- William Dean Howells
name = William Dean Howells
imagesize = 200px
pseudonym = W.D. Howells
birthdate = Birth date|1837|3|1
birthplace = Martinsville, Ohio
deathdate = Dda|1920|5|11|1837|3|1
occupation = novelist, short story writer
nationality = American
period = 1858-1916
genre = Civil War writings, class issues
movement = Realism
John Mead Howells
James Thomas Fields
James Russell Lowell,
Oliver Wendell Holmes,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Martins Ferry, Ohio, originally Martinsville, to William Cooper and Mary Dean Howells, Howells was the second of eight children. His father was a newspaper editor and printer, and moved frequently around Ohio. Howells began to help his father with typesetting and printing work at an early age. In 1852, his father arranged to have one of Howells' poems published in the "Ohio State Journal" without telling him.
In 1856, Howells was elected as a Clerk in the State House of Representatives. In 1858, he began to work at the "Ohio State Journal" where he wrote poetry, short stories, and also translated pieces from French, Spanish, and German. He avidly studied German and other languages and was greatly interested in
Heinrich Heine. In 1860, he visited Boston and met with American writers James Thomas Fields, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Said to be rewarded for a biography of
Abraham Lincolnused during the election of 1860, he gained a consulship in Venice. On Christmas Eve 1862, he married Elinor Mead at the American embassy in Paris. Upon returning to the U.S., he wrote for various magazines, including " Atlantic Monthly" and " Harper's Magazine". From 1866, he became an assistant editor for the "Atlantic Monthly" and was made editor in 1871, remaining in the position until 1881. In 1869, he first met Mark Twain, which sparked a longtime friendship, although the friendship went sour over a disagreement about Twain's incessant cigar smoking. Howells was strongly against the use of tobacco and even appeared before Congress in 1883 to urge that its use be outlawed. Twain took offense and the friendship chilled for a decade. They reconciled in 1894 when Twain asked Howells to contribute to the Confederate Veteran's Fund he had organized to help one of his Civil War comrades pay for a new prosthetic limb. Even more important for the development of his literary style--his advocacy of Realism--was his relationship with the journalist Jonathan Baxter Harrison, who in the 1870s wrote a series of articles for the "Atlantic Monthly" on the lives of ordinary Americans (Fryckstedt 1958).
He wrote his first novel, "
Their Wedding Journey", in 1872, but his literary reputation took off with the realist novel " A Modern Instance", published in 1882, which described the decay of a marriage. His 1885 novel " The Rise of Silas Lapham" is perhaps his best known, describing the rise and fall of an American entrepreneur in the paint business. His social views were also strongly reflected in the novels " Annie Kilburn" (1888) and " A Hazard of New Fortunes" (1890). He was particularly outraged by the trials resulting from the Haymarket Riot.
Though Howells is known primarily as a novelist, his short story "Editha" (1905) appears in many anthologies of American literature.
Howells also wrote plays, criticism, and essays about contemporary literary figures such as
Henrik Ibsen, Émile Zola, Giovanni Verga, Benito Pérez Galdós, and, especially, Leo Tolstoy, which helped establish their reputations in the United States. He also wrote critically in support of American writers Hamlin Garland, Stephen Crane, Emily Dickinson, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles W. Chesnutt, Abraham Cahan, and Frank Norris. It is perhaps in this role that he had his greatest influence. In his "Editor's Study" column at the "Atlantic Monthly" and, later, at "Harper's", he formulated and disseminated his theories of "realism" in literature.
In 1904, he was one of the first seven chosen for membership in the
American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he became president. In 1928, eight years after Howells' death, his daughter published his correspondence as a biography of his literary years.
He was the father of the architect
John Mead Howells.
