some Howard in office would see it enforced

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enkidu68

Senior Member
turkish
Hi folks, this is cited from Wellingborough Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)
Context: Melville discuses emigrant conditions and some law concerning them.

What Howard is this? He means a congressman with good will? I am troubled with bold one.

What ordinance necessitates him to place the galley, or steerage-passengers' stove, in a dry place of shelter, where the emigrants can do their cooking during a storm, or wet weather? What ordinance obliges him to give them more room on deck, and let them have an occasional run fore and aft?— There is no law concerning these things. And if there was, who but some Howard in office would see it enforced? and how seldom is there a Howard in office!
 
  • rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    It looks as though Howard in office is the same as Jack in office or Jobsworth - a pedant who enforces all the stupid rules because it's more than his job's worth not to.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It looks as though Howard in office is the same as Jack in office or Jobsworth - a pedant who enforces all the stupid rules because it's more than his job's worth not to.
    It is surely the other way round. This Howard is a reformer, someone who enforces good laws, to the benefit of the common man, rather than benefitting the wealthy or simply sitting on their backside letting things be done they always have been done.

    My guess is that it may refer to George William Frederick Howard, later the 7th Earl of Carlisle, who introduced the first Public Health Act to Parliament, but this is far from certain, although the date is a very good match for the writing of Wellingborough Redburn. The British Public Health Act of 1848 was (as I understand) the first of its kind in the world, and was a landmark in public health reform, although I am not entirely sure of Howard's involvement; he is not mentioned in most accounts of the Act, which credit it to Edwin Chadwick, and Howard was just an ordinary MP at the time.
     
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    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, I took the phrase to be ironic. Jobworths are normally obstructive, but this one seemed to be trying to do some good.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I agree with Uncle Jack that this is a reference to a particular Howard, and the 7th Earl of Carlisle is a good match. However, it should be kept in mind that "Howard" in its origins is a surname rather than a first name, and in particular it is the surname of an ancient and distinguished family who occupy the highest place in the nobility other than members of the royal family. The head of the Howard family is the Duke of Norfolk, who is the premier Duke of England, and other branches of the Howards include the Earls of Suffolk and Berkshire, the Earls of Effingham, and the aforementioned Earls of Carlisle. The unquestioned high status of the Howard family is what caused Alexander Pope to use them as the paradigm of nobility in his Essay on Man:
    What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards?
    Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards.


    As a result, even if the particular Howard that Melville had in mind was not immediately recognized, a reader in Melville's day would probably know that Melville was referring to some high-ranking and respected nobleman from an ancient and revered family, as opposed to your common government official.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    By the way, does he mean parliament by office?
    Not necessarily, and when I went looking for a suitable Howard, I had expected him to occupy a lower position, as an enforcer of rules rather than as a legislator.

    It is, of course, entirely possible that the Howard in question is an American and that I have picked the wrong one. However, Melville presumably expected the name to be recognised by his readers, which means the person would most likely have some web pages devoted to them - even the least well-known people in history appear to have vast amounts written about them. I haven't found a suitable American Howard, but perhaps I haven't looked hard enough or in the right place. And, as GWB points out, there are an awful lot of English Howards to sift through.
     
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