William Dean Howells

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
William Dean Howells was a friend of Twain's and others he profiled; for the most part, I have been not friend but interlocutor of the almost famous, which carries a less burdensome set of obligations.
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"William Dean Howells and the Insurance of the Real." American Literary History 18.1 (2006): 29-58.
In his essay 'My Favorite Novelist and his Best Book' (1897) William Dean Howells says that he has no favourites among contemporary German novelists because 'there do not seem to be any.
Instead of insisting on what sometimes feels like a forced unity, I would have preferred that Petrie organize his readings more loosely around the question of how different turn-of-the-century writers regarded literature's possibilities for creating bonds across social divides, bonds that they hoped would become socially (in current jargon) "actionable," without so insistently subordinating this large and broadly applicable question under the proper name of William Dean Howells.
So wrote William Dean Howells in his fullest public account of his life-long friendship with Hamlin Garland ("Mr.
Possibly the most influential figure in the history of American letters, William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was, among other things, a leading novelist in the realist tradition, a formative influence on many of America's finest writers, and an outspoken opponent of social injustice (almost alone among America's writers, he spoke out against the infamous Haymarket trials of 1886, which reflected widespread disquiet and brought about the hanging of innocent men).
When the young William Dean Howells visited him in Concord in 1860, the occasion was silent and awkward: "I saw that he was as much abashed by our encounter as I was; he was visibly shy to the point of discomfort," wrote Howells about it afterward.
Chesnutt, proud to be a pioneer of the Negro view, challenged the segregationist, often-patronizing opinions of the white populist scribes, Thomas Dixon (The Clansman), William Dean Howells (An Imperative Duty) Bliss Perry (The Plated City) and Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson).
The six authors range from those whom Twain knew well and with whom he visited often--such as William Dean Howells and sometime neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe--to others whom he saw less frequently--such as Robert Louis Stevenson--whom he met only once.
The nineteenth-century novelist William Dean Howells identified an abiding concern in American literature for the "more smiling aspects of life." A similar interest can be found in the Impressionist paintings of American Childe Hassam (1859-1935).
He writes in the style of Henry James and William Dean Howells, his literary heroes and ancestors, never deals with contemporary social problems, and his characters are seldom poor.