Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/93

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75
Edward Eggleston

chapters on the meeting of the Magi, falls somewhat below the level of the revenge them in energy and simplicity. Compared with other romances of this sort, however, with William Ware’s[1] or Ingraham’s, for instance, Ben-Hur easily passes them all, by a vitality which has a touch of genius. It passes, too, Wallace’s third romance, written while he was ambassador to Turkey, The Prince of India or Why Constantinople Fell (1893), a long, dull romance with the Wandering Jew as principal figure.

Edward Eggleston (1837–1902), a clergyman like Holland and Roe, and like General Wallace a native of Indiana, though nourished in the school which made the domestic-sentimentalpious romance the dominant type of fiction between 1850 and 1870, must yet be considered the pioneer figure in the new realism which succeeded it in the eighties. As a Methodist on the frontier he had been brought up, though of cultivated Virginia stock, to think novels and all such works of the imagination evil things, but his diversified experience as an itinerant preacher, or “circuit rider,” and as editor and journalist, his wholesome religion, and the studious habit which eventually made him a sound historical scholar, took him out of these narrow channels of opinion. It is highly significant that whereas Mrs. Stowe or her followers would have thought of themselves as writing fiction considerably for the sake of its moral consequences, Eggleston, having read Taine’s Art in the Netherlands,[2] undertook to portray the life of southern Indiana in the faithful, undoctrinaire spirit of a Dutch painter. His first novel, The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1871), remains his most famous. Indiana’s singularities had already been exposed by Bayard Rush Hall (“Robert Carlton”) in The New Purchase (1855), and there was growing up a considerable literature[3] reporting

that curious poor-whitey race which is called “tar-heel” in the northern Carolina, “sand-hiller” in the southern, “corn-cracker” in Kentucky, “yahoo” in Mississippi, and in California “Pike” … the Hoosiers of the dark regions of Indiana and the Egyptians of southern Illinois.[4]
  1. See Book II, Chap. VII
  2. Published in English at New York in 1871.
  3. See The Discovery of Pike Country in F. L. Pattee's American Literature since 1870 (1915).
  4. Roxy, Chap. XXVI.