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Bowles was born at Northamptonshire and educated at Trinity College, Oxford, receiving his Batchelor of Arts in 1786 and Master of Arts in 1792. He was ordained deacon in 1788. He served as curate at Wiltshire (1788), rector at Chicklade (1795), Dumbleton (1797) and Bremhill, Wiltshire (1804). He became prebendary (1804) and canon residentiary (1828) at Salisbury Cathedral. Though he mostly led a city life as a clergyman and magistrate, his writings reveal a longing for rural retirement. Though his first work was well received by the early romantic poets, most of his work is no longer read. He is remembered for his long public argument with Byron, known as the "Pope-Bowles controversy", in which Byron, along with others like Thomas Campbell, ardently defended Pope's greatness and true rank among poets.
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