Brown, Charles Brockden (1771 - 1810)
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN
(1771 - 1810)
American novelist, essayist, and short story writer.
Brown is remembered as the author of the first Gothic novel produced by an American. Wieland; or, The Transformation (1798), which draws on the traditions of both Gothic and sentimental novels, explores such issues as suicide, murder, seduction, and insanity. He also wrote three other novels dealing with horror and the supernatural, all with a peculiarly American flavor, replacing the expected tropes of European Gothic with American images, including the frontier, forests, caves, and cliffs. Many critics fault Brown's work for what are perceived as serious stylistic and structural deficiencies, but they also express admiration for his intense artistic vision and his struggle to reconcile his Romantic imagination with the Enlightenment ideals of reason and realism. Brown is also recognized as one of the first Americans to gain a significant audience abroad and to attempt to support himself through his literary endeavors; for this reason he has been called the first professional writer in the United States. His work also reflects an interest—radical for his time—in the rights and roles of women. Hailed as a central figure in the literature of horror and the supernatural, Brown has been seen as an important influence on the masters of Ameri can Gothic writing, including Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, and Stephen King.
Brown was born to a Quaker family in Philadelphia in 1771. The Quakers' disdain for formal higher education resulted in the sixteen-year-old Brown's being apprenticed to a lawyer. While employed at the law office, Brown pursued his literary interests and joined the Belles Lettres Club, where he participated in philosophical and political discussions. In 1789 he published a series of essays as "The Rhapsodist," in which he analyzes the effectiveness of the government created after the American Revolution. His interest in radical social and political ideas was furthered by his reading of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) and William Godwin's An Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793). Many critics have maintained that these two works heavily influenced Brown's later thinking and writing. After abandoning his legal career in 1792, Brown completed his first novel, the now-lost Sky-Walk, in 1797. During the next several years, Brown embarked upon a period of extraordinary literary activity, publishing Alcuin (1798), a fictional dialogue on women's rights, and his first significant novel, Wieland, in 1798. Ormond, the first part of Arthur Mervyn, and Edgar Huntly all appeared during 1799. The proceeds from these works, however, were not sufficient for Brown to support himself, and as he grew increasingly interested in marrying and having a family, Brown joined his family's mercantile business in 1800. During his courtship of Elizabeth Linn in the early 1800s, Brown wrote the second part of Arthur Mervyn and his last two novels, Clara Howard and Jane Talbot, which were published in 1801. At this point, Brown turned to journalistic endeavors, producing political pamphlets and essays, and editing a journal. He married in 1804 and supported his wife and children on his editorial work after the family business dissolved in 1806. Brown died in 1810, of tuberculosis.
Brown wrote essays, short stories, and political pamphlets, and translated a work of nonfiction about the United States from the French, but modern critics have given little attention to these works, except as a means of elucidating aspects of Brown's major novels. The dialogue Alcuin, although considered a minor work, is studied by modern critics in an effort to dissect Brown's feminism. In this fictional exchange between a man and a woman, arguments both for and against political and educational equality of the sexes are presented. Brown continued to explore such issues in his novels, which all contain strong female characters. Like Brown's minor works, the sentimental novels Clara Howard and Jane Talbot generate relatively little critical interest and are regarded as exhibiting Brown's shift from radical to more conservative views.
The plots of Brown's four major novels, which combine elements of the Gothic and the sentimental novel, are often considered convoluted and episodic, though highly imaginative. What unites the novels is Brown's focus on psychological aberrations and the reactions and development of his characters. The epistolary novel Wieland, Brown's best-known work, is about an archetypal Gothic heroine, Clara Wieland, whose peaceful life with her brother, Theodore, and his family is destroyed by the appearance of a mysterious stranger, Carwin. Theodore begins to hear a disembodied voice, which he takes to be God's, and thereafter he hurls himself into an obsessive religious melancholy. He hears the voice command him to kill his wife and children, which he does. He is about to murder his sister and the man she loves when Carwin confesses he has been responsible for the voices. But, shockingly, he was not responsible for the voice that commanded Theodore to murder his family. Wieland has been seen variously as a cautionary tale on the dangers of religious fervor, an indictment of patriarchal institutions, a critique of Puritanism, and a self-referential allegory of the writing process itself.
Edgar Huntly also explores the problems of humans' inability to trust their sense perceptions. In the novel, the narrator follows the sleepwalking Huntly, whom he suspects is his best friend's murderer, through a labyrinthine frontier. His journey symbolizes the moral dilemma at the core of the novel: whether criminology can begin to fathom a mind in nightmarish conflict. Ormond focuses on Brown's ideas regarding the necessity of educational equality for women. The villainous Ormond terrorizes the beautiful Constantina Dudley after having had her father killed, holding her captive and threatening to rape her. But she defeats him (and the oppression he symbolizes) by stabbing him. In Arthur Mervyn, as a plague of yellow fever ravages Philadelphia, the narrator rescues the young waif Mervyn, whose true nature remains ambiguous to the very end. The story has been interpreted as Brown's argument for civic responsibility toward the impoverished, the ill, and the downtrodden. Brown examines, by way of the apparently innocent narrator's adventures, the theme of appearance versus reality. The narrator becomes implicated in several crimes, but his declarations of benevolent intentions contradict his actions.
Brown is known as being the first professional fiction writer in the United States, but he struggled to support himself through his literary efforts, turning toward journalism and editorial work in his later years to make a living. However, Brown's writing was well received by some contemporary critics, who praised his clear and forceful style and knowledge of the human heart while maintaining that his stories were improbable and that his use of detail and his narrative technique interfered with plot movement. Many important nineteenth-century writers admired Brown's works, including Poe, Hawthorne, John Keats, Sir Walter Scott, and Mary Shelley, who counted Brown's four Gothic novels among her six favorite books.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, critics focused on the importance of Brown's contribution to American letters. For his use of realistic details of American life, particularly his portrayal of Native Americans and the frontier, and for his role in initiating the American literary preoccupation with psychological horror, Brown was acclaimed as a pioneer in fiction and the father of American Gothic literature. Critics who viewed his contribution as mainly historical, however, censured his overblown style, illogical plots, and unrealistic characters. From the midtwentieth century on, critics have generally acknowledged the weaknesses in Brown's style but praised his attempts at reconciling eighteenth-century Enlightenment ideals with nineteenth-century Romantic principles; his exploration of the conflict between rationalism and the irrational power of the imagination; and his creation of the particularly American brand of Gothic fiction. Some critics have argued that Brown's novels cannot be truly classified as Gothic but rather as romances of mystery and terror that are only "superficially" Gothic, using Gothic trappings to delve into the psychology of the characters. Other commentators consider Brown's use of the Gothic as similar to that of William Godwin in its focus on the psychological and the revolutionary, while yet others have regarded Brown's gothicism as based more on German sources and works by English authors. As the interest in the genre of Gothic literature grows, so does interest in and admiration of Brown's works, which are widely viewed as innovations in American gothicism and the literature of psychological horror.
Alcuin: A Dialogue (fictional dialogue) 1798
Wieland; or, The Transformation (novel) 1798
Arthur Mervyn; or, Memoirs of the Year 1793. 2 vols. (novel) 1799–1800
Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker. 3 vols. (novel) 1799
Ormond; or, The Secret Witness (novel) 1799
Clara Howard (novel) 1801; also published as Philip Stanley; or, The Enthusiasm of Love, 1807
Jane Talbot, a Novel (novel) 1801
∗Carwin, the Biloquist, and Other American Tales and Pieces. 3 vols. (unfinished novel and short stories) 1822
The Novels of Charles Brockden Brown. 7 vols. (novels) 1827
The Rhapsodist, and Other Uncollected Writings (essays and novel fragment) 1943
The Novels and Related Works of Charles Brockden Brown. 6 vols. (novels and unfinished novels) 1977–87
∗Memoirs of Stephen Calvert (unfinished novel) 1978
∗ Carwin, the Biloquist and Memoirs of Stephen Calvert were published earlier in William Dunlap's The Life of Charles Brockden Brown: Together with Selections from the Rarest of His Printed Works, from His Original Letters, and from His Manuscripts before Unpublished, 1815.
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN (ESSAY DATE 1798)
SOURCE: Brown, Charles Brockden. "Advertisement." In Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale, n.p. New York: T & J Swords, 1798.
In the following introduction to Wieland, Brown urges the reader to consider the artistic merits of his work.
The following Work is delivered to the world as the first of a series of performances, which the favorable reception of this will induce the Writer to publish. His purpose is neither selfish nor temporary, but aims at the illustration of some important branches of the moral constitution of man. Whether this tale will be classed with the ordinary or frivolous sources of amusement, or be ranked with the few productions whose usefulness secures to them a lasting reputation, the reader must be permitted to decide.
The incidents related are extraordinary and rare. Some of them, perhaps, approach as nearly to the nature of miracles as can be done by that which is not truly miraculous. It is hoped that intelligent readers will not disapprove of the manner in which appearances are solved, but that the solution will be found to correspond with the known principles of human nature. The power which the principal person is said to possess can scarcely be denied to be real. It must be acknowledged to be extremely rare; but no fact, equally uncommon, is supported by the same strength of historical evidence.
Some readers may think the conduct of the younger Wieland impossible. In support of its possibility the Writer must appeal to Physicians and to men conversant with the latent springs and occasional perversions of the human mind. It will not be objected that the instances of similar delusion are rare, because it is the business of moral painters to exhibit their subject in its most instructive and memorable forms. If history furnishes one parallel fact, it is a sufficient vindication of the Writer; but most readers will probably recollect an authentic case, remarkably similar to that of Wieland.
It will be necessary to add, that this narrative is addressed, in an epistolary form, by the Lady whose story it contains, to a small number of friends, whose curiosity, with regard to it, had been greatly awakened. It may likewise be mentioned, that these events took place between the conclusion of the French and the beginning of the revolutionary war. The memoirs of Carwin, alluded to at the conclusion of the work, will be published or suppressed according to the reception which is given to the present attempt.
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN (NOVEL DATE 1798)
SOURCE: Brown, Charles Brockden. "Chapter 1." In Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale, pp. 1-11. New York: T & J Swords, 1798.
In the following excerpt from the first chapter of Wieland, the protagonist addresses the reader.
I feel little reluctance in complying with your request. You know not fully the cause of my sorrows. You are a stranger to the depth of my distresses. Hence your efforts at consolation must necessarily fail. Yet the tale that I am going to tell is not intended as a claim upon your sympathy. In the midst of my despair, I do not disdain to contribute what little I can to the benefit of mankind. I acknowledge your right to be informed of the events that have lately happened in my family. Make what use of the tale you shall think proper. If it be communicated to the world, it will inculcate the duty of avoiding deceit. It will exemplify the force of early impressions, and show, the immeasurable evils that flow from an erroneous or imperfect discipline.
My state is not destitute of tranquillity. The sentiment that dictates my feelings is not hope. Futurity has no power over my thoughts. To all that is to come I am perfectly indifferent. With regard to myself, I have nothing more to fear. Fate has done its worst. Henceforth, I am callous to misfortune.
I address no supplication to the Deity. The power that governs the course of human affairs has chosen his path. The decree that ascertained the condition of my life, admits of no recal. No doubt it squares with the maxims of eternal equity. That is neither to be questioned nor denied by me. It suffices that the past is exempt from mutation. The storm that tore up our happiness, and changed into dreariness and desert the blooming scene of our existence, is lulled into grim repose; but not until the victim was transfixed and mangled; till every obstacle was dissipated by its rage; till every remnant of good was wrested from our grasp and exterminated.
How will your wonder, and that of your companions, be excited by my story! Every sentiment will yield to your amazement. If my testimony were without corroborations, you would reject it as incredible. The experience of no human being can furnish a parallel: That I, beyond the rest of mankind, should be reserved for a destiny without alleviation, and without example! Listen to my narrative, and then say what it is that has made me deserve to be placed on this dreadful eminence, if, indeed, every faculty be not suspended in wonder that I am still alive, and am able to relate it.
LESLIE FIEDLER (ESSAY DATE 1960)
SOURCE: Fiedler, Leslie. "Charles Brockden Brown and the Invention of the American Gothic." In Love and Death in the American Novel, pp. 126-61. New York: Criterion Books, 1960.
In the following excerpt from his influential analysis of American novelists, Fiedler emphasizes Brown's importance as an innovator in the American Gothic tradition.
