Book Cover of Arthur Mervyn

Arthur Mervyn

by Charles Brockden Brown

Kicked out of his parental home by his scheming young stepmother, a young country boy, Arthur Mervyn arrives in Philadelphia. Here he finds the city in the throes of a deadly yellow-fever epidemic. However, he finds a small job as a clerk and is determined to make his way in the world. He soon discovers that his employer is a con man and a murderer. One night, Arthur helps him dispose of a body in the river. While they're struggling with the corpse, the employer is swept away by the current... If you haven't encountered American Gothic before, Arthur Mervyn by Charles Brockden Brown is a great introduction to this genre. Originally published in two parts, the novel is set in the turbulent, crime ridden and disease prone Philadelphia of 1793. Arthur Mervyn was published in 1799 and 1800 respectively. It reflects several aspects of the age in which Brockden Brown wrote the aftermath of the French Revolution was still being felt in America. The Reign of Terror, which dismantled the class system and the violent Slave Rebellion in Haiti with its elimination of slavery on the island nation were viewed with increasing fear and insecurity in America. Seen in the light of these events, writers like Charles Brockden Brown used plot devices and characters that evoked mystery and terror to great effect. Though he is little known today, Charles Brockden Brown was one of the pioneers of the early American novel, on par with James Fenimore Cooper. Born in a wealthy Philadelphia Quaker family, Brown initially took up the study of law. However, he soon became part of the Friendly Club, a group of New York intellectuals. He gradually began to publish essays and short pieces in various journals and newspapers. At this time, he was also heavily influenced by writers like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Frankenstein) and from 1798-1801 he published a series of Gothic novels characterized by motifs like sleepwalking, religious mania, violence, drama and intellectual complexity. Always known as a “writer's writer” Brown's work is only now being recognized and given its due. The book reflects the multicultural mix of America, with its diverse range of characters from different cultural backgrounds. One of the interesting things about this book is that the disease of Yellow Fever itself is almost a character in the novel. It symbolizes a disembodied force that attacks people regardless of their race or socioeconomic status and scholars of Brown's works liken it to the impact of print media on a hitherto unlettered populace. Arthur Mervyn is indeed a valuable and educational read not to be missed.

Book Details



Original Language


Published In



Charles Brockden Brown	 image

Charles Brockden Brown (January 17, 1771 – February 22, 1810) was an American novelist, historian, and editor of the Early National period. He is generally regarded by scholars as the most impor...

More on Charles Brockden Brown

Listen/Download Audiobook

Read by:
Playback Speed 1.0
  • Select Speed

Related books

A Sicilian Romance  Cover image

A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe

The Marquis Mazzini's daughters, Emilia and Julia, are beautiful and accomplished young ladies. Julia quickly falls in love with the young and handsom...

The White People  Cover image

The White People by Arthur Machen

A discussion between two men on the nature of evil leads one of them to reveal a mysterious Green Book he possesses. It is a young girl's diary, in wh...

Dracula Cover image

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula tells the tale of a sinister Transylvanian aristocrat who seeks to retain his youth and strength by feeding off human blood. The author, Bram...

Carmilla Cover image

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu. First published in 1872, it tells the story of a young woman’s susceptibility to the attentio...

The Step on the Stair Cover image

The Step on the Stair by Anna Katharine Green

The story follows a young woman named Rosamund, who moves into a new home with her husband and soon becomes convinced that the house is haunted. As sh...

Zastrozzi, A Romance  Cover image

Zastrozzi, A Romance by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Zastrozzi: A Romance is a Gothic novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley first published in 1810 in London by George Wilkie and John Robinson anonymously, with...

Herbert West: Reanimator Cover image

Herbert West: Reanimator by H. P. Lovecraft

"Herbert West–Reanimator" is a horror short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was written between October 1921 and June 1922. It was first...

She Cover image

She by H. Rider Haggard

She, subtitled A History of Adventure, is a novel by the English writer H. Rider Haggard, published in book form in 1887 following serialisation in Th...

The Lair of the White Worm Cover image

The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker

The Lair of the White Worm is a horror novel by the Irish writer Bram Stoker. It was first published by Rider and Son of London in 1911 – the year bef...

Northanger Abbey Cover image

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is a coming-of-age novel and a satire of Gothic novels written by Jane Austen. It was completed in 1803, the first of Austen’s novels...

Reviews for Arthur Mervyn

No reviews posted or approved, yet...