The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Charles Synge Christopher Bowen, 1835-1894

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1835
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1894
Place of Death:


Sir Charles Synge Christopher Bowen was a literary man and lawyer.


Bowen attended Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford, where he won a number of prizes. He was a cultured man, who wrote poetry, contributed regularly to the Saturday Review and translated Virgil's Eclogues (1904) and the first six books of the Aeneid. He was involved with the Working Men's College and the Royal Academy of Art, and was a member of the Athenaeum Club, the Literary Society and the House of Lords. In 1872 he was appointed Standing Counsel to the Treasury, appearing in a legal capacity for the government in all commercial and common-law cases, and distinguishing himself in the Tichborne case. In 1879 he became a judge in the Queen's Bench Division. His publications include The 'Alabama' Claims and Arbitration Considered from a Legal Point of View (1868), Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Enquire into the Truck System (1871) and 'Administration of the Law from 1837-87' in Thomas Humphrey Ward's Reign of Queen Victoria (1887).

Bowen acted as junior counsel for the defense at the Whistler v. Ruskin trial in November 1878 under Sir John Holker. Early on he believed that John Ruskin was unlikely to win. He considered Ruskin's criticisms to be inappropriate and that an English jury, perhaps unable to form an opinion on art, would at least be able to recognise their libelous nature. Because of this the defense only tried to minimize the damages.


Foster, Joseph (ed.), Alumni Oxoniensis 1715-1886, Oxford, 1887-1892; Cunningham, Henry Stewart, Lord Bowen: A Biographical Sketch, London, 1896; Linda Merrill, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin, Washington and London, 1992.