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William Dean Howells: A Writer's Life by Susan Goodman

By Susan Goodman

In all likelihood the main influential determine within the historical past of yankee letters, William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was once, between different issues, a number one novelist within the realist culture, a formative impact on a lot of America's most interesting writers, and an outspoken opponent of social injustice. This biography, the 1st accomplished paintings on Howells in fifty years, enters the realization of the guy and his instances, revealing a sophisticated and painfully sincere determine who got here of age in an period of political corruption, commercial greed, and American imperialism. Written with verve and originality in a hugely soaking up type, it brings alive for a brand new iteration a literary and cultural pioneer who performed a key function in developing the yankee creative ethos.

William Dean Howells traces the writer's existence from his boyhood in Ohio ahead of the Civil battle, to his consularship in Italy below President Lincoln, to his upward push as editor of Atlantic per thirty days. It appears to be like at his writing, which incorporated novels, poems, performs, kid's books, and feedback. Howells had many robust friendships one of the literati of his day; and right here we discover a particularly wealthy exam of the connection among Howells and Mark Twain. Howells was once, as Twain referred to as him, "the boss" of literary critics—his help nearly single-handedly made the careers of many writers, together with African americans like Paul Dunbar and girls like Sarah Orne Jewett. Showcasing many noteworthy personalities—Henry James, Edmund Gosse, H. G. Wells, Stephen Crane, Emily Dickinson, and lots of others—William Dean Howells portrays a guy who stood on the middle of yank literature in the course of the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries.

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5 The next day father and son visited General James Garfield at his home in Hiram. His father had PARALLEL LIVES 2 known Garfield before the Civil War as a state senator, then as a representative to Congress, elected in 1862 while on active duty. Rising through the ranks, Garfield fought bravely at Shiloh and, as chief of General Rosecrans’ staª, earned distinction at Chickamauga. Like William Cooper Howells, Garfield grew up in poverty and embraced the principles of a splinter religious sect—in his case the Disciples of Christ—which had provided his schooling.

It changes a boy’s perspective to be asked, as he was, to ride bareback to the nearest village and buy shrouds for a neighbor’s five children, all dead from influenza. He admired people like his mother and two oldest sisters, who devoted themselves to others, and he wanted something diªerent for himself. When he came to realize that his ambition meant leaving Ohio, he would still claim the advantage of having come of age in the democratic West. PARALLEL LIVES 18 2 WARRING AMBITIONS 1851–1859 Our joys and pleasures are sweet to us .

It might be said that William Cooper Howells and the state of Ohio came into their own in the same years. 19 With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the West had begun to feel its commercial power. By the time William turned twenty-two, Andrew Jackson’s presidency had inaugurated a new era, symbolized perhaps by the western reach of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which bound the eastern states to the rapidly developing new territories. In William’s day even small towns tended to have one or two newspapers for reporting on the fortunes of local businesses and on political and religious contests.

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