Lifetime: 1765 - 1793 Passed: ≈ 230 years ago


Novelist, Author


United States

William Hill Brown

William Hill Brown was an American novelist, the author of what is usually considered the first American novel, The Power of Sympathy (1789), and "Harriot, or the Domestic Reconciliation", as well as the serial essay "The Reformer", published in Isaiah Thomas' Massachusetts Magazine.

Brown was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Gawen Brown and his third wife, Elizabeth Hill Adams. Gawen Brown was from Northumberland, England and was a clockmaker. William was christened at the Hollis Street Church on December 1, 1765.

In 1789, William Brown published the novel The Power of Sympathy. Brown had an extensive knowledge of European literature, for example of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, but tries to lift the American literature from the British corpus by choice of an American setting. The book drew close comparison to a local scandal and was subsequently withdrawn from sale. He contributed a number of essays to the Columbian Centinel.

Around October 1792, Brown himself withdrew to join his sister, Eliza Brown Hinchborne, at the Hinchborne plantation near Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and began to read law with William Richardson Davie at Halifax. Eliza died in January 1793. Not yet acclimated to the Eastern North Carolina climate, William Brown died of fever, probably malaria, the following August, at the age of twenty-seven.

Books by William Hill Brown

The Power of Sympathy; or, the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth Cover image

The Power of Sympathy; or, the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth

Family Truth Power Nature Sympathy America United States Seduction

The Power of Sympathy: or, The Triumph of Nature is an 18th-century American sentimental novel written in epistolary form by William Hill Brown and is widely considered to be the first American novel. The Power of Sympathy was Brown's first novel. Th...