Bowring, Sir John, Lld
Bowring, Sir John, LL.D., a modern hymn-writer, was born at Exeter, England, Oct. 17, 1792. He exhibited unusual intellectual precocity in his youth, and had a remarkable aptitude for acquiring modern languages. His first attempt at authorship was in the publication of his translations of the popular poetry of Russia, Holland, and Spain. Subsequently he published translations from the poetry of writers in Poland, Servia, Hungary, Portugal, Iceland and Bohemia. After the death of Jeremy Bentham, he published an edition of the works of that distinguished writer on political economy, and also wrote his biography. The works thus collected are included in eleven vols. 8vo, and were issued in 1843. When the Westminster Review came into existence, he was appointed its first editor, and himself wrote largely for it on matters pertaining to parliamentary reform and free trade. He published, in 1833, Matins and Vespers, with Hymns, a collection of original poetry, chiefly of a devotional character. With Villiers, he prepared a work On the Commercial Relations between France and Great Britain (1834-35, 2 vols.). He extended his inquiries in a similar direction in connection with the countries of Switzerland, Italy, the Levant and Germany. He was a member of Parliament for two years (1835-37), and again for eight years (1841-49). He was a warm advocate of liberal opinions, and one of the counsel of the anti-corn-law league. He filled a high diplomatic position in China, having been appointed, in 1849, British consul at Canton, and afterwards acting plenipotentiary. On his return to England he published, in 1853, two volumes in which he strongly advocated the decimal system of coinage. He was knighted in 1854, and made governor of Hong Kong. Coming under the censure of Parliament on account of the course he pursued in the bombardment of the Chinese forts in 1856, he was recalled. Having been sent to Siam to conclude a treaty of commerce with that kingdom, he published his Kingdom of Siam and its People (Lond. 1857, 2 vols.), and not long after he published A Visit to the Philippine Islands in 1858-59. The hymn by which Sir John Bowring is best known is the one commencing
"Watchman, tell us of the night, What its signs of promise are,"
written in 1825. He died Nov. 22, 1872. See Butterworth, Story of the Hymns, p. 128; Belcher, Historical Sketches of Hymns, p. 95; Appleton's New Encyclop. 3, 169. (J. C. S.)