A dream of innocence had sent Europeans across the ocean to build a new society immune to the compounded evil of the past from which no one in Europe could ever feel himself free. But the slaughter of the Indians, who would not yield their lands to the carriers of utopia, and the abominations of the slave trade, in which the black man, rum, and money were inextricably entwined in a knot of guilt, provided new evidence that evil did not remain with the world that had been left behind—but stayed alive in the human heart, which had come the long way to America only to confront the horrifying image of itself. Finally, there was the myth of Faust and of the diabolic bargain, which, though not yet isolated from gothic themes of lesser importance (that isolation was to be the work of American writers!), came quite soon to seem identical with the American myth itself.
How could one tell where the American dream ended and the Faustian nightmare began; they held in common the hope of breaking through all limits and restraints, of reaching a place of total freedom where one could with impunity deny the Fall, live as if innocence rather than guilt were the birthright of all men. In Huck's blithe assertion, "All right, I'll go to Hell," is betrayed a significant undermeaning of the Faustian amor fati, at least in its "boyish" American form: the secret belief that damnation is not all it is cracked up to be. In a strange way, the naturalized Faust legend becomes in the United States a way of denying hell in the act of seeming to accept it, of suggesting that it is merely a scary word, a bugaboo, a forbidding description of freedom itself! At any rate, Americans from the beginning responded passionately to the myth itself; even in the 1680's, before the invention of the main tradition of the novel, one Boston bookseller sold in the Colonies sixty-six copies of The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus. It was, needless to say, a record unapproached in those times by any other "light literature."
When the gothic novel appeared, then, it was greeted with great enthusiasm by Americans, who passed quite quickly from importing and reading its prototypes to attempting to emulate them. In this case, only ten years elapsed between the publication of the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe and Lewis and the first American gothic romances. Yet the gothic mode—though appealing enough for various reasons—proved difficult to adapt to the demands of the American audience and the deeper meanings of American experience. By the time our own first attempts were being made, there was everywhere in the United States (aware of itself as a product of the Enlightenment) an uneasiness with darkness of all kinds, a feeling that the obsession with evil was an outgrown vice of Calvinism. Certainly the generation of Jefferson was pledged to be done with ghosts and shadows, committed to live a life of yea-saying in a sunlit, neo-classical world. From the bourgeois ladies to the Deist intellectuals, the country was united in a disavowal of the "morbid" and the "nasty." No wonder the American pioneer in gothic fiction, despite the acclaim he won abroad, was driven first to abandon the gothic for the sentimental, then to give up novel writing completely.
If it had been only a matter of finding a reading public for the gothic, the situation would not have been really critical—only unprofitable; but there were other problems. The gothic, after all, had been invented to deal with the past and with history from a typically Protestant and enlightened point of view; but what could one do with the form in a country which, however Protestant and enlightened, had (certainly at the turn of the eighteenth century!) neither a proper past nor a history? It was easy enough for the American writer to borrow certain elements, both of cast and setting, from the tale of terror; the Maiden in flight, for instance, was readily adaptable, and the hero-villain viable at least as a visual image—his burning eyes and furrowed brow transplanted themselves without difficulty. But what was to be done about the social status of such hero-villains? With what native classes or groups could they be identified? Traditionally aristocrats, monks, servants of the Inquisition, members of secret societies like the Illuminati, how could they be convincingly introduced on the American scene?
Similarly, it was not hard to provide the American equivalents of the moors, hills, and forests through which the bedeviled maidens of the gothic romances were accustomed to flee. But what of the haunted castle, the ruined abbey, the dungeons of the Inquisition? In America, such crumbling piles, architecturally and symbolically so satisfying to the eighteenth-century reader and writer, are more than a little improbable. Yet on them, not only the atmosphere, but an important part of the meaning of the tale of terror depended; what political or social implications the form possessed were inextricably bound up with such images. An early American gothicist like the I. Mitchell who published in 1811 The Asylum; or, Alonzo and Melissa was able to imagine a gothic country house on Long Island; but such a structure in such a place remains not merely unconvincing but meaningless. The haunted castle of the European gothic is an apt symbol for a particular body of attitudes toward the past which was a chief concern of the genre. The counterpart of such a castle fifty miles from New York City has lost all point.
The problem of the gothic romance in this regard is analogous to that of the sentimental novel. Both had arisen out of a need of the bourgeoisie, fighting for cultural autonomy in a class society, to find archetypal characters and situations to embody their conflict with the older ruling classes. Just as the sentimental archetype had projected the struggle of the middle classes with established secular power, portrayed as a menace to their purity, so the gothic projected the struggle of those classes with ecclesiastical authority, portrayed as a threat to their freedom. In America, which possesses neither inherited aristocratic privilege nor an established Church, the anti-aristocratic impulse of the seduction theme is, as we have said, translated into feminism and anti-intellectualism; while the impatience with the past implicit in the gothic fable undergoes an even more complex metamorphosis. Charles Brockden Brown, single-handed and almost unsustained, solved the key problems of adaptation, and though by no means a popular success, determined, through his influence on Poe and Hawthorne, the future of the gothic novel in America.
There is a sense in which the American novel had begun before the appearance on the literary scene of Charles Brockden Brown, and another in which it had yet to begin after his death; yet he represents the beginning of a serious tradition of fiction in the United States, at once establishing the gothic form and (it is an illuminating conjunction) founding the highbrow novel. The best-seller had been invented before any of his books appeared, and the more serious, though ill-fated, attempt of William Hill Brown had been made when Brockden Brown was only eighteen; but before him certainly, no writer of prose fiction had tried to live by his work. Brown himself was conscious of the audacity of his project, about which his friend and first biographer Dunlap commented later: "To become exclusively an author was at that time a novelty in the United States, and … no one had relied solely upon the support of his talents, and deliberately chosen this station in society."
If Brown deserved no other credit, he should be remembered at least as the inventor of the American writer, for he not only lived that role but turned it into a myth, later developed by almost everyone who wrote about his career. That he tried the impossible and that he failed; that he had disavowed his own art before his untimely death of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-nine; that he hardened from a wild disciple of the Enlightenment, a flagrant Godwinian ("Godwin came and all was light!") into a pious conservative; that he drew his inspiration from loneliness and male companionship, and that he ceased to be a creative writer when he married; that over his whole frantic, doomed career, the blight of melancholy presides. In a sense, Brown invented Edgar Allan Poe—all, that is to say, that the American writer came to seem to the mind of Europe and the sensibility of Romanticism—before Poe had ever written a line. Actually the latter poet was one year old when Brown died.
From the beginning, at any rate, it has been hard to describe Charles Brockden Brown without seeming to compose a poem on a symbolic subject. The portrait painter Sully, who saw him just before his death, has left the following account:
It was in the month of November,—our Indian summer,—when the air is full of smoke. Passing a window one day I was caught by the sight of a man, with remarkable physiognomy, writing at a table in a dark room. The sun shone directly upon his head. I shall never forget it. The dead leaves were falling then. It was Charles Brockden Brown.
If this seems less the product of observation than of Romantic fancy, it is no more fanciful than Brown's own description of himself to his dearest friend, Elihu Hubbard Smith, as "The child of passion and inconstancy, the slave of desires that cannot be justified …"; and it is considerably more restrained and faithful to fact than the account of his death, wracked by poverty and disease, imagined half a century later by his fellow Philadelphian and gothic heir, George Lippard. "The Heart Broken" is the title of Lippard's piece, by which he hoped, apparently, to do for Brown what Baudelaire was to do for Poe; but Lippard was unable to preserve the image of Brown as the victim of American philistinism after he had ceased to seem a figure of first literary importance.
To this very day, however, it is hard to rescue the man from the myth, to discover, for instance, even so simple a matter of record (one would assume) as what Brown looked like. According to one standard biography his hair was straight and "black as death," his complexion pale, sallow, and strange, accented by the "melancholy, broken-hearted look of his eyes." Another account describes him as "short and dumpy, with light eyes and hair inclining to be sandy, while the expression on his face reflected ill health rather than intellect…. Yet vividly in his countenance glowed the light of benevolence." Which is the truer portrait, the legendary delineation of what he hoped to seem or the more scholarly account with its overtone of debunking? Which is the real Charles Brockden Brown, the Brown who proved capable of bringing the American novel to birth?
The established facts of his brief career give some clues to the answer. He was born in Philadelphia in 1771 (the year in which Goethe published Götz von Berlichingen), and lived all his life in that city and in New York. He came from Quaker stock, which may have had some influence on his meditative habits, otherwise encouraged by his frail constitution and life-long sickliness. He is reported to have been a prodigy and to have received from the start a schooling worthy of his talents; but he was, despite the praise that later came to his work, much of it from the best qualified sources, irremediably melancholy. Intellectual energy and gloom complemented each other in his personality. Though he never ceased proposing to himself the most ambitious cultural schemes, he complained (or boasted—the tone is ambiguous) that he was incapable not only of real happiness but even of the "lively apprehension of misfortune."
What especially plagued him at the start was a conflict between the commitment to a career in the law, into which his family had urged him, and his own literary schemes, which he dreamed would distinguish both him and his country. At the age of sixteen, for example, he had already laid out plans for glorifying America (and Charles Brockden Brown!) with three epics, on Columbus, Pizzaro, and Cortez. New and radical ideas, derived ultimately from the Encyclopedists and more directly from Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, tilted the balance against his proposed career as a lawyer; and put him into even sharper opposition to the society in which he lived. To promulgate notions of social justice and to write novels, to revolutionize American life and to achieve literary fame: this double ambition he came to feel as a single impulse, not unlike certain young radical writers in the United States of the 1930's. The literary form which eminently suited both such political allegiances and such literary aspirations was at the moment he began to write (the 1790's were almost gone) the "new novel," which is to say, the gothic romance in its doctrinaire Godwinian form. "To equal Caleb Williams" was the best Brown could hope for himself.
If there was a contradiction between the dream of a rational Commonwealth and the hectic exploitation of horror in the gothic, Brown did not feel it. His friend Smith, more consistent advocate of the Enlightenment, might admonish him, "The man of Truth, Charles, the pupil of Reason has no mysteries," but Brown could turn with equanimity from the works of Diderot to The Horrid Mysteries of the Marquis of Grosse. As a writer, he proposed both to produce books with a "moral tendency" (enlightened, of course) and to "ravish the souls" of his readers with "roaring passions." The essential human passion to which he hoped to appeal in his examination of society, as well as by his exploration of terror, was curiosity: that curiosity of the sentimentalizing eighteenth century for which the proper study of mankind was the heart of man, "l'étude profonde du coeur de l'homme, véritable dédale de la nature"—clues to which the Marquis de Sade was convinced he had discovered in Richardson. "If you tell me," Brockden Brown once wrote, "that you are one of those who would rather travel into the mind of a ploughman than the interior of Africa, I confess myself of your way of thinking." It is a sentiment which linked Richardson and Pope, de Sade and Diderot, and which joined them in a common enterprise with Mrs. Radcliffe, the Marquis von Grosse, and Brown himself.
After publishing a dialogue on woman's rights called Alcuin —a preliminary concession to his doctrinal commitments, Brown plunged into a feverish bout of creative activity which saw the publication within two years (from September of 1798 to November of 1799) of his four best novels, Wieland, Ormond, Arthur Mervyn (Part I), and Edgar Huntly ; and which left him with the uncompleted fragments of as many more. Wieland, which many readers value above all the rest, he completed within a month. This frantic outburst of energy seems to have been cued by two events, one internal, one external: first, his abandonment of the law and his decision to stake everything on his talent as a writer; and second, the death of his friend Elihu Hubbard Smith, who fell victim to yellow fever just as Wieland was coming off the press.
Brown had already lived through one epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, but it was his second experience with the pestilence in the New York epidemic of 1798 that took possession of his imagination. Images of this disaster crept into the pages of Ormond and Arthur Mervyn, becoming for Brown symbols of all that is monstrous and inexplicable in life. Like Defoe before him and Manzoni and Camus afterward, he found in the plight of the city under a plague an archetypal representation of man's fate. For Brown, moreover, the general calamity was given added poignancy by the death of his friend, who, being a doctor, had not been able to flee its ravages. Despite the fact that he stayed with Smith throughout, actually falling ill himself though not critically, Brown apparently felt guilt as well as dismay at his friend's early death. He may even have suspected (who knows?) that he had infected Smith, carried the principle of infection which destroyed him.
