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John Mills Whitham

Male abt 1883 - 1956  (~ 73 years)



  • Name John Mills Whitham  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Known as "Jan" 
    Birth abt May 1883  Folkestone Find all individuals with events at this location   [2, 3, 5, 6
    Residence Apr 1891  Church St, Whitby, Ellesmere Port Find all individuals with events at this location   [3
    Education abt 1895 - 1900  Liverpool College, Sefton Park Find all individuals with events at this location   [7
    Occupation Mar 1901  Architect's Pupil  [6
    Residence Mar 1901  9 Claughton Firs, Tranmere Find all individuals with events at this location   [6
    • with grandfather John Edwards, 70 b Ruthin, confectioner, baker & shopkeeper
    Occupation abt 1905 -  Writer & novelist  [7
    Occupation Apr 1911  Writer  [8
    Residence Apr 1911  4 Boscombe Rd, Southend Find all individuals with events at this location   [8
    • with brother, Alfred E Whitham, 31 b Chester, Wesleyan Methodist Minster; & family
    Marriage abt Aug 1916  Barnstaple Find all individuals with events at this location   [4
    Sylvia Frances Milman,   b. 13 Oct 1878, 22 The Grove, The Boltons, South Kensington Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 07 Jan 1957, North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence - 1956  The Cottage, Holdstone Down Find all individuals with events at this location   [7
    Death 28 Jul 1956  North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple Find all individuals with events at this location   [5, 9, 10
    • On July 28th, 1956, suddenly, at the North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple, John Mills Whitham, Novelist, aged 73. [The Times]
    Probate 24 Sep 1956  London Find all individuals with events at this location ; £4,362 15s. 7d.  [10
    • Whitham John Mills of The Cottage Riverview Pilton Barnstaple Devonshire died 28 July 1956 at The North Devon Infirmary Barnstaple Probate 24 September to Sylvia Frances Whitham widow. Effects £4362 15s. 7d. [NPC]
    Notes 
    • John Mills Whitham (1883-1956), novelist and historian, also known as 'Jan' Mills Whitham, was born in Folkestone in 1883. He was educated at Liverpool College, and became an architect before turning to writing. In 1912 his first novel, Broom, was published by Stephen Swift and Co. under the name J. Mills Whitham. This was followed by Starveacre (Methuen, 1915), Wolfang (Methuen, 1917) and a further seven novels over the years 1919-1925. He then published two biographical works on the French Revolution under his full name in 1930 and 1933. His final novel, Swings and Roundabouts , was published by Duckworth in 1937. He married Silvia Frances Milman, and lived at The Cottage, Holdstone Down, North Devon, until his death in 1956. [Exeter University Library]
    • Most of his papers and MSS were donated to Exeter University by his widow after his death. Other important material, including the unpublished novels, is in the Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas at Austin.
    • Mr. J. M. Whitham, who died suddenly on Saturday in a hospital at Barnstaple at the age of 73, was a writer of originality and power, whose work was much appreciated by the discriminating few. John Mills Whitham was born at Folkestone in 1883, the son of a Methodist minister who later occupied a pulpit at Liverpool. Whitham was educated at Liverpool College. Finding himself out of sympathy with institutional Christianity, he decided not to follow his brother into the Methodist ministry but to seek an alternative career. He first articled himself to an architect, but shortly discovered that he needed to preach; or at least to write. Whitham then threw up his position in the architect's office, came to London, and joined the London Press Exchange as a copywriter. His purpose was to harvest his earnings, retire at the earliest possible age, and by living sparely give all his time to reading and writing. In Whitham's case, leaving London when he did meant leaving the Café Royal. Accordingly, he abandoned the circle in which Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, F. S. Flint and John Cournos were prominent in the years before 1914. Whitham's retirement to North Devon was so complete that he seldom visited London, never saw Liverpool again, and only with with difficulty could he be persuaded to visit Exeter. Though an able, humane and engaging talker, he made concessions to guests but none to himself. An insatiable demand for independence entailed austerities that included a rigid vegetarian diet extracted from an allotment upon which he arduously laboured. In later years his standards of asceticism relaxed partially to enable him to discharge his duties as a sergeant in the Home Guard. The fruit of Whitham's literary energy amounted to eight novels and two volumes on the French Revolution, published between 1913 and 1933. The novels were populated with people who, having marked talent, self-control and power of work, were fated by heredity or environment to be baulked of the success they deserved. Something similar may be said of Whitham. His novels were not meant to be easy reading and tended to pessimism. His studies on the French Revolution, though biographical in form, emphasized the doctrinal and ideological aspects to the exclusion of the outbursts of luxury and frivolity which followed the horrors and misgovernment of the Directory. For a number of years he reviewed for The Times Literary Supplement. Whitham is survived by his widow, formerly Miss Sylvia Milman, a wood engraver and water-colourist, of whose work a retrospective exhibition was held in Exeter last year, whom he married in 1916. [The Times, 01 Aug 1956]
      A friend writes:-- The death of Jan Mills Whitham leaves his many friends with a sense of deep thankfulness for having known a man of true and unyielding integrity and courage. His published works, which have become very scarce, were revised by him in manuscript in his later years. His unpublished works include three further novels: A Poor Man's Journal, sequel to The Windlestraw: Christina Ballard, a novel of Exmoor;and Gunnar, a psychological study. His War Journal and his Philosophy of Recipience contain the final embodiment of his thinking. These fruits of a fine mind and life deserve to be harvested. [The Times, 04 Aug 1956]
    • also Memoirs of the Bastille, Latude and Linguet (trans. J & S F Mills Whitham), London: Routledge, 1927.
    Person ID I4831  Tatham | Morris branch | Spouse
    Last Modified 01 Aug 2013 

