As a magazine editor, Howells was a champion of other American writers, and he became known as the Dean of American Letters. He was the first president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
His own novels dealt with important social issues, including race, labor, and professions for women. His best-known book is The Rise of Silas Lapham, one of the first novels to study the American businessman.
--Source: Biography at the Web site of the William Dean Howells Society