Happy birthday to W. D. Howells, born in Martinsville, now Martins Ferry, Ohio on March 1, 1837.
Dear William Dean Howells Society:
I am writing about John Greenleaf Whittier’s 70th birthday party, at which Mr. Howells was the toastmaster, and at which Samuel Clemens gave his controversial speech.
In Mr. Howells’ account of that speech, he says that the silence “…deepened from moment to moment, and was broken only by the hysterical and blood-curdling laughter of a single guest, whose name shall not be handed down to infamy.”
My question is, is it known, now, who that guest was? I’m wondering if it showed up in any of his correspondence or personal notes.
[leave suggestions in the comments]
At Wired, Bruce Sterling reads Howells’s “American Literature in Exile.” A sample:
*It’s good to read Howell because he’s so secure in his own world. He’s properly dressed in his own Manhattan tie-and-tails; he’s not bitterly agitated, or preyed upon by bipolarity, like Clemens was. Howells is energetic without ever being antic. He gives the impression of a natural ruling-class figure who would likely do very well in the State Department.
*There’s a steampunk version of the Howells-Twain relationship where Howells is “M,” the master spy, the firm-hand-on-the-tiller, while Mark Twain is his brilliant yet reckless field agent, with a license to wander the world and kill off steampunk super-villains. I shouldn’t have said that, because now somebody’s gonna do it and get it all wrong; but, well, I’m in literary mode now, writing an Italian dieselpunk story, and the flights of fancy are proliferating out of control.
From Howellsian editor Paul Petrie:
This issue marks the first time that the Society is distributing the newsletter electronically rather than via print and mail. The issue is in PDF format, and should be easily readable on any reasonably current computer, and printable on standard 8 ½ X 11 paper .
This issue has been mailed to all Society members whose email addresses we know. Please help us spread the word among Howellsians that the Society’s email distribution list is seriously incomplete. Society members who have not received this email should send an updated email address to the Society’s secretary-treasurer, Prof. Mischa Renfroe, at Mischa.Renfroe@mtsu.edu to update their contact information.
In This Issue:
- Eminent Howellsians: An Interview with Professor Thomas Wortham . . . . . . . . . 2
- Howells Essay Prize Competition
- Call for submissions from presenters of Howells papers at the 2013 ALA Conference . . . . 3
- Essay Abstracts
- Papers delivered at the 2013 American Literature Association Conference, Boston . . . . . . 4
- Minutes William Dean Howells Society Annual Meeting, May 2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Membership Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
- “Society,” by W.D. Howells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . …… . . . . 9
- Call for Papers: Howells Panels at the 2014 ALA Conference, Washington D.C. . . .. 10
KITTERY, Maine — This Tuesday will mark the 125th anniversary of Rice Public Library as Kittery’s longstanding literary institution — a bastion of knowledge and information.
But, for a time, Kittery was also home to another literary institution, whose influence extended far beyond the southernmost tip of Maine — the eminent author, editor and critic William Dean Howells. Today, the periodicals room on the ground floor of the Rice building — known as the Kay Howells Room — serves as a link between the library and the famous writer’s family.
Howells was truly a giant of American letters as the 19th century evolved into the 20th, to the extent that to this day the nationwide William Dean Howells Society is devoted to advancing his scholarship. Every five years the American Academy of Arts and Letters bestows the William Dean Howells Medal upon what it considers the most distinguished novel published during that span.
Howells published more than 30 novels and volumes of poetry during his career, including his most notable book “The Rise of Silas Lapham” and the charming short story “Christmas Every Day.”
Howells is best known as perhaps the leading advocate of realism in literature; his reign as editor of the then-powerful Atlantic Monthly; and as critic and champion of other great writers of his day, especially his good friend Mark Twain.
Howells purchased a summer home in Kittery Point in 1902, after he’d already been proclaimed “the dean of American letters.” He referred to the Pepperrell Road house as his “rugged little nest on the Maine coast” and entertained friends like Twain and Henry James there.
“If it could be managed, I should like to spend the rest of my winters at Florence or Rome, and my summers at Kittery Point,” he wrote to his sister in 1903. [read more at the link above]
William Dean Howells Society Panels for ALA 2014, May 22 – 25
The William Dean Howells Society welcomes submissions for two panels at the 2014 American Literature Association conference in Washington D.C. on May 22 – 25.
Panel 1: New Approaches to Teaching William Dean Howells
We are seeking panelists for a potential roundtable on teaching the works of William Dean Howells. We hope to introduce new voices and techniques to the discussion of his most popular works, The Rise of Silas Lapham and A Hazard of New Fortunes, while also considering fresh strategies for the inclusion of Howells in American literature or American studies courses. We are especially interested in accounts of the teaching of his lesser-known works. Other areas may include Howells in his cultural context, from marriage to real estate to anti-imperialism; Howells and American literary realism; Howells and ethics; Howells as editor; or Howells and literary criticism, including critical race studies, cultural Marxism, queer theory, etc.
Panel 2: Open Topic
We are looking for insightful, original papers that address any aspect of Howells’s work.
Please submit your 200-250 word abstract and a current CV (or any questions) to Dan Mrozowski at Daniel.email@example.com by January 31, 2014
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 magazine, Twain 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.
New articles on Howells, which have been posted to the New Books and Articles page:
Wortham, Thomas. “William Dean Howells’s Spiritual Quest(ioning) in a ‘World Come of Age.” Renascence 65 (Spring 2013): 206-224. Print.
McGehee, Michael. “Religion, Family, and National Belonging in W. D. Howells’ the Undiscovered Country.” American Literary Realism 45 2 (2013): 118-32. Print.
I am researching an 1890s political scandal in which Madeline Pollard sued a congressman for breach of promise. She claims a close friendship with Howells, which I am attempting to document. She claimed to have visited Howells in Boston and Cambridge ca. 1887 – 1892 and received written literary advice from him. The Breach of Promise suit [Pollard v. Breckinridge] was tried in 1893-1894 and I am curious as to if he made any comments regarding it to his associates. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Can anyone point me to archives/collections with material in the relevant time frame [1887 - 1894]?
Dr. Elizabeth De Wolfe
Professor of History, University of New England
In the 1880s and 18890s — and beyond? — Howells read and commented on the Russians that were getting translated into English. Can you give me data in general — and Howells’ references to Dostoyevsky in particular?
Thanks. Dorothy Richardson
Welcome to the new site for the W. D. Howells Society!