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Wieland, or, The Transformation

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,396 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Excerpt from Wieland or the Transformation
Genius and knowledge command respect; but superior genius and profound knowledge, combined with exalted moral purity, cannot fail to excite unmingled admiration. The reputation of an author in whom these qualities are united may be circumscribed during life; but its rise and extension after death prove that his claims to distincti
Paperback, 204 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Aegypan (first published 1798)
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3.23  · 
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 ·  1,396 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it

How do you judge a writer who has a spark of genius but almost no talent or skill? That's my dilemma with Charles Brockden Brown.

First the genius part. Brown is credited--fairly I think--with being the United States' first professional novelist, and it is remarkable how many important American themes are first brought forth here. A phrase of W.C.Williams--”the pure products of America go crazy”--continually occurred to me during my reading, and this is just what Brown has given us here: gothic
Poor Charles Brockden Brown. While no one would mistake him for a great, forgotten writer, his kooky, early American Gothic style still has its charms, if for no other reason than the completely ape-shit plot devices that he works with. Spontaneous Combustion! Ventriloquism! Religious Fanaticism! Insanity! I feel like a contemporary writer could come along and turn these ideas into a really killer, sprawling sort of book, like Pynchon or Wallace or someone like that. Obviously it's not fair to c ...more
A difficult book to recommend with any confidence. Read this as part of a group read. From an historical perspective it was interesting being an early American book but I found the tale itself hard reading in places. Very difficult to really enjoy any of the characters on offer although I did enjoy the decidedly Gothic air. Favourite line from the novel.......

"His sickness and his death might possibly have detained him."
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror-gothic
Wieland, or, The Transformation, An American Tale is a remarkable book for a number of reasons. American literature scarcely existed in the late 18th century when Charles Brockden Brown made the bold decision to pursue a literary career. Wieland, published in 1798, is a gothic novel, but it’s more than that. It’s a complete re-invention of the gothic novel, with the accepted trappings of mouldering castles and doomed aristocratic heroes being discarded entirely. It’s the beginning of American go ...more
Tristram Shandy
“The Narrative Was by No Means Recommended by Its Eloquence […]“

Thus speaks the first person narrator, Clara Wieland, in Charles Brockden Brown’s novel Wieland about a manuscript in which her deceased father gives an account of his life and experiences, and, ironically, or sadly, this much can also be said for the novel itself in that Charles Brockden Brown, though he may be the first American novelist, simply cannot write. At first, I thought the strangely staccato syntax and the lack of fluenc
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
If a goth Calvinist with a chaffed ass and marginal writing skills wrote an episode of Scooby-Doo it would closely resemble this dated, moralizing tale, created with cobbled together elements of gothic literature, which unfortunately represents the best of American literature at its infancy. The introduction to this book, written by a contemporary of Brown's named Evert A. Duyckinck, was so poorly written I thought it was kook literature penned by a privately wealthy independent book publisher, ...more
John Adams
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
I loved this story. For a book written in 1798, it felt very modern indeed.

Clara Wieland is close to her brother Theodore's best friend, Henry Pleyel. They go for a walk together up in the mountains. Whilst they are talking a mysterious voice intercedes in their discussion and tells them that Henry's amour Theresa is dead. Naturally enough they are both utterly terrified:

"I had scarcely finished the sentence, when the same mysterious voice exclaimed, 'You shall not go. The seal of death is on he
DeAnna Knippling
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Strange and mysterious events surrounding the hearing of supernatural voices.

A tricky tale whose beginning hints only slightly at its end. The type of plot that the book uses is less common now than it was in the early days of gothic and sensationalist tales, and the plot twist relies on there being more than one cause. So caution on some of these reviews--a lot of them seem to be relying on modern traditions in storytelling as their sole metric. The novel is based on a true story, even if it do
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
About twelve or fifteen years ago, in every issue of Entertainment Weekly, they would ask a published author to recommend a book to their readers and explain why they think people should read it. I normally only glanced over every issue because I'm too busy, and most recommendations were (are?) fairly mainstream. What caught my attention this time was the black and white photo of the author making the recommendation. He was young. Big, wild, dark eyes stared out of a pale face with nine-o'clock ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic, classics
Early American literature is not particularly distinct from the British one from which it came, and this book partly shows it, but also shows an attempt to something different. It is a classic gothic novel with all the ingredients that characterized the genre at that time, the dramatic tones, the exaggeration in the plot, the mysterious atmosphere and the metaphysical hints, but there are also many elements that make it different, placing it on a starting point that ultimately ends up with write ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wieland leads us to 18th century Pennsylvania and a great part of the novel is set on the Wieland family estate. Charles Brockden Brown created a grey and dreary setting that is perfect for what’s about to happen. While reading, I sometimes imagined that the Wieland estate could easily be the setting for a much happier story. The estate would feel completely different, by just changing the right words. But we don’t need that for Wieland ;) .

