At the turn of the century, John Hay and William Dean Howells were
among the most famous Americans alive. Howells, still a long way from concluding his remarkable career, was the acknowledged
Dean of American Letters, and Hay, famous enough for his writing, was America's greatly honored and widely respected first
international Secretary of State. Neither one, however, in the nearly eight decades that have passed since the zenith of their
fame, has retained his place in American cultural history. This eclipse has been regrettable and unwarranted. Fortunately,
however, there are signs that matters are finally turning in their favor. There is new interest in Howells's sustained
achievement as a fine novelist and judicious critic, just as there is for the first time in a generation renewed interest
in Hay, both as diplomat and as writer.