Three significant facts challenge our attention at the outset in considering the work of William Dean Howells as an author. In the first place he is a literary artist perhaps one of the very greatest of literary artists. In the next place he is the champion of realism against romanticism. Finally lie had no college education. He is a self-taught man. In characterizing Howells as a literary artist we mean that his work has beauty, precisely as the sculpture of the Greeks has beauty. There is in his writing the thrill derivable from contemplation of, say, a statue by Praxiteles, or a beautiful woman. All of us are not sufficiently sophisticated to account for the nature of this pleasure in reading Howells. It is a secret of style and that secret has baffled generations of great critics. Shakespeare had this secret, and so had Virgil and Milton. The English language is a more exquisite instrument because of the beauty of the manner of Howells when he tells his story. This explains the difficulty of indicating the greatest work of the author of AH azard of New Fortunes. Every one of his novels has this inexplicable charm of style. Nor must it be supposed that it is a charm appreciable only by the initiated. A stylist of true power can charm even the casual reader with his manner. It is the spell of beauty.
(Typographical errors above are due to OCR software and don't occur in the book.)
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