Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 12. William Dean Howells

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XI. The Later Novel: Howells

§ 12. William Dean Howells

It was perhaps a certain bareness in Middle Western life, lacking both the longer memories of the Atlantic States and the splendid golden expectations of California, that thus early established in the upper Mississippi valley the realistic tradition which descends unbroken through the work of Eggleston, E. W. Howe, Hamlin Garland, and Edgar Lee Masters. From the Middle West, too, came the principal exponent of native realism, in himself almost an entire literary movement, almost an academy. William Dean Howells was born at Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, 1 March, 1837, the grandson of a Welsh Quaker and the son of a country printer and editor. Like his friend Mark Twain he saw little of schools and nothing of colleges, and like him he got his systematic literary training from enforced duties as a printer and journalist. But, unlike Mark Twain, he fell as naturally into the best classical traditions as Goldsmith or Irving, who, with Cervantes, earliest delighted him.