James Howell

James Howell

:"For the U.S. Senator named James Howell, see James B. Howell"

James Howell (c. 1594 - 1666), was a British writer who is in many ways an emblematic figure of his age. The son of a Welsh clergyman, he was for much of his life in the shadow of his elder brother Thomas Howell, who became Bishop of Bristol. [ [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/James_Howell 1911 "Encyclopædia Britannia" article] ]


In 1613 he gained his B.A. from Jesus College, Oxford – he was to be elected to a Fellowship at Jesus College in 1623, but was never formally admitted and his place was taken by another in 1626.


After graduation, he had a variety of employments, as an administrator for a glass manufacturer, and in the often combined roles of secretary and instructor to several noble families. As factory agent and negotiator he traveled widely in Europe and learned to speak several languages, apparently with great facility. He also met and befriended numerous literary figures, among them Ben Jonson and Kenelm Digby. Paramount amongst his priorities, though, was Royal, or at least aristocratic patronage.

On the eve of the English Civil War, he finally gained a secretaryship of the Privy Council, which according to one eminent critic, was "very close to the type of appointment that he had sought for 20 years" . The conflict meant that he never took up the position, and at about the same time, he wrote his first book, or "maiden Fancy", "Dodona's Grove", which represented the history of England and Europe through the allegorical framework of a typology of trees. It is worth noting that he started to publish at this time of ferment although he was already well established as a writer of what we would know today as 'newsletters' but were then known as 'tracts' or 'pamphlets'. He was the first writer to earn his living solely from writing in the English language, and the first writer of an Epistolary novel,the novel of letters,in the English Language(Familiar Letters). "Lexicon Tetragloton" was not a dictionary written by him in four languages, as its name would suggest, but in six; a dictionary of Latin vernacular (Romance language) proverbs. It is a highly respected work in the Portuguese and Spanish languages as well, quite apart from his native Welsh. He was a prolific writer.

He had a family tree parallel to the Herbert family of Swansea,Earl of Pembroke descendant of Nest and Hywel Dda of Wales. Gerald Cambrensis,Gerald of Wales son of Nest, was historiographer royal five hundred years before, on a journey of conquest to Ireland, the story of which, one of the finest works of literature in the Welsh language.James Howell may also have been closely linked by family, to Thomas Howell,16thC love poet,probably his grandfather, who was in the service of the first Earl above,in a clerical capacity. Whilst he corresponded with a certain Earl of Pembroke in his own Familiar Letters, and was great friends with Ben Jonson, his literary 'father', he does not himself make mention of this family tie. His line of descent was from Dafydd Gam.Thomas Howell b1538c,who is thought to have hailed from Dunster, Somerset, with roots in Caerfyrddyn, may have been one of those Gentry encouraged to learn Latin at the time

Principal literary works

*Howell, James. Dendrologia, Dodona's Grove, or the Vocall Forest.(Part 2) Allegory. 1640.
*England’s Teares for the present Warres (addendum to some editions Dodona's grove)
*Familiar Letters or Epistolae Ho-Elianae.
*Instructions for Forraine Travell. 1642
*Louis X111. 1646
*A Perfect Description of the Country of Scotland 1649
*Londonopolis: An Historical Discourse or Perlustration of the City of London. 1657
*Lexicon Tetraglotton. 1660.
*Paramoigraphy (Proverbs). 1659
*Preheminence and Pedigree of Parliament 1677
*Translation: Beginning, Continuance and Decay of Estates.(from French)
*Discourse of Dunkirk 1664
*Sober Inspections.
*Observations. Finett (JH Editor)
*St.Paul's Late Progress
*A Survay of the Signorie of Venice
* The German diet on the Balance of Europe (1653)
*A New English Grammar prescribing certain Rules as the language will bear for Foreigners to learn English
*Perambulation of Spain and Portugal
* The last will and testament of the late renowned Cardinal Mazarini, deceased February 27, 1660 together with some historical remarques of his life. Translation JH.
* The Venice Looking Glass

Literary criticism

*Daniel Woolf : Constancy and Ambition in the work of James Howell
*Javier Escribano : Proverbios,Refránes Y Traducción (Lexicon Tetraglotton)
*Paul Seaward: (1988) A Restoration Publicist:James Howell and the Earl of Clarendon, 1661-6
* W H Vann's Catalogue of Howell works (c1920)
* Sanchez Sederi English Grammar


External links

* [http://essays.quotidiana.org/howell/ Essays by James Howell at Quotidiana.org]

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