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IT has more than once been the privilege of the writer to introduce American works to the notice of English readers. These works have generally been the productions of Presbyterian and Congregational ministers. It is with great satisfaction that he now welcomes one who belongs to another section of the Christian Church. This volume, indeed, consisting as it does of Popular Lectures, presents its author to us rather in his relation to general literature, than in his official capacity as a minister of religion. It will be impossible, however, to give an adequate idea of Mr. Milburn's career, or to form a just estimate of his character and genius, without referring to his training and labours as a "pioneer preacher."
The American edition of these lectures, of which the present is a reprint, contains an introductory sketch of the life of the author by the Rev. Dr. McClintock. It is very brief, but sufficiently copious for a class of readers to whom the general outline of Mr. Milburn's
career may be supposed to be known. Many of Dr. McClintock's remarks are pertinent and valuable, and derive interest from the fact that he has had personal knowledge of his friend from a boy. Some quotations will be given from this "Introduction;" but our Life of Mr. Milburn will be extracted from another work, in which we find a more minute and circumstantial account of him.*
"W. H. Milburn was born in Philadelphia, on the twentysixth of September, 1823. His father was a merchant; but, meeting with reverses, removed to the West in 1838, and is now living with his wife and one son at Jacksonville, Illinois. They were originally from Maryland, and belong to the Methodist Church. William was an active, robust boy, possessed of perfect faculties, both bodily and mental; but at the age of five, met with the accident which resulted in blindness. He was playing with another lad in an open lot, engaged in throwing at a mark, when his companion, in lifting his hand to cast a piece of iron hoop, or something of the kind, inadvertently struck the edge of it into Milburn's eye.
"From this accident, however, the eye recovered without injury to vision, except that the scar consisted of a slight protuberance which interfered with sight downward, but not direct or upward. This protuberance the physician decided to burn off with caustic; an operation which, twice repeated, was hard for the boy to bear. He begged for relief, and at last resisted, declaring that he could not endure it. Upon this, the physician seized him in his arms, forced the caustic upon the wound, and in the struggles, both eyes of the poor boy were dashed with it. As a remedy, they were kept bathed with a solution of sugar of lead for two years, during which time the pupils became permeated with depositions of lead and light was shut out, with
*Fowler's American Pulpit.
LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
the exception of the left upper corner of the right eye, through which narrow aperture objects were visible.
"By placing a projecting shade over the eye, the hand convexly shaped beneath it, and leaning the body forward at an angle of forty-five degrees, Milburn was able to read; seeing, however, only one letter at a time. Cut off from most sports, he became absorbed in reading; and day after day would sit in the constrained posture necessary to see, poring over books often twelve hours out of the twenty-four. His constitution was so good that it did not suffer under this confinement and unnatural attitude until he was nineteen years of age, when a Senior in college; then his health suddenly gave way, and it was discovered that he had a slight curvature of the spine, and some internal organic disease. From the former he has not altogether recovered, and is in consequence obliged to lie in a horizontal position during a portion of every day; but, though of rather slender and delicate appearance, he is capable of enduring great fatigue, and long-continued, severe mental application.
"His sight has been gradually diminishing, so that now he is unable to read at all; but, in a favourable light and position, can dimly discern the outline of objects. The result is, that his other senses are cultivated to exquisite nicety. He recognises acquaintances from the voice more readily than many do from the appearance; and he judges of character from intonation, as others do from expression. His idea of locality is admirable, so that he moves about in familiar places with facility, and often travels unattended, trusting to the kindness of strangers, or rather, certain of meeting some one of his many friends. His memory is prodigious, receiving like wax and retaining like iron, and in early life was probably not surpassed by that of Magliabecchi, or any of the mnemonic prodigies.
"On hearing his father read a chapter of the Bible at morning prayers, he would repeat it after him without mistake, and two repetitions ensured its permanent retention. A college mate has told us of his going to Milburn's room one day with a volume of Chalmer's Astronomical Discourses, and reading him a half or two-thirds of one. Milburn expressed delight, and
wished it read again. He did so, when Milburn said, 'Thank you, I have it now.' 'What do you mean-have what?' 'Why, I have that sermon;' and to dispel scepticism, repeated it verbatim, and the next Saturday, declaimed a part of it in the chapel. After entering college, however, he discouraged the cultivation of memory, and bent his mental energies in other directions, fearing to be no more than the receptacle of other men's thoughts-a mere walking encyclopædia.
"The result is, that his memory is now less tenacious. His habit, at present, is, when wishing to commit a new chapter, preparatory to public worship, to have it read to him on the previous day, and he repeats after the reader, verse by verse, and then in sets of four verses, commencing each time at the commencement of the chapter. With one reading of the chapter thereafter, he is prepared to go through it before an audience without possibility of failure. Poetry he commits with greater facility than prose. He is perfectly familiar with the Hymn-book, and can probably repeat most of the New Testament and considerable portions of the Old.
"In May, 1838, the Milburn family removed from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Illinois; and being in reduced circumstances, William, in company with his father, sought for some suitable means of livelihood at St. Louis, Quincy, and other places. The son was offered a clerkship on a steamboat, but his mother would not consent to a situation so hazardous to good habits; and the result was, that the father opened a small store in Jacksonville, with William for a clerk. His parents, while interested in his education, feared that reading would result in total blindness, and wished him to relinquish books for business, and hence a clerkship. William's regular duties consisted in being up at four o'clock, lighting the kitchen fire, drawing water, and cutting wood, opening the store, sweeping it out, and returning to breakfast by candle-light in winter, or at sunrise in summer. The day was spent at the store, and faithful attention to customers was necessary, besides the keeping of the books, which he managed to do, with some assistance, in spite of his limited vision.
"But meanwhile, the studies could not be relinquished, for