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Charles Brockden Brown

Book Overview: 

The lives of a prosperous, intellectual family are disrupted when they meet the mysterious Carwin. Set in the period before the Revolutionary War, this is often described as the first American Gothic novel.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I must desist for a little while.

I have taken a few turns in my chamber, and have gathered strength enough to proceed. Yet have I not projected a task beyond my power to execute? If thus, on the very threshold of the scene, my knees faulter and I sink, how shall I support myself, when I rush into the midst of horrors such as no heart has hitherto conceived, nor tongue related? I sicken and recoil at the prospect, and yet my irresolution is momentary. I have not formed this design upon slight grounds, and though I may at times pause and hesitate, I will not be finally diverted from it.

And thou, O most fatal and potent of mankind, in what terms shall I describe thee? What words are adequate to the just delineation of thy character? How shall I detail the means which rendered the secrecy of thy purposes unfathomable? But I will not anticipate. Let me recover if possible, a sober strain. Let me keep down the flood of passion that would render me precip. . . Read More

Community Reviews

If a goth Calvinist with a chaffed ass and marginal writing skills wrote an episode of Scooby-Doo it would closely resemble this dated, moralizing tale, created with cobbled together elements of gothic literature, which unfortunately represents the best of American literature at its infancy. The...more

I loved this story. For a book written in 1798, it felt very modern indeed.

Clara Wieland is close to her brother Theodore's best friend, Henry Pleyel. They go for a walk together up in the mountains. Whilst they are talking a mysterious voice intercedes in their discussion and tells them that Hen...more

Strange and mysterious events surrounding the hearing of supernatural voices.

A tricky tale whose beginning hints only slightly at its end. The type of plot that the book uses is less common now than it was in the early days of gothic and sensationalist tales, and the plot twist relies on there be...more

How do you judge a writer who has a spark of genius but almost no talent or skill? That's my dilemma with Charles Brockden Brown.

First the genius part. Brown is credited--fairly I think--with being the United States' first professional novelist, and it is remarkable how many important American t...more

A difficult book to recommend with any confidence. Read this as part of a group read. From an historical perspective it was interesting being an early American book but I found the tale itself hard reading in places. Very difficult to really enjoy any of the characters on offer although I did enj...more

Wieland, or, The Transformation, An American Tale is a remarkable book for a number of reasons. American literature scarcely existed in the late 18th century when Charles Brockden Brown made the bold decision to pursue a literary career. Wieland, published in 1798, is a gothic novel, but its more...more

Poor Charles Brockden Brown. While no one would mistake him for a great, forgotten writer, his kooky, early American Gothic style still has its charms, if for no other reason than the completely ape-shit plot devices that he works with. Spontaneous Combustion! Ventriloquism! Religious Fanaticism!...more

About twelve or fifteen years ago, in every issue of Entertainment Weekly, they would ask a published author to recommend a book to their readers and explain why they think people should read it. I normally only glanced over every issue because I'm too busy, and most recommendations were (are?) f...more

It seems appropriate that the first professional novel to come out of the United States would involve the idiocy of Christian gullibility, religious murder, and chicanery. Other than that, it was rather awkwardly written--not as good as its British inspirations--Anne Radcliffe, I think, mostly, a...more

The Narrative Was by No Means Recommended by Its Eloquence []

Thus speaks the first person narrator, Clara Wieland, in Charles Brockden Browns novel Wieland about a manuscript in which her deceased father gives an account of his life and experiences, and, ironically, or sadly, this much can also b...more

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