807-1874)

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MILLER, THOMAS (1807–1874), poet and novelist, known as ‘the basket-maker,’ son of George Miller, a wharfinger, was born at Gainsborough 31 Aug. 1807. During a visit to London the father left his lodgings on the morning of the Burdett riots, 6 April 1810, and was never heard of afterwards. The widow was left in poverty, and the son was bound apprentice to a basket-maker, and resided in Sailors' Alley, Gainsborough, next door to Thomas Cooper the chartist. In 1832, while in the employment of Mr. Watts, basket-maker, Bromley House, Nottingham, he made the acquaintance of Thomas Bailey [q. v.], then editing the ‘Good Citizen,’ who encouraged him to print ‘Songs of the Sea Nymphs,’ 1832. This work gained him many friends, and enabled him to start a business on his own account at Swan's Yard, Long Row. About 1835 he came to London, and, working at his trade at 33 Elliott's Row, St. George's Road, Southwark, sent some fancy baskets, in which he had placed verses, to the Countess of Blessington. The verses were appreciated, and from that time Miller's success was assured. His next work, ‘A Day in the Woods, a connected series of Tales and Poems,’ appeared in 1836, and was followed in 1837 by ‘Beauties of the Country,’ which was favourably reviewed by the ‘Literary Gazette.’ Under the auspices of Samuel Rogers he was enabled, about 1841, to commence business as a bookseller at 9 Newgate Street. He was also noticed by W. H. Harrison, then editing ‘Friendship's Offering,’ who inserted his verses, ‘The Desolate Hall,’ in the annual for 1838, and gave him two guineas for the well-known lines entitled ‘The Fountain,’ printed in 1839 and illustrated by an engraving from a painting by Westall. Some of his leisure was employed in writing tales for the ‘London Journal.’ Later on he removed to Ludgate Hill, and, although always in business, was intimate with many of the best known literary characters. Early in 1874, Disraeli, then prime minister, whom he had met in early life at Lady Blessington's, granted him 100l. from the Royal Bounty Fund. He died at 23 New Street, Kennington Park Road, London, 24 Oct. 1874, leaving a son and two daughters. The son died in April 1888, when a public appeal was made for funds to bury him, and to aid in supporting his surviving sister, Ellen Miller.

Miller was the author of upwards of forty five works; the most important were: ‘Royston Gower, or the Days of John King,’ a novel in two volumes, 1838; ‘Rural Sketches,’ 1839, verses in the style of Bloomfield's poetry, simple, picturesque, and cheerful; ‘Gideon Giles the Roper,’ 1840, second edition, 1841, a tale of humble life rendered interesting by truthful and vigorous delineation; ‘Godfrey Malvern, or the Life of an Author,’ 2 vols. 1842–3, giving the adventures of a country youth who repaired to London in quest of literary fame and fortune; and a ‘History of the Anglo-Saxons from the Earliest Period to the Norman Conquest,’ 1848, which went to five editions, although it was adversely criticised in the ‘Westminster Review’ for July 1856, pp. 253–4. In 1846 he edited the ‘Poetical Works of Beattie and W. Collins, with Memoirs,’ and in 1849 he wrote ‘The Mysteries of London, or Lights and Shadows of London Life,’ a work forming vol. v. of G. W. Reynolds' ‘Mysteries of London.’ He also wrote many books for boys or children. Other works were:

  1. ‘Fair Rosamond,’ 3 vols. 1839.
  2. ‘Lady Jane Grey,’ 3 vols. 1840.
  3. ‘Poems,’ 1841.
  4. ‘Poetical Language of Flowers,’ 1847.
  5. ‘Pictures of Country Life and Summer Rambles,’ 1847.
  6. ‘Fortune and Fortitude, a Tale,’ 1848.
  7. ‘A Tale of Old England,’ 1849.
  8. ‘Original Poems for my Children,’ 1852; 2nd series, 1852.
  9. ‘The Village Queen, or Summer in the Country,’ 1852.
  10. ‘Picturesque Sketches of London Past and Present,’ 1852.
  11. ‘Our Old Town,’ 1857.
  12. ‘The Poacher and other Pictures of Country Life,’ 1858.
  13. ‘Birds, Bees, and Blossoms,’ 1858.
  14. ‘English Country Life,’ 1859; new edition, 1864.
  15. ‘British Wolf Hunters,’ 1859.
  16. ‘Sports and Pastimes of Merry England,’ 1859.
  17. ‘Langley on the Lea, or Love and Duty,’ 1860.
  18. ‘Songs for British Riflemen,’ 1860.
  19. ‘Common Wayside Flowers,’ 1860.
  20. ‘Dorothy Dovedale's Trials,’ 2 vols. 1864.
  21. ‘Songs of the Seasons,’ 1865.
  22. ‘My Father's Garden,’ 1867.
  23. ‘Jack of All Trades,’ 1867.
  24. ‘The Gaboon,’ 1868.
  25. ‘Watch the End,’ 1869; new edition, 1873.
  26. ‘The Old Park Road,’ 1871.

[Wylie's Old and New Nottingham, 1853, pp. 168, 207–10; Pen and Ink Sketches, 2nd edit. 1847, pp. 205–8; S. T. Hall's Biographical Sketches, 1873, pp. 321–2; T. Cooper's Life, 4th edit. 1873, pp. 1–54; C. Bonnell's Thomas Miller printed in Amcoats & Co.'s Gainsborough Almanack for 1892; Chambers's Cyclop. of English Lit. 1844, ii. 626; Illustrated London News, 1874, lxv. 425; Gent. Mag. 1884, ii. 582; Daily News, 27 Oct. 1874, p. 2; Pall Mall Gazette, 4 April 1888, p. 10.]

G. C. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.199
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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424 ii 1-2 Miller, Thomas (1807-1874): for Harrison Ainsworth read W. H. Harrison