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!