Elizabeth Singer Rowe

(1674-1737 / England)

Biography of Elizabeth Singer Rowe

Elizabeth Rowe (née Singer) (1674–1737) was an English poet and novelist.

She was the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Portnell and Walter Singer, a dissenting minister. Born in Ilchester, Somerset, England, she began writing at the age of twelve and when she was nineteen, began a correspondence with John Dunton, bookseller and founder of the Athenian Society.

Between 1693 and 1696 she was the principal contributor of poetry to The Athenian Mercury, and many of these poems were reprinted in Poems on Several Occasions, also published by Dunton. This, her first collection, contains pastorals, hymns, an imitation of Anne Killigrew, and a "vehement defence of women's right to poetry," in which she defends women, "over'rul'd by the Tyranny of the Prouder Sex." The Thynnes, friends of Anne Finch, became her patrons. Courted by several men, notably Matthew Prior and Isaac Watts, she married poet and biographer Thomas Rowe, thirteen years her junior, in 1710. Their marriage was reportedly happy, but short: Thomas died of tuberculosis in 1715 and Elizabeth was inconsolable. She wrote the impassioned "On the death of Mr Thomas Rowe," said to have been an inspiration for Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (1720). In it, she wrote "For thee at once I from the world retire, / To feed in silent shades a hopeless fire," and indeed, made good her word and retired to her father's house in Frome.

Her father died in 1719 and left her a considerable inheritance, half the annual income of which she gave to charity. Her literary production during these years was high, and most of the texts she published were devotional or moral. Though modern tastes may find these writings overly didactic, they were popular: her Friendship in Death went into sixty editions through the eighteenth century. At various times Pope, Richardson, and Johnson each praised her work. Despite the reputation of being a bereaved recluse, Rowe maintained a wide and active correspondence and was closely involved in local concerns until she died of apoplexy at the age of sixty-two. Her works continued to be popular well into the nineteenth century, went through multiple editions, circulated on both sides of the Atlantic, and were frequently translated.

Elizabeth Singer Rowe's Works:

* Poems on Several Occasions: Written by Philomela (John Dunton, 1696)
* Contributor, Tonson's Poetical Miscellanies: the Fifth Part (1704)
* Divine hymns and poems on several occasions … by Philomela, and several other ingenious persons (1704; second edition, A Collection of Divine Hymns and Poems [1709])
* "On the death of Mr Thomas Rowe," Lintot's Poems on Several Occasions (1717); appended to the second edition of Alexander Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (1720)
* Friendship in Death: in Twenty Letters from the Dead to the Living (1728)
* Letters Moral and Entertaining (1729–32), a three-part series
* The History of Joseph (1736, 8 vols.; expanded 10 vol. edition published posthumously in 1739)
* Philomela: Poems by Mrs. Elizabeth Singer [now Rowe] of Frome (1737 [i.e. 1736]), pub. by Edmund Curll without consent
* Devout Exercises of the Heart in Meditation and Soliloquy, Prayer and Praise (1737)
* The Miscellaneous Works in Prose and Verse of Mrs Elizabeth Rowe (2 vols., 1739)

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On The Works Of Creation

Beauty complete, and majesty divine,
In all thy works, ador'd Creator, shine.
Where'er I cast my wond'ring eyes around,
The God I seek in ev'ry part is found.
Pursuing thee, the flow'ry fields I trace,
And read thy name on ev'ry spire of grass.
I follow thee thro' many a lonely shade,
And find thee in the solitary glade.
I meet thee in the kind, refreshing gale,

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