MILLER, William Richard Beckford

1769 - 1844

William Miller

Born at Bungay, Suffolk on 25 March 1769 and baptised William Richard Beckford Miller, son of Thomas Miller and his wife Sally née Kingsbury. Educated as a foundation scholar at Bungay grammar school under Revd Thomas Reeve, leaving at the age of 14 when he joined his father’s business until he reached 18 when, on the recommendation of Sir Joshua Reynolds who had seen some of his early sketches, departed for London. From this time he used only the single christian name of William. After precious time trying to earn money as an artist he joined bookseller’s Hookham’s in Bond Street where he became acquainted with his cousin Mary (1769-1791), second daughter of uncle Dr Edward Miller (1731-1807), of Doncaster and in 1790 married her at Doncaster and on the 4 September the same year enrolled as a freeman of Norwich. In 1790 he commenced business as a bookseller on his own account in Bond Street, London but lost his wife the following year. Eight years later he took a second wife, Susanna, eldest daughter of Revd Richard Chapman, vicar of Bakewell, Oxfordshire, by whom he had five children, two sons and two daughters surviving. In 1801 he moved from Bond Street to Albemarle Street where he obtained celebrity as a publisher of splendid works and at that time was one of the most popular publishers in London and paid the then considerable sum of £4,500 for the copyright of C J Fox’s 'History of the Reign of James I' but only just covered his expenses upon publishing the volume. Various circumstances connected with the business caused him to retire in 1812 when he sold his business and stock at 50 Albemarle Street to John Murray, junr (1778-1843) for £3,822. Retiring at the age of 42 was a bold step for a man with a wife and young family to bring up. He lived for five years on the continent, during which time his London house in Duchess Street was occupied by Mr Spring Rice (later Lord Monteagle). His children were Mary Anne, who married on the continent Dr W Carter, a half-pay naval surgeon and had a family of five children, they were living in Northamptonshire on very scanty means: Ellen [Emily] married on 16 April 1833 William Crowfoot (1806-1887), eldest son and partner in a medical practice in Beccles, and had a son and daughter. Of William’s sons, the eldest Stanley (1802-1887), who was lame from an accident in early life, was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge and ordained and after spending some years as a curate was introduced by Countess Stanhope to the bishop of Rochester who appointed him as his domestic chaplain, and tutor to the bishop’s two eldest sons and, when the bishop went to Oxford, he presented Stanley to the small livings of Tannington and Brundish both in Suffolk. William’s youngest son William, junr was educated for the medical profession under Mr Whitfield at St Thomas’s Hospital and passed his examinations to Surgeon’s and Apothecary’s Halls but took up the manufacturer of British wines and spirits. By 1840 William Beckford, senr was residing with his eldest son Stanley at Dennington, Suffolk where he died on 25 October 1844. In October 1801 the Revd Edward Forster (1769-1828) advertised in the 'Ipswich Journal' his projected History of the County of Suffolk to be completed in not more than four volumes of which the first volume would be published in 1804 and William Miller of Old Bond Street was to be the publisher, however The History never appeared. (Copsey-Suffolk Book Trades. 2012)