Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bowle, John (1725-1788)

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BOWLE, JOHN (1725–1788), writer on Spanish literature, and called by his friends Don Bowle, was descended from Dr. John Bowle, bishop of Rochester [q. v.] He was born on 26 Oct. 1725. He was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, and became M.A. in 1750. He was elected F.S.A. in 1776. Having entered orders, he obtained the vicarage of Idmiston (spelt Idemeston in his 'Don Quixote,' Salisbury, 1781, 6 vols. 4to), in Wiltshire, where he died on 26 Oct. 1788, the day of his birth, aged 63.

Bowle was an ingenious scholar of great erudition and varied research in obscure and ancient literature. In addition to his knowledge of the classics, he was well acquainted with French, Spanish, and Italian, and had accumulated a large and valuable library, sold in 1790. He was a member of Dr. Johnson's Essex Head Club. He preceded Dr. Douglas in detecting Lauder's forgeries, and had, according to Douglas, the justest claim to be considered their original discoverer. He published in 1765 miscellaneous pieces of ancient English poetry, containing Shakespeare's 'King John,' and some of the satires of Marston. In 1777 he printed 'a letter to the Rev. Dr. Percy concerning a new and classical edition of "Historia del valoroso Cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha," to be illustrated by annotations and extracts from the historians, poets, and romances of Spain and Italy, and other writers, ancient and modern, with a glossary and indexes in which are occasionally interspersed some reflections on the learning and genius of the author, with a map of Spain adapted to the history, and to every translation of it,' 4to. He gave also an outline of the life of Cervantes in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' 1781, li. 22, and circulated proposals to print the work by subscription. It appeared in 1781, in six 4to vols., the first four containing the text, the fifth the notes, and the sixth the indexes. The whole work is written in Spanish. Its reception was unfavourable, except in Spain, where it called forth hearty approval from many of the best writers of the day, including Don Antonio Pellicer, the earliest and best commentator on 'Don Quixote.' In 1784 Bowle complained in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' of his critics, and in 1785 he published 'Remarks on the extraordinary conduct of the Knight of the Ten Stars and his Italian Squire, to the editor of Don Quixote. In a letter to J. S., D.D.,' 8vo. The pamphlet was directed against Joseph Baretti, who retorted in an anonymous pamphlet full of bitter personalities, entitled 'Tolondron, speeches to John Bowle about his edition of Don Quixote,' 8vo, 1786. Bowle wrote frequently under various signatures in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' contributed to Granger's 'History,' Steevens's edition of 'Shakespeare,' 1778, and Warton's 'History of Poetry.' In 'Archæeologia,' vi. 76, are his remarks on the ancient pronunciation of the French language; in vii. 114, on some musical instruments mentioned in 'Le Roman de la Rose;' in viii. 67, on parish registers; and in viii. 147, on playing cards.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 553, iii. 160, 670, vi. 182, viii. 660, 667; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Gent. Mag. liv. lv. lviii. 1029; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Nichols's Lit. Illust. vi. 382, 402, 403, 411, vii. 592, viii. 165, 169, 193, 274; Granger's Letters, 1805, pp. 37-47; Nicolas's Life of Ritson, p. xxii; Epistolarium Bowleanum, manuscript in the possession of A. J. Duffield, Esq.]

J. M.