Born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, originally Martinsville, to William Cooper and Mary Dean Howells, Howells was the second of eight children. His father was a newspaper editor and printer, and the father moved frequently around Ohio. Howells began to help his father with typesetting and printing work at an early age. In 1852, his father arranged to have one of Howells' poems published in the Ohio State Journal without telling him. Said to be rewarded for a biography of Abraham Lincoln used during the election of 1860, he gained a consulship in Venice. On Christmas Eve 1862, he married Elir Mead at the American embassy in Paris. Upon returning to the U.S., he wrote for various magazines, including Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine. From 1866, he became an assistant editor for the Atlantic Monthly and was made editor in 1871, remaining in the position until 1881. In 1869, he first met Mark Twain, which sparked a longtime friendship, although the friendship went sour over a disagreement about Twain's incessant cigar smoking. Howells was strongly against the use of tobacco and even appeared before Congress in 1883 to urge that its use be outlawed. Twain took offense and the friendship chilled for a decade. They reconciled in 1894 when Twain asked Howells to contribute to the Confederate Veteran's Fund he had organized to help one of his Civil War comrades pay for a new prosthetic limb.