Category Archives: Queries

Howells Queries: Stagecoach metaphor for bureaucracy

I am frantically looking for the name of the article, story, book that WD Howells wrote on bureauracracy that WD Howells wrote. It was about a coach or stagecoach on which people kept climbing on and falling off and everyone was trying to get to the top of the coach. This influenced my conceptions strongly and I would like to pass it on to others but have forgotten the name.


Howells Queries: Who was the “single guest” who laughed at the Whittier Birthday DInner Speech?

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.


Stephen Sakellarios

[leave suggestions in the comments]

New Queries: Howells and Dostoevsky; Howells and H.M. Pollard

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]?

Thank you,

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