It is possible that the character of Sarsefield, who appears first in Ormond, then in Edgar Huntly, with no explanation of the duplication, and who represents in each case the protagonist's closest friend, may play in the dreamlike plots of those two books the role of Smith. In Ormond, Sarsefield is slain by Turks, and is revenged in the best Achilles-Patroclus fashion by Ormond, who gallops from the field, five bloody heads of his opponents dangling from his saddle. In Edgar Huntly, the fantasy becomes even more ambiguously sinister, with Edgar shooting once at Sarsefield, Sarsefield once at him, though they are bound to each other by mutual love and the special bond between protector and protégé.
Brown's first four completed novels, combining as they do the appeals of the gothic and the sentimental, and written with a vigor unprecedented in American fiction, might have been expected to win a substantial audience for their author; but though they were critically well received, they didn't sell. The records show much praise, but no second editions. Partly in despair at not achieving popular success, partly out of a loss of faith in the radical principles which had been his motive force, Brown began to disengage himself from his commitment to fiction. As early as 1799, he had become the editor of a new magazine, and gradually the journalist, the man of letters took over from the poet, the mythopoeic writer. The process passed through two stages: first, a disavowal of the tale of terror, with its melancholy and pursuit of the outrageous; then a total rejection of the novel. The year 1800 saw the completion of the second part of Arthur Mervyn and the exhaustion of Brown's first spasm of creative energy. At this point he made a public pledge to abandon "the doleful tone and assume a cheery one," to substitute "moral causes and daily incidents in the place of the prodigious and the singular"—that is, to leave the gothic and take up the domestic sentimental.
But there had already been an undeclared shift in his attitudes between Wieland and Ormond on the one hand and Edgar Huntly and Arthur Mervyn on the other. The character of Carwin in Wieland (further developed in an unfinished work called Carwin the Biloquist ) combines, in the style of Goethe, qualities of Don Juan and Faust. Carwin at one point declares to Clara, the suffering heroine of Wieland whom he stalks with Lovelace-like single-mindedness through the novel, "Even if I execute my purpose, what injury is done. Your prejudices will call it by that name, but it merits it not." He is the Richardsonian seducer, refusing even to grant that the dishonor which he threatens is real; all his formidable talents, even the mysterious gift of ventriloquism (which Brown calls "biloquism") are devoted to separating Clara from her true lover, maneuvering her into a position where she will have no protection against his assault.
Carwin, however, does not look like Don Juan: "His cheeks were pallid and lank, his eyes sunken, his forehead overshadowed by coarse, straggling hairs … his chin discoloured by a tetter…. And yet his forehead … his eyes lustrously black, and possessing, in the midst of haggardness, a radiance inexpressibly serene and potent … served to betoken a mind of the highest order…." It is the face, of course, of the gothic hero-villain, of Mrs. Radcliffe's Schedoni or M. G. Lewis' Ambrosio: the ravaged aspect and hypnotic eye of one driven by a Faustian "thirst of knowledge," which was "augmented as it was supplied with gratification." "Curiosity," a Godwinian term, is the name Brown prefers for the Faustian lust to know; and Carwin even pleads in self-defense, after his activities have helped push Wieland, the brother of Clara, over the edge of religious insanity, that his "only crime was curiosity."
On this plea, Brown seems quite willing to acquit his hero-villain of any final guilt; for "curiosity" was his own reigning passion and Carwin is the projection of himself: insatiable seeker and man of many voices. "To excite and baffle curiosity," Brown once wrote about his own purpose as a novelist, "without shocking belief, is the end to be contemplated." In the end, Carwin is permitted to leave the pages of Wieland unpunished, though without any rewards—to take up once more his role of Wandering Jew, a tabooed figure incapable of finding rest or love. The true villain of the piece is not the doctrinaire revolutionary, the skeptical Carwin, but the religious fanatic, the believing Christian, Wieland, who ends by murdering his wife and threatening the life of his sister.
Through Wieland, Brown manages to project at once his distrust of religiosity and his obsession with the destructive aspects of the brother-sister relationship. Geschwisterinzest is everywhere in our literature (from William Hill Brown to Hawthorne, from Poe to William Faulkner) associated with death; only Brockden Brown, however, is willing to portray it as naked aggression. The tender alliance of brother and sister, so beloved of the Romantics, becomes in his works a brutal conflict; his brothers rob, cheat, and harry their sisters, yet are bound to them so closely that (as in Edgar Huntly ) each feels his own life and death mysteriously linked to the fate of the other. At the climax of Wieland, Clara, threatened with death by her now maniacal brother, seems forced to choose between her own life and his. Brown relents a little, however, managing (through the intervention, this time beneficent, of Carwin) to contrive a resolution in which Wieland, taking up the knife Clara has dropped, stabs himself. The weapon is the sister's, but the hand which wields it the brother's own.
In Ormond, to whose sentimental aspects we have alluded earlier, the deed that is only threatened in the earlier book occurs. The Persecuted Maiden strikes back in self-defense; Constantia, Brown's second version of the Clarissa character he first sketched as Clara, kills her attacker, Ormond. Constantia, however, is not the sister of Ormond; and he is, therefore, permitted—the censor taken off guard—to approach her not in madness but in simple lust. Nevertheless, a point is made of Constantia's extraordinary resemblance to the actual sister of Ormond, as if to alert us to the fact that we are being presented with a case of attempted incest and fratricide once removed, though neither of these crimes, of course, could be proved in court. It is an extraordinary piece of duplicity. Brown does not dare openly imagine even murder between characters of one blood—only the approach to it; and to portray sexual passion between them goes far beyond the limits of his audacity. Nevertheless, he manages to suggest atrocities by using the dream device of splitting a single protagonist into two apparently unrelated actors.
There is, however, another significance to the murder of Ormond by Constantia, and this meaning Brown establishes with satisfactory clarity. By permitting his new Clarissa (however churchless he makes her out of respect to Godwin or Mary Wollstonecraft) to stab Lovelace-Faust, he symbolically disowns whatever in himself corresponds to the "curiosity," dedication to passion, and contempt for ordinary morality symbolized by the latter figure. After this, neither the Seducer nor the Faustian man is permitted to occupy the center of Brown's fiction; and even the lovecombat of brother and sister is pushed to the periphery. He abandoned Carwin the Biloquist in mid-course and turned to Arthur Mervyn with its new kind of hero.
The yellow fever epidemic determines this unconfessed dividing line in his work: on the one hand, breaking up the group of New York intel lectuals of which Smith had been the leading figure; and on the other hand, suggesting a new image for human misery, which cast doubt on man's ability to cope with it successfully. "The evils of pestilence by which this city has lately been afflicted will probably form an era in its history," Brown writes in the preface to Arthur Mervyn. "The schemes of reformation and improvement to which they will give birth, or, if no efforts of human wisdom can avail to avert the periodical calamity, the change in manners and population … will be, in the highest degree, memorable." The key phrase, of course, is "if no efforts of human wisdom can avail," reflecting the first shadow of the doubt which will eventually black out in the heart of Brown his youthful faith in "schemes of reformation and improvement."
From this point forward, at any rate, Brown's protagonists are dependent boys in search of motherly wives, rather than phallic aggressors in quest of virgins to sully. Victimized by cruel masters, images of the Bad Father, such protagonists wander about the world buffeted and misunderstood, until some understanding female, rich and mature and sexually experienced, provides them a haven. In them, "curiosity" still prevails, but it is no longer the fanatic passion of a Faust to know everything, only the nagging need of an ignorant boy to discover the adult secrets of the locked chamber, the forbidden room, the sealed chest. The Bluebeard myth replaces that of the Satanic bargain; and "curiosity" leads not to selling one's soul to the Devil, but to braving the taboo imposed by a cruel and irrational master. Having peeped through the keyhole at the forbidden mysteries, the curious boy is thenceforth persecuted, not for his guilt, but because of his knowledge of another's.
This Bluebeard mythos Brown had discovered in his reading of Godwin, for whom it embodied a theory of the eternal guiltlessness of the exploited (the apprentice blacklisted and bullied), the inevitable guilt of the exploiter (the conscience-wracked master taking out his selfhatred and fear on the boy who knows too much). Not the apparent criminal, Godwin's Caleb Williams suggested, but the system of social control which made criminals—which drove the best to seem, if not to become, the worst—was to blame! In the Bluebeard legend, however, the breaker of the taboo is the woman, the recalcitrant wife bucking the limitations of a male-controlled society; and though she lives through a moment of daring, she is portrayed finally as passive and weak—her chief weapon hope. Similarly, the later heroes of Brown seem almost feminine in their passivity and their proneness to flee rather than fight; in some ways, they seem closer to the Persecuted Maiden than to any of the traditional prototypes of the hero.
Yet even more than they seem women, perhaps, Brown's frightened young men seem children, little boys prowling the corridors of a nighttime house, where behind closed doors adults perform unimaginable acts of darkness. Certainly, like motherless children, those young men are adopted into marriage at the happy ending of their adventures. So Arthur Mervyn is taken in hand by Mrs. Achsa Fielding ("she is six years older than you … she has been a wife and a mother already"), after a final nightmare in which he imagines the dead husband-father arising to shoot him through the heart. "My heart had nothing in it but reverence and admiration," he cries, protesting the innocence of his affection; but some guilt (some buried sense of the incest taboo broken) haunts him all the same. "Was she not the substitute of my lost mama? Would I not have clasped that beloved shade?"
The fact that Arthur Mervyn finally prefers the maternal widow, Mrs. Fielding, to Eliza Hadwin, a girl of fifteen, just the "age of delicate fervor, of inartificial love," infuriated Shelley, who, for all his admiration of Brown, could never forgive him for marrying off his hero to a sedate and wealthy Jewess instead of a poor "peasantgirl." There is, indeed, something symbolic in the choice at which Shelley, granted his point of view, had a right to rebel. For as surely as the death of Ormond had signified Brown's rejection of the demonic, his abandonment of Eliza represented his turning away from a Romantic commitment to art to an acceptance of the responsibilities of bourgeois life.
Clara Howard and Jane Talbot, those attempts at creating a sentimental novel without seduction, mark (as we have noticed) an effort at winning the great female audience; but more than that, they are further steps toward silence. In them, even the Bluebeard archetype has been surrendered and with it all desire to titillate curiosity or stir the darker passions. Brown is ready for the final disavowals, the surrender of his remaining liberal views ("From visionary schemes of Utopian systems of government and manners," his first biographer wrote, "Mr. Brown, like many others, became a sober recorder of things as they are") and of his career as an author ("Book-making, as you observe," Brown commented to his brother in 1800, "is the dullest of all trades, and the utmost any American can look for, in his native country, is to be reimbursed his unavoidable expenses").
With this brother and another, he went into the commission-merchant business; and, to set a final seal upon his capitulation, in 1804 married. But failure dogged his business efforts, compelling him at one point to sell "pots and pans over the counter," and tuberculosis brought suffering to his private life. What creative energies he had left, he devoted in these final years to The Literary Magazine and American Register, a periodical pledged always to keep in mind that "Christian piety is the highest excellence of human beings" and committed to printing material "free from sensuality and voluptuousness," which, "whether seconded or not by genius and knowledge, will … aim at the promotion of public and private virtues." Of his fiction, which came to seem to him as much an error as his early political activity, he wrote in 1803:
I am far from wishing, however, that my reader should judge of my exertions by my former ones. I have written much, but take much blame to myself … and … no praise for any thing. I should enjoy a larger share of my own respect, at the present moment, if nothing had ever flowed from my pen, the production of which could be traced to me.
Myth (perhaps acted out by Brown himself as fact) has it that his last attempt at a tragedy he burned, keeping the ashes in a snuff-box on his desk until his death of tuberculosis in 1810.
Wieland; or, The Transformation
AMERICAN REVIEW AND LITERARY JOURNAL (REVIEW DATE JANUARY-MARCH 1802)
SOURCE: A review of Wieland; or, The Transformation, by Charles Brockden Brown. American Review and Literary Journal 2, no. 1 (January-March 1802): 28-38.
In the following excerpt from a mixed review of Wieland, the critic asserts that narrative style, technique, and characterization in the novel present challenges for the reader.
It will imply some commendation of the author's powers of narration, when we say, that having begun the persual of [Wieland ], we were irresistibly led on to the conclusion of the tale. The style is clear, forcible and correct. Passages of great elegance might be selected, and others which breathe a strain of lively and impassioned eloquence.
