Each month from December 1907 through November 1908, one chap-
ter of a novel titled The Whole Family appeared in Harper’s
companied by a list of its twelve authors and an invitation to readers to
guess which one was responsible for that month’s contribution. Book
publication by Harper & Brothers followed immediately after the final
chapter appeared. The idea for this composite novel originated with
William Dean Howells, who established its opening scenario in a chap-
ter focusing on the father of the family; the project was coordinated
by Elizabeth Jordan, editor of Harper’s Bazar, who wrote a chapter as
well. Other contributors included Henry James, Mary Wilkins Free-
man, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Mary Heaton Vorse, and writers widely
known at the time but rarely remembered today, such as the prolific
humorist John Kendrick Bangs and Mary Stewart Cutting, author of
Little Stories of Married Life, Little Stories of Courtship, and The Sub-
urban Whirl. Jordan devotes an entire chapter of her autobiography
to an entertaining account of this collaboration; Alfred Bendixen cor-
rects and publicizes the story in his introduction to a 1986 reprinting
of the novel. Both Jordan and subsequent commentators write of the
contributors as themselves constituting a sort of literary family—an
extremely quarrelsome one.
Each author was asked to contribute a chapter from the point of view
of a particular member of the family. Building on but contesting the
characterizations Howells had sketched out, each wrote as an advocate
*The Harpers originally named the magazine after the German fashion maga-
zine Der Bazar, and its title was not spelled with two a’s until 1929.
Previous Page Next Page