Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 37.djvu/435

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Miller
Miller
421

pp. 71–2). In 1751 Miller seems to have conducted some experiments on fertilisation, which are specially interesting as the first notice of the aid of insects in pollination (Sachs, History of Botany, English translation, p. 392). As a result of visits paid to Holland between 1723 and 1730, Miller issued in 1758 ‘The Method of Cultivating Madder, as it is practised by the Dutch in Zealand,’ his object being to introduce this industry into England. His numerous correspondents in Siberia, at the Cape, and in North America, and especially Dr. William Houston's collections from the West Indies, led him to plan a series of illustrations of all known genera. This resulted in the issue in numbers between 1755 and 1760 of two volumes containing together three hundred folio plates, drawn from plants in the Chelsea Garden.

Professor Thomas Martyn says of Miller: ‘He accumulated no wealth from his respectable connection with the great, or from the numerous editions of his works. He was of a disposition too generous and too careless of money to become rich.’ A curious comment on this is afforded by the papers of the Apothecaries' Company. In 1761 Miller asked that a residence might be built for him in the garden, but his request was apparently not granted. At the end of 1766 he drew up a memorandum showing his salary to have been 50l. a year, in addition to which he had received 31l. as gate-money, while he had to pay 74l. wages to under-gardeners and 15l. freight on plants, leaving him 8l. out of pocket on the year. Shortly afterwards he asked for repayment of 62l. disbursed by him, but apparently only received a special grant of 50l. (Field and Semple). On 28 Dec. 1770 John Ellis wrote to Linnæus: ‘Poor Miller, through his obstinacy and impertinence to the Society of Apothecaries, is turned out of the Botanical Garden of Chelsea. I am sorry for it, as he is now 79 years of age: they will allow his stipend, but have chosen another gardener. His vanity was so raised by his voluminous publications that he considered no man to know anything but himself; though Gordon, Aiton, and Lee have been long infinitely superior to him in the nicer and more delicate part of gardening’ (Correspondence of Linnæus, i. 255). Aiton, and also Forsyth, who succeeded him, were his own pupils, and Forsyth took office with 60l. a year, besides 50l. for under-gardeners and rooms. Miller died near Chelsea churchyard, 18 Dec. 1771, and was buried on the north side of it, the spot being marked by a flat stone. An obelisk (engraved in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1815, pt. i. p. 409) was erected near it in 1815 by members of the Linnean and Horticultural Societies. The engraved portrait by Maillet, prefixed to the French translation of his ‘Dictionary’ (Paris, 8 vols. 4to, 1785), is a fancy sketch. He was commemorated by John Martyn in the genus Milleria among the Compositæ.

Miller married Mary Kennet of Southwark, whose sister was wife of the botanical draughtsman George Dionysius Ehret [q. v.] Of his two sons, Philip, the elder, worked under him for a time, and then went to the East Indies, where he died; Charles, the younger (b. 1739), became in 1762 the first curator of the Cambridge Botanic Garden, went in 1770 to India and Sumatra, returned to England, and dying in London, 6 Oct. 1817, was buried in his father's grave. Miller left a large herbarium, mostly of exotics gathered in the Chelsea Garden, which was purchased by Sir Joseph Banks, and is now in the Natural History Museum.

Pulteney says of Miller: ‘By foreigners he was emphatically stiled “Hortulanorum Princeps.” He was admitted a member of the Botanical Academy of Florence, and of the Royal Society of London, in which he was occasionally honoured by being chosen of the council. Mr. Miller was the only person I ever knew who remembered to have seen Mr. Ray. I shall not easily forget the pleasure that enlightened his countenance, it so strongly expressed the Virgilium tantum vidi, when, in speaking of that revered man, he related to me that incident of his youth’ (Sketches of the Progress of Botany, ii. 243). Another anecdote of Miller is recorded in Monk's ‘Life of Bentley’ (p. 653), and in Elwin and Courthope's ‘Pope’ (iv. 360). Miller, it appears, went to Cambridge to consult Bentley on some classical point, and was hospitably received, but when Miller had made his inquiry the great scholar offered no remark on the subject, but merely bade his questioner drink his wine. Miller persisted in his questioning, and Bentley crying, ‘Walker, my hat,’ left the room. The scene is alluded to in Pope's ‘Dunciad,’ bk. iv. 1. 273. Many reminiscences of Miller are recorded by John Rogers, gardener at Richmond Palace, in the ‘Vegetable Cultivator,’ London, 1839, 8vo. Rogers (d. 1842) met Miller about three years before the latter's death, and was perhaps the last survivor of his acquaintances.

  1. ‘The Gardener's and Florist's Dictionary, or a Complete System of Horticulture,’ 2 vols. London, 8vo, 1724.
  2. ‘Catalogus Plantarum … quæ in Hortis haud procul a Londino … propagantur,’ London, fol., 1730, anonymous.