William Dean Howells

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Howells, William Dean

 

Born Mar. 1, 1837, in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio; died May 11, 1920, in New York City. American writer.

Howells was the son of a journalist. He became a reporter and later wrote a biography of Abraham Lincoln during the election campaign of 1860; from 1861 to 1865 he was the US consul in Venice. In the early novels, including Their Wedding Journey (1872) and A Chance Acquaintance (1873), Howells painted a penetratingly vivid picture of the life of the American aristocracy. Later, however, in the mid-1880’s, under the influence of the social strife in the USA, he emphasized themes of social criticism in his works, for example, the novels A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890; Russian translation, 1890) and The World of Chance (1893; Russian translation, 1898). Howells’ views became radicalized: he declared his sympathies with the socialism of the Christian reformist trend in the Utopian novels A Traveler From Altruria (1894; Russian translation, 1895) and Through the Eye of the Needle (1907) and condemned imperialistic wars. Howells was also the author of several books of travel essays, including Venetian Life (1866).

An authoritative literary critic, Howells was a champion of realistic art, and he popularized Russian (Turgenev and Tolstoy) and Western European (Ibsen, Zola, and Hardy) literature in the USA.

WORKS

Representative Selections. New York [1961].
In Russian translation:
“Edita.” In Amerikanskaia novella, vol. 1. Moscow, 1958.

REFERENCES

Istoriia amerikanskoi literatury, part 1. Moscow, 1971.
Elistratova, A. A. “Vil’iam Din Gouels i Genri Dzheims.” In Problemy istorii literatury SShA. Moscow, 1964.
Gilenson, B. A. “U. D. Khouells i sotsialisticheskoe dvizhenie.” Uch. zap. Ural’skogo un-ta, 1970, issue 15, no. 98.
Brooks V. W. Howells: His Life and World. New York, 1959.

B. A. GILENSON