Gareth Howell, an Oxfordian who played a leading role in raising awareness of the Shakespeare authorship issue in Washington, D.C. and around the country, died January 4, 2018 after a valiant struggle with pancreatic cancer.
A native Welshman with an extraordinary career in international development, Howell once said that if you walked into a department of religion at any major university and said you didn’t believe in God, “they would invite you in for coffee to hear your point of view. But if you walk into the English department at the same school and say you don’t believe an illiterate glover’s son from a country town wrote the plays of Shakespeare, they would throw you out on your ear.”
Gareth Howell did not believe the man from Stratford wrote the plays, and after considerable study concluded that the principal author was Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Not knowing discussion of the authorship question was informally banned at a private club he had recently joined, he reacted to Tom Regnier’s talk on “Hamlet and the Law” by asking if it wasn’t more likely that the Earl of Oxford, with his legal training, wrote that play and all of Shakespeare’s plays. Gareth’s innocent question led to a formal strengthening of the taboo against discussing such matters. Subsequently, he succeeded after six months of personal effort to persuade the club, with its Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning members, to permit him and others to form a new group, devoted to the subject.
“I convinced them that the authorship question was worthy of academic study,” he said proudly. The new group he formed quickly became a success, attracting as many attendees as the orthodox Shakespeare group. Gareth said he had been an Oxfordian for 30 years, but it was only at this club that he began to meet fellow Oxfordians. After he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2016, he gave up all of his many volunteer positions, with the one exception of his leadership role in the club’s authorship group.
In 2016, he gave a talk at the club focused on the economic interest Great Britain and the town of Stratford have in maintaining the belief that the merchant of Stratford, whose parents and children could not read, and for whom there is no proof he ever attended grammar school, could have written anything, much less the most famous works in the English language.
Shakespeare, he concluded after an exhaustive economic analysis, was worth $513 million dollars to the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and $32 billion to the United Kingdom. He modestly called the talk, “The Stratford-Upon-Avon Shakespeare Cult & Profit Center.”
Gareth Howell was born in Rhiwbina, Wales, in 1942, and attended Cowbridge Grammar School in Wales, Mill Hill School near London, and received an Honors Degree in Law from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. In a career that spanned the globe, from Colombia to Pakistan to Thailand to Indonesia to Europe, Mr. Howell managed to never lose sight of his essential identity as a Welshman. He started his career in labor relations at the Ford Motor Company in the United Kingdom, and later worked for the World Bank Group on improving higher education in Nepal and Pakistan, and helping the governments of Mexico and Colombia on designing labor development strategies. During his time at the International Labor Organization, he worked with the United Nations on reconstructing Kosovo and East Timor. He was fluent in numerous languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Urdu, and Welsh.
Mr. Howell, who lived in the United States from 1999 until his death, was also passionate about the Welsh heritage that shaped his life. He was a Welsh magistrate and drafted early proposals for the Welsh constitution, which was enacted in 1999. The Law School of the University of Aberystwyth awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in July 2017 in recognition of these contributions. He was also President Emeritus of the St. David’s Welsh-American Society of Washington, D.C., a board member of the Welsh North American Association, and North America Secretary for the Welsh Legal History Society.
Gareth was generous and gracious, with an encyclopedic memory and an ever-ready smile, and served as a valuable mentor and advisor to many, many friends and acquaintances. His personal library of authorship-related materials was extensive. He is survived by his beloved wife, Amy Titus, and sons Llewellyn Howell and Rhys Howell. He was deeply loved and will be deeply missed.[posted January 11, 2018]