Howells’s “Hope” and Crane’s “The Open Boat”I am a student who is currently taking a class on classical American Literature, respectfully beginning with reconstruction and ending just shy of the twenty-first century. One of the writers that we are studying is Stephen Crane who to my understanding was influenced by William Dean Howell. Mr. Crane wrote a short story based upon his experience adrift called “The Open Boat.” I have heard that Mr. Dean’s poem “Hope” either helped inspire Mr. Crane’s story or was inspired by it. I would like to know which of the rumors, if either, is true. I humbly submit to your expertise on this matter as I have had difficulty shedding light on it myself.

In all sincerity

James Knox

(Cross-posted to the Crane Society site)

Howard Pyle’s Painting to accompany Howells’s “Monochromes”I am trying to locate a painting by the American illustrator, Howard Pyle, created as an illustration for a work by William Dean Howells, entitled Question and which I believe was given by the artist to the writer. The Delaware Art Museum is in the process of planning a retrospective exhibition of Pyle’s work to celebrate both the centennial of the artist’s death and the founding of the Museum. The painting, first published to accompany “Monochromes” in Harper’s Monthly Magazine(1893) was reproduced again (somewhat altered by the artist) for a collection of Howells’ work entitled Stops of Various Quills (1895). The image is of particular interest because of a point it makes regarding Pyle’s approach to allegorical subject matter. As such, I am very interested in locating it in the hopes of borrowing it for the exhibition. I would be most appreciative for any information regarding its present whereabouts.Margaretta S. Frederick, Chief Curator
Curator, Bancroft Collection
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE 19806
302.351.8518 | (f) 302.571.0220
Calendar of Howells’s Letters? 
Hello colleagues,
Does anybody know where I can find either of the following two things:

  1. “A Calendar of the Letters of William Dean Howells,” ed. William M. Gibson, George Arms, and F.C. Marston, Jr.,  which Edwin Cady cites in PEBBLES, MONOCHROMES,A ND OTHER MODERN POEMS as “Unpublished”?
  2. A letter from Howells to his father dated 3 Nov. 1890 (again, cited by Cady as such, p. xi).

Professor Elizabeth Renker
Department of English
The Ohio State University
164 W. 17th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210-1370

The “Calendar” was a collection of photocopies and transcripts assembled at Indiana University by the editors of the six-volume edition of Howells letters. The particular letter Cady cites is (along with most of Howells’ letters to his father) in the Howells Family Papers at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.  –Thomas Wortham

Howells and James Monroe Comly

I am gathering material for a biography of an ancestor of mine, James Monroe Comly.  I have found in an article allusion to correspondence between Comly and William Dean Howells.  Both men had worked at the newspaper, the Ohio State Journal, in Columbus.  Comly later became editor.  While I am unaware of Comly’s having had literary aspirations, both men were active in Republican Party politics, and both held diplomatic posts.  Comly’s wartime journal is available as source material, but I have found no collection of any of his personal correspondence.  I am hoping to find insight into his mind and character in the correspondence between he and Howells.  Is there a published collection of Howells’ letters available?  If there is one, I may be able to borrow it through the InterLibrary Loan service.  If there is something available to me online, that would also be helpful.  Thank you for your help.  

David Geiszler

Thank you for undertaking a study of your ancestor, J. M. Comly. He was indeed an important individual, and his life reflects in so many interesting ways upon nineteenth-century America.A very large collection of his papers are at the Ohio Historical Society Archives/Library in Columbus, Ohio, including 31 letters from Howells. Much of the approximately 1,500 items in the collection (not only correspondence and letterbooks, but also diaries, journals, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings) have been microfilmed and might still be available through interlibrary loan. The library issued a printed guide to the collection some years ago (Andrea D. Lentz. The James Comly Collection: An Inventory to the Microfilm Edition. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Historical Society, 1973), and it is also described in some detail in their on-line catalog. Several of these letters are printed in Mildred Howells’ edition of her father’s correspondence (Life in Letters, 1928) and in vols. 1 and 2 of Howells’ Selected Letters, ed. George Arms, et al., (Boston, 1979-1983). Also a few of Comly’s letters to Howells are among the Howells family papers at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.Good luck with your research.


