WIELAND; OR THE TRANSFORMATION. AN AMERICAN TALE. New-York: Printed by T. & J. Swords, for H. Caritat, 1798. 12mo, pp. [1-4]  2-298 [299-300: blank], mid-nineteenth-century three-quarter brown binder's cloth and marbled boards, all edges speckled red. First edition. Second book and first extant novel by the first American professional man of letters. The first American Gothic novel, a thriller laid in Pennsylvania which includes death by spontaneous combustion, ventriloquism, an escape from an insane asylum and a multiple murder. Brown's four Gothic novels were indebted to William Godwin's CALEB WILLIAMS (1794), a work he admired, but "the method which Brown derived from Godwin is less notable than the material which he took, at first hand, from native conditions." - DAB. Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), "American man of letters whose novels, poetry, and historical and literary publications place him at the cornerstone of American literary tradition, [is] best known today for his Gothic novels, especially WIELAND; OR THE TRANSFORMATION. AN AMERICAN TALE (1798) and EDGAR HUNTLY; OR THE MEMOIRS OF A SLEEP-WALKER (1799), which generally transcended their European models, bringing acute psychological insight to the tale of terror ... The importance of the American scene and situation is readily discernible in Brown's novels. Thus his most famous novel, WIELAND, describing Theodore Wieland's ritual slaughter of his wife and five children ... had its genesis in the true story of a ritual slaughter in the countryside of Tomhannock, New York, in 1781 ... His work influenced later American writers ranging from James Fenimore Cooper to Nathaniel Hawthorne. His impact on Edgar Allan Poe was considerable." - Sullivan (ed), The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, pp. 58-9. "Of his four Gothic novels, the first, WIELAND, is regarded as a masterpiece. It is easy to see that brown as drawing on the work of Ann Radcliffe (THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO was published four years earlier and M. G. Lewis (THE MONK appeared only two years earlier), but he was also a great originator. He substituted American settings and he brought in psychological horror to replace the flimsy and worn-out supernatural elements, founding a school of American Gothic writing that was to influence Poe, Hawthorne, Melville and many others right up to the present day. Although not much read in England, Brown's novels were very influential upon Mary Shelley (his four Gothic novels were said to be among her six favorite books) and were read by John Keats and Sir Walter Scott." - Pringle (ed), St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers, p. 99. "Brown's place in literary history is not altogether due to the fact that he was the first American who tried to live by his pen or even that he was the first American novelist who won an international hearing. He continues to be occasionally read for his intrinsic merits -- for the somber intensity which, given a chance with any but superficial readers, outweighs his shambling structure and his verbose, stilted language. Like Poe and Hawthorne, whom he in several respects anticipates, Brown had a personal acquaintance with the dark moods which he enlarged and projected in his novels. He had an eager intellectual curiosity which gives his work, even at its most naive, a certain air of range and significance." - DAB. Barron (ed), Fantasy Literature 1-11. Barron (ed), Horror Literature 1-9. Clute and Grant, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997), p. 143. Lewis, Utopian Literature, p. 28. In 333. BAL 1496. Wright (I) 426. Petter, The Early American Novel, pp. 347-53; 461-63. Former owner's name and date, "Margaret Morton -- 1798," at top edge of title page and top edge of first page of text. The book's text block was trimmed and it was put into this binding in the mid-nineteenth-century, probably in the 1840s. The two preliminary leaves have light stains, otherwise a remarkably nice copy with clean interior and final blank present. (#160965).
No statement of printing.