Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dow, Alexander

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DOW, ALEXANDER (d. 1779), historian and dramatist, a native of Crieff, Perthshire, was educated for a mercantile career. He is said to have quitted Scotland owing to a fatal duel, and to have worked his way as a common sailor to Bencoolen. There he became secretary to the governor, and was most strongly recommended to the patronage of the officials of the East India Company at Calcutta. He joined the army there as an ensign in the Bengal infantry on 14 Sept. 1760, and was rapidly promoted lieutenant on 23 Aug. 1763, and captain on 16 April 1764. He returned to England on leave in 1768, and published in that year two translations, ‘Tales translated from the Persian of Inatulla of Delhi’ and the ‘History of Hindostan, translated from the Persian of Ferishta.’ Both works had a great success, and in the following year Dow made his début as a dramatist with a tragedy entitled ‘Zingis,’ in five acts, which was acted with some success at Drury Lane. He then returned to India, and was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 25 Feb. 1769, and in 1772 published the continuation of his history of Hindostan to the death of Aurungzebe, with two dissertations, ‘On the Origin and Nature of Despotism in Hindostan,’ and ‘An Enquiry into the State of Bengal.’ In 1774 he again returned to England, and Garrick produced his second tragedy in verse at Drury Lane, entitled ‘Sethona.’ It was acted only for nine nights, and is said by Baker, in his ‘Biographia Dramatica,’ to be not really by Dow at all, but only to bear his name; for ‘he is said by those who knew him well to be utterly unqualified for the production of learning or of fancy, either in prose or verse.’ Dow returned once more to India, and died at Bhágalpur on 31 July 1779.

[Baker's Biographia Dramatica; Dodwell and Miles's Indian Army List.]

H. M. S.