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The Scottish Nation

BOWER, a surname, contracted from Bowmaker, originally from England. In former times, before the invention of gunpowder, a bowmaker was a very honourable and lucrative profession, and on being assumed as a surname, it was in process of time shortened into Bower. There was an ancient family, Bower of Kinnettles in Angus, who, like all of a similar surname, carried bows in their arms as relative to the name. In the accounts of the lord high treasurer of Scotland, under date 2d December 1532, there is the following entry: “Item, to the Inglise (English) Bowar for ane dozane of bowis and six dosane of arrows deliverit at the kingis command to Alexander Canosoune, and for four dosane of arrowis deliverit to the kingis grace for his ane schuting, xx lb.” In the history of the Cowrie conspiracy occurs the name of James Bower, called Laird Bower, a ‘servitor’ of Logan of Restalrig, who was employed to convey letters between Logan and the earl of Gowrie, and having shown some of them to one George Sprott, a notary in Eyemouth, the latter was executed eight years afterwards for concealment of the plot. The English name Bowyer is the same as Bower. Playfair conjectures [Antiquities, vol. vi. p. 436] that the word is composed of the Gothic word Boo or Bow, used to express a dwelling, a farm-house, or village, and the Saxon Er, an inhabitant, as Bower or Bowyer, the inhabitant of a house or village. In the Orkney islands, where the Gothic was long preserved in greater purity than any other part, the principal farmhouse on an estate is, in many instances, called a bow, and in Ayrshire the tenant of a diary is called a Bower. The English name of Bowes, now borne by the earl of Strathmore, (See STRATHMORE, earl of) seems to have been derived from the same trade. It will be recollected that the first wife of John Knox was named Marjory Bowes.

BOWER, WALTER, the continuator of Fordun’s Scotichroicon, was born at Haddington in 1385. At the age of 18 he assumed the religious habit, and after finishing his philosophical and theological education he went to Paris, to study the civil and canon law. After his return to Scotland, he was unanimously elected abbot of St. Colm in 1418. On the death of Fordun, the historian, Sir David Stewart of Rossyth requested him to transcribe and complete the Scotichronicon, or chronicler of Scotland, which had been brought down only to the 23d chapter of the fifth book. Bower readily undertook the task, and instead of executing a mere transcript, he inserted large interpolations in the body of the work, and continued the narrative to the death of James the First, completing it in sixteen books. The materials for this continuation had, however, principally been collected by his predecessor. This work, the result of the joint labours of Fordun and Bower, was useful to Hector Boece in writing his history; and on the Scotichronicon almost all the early histories of Scotland are founded. – Irving’s Scots Poets. – See FORDUN.

BOWER, ARCHIBALD, an author of talents and industry, but of very equivocal religious character, was born at or near Dundee, January 17, 1686. His parents were respectable Roman Catholics; and in September 1702, when he was sixteen years of age, they sent him to the Scots college of Douay; whence he was removed to Rome, and in 1706 he was admitted into the order of the Jesuits. After a noviciate of two years he went to Fano, where he taught the classics, and in 1717 he was recalled to Rome, to study divinity in the Roman college. In 1721 he was sent to the college of Arezzo, and made reader of philosophy and consultor to the rector of the college. He was then removed to Florence, where he made his last vows. He afterwards went to the college at Macerata, where he was chosen a professor, and where, according to his own account, he was a counsellor and secretary to the court of Inquisition. If we are to believe his own statement, he here became disgusted at the enormities committed by the Inquisition; but his enemies assert that, forgetting his vows of celibacy, he engaged in an amourous intrigue with a nun, to whom he was confessor. Certain it is that, in 1726, he was obliged to leave Macerata for Perugia, and from thence he secretly made his escape to England, where he arrived in June or July of that year, after, by his own account, meeting with many extraordinary adventures, which are to be found detailed in the Edinburgh Magazine for 1785, p. 138.

