About Charles Brockden Brown
Adapted from Volume 1's Historical Essay
by Philip Barnard, Elizabeth Hewitt, and Mark L. Kamrath
Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) was born into a Quaker merchant family in Philadelphia at the beginning of the revolutionary age, when that city was the largest and wealthiest hub of British and global commerce in North America. Born on January 17, 1771, to Elijah Brown and Mary Armitt, both sides of Brown’s family were early Quaker settlers in Pennsylvania. Both paternal grandparents were both born in Chester County (southeastern Pennsylvania) in the early eighteenth century, and his great grandfather, William Brown (1682-1716) was one of the original Quaker founders of Nottingham, Pennsylvania. His maternal grandparents lived in Philadelphia, where maternal grandfather Joseph Armitt (b. 1747) was a prominent joiner and furniture maker whose work now resides in museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Brown's father, Elijah Brown, Sr. (1740-1810), was a land conveyancer, land broker, and merchant. Elijah’s career was uneven, possibly involving a bankruptcy in the early 1780s; but the family, partly thanks to the Armitts, was generally economically secure. Nevertheless, the various “professions” attached to Elijah’s name in city directories evidence his fluctuating income and social standing: in 1785, he is listed as “conveyance”; by 1795 he is a “land broker”; by 1798 he is identified as “gentleman”; and in 1802 he becomes “merchant.”
The fourth of six siblings who survived into adulthood, Charles Brockden Brown had three older brothers (Joseph, James, and Armitt), a younger sister (Elizabeth), and a younger brother (Elijah, Jr.). The two eldest brothers began investing in the period's carrying trade and established a mercantile firm sometime in the 1780s, and carried the business to Edenton, North Carolina early in 1790. Joseph eventually married into the prosperous Brownrigg family of Bertie County, North Carolina, becoming the owner of a large plantation, Point Comfort, located on the Chowan River. James returned to Philadelphia and oversaw the mercantile firm, James Brown & Co., which was the primary locus of the siblings’ import-export interests from the late 1790s to the firm’s dissolution. By 1808 the firm may have become insolvent, and . James moved to England at some point in 1808-1809. While the central partners in the firm were Armitt, James and Elijah, Jr., Brown's letters indicate that, from 1801 until his death, Charles was likewise involved in the business and its travails. Indeed, the Brown brothers left a paper trail of litigation revealing their fiscal precariousness in the years leading up to, and following, the War of 1812. For the most accurate account of Brown family history to date, including four generations of Brown’s wife, Elizabeth Linn’s family, consult the "Genealogies of the Brown and Linn Families" in the project's volume 1, Letters and Early Epistolary Writings (919-28).
Born at the beginning of the 1770s, Brown’s life and literary career took shape within the rapidly changing culture of the revolutionary age. As numerous biographers have noted, Brown’s early life and development are shaped on all levels by the conflicts and transformations of the late Enlightenment and American Revolution, just as his mature years and literary career take shape in the context of the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars, all of which had direct and often dramatic implications and consequences for Philadelphia and the early U.S. republic. Brown experienced the conflict of the American Revolution on an intimate level, for example, when his father was arrested and interned as one of a larger group of Philadelphia Quaker men during the winter of 1777-1778, during the American Revolution, because, as a Quaker, he would not swear an oath of allegiance.
Brown was shaped by the cultural and intellectual Enlightenment as early as his education at the Friends Latin School (1781-1786), where he became familiar with classical and modern literatures, developed an early interest in history and belles-lettres, and formed his earliest friendships with classmates John Davidson, Joseph Bringhurst, Jr., Thomas Pym Cope, Timothy Paxson, Zachariah Poulson, Walter Franklin, and others who figure significantly in the correspondence of the early and mid 1790s. This group of young professionals founded a literary society, initially called the Belles Lettres Society during their school years, and subsequently The Society for the Attainment of Useful Knowledge through the early 1790s, which served as an important early locus for Brown’s participation in the period’s republic of letters.
Brown’s family intended for Charles to become an attorney, likely in order to facilitate the family’s mercantile activities in the carrying trade, which involved significant litigation. Quakers in this era did not attend universities, as higher education in the early U.S. and England was then dominated by non-Quaker protestant denominational groups, and Brown consequently followed his years at the Friends Latin School with a law apprenticeship (from 1787 to about 1793) under prominent Philadelphia attorney Alexander Wilcocks. Some of Brown’s former classmates and closest early friends, especially William Wood Wilkins, were also law apprentices, and Brown became well versed in legal culture. By the early 1790s, however, it was clear that Brown’s heart was not in his legal training and that he aspired to a career as a writer. Letters from the early 1790s, especially those to Wilkins, with whom Brown shared lodgings in 1791-1792 and who was achieving considerable success as a young attorney by 1792-1793, reveal Brown’s concerns about rejecting his family’s wishes and abandoning the career path for which his family had hoped. Along with his closest associates of this period, Wilkins and Bringhurst, Brown published poetry and essays in Philadelphia periodicals as early as 1788-1789. The 1791-1793 letters to Bringhurst and Wilkins, as well as the early epistolary fictions included here, provide ample evidence that Brown was increasingly focused on becoming a writer during the years 1790-1793 and, indeed, the letters from these years often serve as a medium for experimentation with fictional narrative, creating personas who embark on journeys that Brown never took (for example, to Edinburgh and Ferney) and engage in experiences that are not Brown’s own. Indeed, the early letters to Bringhurst and Wilkins likewise contain the earliest formulations of Brown's theory of romance-writing as conjectural history. Such narrative experiments constitute a unique feature of Brown’s correspondence.
