Tuesday, July 16, 2013

At The Atlantic: Howells and Twain


Each of Twain's stories for the magazine was encouraged and improved by Howells, who became Twain's most useful public champion and his most trusted editor--a relationship that the Twain biographer Ben Tarnoff explores in his introduction to the collection. "[Howells] didn't simply make Twain a better writer; he also explained Twain's significance to the wider world," Tarnoff writes. "He elevated the author of The Innocents Abroad from a popular entertainer to a transformative literary figure--into the "Lincoln of our literature," as Howells called him."

Writing to Howells in 1874, while the two were editing Old Times on the Mississippi for the magazineTwain described a burden he felt of being known merely as a humorist. He bemoaned the expectations of an audience that simply wanted him to "stand on his head every fifteen minutes." Writing forThe Atlantic, he told his friend, offered him a new relationship with readers and a new way to feel about his work. "It is the only audience that I sit down before in perfect serenity," he wrote.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gore Vidal on Howells (1992)

From the New York Review of Books:

Writing was simply a trade that, sometimes, mysteriously, proved to be an art. William Dean Howells had balanced commerce and art with such exquisite tact that he was invaluable as editor and friend to both the Paleface Henry James and the Redskin Mark Twain. Howells himself was a very fine novelist. But he lived too long. For the rising generation of the new twentieth century, he was too genteel, too optimistic (they had carelessly misread him); too much Beacon Street not to mention London and Paris and the Russia of Dostoevsky, whose first translations Howells had brought to the attention of those very conventional ladies who were thought to be the principal audience for the novel in America.

Friday, May 11, 2012

W. D. Howells, 4 March 1837-11 May 1920

From Playbill, http://www.playbill.com/news/article/69486-PLAYBILL-VAULTS-Today-In-Theatre-History-MAY-11

1920 American author, critic and playwright William Dean Howells dies today in New York City. In his criticism he championed the work of James A. Herne and Clyde Fitch. His plays include Yorick's Love, The Garroters and The Mouse Trap (not to be confused with Agatha Christie's play of the same name). He was 83 years old.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Published Apr 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm (Updated Apr 26, 2012)

 PORTSMOUTH — Pontine Theatre co-directors Greg Gathers and Marguerite Mathews present their take on George Savary Wasson's early 20th century stories based on the tales and lore of Kittery Point, Maine, fishermen, with performances through May 13.

In 1904, Wasson was working on his beach at Kittery Point, scraping the hull of his boat, when one of his sons came running down the hill, shouting that Mr. Henry James had called. Wasson shouted back to the boy, “Tell him to come right down,” and Henry James did, and a pleasant visit followed. The elegant author was staying with Wasson's celebrated neighbor, William Dean Howells.

This call was but one of the unexpected incidents resulting from the 1903 publication of Wasson's “Cap'n Simeon's Store.”

These stories, based on a study of the people and language of Kittery Point and set against the background of the village's general store, aroused enthusiasm. One critic hailed “Cap'n Simeon's Store” as “the only book which records faithfully and fully the quaint dialect of the old New England Coast.”

Mark Twain told William Dean Howells that its eighth stories, “Rusticators at the Cove,” was one of the funniest he'd ever read. None of Wasson's three books, “Cap'n Simeon's Store,” “The Green Shay” (1905) and Home from Sea” (1908), enjoyed popular success. However, scholars have described them as the most authentic Maine stories ever written.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Howells Society site down temporarily

Because of an outage at the main WSU web site, the W. D. Howells Society web site is down temporarily. The IT people say that it will be restored by the end of the week (5/27). Sorry for the inconvenience.

Donna Campbell

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Howells quotation on KPCC

From http://www.scpr.org/programs/patt-morrison/2011/03/25/all-we-do-is-win-the-american-inequality-mentality/

William Dean Howells once said, “Inequality is as dear to the American heart as liberty itself.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

W. D. Howells and Kanye West

From Vanity Fair:

In iconic American fiction, there’s William Dean Howells’s novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham. In one remarkably hilarious scene in the book, the patriarch of an old-line Bostonian family admonishes his son for preferring to work for a living instead of relying on the charity of his parents or the dowry of a potential new wife. This “plebeian reluctance” to depend on the wealth of others, the father laments, is the reason America shall never have an aristocracy of its very own.