It is impossible not to sympathize in the terror and distress of the sister of Wieland. Persons of lively sensibility and active imaginations may, probably, think that some of the scenes are too shocking and painful to be endured even in fiction.
The soliloquies of some of the characters are unreasonably long, and the attention is wearied in listening to the conjectures, the reasonings, the hopes and fears which are successively formed and rejected, at a moment when expectation is already strained to its highest pitch. These intellectual conflicts and processes of the imagination show fertility of conception, and the art of the narrator; but this art is too often exercised in suspending the course of action so as to render the reader restless and impatient. The generality of readers love rather to be borne along by a rapid narrative, and to be roused to attention by the quick succession of new and unexpected incidents.
The characters which are introduced are not numerous; nor are they such as may be easily found in the walks of common life. Carwin is an extraordinary being, and, in some degree, incomprehensible. If his prototype is not in nature, he must be acknowledged the creature of a vigorous fancy, fitted to excite curiosity and expectation. The author seems to have intended to exhibit him more fully to view; but not having finished the portrait, or doubtful of the effect of the exhibition, has reserved him for some future occasion, when he may be made the hero of his own story. The consequences produced by the exercise of the powers imputed to him were not foreseen, and were beyond the reach of his control. Their exertion was from the impulse of caprice, or for a momentary self-gratification. He is the author of the most dreadful calamities, without any malicious or evil intention.—The reader sees the misery and ruin of an amiable family, by ignorant and deluded beings, undeserving the severity of punishment.—The endowments of such a being as Carwin, if they can possibly exist to the extent here imagined, are without advantage to the possessor, and can be of no benefit to mankind. This seems to be the principal lesson taught by the delineation of such a character.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WILLIAM HAZLITT ASSESSES BROWN'S LITERARY TALENT
Mr. Brown, who preceded [Mr. Irving], and was the author of several novels which made some noise in this country, was a writer of a different stamp. Instead of hesitating before a scruple, and aspiring to avoid a fault, he braved criticism, and aimed only at effect. He was an inventor, but without materials. His strength and his efforts are convulsive throes—his works are a banquet of horrors. The hint of some of them is taken from Caleb Williams and St. Leon, but infinitely exaggerated, and carried to disgust and outrage. They are full (to disease) of imagination,—but it is forced, violent, and shocking. This is to be expected, we apprehend, in attempts of this kind in a country like America, where there is, generally speaking, no natural imagination. The mind must be excited by overstraining, by pulleys and levers. Mr. Brown was a man of genius, of strong passion, and active fancy; but his genius was not seconded by early habit, or by surrounding sympathy. His story and his interests are not wrought out, therefore, in the ordinary course of nature; but are, like the monster in Frankenstein, a man made by art and determined will.
SOURCE: Hazlitt, William. "American Literature—Dr. Channing." In The Complete Works of William Hazlitt. Vol. 16, edited by P. P. Howe, pp. 318-38. New York: AMS Press, 1829.
Wieland and his family, in retirement, devoted to contemplation and study, and mixing little in the varied scenes of enlarged society, furnish few of those instructive facts and situations which may be supposed to occur in the usual progress of life. The even tenor of their existence is not broken by the stronger impulses of social feeling, or agitated by the conflict of violent passions. Their repose is disturbed, and their imaginations excited, by unknown and invisible agents. Comparisons, therefore, with the actual or probable situation of the reader, are not often suggested, nor are many precepts of instruction to be derived from examples too rare for general application. Against the freaks of a ventriloquist, or the illusions of a madman, no rules can be prescribed for our protection. No prudence or foresight can guard us against evils which are to flow from such causes. The example of Wieland may teach us, indeed, the necessity of placing due restraints on the imagination; the folly of that presumptuous desire which seeks for gratifications inconsistent with the laws of existence and the ordinary course of nature; and to be content with the light which is set before us in the path of our moral and religious duties, without seeking for new illuminations. From the exhibition, however, of an infatuated being, deluded by the suggestions of a disturbed intellect, into the commission of acts the most unnatural and horrid, it is doubtful whether any real good is to be derived. But whether benefit or harm, or how much of either is to be received from tales of this kind, we are not prepared to decide, and they are questions not easily solved. The good or ill effect of a book, in most cases, depends on the previous disposition and character of the reader.
The author has certainly contrived a narration deeply interesting; and whatever may be its faults, and some we have ventured to remark, Wieland, as a work of imagination, may be ranked high among the productions of the age.
HARRY R. WARFEL (ESSAY DATE 1949)
SOURCE: Warfel, Harry R. "Wieland; or, The Transformation." In Charles Brockden Brown: American Gothic Novelist, pp. 96-115. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1949.
In the following essay, Warfel surveys the context surrounding the compilation and critical reception of Wieland.
During the autumn and winter of 1797–1798 Brown fell in love with Miss Susan A. Potts, a young Philadelphian about whom no information survives. On March 29, 1798, Smith showed Dunlap a letter in which Brown described himself as assiduously writing novels and in love. Late in April Miss Potts visited New York City. After calling to pay his respects, Smith reported: "Without being beautiful, she is very interesting. Our talk was on common topics, as there was a third person present, but it evinced good sense. All that I see is in her favor." Parental objection to their marriage, possibly because Miss Potts was not a Quaker, caused relations to be broken off forcibly. On occasion the novelist made light of his lovelorn state, but without doubt his feelings had been rudely shocked by the attitude of his family, particularly that of his mother whose intervention finally forced the issue.
On July 3, 1798, Brown arrived in New York City for another of his extended visits. His health was pretty well restored, although his spirits flagged at thoughts of the unkind tactics of his family. For nine days he resided with Dunlap; then on July 12 he moved into the quarters of Smith and Johnson at 45 Pine Street.
Johnson's law practice had increased extensively because of the rage for speculation in Western lands, the purchase of foreign notes, and litigation relating to contracts. Smith's medical practice had grown, partly because of connections made at the hospital and partly because of favorable public interest in the Medical Repository. Physicians recognized his attainments by calling him as a consultant. Brown, alone during much of the day, was free to concentrate upon the completion of his projects. At leisurely breakfasts and dinners the three men ran over the ground of their many interests; each day brought new schemes for doing good. They worried over Seth and Horace Johnson, whose business was on the verge of bankruptcy. In Philadelphia, Joseph Bringhurst, Jr., had suffered imprisonment for debt as a result of unfortunate business commitments. Knowing the integrity of these friends, the three roommates worried less about them than about laws which permitted egregious wrongs. The ground of their religious beliefs was retraced, but Johnson refused to go the whole road in renouncing orthodox Christianity. Brown was testing theological ideas in Wieland ; the more he wrote the less certain he was of the attainment of a simple solution of complicated psychological and social problems.
The triumvirate moved about the city as a unit in social visits to the homes of Roulet, Seth and Horace Johnson, the two Millers, Dr. Mitchill, Boyd, Templeton, Riley, Lovegrove, Charles Adams, Moses Rogers, General Hughes, and William and Gurdon Woolsey. Almost daily the three friends visited Dunlap or he visited them. At these houses as guests were some of the most distinguished men of the day. Timothy Dwight, Yale's president, stopped by frequently. General Bloomfield crossed the river from New Jersey to meet New York friends. Albert Gallatin occasionally came to the city to look after political interests as well as to complete business matters concerned with his manufacturing activities in the Monongahela River Valley. Noah Webster on a research tour requested critical comments upon the first chapter of A Brief History of Epidemic Diseases. Jedidiah Morse, preacher and geographer, was carrying on a crusade against the Illuminati, a European subversive order with some few adherents in America. Hints for Ormond were derived from this pugnacious fundamentalist. Statesmen from New England lingered a day or two in New York in passing to and from the capitol in Philadelphia; Senator Uriah Tracy of Connecticut had been especially friendly in introducing political leaders. Yet no other event seemed quite so notable this summer as the appearance, on July 27, of President John Adams. A military company paraded its maneuvers from early morning until his arrival at five P.M. The three friends waited at the Battery all day to meet the national leader who was the father of their intimate companion.
Into one other organization Brown was drawn on July 16, 1798. In company with Smith, William Johnson, and Samuel Miles Hopkins, he went to Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchill's rooms at Columbia College, where, in addition to the host, they found Dr. Edward Miller and the Reverend Samuel Miller. After some discussion the group founded the American Mineralogical Society. In addition to those present at the meeting, the following were admitted as charter members: William Dunlap; Solomon Simpson, a Jewish merchant; and George J. Warner, a watchmaker.
At breakfast on August 7, Smith, Johnson, Dunlap, and Brown talked over the project of bringing out through T. and J. Swords a weekly magazine. The success of the Medical Repository, issued by the same printers, augured well for a literary paper, especially if the novelist were to take charge. Before active work could be begun, yellow fever again terrified the city, and the dynamic leader of the group had fallen victim.
The Friendly Club had discontinued meeting after the normal attendance in May dwindled to one or two members besides the three roommates. In a sense the American Mineralogical Society replaced the earlier club, although Mitchill held the new group quite rigorously to a discussion of scientific matters. Brown trailed Smith to these meetings; there is no evidence that the busy novelist devoted himself seriously to a study of the classification or chemical analysis of rocks. Recognizing the need for companionship, Brown merely went along with Smith and Johnson; at this time he did not strike out for himself to create friends of his own.
Brown brought to New York, as evidence of enthusiasm for novel writing, the first pages of a new book. In Philadelphia on April 12, 1798, he had read to Dunlap "the beginning to a novel undertaken since Sky-Walk; he calls it Wieland; or, The Transformation. This must make a very fine book." On July 3 Dunlap noted further: "C. B. Brown arrives from Philadelphia—last from Princeton—and takes up his abode with me. He has brought his second novel but not completed." The little circle of intimates passed the manuscript around. Smith found it "no way inferior to Sky-Walk." By July 10 eighty-four pages of manuscript had been completed. Smith took this packet to Hocquet Caritat, bookseller and owner of New York's fashionable circulating library, who purchased the rights to the novel. On July 23 copy was sent to the printer, T. and J. Swords. Having received fifty dollars as an initial payment, Brown hurried to a conclusion to keep pace with the typesetters. On August 5 the novel was completely written, although some additions and alterations in the proof were made as late as August 24. The book was published on September 14, 1798, and put on sale at a dollar a copy.
Wieland; or, The Transformation is a terror story in which the narrator, the beautiful Clara Wieland, is driven toward madness by a series of shivering experiences, is rescued at the end, and is allowed to complete her gloom-clouded life in marriage. She is the daughter of a German-born religious fanatic who has come to America as a missionary and who has foretold his death by strange, unannounced means of retribution for supposed lax service to God. With trembling joints and chattering teeth he goes one sultry August midnight, in customary solitude, to worship in a private chapel on his estate. Half an hour later his wife notices a gleam of light in the chapel. There follows a loud report like the explosion of an undersea bomb. Piercing shrieks seem to be a call for help. The blaze resembles a cloud impregnated with light, but the building is not on fire. Brought to his bed, the fanatic states that while engaged in silent prayers he was disturbed by a faint gleam of light in the chapel as if someone carried a lamp. On turning to look at the supposed intruder, he was struck on the right arm by a club. A bright spark fell on him, and in a moment his clothes were burned to ashes. Wieland dies by spontaneous combustion, exactly in the manner of the priest Don G. Maria Bertholi, as described in the London Literary Magazine of May, 1790. But the question is raised by Clara whether this event is "fresh proof that the Divine Ruler interferes in human affairs" or is the natural consequence of "the irregular expansion of the fluid that imparts warmth to our heart and blood, caused by the fatigue of the preceding day, or flowing by established laws from the condition of his thoughts."
It is against this background of religious mania and of imagined supernatural intervention in the affairs of men that the main story is related. Clara and her brother Theodore, who are about seven and ten years old, respectively, when their father dies, are reared by a maiden aunt under circumstances of affluence. Wieland's studious habits and musical interests arise from a humorless, melancholy disposition. The history of religion and the textual accuracy of Cicero are his favorite studies. Neither child has been able to forget the terrifying childhood experience, and almost every significant incident clangs the bell of memory to renew the indelible impact of that tragic occurrence. The story proper begins six years after Theodore has married Catharine Pleyel and after four children have been born to this union.
