Our Land, Our Literature
Our Land, Our Literature Home
Search our Site
Environment Regions Contacts and Links About Us  

Meredith NicholsonMeredith Nicholson

Hoosier Connection: Nicholson lived and traveled extensively in Indiana. He found it to be a rich resource for his novels.

Works Discussed: A Hoosier Chronicle, The House of a Thousand Candles, Otherwise Phyllis

Meredith Nicholson was born in Crawfordsville to a Civil War veteran and a nurse. Nicholson was fascinated by the Civil War, as well as by Indiana natives, whom he found friendly and hospitable. These qualities would be reflected by the characterizations in his later novels.

Nicholson was also deeply interested in politics and law. When he was nineteen, he studied law in Indiana at the office of Dye and Fishback. During this time he began to experiment with writing, eventually becoming a member of the Indianapolis News editorial board. Nicholson also served as a diplomat from the U.S. to Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Venezuela until he retired in Indianapolis.

It was during his years as an author, however, that he won the most fame. His topics varied greatly, featuring everything from political discussion to environmental concerns. A Hoosier Chronicle is one of his most famous books.

Early in the novel Nicholson compares Indiana to both Egypt and Italy: "There is always corn in their Egypt, and no village is so small but it lifts a smokestack toward a sky that yields nothing to Italy's (7)." Nicholson clearly feels a deep pride for his native state.

A Hoosier Chronicle
1912 edition of A Hoosier Chronicle

Nicholson seemed quite satisfied with the landscapes of Indiana and the way they had had altered by its settlers. The state seal, he writes, depicts "a sturdy pioneer felling a tree while behind him a frightened buffalo gallops madly into oblivion" (534). This description is more revealing than Nicholson might have meant it to be. It demonstrates the lingering attitude that nature was something wild to be tamed and portrays the settlers as heroic conquerors.

In another novel, The House of a Thousand Candles, Nicholson provides us with the view of an outsider coming to Indiana. The character's expectations of Indiana life are fairly low, and he is surprised often. When he comes to the place where he will be staying, he reflects, "To find an apartment so handsome and so marked by good taste in the midst of an Indiana wood, staggered me" (44). The outsider has expected to find only the rustic and outmoded, but is pleasantly surprised. In fact, he soon begins to feel sympathy for nature. When he comes to a concrete wall, standing in stark contrast to nature's beauty, he reflects that there were "much more satisfactory ways of spending money than in building walls around Indiana forests" (68). Though he speaks less of the environment as the novel draws on, the constant references to weather and scenery makes its presence felt.

Finally, in his novel Otherwise Phyllis, Phil is an ornithologist, giving her a unique knack for noticing the environment. Nicholson writes, early in the book, "Phil turned, half-unconsciously, and glanced up at the sycamore. That hoary old landmark defined a boundary" (7). She sees her world in terms of its relationship to nature. Agriculture is also important in the novel—it is seen as a sacred kind of bond between humankind and the land. Fred Holton, a farmer, observes,

[I]n the very soil itself, he felt a kinship, born of a hidden, elusive, cramped vein of poetic feeling that lay deep in his nature. All life, he vaguely realized, is of a piece: man and the earth to which he is born respond to the same laws.... He was wedded to this land; his hope was bound up in it; and he meant to serve it well. (111)

It is little wonder that Nicholson, who lived his live largely in Indiana, had such powerful feelings toward the land. His outlook on life and the natural world is expressed through a variety of viewpoints, characters, and situations in his novels.



Nicholson, Meredith. A Hoosier Chronicle. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1912.

---. The House of a Thousand Candles. New York: A. Wessels Company, 1907.

---. Otherwise Phyllis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913.

Russo, Dorothy R., and Thelma L. Sullivan. Seven Authors of Crawfordsville, Indiana. Chicago: Lakeside P, 1952.


"'...and touch the universal heart.' The Appeal of James Whitcomb Riley." The Lilly Library: Indiana U Libraries. 3 Oct. 2002 <http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/riley/docs/9_nicholhow.html>.

"Rare Books." Pallette and Print. 2000. 3 Oct. 2002 <http://www.paletteandprint.net/bksrare.html>.


Meredith Nicholson Collection, 1890-1942