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Professor and friend Howard Mills died on April 14, 2023. Born in England ("I hate only two things: bigotry and the Irish") and immigrating to the United States (to vote against Bush — who incidentally was already finishing his second term), he loved the soft-spoken voices of the British but not quite as much as the nearly constant sunshine of Colorado.
He was known as a witty gentleman by many. He was known as an extremely thoughtful friend and great listener by perhaps a smaller circle. He loved literature, nature, and music, frequently attending the Takács Quartet for years. He also loved light, shadows, and textures.
A friend from England, Mick, provided the following, emphasizing Howard's academic career. Himself having since passed away, I doubt Mick expected his email to be presented wholesale, but here it is in its naked authenticity:
Born in Coventry, 18 June, 1937. Completed a BA at University of Exeter, and a second BA at Cambridge (they didn’t recognize degrees by other universities in those days) Then a PhD at Cambridge. He was a member of Downing College, where the great and controversial critic F.R. Leavis was also a member.
His first university post was at the University of Cardiff—gave him an amusing hatred of Wales. Came to the University of Kent at Canterbury in 1967.
Visiting professor at Universities of Massachusetts in Amherst, Indiana in Bloomington, and Colorado in Boulder for one year each.
Was Chairman of the Board of Studies in English at University of Kent, Canterbury. Lectured there until he emigrated to Boulder in the 90s. Taught at both University of Colorado and Colorado College for several years.
George Crabbe and Howard Mills, Tales, 1812 and Other Selected Poems, (Cambridge], CUP, 1967). Howard Mills, Peacock: his circle and his age, (Cambridge, Cambridge U.P., 1969).
Howard Mills, Thomas Love Peacock: memoirs of Shelley and other essays and reviews, (London, Hart Davis, 1970).
David Ellis and Howard Mills, D.H. Lawrence's non-fiction: art, thought and genre, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Howard Mills, Working with Shakespeare, (Hemel Hempstead, 1993).
That's the man on paper, a two-dimensional thing. In life, he was by far one of the wittiest, most thoughtful, and conscientious people seen hiking among the Boulder County mountains. He was known to hike frequently, easily fifteen miles or so, often bushwhacking where no suitable trail existed. He took pride in figuring ways to cross private property, always successfully avoiding getting shot while following his nature-loving conscience.
It was after moving to Sugarloaf Mountain that he became a naturalized citizen, September 19, 2006.
No doubt the best account of him is something he wrote after moving into a retirement home, when the end was in sight. Because he never insisted on it, I gladly give him the last word:
I was born at Gulson Road Hospital in Coventry in 1937. My brother John was born at the same hospital four years earlier. My parents were Nelly and Len Mills. They knew each other from school and met again after ten years. They married promptly. During those ten years, my father spent some time as an emigrant in Africa.
My father was an engineer. He spent his entire career in the auto manufacturing factory in Coventry. His generation was so heavily focused on industry, but he stressed the importance of our education, and I wouldn’t be where I am without his support.
My mother worked while she was single as a secretary/typist. After marriage, she stayed home with my brother and me. At one point, she was in the amateur choir of Coventry, and I have fond
memories of her singing to us—especially at Christmas time.
Every Christmas we went to my Uncle Ted’s house. They had two young kids, Edward and Linda. My mother did a lot of the prep cooking for these gatherings. We had traditional English
food and played games while the meal was prepared.
Edward and I drifted slightly as our circles changed in school. He became more interested in socializing, and I began to travel outside of our
inner circle. Sadly, he committed suicide many years later.
During WW2, our family lived in an underground shelter. I distinctly remember the frequency of the sirens. Many houses were destroyed on our street. I was aware of the changes from a physical
perspective—piles of dust that were once buildings—but not really aware of the significance of human destruction. My father left the shelter at night to aid with home protection. It was around 1944 when we were able to safely return to our home.
In England, when you are 11 years old, you’re examined to determine eligibility for advancement to secondary school.
I have fond memories of primary school, and still have a book of wildflowers I collected for a project which won third prize. I was able to laugh lightly during these times, when our job was to be “made clever for secondary school.”
When I was 14, I was suspended from school for 3 days for a remark I made regarding learning Latin in school. The headmaster took my comment as rebellion, and my parents had to
come in and vouch for me, stating that “overall, I was good”. After my suspension, I kept fairly silent; this is when my hobbies of travelling and hitchhiking became more prevalent. I went back
to school, learned my Latin and wore long pants— but outside those walls, I was seeking distance and freedom through hitchhiking. It was easy to do from my street—and it was a way to get away from everyone I knew. Coventry was near the center of England; therefore, I would often hitchhike to the coast to see the distant views of other countries. In the west, I could stand on the
cliffs and see America, which made me think of our founding fathers and their endeavors.
I went on to a University in the southwest region of England in Exeter. At that time it was a small university. I went to weekly dances where you would meet girls, which was a change as my
previous education to date involved same sex schools. I had good relationships throughout university, but nothing that lasted for longer than a year or so.
I was encouraged to apply to Cambridge to further my degree for another three years. Harold Mason was the educator who pushed me to do so. He had a large influence on my educational
trajectory, and I admired his teaching.
Around the time that I finished my degree at Cambridge, I spent a short time teaching English Literature at Cardiff in Wales before ultimately moving on to Canterbury. I spent approximately
twenty years teaching here, but I would often leave for a year or semester to teach in other countries. I taught at several universities in the United States. Massachusetts was one of the first places I taught in the U.S and I found it to be very interesting-but I can honestly say I enjoyed all the states I visited. Outside of the classroom, I worked both on editing and publishing, and completed a book on Peacock. My editing endeavors included tales and books of poetry (George Crabbe).
Coventry was only a short distance from Stratford where Shakespeare was born and started his career, which may have bolstered my interest in his work and English Lit in general.
My job kept me busy—so I enjoyed having a quiet place to carry out my work. Over my career I moved to various houses out in the country. There was one particular place about ten miles from the university where I lived opposite a small ranch with a farm. I became very close with the family who lived there.
I met my friend Louis about thirty years ago. It was the first year I taught at the university here. He worked there as well, but was studying for his Doctorate at the time. I always admired his
teaching. Over the years, his family felt like my own, and we spent a lot of time together with his children.
My home in Boulder allowed me to step out the back door into open space. Since I spent so much time grading papers and reading various works of literature, it was important to me to push the
university life aside and go hiking.
Heritage Funeral & Cremation Services of Lafayette handled cremation arrangements.