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Featured Books

Featured Books

A Hazard of New Fortunes (Modern Library Classics)Summary and Reviews of A Hazard of New Fortunes (Modern Library Classics)
The Rise of Silas LaphamSummary and Reviews of The Rise of Silas Lapham
A Modern InstanceSummary and Reviews of A Modern Instance
The Leatherwood GodSummary and Reviews of The Leatherwood God
A Traveler from Altruria (The Bedford Series in History and Culture)Summary and Reviews of A Traveler from Altruria (The Bedford Series in History and Culture)
Selected Short Stories Wm. Dean HowellsSummary and Reviews of Selected Short Stories Wm. Dean Howells
Years of My YouthSummary and Reviews of Years of My Youth
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William Dean Howells

Click the banner or the individual items listed to buy and read Howells' work.

William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was better known and thus more popular in his own time, but in literary circles he still enjoys a place in the pantheon of American literary greats.  Howells still has several works in the canon including his masterpiece, The Rise of Silas Lapham, the short story, Editha, and the Utopian satire, A Traveler from Altruria.

Howells was born in Martin's Ferry, Ohio to a father who was in the newspaper business, and by the time he was nine years old he was already working the presses.  By the age of 18, he was writing for his family's newspaper, Sentinel, and other Ohio area newspapers.  I declined scholarships to attend Harvard because he didn't want to abandon the family during hard times.  After he moved from the family home in Ashtabula, Ohio, he became a Columbus correspondent for the Gazette in Cincinnati.

Howells' first editorial job was for the Ohio State Journal, a partisan Republican paper in the state capital.  While Howells was news editor for the Journal, the paper became more and more partisan as it became more and more apparent that the issue of slavery would cause a major conflict in the country.  This leap into partisan politics led to his involvement in Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign, as author of the Life of Lincoln, official biography of the candidate.

In 1861, after he was elected, Lincoln appointed Howells consul to Venice.  In 1860, meanwhile, Howells had begun his professional writing career in earnest by contributing to Atlantic Monthly, Saturday Press, and the Cincinnati Dial.  He also published his first book, as co-author with J.J. Piatt, called Poems of Two Friends.

While he was in Europe, he met and married Elinore Gertrude Mead of Vermont.  After his return to the United States in 1865, and after contributing some writings to several major magazines, he became the assistant editor of The Atlantic Monthly in 1866.  That year, he also published Venetian Life.

In 1867, Howells received a Masters degree from Harvard, and he became a University Lecturer there in 1869.  The year 1867 also began a period of prolific writing, with such books as Italian Journeys, Suburban Sketches, The Undiscovered Country, and at least eight other books within thirteen years.

In 1881, he resigned from The Atlantic Monthly, which had during his time there published much of Mark Twain's early work, and he concentrated on his writing career.  Between 1881 and 1884, Howells published another six books, including the major work, A Modern Instance.  But, it was in 1885 that Howells produced his masterwork, The Rise of Silas Lapham.

Howells spent the rest of his life writing.  He wrote large and small works.  He wrote at least 35 more books, including A Traveler from Altruria in 1894, and published essays and sketches in Harper's Weekly and other major magazines.  During his lifetime, he developed and close friendship with Mark Twain and wrote My Mark Twain. Imaginary Interviews as a tribute to his contemporary.  Howells may be less well known than Twain now, but he deserves his place in American literary history.


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