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[248] When the Frost is on the Punkin. It was the era of Denman Thompson's plays, Joshua Whitcomb and The Old homestead. Both the homely and the exotic marched under this banner of local color: Hamlin Garland presented Iowa barnyards and cornfields, Helen Hunt Jackson dreamed the romance of the Mission Indian in Ramona, and Lafcadio Hearn, Irish and Greek by blood, resident of New Orleans and not yet an adopted citizen of Japan, tantalized American readers with his Chinese Ghosts and Chita. A fascinating period it seems, as one looks back upon it, and it lasted until about the end of the century, when the suddenly discovered commercial value of the historical novel and the ensuing competition in best sellers misled many a fine artistic talent and coarsened the public taste. The New South then played the literary market as recklessly as the New West.

Let us glance back to “the abandoned farm of literature,” as a witty New Yorker once characterized New England. The last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed a decline in the direct influence of that province over the country as a whole. Its strength sapped by the emigration of its more vigorous sons, its typical institutions sagging under the weight of immense immigrations

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