Category Archives: Howells in the News

July 25, 2020: Performance of Howells’s The Smoking Car


The perils of doing a good deed

The Smoking Car
by William Dean Howells

Saturday, July 25
8 pm


Mr. Roberts is entrusted with a priceless package
by a stranger on his train: her infant child.
She is particularly anxious, and her tale is not particularly
convincing, but he’s barely paying attention.
What could possibly go wrong.

In the Rail Car Series of WD Howells’s plays (such as The Parlor Car, read on May 9),
AND an Edward Roberts/Willis Campbell story–a series in which Howells developed his trenchant satire–
The Smoking Car is a light-hearted alert to the dangers of coming to the aid of a fellow human being.

Lest we forget!

Watch by Zoom or YouTube
or tune in to


WBAI Radio 99.5 FM

Directed by John Long

Howard Pinhasik
Marlaina Powell
Jennifer Reddish
Hannah Sharafian
Blaine Smith

Please Consider a Contribution to Metropolitan Playhouse
to help us help the artists keeping the spirit of the theater alive
from their homes to yours.

Learn more about supporting artists during the pandemic
or make a donation right now


Thank you very much.

Practice Social Distancing.
Love One Another.


Thank you very much. We look forward to seeing you you back at the theater!


Howells in the News: On Civil War Monuments

An alternative history of American Civil War monuments

In the spring of 1866, William Dean Howells wondered what monuments to the American Civil War would look like. Howells, who later became the celebrated ‘Dean’ of American literary realism, had served as American Consul in Venice for the war’s duration, and his hopes for commemorative statuary in the triumphant North betray the remove from which he experienced the war’s emotional and physical ferocity. His vision was progressive and productive: instead of mourning the dead, he contended, public monuments to the war should have the power to reform the communities that encountered them.

With the full force of northern victory and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation behind him, he told the readers of the Atlantic Monthly that ‘[t]he idea of our war seems to have interpreted itself to us all as faith in the justice of our cause, and in our immutable destiny, as God’s agents, to give freedom to mankind; and the ideas of our peace are gratitude and exultant industry.’ Commemorating war from a position of peace, he maintained, involved building on the war’s gains rather than dwelling on its devastation and losses; in proving their ‘right to citizenship’ in a Union freshly dedicated to freedom, commemorative architecture and sculpture must prove ‘themselves adequate to express something of the spirit of the new order we have created here’.

Howells’ suggestive invocation of the new ‘rights to citizenship’ granted to emancipated and self-emancipated African Americans drives his point home: to earn their place in the post-war public sphere, monuments to the war must work collectively to bring the ‘new order’ declared by the Emancipation Proclamation into being. [read the rest at the link to Apollo Magazine.]

Howells’s “The Parlor Car” radio drama online May 9, 2020

From the Metropolitan Playhouse, specializing in reviving 19th and early 20th century plays, a WDH play, for your delectation:

Trouble viewing this email? Read it online

Make your Reservation on

a farce of isolation in motion, by the “Dean of American Letters”
William Dean Howells

(but no reservation is needed)


Saturday, May 9, 2020
8:00 pm

(running time: 45 minutes, with chatter to follow)

Watch the way you wish…

Right on our Webpage
YouTube Channel: Metropolitan Playhouse

and, for those who don’t like to watch…

Broadcast on Radio WBAI 99.5 FM



Virtual Lobby Open starting at 7:55.
Reading at 8:00 pm
(to allow for traffic we start a little late, it’s true)

Miss Galbraith and Mr. Richards, recently separated lovers
find themselves confined to the same compartment
of a railway car on the way to Schenectady.
Mortifying though it may be,
it is also a chance to look a little more closely
at the reason for their spat.
And when the car is de-coupled from its train,
stranded on the lonesome track…
well, who knows what may happen.

One of a series of his “railway car” farces, The Parlor Car is
filled with Howells’s distinctive wit and feel for polite niceties,
and his impatience for socially mandated confusions.
This one is particularly close to the circumstance of a socially distancing audience.
Originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1876,
the play is also particularly well suited to a “static” presentation,
though it throws down a particular gauntlet to the “Zoom drama” technique
that Metropolitan is only too glad to pick up in its evolving exploration of online drama.

Metropolitan is delighted to present these readings as a small way of keeping the theater’s pilot lit.
They also serve to help us compensate performing artists, so particularly struck by this long “pause.”
If you would like to contribute to the fund supporting these gifted and generous friends,
click here to learn about Metropolitan Artist Relief
Or here, simply to make a contribution.