In defense of the real, as opposed to the ideal, Howells is quoted as saying, "I hope the time is coming when not only the artist, but thecommon, average man, who always 'has the standard of the arts in hispower,' will have also the courage to apply it, and will reject the idealgrasshopper wherever he finds it, in science, in literature, in art,because it is not 'simple, natural, and honest,' because it is not like areal grasshopper. But I will own that I think the time is yet far off,and that the people who have been brought up on the ideal grasshopper,the heroic grasshopper, the impassioned grasshopper, the self-devoted,adventureful, good old romantic card-board grasshopper, must die outbefore the simple, honest, and natural grasshopper can have a fair field." [ [http://www.fullbooks.com/Criticism-and-Fiction.html Criticism and Fiction] ," by William Dean Howells, accessed]
* "Their Wedding Journey", 1871, 1887, 1916
* "A Chance Acquaintance", 1873
* "A Foregone Conclusion", 1875
A Modern Instance", 1882
The Rise of Silas Lapham", 1885
* "Indian Summer" (1886)
A Hazard of New Fortunes", 1890
* "The Shadow of a Dream", 1890
* "The Day of Their Wedding", 1895
A Traveler from Altruria", 1892-3
* "A Counterfeit Presentment" (1877)
* "The Lady of the Aroostook" (1879) :The following were written during his residence in
Englandand in Italy, as was "The Rise of Silas Lapham" in 1885.
* "The Undiscovered Country" (1880)
* "A Fearful Responsibility" (1881)
* "Dr. Breen's Practice" (1881)
* "A Woman's Reason" (1883)
* "Three Villages" (1884)
* "Tuscan Cities" (1885) :He returned to the
United Statesin 1886. He wrote various types of works, including fictional, poetry, and farces, of which "The Sleeping-Car, The Mouse-Trap, The Elevator", and "Out of the Question" are characteristic.
* "The Minister's Charge" (1886)
* "Annie Kilburn" (1887/88)
* "Modern Italian Poets" (1887)
* "April Hopes" (1888)
* "Criticism and Fiction" (1891)
* "The World of Chance" (1893)
* "The Coast of Bohemia" (1893)
* "My Year In a Log Cabin" (1893)
* "The Story of a Play" (1898)
* "Ragged Lady" (1899)
* "Their Silver Wedding Anniversary" (1899)
* "The Flight of Pony Baker" (1902)
* "The Kentons" (1902)
* "Questionable Shapes" (1903)
* "Son of Royal Langbrith" (1904)
* "London Films" (1905)
* "Certain Delightful English Towns" (1906)
* "Between the Dark and the Daylight" (1907)
* "Through the Eye of the Needle, A Romance" (1907)
* "Heroines of Fiction" (1908)
* "The Landlord At Lion's Head" (1908)
Mark Twain: Reminiscences" (1910)
* "New Leaf Mills" (1913)
* "Seen and Unseen at Stratford-on-Avon: A Fantasy" (1914)
* "The Leatherwood God" (1916)
* "Years of My Youth" (autobiography) (1916) His poems were collected in 1873 and 1886, and a volume under the title "Stops of Various Quills" appeared in 1895. He was the founder of the school of American realists who derived through the Russians from Balzac and had little sympathy with any other form of fiction, although he was full of encouragement for new writers in whom he discovered a fresh note. It can hardly be doubted that his was the most influential work done in American fiction during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
*" Novels 1875-1886: A Foregone Conclusion, A Modern Instance, Indian Summer, The Rise of Silas Lapham" (Edwin M. Cady, ed.) (
Library of America, 1982) ISBN 978-0-94045004-2
*"Novels 1886-1888: The Minister's Charge, or The Apprenticeship of Lemuel Barker; April Hopes; Annie Kilburn" (Don L. Cook, ed.) (
Library of America, 1989) ISBN 978-0-94045051-6
*cite book | last=Bleiler | first=Everett | authorlink=Everett F. Bleiler | title=The Checklist of Fantastic Literature | location=Chicago | publisher=Shasta Publishers | pages=154 | date=1948
*Fryckstedt, Olov W. 1958. "In Quest of America: A Study of Howells’ Early Development as a Novelist." Upsala, Sweden: Thesis.
*gutenberg author|id=William_Dean_Howells|name=William Dean Howells
* [http://essays.quotidiana.org/howells/ Essays by William Dean Howells at Quotidiana.org]
* [http://www.howellssociety.org William Dean Howells Society] includes a biographical sketch of Howells, links to his works (including the "Editor's Study" columns), questions and replies, bibliographies, and pictures.
* [http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/realism.htm Realism in American Literature at the Literary Movements site]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.