    Father William Whitham,   b. abt 1848, Manchester Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. abt Nov 1901, Wortley Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 53 years) 
    Mother Elizabeth Edwards,   b. abt 1855, Manchester Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Marriage abt Aug 1878  Birkenhead Find all individuals with events at this location   [11
    Notes 
    • Also resid Apr 1891: Alfred E, 11 b Chester; Florence C, 3 b Littleborough: + 1 serv.
    Family ID F1499  Family Group Sheet

    Family Sylvia Frances Milman,   b. 13 Oct 1878, 22 The Grove, The Boltons, South Kensington Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 07 Jan 1957, North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 78 years) 
    Marriage abt Aug 1916  Barnstaple Find all individuals with events at this location   [4
    Last Modified 08 Nov 2011 
    Family ID F1498  Family Group Sheet

  • Event Map Click to display
    Link to Google MapsBirth - abt May 1883 - Folkestone Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Apr 1891 - Church St, Whitby, Ellesmere Port Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsEducation - abt 1895 - 1900 - Liverpool College, Sefton Park Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Mar 1901 - 9 Claughton Firs, Tranmere Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Apr 1911 - 4 Boscombe Rd, Southend Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage - < - abt Aug 1916 - Barnstaple Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage - abt Aug 1916 - Barnstaple Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - 1956 - The Cottage, Holdstone Down Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDeath - 28 Jul 1956 - North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsProbate - £4,362 15s. 7d. - 24 Sep 1956 - London Link to Google Earth
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  • Sources 
    1. [S03] Family Members, CFT.

    2. [S02] BMD Index, birth reg Elham, 2Q1883.

    3. [S01] Census, UK, 1891.
      age 8 b Folkestone

    4. [S02] BMD Index, marriage reg Barnstaple, 3Q1916.

    5. [S02] BMD Index, death reg Barnstaple, 3Q1956.
      age 73

    6. [S01] Census, UK, 1901.
      age 17 b Folkestone

    7. [S07] Other Sources, Exeter University Library.
      Archives Hub accessed 08 Nov 2011

    8. [S01] Census, UK, 1911.
      age 27 b Folkestone

    9. [S05] The Times, death notice, 01 Aug 1956.

    10. [S14] National Probate Calendar.

    11. [S02] BMD Index, marriage reg Birkenhead, 3Q1878.