Howard, Gorges Edmond (1715–86), author of legal and dramatic works, was born 28 August 1715 in Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, one of two sons of Francis Howard and Elizabeth Howard (née Jackson). Both families were prominent in Coleraine; the Jacksons, who had been involved in a long-running feud with the Beresfords over control of the town's corporation, were possibly ancestors of the American confederate general ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (d. 1863). Richard Jackson (qv) (d. 1789), MP for Coleraine, was a nephew of Mrs Howard; Richard Jackson (qv) (d. 1787) may have been related also, and the Gorges family, including Richard Gorges (qv), were also connected through the Jacksons. Francis Howard was a dragoon officer, who despite his family background was in somewhat reduced circumstances. Gorges Howard was brought up in Dublin, and educated at the Grafton St. school of Thomas Sheridan (qv). He wanted to become a clergyman, but an acquaintance, David Nixon, clerk of the pleas office of the exchequer, offered to take him as an apprentice without fees. A legal career was not to the boy's liking, and for three years he paid scant attention to the business of the office; after a disagreement with Nixon he went off as a cadet officer in a foot regiment in Spain. After almost a year, he yielded to his family's entreaties and returned to the law, but still unenthusiastically, and spent much of his time writing verse and dramas. He had one play ready to go into rehearsal when he lost a lawsuit with which he had been entrusted. He felt he should make reparations, burned his play, resolved not to write a line of verse for five years, and settled down to work assiduously for fifteen hours a day; colleagues were amazed how much business he got through. He was responsible for collecting the rent arrears for the Merchant Taylors’ estates near Coleraine, and in 1743 became solicitor for the king's rents. In 1746 he became an attorney of the exchequer; his knowledge of the revenue and of court records was particularly remarked on, and secured victory for the crown in an important test case on quit rents in 1771. He published many legal works, including A treatise of the rules and practice of the pleas side of the exchequer in Ireland (2 vols, 1759), A treatise of the rules and practice of the high court of chancery in Ireland (1772), and Special cases on the laws against the further growth of popery in Ireland (1775), which has been described as a useful source on this important subject. Howard's description in his first work of the nature of the legal profession in his day is also useful for legal historians, and contemporaries acknowledged that his treatises revealed wide legal and administrative expertise. He claimed, however, that he lost money by his twelve legal publications.
His literary and dramatic efforts were equally unsuccessful, earning him nothing but the ridicule of contemporaries. He published in his fifties three tragedies, two of which were performed on one occasion each, once to the amusement of the small audience, and once to empty benches, and also wrote a considerable amount of verse and prose, collected in three volumes, with a portrait, in 1782. Even poems published for a charity benefit went unsold. Satires on Howard's literary output, chiefly by Robert Jephson (qv), were popular in Dublin after 1771. His enemies claimed that he paid for occasional encomiums in periodicals; his friendship with George Faulkner (qv), Jonathan Swift (qv), and Henry Brooke (qv) did not protect him from Jephson's ridicule, and even guests at Howard's own table afterwards produced derisory verses on his compositions. Howard incurred unpopularity both because he professionally supported the Dublin Castle administration (and earned envy or disfavour thereby, in an era when Irish politicians were beginning to chafe under English influence) and because he was one of the first members of the ascendancy to support a partial relaxation of the penal laws. He was presented by the catholics of Ireland with a silver epergne, to mark their appreciation of his efforts. A caricature of Howard is republished in Calendar of ancient records of Dublin, xii (1905), facing p. 240.
Howard claimed that in 1757 he and others, who used to dine in a chophouse called Sots’ Hole, discussed the need to widen and improve Dublin streets, that he drafted a bill that led to the establishment of the wide streets commission in 1758, and that Parliament St. was laid out thanks to his initiative and under his direction. He took credit for the efficient demolition of the old buildings in the passage to Essex Bridge, which began while the tenants, who had been hoping to lodge lawsuits to delay eviction, were still asleep in their beds. He also claimed that the idea of building an exchange for Dublin merchants (now the city hall), as a fitting termination for the new street, was his. He was made a freeman of the city and was a member of the Dublin Society from 1766. Howard's autobiographical writings reveal much of the man, but do not indicate exactly how he made a very large fortune, reported to be at least £60,000, when he died towards the end of June 1786. His private practice had been worth £1,600 a year, and he was solicitor for the revenue of Ireland from 1772, earning about £1,200 annually thereby. He had at least one daughter, whose fortune was £10,000, and who married a relative.