Ho Well, James

, a voluminous English writer, the son of Thomas Howell, minister of Abernant in Caermarthenshire, was born about 1594, and, to use his own words, “his ascendant was that hot constellation of cancer about the midst of the dog-days.” He was sent to the freeschool at Hereford -, and entered of Jesus-college, Oxford, in 1610. His elder brother Thomas Howell was already a fellow of that society, afterwards king’s chaplain, and was nominated in 1644 to the see of Bristol. James Howell, having taken the degree of B. A. in 1613, left college, and removed to London; for being, says Wood, “a pure cadet, a true cosmopolite, not born to land, lease, house, or office, he had his fortune to make; and being withal not so much inclined to a sedentary as an active life, this situation pleased him best, as most likely to answer his views.” The first employment he obtained was that of steward to a glass-house in Broad-street, which was procured for him by sir Robert Mansel, who was principally concerned in it. The proprietors of this work, intent upon improving the manufactory, came to a resolution to send an agent abroad, who should procure the best materials and workmen; and they made choice of Howell for this purpose, who, setting off in 1619, visited several of the principal places in Holland, Flanders, France, Spain, and Italy. In Dec. 1621, he returned to London; having executed the purpose of his mission very well, and particularly having acquired a | masterly knowledge in the modern languages, which afforded him a singular cause for gratitude. “Thank God,” he says, “I have this fruit of my foreign travels, that I can pray unto him every day of the week in a separate language, and upon Sunday in seven.

Soon after his return, he quitted his stewardship of the glass-house; and having experienced the pleasures of travelling, was anxious to obtain more employments of the same kind. In 1622 he was sent into Spain, to recover a rich English ship, seized by the viceroy of Sardinia for his master’s use, on pretence of its having prohibited goods on board. In 1623, during his absence abroad, he was chosen fellow of Jesus college in Oxford, upon the new foundation of sir Eubule Thelwal: for he had taken unremitting care to cultivate his interest in that society. He tells sir Eubule, in his letter of thanks to him, that he “will reserve his fellowship, and lay it by as a good warm garment against rough weather, if any fall on him:” in which he was followed by Prior, who alleged the same reason for keeping his fellowship at St. John’s-college in Cambridge. Howell returned to England in 1624; and was soon after appointed secretary to lord Scrope, afterwards earl of Sunderland, who was made lord-president of the North. This office carried him to York; and while he resided there, the corporation of Richmond, without any application from himself, and against several competitors, chose him one of their representatives, in the parliament which began in 1627. In 1632, he went as secretary to Robert earl of Leicester, ambassador extraordinary from Charles I. to the court of Denmark, on occasion of the death of the queen dowager, who was grandmother to that king: and there gave proofs of his oratorical talents, in several Latin speeches before the king of Denmark, and other princes of Germany. After his return to England, his affairs do not appear so prosperous; for, except an inconsiderable mission, on which he was dispatched to Orleans in France by secretary Windebankin 1635, he was for some years destitute of any employment. At last, in 1639, he went to Ireland, and was well received by lord Strafford, the lord-lieutenant, who had before made him very warm professions of kindness, and employed him as an assistant-clerk upon some business to Edinburgh, and afterwards to London; but his rising hopes were ruined by the unhappy fate which soon overtook that nobleman. I | 1640 he was dispatched upon some business to France; and the same year was made clerk of the council, which post was the most fixed in point of residence^ and the most permanent in its nature, that he bad ever enjoyed. But his royal master, having departed from his palace at Whitehall, was not able to secure his continuance long in it: for, in 1643, having visited London upon some business of his own, all his papers were seized by a committee of the parliament, his person secured, and, in a few days after, he was committed close prisoner to the Fleet. This at least he himself assigns as the cause of his imprisonment: but Wood insinuates, that he was thrown into prison, for debts contracted through his own extravagance; and indeed some of his own letters give room enough to suspect it. But whatever was the cause, he bore it cheerfully.

