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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 11

A surviving fragment of the lost Sky-Walk (written in 1797) shows that Brown there varied the Godwin situation by making the patron a woman. In Ormond (1799) by still another variation a woman is the victim, Constantia Dudley, pursued by the enthusiast and revolutionary Ormond until in self-defense she is obliged to kill him. Constantia won the passionate regard of a greater among Godwin’s disciples, Shelley, to whom she was the type of virtuous humanity oppressed by evil custom. But Brown’s victims do not have to undergo the cumulative agony of Godwin’s, for the reason that Brown worked too violently to be able to organize a scheme of circumstances all converging upon any single victim. And more than his vehement methods of work handicapped him in his rivalry with Godwin: to be a master of the art of calm and deliberate narrative he must have had Godwin’s cold and consistent philosophy of life. As a matter of fact, while the leaven of revolutionary rationalism stirs in his work, it does not, as with Godwin’s, pervade the mass.
  The Godwinian elements in Brown now seem less impressive than certain effects which he was able to produce by the use of native material. In 1793 he had fled with his family to the country to escape the epidemic of yellow fever which then visited Philadelphia; five years later he had gone through a similar invasion of the plague at New York. His letters show how deeply he was moved by the only personal contact he ever had with such affairs of danger and terror as he chose to write about. Composing Ormond almost before the pestilence had receded, Brown transferred his impressions from the New York of 1798



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