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ROBERT LOWTH (1710-1787)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 79 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROBERT LOWTH (1710-1787), English divine and Orientalist, was born at Winchester on the 27th of November 1710. He was the younger son of William Lowth (1661-1732), rector of Buriton, Hampshire, a theologian of considerable ability. Robert was educated on the foundation of Winchester College, and in 1729 was elected to a scholarship at New College, Oxford. He graduated M.A. in 1737, and in 1741 he was appointed professor of poetry at Oxford, in which capacity he delivered the Praelectiones Academicae de Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum. Bishop Hoadly appointed him in 1744 to the rectory of Ovington, Hampshire, and in 1750 to the archdeaconry of Winchester. In 1753 he was collated to the rectory of East Woodhay, Hampshire, and in the same year he published his lectures on Hebrew poetry. In 1754 he received the degree of doctor of divinity from his university, and in 1755 he went to Ireland for a short time as first chaplain to the lord-lieutenant, the 4th duke of Devonshire. He declined a presentation to the see of Limerick, but accepted a prebendal stall at Durham and the rectory of Sedgefield. In 1758 he published his Life of William of Wykeham; this was followed in 1762 by A Short Introduction to English Grammar. In 1765, the year of his election into the Royal Societies of London and Gottingen, he engaged in controversy with William Warburton on the book of Job, in which he was held by Gibbon to have had the advantage. In June 1766 Lowth was consecrated bishop of St David's, and about four months afterwards he was translated to Oxford, where he remained till 1777, when he became bishop of London and dean of the Chapel Royal. In 1778 appeared his last work, Isaiah, a new Translation, with a Preliminary Dissertation, and Notes, Critical, Philological, and Explanatory. He declined the archbishopric of Canterbury in 1783, and died at Fulham on the 3rd of November 1787. The Praelectiones, translated in 1787 by G. Gregory as Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, exercised a great influence both in England and on the continent. Their chief importance lay in the idea of looking at the sacred poetry as poetry and examining it by the ordinary standards of literary criticism. Lowth's aesthetic criticism was that of the age, and is now in great part obsolete, a more natural method having been soon after introduced by Herder. The principal point in which Lowth's influence has been lasting is his doctrine of poetic parallelism, and even here his somewhat mechanical classification of the forms of Hebrew sense-rhythm, as it should rather be called, is open to serious objections. Editions of the Lectures and of the Isaiah have been numerous, and both have been translated into German. A volume of Sermons and other Remains, with memoir by the topographer, Peter Hall (1802-1849), was published in 1834, and an edition of the Popular Works of Robert Lowth in 3 vols. appeared in 1843.
End of Article: ROBERT LOWTH (1710-1787)
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