Has Anyone Read Brockden Brown?

Late 18th-century author of gothic novels. I just picked up a collection at the library—“Wieland,” “Arthur Mervyn” and “Edgar Huntly.”

Just wondering if anyone else is familair with this guy, I’ve never heard of him.

Charles Brockden Brown. I’ve got a copy of WIELAND on the “I Really MUST Get Around to Reading These Fine Classic Gothic Novels Someday” shelf, along with THE MONK and VATHEK and MELMOTH THE WANDERER.

So THAT one I had a high enough opinion of, at one point, to pay cash money for.

Hmmm . . . Can you judge it by its cover, Ike? I was thinking of starting with “Arthur Mervyn.” From the cover notes: " . . . indelible scenes of Philadelphia devastated by a yellow fever epidemic, while telling the story of a young man caught in the snares of a professional swindler."

I perused a few paragraphs to make sure his writing style was penetrable (anything before 1870 or so can have that trouble).

The one review of it on Amazon.com compared the writing style to James Fenimore Cooper. You may want to take it BACK to the library, and give your hands a good wash.

My copy is a cool-looking trade paperback from Harcourt Brace, with a cover painting by Bascove.

The back cover says it was first published in 1798 and is “a Gothic tale with an American setting that replaced such conventions as haunted castles with more unusual devices of terror – the spontaneous combustion of a human being, ventiloquism, and religious mania. Narrated by Clara, the only survivor of the Wieland family…the story builds in suspense to the night when her brother, in a divinely inspired seizure, murders his entire family.”


(Glancing about suspiciously)

Okay, now that we’re DEFINITELY all alone, here…

I’ve wired the gelignite under Zotti’s john, injected the arsenic through the cork of TubaDiva’s Saturday morning fifth of Cutty Sark, and set the bucket of water over Winkelried’s door.

What with the resulting confusion and chaos, you’ll be set to take over the reins of power by Monday morning.

Don’t forget everything you promised me. Fifty bucks, a new bicycle, a dancing bear, and a ham sandwich.

Eve, it’s been years, but I once read Wieland in a graduate seminar on early American lit. I’m planning on cleaning out the file cabinet this weekend anyhow, so if I have them, and if you’re interested, I can email you anything relevant.

As I remember, though, the only outstanding thing about the novel was that it was the first “real” American novel.

Ye of little faith!

Yeah, I have Edgar Huntly sitting on my shelf.

Oh, and I’ve read it, too. :slight_smile: I wasn’t especially impressed with it. In fact, I can’t remember what it was about.

Wow. I’d never heard of the guy until a month ago, when I found that one of my Profs is one of the top B-B experts going.

I read Wieland years ago in an American lit course in grad school. The professor referred to the author as “Charlie Brown.”

I’m sorry, I don’t remember much about it either, except for the spontaneous combustion.

Actually, the thing I remember about this is not the incident itself, but a rather extensive footnote by either the author or an early editor, earnestly explaining that spontaneous combustion is not a fictional contrivance, but a natural phenomena that really, truly happens. It amused me at the time.

From what I recall, this is also very much in keeping with the classic 18th-century gothic style, like Radcliffe and Walpole: They had to provide rational explanations for the supposed supernatural events in their novels, however implausible.

[hijack]The Perfect Master on spontaneous human combustion[/hijack]