Like his father, Theodore is a religious enthusiast who imagines that he can have direct communication with God. The ardent Clara sees in almost every unmarried man a potential suitor; secretly she has nourished affection for Henry Pleyel, Catharine's brother, a rationalist engaged to the German baroness Theresa von Stolberg. One evening, as the four are conversing, Wieland goes to his father's chapel, now converted to a study and music hall, to find a letter. A mysterious voice warns him to return to the house. Seven times in the course of a few weeks the voice is heard under varying and increasingly mystifying circumstances. Wieland is certain of the supernatural origin of the voice, Clara thinks the voice is supernatural but not malevolent in intention, and Pleyel, who has been told of the death of his sweetheart in one of the voice's statements, wavers momentarily until his rationalistic tendency reasserts itself.
A stranger named Carwin, an escaped convict from Ireland with eyes and voice suggesting powers of witchcraft, comes into the family circle. On one occasion he appears in Clara's bedroom at midnight after the voice has been heard. He assures her that but for the supernatural protection afforded by the voice he would have seduced her. Pleyel, whose affection has centered on Clara, witnesses Carwin's departure from her room and turns angrily against her because of her seemingly profligate conduct.
Wieland goes mad under the strain of the circumstances and, because he thinks he hears a divine command, strangles his wife and children and bashes in the head of Louisa Stuart, a young girl living with the Wielands. His attempt on Pleyel's life fails. Carwin suddenly appears and explains his ventriloquial powers just as Wieland menaces Clara. Aware of his error, Wieland grasps her penknife, with which she intended to slay him, and plunges the blade to the hilt in his own neck.
Three years later Clara resumes the narrative. Theresa is dead in childbirth. Pleyel, having learned the truth about Clara's innocence, marries her. The story of Louisa Stuart's parents is briefly concluded as a parallel narrative leading to an identical moralized conclusion. Stuart had wounded Maxwell in a duel, and in revenge Maxwell had seduced Stuart's wife. When Stuart learns of his wife's self-exile in shame, he pursues Maxwell to secure revenge. A challenge is issued, but at night Stuart is murdered by an unknown swarthy assassin. This briefly narrated secondary story is designed to give point to the lesson that "the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers." If Mrs. Stuart had crushed her disastrous passion, and if Stuart had not sought an "absurd revenge," the catastrophe would not have occurred. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty and if Clara had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the doubletongued Carwin would not have ensnared them.
This conclusion has an anticlimactic force, since the scene shifts from the Wieland family to the Stuart family. Though esthetically the episode cannot be justified today, to the story-telling moralist in 1798 it helped to give a ring of truth, for dueling and seduction were frowned upon. The parallel between common and uncommon experiences heightens the necessity for a rationalistic examination of evidence before one draws conclusions or engages in actions likely to destroy life or happiness.
The novel has other defects. Conversation occurs too seldom, and then chiefly in Wieland's confession. Most of the episodes are summarized too briefly. Description tends to be general and expository rather than pictorial. Opportunities for magnificent scenes are not exploited; a notable example is the comment following the discovery of the bodies of the five murdered children: "Why should I protract a tale which I already begin to feel is too long?" This episode of a religious maniac's murder of his family expands an account, as related in the New York Weekly Magazine of July 20, 1796, of James Yates' murder of his whole family in Tomhanick, New York, in December, 1791.
The virtues of the novel are numerous. The main story moves with steady crescendo to a powerful climax. It is, as Thomas Love Peacock said, "one of the few tales in which the final explanation of the apparently supernatural does not destroy or diminish the original effect." The reader is so engrossed in the plight of the narrator, Clara, since she is under threat throughout, that the explanation by Carwin of his cunning serves but to increase the danger to Clara's mental balance and life. Brown organized his story, unlike most Gothic tales, around the theme of mental balance and the ease with which that balance is destroyed. The pseudo-supernatural materials, spontaneous combustion and ventriloquism, serve to make credible Theodore's insanity. Clara is prostrated at two periods, and in the presence of Carwin she faints twice. She possesses a hereditary dread of water. Her education, she says, did not fit her for perils such as she encounters. In the moralizing conclusion, therefore, she advises the necessity for maintaining one's balance through a rationalistic attitude towards all phenomena.
The plot unfolds skillfully. The initial chapters set the somber, tragic mood of the tale; ever present in the minds of Clara and Theodore, and used advantageously by Carwin, are the events of the elder Wieland's fiery death; that episode chimes in the memory like a knell, horrifyingly symbolical of a dread, inevitable catastrophe. The small cast of characters, closely interknit through marriage and affection, as well as through the proximity of their residences to each other and to the city of Philadelphia, makes plausible each turn of the action. Clara's penknife appears early as a weapon of defense, and at last serves its tragic purpose in Theodore's hand. Every detail of the main story is adequately motivated.
The unfolding of the tale from three angles evinces masterly command of plot structure. After Clara has narrated the events from her point of view, Theodore confesses to the court, and finally Carwin unravels the mystery. Each flickering light and each of the seven appearances of the ventriloquial voice is accounted for. If Brown managed the dovetailing of these three reports less artfully than recent writers of detective fiction have done, it should be remembered that he was pioneering in a field where Poe, thirty years later, is credited with originality. Brown anticipated Hawthorne in the use of multiple explanation of seemingly supernatural events.
It is often erroneously assumed that Theodore is the central character in the novel. The story revolves about the narrator, Clara, a young woman of exceptional mentality, fortitude, loyalty, and frankness. She begins by asking attention to her own plight, "a destiny without alleviation." She worries over the supernatural agency of the voices; she sighs for a lover and unhesitatingly reveals her hopes; she who had spurned Dashwood on an earlier occasion feels the menace of a practiced seducer in a series of midnight actions, the unhappy result of which is the temporary loss of her hoped-for husband, Pleyel; she dreams of threats to her life and meditates upon their meaning; she stumbles upon the murdered Catharine and children; Theodore twice is within an inch of murdering her; and in the end she becomes the bride of Pleyel.
The subtitle of the novel, "The Transformation," occurs thrice in the text. It first describes Carwin's alteration from an Englishman into an Irishman. Clara next uses the term in relation to herself: "Was I not likewise transformed from rational and human into a creature of nameless and fearless attributes?" Finally it describes Theodore: "Wieland was transformed at once into a man of sorrows." Although the word is not used directly about Pleyel, the description of his ineffable anguish on berating Clara for her alleged lapse from virtue indicates a similar "transforma-tion." At the very beginning of the novel, in the third paragraph, Clara describes the transformation of the status of the whole family: "The storm that tore up our happiness and changed into dreariness and desert the blooming scene of our existence is lulled into grim repose, but not until the victim was transfixed and mangled, till every obstacle was dissipated by its rage, till every remnant of good was wrested from our grasp and exterminated." The title, which refers as much to the family as to Theodore, certainly must not be interpreted as excluding Clara from the central position.
Brown endowed his main characters with a sufficient variety of traits to make their friendship plausible and their actions credible. Although he drew his incidents and persons as much from books as from life, his emphasis upon psychopathic traits adds depth to characters whose range of action is narrow in the physical world. This intense intellectuality in Wieland gives it precedence in importance over almost all other early American novels. Quite apparent is Brown's indebtedness to contemporary sensationalist psychology, to Erasmus Darwin's chapter on "Mania Mutabilis" in Zoönomia, and to other writings on insanity. Dr. Cambridge's lecture to Clara echoes Dr. Benjamin Rush. Not until the advent of Poe and Hawthorne does another fictionist create characters tormented by brooding minds.
Not only in the psychological passages is Wieland a vehicle of intellectuality. Everywhere are evidences of learning. There has been research in religion, in old books, in encyclopedias. A problem in emending Cicero occupies some time of Theodore, who is an accomplished Latin textual scholar and a student of the history of religion. These characters are children of the Enlightenment. Each possesses utopian dreams. Clara muses on methods to end the alliance between the practice of agriculture and ignorance; she hopes that "this trade might be made conducive to or at least consistent with acquisition of wisdom and eloquence." Her heart is readily "touched with sympathy for the children of misfortune." Pleyel, a possessor of a skeptical mind in most matters, urges Theodore to claim estates in Germany because wealth would "afford so large a field for benevolence." Theodore refuses, however, on the ground that wealth and power are two great sources of depravity.
Brown's style emphasizes the intellectuality of the novel. The vocabulary is large; the words are not notably learned; although the tendency to employ polysyllables of Latin derivation is apparent: "My calmness was the torpor of despair, and not the tranquillity of fortitude." Circumlocution replaces direct description: "he fell in love" becomes "he had not escaped the amorous contagion." The uniqueness of Brown's style lies in the short, rapid-fire sentences which cannonade the reader's mind with ideas faster than they can be absorbed. Fiction should proceed pictorially; Brown's story marches steadily forward under sententious garb as if he were vying with Rochefoucauld or Pascal in the writing of the following aphorisms:
As a consolation in calamity religion is dear.
Some agitation and concussion is requisite to the due exercise of human understanding.
This scene of existence is, in all its parts, calamitous.
Ideas exist in our minds that can be accounted for by no established laws.
Surprise is an emotion that enfeebles, not invigorates.
Mankind are more easily enticed to virtue by example than by precept.
Terror enables us to perform incredible feats.
Time will obliterate the deepest impressions.
These sentences parallel similar ones in William Godwin's Caleb Williams and An Enquiry into Political Justice. But they also parallel statements in Robert Bage's Hermsprong and in other fiction of a liberal tendency. Although Brown had been reading Godwin and had despaired of surpassing this master in the first pages of Arthur Mervyn, he was not merely copying plot or ideas or style in Wieland. There are more similarities with Bage's novel than with Godwin's, for in Bage are the German characters, an octagonal pleasure house, a thirty-thousand-acre plantation of the type mentioned by Ludloe and Carwin, a nature-setting with a perpendicular descent, and a generally radical intellectual tendency. Brown also was familiar with Anne Radcliffe's novels of suspense wherein seemingly supernatural occurrences were explained away as natural phenomena. His descriptions and his use of the sex motif follow the pattern of her novels.
Of considerable interest in the history of fiction are the references to German characters and the use of German Gothic formulæ. The end of the eighteenth century saw a shift of British intellectual interests away from France because of the declaration of war in 1793. German exiles and men like Matthew Lewis and Henry MacKenzie turned attention to the hitherto unexploited liter-ary production of Prussia. Christoph Martin Wieland (1773–1813) was being mentioned in the magazines with fulsome praise for his epic Oberon (1780), a work which Brown read in 1793. Here in the public eye was a man whose sensitivity gave plausibility to Theodore's possession of religious mania. Dunlap had translated Schiller's and Kotzebue's dramas, and the New York Weekly Magazine had serialized Schiller's The Ghostseer and Cajetan Tschink's The Victim of Magical Delusion. Brown had read these two novels, and possibly the initial creative impulse and rationalistic theme of Wieland came from the latter. Other German and English novels doubtless influenced Brown, but by and large Wieland is an original work in subject, theme, plot, and execution.
Despite its publication at the very height of the plague on September 15, 1798, the book received favorable attention. With the resumption of normal city life, the New York Spectator of November 10, 1798, extolled the book in a review nearly a column in length: "The style is correct and energetic, and we may venture to assert the writer has established his reputation as a man of genius." The reviewer called upon his fellow citizens to support the author: "On the reception of this volume depends the future exertions of this ingenious man. Shall it be said that America, whose citizens have been famed for their superior knowledge and love of letters, is so destitute of liberality as to refuse or neglect patronizing an attempt like the present? And shall this stigma in a particular manner rest upon our city?… Forbid it, patriotism; forbid it, all that has any connection with science [that is, learning] and the Amor Patriæ."
On January 2, 1799, another reviewer in the same newspaper stated: "Wieland; or, The Transformation … is certainly the best novel this country has produced. It is a work which no one can read with inattention, and is peculiarly engaging to well-cultivated and refined understandings. Every person, however well informed he may be, must find his curiosity gratified and his mind enlarged after a candid and judicious perusal of this ingenious performance. This is not the flimsy production of a wretched hireling or a mercenary garreteer, but the well-finished composition of one who may be truly called 'a man of genius.' In a word, I think we may with propriety assert that the writer of Wieland was desirous of producing a work from the perusal of which no one could rise without being strengthened in habits of sincerity, fortitude, and justice." In The American Review and Literary Journal of July-September, 1801, this statement was made: "The author of Wieland is almost the first American who has adventured in this path of literature, and this production is the first of the kind which has attracted much public attention." Caritat took copies with him to England, and brief critiques there were favorable.
