"THE MOST IMPORTANT OF EARLY AMERICAN NOVELISTS": FIRST EDITION OF CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN'S SEMINAL NOVEL, ARTHUR MERVYN, 1799
(BROWN, Charles Brockden). Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs of the Year 1793. Philadelphia: H. Maxwell, 1799. Octavo, period-style full brown speckled sheep gilt, burgundy morocco spine label, original endpapers preserved; iv, 224. $2400.
First edition of the key third novel by Brown—"the pioneer of a major vein of American writing, a novelist whose literary heirs include Poe, Hawthorne, Faulkner and a whole tradition of horror and noir".
Credited with inventing the American Gothic novel, Brown turns a vision of the American wilderness and its emerging cities "into a hallucinated labyrinth-like landscape" with Arthur Mervyn, his important third novel (Clute & Grant, Encyclopedia of Fantasy, 143). Brown is increasingly regarded as "the pioneer of a major vein of American writing, a novelist whose literary heirs include Poe, Hawthorne, Faulkner, and the whole tradition of horror and noir from Woolrich to Stephen King. Published in the final years of the 18th century, his startlingly prophetic novels are a virtual résumé of themes that would constantly recur in American literature" (Sidney Krause). Set during Philadelphia's 1793 yellow fever epidemic, Arthur Mervyn offers "complex counter-visions to the myth" of America's beginnings by highlighting conflicts over race, class and sexuality (Barnard, Kamrath & Shapiro, eds., Revising Charles Brockden Brown185). Brown is "the most important of Early American novelists, a figure whose reputation is based on the way all of his writings, not only the novels, engaged in artistically complex and intellectually ambitious explorations of some of the major cultural debates and anxieties of American culture" (ANB). First edition, first printing with uncorrected chapter heading, "Athur Mervyn" (108). Brown published a continuation of the novel in 1800: Arthur Mervyn… Second Part (BAL 1501). BAL 1498. Evans 35242.
Text generally fresh light scattered foxing, mild dampstaining mainly to preliminary blanks. An extremely good copy of a key work in the history of American literature.