The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Linguistics, Languages, and Literatures >> American Literature >> 19th Century
Charles Brockden Brown

the first American novelist to win an international reputation

Charles Brockden Brown

Charles Brockden Brown was born of Quaker parents in Philadelphia on January 17, 1771. A sickly child, he devoted himself to study instead of physical activities. One of his principal "amusements" was the invention of ideal architectural designs, which eventually grew into a talent for designing Utopian-type communities. This talent would in turn lead to his authoring a series of novels distinguished by the ingenuity and consistent evolution of the plot.

After a short legal career, Brown decided in 1793 to become a writer, an occupation that was then considered a hobby or a pasttime. Many of Brown's stories were similar to the Gothic horror novels that were then popular in England. The novels had American settings and usually pitted an innocent youth against a villain. He wrote his best-known novels while living in New York, from 1798 to 1801. Despite his international popularity, however, Brown was unable to support himself as a novelist and returned to Philadelphia in 1801, where he made his living as a magazine editor and merchant until his death. He died of consumption (tuberculosis) on February 22, 1810.

The Works of Charles Brockden Brown

Carsol -- a romance depicting an imaginary community
The Dialogue of Alcuin (1797) -- an essay on the question of woman's rights and liberties
Wieland; or the Transformation (1798) -- a mystery is resolved into a case of ventriloquism
Arthur Mervyn (1798-1800) -- describes the epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia
Ormond (1799)
Edgar Huntly (1801) -- notable for the effective use made of somnambulism and for the introduction of the American Indian into fiction

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Linguistics, Languages, and Literatures >> American Literature >> 19th Century

This page was last updated on 01/17/2018.