Practice Social Distancing.
Love Your Neighbors.

For current information about the virus and disease, visit the Center for Disease Control website:

Thank you very much. We hope to see you at the theater soon!

Metrpolitan Playhouse
220 E 4th Street
New York New York 10009
United States

Howells in the News: Richard White on Howells at the OUP Blog

Abraham Lincoln, the politician whose memory and legacy dominated the Gilded Age, died as this book begins, but he never really vanished. The novelist and critic William Dean Howells captured part of the reason when he reviewed John Hay’s and John Nicolay’s monumental biography of the president in 1890. Howells wrote that “if America means anything at all, it means the sufficiency of the common, the insufficiency of the uncommon.” Lincoln had come to be both the personification of the American common people and the nation’s greatest—and most uncommon—president. Howells thought it was the nation’s common people and common traits that most mattered.

Howells, famous then and largely forgotten since, knew most everyone, but he always remained detached. He watched, and he wrote. His interventions in politics remained minor. Howells was a Midwesterner, and this was the great age of the Midwest. Originally a committed liberal, he came to acknowledge liberalism’s failures and insufficiencies, and then struggled to imagine alternatives. He did so as a writer, and he and his fellow Realists created invaluable portraits of the age. In his confusion, his intelligence, and his honesty, he reminds us that for those living through the Gilded Age it was an astonishing and frightening period, full of great hopes as well as deep fears. When Howells cryptically embraces the common, it is worth listening to him. Understanding his judgment of the “sufficiency of the common, the insufficiency of the uncommon” provides a lens for assessing the Gilded Age.

“W. D. Howells” by Underwood & Underwood, featured in The North American review. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Public lecture by Daniel Mrozowski June 15 at the Mark Twain House: “My Dear Howells:” The Literary Friendship of Samuel Clemens and William Dean Howells

From Paul Petrie:

The Trouble Begins at 5:30

This Thursday, June 15

5:00 Reception, 5:30 Lecture

“My Dear Howells:” The Literary Friendship of Samuel Clemens and William Dean Howells

Lecture by Daniel Mrozowski

The personal and professional relationship between Mark Twain and William Dean Howells was one of the most important in American letters. Howells was a significant literary gatekeeper as editor of the Atlantic Monthly and a major novelist in his own right. Understanding their relationship illuminates the culture, business, and ideas that animated post-Civil War American literature.

Daniel Mrozowski is a visiting lecturer in English at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. Dr. Mrozowski is the president of the William Dean Howells Society of America, a scholarly organization dedicated to the study of the 19th-century editor, author, and critic that sponsors regular panels at the annual American Literature Association convention.  Dr. Mrozowski’s research and writing focuses on 19th-century American literature and its intersection with business history. He is working on a book about the rise of the corporation and its influence on American fiction during the Gilded Age.

The Trouble Begins at 5:30 Lecture Series is sponsored by Connecticut Humanities.

This event is presented at no cost but reservations are highly suggested.

Call 860-247-0998 or to reserve tickets click here.

Other Fun Stuff Coming Soon:



Saturday, June 17, 5 to 6:30 p.m.

International Wine Tasting Sponsored by Friends of The Mark Twain House & Museum 


Taste wines from Italy, Spain, Australia, Argentina, and America accompanied by a selection of savory appetizers & decadent desserts.

Music provided by Rob McCrann.

All proceeds benefit The Mark Twain House & Museum.


Pond House Café            *          Whole Foods         *       Taylor Rental

Wines from Frederick Wildman & Sons, LTD: Wine Enthusiast Importer of the Year Award 2016:          

El Coto Blanco, Rioja, Spain

El Coto Crianza, Rioja, Spain                                                                              

Melini Chianti Riserva DOC, Tuscany, Italy

Hewitson Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide, Australia    

Cavicchioli 1928 Prosecco, Veneto, Italy

La Linda Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

Wines from Allan S. Goodman, Inc.:                      

Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay, WA

Motto Zinfandel, California

Questions: or 617-905-1912

Tickets are $35;  advance purchase by JUNE 15 required. No tickets will be sold at the door.

To purchase tickets click here. Deadline: June 15, 2017!



Saturday, June 17, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Day-Long Writing Workshop: Using Our Voice for Others with Susanne Davis


Howells in the News: Howells and Rice Public Library in Kittery, Maine


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] 

Howells in the News: Twain and Howells at The Atlantic


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 magazineTwain 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.