Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowan, Frederica Maclean

ROWAN, FREDERICA MACLEAN (1814–1882), author and translator, was born in the West Indies on 22 April 1814. Her father, Frederick Rowan, a brother of Sir Charles Rowan [q. v.] and Sir William Rowan [q. v.], was a brevet major in the 4th West India regiment, and died on 19 Oct. 1814. Her mother, whose maiden name was Prom, came from Bergen in Norway, and after Major Rowan's death, while still a very young widow, went to live in Copenhagen, moving thence, with her two daughters, to Weimar, where Goethe still resided, thence to Paris, and ultimately to London. Miss Rowan thus possessed full mastery of four languages, and acquired a very varied culture. In 1844 she published a ‘History of the French Revolution: its Causes and Consequences,’ and about the same time contributed to Chambers's ‘Tracts for the People.’ In 1847 she published a volume of selections from modern French authors, and in 1851 short popular histories of England and Scotland. After this she mainly restricted herself to translations: ‘The Educational Institutions of the United States’ from the Swedish of Siljeström (1853), ‘The Life of Schleiermacher’ from the German (1860), two or three political pamphlets on German affairs, and a good deal of work for the public departments. But the most noteworthy of her translations were the two volumes of selections from the ‘Stunden der Andacht,’ generally attributed to Zschokke. Zschokke's book had been a favourite with the prince consort, and after his death the queen made a selection from it, commissioning Miss Rowan to translate the selected passages, and herself revising the translation. At first the book was printed for private circulation only, but afterwards the queen authorised its publication, and the first volume, entitled ‘Meditations on Death and Eternity,’ appeared with this prefatory note: ‘The Meditations contained in this volume form part of the well-known German devotional work, “Stunden der Andacht,” published in the beginning of the present century, and generally ascribed to Zschokke. They have been selected for translation by one to whom, in deep and overwhelming sorrow, they have formed a source of comfort and edification.’ This volume appeared in 1862. In the following year appeared a further volume of selections from Zschokke, entitled ‘Meditations on Life and its Religious Duties,’ the selections being again made, in part at least, by the queen.

Miss Rowan acted for some years as secretary to Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid [q. v.], and was of assistance to him in his parliamentary and philanthropic work. She had great social gifts, and her friends were many She was not an advocate of the political emancipation of women. During the later years of her life she became a Swedenborgian. She died at 20 Fulham Place, London, on 23 Oct. 1882.

[Obituary notice signed J. J. G. W. (J. J. Garth Wilkinson) in Morning Light, 25 Nov. 1882, and private information; Athenæum, 1882, ii. 566; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1894, ii. 1750; Mrs. Andrew Crosse's Red Letter Days, 1892, ii. 317.]

F. T. M.