Cowton, Robert (DNB00)

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COWTON, ROBERT (fl. 1300), Franciscan, was educated at the monastery of his order at Oxford, and then at Paris, where he became doctor in theology of the Sorbonne. The only positive date in his life is given in an entry in the register of the bishop of Lincoln (ap. Tanner, Bibl. Brit. p. 204), which states that on 26 July 1300 he was licensed to receive confessions in the archdeaconry of Oxford, whereas all the biographers give his ‘floruit’ as 1340. Bale states that he was ultimately raised to the archbishopric of Armagh, but this is a mistake. Cowton is said by Pits (De Angliæ Scriptoribus, § 527, p. 443) to have borne the distinguishing title among schoolmen of ‘doctor amœnus.’ This, no doubt (as is the case apparently with all the other titles of its kind), was not given him by contemporaries. His ‘Quæstiones’ on the four books of ‘Sentences’ of Peter Lombard must have enjoyed a wide popularity, at least in Oxford, to judge by the large number of manuscripts which still exist there. He also wrote ‘Quodlibeta Scholastica,’ ‘Disceptationes Magistrales,’ and ‘Sermones ad Crucem Sancti Pauli.’ Cowton is quoted as one of those who engaged in controversy relative to the conception of the Virgin Mary. Bale speaks as though he opposed the higher (or modern) view on the subject; but it is evident, considering the share which the Franciscan order took in the development of the doctrine of the immaculate conception, that the presumption is the other way; and this is, in fact, stated by Pits (l. c. pp. 443 et seq.) and Wadding (Scriptores Ordinis Minorum, p. 209, ed. Rome, 1806). Cowton is also cited by Wycliffe as the author of an abridgment of the theological works of Duns Scotus (Wycliffe, De Benedicta Incarnatione, ed. E. Harris, 1886, cap. iv. p. 57).

Out of seven manuscripts of the ‘Quæstiones Sententiarum’ in the college libraries at Oxford which bear Cowton's name, six offer the spelling ‘Cowton,’ and the remaining one has ‘Couton.’ The forms ‘Conton’ and ‘Cothon’ are manifest blunders, which seem to make their appearance first in Pits.

[Bale's Scriptt. Brit. Cat. v. 65, p. 424; cf. Sbaralea, supplement to Wadding's Scriptt. Ord. Min. p. 638 b.

R. L. P.