Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Charles Brockden Brown

Pennsylvania & New York

Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopaedia of American Literature 610
(Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(Vol. 1)

"Charles Brockden Brown was . . . of Quaker lineage, his ancestors having emigrated to Pennsylvania in the same ship which brough William Penn to her shores. He was born in Philadelphia on the seventeenth of January, 1771. . . .

"The early years of the future novelist were marked by intellectual precocity and physical weakness. He found food in books for the cravings caused by the one, and a solace for the deprivations entailed by the other. When but an infant he could be safely left without other companion than a picture-book, which would engross his attention so completely as to exclude all ideas of mischief and apprehensions of danger. . . .

At the age of eleven he entered the school of Robert Proud, a renowned teacher of those days. He reamined here five years, pursuing classical studies with such ardor that his slight physical frame often broke down under his exertions. . . . A passion for verse-making succeeded the regular duties of school. He laid Virgil and Homer on the shelf only to endeavor to rvial their labors by his own. . . .

"We next hear of Brown as a law student in the office of Alexander Wilson, a leading member of the Philadelphia bar. The study was as discordant with his mental as its practice with his personal habits. He appears, however, to have at first taken hold of the profession with ardor as he became a member of a law society, bore a leading apart in its forensic debates, and was elected its President. This association, however, soon had a rival in the formation of the 'Belles Lettres Club,' of which Brown, who was at first averse to the project, soon became the leader. He was conscientiously active in both of these assocations, and his decisions in the cases brought before the first named association show that his mind was well fitted for the legal profession. . . ."

[Source: Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopaedia of American Literature 608-617 (Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(Vol. 1)]

Brown decided to give up the legal profession and pursue his literary career and was, according to the editors of The Cyclopedia of American Literature, "not only the first person in America who ventured to pursue literature as a profession, but almost the first to make an attempt in the field of imaginative writing, disconnected with the advocacy of any question of national or local interest." [Id. at 609].

With increasingly long visits to New York City, Brown eventually took up residence there. He lived in the city with a friend, and planned to start a literary magazine, but these plans seemed to have faltered. He continued his writing, increasingly in the form of novels, for which he was relatively successful. There would be still further efforts to begin literary magazines, some more or less successful, along with the publication of essays, political in nature.

Brown is reputed to have been one of the first men in America to make his living from literature, and is certainly one of the country's first novelists.

Charles Brockden Brown
George & Evert Duyckinck, Cyclopedia of American Literature

Charles Brockden Brown
Perspectives in American Literature

Charles Brockden Brown
Heath Anthology of American Literature

Charles Brockden Brown
Cambridge History of English and American Literature

Charles Brockden Brown

Charles Brockden Brown
[Henry Simpson, The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased 150-152 (Philadelphia: William Brotherhead, 1859)

Death Notice


Charles Brockden Brown, The Victors, an Original Poem. by a Young Gentleman of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Sold by the Principal Booksellers, 1815)

Journals & Letters

Fragment of a Journal
dated March 9-10, 1801

Letter to John Hall
Philadelphia, November 21, 1806


Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland; or the Transformation. An American Tale (New York: Printed for T & J Swords, for H. Caritat, 1798) [online text] (New York: New York Printed, London, Reprinted for H. Colburn, 1811)(3 vols.) [vol. 1: online text]

___________________, Alcuin; A Dialogue (New-York: Printed by T. & J. Swords, 1798)

___________________, Ormond; or the Secret Witness (New-York: Printed by G. Forman, for H. Caritat, 1799)(Philadelphia: Philadelphia Printed, London Reprinted for Henry Colburn, 1811)(3 vols.) [online text]

______________________, Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist (Philadelphia: John Conrad and Co., 1803-1805)(serial publication) [online text]

____________________, Arthur Mervyn; or, Memoirs of the year 1793
(Philadelphia: Printed and Published by H. Maxwell, 1799)(2 vols.) [Vol. 1 — online text; Vol. 2—online text] (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1889) [online text]

____________________, Edgar Huntley, or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (Philadelphia: Printed by H. Maxwell, 1799)(3 vols.)(London: Printed at the Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 1803)(3 vols.) [vol. 1: online text] (Philadelphia: M. Polock, 1857)(Philadelphia: J.P. Lippencott, 1859) [online text]

____________________, Clara Howard; in a series of Letters (Philadelphia: Asbury Dickins, H. Maxwell, Printer, Columbia-House, 1801)

____________________, Jane Talbot (Philadelphia: John Conrad, & Co., 1801)(Boston: S.G. Goodrich, 1827) [online text] (Philadelphia: M. Polock, 1857)

Harry R. Warfel (ed.), The Rhapsodist: And Other Uncollected Writings (New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1977)

The Novels of Charles Brocken Brown . . . With a Memoir of the Author (Boston: S.G. Goodrich, Sold by Bowles and Dearborn, 1827)


"Charles Brockden Brown 1771-1810," in Jacob Blanck (compiler), 1 Bibliography of American Literature 302-309 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955)

Paul Allen, The Late Charles Brockden Brown (Columbia, South Carolina: J. Faust, 1976)(Robert E. Hemenway and Joseph Katz eds.)(Delmar, New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1975)

Alan Axelrod, Charles Brockden Brown, an American Tale (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983)

David Lee Clark, Charles Brockden Brown, Pioneer Voice of America (Durham: Duke University Press, 1952)(New York: AMS Press, 1966)

_____________, Charles Brockden Brown and the Rights of Women (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1922)

_____________, Charles Brockden Brown: A Critical Biography (Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1923)

William Dunlap, The Life of Charles Brockden Brown: Together with Selections from the Rarest of His Printed Works, from His Original Letters, and from His Manuscripts Before Unpublished (Philadelphia: James P. Parke, Merritt, Printer, 1815)(2 vols.) [vol. 1: online text]

___________, Memoirs of Charles Brockden Brown: The American novelist, author of Wieland, Ormond, Arthur Mervyn &c. : with selections from his original letters and miscellaneous writings (London: Colburn, 1822) [online text]

Norman S. Grabo, The Coincidental Art of Charles Brockden Brown (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981)

Sydney J. Krause (ed.), The Novels and Related Works of Charles Brockden Brown (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977-1987)(6 vols.)

Patricia L. Parker, Charles Brockden Brown: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980)

William Hickling Prescott, "Life of Charles Brockden Brown," in Lives of John Stark, Charles Brockden Brown, Richard Montgomery, and Ethan Allen (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1834)

Donald A. Ringe, Charles Brockden Brown (New York: Twayne Publishers, rev. ed., 1991)(1966)

Marin S. Vilas, Charles Brockden Borwn: A Study of Early American Fiction (Burlington, Vermont: Free Press Association, 1904) [online text]

Harry R. Warfel, Charles Brockden Brown: American Gothic Novelists (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1949)

Steven Watts, The Romance of Real Life: Charles Brockden Brown and the Origins of American Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994)

Lulu Rumsey Wiley, The Sources and Influence of the Novels of Charles Brockden Brown (New York: Vantage Press, 1950)

Bibliography: Articles

Mary Decker, A Bumpkin Before the Bar: Charles Brockden Brown's Arthur Mervyn and Class Anxiety in Postrevolutionary Philadelphia, 124 (4) Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 469-487 (2000)