Evidently the sale was not sufficient to call for a second edition immediately. Samuel Griswold Goodrich reprinted it in 1829 in a collected edition of the novels, and in 1841 W. Coquebert issued a French translation, Wieland, ou la voix mystérieux. Meantime, Hawthorne, Poe, and other critics praised Brown and Wieland ; and since its first publication the book has been acclaimed a minor classic in American literature.
Something of Brown's tremulous concern over the fate of Wieland appears in a letter of December 25, 1798, to Thomas Jefferson: "In thus transmitting my book to you, I tacitly acknowledge my belief that it is capable of affording you pleasure and of entitling the writer to some portion of your good opinion. I … hope that an artful display of incidents, the powerful delineation of characters and the train of eloquent and judicious reasoning which may be combined in a fictitious work will be regarded by Thomas Jefferson with as much respect as they are regarded by me."
As soon as Wieland was completed, Brown resumed work on Carwin, The Biloquist which, he had announced in his preface to Wieland, would "be published or suppressed according to the reception which is given to the present attempt." Carwin never was completed; the surviving fragment was first printed in The Literary Magazine and American Register between 1803 and 1805.
Carwin, The Biloquist forms a preliminary volume to Wieland, much as the first part of Godwin's Caleb Williams describes the villain's career before the hero is introduced. Carwin, son of a western Pennsylvania farmer, possesses a curiosity like Caleb Williams'. At fourteen he becomes interested in ventriloquism through the operation of a five-fold echo in a glen. He succeeds in mimicking every species of sound, human and animal. Sent to live with an aunt in Philadelphia, he meets Ludloe, a wealthy Irishman and agrees to go to Europe.
Ludloe enunciates a strange code of conduct: he seems to be an anarchist; his talk savors of the subversive ideas of the Illuminati. He echoes Alcuin on the subject of the perverting nature of all professions, on the evils of cohabitation, and on the misguided thinking of women as a result of false principles of education. He believes that "the absurd and unequal distribution of property gave birth to poverty and riches" and that the evils which infest society are caused by the errors of opinion. A perfectionist, he believes further "that man is the creature of circumstances; that he is capable of endless improvement; that his progress has been stopped by the artificial impediment of government; that by the removal of this, the fondest dreams of imagination will be realized." Ludloe also has "a scheme of utopian felicity, where the empire of reason should supplant that of force; where justice should be universally understood and practiced; where the interest of the whole and of the individual should be seen by all to be the same; where the public good should be the scope of all activity; where the tasks of all should be the same, and the means of subsistence equally distributed."
Carwin while studying in Spain embraces Roman Catholicism. His correspondence with Ludloe leads to the exposition of a plan for a new nation to be established on the colonization principle of the manumission societies; he believes that men persist in retaining error because they are creatures of habit, and that in a new land "a new race, tutored in truth, may in a few centuries overflow the habitable world." Not until he arrives in Dublin does Carwin discover Ludloe's secret, but the novel breaks off before the two men come to open conflict. The sequel in Wieland accuses Carwin of murdering Lady Jane Conway and of robbing Ludloe—charges which Carwin claims are false.
Brown felt that his narrative was following too closely the pattern of Caleb Williams and of the beginning of Arthur Mervyn, already published in the Philadelphia Weekly Magazine. In abandoning his plan, he laid aside a swift-paced tale involving only a single strand of action. Carwin possesses little distinctiveness in character, and the conflict between him and Ludloe would have been difficult to manage on ideological or psychological grounds because both have similar utopian notions. No ideas are in conflict, and Carwin develops no theme of importance equal to that of Wieland. But where Wieland is almost wholly original, Carwin seems wholly derivative in pattern and character from Godwin. Though the verbal power remains, Brown correctly diagnosed the chief weakness of the novel when he wrote in 1805 that "the narrative [is] of too grave and argumentative a cast."
On September 4, 1798, Brown wrote to Dunlap: "I have written something in the history of Carwin, which I will send. I have deserted for the present from the prosecution of this plan, and betook myself to another which I mean to extend to the size of Wieland and to finish by the end of this month, provided no yellow fever disconcerts my plan." On the 24th, while he and Dunlap were together in Perth Amboy to escape the ravages of yellow fever, Dunlap noted in his diary: "Read the beginning of Charles' last novel called Calvert (proposed to be changed to Caillemour) or The Lost Brothers." This work, the first volume of an uncompleted pentalogy, was entitled Memoirs of Stephen Calvert and was first published serially in Brown's Monthly Magazine and American Review from June, 1799, to June, 1800; Dunlap reprinted it in his biography of Brown.
MICHAEL T. GILMORE (ESSAY DATE SUMMER 1977)
SOURCE: Gilmore, Michael T. "Calvinism and Gothicism: The Example of Brown's Wieland." Studies in the Novel 9, no. 2 (summer 1977): 107-18.
In the following essay, Gilmore analyzes the influence of Milton's Biblical epic Paradise Lost on Wieland.
Charles Brockden Brown's "Gothic" novel Wieland; or The Transformation (1798) was long read as an expression of Enlightenment rationality. The author's purpose, according to this view, was to caution readers "against credulity and religious fanaticism."1 But the rationalist interpretation has come under spirited attack in recent years, partly as a result of a reassessment of le genre noir in general, and the Calvinist underpinning of Brown's tale has begun to gain the recognition it deserves.2 Nevertheless, the misreadings persist in one form or another, and even Larzer Ziff, who properly insists that "Brown ends his journey through the mind by approaching the outskirts of Edwards' camp," misconstrues the novel's denouement as a conventional happy ending. Further, Ziff's analysis of the sentimental seduction theme is a source of confusion, the effect of which is to trivialize Brown's principal concern.3 For the Carwin-Clara-Pleyel triangle has little to do with sentimental love: rather it is Brown's version of the temptation in the garden, and Wieland itself is his retelling of the biblical fable of the Fall of Man.
It is well known that William Godwin's Caleb Williams had a major impact on Brown and that its publication in 1794 prompted the American to turn to the writing of fiction. Much stressed by critics, the Godwinian influence is usually cited as proof of Brown's radicalism and hostility to religion. As Joel Porte has recently shown, however, Caleb Williams possesses an "exacerbated Calvinist framework" and breathes the spirit of Paradise Lost. With Falkland in the role of the harsh Divinity and Caleb as the sinful Adam, it charts a course of guilt, suffering, and relentless persecution, ending with a reversal in which the eponymous hero, having succeeded in vindicating himself in a court of law, is overcome by remorse and acknowledges that "he is precisely the 'monster of depravity' whom he had been represented as being all along." In the ruined Gothic world of Caleb Williams, argues Porte, there is no hope, no prospect of grace or redemption.4
And yet the conclusion of Godwin's novel would seem to suggest that the author did in fact have a scheme of salvation, a scheme which is unmistakably Calvinist and may even have derived from his reading of Jonathan Edwards.5Caleb Williams, which Godwin wrote, as he claimed in the preface, in order to expose "Things as They Are," is profoundly antilaw in outlook and expounds the view that the English legal system is a tool of class oppression. On a different or deeper level, however, the book is addressed to the issue of salvation by works or faith. Mr. Raymond, captain of a band of thieves patterned after Robin Hood's mythical crew, declares to Caleb that "either … we all of us deserve the vengeance of the law, or law is not the proper instrument of correcting the misdeeds of mankind." As Old Testament God, Falkland uses the "remorseless fangs of the law" to hound Caleb with the threat of extinction; but once the wretched victim is imprisoned and arraigned for judgment, the pursuer declines to appear to press charges. Jehovah becomes Christ in an unexpected volteface; and Caleb, who has doggedly protested his innocence, thereby denying his need for grace, is transformed into Cain or the Wandering Jew. In the novel's postscript, he goes to a magistrate and turns the law against Falkland himself, who is convicted and dies after three days. He will not rise again for Caleb Williams. For the latter, having figuratively slain Christ—"A nobler spirit lived not among the sons of men," he now says of Falkland—awakens too late to his corrupt nature and participation in the primal crime. He might have secured himself from damnation, he realizes, if "I had opened my heart to Mr. Falkland, if I had told to him privately the tale I have now been telling …"—if, in short, he had thrown himself upon the mercy of the Redeemer and made a confession of sin.6 What Godwin's residual Calvinism reduces down to is the conviction that only through Christ and the covenant of grace can mankind be saved; given human depravity, there is no salvation through law or good works.
[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]
Crane Brinton, in his work on the French Revolution, has commented on the resemblance between Protestant and Robespierrean theology, arguing that "the men who made the Terror were compeers of the first Crusaders, of Savonarola, of Calvin."7 Brinton's thesis is perfectly illustrated by Godwin, whose radicalism bears the indelible stamp of his orthodox upbringing. In the case of Brown, who was raised as a Quaker, the Calvinist mood informing both Wieland and the fragment Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist probably stems as much from the eighteenth-century American background as from his immersion in Enlightenment literature. The Memoirs of Carwin, which was composed at roughly the same time as Wieland but not published until 1803, strongly evinces the traces of both Godwin and native religious thought. Brown's closest friend, Elihu Hubbard Smith, was a graduate of Yale who introduced the novelist to Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards; and it is not impossible that Brown was familiar with the great theologian's writings. But Brown himself hinted at another source of influence, a source conned by Edwards and Godwin alike: John Milton. While Carwin perfects his ventriloquism, for example, he peruses Milton's Comus (p. 281);8 and although Paradise Lost is not actually mentioned by name in the fragment, its theme is crucial and pervasive. Carwin is consumed by a perverse lust for knowledge which his father denounces as "incorrigible depravity" (pp. 275-76). After an almost supernatural fire that burns down his father's barn—a reminder, perhaps, of the fiery sword that the Angel Michael waved behind Adam and Eve as he drove them from Paradise—Carwin leaves the pastoral setting where he was born, wanders to the city, and catches the eye of the mysterious Ludloe, who proposes to finance him on a voyage to Europe. A Utopian schemer and apparent Illuminatus, Ludloe plays Falkland to Carwin's Caleb Williams. He seems to possess preternatural powers of which his protégé stands in awe. Like Milton's God, he projects a new Eden, and like Edwards's Christ, he demands a full and sincere confession from those seeking membership in the exalted order to which he belongs. "Perdition or felicity will hang upon that moment" (p. 344), says Ludloe in reference to the confession, adding that "concealment is impossible" and that every secret must be divulged (p. 350). Carwin, however, resolves to withhold the knowledge of his biloquism from his confessor; and shortly thereafter Brown abandoned the manuscript, leaving unanswered the question of his protagonist's fate.
It is in Wieland, of course, that he furnishes the answer, an answer that has been foreshadowed by Carwin's insatiable curiosity, his unwillingness to confess all, and his transformation into a Spanish Catholic: This last detail is especially significant in light of the conventional Gothic technique of displacing the action to a Catholic setting, with its ubiquitous decaying abbeys, monasteries, and catacombs. To embrace Catholicism, as Protestant authors indoctrinated with the theology of John Calvin knew in their bones, was to ensure perdition, since Catholics clung to the misguided belief that salvation could be won by spurning the world or performing good works within it. This was to deny the need for divine election and to gloss over the universal depravity of mankind, which rendered truly virtuous actions impossible without an infusion of the Holy Spirit. On the issue of salvation by works Catholics and Protestant Armenians locked arms, and what has passed as the anticlericalism of the Gothic school might more properly be viewed as a veiled protest against the waning of Calvinist dogma around the turn of the eighteenth century. That the Gothicists themselves frequently shared in the general disquietude of the age is true, but at the same time they were too thoroughly steeped in Puritanism to find the Catholic or Armenian alternative a meaningful one. William Godwin, after all, went from Calvinism to atheism but was never tempted by the Church of England, and his hunger for innerworldly sainthood surely accounts at least in part for his attraction to the French Revolution. Carwin's adoption of Catholicism, to which Brown alluded again in Wieland, is not, therefore, simply a convenient device for endowing the villain with an aura of exoticism. Instead it is an outgrowth of the explicitly Calvinistic bias of the Gothic school and stamps Carwin as one of the damned, an unrepentant sinner who counts upon the false security of the legal covenant to preserve him from the vengeance of a righteous God. It is altogether consistent with his repudiation of Christ-Ludloe and his subsequent protests of innocence throughout the novel. Despite having set in motion the train of events that culminates in the younger Wieland's suicide, he will defend himself against Clara's accusations of depravity, allowing that his morals are "far from rigid" but insisting that he is not the "desperate or sordid criminal" that she charges him with being (p. 230).
