1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Brockden Brown

Anonymous, in "Inquiries respecting Dennie and Brown" Port Folio [Philadelphia] S3 3 (June 1814) 572-73.



There was another American author, Mr. Oldschool, not long ago an inhabitant of our city, who has left our world with quite as little respect or remembrance as Mr. Dennie. I mean the late Mr. Brown. Of his private life I know nothing; but of his writings it is saying little to repeat that they show an improved mind, a powerful but sometimes irregular imagination, and often a transcendent command of language. The style of his romantic works resembles, in a very strong degree, that of Godwin. He possessed also, in common with that energetic writer, the power of exciting sympathy in the breasts of his readers. Of this his Arthur Mervyn is a strong proof. It describes the miseries of one exposed to the epidemic of 1793 in glowing language, it chills one with horror at the recital of that melancholy devastation, it descends even to minute particulars, but it never excites disgust. That he could write with the measured dignity of the historian will be evident to any one who shall peruse the American Register. He, too, was an author by profession — and he, to the disgrace of Philadelphia, lived and died poor. Soon after his death subscription papers were circulated for an account of his life and writings, to be published for the benefit of his family. Why is this also dropt. Can it be possible that in such a country the descendants of Genius and Taste and Talent are denied so trifling a relief. Is it necessary to tell the wealthy niggard that the glory of a nation is the glory of the individuals that compose it, and that this glory is in proportion to the number of illustrious men that country produces and fosters.