British lexicographer and commentator on the usage of the English language.
Fowler was the eldest child of a military tutor at Tunbridge Wells and attended Rugby School before winning a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford (1877). Soon after obtaining his degree he took a job teaching at Sedburgh School, remaining there for seventeen years (1882–99), until he resigned over his conscientious objection to the compulsory preparation of boys for confirmation. Living quietly in London, he wrote essays for periodicals (later collected into several volumes). After moving to Guernsey in 1903, he collaborated with his brother F. G. Fowler (1870–1918) on a translation of Lucian (1905) and wrote the first of his popular works on English usage, The King's English (1906). In 1908 he married his Guernsey landlady.
In 1911 the first of his lexicographic works for Oxford University Press appeared: The Concise Oxford Dictionary, also in collaboration with F. G. Fowler. By lying about his age he managed to see active service (1915–16) in World War I, but was invalided out. After F. G. Fowler died of tuberculosis in 1918, Fowler moved to Somerset and continued to work for the Oxford University Press; The Pocket Oxford Dictionary appeared in 1924 and A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, for which he is best known, in 1926. Fowler's wife died in 1930 and he commemorated their relationship in the Rhymes of Darby and Joan (1931). In 1933 Fowler himself died of pneumonia and overwork, leaving another brother, A. J. Fowler (1868–1939) to carry on his work for the University Press.
Subjects: literature — contemporary history (post 1945).