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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1784-1784.13

Howells family papers


Correspondence, compositions, and diaries of American novelist William Dean Howells as well as papers of his wife and children.


  • Creation: 1850-1954

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to the finding aid describing this collection are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


26 linear feet (54 boxes, 3 volumes)

Chiefly correspondence, manuscripts, diaries, journals, and business papers of William Dean Howells; together with smaller collections of correspondence of his wife Elinor Mead Howells, and their children Winifred, Mildred, and John Mead Howells. Includes 15 boxes of letters to William Dean Howells from about 600 correspondents; also contains correspondence from publishers and editors, including Henry Mills Alden of Harper's Monthly, Richard Watson Gilder of Century Magazine, and James R. Osgood. A large group of letters from Lawrence Barrett concerns theatrical productions of Howells's plays. Some correspondence relates to Howells's editorship of The Atlantic Monthly.

Also includes significant groups of letters from literary friends and acquaintances, such as Samuel L. Clemens, John Hay, Henry James, James Russell Lowell, and E. C. Stedman. The bulk of the letters by Howells are to family members, especially his wife, his father William Cooper Howells, his sisters Aurelia and Annie, and his brother Joseph.

Literary manuscripts are chiefly poems, plays, and essays. Diaries and journals cover Howells's early life in Ohio, his period as consul in Venice, and travels to various places from 1864 to 1918.

Business papers include contracts for publications and papers relating to real estate investments. Also contains scrapbooks, photographs, memorabilia, and clippings of articles by and about Howells. A bound volume contains letters and tributes to Howells on his eightieth birthday. Letters to Mildred Howells are chiefly concerned with the preparation and publication of her Life in Letters of W. D. Howells (1928). The Mildred Howells Collection also includes drawings, diaries, and clippings.

Biographical / Historical

William Dean Howells was a novelist and man of letters, United States consul in Venice (1861-1865), editor of The Atlantic Monthly (1871-1881) and of Cosmopolitan (1891-1892), and a champion of realism in literature.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I-A. MS Am 1784: Letters to William Dean Howells
  2. I-B. MS Am 1784.1: Letters from William Dean Howells
  3. I-C. MS Am 1784.2: Compositions of William Dean Howell
  4. I-D. MS Am 1784.3: Diaries and other papers
  5. II. MS Am 1784.4: Tributes to William Dean Howells on the occasion of his 80th birthday
  6. III-A. MS Am 1784.5: Correspondence of Elinor Gertrude Mead Howells
  7. III-B. MS Am 1784.6: Compositions and drawings by Elinor Howells
  8. IV. MS Am 1784.7: Winifred Howells materials
  9. V-A. MS Am 1784.8: Correspondence of Mildred Howells
  10. V-B. MS Am 1784.9: Letters from Mildred Howells
  11. V-C. MS Am 1784.10: Compositions, drawings, and miscellaneous material from the Mildred Howells materials
  12. VI-A. MS Am 1784.11: Letters to John Mead Howells (purchase)
  13. VI-B. MS Am 1784.11: Letters to John Mead Howells (gift)
  14. VI-C. MS Am 1784.11: Letters from John Mead Howells
  15. VII-A. MS Am 1784.12: Other letters (purchase)
  16. VII-B. MS Am 1784.12: Other letters (gift)
  17. VII-C. MS Am 1784.12: Other compositions
  18. VIII. MS Am 1784.13: Additional correspondence

In accordance with the donors' wishes, the papers have been divided into five sections: the William Dean Howells materials, the Elinor Gertrude (Mead) Howells materials, the Winifred Howells materials, the Mildred Howells materials and the John Mead Howells materials. The first is the most important, for it contains much important material relating to the literary and social history of America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as valuable information about William Dean Howells himself. Of the last four groups, the Mildred Howells materials is the largest; much of this correspondence is concerned with granting access to the Howells papers at Harvard and with the publication of Miss Howells' book, Life in Letters of William Dean Howells.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection of correspondence and manuscripts of William Dean Howells and his family began in 1937 when the Harvard College Library purchased an important group of letters to William Dean Howells from Miss Mildred Howells and her brother Mr. John Mead Howells. The remaining papers have been presented to The Library by Miss Howells and her brother in small lots over the years from 1938 to the present.

In this inventory the distinction between manuscripts acquired by purchase in 1937 and the later gifts has been made clear by cataloguing the two groups separately within each "collection." The accession numbers for the gifts appear with the item. In the cases where interfiling of gift and purchase was deemed appropriate, the old catalogue number "800.20" listed with the item indicates a manuscript acquired by purchase.

42M-608-612. Gift of Mildred Howellsand Richard Howells; received: January, 1943.

42M-862. Gift of Miss Mildred Howells; received: June 18, 1943.

43M-565. Gift of Miss Mildred Howells; received: November 19, 1943.

43M-787-792. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Mead Howells; received: May 29, 1944.

43M-794-795. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Mead Howells; received: May 29, 1944.

43M-797-800. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Mead Howells; received: May 29, 1944.

44M-110-122. Gift of Miss Mildred Howells; received: September 22, 1944.

44M-225. Gift of R. W. Emerson Memorial Association; received: January 5, 1945.

44M-254. Gift of Miss Mildred Howells; received: October 28, 1944.

45M-322. Gift of Dr. Cecil Kent Drinker; received: February 19, 1946.

45M-328-329. Gift of William James; received: April 3, 1946.

45M-353-355. Gift of M. M. Frechette; received: June 1, 1946.

45M-502-507. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Howells; received: November 5, 1945.

45M-509-513. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Howells; received: November 5, 1945.

45M-516-536. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Howells; received: November 5, 1945.

45M-539. Gift of W. I. Morse; received: Jone 15, 1946.

45M-565. Gift of John W. Lowes; received: December, 1945.

45M-789, 48M-227-230. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: June 22, 1948.

51M-236. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: May 29, 1952.

53M-96. Gift of Mildred Howells and John Howells; received: December, 1953.

54M-328-329. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: 1954.

54M-528. Gift of David P. Wheatland;

54M-531. Gift of David P. Wheatland;

55M-16. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: August 30, 1955.

56M-193. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: September 6, 1956.

57M-24. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: August, 1957.

58-148. Gift of Elsie T. Friedman; received: January, 1959.

58M-12-14. Gift of Mildred Howells;received: July 18, 1955.

58M-16-18. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: July 18, 1955.

58M-79. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: January 1, 1959.

59M-1-2. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: July 15, 1959.

59M-161. Purchased from Hamill and Barker; received: February, 1960.

59M-257. Gift of Radcliffe College Library; received: June 15, 1960.

59M-261. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: June, 1960.

59M-281-284. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: 1959.

60M-21A. Gift of Mildred Howells; received: 1960.

Howells family. Howells family papers, 1850-1954: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

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