William Dean Howells (1837-1920), writer, critic and pioneer of the American realist school, was one of the most influential writers of American fiction during the last quarter of the 19th century. A lifelong friend of Mark Twain and a contemporary of Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Emerson, Howells' own literary career took off with his novel, A Modern Instance, but The Rise of Silas Lapham is his best-known work. Widely acknowledged as the "American Dean of Letters," Howells was one of the first seven chosen for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he later became president, and which instituted its Howells Medal for Fiction in 1915.
Matthew Stevenson is a former editor at Harper's magazine. He remains a contributing editor to Harper's and writes for several other publications including American Scholar, Vanity Fair and the American Spectator. He is also author of Mentioned in Dispatches.