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Stephen, George Milner (1812–1894)

There are few grown-up people in Australia who do not remember the sensation which was caused a few years back by the debut as a faith healer of Mr George Milner Stephen. This gentleman died at his residence, Blyth-street, shortly before eight o'clock Tuesday morning (states the Age). For many years Mr Stephen has firmly expressed belief in his professed power to remove sickness and suffering by breathing upon the afflicted, and certainly when he toured the colonies some few years ago he received an enormous batch of letters from people whom he had attended, and who testified that his treatment had resulted successfully. When he reached the zenith of his prosperity as a faith healer he made up his mind to visit Great Britain, and when in London circumstances cropped up which led to his being introduced to Marlborough House, and there he met the Prince and Princess of Wales, who had previously heard of his reputed success as a healer by faith. His Royal Highness at the time happened to be suffering from some trivial complaint, and Mr Stephen was offered an opportunity of demonstrating the efficacy of his remedy, but whether his breath freed the prince from pain is not recorded. He used to talk freely of the peculiar manner in which he became possessed of the belief that he had power to remove or reduce pain by breathing upon a subject. He was travelling on circuit as a barrister with a companion who was suddenly taken ill, and the idea struck him without anything having occurred to suggest it beyond his friend's illness that he should try the faith-healing process. The experiment, it is stated, was most successful, for his fellow-traveller experienced relief, and heartily thanked Mr Stephen for his kind offices. Mr Stephen used to like to tell the tale of his wonderful discovery. "In a few seconds," he would say, "I recognised that I was one of the few people who were endowed with the healing power. I tried it again and again, with greater success than before, and I made up my mind to use my power to its fullest capacity." He laid no claim to any knowledge of medicine. Considering his professed belief in faith healing it is a rather paradoxical to hear that he suffered terribly himself for many years prior to his death.

Milner Stephen was the fifth son of the late John Stephen, formerly Judge in New South Wales, and younger brother of Sir Alfred Stephen, the ex-Lieutenant-Governor of the same colony. In South Australia he became a member of the Legislative Council in 1838, acting as Advocate-General for five months in that year. As senior member of the Legislative Council in Adelaide he filled the position of Acting-Governor of the colony during the period between the departure of Captain Sir John Hindmarsh, whose daughter he married, and the arrival of Colonel Gawler in 1838. From October in that year to July of the following year, Mr Stephen officiated as Colonial Secretary. Subsequently he became involved in some criminal charges in connection with land speculation at Port Gawler, but was acquitted. Then he commenced an action against the South Australian Conservative organ, the Register, for having made what he considered to be libellous comments upon his conduct, but failed to obtain a verdict. He entered as a student at Middle Temple in June, 1842, and was called to the English bar two and a half years later, and to that of New South Wales in April, 1852.

Having suffered severely from an internal affection, it was deemed advisable by his medical attendants, Dr. Stewart and O’Hara, to perform an operation upon him. Last Saturday evening the operation was successfully performed, and it seemed for a time as though the patient would regain his strength, but on Monday Mr Stephen took a turn for the worse, and died on the following morning. His wife died in London about six years ago. He leaves three grown-up sons, one of whom occupies a prominent position in the New South Wales Audit Department.

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'Stephen, George Milner (1812–1894)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/stephen-george-milner-1294/text1286, accessed 21 November 2017.

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