Mark Antony Dewolfe Howe, 1864-1960, was born on August 23, 1864 into one of Bristol’s leading families. Mark was his father’s seventeenth of eighteen children by three wives. After his prolific father and namesake became Episcopal bishop of central Pennsylvania, Mark enrolled at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where his father was chairman of the board of trustees. After graduation in 1886, Mark began the study of English Literature at Harvard University earning a master’s degree in 1888.
Howe obtained editorial positions with the Youth’s Companion and the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. He also embarked upon a career as one of America’s foremost editors and biographers and wrote poetry as well.
As an editor he worked on the thirty-one volume Beacon Biographies Series from 1899 to 1910 and wrote a two volume biography of the great American historian George Bancroft.
Despite his Rhode Island and Pennsylvania background, Howe became thoroughly immersed in the history and cultural life of Boston where he lived from 1886 until his death in 1960.His detailed book, Boston: the Place and the People (1903) is a major history of his adopted city. Notwithstanding his love for Boston and its environs, Howe took time to examine his roots by
Howe’s literary output was enormous despite serious problems with his eyesight that plagued him throughout his life. Unfortunately, many subjects to whom he devoted his biographical talents were notable in their time but have since become obscure. Exceptions were Barrett Wendell and His Letters (1924) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in biography and the biographies of historian James Ford Rhodes and poet-physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
In 1899, Howe married Fanny Huntington Quincy, sister of Boston mayor Josiah Quincy. The couple had three children including Mark DeWolfe Howe (1906-1967), noted legal historian and civil rights activist.
Mark Antony DeWolfe Howe remained at the center of Boston’s cultural and social life for nearly seven decades justly earning the unofficial title as “the dean of Boston’s literary world.” He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 6, 1960 at the age of ninety-six.