Obituary: Howell Daniels
Tuesday 06 July 1993
HOWELL DANIELS was one of the key figures in the development of American Studies in Britain. As the first Secretary of the Institute of United States Studies, a post which he held from 1966 to 1990, he performed a series of small miracles in establishing and sustaining the role of the institute as a national centre for the study of the subject, despite the constraints imposed by its small size and inadequate resources. He worked under three different directors, but, by a combination of irresistible charm and unfailing dedication, he put his own personal stamp upon the institution which he served so well.
He combined the roles of teacher, scholar and administrator; above all, his life's work was to encourage, promote and facilitate the work of others, from the most tentative graduate student to the most distinguished visiting American professor. As organiser of conferences and colloquia, as editor and critic, as counsellor, guide and friend, he helped the cause of American Studies, and advanced the cause of numerous scholars, with little thought for his own personal interests. Civility and conviviality were the hallmarks of the many meetings which he held at the institute.
Whether in speech or on paper, his style was elegant, allusive, witty, but never cruel. He published articles on Henry James and more generally on American expatriate writers. He was a considerable authority on James, and had imbibed much of the master's subtlety and sensitivity. However, to picture Howell Daniels as literary scholar and academic administrator, at home in the cultural and academic life of the metropolis, is to see only half of the man. His Welsh roots were the key to much of his character and outlook. After a brilliant undergraduate career at University College Aberystwyth, and years in the US and at Oxford, he returned as a young lecturer to Aberystwyth, where he was responsible for the introduction of American literature into the syllabus. It is fitting that one of his last public addresses was a lecture of dazzling wit and brilliance at an American Studies conference in Aberystwyth in 1990. He always maintained his family connections in Pembrokeshire, and had even more friends there (if that were possible) than in London. When he retired from the institute in 1990, there was never any doubt that he would settle in his beloved Tenby.
He was the most loyal of colleagues, the most congenial of companions, and the truest of friends. His achievements are not to be measured by the formal procedures of assessment so much in vogue today, but those who knew him will never doubt the importance of his contribution. He bore the tribulations of his later years with massive dignity and heroic patience. He was sustained by the affection of countless friends, but above all by the love of his two devoted daughters.
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