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Jeremiah Milles D.D.

1714 - 1784

"He foully calumniated Chatterton, an owl mangling a poor dead nightingale"

Joseph Cottle, quoting Coleridge : View

Jeremiah Milles portrait
Rowley Poems 1782 annotated by Jeremiah Milles

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.

The book was published in 1782, but the presentation copy, shown above, from Jeremiah Milles to another of our remarkable Bristol boys, James 'two pistols' Thistlethwaite, (an acquaintance of Chatterton's) is annotated Dec 12th 1781.

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 flavour to the controversy!

However, he doesn't get off that easily, as the Dictionary of National Biography does have a paragraph detailing his 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)."

Jeremiah Milles

Publications : Correspondence : Sundry

QE! : Working on this Page

Rowley Poems annotated to Thistlethwaite 1782
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