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Studies in American Fiction111 13 vols. (Boston, 1883), II, 461. eAdkins speculates that the stories of this collection were probably written prior to Hawthorne's conceiving the "story teUer" frame, so that their integration with the frame could never be completely successful (p. 144). 7"Time andthe Artistin'LegendsoftheProvinceHouse,' " NCF, 21 (1967),339, 337-48 passim. See n. 1, pp. 337-38, for a survey of criticism. More recent discussions of the sequence as a whole are Julian Smith, "Hawthorne's Legends of the Province House," NCF, 24 (1969), 31-44; Margaret V. AUen. "Imagination and History in Hawthorne's 'Legends of the Province House,' " AL, 43 (1971), 432-37; and Neal F. Doubleday, Hawthorne's Early Tales: A Critical Study (Durham, 1972), pp. 117-37. "Fossum, p. 346. 9Hawthorne, Complete Works, I, 272. Subsequent references to this edition will be noted in my text. 10"Hawthorne and the Twilight of Romance," YR, 37 (1948), 500. CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN'S ORMOND: THE AMERICAN ARTIST AND HIS MASQUERADES Paul Witherington South Dakota State University For a variety of currendy defensible reasons.Ormond, regardedby many early critics as one of Charles Brockden Brown's best novels, has fallen into neglect. Truly it lacks the tight focus and prolonged suspense of Wieland, the picaresque flavor of Arthur Mervyn, or the archetypal depth of Edgar Huntly. To most critics, Ormond is die poor cousin of Brown's first four novels and all too close a kin to the last two epistolary novels, Chra Howard and Jane Talbot.1 Yet it is a solid novel with some of Brown's strongest characterizations. The point is not to argue for Ormond's revival but to suggest its importance in understanding Brown's major novels and the climate forhis decisions about fiction. Not so ordinary a work as it has often seemed, Ormond illustrates Brown's early despair over what Hawthorne was later to face as die dilemma of the creative artist: his necessary, and his necessarily unpardonable, sin. In outline, even with die spice of a liberated woman, Ormondseems stuffy and conventional. Dudley, an artist, loses his inherited pharmacy because of a villainous employee and goes blind. His daughter Constantia barely holds tilings together for the two of them tiirough poverty and an epidemic of yellow fever. By a series of coincidences, 112Notes Ormond, a mysterious, wealthy young man, discovers their problem and aids the Dudleys secretly. Helena, Ormond's beautiful mistress, becomes Constantia's employer, and when Constantia goes to Ormond to beg him to marry the girl, Ormond decides that Constantia is the better prize. He begins to court her, and Helena, abandoned, kills herself. Dudley warns his daughter, but Constantia is charmed by Ormond's boundless intellect and one day her father is found murdered in his bed. Full of doubts, Constantia is reunited by another series of coincidences with Sophia, her old friend and the shadowy narrator of the novel who suddenly emerges as a participant, returning from Europe the day after her wedding. Sophia plans to move her friend away from Ormond, but meantime Constantia visits alone a family estate in the country. Ormond follows and threatens her with rape, and the scene turns to Sophia on the way to help. When she arrives, she finds Ormond dead by Constantia's penknife. The two women presumably live happily ever after in Europe. Within these sentimental and Gothic windings, however, there are mysteries important to a study of Brown's art. Why does the powerful Ormond allow himself to be killed by Constantia in a reversal so absurd that Brown portrays it only at second hand? Is Ormond the only secret witness to which the novel's subtitle alludes? Why does Sophia take over the story midway and enter, like a bumpkin at his first play, into the scene of the melodrama, violating the balances of suspense and point of view? Finally, is the novel as formless as Brown pretends in the preface that describes it as a "history" without unity or elaboration? These questions are interrelated and pertinent to Brown's themes and to his personal conflict between aesthetic sensibility and moral sensibility. In the sense that Ormond is impelled toward...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 111-119
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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