|Howells's formal education ended at age 7 when his father's printing and newspaper business failed and William left school to work and set type in his father's new venture. However, the Howells family--always in the printing business in one form or another--strongly encouraged books and reading. As a boy, William began setting his own stories and poems into type and inserting them into his father's newspapers. His formal newspaper career began in 1857 when he became an editor at the Cincinnati Gazette and then literary editor of the Ohio State Journal. Eventually, after the Civil War (during which he served as U.S. consul to Venice), he moved to New York and rose to become editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1871. In 1881 he began to devote himself full-time to writing fiction. He also wrote criticism, travel books (chiefly about Italy), and a series of literary reminiscences, and from 1900 to 1920 he wrote the "Easy Chair" column in Harper's Monthly. As a novelist, Howells was strongly influenced by the Russians. He detested the sentimentality (which he called "slop, silly slop") of much 19th-century fiction and its lack of intellectual content. A socialist and activist, Howells believed that the novelist who painted a tough and realistic picture of life--rather than concentrating on plot--could effect changes in society.