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Dowland, John


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


John Dowland (?1563–1626) was a highly successful English composer of lute ayres. The commercial success of his printed songbooks encouraged other musicians, including Philip Rosseter, Thomas Campion, Robert Jones, and John Attey, to follow suit by using print to build their reputations, attract patronage, and mould the musical taste of the English population. Little is known of Dowland's birth, childhood, or early career. From 1580 to 1584, he lived in Paris while in the employment of Sir Henry Cobham, the English ambassador to France. In 1588, he returned to England and received a bachelor of music degree from Oxford; sometime before 1597, he received one from Cambridge. From 1588 to 1592, Dowland's music was performed at several royal occasions. After 1592, he travelled to Europe, stopping at the courts of Henry Julio, duke of Brunswick and Moritz, landgrave of Hesse, at Kassel. While travelling in Florence, he was approached by a Catholic faction plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I. To disassociate himself from the conspiracy, Dowland fled to Nuremberg and composed a letter to Sir Robert Cecil, dated 10 November 1595, in which he emphasized his loyalty to his queen and country. In 1597, he returned to London on the intelligence that he might be promoted to court musician. However, the untimely death of his then patron Henry Noel left him empty-handed. Dowland returned to the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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