Sunday, April 17, 2005

A literary setting ...

My wife and I spent the afternoon in the Wissahickon, the setting for Charles Brockden Brown's 1799 novel Wieland. Brown's novel was the original American Gothic, just as Brown was the original American novelist. Brown was much admired by Keats, Shelley, and Walter Scott. He exerted considerable influence on James Fenimore Cooper and Edgar Allan Poe. Thanks to Brown -- a birth-right Philadelphia Quaker who ran into trouble with the Society of Friends (his "having accomplished his marriage by the assistance of an hireling minister" was thought improper)-- the woods and hills above the Wissahickon helped form in European minds the image of "wild America." Some of the trees that were standing when Brown wrote about the place still stand, as the photos attest.

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