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
§ 13. The Development of His Taste
In My Literary Passions Howells has delicately recorded the development of his taste. At first he desired to write verse, and devoted months to imitating Pope in a youthful fanaticism for regularity and exactness. From this worship he turned, at about sixteen, to Shakespeare. particularly to the histories; then to Chaucer, admired for his sense of earth in human life; and to Dickens, whose magic, Howells saw, was rough. Macaulay taught him to like criticism and furnished him an early model of prose style. Thackeray, Longfellow, Tennyson followed in due course. Having taught himself some Latin and Greek and more French and Spanish, Howells took up German and came under the spell of Heine, who dominated him longer than any other author and who showed him once for all that the dialect and subjects of literature should be the dialect and facts of life.