Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, September 12, 2013

William Dean Howells

by Michael Ceraolo

"For many weeks,
                             for months,
it has not been for one hour out of my waking thoughts;
it is the last thing when I lie down,
the first thing when I rise up
It blackens my life
I feel the horror and the shame of the crime
which the law is about to commit against justice"

on November 11, 1887,
that date was the day to celebrate the Armistice,
that date was the day to honor veterans,
the crime was committed:
                                          four men
were murdered by the state of Illinois

In addition
to the obligatory petition signings
Howells used his literary talents
in a letter to the governor on their behalf,
in many private letters,
saying the trial record
"proved themselves absolutely guiltless
of the murder charged upon them" ,
no objection when some correspondents
made the contents of the letters public,
still he asked
"Is there anything more to be done?"

his munificent salary
($13,000/year from Harper and Brothers),
his reputation and standing as one
of the country's most popular novelists
would seem to be enough,
he didn't trim his position afterward:
"All is over now,
the judgment that begins at once
for every unjust and evil deed,
and goes on forever
The historical perspective is that
the free Republic has killed five [sic] men
for their opinions"

                              And he went further,
being the proto-Zola in an ars poetica:
"Neither arts,
                    nor letters,
                                     nor science,
as they tend to make the race better,
                                                      or kinder,
are to be regarded as serious interests,
they cannot do this except from and through the truth"

Then as now a minority position

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