Rowe, Harry (DNB00)

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ROWE, HARRY (1726–1800), ‘emendator of Shakespeare,’ the son of poor parents, was born at York in 1726. He served as trumpeter to the Duke of Kingston's light horse, and was present at the battle of Culloden in 1746, after which he attended the high sheriffs of Yorkshire in the capacity of trumpeter to the assizes for upwards of forty years. He eked out a scanty subsistence as a puppet showman, travelling far and wide in Scotland and the north of England. His devotion to his old parents commended him to the notice of John Croft [q. v.], the popular wine merchant and virtuoso of York, who got up a subscription for him, and caused to be printed for his benefit ‘Macbeth, with Notes by Harry Rowe, York, printed for the Annotator, 1797, 8vo.’ The edition was gratefully dedicated to those patrons who had ‘raised the puppet-master from abject poverty to ease, comfort, and content.’ A second edition, with a portrait of Rowe, appeared in 1799. The so-called ‘emendations’ were probably inspired by Croft, and were intended to raise a laugh at the expense of the accredited commentators. The alterations are based, the reader is informed, upon ‘a careful perusal of a very old manuscript in the possession of my prompter, one of whose ancestors, by the mother's side, was rush-spreader and candle-snuffer at the Globe Play-house, as appears from the following memorandum on a blank page of the MS.: this day, March the fourth, 1598, received the sum of seven shillings and fourpence for six bundles of rushes and two pairs of brass snuffers.

In 1797 also appeared, in Rowe's name, ‘No Cure No Pay; or the Pharmacopolist, a musical farce,’ York, 8vo, in which some amusing sarcasm is levelled against empirics, with diplomas both sham and genuine, who are represented by Drs. Wax, Potion, and Motion, and the journeyman Marrowbone. Prefixed is an engraved portrait of Rowe, which is reproduced in Chambers's ‘Book of Days.’ In some copies Rowe is represented with a copy of ‘Macbeth’ in his hand, and a puppet-show in the background, with the legend ‘A manager turned author.’ The annotations were again furnished by ‘a friend,’ probably Croft, who, shortly after Rowe's death in York poorhouse, on 2 Oct. 1800, issued ‘Memoirs of Harry Rowe, constructed from materials found in an old box after his decease,’ the profits of which were devoted to the York Dispensary. A copy of Rowe's ‘Macbeth,’ in the Boston Public Library, contains some manuscript notes by its former owner, Isaac Reed [q. v.], including an erroneous ascription of the annotations to Dr. Andrew Hunter [q. v.]

[R. Davies's York Press, 1868, p. 309; Boyne's Yorkshire Library; Gent. Mag. 1800, ii. 1010; Baker's Biogr. Dramatica, 1812, i. 607; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xi. 317, 398; Chambers's Book of Days, ii. 436; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. Bohn), p. 2135.]

T. S.