Divine Average. By Elithe Hamilton Kirkland. Boston (Little,
Brown and Company), 1952. Pp. 378.
Painstaking search, graphic portrayal of characters, and mastery
of the writing art combine to make this historical novel one of
the few first-rate works of fiction that have come out of Texas.
Mrs. Kirkland dug deeply into the chronicles of the 1838-1858
period to make her story authentic. She lived with Indian atroc-
ities, bandit battles in the border country, and cattle drives to
New Orleans. She felt the land hunger of the early Texans
and shared their confidence in what its ranges would produce.
The story is that of tall, handsome Range Templeton, who
has ridden horseback from Tennessee to San Antonio in 1838,
at the age of seventeen. He has a length of stride and a breadth
of confidence that make him seem older, and his fleet copper
chestnut mount is the envy of many. Soon he obtains a job
as one of the guards in a freighting outfit whose wagons haul
goods to and from Laredo. This gives him a few brushes with
Indians and border outlaws. It also whets his hunger for land.
Soon Range marries a San Antonio girl and begins to acquire
the land he covets. If Mexicans hold tracts that stand in his path,
he usually finds a way to get them out, even if some are left
dead in the brush. He captures mustangs, builds up herds of
half-wild Longhorns, and trails some of the cattle to Louisiana
The book opens a wide window on the Texas of the Republic
period and the early years of statehood. It has action and suspense
without the melodrama to which many novelists resort. Its weak-
nesses are minor-a love story that seems too stilted even for
the Victorian period and a bit too much use of coincidence.
In its early pages, Divine Average has a string of Indian
atrocities that give a one-sided view of the Indian problem. It
is hard to find full consistency in the author's attitude toward
minority racial groups. She seems to seethe hate for the Indians
and to have scant sympathy for the Negroes. Yet she champions
the Mexicans and appears to approve of intermarriage between
them and the Anglo-Americans.
This novel, which might have had a more intriguing title,
is not only an absorbing story but a much more serious work
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 56, July 1952 - April, 1953. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101145/. Accessed January 27, 2015.