Tom Wortham

PS You might be amused to know that after I retired from active teaching at UCLA in 2008, that I moved to Perry county, Ohio, whose seat is New Lexington, the birthplace of your ancestor. I suspect, however, that Gen. Comly would wonder (like most of our neighbors) why a sane fellow would leave Pasadena, California, for the hills of Perry county!

Thomas Wortham, Professor Emeritus of English

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90049


In response to your query regarding corresondence between Howells and Comly, you will find the published correspondence in one of two standard collections of Howells’s letters:
W.D. Howells. Life in Letters, ed. Mildred Howells. 2 vols. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1928.

W. D. Howells. Selected Letters, ed. George Arms et al., 6 vols. Boston: Twayne, 1979-83

Both of these series should be widely available at many university libraries, or attainable through inter-library loan.
Rob Davidson

President, W. D. Howells Society

As an Addendum to the previous note, there are also citations regarding Comly in the following:

If Not Literature: Letters of Elinor Mead Howells. Ed. Ginette de B. Merrill and George Arms. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1988.

Howells and Howard Pyle For an essay involving Howard Pyle’s correspondence with and illustrations for William Dean Howells, I would like to know if there is any existing list of, or information about, the various illustrators whose art appeared in Howells’ published works.  And, if Howell’s expressed preferences about his illustrators. From querying the website, I see that Thure de Thulstrup illustrated one work.  I’d appreciate any clues from Howells specialists.  Thank you!I’m hoping this is sufficient to post on the website – if not, please let me know –

Dr. Mary F. Holahan
Curator of Collections and Exhibitions
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington DE 19806
mholahan at delart.org

A good place to start is a fine dissertation one of my students wrote a very long time ago (I was only an assistant professor, and could not direct the dissertation; but I had a great deal of fun working with Teona).


Unfortunately in my move from California to Ohio two years ago (retirement), I’ve misplaced my copy of the dissertation, but I have just ordered a copy from ProQuest, so it is readily available.

Also Bill Gibson and George Arms often identify the illustrators for Howells’ books and articles in their Bibliography of William Dean Howells (New York, 1948; a reprint available from Arno Press in 1971).

Hope this helps.
Tom Wortham
Thomas Wortham, Professor Emeritus of English, UCLA


Regarding the query about Howells and illustrators.

In addition to Pyle, the obvious other major name for Howells illustrators is Joseph Pennell, who was linked with Howells for years, especially with Tuscan Cities and Italian Journeys.  Hazard was illustrated by W A Rogers.  Also, he has that wonderful batch of water color artists who did the 1891 edition of Venetian Life (Childe Hassam, et al.).  Augustus Hoppin did the delightful illustrations in the 1872 edition of Their Wedding Journey.  William L. Shepherd did the 1874 edition of A Chance Acquaintance.  The name on the plates in A Boy’s Town looks to be Farny.  Clifford Carleton did the beautiful1895 edition of Their Wedding Journey.  And the 1907 two volume edition of Venetian Life (one of my favorite books) was massively illustrated by Edmond H. Garrett. On top of it all, didn’t Elinor Mead Howells do the illustrations for No Love Lost?
What is most obvious is that WDH did not have any long term personal artists connected with his work, though Pennell comes close.
My thinking is that for the most part the honor is for an artist to be in one of WDH’s books, though the reverse is possible.  Certainly today Pyle’s illustrations to Stops of Various Quills make it collectible both for words and pictures.
I hope this note quickens your work.
Best wishes,
Gary Culbert
Howells’s Summer Home in 1890 I came across a Sept., 1890 letter to Howells which mentions that the letter writer noticed (but didn’t approach) Howells in Massachusetts “last summer,” while on a train going from Lynn to Beverly.  The letter writer surmises that perhaps Howells was on his way home.  Would anyone know where this home was?  (The letter writer noted that WDH was “deeply tanned,” so could he have been living that summer somewhere on the Mass. shore?) I am assuming the letter writer is referring to the summer of 1890, but the Society’s WDH address list mentions only a Boston address, and the Lynn-to-Beverly route was quite north of Boston.Also, did WDH keep any journals while living and working as a young reporter in Columbus, OH in the late 1850’s?
Thank you for any assistance or thoughts.
– Martha
Henry James once described his friend Howells as “the most addressless man I know.” Certainly the summer of 1890 was a most peripatetic period in his life. IF y ou have access to vol. 3 of Howells’ Selected Letters (Boston, 1980), your find a partial summary of his travels that summer in a letter to Thomas S. Perry, dated 9 September 1890:14 days at Willsborough Point, New York14 days at Lake Placid, New York

12 days at Plattsburgh, New York

21 days at Saratoga, New York,

and the 8 days before writing this letter at Lake Luzerne, New York.

