Howells, William Dean

born March 1, 1837, Martins Ferry, Ohio, U.S.
died May 11, 1920, New York, N.Y.

U.S. novelist and critic.

He wrote a campaign biography of Abraham Lincoln (1860) and served as consul in Venice during Lincoln's administration. As editor of the Atlantic Monthly (1871–81), he became a preeminent figure in late 19th-century American letters. A champion of literary realism, he was one of the first to recognize the genius of Mark Twain and Henry James. His own novels (from 1872) depict America as it changed from a simple, egalitarian society where luck and pluck were rewarded to one in which social and economic gulfs were becoming unbridgeable. His best-known work, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), is about a self-made man's efforts to fit into Boston society. Howells risked his livelihood with his plea for clemency for the anarchists involved in the Haymarket Riot, and his deepening disillusionment with American society is reflected in the late novels Annie Kilburn (1888) and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890).

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▪ American author and critic

born March 1, 1837, Martins Ferry, Ohio, U.S.
died May 11, 1920, New York City
 U.S. novelist and critic, the dean of late 19th-century American letters, the champion of literary realism, and the close friend and adviser of Mark Twain and Henry James.

      The son of an itinerant printer and newspaper editor, Howells grew up in various Ohio towns and began work early as a typesetter and later as a reporter. Meanwhile, he taught himself languages, becoming well read in German, Spanish, and English classics, and began contributing poems to The Atlantic Monthly. His campaign biography of Abraham Lincoln (1860) financed a trip to New England, where he met the great men of the literary establishment, James Russell Lowell, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hawthorne, and Emerson. On Lincoln's victory he was rewarded with a consulship at Venice (1861–65), which enabled him to marry. On his return to the U.S. he became assistant editor (1866–71), then editor (1871–81), of The Atlantic (Atlantic Monthly, The) Monthly, in which he began publishing reviews and articles that interpreted American writers. He was a shrewd judge of his contemporaries. He immediately recognized the worth of Henry James (James, Henry), and he was the first to take Mark Twain (Twain, Mark) seriously as an artist.

      Their Wedding Journey (1872) and A Chance Acquaintance (1873) were his first realistic novels of uneventful middle-class life. There followed some international novels, contrasting American and European manners. Howells' best work depicts the American scene as it changed from a simple, egalitarian society where luck and pluck were rewarded to one in which social and economic gulfs were becoming unbridgeable, and the individual's fate was ruled by chance. He wrote A Modern Instance (1882), the story of the disintegration of a marriage, which is considered his strongest novel. His best known work, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), deals with a self-made businessman's efforts to fit into Boston society. In 1887 he risked both livelihood and reputation with his plea for clemency for the condemned Haymarket (Haymarket Riot) anarchists on the grounds that they had been convicted for their political beliefs. In 1888 he left Boston for New York.

      His deeply shaken social faith is reflected in the novels of his New York period, such as the strongly pro-labour Annie Kilburn (1888) and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), generally considered his finest work, which dramatizes the teeming, competitive life of New York, where a representative group of characters try to establish a magazine.

      Howells' critical writings of this period welcomed the young Naturalistic novelists Hamlin Garland, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris and promoted the European authors Turgenev, Ibsen, Zola, Pérez Galdós, Verga, and above all Tolstoy.

      Long before his death Howells was out of fashion. Later critics have more fairly evaluated his enormous influence, and readers have rediscovered the style, humour, and honesty of his best works.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Howells,William Dean — How·ells (houʹəlz), William Dean. 1837 1920. American writer and editor in chief (1871 1881) of the Atlantic Monthly, who encouraged a number of writers, including Mark Twain and Henry James. He also wrote many novels, such as The Rise of Silas… …   Universalium

  • Howells, William Dean — (1 mar. 1837, Martins Ferry, Ohio, EE.UU.–11 may. 1920, Nueva York, N.Y.). Novelista y crítico estadounidense. Escribió una biografía de campaña de Abraham Lincoln (1860) y fue cónsul en Venecia durante su gobierno. Como editor de la revista… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Howells, William Dean — (1837 1920)    The eminent critic, novelist, poet, and playwright was born in Martin s Ferry, Ohio, and was contributing to Ohio newspapers by age 15. In 1871, he became editor of the Atlantic Monthly. His close friendship with Mark Twain was a… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • HOWELLS, WILLIAM DEAN —    a popular American novelist, the son of a Swedenborgian journalist, born at Martin s Ferry, Ohio; adopted journalism as a profession, produced a popular Life of Lincoln, and from 1861 to 1865 was Consul at Venice; resuming journalism he became …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Howells, William Dean —  (1837–1920) American critic, editor, and writer …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Howells, William Dean —    D.Litt. (b. 1837)    American novelist, etc. A Foregone Conclusion, A Chance Acquaintance, A Counterfeit Presentment, The Undiscovered Country, Modern Italian Poets, Indian Summer, Heroines of Fiction (1901), Miss Bellard s Inspiration (1905) …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Howells, William Dean —    см. Хоуэллс, Уильям Дин …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • William Dean Howells — William Dean Howells, né à Martinsville (Ohio) le 1er mars 1837 et mort dans la Nouvelle Angleterre le 11 mai 1920, est un écrivain réaliste et critique littéraire américain. Il a été imprimeur jou …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Dean Howells — William Dean Howells. William Dean Howells (Martin s Ferry, Ohio, 1 de marzo de 1837 Nueva York, 11 de mayo de 1920), viajero, hispanista y escritor estadounidense, asociado al Realismo. Trayectori …   Wikipedia Español

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