And yet the almost oppressive theological temper of Brown's tale is barely sensed at the outset, the participants themselves confidently consigning it to the past. Although Clara concedes that the history of her father's strange death, which she recounts in the introductory chapters, has left an impression on her that "can never be effaced" (p. 21), the idyllic middle-class landscape inhabited by herself, her brother, Catherine, and Pleyel retains few traces of the morbid spirituality to which the elder Wieland fell prey. Brown's subtitle "An American Tale" suggests that he saw in his central foursome a microcosm of the bourgeois American society that by 1798 stood in defiant opposition to the Puritan past. Surely it is no coincidence that at one point in the narrative Pleyel refers to a Ciceronian oration that makes "the picture of a single family a model from which to sketch the condition of a nation" (p. 34). Unruffled rationality, moderation, and middleclass ease are the distinguishing marks of the Mettingen setting; the temple that the senior Wieland kept bare—"without seat, table, or ornament of any kind" (p. 12)—and consecrated to the worship of the Deity has been cluttered with a harpsichord, pedestal, and bust of Cicero, Enlightenment trappings that symbolize a rejection of the austere Protestantism of an earlier day. The Godcharged universe of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards has narrowed to a common sense world that would have gladdened the heart of Benjamin Franklin. Even the childhood environment of the younger Wielands has been scrupulously based on enlightened principles, with special emphasis on the golden mean: "our education," comments Clara, "had been modeled by no religious standard" (p. 24), the aunt who raised her and her brother seldom deviating "into either extreme of rigor or lenity" (p. 22). Once a guide for personal conduct, religion has become merely a subject for casual debate, and assembled at their "fane" on the Schuylkill, the circle of intimates whiles away the hours in aimless cultural pursuits.
If the Wielands have renounced the past, however, Theodore has not succeeded in exorcising the ghost of his father, which continues to haunt him in the form of an inchoate longing for what the Puritans would have called a conversion experience. "Moral necessity, and calvinistic inspiration," according to Clara, "were the props on which my brother thought proper to repose" (p. 28). She further describes him as grave, thoughtful, and given to melancholy. But Brown has taken pains to distinguish Wieland from authentic Calvinists and to spell out the dangers inherent in his background and sensibility. While apprenticed to a merchant in England, the senior Wieland had come into contact with the doctrines of the Camissards, a Huguenot sect notorious for its antinomian excesses. Having emigrated to America with the intention of preaching to the Indians, he had connected himself to no established church and abjured all forms of social worship. A separatist and enthusiast, he had lived in daily expectation of a direct message from the Almighty. Even the mother of Clara and Theodore, although not a fanatic like their father, did not belong to any congregation and was a devout disciple of the mystical Count von Zinzendorf, whose separatist impulses were a thorn in the side of Gilbert Tennent. The aunt who reared the younger Wielands was a separatist of a different order, but a separatist nonetheless. She preserved her charges, in Clara's words, "from the corruption and tyranny of colleges and boardingschools" (p. 22); and Theodore and his sister have carried on the family tradition in their own enlightened fashion. Fortunate enough to find their temperaments duplicated in Catherine and Pleyel, they have gradually withdrawn from "the society of others, and found every moment irksome that was not devoted to each other" (p. 23).
Thus Brown has carefully sketched in the flaws of upbringing and character that will eventually issue in Wieland's antinomian mania and Clara's fits of madness. Whereupon he introduces into the narrative the figure of Carwin, and his implicit criticism of American life begins to move in the direction of epic, as it becomes increasingly clear that the fable underlying his novel is Milton's Paradise Lost. Clara is utterly captivated by the appearance of Carwin, who begs at her door for water dressed in virtual rags. That a stranger who reminds her of a rustic clown should exert so powerful a hold on her imagination would seem absurd were it not for the fact that her portrait of him so strikingly resembles the fallen Angel Lucifer or the Wandering Jew Ahasuerus:
yet his forehead, so far as shaggy locks would allow it to be seen, his eyes lustrously black, and possessing, in the midst of haggardness, a radiance inexpressibly serene and potent, and something in the rest of his features, which it would be vain to describe, but which betoken a mind of the highest order, were essential ingredients in the portrait.
The faded grandeur that Clara detects in Carwin's countenance plunges her into a maze of mournful associations which call into question the Edenic bliss of her present life, and for the first time since the tragedy of her father she is troubled by intimations of mortality: "Death must happen to all" (pp. 62-63). Although she argues that her infatuation with the mysterious wanderer should not be mistaken for love, there is good reason to believe that Clara is sexually drawn to him, and that the storm which rages outside her window while she studies his picture is both an omen of future disaster and an emblem of the tumultuous passions aroused by his presence. Indeed, it is a Miltonic storm such as accompanied the transgression in Eden, a circumstance which is entirely appropriate in view of the fact that Carwin will bring death and sin into the garden of Wieland. For he is Brown's Gothic tempter, and Clara has become the novelist's American Eve.
It is worth noting, for example, that the biloquist has but a single name. The absence of a surname or Christian name—for the reader never knows which one it is that Carwin lacks—implies an estrangement from society that brands him as an outcast and misfit. In spite of the apparent ease with which he insinuates himself into the Mettingen setting, Carwin's ultimate failure to shed his solitude places him in the company of archetypes such as Lucifer, Cain, and Ahasuerus. Bumbler that he proves to be, the biloquist is nevertheless modeled on Milton's conception of Satan. So extensive, in fact, are the parallels between Wieland and Paradise Lost that it is hard to imagine how they have been overlooked. Carwin's eloquence is an obvious case in point. Overhearing him converse with her servant, Clara is forcibly struck by the sweetness of his voice; and his uncanny powers of speech occasion the numerous misunderstandings that shatter the novel's surface tranquillity. Repeatedly Clara is under the misapprehension that he is speaking directly into her ear; in Milton's classic, Satan is discovered squatting like a toad, "close at the ear of Eve" (4.800). Envious of Eve's love for Adam, the Arch-Fiend is filled with wonder when he first beholds the primal parents, and the sight of their beauty, refulgent with the image of God, almost swerves him from his sinister purpose. Similarly, Carwin is jealous of Clara's passion for Pleyel, although he also expresses admiration for the latter's "exquisite sagacity" (p. 236), and he hesitates to employ his verbal skills against them. Clara in particular captures his fancy, Judith having told him that her mistress's "perfections were little less than divine" (p. 227). In Paradise Lost, Satan addresses Eve as scarcely inferior to the angels, and entering the sleeping form of the serpent, he literally licks the ground on which she treads (9.526).
There are, moreover, striking affinities between the dream in which Lucifer appears to Eve and entices her to the tree of knowledge, and that in which Wieland beckons Clara to the edge of an abyss. Clara's dream has generated a host of conflicting interpretations. To critics who favor the sentimental seduction reading, for example, the chasm evokes a latent fear of incest; to William H. Manly, it stands for the insanity that runs in the Wieland family.9 Another interpretation, one based on Brown's indebtedness to Milton, seems more probable, however. In both the novel and the epic, the dreams eventually come true; beguiled by Satan, Eve eats of the forbidden fruit, and Clara is physically menaced by Theodore, who believes himself under a divine injunction to slay her. But the physical threat is less important, ultimately, than the fact that her brother compels Clara to confront the evil within herself. We will return later to this decisive turning point in her narrative; for the present, it is enough to suggest that the pit toward which she hastens is hell—the hell that awaits those who taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There are several hints to this effect. Clara is stopped short in her progress by a voice crying "Hold," by which Brown may have wished to recall the heavenly prohibition imposed on Adam and Eve. Further, the mysterious voice summons Clara to "Remember your father, and be faithful"; and she shudders with fright, as if she beheld "suspended over me, the exterminating sword" (pp. 72-73).
But the portent of the dream is temporarily lost sight of, even by Clara herself, after the scene in which she approaches the closet door and is again arrested by the command to "Hold!" Imagining because of her dream that Theodore is her enemy, she leaps to the conclusion that he is the person hiding within the closet and calls to him to come out, exclaiming "I know you well." But the person who steals forth is Carwin, not Theodore, and the focus of danger is thus shifted to the biloquist (pp. 96-102). The brother becomes the other in a dramatic turnabout which has the effect of seeming to isolate evil in an external agent. The importance of this scene for Clara's development cannot be overstressed, since she will continue almost to the end of her narrative to regard the intruder as the sole cause of the sufferings that destroy her family's happiness. As Milton's God was careful to explain to the angels, however, He created man able to withstand temptation, thereby rendering him inexcusable for having sinned. Clara will only grasp this truth at the last.
This is not to say, of course, that Carwin is guiltless. Although her brother will eventually undermine Clara's conviction of her own innocence, it is the "double-tongued" wanderer who brings about her fall in the eyes of Pleyel. This is what the controversial seduction episode is really about: deceived by Carwin's ventriloquism, and convinced that Clara has succumbed to the villain's wiles, Pleyel charges her—in accents unmistakably Miltonic—with having committed the primal sin: "O wretch!—thus exquisitely fashioned—on whom nature seemed to have exhausted all her graces; with charms so awful and pure! how art thou fallen! From what height fallen! A ruin so complete—so unheard of!" (p. 117). Pleyel goes on to accuse Clara of consummate depravity, despairing that "In thy ruin, how will the felicity and honor of multitudes be involved" (pp. 117-18). He describes Carwin as the blackest of criminals, a Satanic schemer whose devices "no human intelligence is able to unravel" and who has leagued with infernal spirits in order to wage "a perpetual war against the happiness of mankind" (pp. 148-49). Clara herself now says of the biloquist that "this a foe from whose grasp no power of divinity can save me" (p. 126). As her words indicate, Carwin has completely replaced her brother as the source of her fears. And indeed Pleyel pictures Clara, in what appears to be a deliberate allusion to her dream, as "rushing to the verge of a dizzy precipice," led on by the cunning seducer (p. 147). The denunciations that he hurls at her, and her indignant protests of purity, recall the bickering between Adam and Eve after the Fall:
Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning,
And of their vain contest appeared no end.
"Neither self-condemning"—Milton's words go to the core of the novel's concern, and underline the mutual failure of Clara and Pleyel to assume responsibility for their transgressions. What is more, as the confrontation at Pleyel's house demonstrates, both are unwilling to go beyond reliance on the legal covenant. Pleyel takes upon himself the office of unforgiving judge—Clara calls him "inexorable" (p. 129)—and he denies her the Christian charity that might have repaired the misunderstandings engendered by Carwin's duplicity. He holds her to the relentless letter of the law:
An inscrutable providence has fashioned thee for some end. Thou wilt live, no doubt, to fulfil the purposes of thy maker, if he repent not of his workmanship, and send not his vengeance to exterminate thee, ere the measure of thy days be full. Surely nothing in the shape of man can vie with thee!
Clara likewise spurns the message of Christ and demands justice instead of mercy. "I come hither not to confess," she informs her accuser, "but to vindicate" (p. 133). Here the Godwinian aspect of Brown's tale comes to the fore, and here too the true meaning of the secrecy theme is cast into bold relief. The issue for Brown is manifestly the reluctance of sinful man to lay bare his heart—an ordeal that Poe, for one, considered impossible, and that Edwards regarded as essential for salvation. Although Clara hears out Pleyel in silence and persists in believing herself blameless, she has been guilty of concealing her true feelings from him, and her concealment has contributed to their estrangement as much as Carwin's officiousness. She has also kept secret the interview with the would-be murderer whose summons interrupted her dream at the summerhouse—an interview, as Pleyel rightly surmises, that took place with the Satanic biloquist, albeit that Clara was then ignorant of his identity. The reader knows, however, from Clara's own words, words written after the fact but inserted into her narrative prior to the climactic scene with Pleyel, that her "scruples were preposterous and criminal…. My errors have taught me thus much wisdom; that those sentiments which we ought not to disclose, it is criminal to harbour" (p. 90).
