The Rise of Silas Lapham

Composition and publication history

Howells had moved to Massachusetts in the 1860s and became influential as the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, a role he held until 1881. The 1880s proved to be an extremely prolific period for him; in that decade, Howells published nine novels, a novella, several magazine articles, and a few plays.[1] He completed The Rise of Silas Lapham while living at 302 Beacon Street in Boston.[2]

Historian Francis Parkman had difficulty understanding the realism of the book and judged it by his more romantic standards and sought a didactic purpose for the story. As he wrote, "It is an admirable portraiture, realistic in the best sense of the word. It must touch the consciousness of a great many people; and as we descendants of the Puritans are said to be always on the lookout for a moral — it will teach the much needed lesson that money cannot do everything."[3]

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