He had now no resource except his pen: and applied himself therefore wholly to write and translate books. “Here,” he says, “I purchased a small spot of ground upon Parnassus, which I have in fee of the muses, and I have endeavoured to manure it as well as I could, though I confess it hath yielded me little fruit hitherto.” This spot, however, brought him a comfortable subsistence, during his long stay in prison, where he was confined till some time after the king’s death; and as he got nothing by his discharge but his liberty, he was obliged to continue the same employment afterwards. His numerous productions, written rather out of necessity than choice, shew, however, readiness of wit, and exuberant fancy. Though always a firm royalist, he does not seem to have approved the measures pursued by Buckingham, Laud, and Strafford; and was far from approving the imposition of shipmoney, and the policy of creating and multiplying monopolies. Yet the unbridled insolence and outrages of the republican governors so much disgusted him, that he was not displeased when Oliver assumed the sovereign power under the title of protector; and in this light he addressed him on that occasion in a speech, which shall be mentioned presently. His behaviour under Cromwell’s tyranny was prudential, and was so considered; for Charles II. at his restoration, thought him worthy of his notice and favour: and his former post under the council being otherwise disposed of, a new place was created, by the grant of which he became the first historiographer royal in England. He died Nov. 1666, and was interred in the Temple-church. | London, where a monument was erected to his memory, with the following inscription, which was taken down when the church was repaired in 1683, and has not since been replaced: “Jacobus Howell, Cambro-Britannus, Regius Historiographus in Anglia primus, qui post varies peregrinationes tandem naturae cursum peregit, satur annorum & famas domi forisque hue usque erraticus, hie fixus 1666.

His works were numerous. 1. “Dodona’s Grove, or, The Vocal Forest, 1640.” 2. “The Vote:” a poem, presented to the king on New-year’s day, 1641. 3. “Instructions for Forraine Travell shewing by what course, and in what compass of time, one may take an exact survey of the kingdomes and states of Christendome, and arrive to the practical knowledge of the languages to good purpose, 1642.” Dedicated to prince Charles. Reprinted in 1650, with additions. These works were published before he was thrown into prison. 4. “Casual Discourses and Interlocutions between Patricius and Peregrin, touching the distractions of the times.” Written soon after the battle of Edgehill, and the first book published in vindication of the king. 5. “Mercurius Hibernicus: or, a discourse of the Irish Massacre, 1644.” 6. “Parables reflecting on the Times, 1644.” 7. “England’s Tears for the present Wars, &c. 1644.” 8. “Preheminence and Pedigree of Parliaments, 1644.” 9. “Vindication of some passages reflecting upon him in Mr. Prynne’s book called The Popish Royal Favourite, 1644.” 10. “Epistolae Ho-Elianae: or, Familiar Letters, domestic and foreign, divided into sundry sections, partly historical, partly political, partly philosophical,1645. Another collection was published in 1647; and both these, with the addition of a third, came out in 1650. A few additional letters appeared in some subsequent editions of which the eleventh was printed in 1754, 8vo. It is not, indeed, to be wondered at, that these letters have run through so many editions since they not only contain much of the history of his own times, but are also- interspersed with many pleasant stories properly introduced and applied. It cannot be denied, that he has given way frequently to very low witticisms, the most unpardonable instance of which is, his remark upon Charles the First’s death, where he says, “I will attend with patience how England will thrive, now that she is let blood in the Bapilical vein, and cured as they say of the king’s evil:” and | it is no great excuse, that he was led into this manner by the humour of the times. Wood relates, it does not appear on what authority, that “many of these letters were never written before the author of them was in. the Fleet, as he pretends they were, but only feigned and purposely published to gain money to relieve his necessities:” be this as it will, he allows that they “give a tolerable history of those times,” which, if true, is sufficient to recommend them*. There are also some of his letters among the Strafford papers.

These letters are almost the only work of Howell that is now regarded: the rest are very obscure. 11. “A Nocturnal Progress: or, a Perambulation of most Countries in Christendom, performed in one night by strength of imagination,1645. 12. “Lustra Ludovici: or the Life of Lewis XIII. King of France, &c.” 13. “An Account of the deplorable state of England in 1647, &c.1647. 14. “Letter to Lord Pembroke concerning the Times, and the sad condition both of Prince and People,1647. 15. “Bella Scot-Anglica: A Brief of all the Battles betwixt England and Scotland, from all times to this present,

1648. 16. “Corollary declaring the Causes, whereby the Scot is come of late years to be so heightened in his Spirits.” 17. “The Instruments of a King: or, a short Discourse of the Sword, Crown, and Sceptre, &c. 1648.” 18. “Winter-Dream,1649. 19. “A Trance, or News from Hell, brought first to town by Mercurius Acheronticus,

1649. 20. “Inquisition after Blood, &c.1649. 21. “Vision, or Dialogue between Soul and Body,1651. 22. “Survey of the Signory of Venice, &c.1651. 23. “Some sober Inspections made into the carriage and consults of the late Long Parliament, whereby occasion is taken to speak of Parliaments in former times, and of Magna Charta: with some Reflections upon Government in general,1653. Dedicated to Oliver lord protector, whom he compares to Charles Martel, and compliments in language much beyond the truth and the sentiments of his own heart. The fourth edition of this book came out

* " I believe the second published friend of Jonson, and the first who bore

correspondence of this kind (after As- the office of the royal historiographer, chain), and in our own language, at which discover a variety of literature,

least of any importance after (bishop) and abound with much entertaining

Hall, will be found in the “Epistolae and useful information.” Wartoiv?

