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Key People

Jeremiah Milles D.D.

1714 - 1784

Jeremiah Milles portrait

"He foully calumniated Chatterton,

an owl mangling a poor dead nightingale"

Joseph Cottle, quoting Coleridge : View


A portrait of the self-satisfied & well-fed Rowleian, Jeremiah Milles, D.D., Dean of Exeter, President of the Antiquaries Society, and author of the literary crime, which he rather grandly called:

'Poems, Supposed to have been Written at Bristol, in the Fifteenth Century, by Thomas Rowley, Priest, &c, with a Commentary, in which the Antiquity of them is Considered, and Defended.'

Jeremiah Milles, D.D.
His Infamous Edition of Rowley's Works
Rowley Poems 1782 annotated by Jeremiah Milles

Milles' infamous book was published in 1782, but the copy, shown above, was presented by him to James 'two pistols' Thistlethwaite, and is annotated 'The Dean of Exeter to Mr Thistlethwaite, 12th Dec 1781'.  I suppose it is fair to say that the book was gifted to Thistlethwaite in return for the first hand information he supplied regarding Chatterton.


The Dictionary of National Biography, had a paragraph detailing Milles' misguided attempt to prove that Chatterton's poems were written by Rowley, and I quote the whole paragraph below; all as written:

  •   "Unfortunately for his reputation Milles rushed into the Chatterton dispute with an extravagant edition of ‘Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol in the Fifteenth Century by Thomas Rowley, Priest. With a Commentary,’ 1782, copies of which, with numerous manuscript notes by Haslewood, Dr. Sherwen, and Horace Walpole, are in the British Museum. In this work he maintained the antiquity of the poems, and committed himself to the assertion, when writing on the poem of the death of ‘Syr Charles Bawdin,’ that ‘a greater variety of internal proofs may be produced for its authenticity than for that of any other piece in the whole collection.’ His ingenuous comments provoked replies from Edmund Malone, Thomas Tyrwhitt, and Thomas Warton, and a very severe ‘Archæological Epistle to Dean Milles,’ 1782, which, though long attributed to the poet Mason, was written by John Baynes [q. v.] On the dean's part in this controversy S. T. Coleridge wrote that he ‘foully calumniated Chatterton, an owl mangling a poor dead nightingale,’ and that ‘though only a dean, he was in dulness and malignity most episcopally eminent’ (Joseph Cottle, Early Recollections, i. 36)."

Notice too, the signature of Thomas Worthington Barlow, scientist, antiquarian etc. who, three years after writing his name and the date of 1853 on the title page, died in Sierra Leone of a fever.  I don't know if this book has become cursed, a bit like the Howard Carter 'Tutankhamun curse,' however, I have been the keeper of the book for a good few years now, so fingers crossed for the future!  I should add that, regardless of the above, I love this book and Jeremiah too, they both add some extra flavour to the Chatterton / Rowley story !

Jeremiah Milles


Jeremiah Milles


Jeremiah Milles


Links to Chatterton's Works & Correspondence

   Call it what you will, authentic, doubtful, lost, or plainly wrong - if it was linked with Chatterton it will be included in Chatterton's Works & Correspondence.  This will be the base point from which we can examine every piece of work, and add notes and links accordingly.  

Authentic Works  : View

Lost Works  :  View                                                

Works of Doubtful Authenticity   :  View

Wrongly Attributed Works   :   View

All Correspondence in Chronological Order  :   View

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