Bowlby, Thomas William 1817-1860, Times correspondent, son of Thomas Bowlby, a captain in the royal artillery, by his wife, a daughter of General Balfour, was born at Gibraltar, and when very young was taken by his parents to Sunderland, where his father entered on the business of a timber merchant. Young Bowlby's education was entrusted to Dr. Cowan, a Scotch schoolmaster, who had settled in Sunderland. After leaving school he was articled to his cousin, Mr. Russell Bowlby, solicitor, Sunderland. On completion of his time he went to London and spent some years as a salaried clerk in the office of a large firm in the Temple. In 1846 he commenced practice in the city as junior partner in the firm of Lawrence, Crowdy, & Bowlby, solicitors, 25 Old Fish Street, Doctors' Commons, and for some years enjoyed a fair practice; but the profession of the law was not to his taste, and he made many literary acquaintances. Although remaining a member of the firm until the year 1854, he went to Berlin as special correspondent of the Times in 1848. Bowlby married Miss Meine, the sister of his father's second wife, and on the death of her father Mrs. Bowlby became possessed of a considerable fortune. During the railway mania Bowlby got into pecuniary difficulties, which caused him to leave England for a short time, but he made arrangements for the whole of his future earnings to be applied in liquidation of his debts. On returning to England he was for some time associated with Jullien, the musical director and composer. He next repaired to Smyrna, where he was employed for a while in connection with the construction of a railway. In 1860 he was engaged to proceed to China as the special correspondent of the Times. Lord Elgin and Baron Gros were fellow-passengers with him in the steamship Malabar, which was lost at Point de Galle on 22 May. His narrative of this shipwreck is an admirable piece of work. His various letters from China afforded much information and pleasure to the readers of the Times. After the capture of Tien-tsin on 23 Aug. 1860, Bowlby accompanied Admiral Hope and four others to Tang-chow to arrange the preliminaries of peace; here they were treacherously captured and imprisoned by the Tartar general, San-ko-lin-sin. Bowlby died from the effects of the ill-treatment he received on 22 Sept. 1860; his body was afterwards given up by the Chinese, and buried in the Russian cemetery outside the An-tin gate of Pekin on 17 Oct. His age was about forty-three; he left a widow and five young children.
Gent. Mag. 1861, pp. 225-6
Times, 26, 27, 30 Nov., 10, 11, 15, 17, 19, 25 Dec. 1860
Illustrated London News, with portrait, xxxvii. 615-616 (1860)
Annual Register, 1860, pp. 265-71
Boulger's History of China (1884), iii. 499-521.
Contributor: G. C. B. [George Clement Boase]