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Cambridge Neighbors (from Literary Friends and Acquaintance)   By: (1837-1920)

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Cambridge Neighbors, a collection of essays by William Dean Howells, is an engaging and thought-provoking exploration of the author's relationships with his literary friends and acquaintances. Filled with anecdotes, insights, and recollections, this book offers readers a glimpse into the captivating world of 19th-century American literature.

In this collection, Howells presents a series of sketches, each dedicated to a different writer he encountered during his time in Cambridge. From his conversations with literary heavyweights like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to his observations of lesser-known figures, Howells provides readers with a comprehensive and intimate portrait of the literary scene of the time.

One of the most impressive aspects of Cambridge Neighbors is Howells' ability to bring these individuals to life through his vivid descriptions and authentic storytelling. Whether he is vividly recounting a conversation or offering his own reflections, the author's prose effortlessly captures the essence of each writer, revealing their unique personalities and literary contributions.

Furthermore, Howells infuses his personal experiences and interactions with insightful commentary on the role of literature and the challenges faced by writers. He delves into various themes such as the pursuit of success, the influence of social and economic factors, and the inner workings of the publishing world. Through these essays, Howells provides an invaluable glimpse into the professional and personal lives of these literary figures, offering readers a deeper understanding of their craft and the world they inhabited.

Moreover, the book is not solely focused on Howells' reflections on others. He also shares his own struggles, aspirations, and growth as a writer, making this collection an engrossing autobiography of sorts. By interweaving his personal narrative with those of his friends and acquaintances, Howells creates a captivating tapestry that showcases the complexity and interconnectedness of the literary world.

While Cambridge Neighbors primarily caters to those interested in 19th-century American literature and literary history, anyone with a love for literature and a curiosity about the minds behind it will find something to enjoy in this collection. Howells' engaging storytelling style, combined with his keen observations and sharp analysis, make for a compelling read.

In conclusion, Cambridge Neighbors offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the lives and works of renowned literary figures through the eyes of William Dean Howells. With its captivating storytelling, insightful commentary, and intimate portrayals, this collection serves as both a celebration of the literary world and a testament to the enduring power of literature itself.

First Page:


by William Dean Howells


Being the wholly literary spirit I was when I went to make my home in Cambridge, I do not see how I could well have been more content if I had found myself in the Elysian Fields with an agreeable eternity before me. At twenty nine, indeed, one is practically immortal, and at that age, time had for me the effect of an eternity in which I had nothing to do but to read books and dream of writing them, in the overflow of endless hours from my work with the manuscripts, critical notices, and proofs of the Atlantic Monthly. As for the social environment I should have been puzzled if given my choice among the elect of all the ages, to find poets and scholars more to my mind than those still in the flesh at Cambridge in the early afternoon of the nineteenth century. They are now nearly all dead, and I can speak of them in the freedom which is death's doubtful favor to the survivor; but if they were still alive I could say little to their offence, unless their modesty was hurt with my praise.


One of the first and truest of our Cambridge friends was that exquisite intelligence, who, in a world where so many people are grotesquely miscalled, was most fitly named; for no man ever kept here more perfectly and purely the heart of such as the kingdom of heaven is of than Francis J... Continue reading book >>

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