Lowth, Robert

Lowth, Robert D.D., a distinguished English prelate, and son of William Lowth (q.v.), was born at Buriton November 27, 1710. In 1737 he graduated master of arts at Oxford University, and in 1741 was elected professor of poetry in his alma mater. Entering the ecclesiastical order, he was presented with the rectory of Ovington, in Hampshire, in 1744. After a four year's residence on the Continent, he was, on his return in 1750, appointed by bishop Hoadley archdeacon of Winchester, and three years after to the rectory of East Woodhay in Hampshire. It was in this very year that Lowth published his valuable work De Sacra Poesi Hebrceorum, Praedectiones Academicae (Oxon. 1753, 4to; 2d edit. with annot. by Michaelis, Götting. 1758; Oxf. 1763; Gotting, 1768; Oxford, 1775, 1810; with notes by Rosenmüller, Leips. 1815; and last and best, Oxford, 1821, 8vo). An English translation of the first 18 lectures was prepared by Dr. Dodd for the Christian Magazine (1766-67), and of all by Dr. Gregory (Lond. 1787,1816, 1835, 1839, 1847); a still more desirable English translation was prepared by Prof. Stowe (Andover, 1829, 8vo). "In these masterly and classical dissertations," says Ginsburg (in Kitto, Cycl. Of Bibl. Lit. 2, s.v.), "Lowth not only evinces a deep knowledge of the Hebrew language, but philosophically exhibits the true spirit and characteristics of that poetry in which the prophets of the O.T. clothed the lively oracles of God. It does not at all detract from Lowth's merits that both Abrabanel and Azariah de Rossi had pointed out two centuries before him the same features of Hebrew poetry [see Rossi] upon which he expatiates, inasmuch as the enlarged views and the invincible arguments displayed in his handling of the subject are peculiarly his own; and his work is therefore justly regarded as marking a new epoch in the treatment of the Hebrew poetry. The greatest testimony to the extraordinary merits of these lectures is the thorough analysis which the celebrated [Jewish] philosopher Mendelssohn, to whom the Hebrew was almost vernacular gives of them in the Bibliothek der schnszen Wissenschaften und derfreien Künste, volume 1:1756." In 1751 Lowth received the degree of doctor in divinity from the University of Oxford by diploma. In 1755 he went to Ireland as chaplain to the marquis of tlartington, then appointed lord lieutenant, who nominated him bishop of Limerick, a preferment which he exchanged for a prebend of Durham and the rectory of Sedgefield. In 1766 Dr. Lowth was appointed bishop of St. David's, whence a few months later he was translated to the see of Oxford, and thence, in 1777, he succeeded Dr. Terrick in the diocese of London. In 1778, only one year after his appointment at London, he gave to the public his last and greatest work, Isaiah: a new Translation, with a preliminary Dissertation, and Notes (13th edit. 1842, 8vo). This elegant and beautiful version of the evangelical prophet, of which learned men in every part of Europe have been unanimous in their eulogiums, and which is alone sufficient to transmit his name to posterity, aimed "not only to give an exact and faithful representation of the words and sense of the prophet by adhering closely to the letter of the text, and treading as nearly as may be in his footsteps, but, moreover, to imitate the air and manner of the author, to express the form and fashion of the composition, and to give the English reader some notion of the peculiar turn and cast of the original." In the elaborate and valuable Preliminary Dissertation where bishop Lowth states this, he enters more minutely than in his former production into the form and construction of the poetical compositions of the O.T., lays down principles of criticism for the improvement of all subsequent translations, and frankly alludes to De Rossi's view of Hebrew poetry, which is similar to his own. See Rossi. This masterly work soon obtained a European fame, and was not only rapidly reprinted in England, but was translated into German by professor Koppe, who added some valuable notes to it (Götting. 1779-81, 4 volumes, 8vo). It must not, however, be presumed that the work did not meet also with opposition, so far as the views of the author could lead to difference in opinion; and we incline with Dr. G.B. Cheever to the belief that Lowth's "only fault as a sacred critic was a degree of what archbishop Seeker denominated the 'rabies emendandi,' or rage for textual and conjectural emendations. The prevalence of this spirit in his work on Isaiah was the only obstacle that prevented its attaining the name and rank, as classic in sacred literature, which has been accorded to the Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews" (North Amer. Rev. 31:376; comp. here Horne, Bibl. Bib. 1839, 287). On the death of archbishop Cornwallis, the primacy was offered to Dr. Lowth, a dignity which he declined on account of his advanced age and family afflictions. In 1768 he lost his eldest daughter, and in 1783 his second daughter suddenly expired while presiding at the tea-table; his eldest son was also suddenly cut off in the prime of life. Bishop Lowth himself died November 3, 1787. The other and minor writings of bishop Lowth, consisting of (1) Tracts, belonging to his controversy with bishop Warburton (q.v.), to which a trifling difference of opinion on the book of Job gave rise: — (2) Life of William of Wyckham (1758): — (3) Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762). The Sermons and other Remains of Bishop Lowth were published with an Introductory Memoir by the Reverend Peter Hall, A.M. (London, 1834, 8vo). See Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the late Bp. Lowth (Lond. and Gotting. 1787, 8vo); Blackwood's Magazine, 29:765, 902; Gentl. Magazine, 57, 58, etc.; Kitto, Journal of Sac. Lit. 1:94, 295; 5:373; 17:138; Engl. Cyclop. s.v.; Darling, Eccles. Biog. 2:1873; Hook, Eccles. Biog. s.v.; and especially Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Am. Auth. volume 2, s.v.

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