His attachment to poetry did not entirely unfit him for business. He was Under-Secretary for three years, when the Duke of Queensbury was Secretary of State. After the Duke's death, the avenues to his preferment being stopped, he passed his time in retirement during the rest of Queen Anne's reign. A story is told by Spence, of his applying to Harley for some public employment. Harley enjoined him to study Spanish, and when he came again and said that he had mastered it, dismissed him with this congratulation. "Then, Sir, I envy you the pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the original." The story may be justly doubted; for Harley, who was desirous to be thought a patron of literature, cannot be supposed to insult a man of acknowledged merit; and Rowe, who was so zealous a Whig, that he did not willingly associate with Tories, cannot be supposed to ask preferment of the leader of the opposite party.