User menu


House, Edward Howard (1836-1901)

Essayist, Journalist, Novelist, Playwright, Theatrical Manager

Edward Howard House, also known as “Ned,” was born near Boston and became a musical prodigy under his pianist mother's tutelage. Her early death turned him to his father's trade, that of a bank-note engraver. He gained standing in the world of Boston literati, and eventually moved to New York to work as the drama critic for the Tribune (61). As a contributor to the Saturday Press, House wanted to create a dialogue supporting his anti-slavery beliefs, but Editor Henry Clapp opposed it (Lause 109). House also became the agent for all Dion Boucicault's plays in the United States (89).

Mentioned in Charles Pfaff’s obituary as one of the “Knights of the Round Table” of Bohemia, House was a friend of Henry Clapp and considered a regular at Pfaff’s (Miller 82). Browne writes, "House is a good fellow, handsome, well-bred, winning in manners; is still a bachelor; does little work and gets a good deal for it; and enjoys himself as a man of the World ought" (154). House was one of the distinguished guests which gathered at Ada Clare’s house on Sunday nights (Eytinge 21-22) as well as one of the “young men friends” of Whitman (Whitman 327-329). Whitman’s letters report that he received notification about the publication of his poems in the Tribune from House (47-48), and Stovall suggests that House may have helped Whitman to get published.

Despite that friends remember House as "'a good fellow, handsome, well-bred, winning in manners," Thomas Butler Gunn recalls a row which occurred at Pfaff’s between House and O’Brien (Lause 61). After House was known to have spread true, though unflattering, rumors about O’Brien regarding his taking credit for the works of other men, O’Brien slapped him across the face. Though a smaller man, House rushed at O’Brien, and the two engaged in a scuffle until Wilkon and Shepherd broke them up. Gunn writes, “Most of the Bohemians side with O’Brien in the matter. They all live in such glass-houses that any throwing of stones becomes an impertinence, to be generally resented. I dare say House’s loose talk has made him privately objectionable” (13.80-2).

House traveled to Paris around 1860, meeting Georges Clemenceau there (Baldensperger 18), but returned during the Civil War to became the Tribune’s war correspondent. Starr describes the many horrific and life-threatening situations which House encountered during the war, including a time in which House had "one ball whiz by his ear, got frightened, falloped 22 miles to Washington, and there reported 500 killed, and that the press had fled the field" (44, quoting Hill Stedman). After Bull Run, House wrote in the Tribune: "All was lost to the American army, even its honor...The agony of this overwhelming disgrace can never be expressed in words" (50).

After the war, he turned to theatrical management for about three years. In 1868 he returned to the staff of the Tribune and he joined the New York Times staff two years later. In 1869, Browne wrote, “He has quitted journalism, at least for the time, and made a good deal of money, it is said, by sharing the authorship of some, and being the agent in this country of Boucicault's plays" (154).

While in New York, House visited Pfaff’s and became acquainted with Richard Hildreth, author of Japan As It Was and Is (1885). Hildreth inspired House’s love of Japanese culture and encouraged him to seek employment as an English professor at a university in Tokyo. House studied Japanese theater and also served as "an officer in the Educational Department of that Government” at the time of Clapp’s death in 1875 (“Obituary: Henry Clapp” 7). While there, he wrote a novel, Yone Santo, a Child of Japan, which satirizes missionaries and was serialized in the Atlantic Monthly in 1888 prior to its publication. In addition to teaching, House accompanied his friend Shigenobu Okuma, an imperial councilor, on a punitive expedition to Formosa. House wrote about this venture in dispatches to the Herald and became Japan’s first official foreign publicist (Wildes). One newspaper column writes that House spent “fifteen or twenty years as American Consul at some port in Japan” before returning to America (“General gossip” 476-80).

Upon his return to America in 1880, House discovered that only a “few besides his old-time comrades remembered him" (Current Literature 479). House relocated to London in 1881 living with Charles Reade, assisting actor Edwin Booth (one of William Winter’s favorite thespians) with his British tour, and aiding in the management of Saint James’s Theater in London. After suffering a stroke, House returned to Japan and remained there for the rest of his life. He received honors from the Japanese government and worked to popularize Western music. He facilitated the formation of what became the Imperial Conservatory of Music.