William Dean Howells, March 1, 1837, Martins Ferry, Ohio, the U.S. to May 11, 1920, New York City, is writer and critic, the pioneer of nineteenth-century American letters, the hero of scholarly authenticity, and the dear companion and guide of Mark Twain and Henry James. Howells’ best work delineates the American scene as it transformed from a basic, populist society where karma and pluck were compensated to one in which social and financial inlets. These situations were getting unbridgeable, and the person’s destiny was controlled by some coincidence.


William Dean Howells’ career spread over a time of radical change in American writing. He was a supporter of trustworthiness and social duty in writing. He drove the battle against escapist dreams and for realistic, ethically, and politically dedicated fiction. He composed over a hundred books in different classifications, including poems, novels, and artistic analysis, plays, journals, and travel accounts.

Howells is most popular today for his realistic fiction, including A Modern Instance (1881), on the then-new subject of the social outcomes of separation. It also includes The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), his most popular work and one of the principal books to contemplate the American representative. A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), an investigation of cosmopolitan life in New York City as observed through the eyes of Basil and Isabel March, the heroes of Their Wedding Journey (1871) and different works were also his prominent works.


William Dean Howells was born in Martinsville, Ohio. It is now known as Martins Ferry, Ohio. He was born to William Cooper Howells and Mary Dean Howells on 1st March 1837. His father worked as an editor of a newspaper. In 1840, the Howells moved to Hamilton, Ohio. They spent nine years in Hamilton. William started working as an assistant to his father in typing his work.  In 1952, when he was merely 12 years, his father published one of William`s poems “Old Winter, Loose Thy Hold on Us” in Ohio State Journal without informing him.

The Howells’ family moved to Dayton when he was 11. After having an enjoyable year in a log lodge they moved to Columbus when he was 13. After two years his father became editorial manager of the Ashtabula Sentinel. During these years William Howell read himself French, German, Spanish, and some Latin. He got familiar with extraordinary writers, particularly Shakespeare, and developed to love such compositions as Don Quixote. By 1857, when he came back to Columbus to fill in as a political correspondent, Howells had gained really liberal instruction.

In 1860, Howell composed the biography of Life of Abraham Lincoln. He then achieved a consulship in Venice. In 1862, he got married to Elinor Mead. The marriage took place at the American Embassy in Paris.

William Howells came back to The U.S. in 1865. They got settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wrote for a number of magazines. These include the famous Harper’s magazine and The Atlantic Monthly. He accepted a publication post on the Nation in New York, yet his aspiration was to live in Boston and work on the Atlantic Monthly.

In January 1866 the offer came, and Howells’ long relationship with the magazine started. He filled in as assistant editorial manager until 1871 and as then editor in chief till 1881. His artistic decisions before long ruled the Atlantic, which he changed from a territorial to a national magazine. He distributed crafted by skilled essayists from all aspects of the nation: Sarah Orne Jewett, Edward Eggleston, Bret Harte, and some more.

He highlighted works of individual pioneers of the new realism and significant compositions of two of his dearest companions, Henry James, and Mark Twain. Neither of those writers could stand the works of others.

He met Mark Twain in 1869 and they became lifelong friends. William`s relationship with Jonathan Baxter Harrison became a turning point in his literary career. It was in his companionship that William Howells developed his style and realist perspective. In 1870-71, William Howells delivered 12 lectures in the Lower Institute on “Italian Poets of Our Century.”

His first novel Their Wedding Journey got published in 1872.  This novel follows Basil and Isabel March on their honeymoon from Boston to Quebec. Basil is Howells just marginally masked while Isabel is Mrs. Howells. These two characters show up over and over in Howells’ fiction, for the most part in some good ways from the focal point of the activity.

All through his profession, Howells treated his characters with a delicate incongruity that without a moment’s delay refines them and points out their shortcomings. Howells was straightforward with everybody, above all else with himself.

He gained unprecedented fame and reputation with his novel ‘’A Modern Instance’’ published in 1882. It discussed the decay of a marriage. His best-known work ‘’The Rise of Silas Lapham’’ got published in 1885. It discussed the rise and fall of American entrepreneurship in Paint Business. He published his next novel, Annie Kilburn, in 1888. This was followed by A Hazard of New Fortunes and An Imperative Duty in 1890 and 1891 respectively. The volume of his poems was published in 1895. The tile of the volume was Stops of Various Quills. He was one of the pioneers of the American school of realists.

In 1886 Howells had started the standard column of review “Editor’s Study, ” in Harper magazine. He moved this section starting with one magazine then onto the next during the 1890s, coming back to Harper’s in 1900. His surveys reliably perceived the best in contemporary writing. He was the main critic of note to laud Stephen Crane and the main significant critic to review Emily Dickinson’s poetry with genuine appreciation.

The standards of his artistic decisions are set out in Criticism and Fiction (1891), a work of suffering significance. My Literary Passions (1895), Heroines of Fiction (1901), and My Mark Twain (1910) are other basic works of intrigue.

