Thursday, October 30, 2014

“No American Writer Can Come Within Touch of You”

Howard Pyle’s fondness for the writings of William Dean Howells is well documented - mostly in Pyle’s own correspondence. On October 30, 1895, Pyle wrote yet another glowing letter to his literary idol, mentor, and friend:
My wife and I are reading your Shaker story together. I was so much impressed with the first number that I sat down immediately and wrote Harry Harper what I so strongly felt - that it only added to my already formed opinion that no American writer can come within touch of you. The measure of your success lies far beyond the radius of the present into the vaster cycle of the future....

The first number of your story was startlingly true to nature, the succeeding numbers are charmingly idyllic.
“Your Shaker story” was “The Day of Their Wedding” which appeared in seven weekly installments (or “numbers”) in Harper’s Bazar between October 5 and November 16, 1895. And “Harry Harper” was J. Henry Harper, a friend of both Howells and Pyle, and a member of the publishing firm.

Pyle had, in fact, expressed a similar sentiment in a letter of February 26 that same year: “I do not of course know what are your present rewards of popularity but I feel very sure that you are writing for future readers.” Over the past century, however, Howells’ stock hasn’t performed quite as well as Pyle thought it would.

But now, future readers, why not read the novel yourselves and put Pyle’s assessment to the test?

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