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Library of America William Dean Howells Edition

William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells: Novels 1875-1886 (LOA #8) by William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells: Novels 1886-1888 (LOA #44) by William Dean Howells

Library of America William Dean Howells Edition : Titles in Order

Book 2
William Dean Howells was the foremost champion of realism in late-nineteenth-century American fiction. The three novels in this Library of America volume perceptively and often satirically examine the conflict between Christian ideals and commercial success, the contrast between a society’s rituals of courtship and the realities of love, and the way in which a community’s democratic aspirations are contradicted by its class divisions.

In The Minister’s Charge (1886), Lemuel Barker leaves his impoverished farm and comes to Boston hoping to become a published poet. Proud, innocent, and implacably honest, he is quickly plunged into the humiliating depths of urban homelessness. His plight weighs on the conscience of David Sewell, a minister who could not bear to tell Barker how bad his poetry was. As he witnesses Lemuel’s attempts to live a dignified life in a city marked by cruel indifference and unexpected kindness, Sewell must confront the “complicity” he shares in the fate of every member of his society.

April Hopes (1887) was, by Howells’s later recollection, the first novel that he wrote “with the distinct consciousness that he was writing as a realist.” Alice Pasmer is the only daughter of parents whose dwindling investments have forced their return from Europe to New England. When Alice meets Dan Mavering, the easygoing son of a wealthy wallpaper manufacturer, her mother begins a careful campaign to bring about their marriage.

The heroine of Annie Kilburn (1888) returns to her Hatboro’, Massachusetts, home after eleven years abroad and finds a once-quiet village rapidly turning into a sprawling factory town with paved streets, electric lights, and a department store. Unmarried at thirty-one, the daughter of a prominent “old” family, she renews ties with old friends and begins her life anew. Throughout, Howells portrays the faults and virtues of his heroine and her neighbors with affection, understanding, and wit.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 1
The four novels collected in this Library of America volume are among the classic works from the immensely productive career of America’s most influential man of letters at the turn of the twentieth century. William Dean Howells was a champion of French and Russian realistic writers and a brilliant advocate of the most controversial American writers of his own time.

In A Foregone Conclusion (1875), a young American painter roams through Europe for years before at last deciding to marry the woman who, he erroneously thinks, has been in love with an Italian priest turned agnostic. A Modern Instance (1882) offers an unflinching portrait of an unhappy marriage and ends with a hero barred by his perhaps overscrupulous conscience from marrying the divorced heroine. Once again personal dilemmas are seen as symptoms of the rapid displacement of older social and religious stabilities by opportunism and commercial progress.

One of the most engaging of all his novels, Indian Summer(1885), is touched with the Jamesian glamour of romantic confusion among two American couples in Italy. Here Howells’s realism takes a quietly humorous turn. Situations which might be exploited by another novelist for their theatrical or melodramatic possibilities are instead eroded by the often trivial or casual experiences of everyday living. Characteristically, Howells is opposed to exaggeration in the interest of discovering how people, despite the crises that beset them, manage to find their way.

The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), Howells’s best-known work, gives a brilliantly skeptical portrait of American business life and its perils, celebrating not the rise but the loss of fortune that makes possible the hero’s recovery of his earlier integrity and happiness. “There are,” remarked a contemporary reviewer, “thousands of Silas Laphams throughout the United States,” and present-day readers might agree that there still are.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

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