All sorts of respect came to Howells known as “the Dean” over the  20 years of his life—privileged doctorates. He became the first president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the most reasonable of prizes, his very own library version compositions (1911). In 1916 he distributed The Leatherwood God, an incredible investigation of religious fanaticism for all on the early American outskirts. In 1920 came The Vacation of the Kelwyns, a late spring idyll wealthy in intelligence and sadness. The book is inside and out Howells`s writing, however, the title was the publisher’s, for the author, had died in New York City preceding its distribution.

William Howells published a children’s book ‘’The Flight of Pony Baker’’ in 1902. His wife died on 6th May 1910 due to the heavy use of morphine. William Howells died on 11th May 1920 while he was asleep. He was buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.



William Howells was not an idealist and he did not preach idealist perspectives in his writings. He wanted all of the writers to be realists and depict the reality rather than giving false hopes to the readers. He was not an enthusiast of keeping in touch with high goals that traded life’s numerous blemishes for perfect substitutes. 

He thought the opportunity was approaching when the craftsman who consistently had the standard of human expressions in his capacity,’ would have the mental fortitude to apply realism in their skills. He further stated that this would dismiss the idealists’ grasshoppers in science, in writing, in workmanship, since it isn’t ‘straightforward, common, and legitimate.

He thought that the rejection of idealism would come on the grounds that it was not like a genuine grasshopper. he added that the time was yet far away and that the individuals who had been raised on the ideals, and the chivalrous grasshopper must vanish before the straightforward, legitimate, and normal grasshopper could have a reasonable field.


Humor is the essential element of William Howells` works. He uses humor to say things that he thinks can pinch the readers. He very skillfully uses humor in his works that amuses the readers and at the same time it conveys his purpose as well.

For example, In the Rise of Silas Lapham, Penelope, Bromfield, and Hubbard can be tallied upon to give funny records in a considerable lot of the book’s circumstances. Through them, Howells carries diversion to the novel. Penelope, for instance, reveals to Tom that after meeting his father for the first time after her commitment he was sitting with his cap on his knees, somewhat tilted away from the Emancipation gathering, as though he anticipated that Lincoln would hit him.

When Bromfield alludes to the event, he says that extravagant Tom being married before the gathering, with a flower horse-shoe in tuberoses descending on either side of it.

Similarly in the start of the novel, Bartley Hubbard is likewise utilized for entertainment. After Lapham names the different uses for his paint, Hubbard says that he never gave it a shot, the human still, small voice.


William Howells is a realist and he tries to mend whatever is not correct in the society. For this very purpose, he uses satire as a tool to highlight various follies in society. Although his satire is wrapped up in humor yet he is successful in achieving his goal to highlight the various problems of his society.

In Chapter X of ‘’The Rise of Silas Lapham’’, for instance, he says that a man has not arrived at the age of twenty-six in any society where he was conceived and raised without having had his ability basically found out. In Boston the investigation has been directed with an unsparing exhaustiveness which may fitly dazzle the un-Bostonian mind, obscured by the well-known notion that the Bostonians aimlessly respect each other.


William Howells uses a number of images and symbols in his writing to convey his intended meaning. Using symbolism is an essential part of his writing. He draws many symbols from the local setting so that the readers could easily gather his purpose and arrive at the meaning that Howells wants them to understand. The following two are the symbols taken from ‘’The Rise of Silas Lapham’’ for an explanation.


The home worked by Silas during his thriving is the far-extending image of the book. It represents the ascent and fall of the materialistic Lapham himself. Similarly, as Silas makes the house, it is burnt by utilizing the stack one virus fall night, he likewise causes his own budgetary annihilation by avarice when he powers Rogers out of the business.


This is where a great part of Lapham’s story takes place. It speaks to Lapham’s powerlessness to rise socially as he rises tangibly. It is a home of contention, one that all are glad to leave as a result of the recollections it holds regarding Silas’ destruction and the sisters’ relationships.


William Howells is a realist and he tries to depict the actual scenario of the society. He depicts a society that is materialist in nature. He portrays the characters from the society that are lusty for power and material gains. In depicting these characters his tone is somewhat ironic and satiric in his writings.

For instance, Howells titled his novel ‘The Rise of Silas Lapham’, and this demonstration in itself is an enormous incongruity. Silas’ ascent to cash and force happens before the beginning of the novel, and we are acquainted with him boasting to Bartley Hubbard about his prosperity. With further information on his destiny, it is in this way unexpected that Silas is so sure about his undertakings in the paint business.

This is what at first ridicules Silas as a character, his powerlessness to envision that he may fall in a tough situation later on. The readers at that point see little of Silas’ ascent, and see the difficult and disturbing ‘fall’. For a character that at first boasts about his prosperity, there is merriment in watching and realizing his destruction will before long happen.


William Howells did not deal with idealist themes in his writings. He dealt with the themes that were very common in society. He deals with themes that were not discussed openly in society. He depicted the lust and inclination of people for power and material gain. He talks about the issues of divorce. He talked about the relationship culminating in bad forms.

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