The events that take place are told by Clara Wieland, s
Lee Foust
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
If you want to know where Lovecraft, Poe and Hawthorne were coming from, read this. THEN read "Walden". Some serious abyss-gazing going on. (Ex)puritans always seem to use the wild places as their own little rorshach blots, and when the wendigo starts looking back at them, it's usually from the mirror....
Sep 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unsorted
I can't believe I stuck it out until the end. There were a few good plot twists, a couple of creepy atmospheric scenes, and an interesting (but weakly made) moral point. But there are so many *good* gothic authors, I won't be wasting time again on this one.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very different reading experien e than i had expected. Of course, i hadn't known what to expect at all going in and purposely avoided reading anything at all about the book so i could discover it as i read. And what a strange journey it ended up being!
I got this book without front or back cover out of a box of books that my parents were getting rid of. When i picked this one up and said I'd never heard of it, my dad commented that he thought "they made everyone read that one." I suppo
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
It has definitely been challenging trying to reacquaint myself with the language of the late 1700s, and I'd say this book was mostly worth it. Imaginative and at times gripping, it was often atmospheric and unsettling as the various misfortunes landed at Clara Wieland's feet. However, as with a lot of texts of the time, I found myself skim reading as I wanted the narrative to stop waffling and get to the point - the climactic scenes were engaging, but sometimes the bits in between felt surplus t ...more
Bethany Johnsen
Pro forma for early novels, Wieland opens with the obligatory justification for its existence on the grounds of its salutary moral lesson. The next thing we learn from the first-person narrator, à la its predecessor Caleb Williams, is that the story will have an unhappy ending. But many pages will have to be turned before we learn the specifics.

Wieland creates suspense, not with immediate action that makes us want to know what happens next, but by stating an outcome up front (total devastation o
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of this book until I had to read it for my Literature course. I mentioned it to a few friends too and none of them had heard of it either. This obscurity does not cease to have a puzzling effect to me, since Wieland is portrayed as the first American gothic novel. Aside from this impressive status, certain elements are so bizarre and noteworthy that, even if for nothing else, this novel should be well-known for them. I mean – spontaneous combustion! Madness! Mass murder!

This bo
Bill Wallace
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I revisited this "first American novel" via Librivox, where the reader's pleasant, almost perky voice creates a sharp contrast with the grim horrors of the narrative. Wieland is most often cited as an early Gothic novel, which it certainly is, but it has many other points of interest. As a study in abnormal human behavior, sometimes minutely analyzed, it is also an early work of psychology and, in the deductive skills of its narrator, the redoubtable Clara, it's an early exercise in the detectiv ...more
Oct 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book purely for the fact that it is one of the first American novels. I also appreciated the fact that it's so Gothic that it becomes simultaneously humorous and dark. It is not so over the top that you completely lose a sense of the eeriness, but the melodrama is such that you just have to laugh at certain points. Anyone who enjoys modern horror or suspense might enjoy reading this and comparing/contrasting its elements to things found in modern works of the same genre.

However, t
An american gothic thriller. Quite close to giving this 4 stars but it does take quite a while to get going. It was almost exactly half-way through that things finally started to get to a the point. The story builds up quite a bit of tension despite the rather formal language.
It's a surprisingly modern tale in terms of its violence, i suppose other gothic works like Castle of Otranto and Vathek are violent too but its done in a much more over the top and less recognizable way. This felt in pa
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Wieland; or, the Transformation" is often considered the first American Gothic novel. Its psychologically driven horror preceded and alludes to the later refined fiction of Poe and Hawthorne. The violence and chaos of "Wieland" appeal to the excitability, wonder, and fear of a sublime aesthetic. Told in an epistolary style, the language is unwieldy, highly romanticized, and emotional. Using a character witness as the narrator of a plot about the unreliability of the physical senses, heightens B ...more
Bryan "goes on a bit too long"
2 1/2 stars

I was pretty disappointed with this one--somehow I'd picked up a different perception of what the book was going to be, but even accepting the book as it is, it still leaves quite a bit to be desired. In my mind, I imagined a creepiness factor off the charts as the book followed a man going slowly insane in the wilds of colonial America, possessed with a religious mania that convinced him to commit a horrible crime. Unfortunately, the book does not take that view, and instead focuses
Oct 20, 2014 rated it liked it
"And thou, most fatal and potent of mankind, in what terms shall I describe thee? What words are adequate to the just delineation of thy character? How shall I detail the means which rendered the secrecy of thy purposes unfathomable? But I will not anticipate. Let me recover, if possible, a sober strain. Let me keep down the flood of passion that would render me precipitate or powerless. Let me stifle the agonies that are awakened by thy name. Let me for a time regard thee as a being of no terri ...more
Jane Story
I was quite excited to start reading this book, actually. I sneaked a peak at some reviews and got a general idea of the plot before I started, and I was instantly intrigued.

The book started out really slow. Since it was written so long ago, it was hard to understand the writing style. It got easier around halfway through, where the plot really picked up and it got really exciting. I actually didn't want to stop reading after about the halfway point. The ending was a bit of a letdown... I was ho
Savannah Golden
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Stephenson
Dec 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
How come I never heard of Brown in my American Lit. classes? This guy is a genius. Wieland is a compulsive page-turner with Clara Wieland developed into one of the most memorable female characters I know of. A couple of times it almost scared the living daylights out of me as well as impressing me by how well so many loose strands can be woven together with ingenuity.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting tale that precedes the writings of Poe and its influence upon him could well be supposed. American horror writing that at times is quite creepy, but keep a dictionary handy because each page contains one to numerous obsolete or rarely used words. Florid in language but beautiful in prose and description. A good read.
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Very difficult to read at times with archaic language and overly verbose dialogue. A very good story told poorly. I could easily see this rewritten or turned into a movie. The beginning chapters regarding the strange death of the father have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the book. I think they are only part of the story in order to set a fantastical supernatural feel for later events.
Allison Landers
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, mind-f
I read this book for a class in college and I just loved it. I had to stay up all night reading it before the class, but I probably would have stayed up all night reading it anyway. It was fascinating. It's a male author writing from a female perspective and I was surprised how well he did with that. Very good book.
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Charles Brockden Brown (January 17, 1771 – February 22, 1810), an American novelist, historian, and editor of the Early National period, is generally regarded by scholars as the most ambitious and accomplished US novelist before James Fenimore Cooper. He is the most frequently studied and republished practitioner of the "early American novel," or the US novel between 1789 and roughly 1820. Althoug ...more