One of the most fascinating experiments in American literature resulted in The Whole Family.
This unusual composite novel numbers among its twelve authors such luminaries as Henry James, William Dean Howells, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.
The idea for this collaborative venture originated with Howells in 1906. Under the guidance of Elizabeth Jordan, the energetic editor of Harper’s Bazar
(as it was then known), each of the authors was invited to write a successive chapter in a story Howells envisioned as a definitive depiction of American family life. But the original plan underwent a dramatic reversal with a controversial chapter by Freeman. From that point, The Whole Family
became a more involved story of family misunderstandings and rivalries that actually mirrored the rivalries of the contributors themselves.
Alfred Bendixen’s lively introduction offers the first accurate and complete account of the creation of this remarkable novel—uncovering new facts and revealing the turmoil out of which it was shaped. June Howard’s foreword provides an additional contextual and critical perspective.The Whole Family
will be enjoyed by admirers of American literature at the start of the twenty-first century as much as it was by those at the beginning of the twentieth. In addition to delightful plot twists and characters, it offers a remarkable view into the ways in which family life has—and has not—changed over the course of a century.
Full list of authors. Mary R. Shipman Andrews, John Kendrick Bangs, Alice Brown, Mary Stewart Cutting, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, William Dean Howells, Henry James, Elizabeth Jordan, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Henry van Dyke, Mary Heaton Vorse, Edith Wyatt