Benjamin Heath Malkin - A Father's Memoirs of His Child

A Father's Memoirs of His Child is an account of the life and death of Malkin's son Thomas Williams Malkin, who along with his brother Benjamin is described as a child prodigy with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He apparently learned to read as an infant, and taught himself to write at about age two by copying print in books. Malkin insists that he did not push Thomas but followed his lead and taught him subjects such as Latin or mathematics only by request. Thomas also invented an imaginary country called Allestone, including details of its history, geography and monetary system, and an elaborate (for a five-year-old) map. Much of this material is included in the book, partly as proof that Thomas acted independently and was not coerced to achievements.

The book was written in part because of a confrontation with a "medical expert" the day after Thomas' death. It was his stated belief that Thomas had died of so-called "water on the brain", citing Thomas' "large head" and high intelligence as symptomatic of this disease. In effect, he accused Malkin of causing his son's death through having allowed him to overindulge in mental activity. Thus, Malkin includes the medical details of Thomas' final illness. He also ordered an autopsy, which he says proved conclusively that Thomas died of inflammatory bowel disease and peritonitis, and that his brain was perfectly normal. Malkin's grief and frustration are expressed vividly in this part of the text.

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