Henry Watson Fowler

Henry Watson Fowler

Infobox Person
name = Henry Watson Fowler

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birth_date = birth date|1858|03|10|df=y
birth_place = Tonbridge, Kent, England
death_date = death date and age|1933|12|26|1858|03|10|df=y
death_place = Chard, Somerset, England
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nationality = British
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occupation = Schoolmaster, Lexicographer
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Henry Watson Fowler (10 March 185826 December 1933) was an English schoolmaster, lexicographer and commentator on the usage of English. He is notable for both "Fowler's Modern English Usage" and his work on the "Concise Oxford Dictionary".


Born in Tonbridge, Kent, Fowler graduated from Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford, and then spent seventeen years teaching Latin, Greek, and English at Sedbergh School. He then worked as a freelance journalist in London.

In 1903, he moved to the island of Guernsey, where he worked with his brother Francis George Fowler on "The King's English" (1906), a work meant to encourage writers to be stylistically simple and direct. In 1914, Fowler and his younger brother volunteered for service in the British army; to gain acceptance, the 56-year-old Henry lied about his age. The pair began work on "Fowler's Modern English Usage" before the end of the war. In 1918, forty-seven-year-old Francis died of tuberculosis "contracted during service with the B.E.F.," [From Henry Fowler's dedication to "Modern English Usage", 1926 (Wordsworth Edition, 1994, ISBN 1-85326-318-4).] and it is to him that Henry Fowler dedicated Modern English usage when it was published in 1926. Modern English usage is considered by many to be the definitive style guide to British English language.

Currently, "The King's English" and "Modern English Usage" remain in print, the latter having been updated by Sir Ernest Gowers for the second edition (1965). The third edition (1996), is Robert Burchfield's extensive rewriting of the original that shifts the book's function from Fowler's largely prescriptive approach to one more descriptive. A "Pocket edition" (ISBN 0-19-860947-7) edited by Robert Allen, based on Burchfield's edition, is available on-line, to subscribers to the Oxford Reference On-line Premium collection.

On the death of its original editor, Fowler helped complete the first edition of the "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary", under the editorship of C.T. Onions.

Media Depictions

The life and career of Fowler was dramatised as "The Word Man" by the writer Chris Harrald on BBC Radio 4's "Afternoon Play" on Thursday 17 January 2008. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/afternoon_play.shtml Accessed 24 January 2008] .



* Jenny McMorris, "The Warden of English: The Life of H.W. Fowler" (Oxford University Press, 2001) ISBN 0-19-866254-8
* G. G. Coulton, "H. W. Fowler" (The Society for Pure English, Tract no. 43, 1935): a memoir by his friend and former colleague at Sedbergh School

External links

* [http://www.bartleby.com/116/ Full text of "The King's English".]

NAME = Fowler, Henry Watson
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Schoolmaster, Lexicographer
DATE OF BIRTH = 1858-03-10
PLACE OF BIRTH = Tonbridge, Kent, England
DATE OF DEATH = 1933-12-26
PLACE OF DEATH = Chard, Somerset, England

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