Millhouse, Robert (DNB00)

MILLHOUSE, ROBERT (1788–1839), weaver and poet, second son of John and Mary Millhouse, was born on 14 (or 17?) Oct. 1788, at Nottingham. His only education was obtained at a Sunday-school. At the age of ten he worked at a stocking-loom and sang in the choir of St. Peter's Church. During 1804 he read with his elder brother John much poetry, including the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, and Gray. In 1810, at the age of twenty-two, he joined the Nottinghamshire militia, and it was while with his regiment at Plymouth that his first verses were written and sent to the ‘Nottingham Review.’ When the regiment was disbanded in 1814, Millhouse resumed his weaving, employing his leisure in writing verses. His poems attracted favourable notice (vide Appendix to Songs of the Patriot), and he found friends who in 1822 obtained for him a grant from the Royal Literary Fund. Ten years afterwards he became assistant at a savings bank, and was thus able to devote more of his time to literary pursuits. His friends Thomas Wakefield, Colonel Gardiner, and Mrs. Howitt Watts, daughter of William and Mary Howitt, were of great assistance in his later years, and among those who helped him in his last illness was Ebenezer Elliott. He died on 13 April 1839, and was buried on the eastern side of the Nottingham cemetery, some lines being inscribed on the tomb a few years later by his friend Dr. Spencer T. Hall [q. v.] An oak in Sherwood Forest, under which Millhouse and Spencer Hall took refuge during a storm, bears the name of the poet.

Millhouse married first, in 1818, Eliza Morley, by whom he had eight children; and secondly, in 1836, Marion Moore, by whom he had two children. He is described as steady, sober, and honest, but in his later years he looked upon any but literary work as derogatory to his talent. His poems show facility in versification and true feeling for nature. He handles the sonnet courageously, but his defective education and narrow experiences deprived him of largeness of view or ‘sustained strength.’

Millhouse's published works are:

  1. ‘Blossoms,’ a selection of sonnets, with prefatory remarks by L. Booker, LL.D.; 2nd edit. 1823.
  2. ‘Vicissitude,’ a poem in four books; ‘Nottingham Park’ and other pieces, with preface, by J. Millhouse, Nottingham, 1821.
  3. ‘The Song of the Patriot,’ sonnets and songs, with brief memoir of the author by J. Millhouse, 1826.
  4. ‘Sherwood Forest, and other Poems,’ London, 1827.
  5. ‘The Destinies of Man,’ London, 1832, printed at Nottingham.

The ‘Sonnets and Songs of Robert Millhouse,’ a selection from his works with a biographical sketch, edited by J. P. Briscoe, was published at Nottingham in 1881. Some of his best pieces appear in ‘Sketches of Obscure Poets,’ London, 1833.

[Memoirs by J. Millhouse, Dr. Booker, and J. P. Briscoe, prefixed to works in above list; Ann. Reg. vol. lxxxi., Appendix to Chronicle, p. 333; Gent. Mag. 1839, i. 662–3, from Lit. Gazette, 27 April 1839; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. Le G. N.