DOWDEN, EDWARD (1843- ), Irish critic and poet, son of John Wheeler Dowden, merchant and landowner, was born at Cork on the 3rd of May 1843, being three years junior to his brother John, who became bishop of Edinburgh in 1886. His literary tastes were shown early, in a series of essays written at the age of twelve. His home education was continued at Queen's College, Cork, and Trinity College, Dublin; at the latter university he had a distinguished career, becoming president of the Philosophical Society, and winning the vice-chancellor's prize for English verse and prose, and the first senior moderatorship in ethics and logic. In 1867 he was elected professor of oratory and English literature in Dublin University. His first book, Shakespeare, his Mind and Art (1875), was a revision of a course of lectures, and made him widely known as a critic, being translated into German and Russian; and his Poems (1876) went into a second edition. His Shakespeare Primer (1877) was also translated into Italian and German. In 1878 he was awarded the Cunningham gold medal of the Royal Irish Academy "for his literary writings, especially in the field of Shakespearian criticism." Later works by him in this field were his Shakespeare's Sonnets (1881), Passionate Pilgrim (1883), Introduction to Shakespeare (1893), Hamlet (1899), Romeo and Juliet (1900), Cymbeline (1903), and his article (National Review, July 1902) on "Shakespeare as a Man of Science," criticizing T. E. Webb's Mystery of William Shakespeare. His critical essays "Studies in Literature" (1878), "Transcripts and Studies" (1888), "New Studies in Literature" (1895) showed a profound knowledge of the currents and tendencies of thought in various ages and countries; but it was his Life of Shelley (1886) that made him best known to the public at large. In 1900 he edited an edition of Shelley's works. Other books by him which indicate his interests in literature are his Southey (in the "English Men of Letters" series, 1880), his edition of Southey's Correspondence with Caroline Bowles (1881), and Select Poems of Southey (1895), his Correspondence of Sir Henry Taylor (1888), his edition of Wordsworth's Poetical Works (1892) and of his Lyrical Ballads (1890), his French Revolution and English Literature (1897; lectures given at Princeton University in 1896), History of French Literature (1897), Puritan and Anglican (1900), Robert Browning (1904) and Michel de Montaigne (1905). His devotion to Goethe led to his succeeding Max Müller in 1888 as president of the English Goethe Society. In 1889 he became the first Taylorian lecturer at Oxford, and from 1892 to 1896 was Clark lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge. To his sagacity in research are due, among other matters of literary interest, the first account of Carlyle's "Lectures on periods of European culture"; the identification of Shelley as the author of a review (in The Critical Review of December 1814) of a lost romance by Hogg; description of Shelley's "Philosophical View of Reform"; a MS. diary of Fabre D'Eglantine; and a record by Dr Wilhelm Weissenborn of Goethe's last days and death. He also discovered a "Narrative of a Prisoner of War under Napoleon" (published in Blackwood's Magazine), an unknown pamphlet by Bishop Berkeley, some unpublished writings of Hayley relating to Cowper, and a unique copy of the Tales of Terror. His wide sympathies and scholarly methods made his influence on criticism both sound and stimulating, and his own ideals are well described in his essay on "The Interpretation of Literature" in his Transcripts and Studies. As commissioner of education in Ireland (1896-1901), trustee of the National Library of Ireland, secretary of the Irish Liberal Union and vice-president of the Irish Unionist Alliance, he enforced his view that literature should not be divorced from practical life. He married twice, first (1866) Mary Clerke, and secondly (1895) Elizabeth Dickinson West, daughter of the dean of St Patrick's.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)