      On his arrival in England, he got introduced to Dr. Aspinwall, who, like himself, had formerly belonged to the order of the Jesuits, and Dr. Clark. After several conferences with these gentlemen, and some with Dr. Berkeley, bishop of Cloyne, then dean of Londonderry, he professed himself a convert to the Protestant faith, quitted the order of the Jesuits, and withdrew himself entirely from all connection with the Roman Catholic church. This took place in November 1726, but it was not till six years after that he openly conformed to the Church of England. By Dr. Aspinwall’s means, he became known to many persons of influence and respectability; among others, he was introduced to Dr. Goodman, physician to George the First, and by him recommended to Lord Aylmer, who wanted some one to assist him in reading the classics. The education of two of his lordship’s children was also confided to his care. With this nobleman he continued several years on terms of the greatest intimacy, and was by him made known to all his lordship’s connections, and particularly to the Hon. George, afterwards Lord Lyttleton, who subsequently became his warm, steady, and to the last, when deserted by almost every other person, his unalterable friend. During the time he lived with Lord Aylmer, he undertook, for Mr. Prevost, a bookseller, the ‘Historia Literaria,’ a monthly review of books, the first number of which was published in 1730. In 1735 he agreed with the proprietors of the ‘Universal History’ to write part of that work, and he was employed upon it till 1744, being nine years. The money he gained by these occupations he paid or lent to Mr. Hill, a Jesuit, who transacted money matters, as an attorney; and it appears, from undoubted evidence, that this was done by way of peace-offering to the society, into which he was re-admitted about 1744. Subsequently, repenting of the engagement he had made with his old associates, the Jesuits, he claimed and recovered the money he had advanced to them.

      In 1746 he put forth proposals for publishing, by subscription, a ‘History of the Popes;’ a work which, he says, he commenced some years before at Rome, and then brought it down to the pontificate of Victor, that is, to the close of the second century. In the execution of this work at that period, he professes to have received the first unfavourable sentiments of the Pope’s supremacy. On the 13th of May 1748 he presented to the king the first volume of his ‘History of the Popes;’ and on the death of Mr. Say, keeper of Queen Caroline’s library, he was, through the influence of Lord Lyttleton, appointed librarian in his place. In August 1749 he married a niece of Bishop Nicholson, and daughter of a clergyman of the Church of England, a younger son of a gentleman in Westmoreland, with whom he received a fortune of four thousand pounds sterling. In 1751 the second volume of his ‘History of the Popes’ made its appearance, His friend Lord Lyttleton now appointed him clerk of the buck warrants, – an office probably of no great emolument. His ‘History’ was continued to seven volumes, but in it he displayed such a violent zeal against popery, as exposed him to the animadversions of Roman Catholic writers, particularly Alban Butler, a learned priest, who, in a pamphlet printed at Douay in 1751, assailed the two first volumes of the ‘History of the Popes,’ being all which were at that period published. Unfortunately for his reputation, his money transactions and correspondence with the Jesuits were brought to light, and notwithstanding his spirited and confident defences, and his denial upon oath of the authenticity of letters fully proved to be his, he lost his character both as an author and a man, and was generally believed by the public to be destitute of moral and religious principle. The letters themselves were published in 1756 by Dr. Douglas, afterwards bishop of Salisbury, with a commentary proving their authenticity. He scarcely retained a friend or advocate, except his patron, Lord Lyttleton, who, by withholding his permission, prevented Garrick from making Bower’s apostasy and double-dealing the subject of a stage performance, for having mentioned in a contemptuous manner, that eminent actor and his lady in his ‘Summary View of the Controversy between the Papists and the Author.’ Bower’s latter years seem to have been spent in virulent attacks upon his enemies, the Papists, and in vainly endeavouring to recover his reputation, and that of his ‘History of the Popes.’ In 1761 he appears to have assisted the author of ‘Authentic Memoirs concerning the Portuguese Inquisition,’ in a series of letters to a friend, 8vo. He died September 3d, 1766, at the age of eighty. By his will, which does not contain any declaration of his religious principles, he bequeathed all his property to his wife, who some time after his death published an attestation of his having died in the Protestant faith.

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