From there he went on to Lynn, Massachusetts for most of the remainder of the month.

But even this list needs augmented:

He wrote to one correspondent on 21 June 1890, “I’m going off to parts unknown next week with my family,” and his first stop appears to have been at the Stevens House, in Vergennes, Vermont. Here he wrote to his father on 29 June 1890: “We expect to take a little steamer that runs down the river, and cross to the New York side of the lake (Champlain) tomorrow, where we have heard of a nice little hotel at Willsboro’ Point, N.Y. We intend now to settle down there for a while, but may change our minds on seeing the place. I will send you a fixed address as soon as I have one.” In addition, while the family might have been settled for a few days here or there, I suspect (from the extant correspondence) that Howells himself was scouting out other places during this period, perhaps even making a run to Kittery Point, the place in Maine where he eventually was willing (almost) to call home.

My great regret when we edited Howells’ letters years ago was that we did not include in the volumes a calendar of his correspondence. It would have been fairly easy at the time, but what does youth know!


Tom Wortham
Thomas Wortham, Professor Emeritus of English
UCLA, Los Angeles, California


Regarding the location of WDH in the summer of 1890.
He was writing letters from the Boston address of 184 Commonwealth Ave. all summer in 1890.  By the fall he is back at that address.  But he did leave Boston for a while…..
There is an iteresting bit here:  On September 25, 1890, he wrote a letter to Henry James from “Prescott House, Lynn.”  In the letter, he says, “Now we’re back near Boston, waiting to get into our flat, if we can’t exchange it for a furnished house.”  Before that, he says that they spent three weeks at Saratoga.
I hope this helps you.
Best wishes,
Gary Culbert



Dear Martha:
According to Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson, in William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life (California, 2005), Howells lived in New York City in 1889 and then moved back to Cambridge & Boston in 1890, before returning to New York. For a time that year (’90), the family rented a house at Fresh Pond, north of Cambridge.
Rob Davidson, Ph.D.
President, W. D. Howells Society


Howells’s “The Indian Wars and St. Clair’s Defeat”

I cannot find the publisher of W.D. Howells work, “The Indian Wars and St. Clair’s Defeat.” was it possibly published in a magazine?

Alan Meyer
“The Indian Wars and St. Clair’s Defeat” forms chapter XI in Howells’ Stories of Ohio (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, 1897).  It did not have prior publication in any magazine.TW
Bromfield CoreyIn an article whose name and author I do not know, there is apparently a reference to the character of Bromfield Corey (The Rise of Silas Lapham) as a type of Jamesian aesthete — an artist figure who would seem at home in Henry James’ work. I’d be grateful to anyone who knows where I can find that reference, or similar commentary on Bromfield Corey. Thank you.1/18/10

Value of “Christmas Every Day”

We think we have an original book, “Christmas every day and other stories”.
It was presented to one of our relitives on christmas in 1892, it is signed on the inside cover by the persenter.
Is there any value to this copy, it is in very good condition and a hardcover.
Thank You, Doug Sayre


You very well may have a 1st edition of Christmas Every Day.  It was published on December 7, 1892.  It has a copyright date of 1892 and a title page date of 1893.  It has a brown cover with gold bells decorating it.  Your copy may have some value (I would check ABE to see if it is being offered), perhaps even as much as a couple of hundred dollars, but it is not a high cost item.  The main issue with the book would be condition, as many copies are in poor shape, probably from annual readings to children.  It was reprinted several times.  Any copy with a green cover is probably a reprint.
Very nice copies of this book are scarce.
Best wishes,
Gary Culbert
 [query removed at poster’s request]

RE: The Garroters.

The play was written in 1885.  Its plot was nearly identical to “Who Stole the Pocket Book; or  A Dinner for Six (1852) by John Madison Morton.

The play has better plot structure than most of WDH’s farces.

The London performance of the play were retitled “A Dangerous Ruffian.”   Shaw found the play “quite amusing.”

The play likely was widely produced on the amateur American stage.

For this information, see The Complete Plays of W. D. Howells, pp. 338-339.

Best wishes,

Gary Culbert


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