Elizabeth Singer Rowe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Elizabeth Rowe)
Jump to: navigation, search

Elizabeth Singer Rowe (born Elizabeth Singer) (1674–1737) was an English poet and novelist.

Life and works[edit]

Elizabeth Singer was the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Portnell and Walter Singer, a dissenting minister. Born in Ilchester, Somerset, England, she began writing at the age of 12, and at 19 began a correspondence with John Dunton, a bookseller and founder of the Athenian Society.

Between 1693 and 1696 she was the principal contributor of poetry to The Athenian Mercury, and many of these poems were reprinted in Poems on Several Occasions, also published by Dunton. This, her first collection, contains pastorals, hymns, an imitation of Anne Killigrew, and a "vehement defence of women's right to poetry,"[1] in which she defends women, "over'rul'd by the Tyranny of the Prouder Sex." The Thynnes, friends of Anne Finch, became her patrons. Courted by several men, notably Matthew Prior and Isaac Watts, she married the poet and biographer Thomas Rowe, 13 years her junior, in 1710. Their marriage was reportedly happy, but short: Thomas died of tuberculosis in 1715. She wrote the impassioned "On the death of Mr. Thomas Rowe", said to have been an inspiration for Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (1720).[2] In it she wrote, "For thee at once I from the world retire,/To feed in silent shades a hopeless fire," and she made good her word and retired to her father's house in Frome.

Rowe's father died in 1719 leaving her a considerable inheritance, half the annual income of which she gave to charity. Her literary production during these years was high, most of the published texts being devotional or moral. Though overly didactic to modern tastes, they were popular: her Friendship in Death went into sixty editions during the 18th century. Her work was praised at various times by Pope, Richardson, and Johnson. Despite her reputation as a bereaved recluse, Rowe maintained a wide and active correspondence and was closely involved in local concerns until she died of apoplexy at the age of 62.

After her death, other writers and the public emphasized on her virtuous reputation. In 1739 The Gentleman's Magazine wrote on Rowe in a three-part work, calling her the “Ornament of her Sex," [3] and John Duncombe's Feminiad (1754) praised both her character and her writing.[4] People held up Rowe and her chaste behaviour as an example of ideal femininity for other female writers. As late as 1803 an anonymous writer suggested that Rowe represented “Virtue and all her genuine beauty [that should] recommend her to the choice and admiration of a rising generation." [5]

Rowe's works continued to be popular and reprinted well into the 19th century, circulating on both sides of the Atlantic and frequently translated. Though her writings have not regained popularity with modern readers, scholars have recently given Rowe's work credit for being stylistically and thematically radical for her time.[6]


  • Poems on Several Occasions: Written by Philomela (John Dunton, 1696)
  • Contributor, Tonson's Poetical Miscellanies: the Fifth Part (1704)
  • Divine hymns and poems on several occasions ... by Philomela, and several other ingenious persons (1704; 2nd edition, A Collection of Divine Hymns and Poems [1709])
  • "On the death of Mr Thomas Rowe," Lintot's Poems on Several Occasions (1717); appended to 2nd edition of Alexander Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (1720)
  • Friendship in Death: in Twenty Letters from the Dead to the Living (1728)
  • Letters Moral and Entertaining (1729–32), a three-part series
  • The History of Joseph (1736, 8 books; expanded 10-book edition published posthumously, 1739)
  • Philomela: Poems by Mrs. Elizabeth Singer [now Rowe] of Frome (1737 [i.e. 1736]), pub. by Edmund Curll without consent
  • Devout Exercises of the Heart in Meditation and Soliloquy, Prayer and Praise (1737)
  • The Miscellaneous Works in Prose and Verse of Mrs Elizabeth Rowe (2 vols., 1739)



  • Backscheider, Paula. Elizabeth Singer Rowe and the Development of the English Novel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2013.
  • Blain, Virginia, et al., eds. "Rowe , Elizabeth (Singer)." The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1990. 925.
  • Greer, Germaine, et al., eds. "Elizabeth Singer." Kissing the Rod: an anthology of seventeenth-century women's verse. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1988. 383-95.
  • Lang, Bernhard. Libertine Libido – Mrs Rowe, in: Lang, Bernhard. Joseph in Egypt: A Cultural Icon from Grotius to Goethe. New Haven: Yale University Press 2009. 123-137.
  • Lonsdale, Roger ed. "Elizabeth Rowe (née Singer)." Eighteenth-Century Women Poets. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 45-52.
  • Pritchard, Jonathan. “Rowe , Elizabeth (1674–1737).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 7 Apr. 2007.
  • Stanton, Kamille Stone. "The Friendship Poetry of Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737): Usurping a Poetic Tradition on behalf of a Usurping Monarch." Interactions Spring, 2006: 105-119.


  1. ^ Virginia Blain, et al., eds. "Rowe , Elizabeth (Singer)." The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1990. 925.
  2. ^ Germaine Greer, et al., eds., Elizabeth Singer. Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-century Women's Verse (Farrar Staus Giroux, 1988), p. 383.
  3. ^ Richetti, John J., The Novel as Pious Polemic. Popular Fiction Before Richardson: Narrative Patterns 1700–1739 (Oxford: OUP, 1969).
  4. ^ Backscheider, Paula R. Elizabeth Singer Rowe and the Development of the English Novel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
  5. ^ Lady’s Monthly Museum, 1803.
  6. ^ Peter Walmsley, "Whigs in Heaven: Elizabeth Rowe’s Friendship in Death". Eighteenth-Century Studies. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011; Paula R. Backscheider, Elizabeth Singer Rowe and the Development of the English Novel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

External links[edit]