John Dowden (1840 – 1910) was an Irish cleric and ecclesiastical historian.
He was born in Cork in 1840 as the fifth of five children by John Wheeler Dowden and Alicia Bennett. His famous brother was the poet, professor and literary critic Edward Dowden. Although his father was Presbyterian, John followed his mother by becoming an Anglican, although he attended both churches in his youth. When he was sixteen he became a student at Queen's College, Cork as a medical student. John began encountering health problems, problems which made it difficult to pursue his original career. In 1858, while contemplating a religious career, he enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin. He graduated in 1864 and was ordained as a deacon, moving to Sligo. In the same year he married, wedding a woman named Louisa Jones, by whom he would eventually father six children. John was ordained as a priest in 1865, and moved through a variety of positions slowly rising in prestige. John continued his studies and received a BD from Trinity College.
John Dowden was also a rising scholar. In 1886 was elected as the Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh, which position he held until his death in 1910. As a scholar, he was author of many works of thorough scholarship, including The Medieval Church in Scotland: its constitution, organisation and law (1910) and Bishops of Scotland: being notes on the lives of all the bishops, under each of the sees, prior to the Reformation (1912). Both were published posthumously by James Maclehose and Sons, Glasgow. The former, although extremely dated, is still regarded as one of the main starting points in medieval Scottish ecclesiastical history, and the latter remains to this day one of the most comprehensive guides to medieval Scottish episcopal prosopography. An earlier work, The Workmanship of the Prayer Book: In Its Literary and Liturgical Aspects, (London: Methuen, 1899) remains an indispensable analysis of the background to and ethos of the Book of Common Prayer.
- Dowden, Alice (1910) "Biographical sketch" in: Dowden, John: The Medieval Church in Scotland
- Strong, Rowan, "Dowden, John (1840–1910)", in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 accessed 27 Nov 2006
- Watt, D. E. R., "Scotland: Religion and Piety", in Steve Rigby (ed.), A Companion to Britain in the Later Middle Ages, (Oxford, 2003), pp. 396–410 (info on p. 396)
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