Howells’s Family Tree 

I have just discovered your website and wondered if you have any kind of information regarding William Dean Howells’ family tree. He was my maternal grandmother’s uncle and I have to confess that our family has never been known for keeping track of ancestors. I am, along with my sisters and cousins, now in the process of trying to find out as much as we can about him. Thanks in advance for any help you can give us. Susan Harrison Marchant

sharrison@dreamworks.com 12/25/05

We don’t have much of this information at the site, but here is an extract from Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson’s William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life (2005) that may help you to research the topic further:

“Toward the end of his life, William Cooper Howells (1807-94 [WDH’s father]) wrote Recollections of Life in Ohio, a spirited account of his family’s origins and growing up in rural Ohio” (5). William’s father, Joseph, was “the son of a woolens manufacturer from Hay-on-Wye in Wales” (5).


Howells’s introduction to The Swiss Family RobinsonI am preparing a bibliography of all editions of THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON based largely on my own collection. I would be interested to know whether Howell’s introduction to the 1909 Harper edition (BAL 9796) has attracted any academic interest in the way of articles or other studies as I cannot trace any secondary material relating to it.

Rowan GibbsRowan.Gibbs@Paradise.net.nz 12/2/05

Howells’s Papers 
I am trying to find where WD Howells’s papers, documents, or his estate might be collected.Matthew Towles



The principal repository for Howells’s papers is the Howells Collection at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, although some papers are elsewhere.

D. Campbell 10/25/05

WDH as sculptor?: Did William Dean ever create sculptures? I have three dated 1889 with WD on back?

Ron Westspringfield , Ma, steelpegs@aol.com


Venetian Life: Value of Volume?

I have a book written by William D Howells It is called Venetian Life authorised edition and has the date 1883 in it.In the 1st couple of pages there is a medallion by Larkin G Mead but there is also a signature by W D Howells. All the pictures have been stuck in the book.
Is this worth anything?

Jo Gardner Gardnjoan@aol.com


Larkin G. Mead was Howells’s brother-in-law, his wife Elinor’s brother.

A specialist would probably have to evaluate this for you. Probably the best source for finding out the value of a volume like this would be a professional rare book dealer. To find the value of old books, contact your local bookseller or check the prices for rare and used books on www.amazon.com,www.bookfinder.comwww.abebooks.com, or other such sites. You can also contact the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America for information about finding the value of a book.

If readers have another suggestion, please post a reply.



I have an extensive WDH collection. Venetian Life was in print for about fifty years, so the 1883 edition you have is not of great significance. The two later editions of notable value are the 1892 edition with the Hassam water colors and the limited edition of 1907 with the Garrett prints. The value of your book can be found most likely by looking up the Advance Book Exchange and finding what dealers are asking for it. If your WDH autograph is real, the value of the book would rise significantly, though WDH doesn’t sell like Mark Twain. Most likely, the book has a moderate value, if it is in very good condition.

Gary Culbert 12/25/05

Howells’s “The Pony Engine and the Pacific Express” as a source for “The Little Engine that Could” 

Question: I am reseraching the history of the children’s story “The Little Engine that Could” (see:http://tigger.uic.edu/~plotnick/littleng.htm )
One of the predecessors of this story was Howell’s “The Pony Engine and the Pacific Express.”  Is there any scholarship on the writing by Howells of this story?  It would also be useful to me know what church he belonged to ca. 1906 and if there any records of lectures he gave in Ohio, ca. 1909-1910. Anything else relevant (letters, etc.), organizations he belonged to that had elemetary education as a focus, etc. would be very useful. Thanks.

Roy Plotnick, plotnick@uic.edu 7/26/05

Familiar Spanish Travels review
I have been unable to find “The Bookman” magazine here in Spain, so I would be very grateful if someone who has access to it could scan to me or send me any other way the review on Familiar Spanish Travels, which appeared in

Bookman 38:387 Dec. 1913. because I need it urgently.Thank you very much in advance.
Best wishes
Antonio Vicente. vicenteazofra@telefonica.net 

PS:I would also like to thank Mr Gary Culbert for all the help he has so kindly provided me.


Howells’s “mania for self-sacrifice” and Jane Addams

Two years before founding Hull-House in Chicago, Jane Addams wrote to Ellen Gates Starr about William Dean Howells’s “tirade on themania for self sacrifice.”

I am interested to know what novel, short story, or essay Addams might have had in mind in 1887. The information will be included in an annotation in volume 2 of The Selected Papers of Jane Addams (eds. Mary Lynn McCree Byran, Barbara Bair, and Maree de Angury), to be published
bythe University of Illinois Press.

Ellen Skerrett
Consultant to the Jane Addams Project
ellen_skerrett at wowway.com 2/24/05

Several readers have suggested The Rise of Silas Lapham as the most likely candidate for this reference. The discussion of _Tears, Idle Tears_ (or “Slop, Silly Slop”) in the dinner party scene, along with other references, could be the “tirade on the mania for self-sacrifice” to which Addams refers.
“Palpitating Divans”

I found the following in the New Criterion (V. 10, #10, 1992, online at:http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/10/jun92/howells.htm), in “William Dean Howells & the practice of criticism,” by James W. Tuttleton:

“Howells thus drew a line beyond which his Realism would not go. There could not be, he said, any “palpitating divans” in his novels.”

I’d be grateful if anyone could tell me the source of Howell’s term “palpitating divans.”

Corwin Ericson, cericson at external.umass.edu 2/23/05

“Christmas Every Day” TV Specialwas “christmas every day” made into an animated tv special? if it was, can anyone tell me where i can get a copy of it?kirk bathgate kkbjry@yahoo.com


The IMDB lists a movie by that name, but it isn’t based on the Howells story. If anyone knows more about this, please send the information to the site.
Howells, “Editha,” and Mark Twaini wanted to know more about howells views on religion as expressed in “editha” also, anything comparing mark twain and howells. thanks!!

kate 9/20/05

Question on Howells and Moral Crisis 

What work of Howells is on the subject of  the moral crises  of a man discovering he can make lots of  money if he sacrifices his morals?
Dale Durrent cademy12@yahoo.com 7/26/05

You might try The Rise of Silas Lapham, which features this theme.
Information about The Day of Their Wedding

I have acquired a book by WD Howells, it is dated
1896. I haven’t much time for research and would appreciate any feed back on this book. the title is
“The Day Of Thier Wedding”

Sue Ward 6/3/05

The Day of Their Wedding was first published in 1896; you might try looking in William Gibson and George Arms’s A Bibliography of William Dean Howells (New York Public Library, 1948; Arno Press, 1971), which would give exact publication information. Edwin H. Cady lists this as a “novelette” (189) but doesn’t give other information. Try either Kenneth Lynn’s biography orWilliam Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson.
Howells and Theodor Fontane?Can anyone tell me whether Howells had any connection with Theodor Fontane, the German realist? I am looking at similarities or comparisons in the way Fontane and Howells treated Engagements, Marriage and Divorce but I have been unable to find out whether either knew of, or had dealings with the other. Fontane died in 1898.

Richard Ellington, richardellington@yahoo.co.uk 3/27/05

Narrative “I” in The Rise of Silas Lapham

QUESTION: Reading The Rise of Silas Lapham, I was struck by, toward the very end of the book, Howells identifies the narrator with an “I” after keeping the narrator unknown up until then. I believe he does this twice, but not until the last part of the story. It was a little distracting to me. Is there anything written about that shift that could shed light on it? I’m not a scholar–just a reader who really liked the book, and I wasn’t sure where else to ask such a question.Jeff Hagan jeffhagan@case.edu 3/22/05

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