American Literature, American Culture

By Gordon Hutner | Go to book overview

Charles Brockden Brown


To The Public
Preface to Edgar Huntly

The flattering reception that has been given, by the public, to Arthur Mervyn, has prompted the writer to solicit a continuance of the same favour, and to offer to the world a new performance.

America has opened new views to the naturalist and politician, but has seldome furnished themes to the moral painter. That new springs of action, and new motives to curiosity should operate; that the field of investigation, opened to us by our own country, should differ essentially from those which exist in Europe, may be readily conceived. The sources of amusement to the fancy and instruction to the heart, that are peculiar to ourselves, are equally numerous and inexhaustible. It is the purpose of this work to profit by some of these sources; to exhibit a series of adventures, growing out of the condition of our country, and connected with one of the most common and most wonderful diseases or affections of the human frame.

One merit the writer may at least claim; that of calling forth the passions and engaging the sympathy of the reader, by means hitherto unemployed by preceding authors. Puerile superstition and exploded manners; Goth'c castles and chimeras, are the materials usually employed for this end. The incidents of Indian hostility, and the perils of the western wilderness, are far more suitable; and, for a native of America to overlook these, would admit of no apology. These, therefore, are, in part, the ingredients of this tale, and these he has been ambitious of depicting in vivid and faithful colours. The success of his efforts must be estimated by the liberal and candid reader. [ 1799]

William Tudor


Excerpt from North American Review

It has been said that one reason why we have not produced more good poems was owing to the want of subjects and though

The poet's eye in a fine phrensy rolling, Glances from Heaven to earth, from earth to Heaven,

and makes the universe his domain, yet that the appropriate themes of other countries had been exhausted by their own poets and that none existed in ours. Thinking this opinion to be unfounded, the attempt to prove the latter part of it to be so may furnish a theme for this discourse during the few moments that I can presume to solicit your attention.

The early history of illustrious nations has been the source of the great master pieces of poetry: the fabulous ages of Greece are the foundation of the Iliad and Odyssey, and the same period gave Virgil his hero for the Æneld. Many modern epicks have taken the he-

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