Lowell graduated from Harvard College in 1867. After his graduation, he spent several years studying and traveling abroad. In 1868, he married Mary Wolcott Goodrich. He pursued a business career for a year or so, studied law, and was admitted to the Suffolk County, Massachusetts, bar in 1872. He practised law until 1874, when his wife died, and he gave up his practise to take care of his children and study. In 1877, he married Elizabeth Gilbert Jones. He was a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.