The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hoosier Schoolmaster, The
HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER, The. In the conclusion to the ‘Hoosier Schoolmaster’ Edward Eggleston announces his belief that readers whose taste is not perverted always want a story to “come out well.” Accordingly he so planned this his first and most important romance that the lovers are all happily united, the poor orphans become prosperous and the evil-doers receive just punishment, mitigated somewhat through the generous intervention of those whom they have wronged. The ‘Hoosier Schoolmaster’ owes its great popularity not so much to the conventional plot as to its happy description of early days in Indiana. It pictures the country school in which custom prescribed a constant warfare between the master and the big boys, the community spelling-school, the different forms of bigoted and illiterate preaching that were offered to the new settlers, the amusing attempts at formality in the proceedings of the courts, and other features of pioneer life as the author had seen them in his career as itinerant missionary and agent for a Bible society. Eggleston's fondness for historical accuracy sometimes led him to sacrifice the artistic unity of his story in order to introduce a detail exactly as it was found in real life, but this defect is less noticeable in the ‘Hoosier Schoolmaster’ than in some of his later novels. There is a great variety of characters who, while they are drawn pretty much in unshaded black and white, have enough truth to human nature to seem real. A sufficient humor pervades the whole, the action never drags and the book despite its limitations deserves the great vogue it has had since its publication in 1871.