William Dean Howells: Brief Chronology of Selected Works and Events
Note: This brief and selective chronology is intended as a quick reference
for those working on Howells. It is by no means comprehensive. For
more biographical information, see Edwin Cady’s two-volume biography of Howells
and John Crowley’s The Black Heart’s Truth, both of which served as sources
for the information below; Kenneth Lynn’s 1971 biography; Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson”s William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life (2005); and other
works. For information on texts, see the Indiana edition
of Howells’s works, William Gibson and George Arms’s A Bibliography of William
Dean Howells (New York Public Library, 1948; Arno Press, 1971), American
Literary Realism (1969, 1972). If not otherwise specified, page references are to Goodman and Dawson. Please cite this page if you are using the information.
Go to a list of Howells’s residences.
(Titles and dates of first American editions appear as listed
in the University of California’s Melvyl library system and checked against
the Facts on File bibliography listing on Howells. . Please e-mail corrections to this chronology.)
|March 1. William Dean Howells is born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, to
William Cooper and Mary Dean Howells, the second child and second son of
their eight children. His older brother, Joseph (“Joe”), was born in 1832.May 1. Elinor Gertrude Mead, whom Howells will marry in 1862, is born.
|1838||Howells’s sister Victoria (“Vic) is born (1838-1886)|
|1842||Howells’s sister Aurelia is born (1842-1931).|
|1844||Howells’s sister Anne is born (1844-1938).|
|1846||Howells’s brother John is born (1846-1864).|
|1848||Trying to gather support for the Free Soil party, William Cooper Howells
quits the Intelligencer over a matter of principle. The family moves
to Dayton, Eureka Mills, and other places in Ohio.
|1849||The Howells family moves to Dayton, and W. C. Howells publishes the first issue of the Dayton Transcript on May 17.WDH has a mild case of cholera.|
||Howells’s first published fiction, “A Tale of Love and Politics, Adventures of a Printer Boy,” appears in the Ashtabula Sentinel|
||WDH publishes The Independent Candidate, a serialized novel, in the Sentinel during the fall and winter.|
|1855||After a month of reading law with Ben Wade in preparation for being a lawyer, Howells quits and returns to the print shop.|
|1856||William Cooper Howells is elected Clerk of the State House of Representatives.|
||WDH publishes nine letters in the Sentinel based on his experiences traveling by steamboat to St. Louis.|
||Poems of Two Friends (December 1859)|
|1861|| Sails from New York to Liverpool and then Venice to take up consular
|1862|| Christmas Eve. Marries Elinor Mead at the American embassy
|1863||December 17. First child, Winifred, born to WD and Elinor Howells.|
|1865-66||WDH lives in New York as a freelance journalist.|
|1866||Meets James T. Fields on January 7; Fields offers Howells the assistant
editorship of the Atlantic Monthly a few days later. Howells settles
on Berkeley St. in Cambridge, Mass.
|1868||August 14. The Howellses’ second child, John Mead Howells, is born.
Love Lost: A Romance of Travel” (Putnam’s, Dec. 1868)
|1869|| Howells meets Mark Twain in Fields’s office, the beginning of a
friendship that will last the rest of their lives.
|1870||August. The Howells family moves from Sacramento Street to 3 Berkeley Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Howells lectures at Harvard.||“A
Romance of Real Life” (Atlantic, March)
|1871top|| July 1. Howells becomes the Editor of the Atlantic
Monthly, a post he will keep for the next ten years.
|Suburban Sketches (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1871)
Wedding Journey. Howells’s first novel.(Boston: Osgood, 1871)
|1873||A Chance Acquaintance
Augmented edition: 1886.
|1875||WD and Elinor Howells stay at the Shaker colony in Shirley, Massachusetts (Goodman and Dawson 393).||A Foregone Conclusion
Private Theatricals (published
as Mrs. Farrell in 1921) serialized in the November, 1875 Atlantic.
It is the only one of Howells’s novels not immediately published in book
form after serialization.
|1876||Some time before this summer, Howells attends a performance
of Euripedes’Medea, an experience that inspires A Modern Instance.
||Out of the Question: A Comedy
A Counterfeit Presentment
|1879||The Lady of the Aroostook|
|The Undiscovered Country|
|1881||1 March. Howells resigns from the editorship of the Atlantic (Goodman and Dawson 212).||A Fearful Responsibility, and Other Stories
Practice: A Novel
||A Modern Instance: A Novel
A Fearful Responsibility and
Tonelli’s Marriage (stories)
|1883||A Woman’s Reason
The Sleeping Car: A Farce
|1884||August. Howells buys a house at 302 Beacon Street in Boston, two
doors away from Oliver Wendell Holmes.
May 4. During an Anarchist meeting in Haymarket Square, Chicago, bombs explode,
|1887||Hamlin Garland meets Howells while the Howellses are at a resort in Auburndale, Massachusetts (Goodman and Dawson 318).||The Minister’s Charge
Modern Italian Poets: Essays and
Versions (derived from the Lowell Lectures delivered at Harvard
|1889||2 March. Winifred Howells dies of heart failure. Hoping to cure his daughter Winnie’s persistent and mysterious illness,
Howells puts her under the care of Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, originator of the
“rest cure” made famous in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Howells writes to Mark Twain, “If she could have been allowed to read,
I think the experiment might have succeeded, but I think the privation has
thrown her thoughts back upon her, and made her morbid and hypochondriacal”
(Crowley 116). Mitchell and others have diagnosed Winnie’s illness as psychological
in origin, but an autopsy reveals physical disease of a kind not stated. At one point Winifred weighed only 59 pounds, which to the modern eye raises the specter of anorexia. At her death, she weighed 79 pounds, but, as biographers Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson note, “The combination of vigorous exercise and a diet of fatty foods can themselves trigger a heart attack in someone who has been underweight for several years” (295).