Hoelianae,“or the letters of James History of Poetry, vol. IV. p. 54. Howell, a great traveller, an intimate | Hi 1660, with several additions. 24.” History of the Wars of Jerusalem epitomised.“25.” Ah, Ha; Tumulus, Thalamus two Counter- Poems the first an Elegy on Edward late earl of Dorset: the second an Epithalamium to the Marquis of Dorchester,“1653. 26.” The German Diet: or Balance of Europe, &c.“1653, folio, with the author’s portrait, at whole length. 27.” Parthenopeia: or, the History of Naples, &c.“1654. 28.” Londinopolis,“1657: a short discourse, says Wood, mostly taken from Stowe’s” Survey of London,“but a work which in onr time bears a high price, and is worth consulting, as containing particulars of the manners of Loodon in his days. 29.” Discourse of the Empire, and of the Election of the King of the Romans,“1658. 3O.” Lexicon Tetraglotton an English-French-Italian-Spanish Dictionary, &c.“1660, 31.A Cordial for the Cavaliers,“1661. Answered immediately by sir Roger L’Estrange, in a book entitledA Caveat for the Cavaliers:“replied to by Mr. Howell, in the next article, 32.” Some sober Inspections made into those ingredients that went to the composition of a late Cordial for the Cavaliers,“1661. 33.A French Grammar, &c.“34.” The Parley of Beasts, &c.“1660. 35.” The second Part of casual Discourses and Interlocutions between Patricius and Peregrin, &c.“1661. 36.” Twelve Treatises of the hite Revolutions,“1661. 37.” New English Grammar ifor Foreigners to learn English: with a Grammar for the Spanish and Castilian Tongue, with special Remarks on the Portuguese Dialect, for the service of her Majesty,“1662. 38.” Discourse concerning the Precedency of Kings,"

1663. 39. “Poems:” collected and published by serjeant-major P. F. that is, Payne Fisher, who had been poet-laureat to Cromwell. The editor tells us, that his author Howell “may be called the prodigy of the age for the variety of his volumes: for there hath passed the press above forty of his works on various subjects, useful not only to the present times, but to all posterity. And it is to be observed,” says he, “that in all his writings there is something still new, either in the matter, method, or fancy, and in an untrodden tract.” It is quite impossible, however, to say any thing in favour of his poetry. He published next, 40. “A Treatise concerning Ambassadors,

1664. 41. “Concerning the surrender of Dunkirk, thiit it was done upon good Grounds,1664. | Besides these original works, he translated several from foreign languages; as, 1. “St. Paul’s late Progress upon Earth about a Divorce betwixt Christ and the Church of Rome, by reason of her dissoluteness and excesses, &c.1644. The author of this book published it about 1642, and was forced to fly from Rome on that account. He withdrew in the company, and under the conduct of one, who pretended friendship for him; but who betrayed him at Avignon, where he was first hanged and then burnt. 2. “A Venetian Looking-glass: or, a Letter written very lately from London to Cardinal Barberini at Rome, by a Venetian Clarissimo, touching the present Distempers in England,1648. 3. “An exact History of the late Revolutions in Naples, &c.1650. 4. “A Letter of Advice from the prime Statesmen- of Florence, how England may come to herself again,1659. All these were translated from the Italian. He translated also from the French, “The Nuptials of Peleus and Thetis, &c.1654; and fro tn the Spanish, “The Process and Pleadings in the Court of Spain, upon the death of Anthony Ascham, resident for the Parliament of England, &c.1651.

Lastly, he published, in 1649, “The late King’s Declaration in Latin, French, and English:” and in 1651, “Cottoni Posthuma, or divers choice Pieces of that renowned antiquary sir Robert Cotton, knight and baronet,” in 8vo. The print of him prefixed to some of his works was taken from a painting which is now at Landeilo house, in Monmouthshire, the seat of Richard Lewis, esq. 1


Biog. Brit. Lloyd’s Memoirs, folio, p. 522. Atb. Ox. vol. Ij. Censara litraria, vol. III.