Rowe, Elizabeth

, an English lady, celebrated for personal accomplishments, and her elegant writings both inverse and prose, was the daughter of Mr. Waiter Singer, a dissenting minister, and born at Ilchester in | Somersetshire, Sept. 11, 1674. Her father was possessed of a competent estate near Frome in that county, whhere he lived; but, being imprisoned at Ilchester for nonconformity, married and settled in that town. The daughter, whose talents in other respects appeared very early, began to write verses at twelve years of age. She was also fond of the sister-arts, music and painting; and her father was at the expence of a master, to instruct her in the latter. She was also early accustomed to devout exercises, in which her mind was sincere, ardent, and unconstrained: and this habit, which grew naturally from constitution, was also powerfully confirmed by education and example. She was early acquainted with the pious bishop Ken, who had a very high opinion of her: and, at his request, wrote her paraphrase on the 38th chapter of Job. In 1696, the 22d of her age, a collection of her poems was published: they were entitled “Poems on several occasions, by Philomela,” her name being concealed, but they contributed to introduce her to the public with great advantage.

She understood the French and Italian tongues well; for which, however, she had no other tutor than the hon. Mr. Thynne, son to lord Weymouth, who kindly took upon him the task of teaching her. Her uncommon merit, and the charms of her person and conversation, procured her many admirers; and, among others, it is said that Prior the poet made his addresses to her. There was certainly much of friendship, if not of love, between them; and Prior’s answer to Mrs, Roue’s, then Mrs. Singer’s, pastoral on those subjects, gives room to suspect that there was something more than friendship on his side. In the mean time, Mr. Thomas Rowe, the son of a dissenting clergyman, a gentleman of uncommon parts and learning, and also of some talents for poetry, was the successful suitor. She was advanced to the age of thirty-six, before their interview at Bath in 1709, and he was ten or twelve years younger. It appears, however, to have been a match of affection on both sides. Some considerable time after his marriage, he wrote to her under the name of Delia a very tender ode, full of the warmest sentiments of connubial friendship and affection: five years constituted the short period of their happiness. Mr. Rowe died of a consumption in May 1715, aged twenty-eight years, and was unfeignedly lamented by his amiable partner. The elegy she composed upon his death is one of her best poems. | It was only out of a regard to Mr. Rowe, that she had hitherto endured London in the winter-season, and therefore, on his decease, she retired to Frome, where her property chiefly lay, and where she wrote the greatest part of her works, Her “Friendship in Death, in twenty letters from the dead to the living,” was published in 1728; and her “Letters Moral and Entertaining” were printed, the first part in 1729, the second in 1731, and the third in 1733, 8vo, both written with the pious intention of exciting the careless and dissipated part of the world to an attention to their best interests, and written in a style considerably elegant, and perhaps at that time new, striking, copious, and luxuriant. In 1736, she published “The History of Joseph,” a poem, which she had written in her younger years. She did not long survive this publication; for she died of an apoplexy, as was supposed, Feb. 20, 1736-7, in the sixty-third year of her age. In her cabinet were found letters to several of her friends, which she had ordered to be delivered immediately after her decease, that the advice they contained might be the more impressive. The rev. Dr. Isaac Watts, agreeably to her request, revised and published her devotions in 1737, under the title of “Devout Exercises of the heart in Meditation and Soliloquy, Praise, and Prayer;” and, in 1739, her “Miscellaneous Works in prose and verse” were published in 2 vols. 8vo, with an account of her life and writings prefixed. These have often been reprinted, and still retain a considerable share of popularity. Her person is thus described: Although she was not a regular beauty, she possessed a large share of the charms of her sex. She was of a moderate stature, her hair of a fine colour, her eyes of a darkish grey inclining to blue, and full of fire. Her complexion was very fair, and a natural blush glowed in her cheeks. She spoke gracefully, her voice was exceedingly sweet and harmonious; and she had a softness in her aspect, which inspired love, yet not without some mixture of that awe and veneration which distinguished sense and virtue, apparent in the countenance, are wont to create. 1


Life prefixed to her Works. Biog. Brit.