The death devastates WD and Elinor Howells.
|An “Editor’s Study” column criticizes Harold
Frederic‘s In the Valley but praises Seth’s Brother’s Wife
(1887) and The Lawton Girl (1890). In 1899, Howells lists Frederic’s
masterpiece, The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896), as one of the country’s
major serious novels.
||Criticism and Fiction|
|1892||March. Howells’s last column for the “Editor’s Study”||
Crane sends Howells a copy of Maggie. He writes to Howells on
28 March asking why he has received no response; Howells replies immediately,
saying that he has not yet read the book. According to The Crane Log,
Crane again writes to Howells on 8 April “asking for a recommendation
to Edwin L. Godkin, editor of the New York Evening Post. Howells
replies on the same day, advising Crane to show Godkin a letter from Howells
to Crane that praised Maggie” (91). According to Edwin Cady’s
The Realist at War, Howells “used the convenient outlet of a
newspaper interview to announce his discovery of ‘a remarkable writer’ and
to praise Maggie” (214). WDH reads the manuscripts of George’s
Mother, Crane’s poems, and The Third Violet, but not The Red
Badge of Courage.
|The World of Chance: A Novel (serial
version at MOA)
My Year in a Log Cabin (essay and memoir;
reprinted from 1887 article for Youth’s Companion)
of Bohemia: A Novel“The
Man of Letters as a Man of Business” Scribner’s 14 (October 1893):
429-446.Evening Dress: FarceThe Niagara Book (with Mark Twain and Nathaniel Southgate Shaler) (Buffalo: Underhill and Nichols)
|1894||Howells’s father dies.WDH visits his son, John, who is studying architecture in France.||
|1895||Begins “Life and Letters” essay review column for Harper’s Weekly (March
30, 1895-February 26, 1898)
|1896|| On the recommendation of James Herne, WDH reads Paul Laurence Dunbar’s
privately printed Majors and Minors and praises it in his Harper’s
Weekly “Life and Letters” column. He persuades literary agent
Ripley Hitchcock to place Dunbar’s work and writes an introduction
for Dunbar’s next volume, Lyrics of Lowly Life.
|1897||WDH goes to Germany.||
||The Story of a Play: A Novel|
|1899||Failure of Harper & Brothers. Col. George Harvey is placed in charge,
and WDH begins to write a monthly column, the “Editor’s Easy Chair,”
for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.
|Their Silver Wedding Journey
Ragged Lady, a Novel
|Howells begins to write the “Editor’s Easy Chair” column for
Harper’s (Anesko 318)
|1901||Heroines of FictionA Pair of Patient Lovers|
|1902||WDH purchases summer home at Kittery Point, Maine (Anesko 319)||
|1903||Letters Home (novel)
|1904||WDH receives a Litt. D. from Oxford.||The Son of Royal Langbrith|
|1908||Elected first president of the American Academy of Arts and
Letters.Travels to Italy.
|1909||Trip to Wales, Ireland,and the Continent (Anesko 320).||Seven English Cities
The Mother and the Father: Dramatic
Boy life; stories and readings selected from the works
of William Dean Howells, and arranged for supplementary reading in elementary
schools (ed. Percival Chubb)
|1910top||21 April. Death of Mark Twain.6 May. Death of Elinor Mead Howells.||
|1911|| Howells joins with Edith
Wharton and others in an attempt to get the Nobel Prize in literature
for Henry James. The attempt is unsuccessful.WDH travels to Bermuda and Spain (Anesko 320)
|The Writings of William Dean Howells (edition)
Friends: A Farce
|1912||House of Harper stages an elaborate birthday celebration for WDH’s 75th
birthday. Among those sending or reading tributes are Henry James,
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Franklin Sanborn.
|1913||New Leaf Mills: A Chronicle (based on the Howells family’s
Eureka Mills experiment)
Familiar Spanish Travels
|1914||The Seen and Unseen at Stratford-on-Avon: A Fantasy (story)|
|1915||Harper’s agrees to pay Howells $5,000 a year for the “Editor’s Easy Chair”
and occasional introductions to books. WDH buys a Model T Ford.American Academy of Arts and Letters establishes the Howells Medal for Fiction;
WDH is the first recipient.
|1916||Death of Henry James on February 28.||The Leatherwood God (novel)
Years of My Youth (autobiography
Daughter of the Storage and Other Things in Prose and Verse
The Book of the Homeless, ed. Edith Wharton (contributors:
Wharton, Edith; Brooke, Rupert; Conrad, Joseph; Galsworthy, John; Hardy,
Thomas; James, Henry; Howells, William Dean;Yeats, W. B.)
|1917||21 March. Hamlin Garland organizes a literary tribute dinner for Howells at the National Arts Club in New York in honor of Howells’s 80th birthday.|
|1919||Eighty Years and After|
|May 11. In New York, Howells dies in his sleep of pneumonia and
in the Cambridge Cemetery near Henry
|The Vacation of the Kelwyns, an Idyl of the Middle Eighteen-Seventies