A Study of the Hollow Earth

Exploring forgotten realms of literature

Reconsidering William Amos Miller, the Blind Writer

William Amos Miller at TypewriterIn a previous post I accused William Amos Miller, author of The Sovereign Guide: A Tale of Eden, of being disingenuous about his disabilities (both blindness and deafness) in order to drum up sale for his novel. A reader was kind enough to point me in the direction of some contemporary articles verifying Miller’s story, and proving me wrong:

The Remarkable Achievement of William Miller, Blind and Deaf

Autobiographical Sketch of William Amos Miller

What is very interesting is that the first article, published in the Los Angeles Herald (20 September 1903) got a few things wrong, which prompted Miller to write a correction of his life for The Silent Worker which appeared in April of 1904. Miller managed to attain some minor celebrity for himself, not as a writer of any particular work, but by virtue of being a blind and deaf man labouring in the field of letters, as well as engineering and craftwork. Appearing in The Sunday Supplement of the Los Angeles Herald, Miller is recorded as being a ‘devout Catholic’ and writer of a book of poetry,[1] which is, unfortunately, not true on either count. In the piece Miller wrote of himself, he asserts that his first published novel ‘A Tale of Eden’ (rather than The Sovereign Guide) ‘has had an extensive sale’ and that the mistaken impression of poetic Catholicness comes from Miller using some epigraphs from another blind poet (and school fellow of his) Richard T. O’Malley: ‘I am not a poet, and rarely ever sham verses even for my own use… I have published no works on Catholicity, though, on a scale, I may have assisted such publications.’[2] Miller never mentions the Los Angeles Herald or its mistakes. The Sovereign Guide itself is a story of pilgrimage by an unnamed narrator through the interior of the earth, which is the source of the biblical Eden. Miller’s treatment of Eden and church history strays wildly from contemporary Catholic beliefs, and had the author of the Herald column actually read The Sovereign Guide, he would not have mistaken Miller for aught else but a Protestant with strong connections to Spiritualism.

[1] J. Freeman Cook, ‘Remarkable Achievements of William Miller, Blind and Deaf’, Los Angeles Herald Sunday Supplement (20 September 1903), p. 2

[2] William Amos Miller, ‘Autobiographical Sketch of William Amos Miller; The Deaf-Blind Story Writer of Los Angeles’, The Silent Worker (vol. 16, no. 7), p. 107.

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