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Arthur Mervyn

Charles Brockden Brown

Book Overview: 

Arthur Mervyn is the story of a young man from the country who arrives in a city stricken with Yellow Fever. He soon comes down with the illness and is rescued by a kindly doctor. Arthur tells the doctor and his wife the story of his life, thereby gaining the doctor’s confidence and good will. However, others familiar with Arthur tell another tale, and the doctor’s as well as the reader’s confidence in Arthur is shaken. Brown, who himself contracted Yellow Fever during an outbreak in New York City, vividly describes the horrors of the disease and its effects on an early American city.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .By you it will be thought strange, but it is nevertheless true, that I derived from this new prospect not only tranquillity but cheerfulness. I hastened home. As soon as I entered, my landlord informed me that a person had been searching for me in my absence. This was an unexampled incident, and foreboded me no good. I was strongly persuaded that my visitant had been led hither not by friendly but hostile purposes. This persuasion was confirmed by the description of the stranger's guise and demeanour given by my landlord. My fears instantly recognised the image of Watson, the man by whom I had been so eminently benefited, and whose kindness I had compensated by the ruin of his sister and the confusion of his family.

"An interview with this man was less to be endured than to look upon the face of an avenging deity. I was determined to avoid this interview, and, for this end, to execute my fatal purpose within the hour. My papers were collected with a tremulous han. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Set in 1790's Philadelphia and Baltimore and written in an antique, stately and flowery style, this novel surprised me by being readable, interesting and even touching. Was the Great American Novel already written before the 19th century ever turned?

I'm a big fan of Charles Brockden Brown even if his books can sometimes be a tough slog (must-read-twice curlicues of sentences, total implausibility on every level [by today's standards, anyway], etc.). I really enjoy reading all the crazy/horrible/salacious combinations of infanticide/rape/reli...more

Er ist so eine Art Simplicius Simplicissimus mit einer Prise Felix Krull. Nie weiß man so genau, ob man ihm sein wohlmeinend naives Gutmenschentum abkaufen soll, oder ob er gerade dabei ist, uns über's Ohr zu hauen. Die Rede ist von Arthur Mervyn, dem Romanhelden von Charles Brockden Browns 17...more

Quite a long book mostly dictated through dialog and hearsay. It is a mixture of genres and though it does okay in each it doesn't do any one exceptionally well.

It could have been as good as David Copperfield but it isn't. I would not bother reading twice.

The only way to ready Arthur Mervyn.

Indeed a strange book for a modern reader: emotional, flamboyant, intense, worthy, well meaning, a protagonist who instantly identifies with everyone he meets and takes their cause as his own, a plot that rambles but always engages. The sheer highmindedness of it!

The writing reminds me of Dickens...more

What an odd book this is, almost like several books rolled into one - all about the yellow fever one minute, then it's never mentioned again.....the woman who has no money and then is suddenly rich, and what happened to her child, and why didn't he tell Mrs Watson about Mr Watson, and what was al...more

A book set in Philadelphia during the epidemic which killed 20% of the population in 1791, written in 1792 by a survivor. The story is about a conman and features the city in an amazing perspective. Not my favorite of his books, though probably the most accessible to most readers.

After his father's remarriage, young and naive Arthur Mervyn is forced to leave his father's farm and make his own living in the city (Philadelphia). Once there, he runs into alot of bad luck, mainly having to do with the con man Thomas Welbeck. Mervyn, with the help of some good people he meets...more

Interpolations within interpolations within interpolations. And strains of proto-feminism in early America. Beware of spoilers and unnecessary interpretive work in numerous notes. A great critical edition, but it goes too far in both these regards.

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