Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fowler, William (fl.1603)

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20
Fowler, William (fl.1603) by no contributor recorded

FOWLER, WILLIAM (fl. 1603), Scottish poet, has been doubtfully described as at one time pastor of Hawick, a living formerly held by Gavin Douglas. He was in France before 1581, whence, he wrote, he was driven by the Jesuits. In 1581 he published, with Robert Lekprewick, at Edinburgh, ' An Answer to the Calumnious Letter and erroneous propositiouns of an apostat named M. Jo. Hammiltoun.' The dedication, dated from Edinburgh 2 June 1581, is addressed to Francis, earl Bothwell. Fowler sets forth what he alleges to be the errors of Roman Catholicism, and claims acquaintance incidentally with the Earl of Crawford, Sir James Balfour, and other distinguished Scottish statesmen. He was subsequently prominent as a burgess of Edinburgh, and about 1590 became secretary to James VI's wife, Queen Anne. He was engaged in political negotiations with England, and in 1597 wrote an epitaph on his friend, Robert Bowes [q. v.], the English agent at Berwick. In 1603 he accompanied his royal mistress to England, and was reappointed not only her secretary but her master of requests. His leisure was always devoted to poetry, and soon after his arrival in London he enclosed two sonnets addressed to Arabella Stuart in a letter to the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury; they are printed in Nichols's ‘Progresses of James I,’ i. 250, 260–1. In September 1609 a grant was made him of two thousand acres in Ulster.

Fowler's sister married John Drummond, first laird of Hawthornden, and was mother of William Drummond, the poet [q. v.] Fowler seems to have left the chief part of his poetry, none of which has been published, to his nephew William. This consists of two volumes, entitled ‘The Tarantula of Love’ and ‘The Triumphs of Petrarch.’ The former is composed of seventy-two sonnets in the manner of the Italian sonneteers, and the latter is a somewhat diffuse translation from Petrarch. These manuscripts were presented by Drummond of Hawthornden to the university of Edinburgh in 1627. The esteem in which Fowler was held by his contemporaries is illustrated by the commendatory sonnets, including one by the king himself, prefixed to his poems. His style is marked by the verbal and sentimental affectation of the period, but it is not seldom scholarly and graceful.

[Masson's Life of William Drummond of Hawthornden, pp. 7–8; Register of Privy Council of Scotland, iv. 383, v. 423, vii. lxxxix, 330; Nichols's Progresses of James I, i. passim; Manuscripts of Fowler's poems in Edinburgh University Library; Scottish Descriptive Poems, edited by J. Leyden; Irving's Hist. of Scottish Poetry.]