Howells judges a generation at the same time that he portrays it in the best of all novels of New York.
Howells’s Tolstoyanism appears still more frankly in his two Utopian tales, A Traveller from Altruria (1894) and Through the Eye of the Needle (1907), in which he compares America with the lovely land of Altruria, where all work is honourable and servants are unknown, where capital and interest are only memories, where equality is complete, and men and women, in the midst of beauty, lead lives that are just, temperate, and kind. The stern tones of Tolstoy Howells never learned, or at least never used, for he could not lose his habitual kindness, even when he spoke most firmly. It was kindness, not timidity, however, for though he held steadily to his art he did not keep silence before even the most popular injustices. He plead for the Chicago “anarchists” and he condemned the annexation of the Philippines in clear, strong tones; no good cause lacked the support of his voice. He was extraordinarily fecund. After 1892 he succeeded George William Curtis in “The Easy Chair” of Harper’s and wrote monthly articles which, less exclusively literary than the “Editor’s Study” pieces, carried on the same tradition. His most significant critical writings, chiefly concerned with the art he himself practiced, are found in Criticism and Fiction (1891), Heroines of Fiction (1901), and Literature and Life (1902). Reminiscences and travels assume a still larger place in his later work. After A Boy’s Town came My Literary Passions (1895), and then Literary Friends and Acquaintance (1900), of accounts of the classic age of Boston and Cambridge easily the best. He revisited Europe and left records in London Films (1905), Certain Delightful English Towns (1906), Roman Holidays (1908), Seven English Cities (1909), Familiar Spanish Travels (1908), in which he occasionally drew his matter out thin but in which he was never for a page dull, or untruthful, or sour, after the ancient habit of travellers. My Mark Twain (1910) is incomparably the finest of all the interpretations of Howells’s great friend, while Years of My Youth (1916), written when the author was nearly eighty, is the work of a master whom age had made wise and left strong. In 1909 he was chosen president of the American Academy, and six years later he received