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Milman, Henry Hart


English poet, historian; b. London, Feb. 10, 1791; d. Ascot, Sept. 24, 1868. Educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford, Milman had a brilliant academic career and won the Newdigate prize for poetry in 1812. After being ordained in the Anglican Church (1816), he was appointed vicar of St. Mary's in Reading (1818), canon of Westminster and rector of St. Margaret's (1835), and dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London (1849). He gained an early reputation as a poet with his epic drama Fazio (1815); he then composed Samor the Lord of the Bright City (1818) and the dramatic poems The Fall of Jerusalem (1820) and The Martyr of Antioch and Belshazzar (1822). Ann Boleyn (1826), a somewhat mediocre composition, marked the end of his poetic career. His descriptive style was florid, with a certain dramatic strength; and his poems included some felicitous lyrics. But his work was marred by a lack of creative imagination, particularly in character drawing. He contributed some notable hymns to Reginald Heber's collection in 1827. Some of his best hymns still appear in Anglican hymnbooks; these include "When Our Heads Are Bowed with Woe" and "Ride on, Ride on in Majesty." Later in life Milman turned to translation and pioneered in the rendering of Sanskrit poems into English. He translated Agamemnon and The Bacchae, and also produced a new edition of Horace. In 1838 he published an edition of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Milman's historical works varied in quality. His History of the Jews (1830) offended Newman and provoked sharp criticism for its evasion and minimizing of the miraculous elements in the Old Testament, but Milman reissued it later with a sharp reply to his critics. His History of Christianity in the Roman Empire (1840) was also coldly received. However, The History of Latin Christianity down to the Death of Pope Nicholas V (1835), his most important historical work, long remained a classic because of its balance and candor, although it contained many errors of detail. Milman had a great gift for friendships and counted Thomas Macaulay, Sydney Smith, Henry Hallam, and John Lockhart in his circle. As dean of St. Paul's he accomplished much in making cathedral worship more popular.

Bibliography: a. milman, Henry Hart Milman (London 1900). c. h. e. smyth, Dean Milman (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 1949). r. garnett, Dictionary of National Biography (London 190838) 13:448451. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 901.

[w. hannah]

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