Howells and the Age of Realism

By Everett Carter | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

This is the history of the growth of sensibility of a man and of an age, and part of the biography of ourselves.

It is the story of the growth of the mind of William Dean Howells; but this writer, even more than most writers, was made by and helped to make his age. And his age happens to be the age when much of the complexity of modern America was born.

That this is a study of a man's sensibility, rather than his biography, will be self-evident. Our first concern will not be with his life, with his small physical stature, his worldly rise, his social grace, his political conservatism which changed to radicalism, his devotion to his family. These are the materials for another story. Here we can tell briefly that he was born in 1837 at Martins Ferry, Belmont County, Ohio, one of eight children of a struggling printer and publisher, William Cooper Howells. William Cooper had been born in South Wales, had not been quite a year old when the family came to New York in 1808, had been four when it migrated by wagon and flatboat to Jefferson County, Ohio. As he grew to manhood, he had yearned to write and to paint, but had been able to take up pen or brush only after a day's labor at typesetting, or farming, or carpentering, or printing and editing a series of unsuccessful local journals. He was, William Dean wrote later and lovingly, "not a very good draughtsman, not a very good poet, not a very good farmer, not a very good printer, not a very good editor . . . ; but he was the very best man I have ever known." Of worldly goods William Cooper Howells gave his son little; but of the love of life and beauty and letters he gave him much. As the family followed the father about Ohio,

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Howells and the Age of Realism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Contents 9
  • Prologue 13
  • Chapter I - Background 23
  • Chapter II - The Attack on The Sentimental 43
  • Chapter III - Towards a Philosophy Of Literary Realism 88
  • Chapter IV - Critical Realism 170
  • Chapter V - Naturalism And Introspection 225
  • Epilogue 265
  • Notes 277
  • Index 299
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