In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

chapter 2 ‘‘Livin’ on My Money’’: The Politics of Gratitude and Ingratitude in Howells Since it appeared in 1890, William Dean Howells’s A Hazard of New Fortunes has been read as an analysis of Gilded Age capitalism and, more specifically, of the expansion of the U.S. literary market. Howells’s central character, Basil March, leaves Boston and his quiet life as an insurance man to try his fortunes as a literary editor in the competitive magazine world of New York. Recent studies of Howells have convincingly argued that, in his portrayal of both the move from Boston to New York and the class and ethnic strife witnessed by his middle-class characters in that move, Howells’s realist novel responds to the changes in capitalism at the turn of the century, and concomitantly the transformation of literary production and values.1 Building on these studies, I nonetheless seek to shift the debates about the social and economic transformation that Howells’s novel charts by focusing not on the expansion of a ‘‘free’’ and competitive market, but on sponsorship. The exclusive critical attention on the development of the market—literary or otherwise—and on Howells’s own career as a selfsupporting ‘‘professional’’ novelist has obscured what Hazard usefully highlights —both the promises and the challenges that artists like Howells saw in an emergent philanthropy.2 In the last chapter, I showed the ways James ends up endorsing American cultural philanthropy as an expression of a newly puissant empire—engaged in an envious and violent act of appropriation that will nonetheless redistribute art more fairly and protect it. In Hazard Howells explores the relation between a broad international context , American philanthropy, and creative and intellectual work in a quite different way. He asks what happens to the contemporary intellectual’s historical commitment to a disinterested ‘‘cosmopolitanism’’ under the regime 76 Chapter 2 of corporate-based philanthropy, and he focuses, not on the art object generally , but on print culture specifically. Howells’s novel has two central conflicts: one between March and Jacob Dryfoos, the ‘‘natural gas millionaire’’ turned real estate and commodities speculator, who finances the magazine on which March works, and the other a labor strike by streetcar drivers. The former conflict is resolved through an onstage anticlimax, the latter by an offstage climax; nonetheless, Howells loosely links the two. The result is that critics have read Dryfoos as symbolic of capital and March as symbolic of labor.3 But if the novel has been read as representing the ways in which intellectuals can be alienated laborers, Howells also complicates such a reading by depicting Dryfoos as an ‘‘angel,’’ a sponsor who remains throughout the novel indifferent to, even contemptuous of, the potential profitability of the magazine, and who seems to allow the staff to transcend what are described as entrenched market hierarchies.4 Howells’s novel thus captures an important dilemma in print culture of the time, about how to challenge, on the one hand, the political patronage that still controlled the content of newspapers, and on the other hand, the business interests that had come to control magazines (either through advertising or through ownership). For example, Progressive magazine and book editor Walter Hines Page, who succeeded Howells at the Atlantic Monthly (and whom I will discuss in Chapter 4), believed an independent press had been stymied in the United States by political patronage, the dictates of magazine owners, and the interference of advertisers.5 Page particularly recorded his frustration with ‘‘the limitation’’ that ‘‘ownership’’ caused, saying that as a result of it, print media could ‘‘but half serve the public’’ (Cooper, 110). Page therefore wrote to Andrew Carnegie in 1893, proposing that the latter provide an independent endowment for a magazine that would do serious investigative reporting for progressive purposes. Carnegie made sense as a choice, both because of his philanthropy and because he had purchased nearly twenty poorly selling newspapers in England in the 1880s that supported the Liberal party’s policies.6 Perhaps, however, since a controlling ownership is not the same as creating an endowment that frees up editorial policy, Carnegie declined Page’s request. In the years ahead, Page continued to explore the funding of a Progressive magazine by wealthy philanthropically inclined capitalists but failed to find a sponsor. In 1914 when The New Republic was founded, with the financial backing of heiress and social reformer Dorothy Payne Whitney and her The Politics of Gratitude and Ingratitude in Howells 77 husband Willard Straight...

pdf

Additional Information

ISBN
9780812290035
Related ISBN
9780812246308
MARC Record
OCLC
884615827
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.