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The Rise of Silas Lapham

William Dean Howells

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Silas Lapham’s long-lasting paint, made with minerals found on his family’s farm in Vermont, has helped make him a millionaire—as has hard work, ambition, and tough business sense. Now that he’s reached late middle age, he’s a success. A newspaper is writing him up in its “Solid Men of Boston” series, his family goes to seaside resorts in the summer, the scion of the aristocratic Covey family has joined his firm, his daughters have made inroads into 1880s society, and he’s even having a lavish house built in the newly-fashionable Back Bay.

But it’s all too good to last. Soon the Laphams must deal with long-simmering temptations that exist because of a ruthless decision made when his company was getting off the ground. Will they avoid a fall?

In 1885, when The Rise of Silas Lapham was published, William Dean Howells was in the middle of his own career. The novel remains his best-known work, enduring in no small part because of its portrayal of the self-made man and the problems that success and competition bring.

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