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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 130

of the Middle West, lacking both the longer memories of the Atlantic States and the splendid golden expectations of California, discouraged romance there and set going that tendency toward naturalism which descends unbroken from Edward Eggleston (1837–1902) through E. W. Howe and Hamlin Garland, Theodore Dreiser and Edgar Lee Masters. At first glance Eggleston looks strange enough in this gallery, for like Holland and Roe he was a clergyman and nourished upon the same soft food as they. As a Methodist on the frontier, though of cultivated Virginia stock, he was even brought up to think of novels and all such works of the imagination as evil things. But his diversified experience as an itinerant preacher, or “circuit rider,” and his reflective and studious habits lifted him out of these narrow nooks of opinion. It is true that he shared the customary local color motive. “It used to be a matter of no little jealousy with us, I remember,” he says, speaking of Westerners, “that the manners, customs, thoughts, and feelings of New England country people filled so large a place in books, while our life, not less interesting, not less romantic, and certainly not less filled with humorous and grotesque material, had no place in literature. It was as though we were shut out of good society.” He had, however, a larger and sounder motive. Whereas Mrs. Stowe or her fellows would have thought of themselves as writing fiction considerably—or even primarily—for the sake of its moral consequences, Eggleston, having read Taine’s Art in the Netherlands, undertook to portray the life of southern Indiana in the faithful, undoctrinaire spirit of a Dutch painter, and wrote The Hoosier School-Master (1871). Refusing to



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