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WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS.
O little bird with quivering throat distended,
WHO COMFORTETH THE COMFORTER.
BEHOLD him! How his great heart glows Into his eyes, and overflows
His eyelids with their fringes brown; Just as the sun's heart over-slips The lids of night, and freely drips
In lachrymals of glory down.
You touched his hand: how warm and strong, As if his great heart lay along
The ample palm! He spoke to you: His words were like the viewless fall Of God's dews scattered over all,
They were so fresh and pure and true.
He smiles or weeps with all who weep
His face comes, as God's morning were
Who comforteth the comforter?
N attempting a biographical notice of William
Dean Howells, the writer will meet his greatest difficulty in the finding and bringing out of some new and interesting points concerning this already well-known writer that have not been given to the public. Foremost among the literary men of the day, he has achieved a reputation both gratifying and enviable; nor has this greatness been “thrust upon him;" it has cost many a weary day's toil. Whatever laurels he has gleaned, have been fairly earned.
William Dean Howells was born at Martin's Ferry, Ohio, March 1, 1837, and at the early age of nine years we find our embryo poet at the compositor's case in his father's office at Hamilton, O., the family having moved there when William was three years old. In 1849 Mr. Howells pere sold his journal and moved the family to Dayton, O., purchasing the Transcript, a semi-weekly paper, and changing it into a daily. Young Howells frequently worked until eleven o'clock at night, then rose at four in the morning to deliver the papers to the subscribers. It was said at the time that he was the swiftest compositor in Dayton.
In 1851 the Transcript failed and the family moved to Green county. The father accepted a position as Clerk of the House at Columbus, the capital, and the boy became a compositor on the Ohio State Journal, receiving four dollars a week, which was contributed to the general family fund.
His first poem appeared in the State Journal, and the second in the Cleveland Herald, the editor of which, S. D. Harris, was very kind and encouraging to the lad struggling so manfully to make his way in the world. When Howells was fifteen the family moved to Ashtabula, the father purchasing the Sentinel. At nineteen he became the Columbus correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette, and at twenty-two the news editor of the State Journal, on which he had formerly been compositor. Notwithstanding the difficulties under which he had labored, Howells managed to learn Latin, something of Greek, as well as some of the modern languages. His favorite was Spanish, in which he was very proficient, as also in German, translating many poems into English, the most notable among them being his translations of Heine's poems from the German, Meanwhile an original poem had been offered to the Atlantic Monthly, which to his surprise and delight was accepted. In one year five original poems were published in that magazine,
In 1861 Mr. Howells was appointed by President Lincoln, consul to Venice, and a year later was married in Paris to Eleanor G., sister of Larkin G. Mead, the sculptor. Three children were given to them who at an early age gave unmistakable
At night he wrestles with his pain
Of tears to see if through the dim
His reeking forehead, soothing him.
Oh, he whose lips breathe constant grace, Who ever bears upon his face
The silent grand apocalypse Of God's sweet mercy, must receive Small part of what he gives, and grieve
Uncomforted in Hope's eclipse.
Uncomforted? Nay, think not so!
And lift the soul where it may boast
He knows Christ best who helps men most.
Pure deeds are fruit of love divine,
To make its holiest pulses stir
God comforteth the comforter.
And eastward athwart the pasture-lot
And over the milk-white buckwheat field I could see the stately elm, where I shot
The first black squirrel I ever killed.
And southward over the bottom-land
I could see the mellow breadths of farm From the river-shores to the hills expand,
Clasped in the curving river's arm.
evidence of the refined and literary home in which they were reared. The eldest of these children, Winifred, a beautiful girl, died early last spring. This has been a sad blow to the parents. At the expiration of Mr. Howells' term at Venice, he returned to America, becoming assistant editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and six years later Editor-inChief. In 1886 he accepted a position on Harper's Magazine, delighting his readers each month with the bright, racy droppings from his pen, in the Editor's Study. In 1860 he published in connection with John James Piatt, a collection of poems under the title of “ Poems of Two Friends." In 1886 he published his collected poems.
Much could be said of Mr. Howells as a prose writer, but it is as a poet that we speak of him to-day. Latterly he has paid little attention to metrical composition, which is to be regretted. Personally Mr. Howells is of a kindly sympathetic nature, prone to be very charitable with the shortcomings of young writers, and never fails to give a kind, encouraging word.
N. L. M.
In the fields we set our guileless snares
For rabbits and pigeons and wary quails, Content with the vaguest feathers and hairs
From doubtful wings and vanished tails.
And in the blue summer afternoon
We used to sit in the mulberry-tree:
Shook the leaves and glittering berries free;
And while we watched the wagons go
Across the river, along the road, To the mill above, or the mill below,
With horses that stooped to the heavy load,
The street ebbs under and makes no sound; But, with bargains shrieked on every hand,
The noisy market rings around.
We told old stories and made new plans,
And felt our hearts gladden within us again, For we did not dream that this life of a man's
Could ever be what we know as men.
For ignorant hopes that were
THE MYSTERIES. ONCE on my mother's breast, a child, I crept,
Holding my breath; There, safe and sad, lay shuddering, and wept
At the dark mystery of Death.
Weary and weak, and worn with all unrest,
Spent with the strife, -
At the sad mystery of Life!
CONVENTION. He falters on the threshold,
She lingers on the stair: Can it be that was his footstep?
Can it be that she is there?
Without is tender yearning,
And tender love is within; They can hear each other's heart-beats,
But a wooden door is between.
Weakly good-natured and kind, and weakly good
natured and vicious, Slender of body and soul, fit neither for loving nor hating.
- The Pilot's Story.
Blowing our bloom away, –
Out of the lips of May.
Ah, me! for the thought of pain !
The little drowsy stream
And not with Fate. And who can guess
How weary of our happiness
- Sweet Clover.
MARCH Tossing his mane of snows in wildest eddies and
tangles, Lion-like, March cometh in, hoarse, with tem
pestuous breath, Through all the moaning chimneys, and thwart
all the hollows and angles Round the shuddering house, threatening of winter and death.
-In Earliest Spring.
And hope a May, and do not know:
May be, the heaven is full of snow,-
Their singing so loud and gay;
- While She Sang.
ART. Art is not ours, O friend! but if we are not hers, we are nothing.
THE POET'S FRIENDS.
The robin sings in the elm;
The cattle stand beneath, Sedate and grave, with great brown eyes
And fragrant meadow-breath.
They listen to the flattered bird,
The wise-looking, stupid things; And they never understand a word
Of all the robin sings.
Departing, did depart
Felt them go heavy o'er his broken heart.
He could not bear the gloom, The vanishing encounter and evasion Of things that were and were not in the room.