Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knowler, William

KNOWLER, WILLIAM (1699–1773), divine, third son of Gilbert Knowler, gent., of Stroud House, at Herne in Kent, was baptised on 9 May 1699 (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, ii. 129). He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. in 1720, M.A. in 1724, and LL.D. in 1728. On leaving Cambridge, Knowler became chaplain to Thomas Watson Wentworth, then Lord Malton, who was in 1746 created Marquis of Rockingham. Lord Malton had inherited the papers of his great-grandfather, Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford [q. v.], and charged his chaplain with the task of publishing a selection from them. This appeared in 1739 under the title of ‘The Earl of Strafford's Letters and Despatches,’ London, 2 vols. folio. They were selected, says Knowler, in the dedication he addressed to his patron, by Lord Malton himself, and published according to his instructions, in order to vindicate Strafford's memory from ‘the aspersions of acting upon arbitrary principles, and being a friend to the Roman catholics.’ It is possible that the editor derived some assistance from an ‘Essay on Epistolary Writings with respect to the Grand Collection of Thomas, Earl of Strafford,’ which William Oldys had written in 1729, and dedicated to Lord Malton (Thoms, Memoir of William Oldys, 1862, p. viii; Bolton Corney, Curiosities of Literature Illustrated, p. 113). Knowler was presented by his patron, first to the living of Irthlingborough, or Artleburrow, between Wellingborough and Higham Ferrers, and afterwards to the living of Boddington, both in Northamptonshire (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 129). In 1766 he prepared for the press a translation of Chrysostom's ‘Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians,’ which was never printed (ib. ii. 130). He died in December 1773.

A pedigree kindly communicated by the Rev. T. W. Openshaw of Bristol describes Knowler as marrying Mary Dalton in 1749. Nichols, quoting the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (lxxv. 90), describes Mrs. Knowler as the daughter of Mr. Presgrove, surgeon in Westminster, and states that she died in 1805 (ib. viii. 401). This may have been a second wife. A letter from Knowler to the Rev. John Lewis is printed by Nichols in ‘Illustrations of Literature,’ iv. 427; others relating to the publication of the ‘Strafford Papers’ will be published in the next volume of the ‘Camden Miscellany,’ from manuscripts of Knowler's in the possession of the author of this article.

[Authorities cited.]

C. H. F.