Three Gothic Novels

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Library of America, 1998 - Fiction - 914 pages
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Haunted, dreamlike scenes define the fictional world of Charles Brockden Brown, America's first professional novelist. Published in the final years of the 18th century, Brown's startlingly prophetic novels are a virtual resume of themes that would constantly recur in American literature: madness and murder, suicide and religious obsession, the seduction of innocence and the dangers of wilderness and settlement alike. In "Three Gothic Novels," The Library of America collects the most significant of Brown's works. "Wieland; or The Transformation" (1798), his novel of a religious fanatic preyed upon by a sinister ventriloquist, is often considered his masterpiece. A relentlessly dark exploration of guilt, deception, and compulsion, it creates a sustained mood of irrational terror in the midst of the Pennsylvania countryside. In "Arthur Mervyn; or Memoirs of the Year 1793" (1799), Brown draws on his own experiences to create indelible scenes of Philadelphia devastated by a yellow fever epidemic, while telling the story of a young man caught in the snares of a professional swindler. "Edgar Huntly; or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker" (1799) fuses traditional Gothic themes with motifs drawn from the American wilderness in a series of eerily unreal adventures that test the limits of the protagonist's self-knowledge. All three novels reveal Brown as the pioneer of a major vein of American writing, a novelist whose literary progeny encompasses Poe, Hawthorne, Faulkner, and the whole tradition of horror and noir from Cornell Woolrich to Stephen King.
 

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Charles Brockden Brown : Three Gothic Novels : Wieland / Arthur Mervyn / Edgar Huntly (Library of America)

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This latest Library of America volume combines Wieland (1798), Arthur Mervyn (1799), and Edgar Huntly (1799). All three portray murder, madness, religious obsession, the dangers of the wild, and jolly things like that. This also contains notes on the texts and a chronology of the author's life. Read full review

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About the author (1998)

Charles Brockden Brown was born on January 17, 1771 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After he completed his schooling in 1787, he began apprenticing at the law offices of Alexander Wilcocks and pursued literary interests. When he was 18, he published his first literary works: the Rhapsodist sketches, which appeared anonymously in the Columbian Magazine, and a poem entitled An Inscription for General Washington's Tomb Stone, which appeared in the State Gazette of North Carolina. In 1793, he abandoned the law to attempt a life of letters. Within four years, between 1789 and 1801, he published six novels: Wieland, Ormand, Arthur Mervyn, Edgar Huntly, Clara Howard and Jane Talbot. He died of tuberculosis on February 22, 1810.

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