Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0909. Thursday, 10 November 1994.
From: Daniel Traister <
Date: Wednesday, 9 Nov 1994 12:23:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Death of William E. Miller
William E. Miller, former assistant curator of the Furness Memorial
(Shakespeare) Library, Department of Special Collections, Van Pelt- Dietrich
Library, University of Pennsylvania, died Tuesday afternoon, November 8, 1994,
after a long illness.
Students, faculty, and other readers and scholars who, occasionally or
routinely, use Furness's resources for their work on Shakespeare, his
contemporaries, and later theater history, all owe a great deal to Bill
Miller's devotion in the care and building of this collection over many years.
Many readers who experienced his helpfulness in person will have an especially
clear sense of their debt to him.
In days before a librarian was curator of the Furness Library, and when the
collection was still presided over by faculty who also served as curators, he
assisted curator-professors Matthew W. Black, Matthias A. Shaaber, and Roland
Mushat Frye. He trained Professor Frye's successor as curator, Georgianna
Ziegler (now head of reference at the Folger Shakespeare Library in
Washington), who--during her years at Penn, where she earned her B.A., her
M.A., and her Ph.D.--worked as his student assistant.
Dr. Miller's own Ph.D. also came from Penn ('57). In addition, he earned an
M.Ed. ('50) and an M.A. ('51; English) from Penn. He worked and pub- lished on
Abraham Fleming, one of the Elizabethan editors of Holinshed's *Chronicles*,
and his work with the Furness Library took advantage of this background of
immersion in the period and in Shakespeare's sources. He had earlier studied
classics as an undergraduate at Haverford College ('32) and as a graduate
student at Princeton University, and language skills assisted his work (again
under the direction of faculty curators) with Penn's Henry Charles Lea Library,
a collection specializing in the history of the late middle ages and early
modern period. He served for many years, as well, as editor of *The Library
Chronicle* [of the University of Pennsylvania].
Readers will note the hiatus between his work as a classicist in the 1930s and
as an English literature student in the 1950s. As was true for many people of
his generation, Dr. Miller's graduate studies were interrupted by service in
the United States Army during World War II, in which he was both an enlisted
man and, later, an officer. After the War, his interests and the focus of
his studies changed.
Following his retirement from his curatorial position, Dr. Miller con- tinued
to work for the Library. Until the week before his death he was still
performing duties for the Acquisitions Department at Van Pelt Library.
Friends will want to know that, despite his illness, he died peacefully and
without struggle, and--as he had requested--without "heroic" efforts at
intervention, at about 3:15 yesterday afternoon. He had, just days before his
death, left his apartment for a care facility near the Library run by
Philadelphia's Presbyterian Hospital; friends and medical staff were with him
at that Hospital when he died. Dr. Miller had requested no burial and left his
body "to science"; in accordance with his final wishes, his eyes (at least)
have already gone to someone who needed them. He wanted, even in death, to be
of help and use to others.
William Miller leaves no immediate survivors. Plans for a memorial service are
not yet settled.