Clara's fall, like that of the primal couple, ushers sin and death into the Edenic world of Wieland. Having left Pleyel's house—significantly, he has announced his intention of setting out on a long journey—she returns to a Mettingen despoiled by her brother's murderous rampage. Overcome by what she sees, she casts the entire burden of guilt on Carwin. She assumes that he is the murderer of her brother's family; and even Theodore's confession does not shake her belief that the author of woe is the biloquist, to whom she attributes supernatural powers. This is to deny man's complicity in the Fall and to reject—in Edwards's words—"The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin." To Clara's disordered mind, evil is extrinsic, not integral to human nature:
O brother! spare me, spare thyself: There is thy betrayer. He counterfeited the voice and face of an angel, for the purpose of destroying thee and me. He has this moment confessed it. He is able to speak where he is not. He is leagued with hell, but will not avow it; yet he confesses that the agency was his
In this speech, Clara is implicitly proclaiming her own innocence as well as Theodore's and taking refuge in the legal covenant—the covenant predicated on the mistaken notion that fallen man is essentially unfallen, and that Lucifer alone is responsible for sin. Moments later, however, she is brought up sharply by the discovery that she is prepared to defend herself against Wieland's attack by plunging her penknife into his heart, a weapon that she has all along insisted that she will use only against herself. This realization sets off a reversal of sentiment that recalls Caleb Williams's despair after the trial of Falkland:
I estimate my own deserving; a hatred, immortal and inexorable, is my due, I listen to my own pleas, and find them empty and false: yes, I acknowledge that my guilt surpasses that of all mankind: I confess that the curses of a world, and the frowns of a deity, are inadequate to my demerits. Is there a thing in the world worthy of infinite abhorrence? It is I
Admittedly, the act that Clara contemplates is one of self-defense—but that is precisely Brown's point. For although any court of law would deliver a verdict of justifiable homicide (just as Caleb Williams is vindicated in a court of law), Clara—finding herself capable of slaying her own brother—has ceased to think in terms of the law. She has finally accepted the fact of human corruption: the "adders" of sin are now lodged in her own breast (p. 256).
Clara is prostrated with grief and self-loathing after the death of her brother. Much like Milton's Eve, she craves "quick deliverance from life and all the ills that attend it" (p. 261), and she revolts against the inevitable decree that she must quit the scene of her former bliss:
O unexpected stroke, worse than of Death!
Must I thus leave thee, Paradise: thus leave
Thee, native soil, these happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods?
Clara has accepted her culpability, but she still shrinks from its consequences. It is not until her home is consumed by flames—as in the Memoirs of Carwin, the conflagration recalls Michael's fiery sword—that she resigns herself to banishment from the garden and agrees to accompany her uncle on a voyage to Europe. The last chapter of the novel is therefore dated at Montpellier in France, and is written, significantly enough, three years after the narrative proper. It finds Clara chastened but "not destitute of happiness" (p. 262), for her sanity has been restored and she has been reunited with her American Adam. She now admits that "no human virtue is secure from degeneracy" (p. 270), and she has made a full confession of her former sentiments to Pleyel. Inevitably one is reminded of Eve's moving speech to Adam in Paradise Lost: "Living or dying, from thee I will not hide / What thoughts in my unquiet breast are risen …" (9.974-75). In Calvinist terms, Clara has been reborn through the agency of Christ: she has bared her soul and given her assent to the doctrine of original sin. "It will not escape your notice," she writes, "that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers" (p. 273). Man is partner with Satan in the Fall.
In the last book of Paradise Lost, Adam almost rejoices over his sin because of Michael's prophecy of the coming of Christ; by the concluding pages of Brown's novel, Clara has grown to a measure of self-awareness that was beyond her when she dwelt in the Mettingen Eden. The transformation of Brown's title refers, then, both to the Fall and the promise of redemption; and it is altogether fitting that Hawthorne's Marble Faun (1860) was published in England under the title Transformation, its subject being the Fortunate Fall. As for Carwin, the ventriloquist acknowledges his misconduct, but, as he correctly insists, he has committed no crime punishable by human law. "I cannot justify my conduct," he tells Clara, "yet my only crime was curiosity" (p. 231). Caleb Williams's crime was no different: curiosity, after all, is the primal sin. Escaping the clutches of Ludloe, Carwin makes his way into a remote district of Pennsylvania, where he engages "in the harmless pursuits of agriculture" (p. 268). Blind to his own depravity, ignorant of his need for grace, the villain returns to the garden from which Clara and Pleyel have been expelled and becomes an "innocent" American yeoman. This is Brown's devastating judgment on Franklin's America: it no longer has any place for those who penetrate to the truth of the human heart. Clara is doomed to permanent exile from a land which has lost the sense of sin.
The apologetic tone of Brown's "advertisement," and his apprehensions concerning his tale's reception, are reminiscent of the somewhat defensive posture adopted by Edwards in the preface to The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended (1757). Barely forty years separate the publication of the two works, both of which deal, as Brown announced in his "advertisement," with "the moral constitution of man" (p. 3). Edwards, writing in the aftermath of the Great Awakening, still retained some hope of restoring his countrymen to "the principles and scheme of religion maintained by our pious and excellent forefathers."10 No such hope animates Brown's "veiled sermon," as Fred Lewis Pattee once called it.11 And so it is fitting that Wieland is built on the fable of Paradise Lost. For in going back to Milton for his inspiration, Brown was doing more than paying tribute to the greatest of Puritan authors. He was also addressing a theme that was to engage a host of later American novelists: the promise of America, he strongly suggests, is the "paradise lost" in Wieland.
1. David Lee Clark, Charles Brockden Brown: Pioneer Voice of America (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1952), pp. 168-69. See also Harry R. Warfel, Charles Brockden Brown: American Gothic Novelist (Gainesville, Fla.: Univ. of Florida Press, 1949), pp. 104-5.
2. For important reassessments of the Gothic novel, see Lowry Nelson, Jr., "Night Thoughts on the Gothic Novel," The Yale Review, 52 (Winter 1963), 236-57; Robert D. Hume, "Gothic Versus Romantic: A Revaluation of the Gothic Novel," PMLA, 84 (1969), 282-90: and the essays in G. R. Thompson, ed., The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism (Pullman, Wash.: Washington State Univ. Press, 1974), particularly Joel Porte's "In the Hands of an Angry God: Religious Terror in Gothic Fiction," pp. 42-64. The religious theme in Brown has been noted by Larzer Ziff, "A Reading of Wieland," PMLA, 67 (1962), 51-57; and Donald A. Ringe, Charles Brockden Brown (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966), pp. 25-48.
3. See Ziff, pp. 51-57.
4. Porte, pp. 52-55.
5. On Edwards's influence on Godwin, see Alfred Owen Aldridge, "Jonathan Edwards and William Godwin on Virtue," American Literature, 18 (1947), 308-18.
6. William Godwin, Caleb Williams, ed. David McCracken (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970), pp. 233, 273, 278-79, 296, 323, 325-26.
7. Crane Brinton, A Decade of Revolution: 1789–1799 (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), pp. 158-61. The similarity between the Puritan and French Revolutions has been examined in detail by Michael Walzer, The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1965).
8. I will be referring to Fred Lewis Pattee's edition of Wieland; or The Transformation, which includes the fragment Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1926). Page references will appear in the text.
9. Ziff, p. 54; also see Leslie A. Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel, rev. ed. (New York: Dell, 1966), pp. 74-104, 126-61; and William M. Manly, "The Importance of Point of View in Brockden Brown's Wieland," American Literature, 35 (1963), 317-18.
10. Jonathan Edwards, The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, ed. Clyde C. Holbrook (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1970), p. 102.
11. Introduction to Wieland, p. xxviii.
Witherington, Paul. "Charles Brockden Brown: A Bibliographical Essay." Early American Literature 9 (1974): 164-87.
Bibliography of critical assessments of Brown's works, arranged chronologically.
Clark, David Lee. Charles Brockden Brown: Pioneer Voice of America, Durham: Duke University Press, 1952, 363 p.
Important critical biography emphasizing Brown's radical political and social thought.
Baym, Nina. "A Minority Reading of Wieland." In Critical Essays on Charles Brockden Brown, edited by Bernard Rosenthal, pp. 87-103. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981.
Takes issue with other scholars' opinions of Brown's writing, and praises Brown's literary achievements and genius; focuses on Wieland.
Bradshaw, Charles C. "The New England Illuminati: Conspiracy and Causality in Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland." The New England Quarterly 76, no. 3 (September 2003): 356-77.
Examines Brown's depiction of contemporary events and circumstances in late-eighteenth-century New England in Wieland.
Christophersen, Bill. "Picking Up the Knife: A Psycho-Historical Reading of Wieland." American Studies 27, no. 1 (spring 1986): 115-26.
Focuses on Clara's transformation as a metaphor for the transformation of America from British colony to young nation.
Goddu, Teresa A. "Diseased Discourse: Charles Brockden Brown's Arthur Mervyn." In Gothic America: Narrative, History, and the Nation, pp. 31-51. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
Delineates how Brown utilizes the Gothic to depict both the causes of and possible solutions to societal ills in Arthur Mervyn.
Grabo, Norman S. The Coincidental Art of Charles Brockden Brown. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981, 209 p.
Maintains that coincidental occurrences in Brown's fiction are part of a conscious, discernible artistic pattern.
Krause, Sydney J. "Penn's Elm and Edgar Huntly: 'Dark Instruction to the Heart.'" American Literature 66, no. 3 (September 1994): 463-84.
Analyzes some of the historical details in Edgar Huntly and comments on Brown's appropriation of history in his gloomy fictional depiction of the American experience.
Lee, A. Robert. "A Darkness Visible: The Case of Charles Brockden Brown." In American Horror Fiction: From Brockden Brown to Stephen King, pp. 13-32. London: Macmillan, 1990.
Examines the characteristics of Brown's novels that contain elements of the genre of horror.
Levine, Paul. "The American Novel Begins." American Scholar 35 (1966): 134-48.
Postulates that Brown's works anticipate rather than begin the tradition of the American novel.
Loshe, Lillie Deming. "The Gothic and the Revolutionary." In The Early American Novel, pp. 29-58. New York: Columbia University Press, 1907.
Claims that the importance of the Gothic novel in early American fiction evidences Brown's importance as an author.
Pattee, Fred Lewis. Introduction to Wieland; or, The Transformation, by Charles Brockden Brown, pp. ix-xlvi. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1926.
Identifies rational, sentimental, and Gothic strains in Wieland.
Pribek, Thomas. "A Note on Depravity in Wieland." Philological Quarterly 64, no. 2 (spring 1985): 273-79.
Refutes the notion that the characters in Wieland are inherently evil, suggesting instead that they should be read as rational characters who are undone by the villainy of an outsider.
Ringe, Donald A. "Charles Brockden Brown." In American Gothic: Imagination and Reason in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, pp. 36-57. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1982.
Discusses how Brown developed the Gothic in his writing by adapting a European mode of fiction to the very different conditions of American life.
――――――. Charles Brockden Brown. Revised edition. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1991, 141 p.
Provides a detailed analysis and critical evaluation of Brown's life and works.
Rombes, Nicholas, Jr. "'All Was Lonely, Darksome, and Waste': Wieland and the Construction of the New Republic." Studies in American Fiction 22 (1994): 37-46.
Asserts that through the characters of Carwin and Clara, Brown was recommending that America embrace a democracy that would allow different viewpoints to be heard.
Scheiber, Andrew J. "'The Arm Lifted Against Me': Love, Terror, and the Construction of Gender in Wieland." Early American Literature 26, no. 2 (1991): 173-94.
Explores the ambiguity of Clara's characterization, attributing it to her status within masculine and patriarchal institutions of the time.
Schneck, Peter. "Wieland's Testimony: Charles Brockden Brown and the Rhetoric of Evidence." REAL: The Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 18 (2002): 167-213.
Discusses the treatment of evidence and testimony and their relationship to rhetoric and moral judgment in Wieland.
Sickels, Eleanor. "Shelley and Charles Brockden Brown." PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 45, no. 4 (December 1930): 1116-28.
Attempts to define the extent to which Percy Shelley was influenced by Brown.
Vilas, Martin S. Charles Brockden Brown; A Study of Early American Fiction. Burlington, Vt.: Free Press Association, 1904, 66 p.
Examines Brown's life and works and evaluates his lasting influence on American literature.
OTHER SOURCES FROM GALE:
Additional coverage of Brown's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: American Writers Supplement, Vol. 1; Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography 1640–1865; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 37, 59, 73; Feminist Writers; Literary Movements for Students, Vol. 1; Literature Resource Center; Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Vols. 22, 74, 122; Reference Guide to American Literature, Ed. 4; St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers; and Twayne's United States Authors.