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About the Author: William Dean Howells

Willam Dean Howells was a novelist, short story writer, magazine editor, and mentor who wrote for various magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine.

In January 1866 James Fields offered him the assistant editor role at the Atlantic Monthly. Howells accepted after successfully negotiating for a higher salary, but was frustrated by Fields's close supervision. Howells was made editor in 1871, remaining in the position until 1881.

In 1869 he first met Mark Twain, which began a longtime friendship. Even more important for the development of his literary style — his advocacy of Realism — was his relationship with the journalist Jonathan Baxter Harrison, who during the 1870s wrote a series of articles for the Atlantic Monthly on the lives of ordinary Americans.

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 of the paint business. His social views were also strongly represented in the novels Annie Kilburn (1888), A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), and An Imperative Duty (1892). He was particularly outraged by the trials resulting from the Haymarket Riot.

His poems were collected during 1873 and 1886, and a volume under the title Stops of Various Quills was published during 1895. He was the initiator of the school of American realists who derived, through the Russians, from Balzac and had little sympathy with any other type of fiction, although he frequently encouraged new writers in whom he discovered new ideas.

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, Madison Cawein,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 people chosen for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he became president.

Howells died in Manhattan on May 11, 1920. He was buried in Cambridge Cemetery in Massachusetts.

Noting the "documentary" and truthful value of Howells' work, Henry James wrote: "Stroke by stroke and book by book your work was to become, for this exquisite notation of our whole democratic light and shade and give and take, in the highest degree documentary."


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Hardcover, Published in Jun 2007 by 1st World Library - Literary Society

ISBN10: 1421844966 | ISBN13: 9781421844961

Page count: 296

In the best room of a farm-house on the skirts of a village in the hills of Northern Massachusetts, there sat one morning in August three people who were not strangers to the house, but who had apparently assembled in the parlor as the place most in accord with an unaccustomed finery in their dress. One was an elderly woman with a plain, honest face, as kindly in expression as she could be perfectly sure she felt, and no more; she rocked herself softly in the haircloth arm-chair, and addressed as father the old man who sat at one end of the table between the windows, and drubbed noiselessly upon it with his stubbed fingers, while his lips, puckered to a whistle, emitted no sound. His face had that distinctly fresh-shaven effect which once a week is the advantage of shaving no oftener: here and there, in the deeper wrinkles, a frosty stubble had escaped the razor. He wore an old-fashioned, low black satin stock, over the top of which the linen of his unstarched collar contrived with difficulty to make itself seen; his high-crowned, lead-colored straw hat lay on the table before him. At the other end of the table sat a young girl, who leaned upon it with one arm, propping her averted face on her hand. The window was open beside her, and she was staring out upon the door-yard, where the hens were burrowing for coolness in the soft earth under the lilac bushes; from time to time she put her handkerchief to her eyes.

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