Lowth, William (DNB00)

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LOWTH, WILLIAM, D.D. (1660–1732), theologian, the son of William Lowth, citizen and apothecary, who was ‘burnt out with great loss’ at the fire of London (Gent. Mag. 1787, ii. 1028), was born in the parish of St. Martin's, Ludgate, London, on 3 Sept. 1660, and after preparatory education under his grandfather, the Rev. Simon Lowth, rector of Tilehurst, Berkshire, was admitted at Merchant Taylors' School on 11 Sept. 1672 (Robinson, Registers of Merchant Taylors' School, xi. 227). He was elected scholar of St. John's College, Oxford, on 11 June 1675, and in due course became fellow. He graduated B.A. in 1679, M.A. 1683, and B.D. 1688. His first published work was a ‘Vindication of the Divine Authority of the Old and New Testaments,’ London, 1692, a defence of the inspiration of holy scripture against the attacks of Le Clerc. This work brought him under the favourable notice of Peter Mew [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, who made him his chaplain, gave him a prebendal stall at Winchester on 8 Oct. 1696, and presented him to the benefice of Buriton with Petersfield, Hampshire, in 1699, which living he held till his death. A second edition of the ‘Vindication,’ with a dissertation on the objections to the Pentateuch then current, was published in 1699. In 1708 he brought out ‘Directions for the profitable Study of Holy Scripture,’ an admirable little work which has gone through many editions. The work with which Lowth's name is most connected is his ‘Commentary on the Prophets,’ originally published in separate portions between 1714 and 1725, and afterwards collected in a folio volume as a continuation of Bishop Patrick's ‘Commentary on the Earlier Books of the Old Testament,’ in which connection it has been frequently reprinted, together with the commentaries of Whitby, Arnald, and Lowman on the New Testament. The value of his commentary was never very great, and it has been long since entirely superseded. Its tone is pious but cold, and he fails to appreciate the spiritual and poetical character of the prophetical writings, while he is far too eager to discover Messianic interpretations. His knowledge of Hebrew was moreover inadequate. At the same time his exegesis, if shallow, is simple, direct, and brief. The commentary has been highly praised by Bishop Richard Watson and by William Orme (Bibl. Brit.). Though less eminent than his son, Robert Lowth [q. v.], the bishop of London, he was believed to be the profounder scholar. But he was too diffident to undertake any considerable original work, and the wide range and accuracy of his learning was chiefly shown in his contributions to the publications of others. We are told that he carefully read and annotated almost every Greek and Latin author, classical or ecclesiastical, and the stores he had thus collected he dispensed ungrudgingly. The edition of Clemens Alexandrinus by Dr. John Potter [q. v.] (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury), that of Josephus by John Hudson [q. v.], and that of the early ecclesiastical historians by William Reading [q. v.], were enriched with valuable notes from his pen, and many other scholars received important help from him. He was a constant correspondent of Edward Chandler [q. v.], bishop of Durham, when engaged on his controversy with Collins the deist. He married Margaret, daughter of Robert Pitt of Blandford, Dorset, by whom he left two sons (of whom the younger, Robert [q. v.], is separately noticed) and three daughters. He died at Buriton on 17 May 1732, and was buried there.

[Biographia Britannica; Hearne's Collect. ed. Doble, ii. 49, 155; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Hook's Eccles. Biog. vii. 75; Darling's Cyclop. Bibl. col. 1875; McClintock and Strong's Cyclopædia, v. 534.]

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