By 1793-1795, new friendships began to lead Brown toward the New York intellectual and social milieu in which his literary career was launched. Between 1790 and 1793 Brown met and became increasingly close with several new acquaintances and friends from New York, most notably Elihu Hubbard Smith, a young physician originally from Connecticut who in 1790-1791 had studied medicine in Philadelphia with Benjamin Rush, and William Dunlap, a painter, playwright, and theatre manager who traveled to Philadelphia and stayed with Brown as a New York delegate to abolition society conventions. By the mid-1790s Brown had openly abandoned his law apprenticeship and began regular visits with Dunlap and Smith in New York.
As he spent more time with Smith and Dunlap, and in the New York social and intellectual circles in which they participated, the three friends bonded in terms of their common interests in relatively radical strains of Enlightenment intellectual life, from Condorcet and Volney to Godwin, Wollstonecraft and related British writers who played a crucial progressive role in the Anglophone revolution debates of the early 1790s, and in British radical writing throughout the decade. Smith and Dunlap were both active, along with many of Brown’s closest male associates in New York, in the Friendly Club, another society that united an active group of young professionals with intellectual aspirations. With other members of the Friendly Club, for example, Smith founded the Medical Repository, the earliest U.S. medical periodical.
Even within the Friendly Club group, however, Brown, Smith, and Dunlap formed a distinct and especially close trio. All three shared a basic skepticism towards theism and religious institutions, and developed their common interest in the London-based “Woldwinite” (Wollstonecraftian-Godwinian) writers, especially political philosopher and novelist William Godwin, revolutionary feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, playwright Thomas Holcroft, and novelist Robert Bage, as well as poet and scientist Erasmus Darwin and the activities of the Lunar Society in the British midlands. Smith and Dunlap corresponded with Godwin, Holcroft, and Darwin, and the group’s affinities with these British cultural and intellectual networks were heightened by their friendship with British-born actor Thomas Cooper, the former ward of William Godwin, who arrived in the U.S. in the late 1790s and often worked with Dunlap.
It was in this context, after moving to New York in 1796-1797, that Brown’s literary career commenced in earnest. Brown had initiated numerous never-completed narrative experiments throughout the early and mid 1790s, but as of late 1797, while moving back and forth between Philadelphia and New York, where he shared lodgings with Smith and legal scholar William Johnson, he began to produce and bring to publication the novels and other writings for which he is best known today. Encouraged and aided by Smith in particular, Brown published the first sections of his Wollstonecraftian dialogue Alcuin in March and April 1798, and followed this initial book publication with a series of novels that were all begun in 1797 and 1798 before appearing in rapid succession from 1798 through fall 1800. Brown’s first novel Sky-Walk (completed March 1798) was set in pages before being lost in the aftermath of a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia; and Wieland, the first novel to reach publication, appeared in New York in September 1798, only days before Elihu Hubbard Smith died in a New York yellow fever epidemic in late September. The following months saw the publications of his novels Ormond (January 1799), Arthur Mervyn (May 1799), Edgar Huntly (August or September 1799), Arthur Mervyn, Second Part (September or October 1800), and the serialized Stephen Calvert (June 1799-June 1800). As these novels appeared, Brown began work in 1799 as editor of the New York Monthly Magazine and American Review, a periodical founded by a collaborative group of New York Friendly Club associates. In addition to the novels, Brown published essays, reviews, and short fiction as part of this editorial work.
In December 1800, Brown returned to Philadelphia for a visit and remained in the city past the date of his intended return before gradually taking up residence in Philadelphia once again. The circumstances of this apparently unplanned return to his native city are not entirely clear, but the letters suggest that at least one reason Brown stayed in Philadelphia instead of returning to New York was the presence of Elizabeth Linn, a young woman he had met in New York but who was now living in Philadelphia for an extended stay with her brother John Blair Linn, another former associate of Brown’s from New York. Linn was the eldest daughter of the Reverend William Linn, a prominent Presbyterian minister and educator, and her brother John Blair, also a clergyman, had recently arrived in Philadelphia to take up ministerial duties at the city’s First Presbyterian Church. The large group of courtship letters that Brown wrote to Linn between December 1800 and April 1801 form a distinct subgroup within his larger correspondence.
From 1801 to 1804, Brown’s return to Philadelphia took his literary career and life in new directions. While courting Elizabeth Linn in 1801, Brown began working more regularly with the family’s merchant firm and published two epistolary novels: Clara Howard (April 1801) and Jane Talbot (December 1801). In January and March 1803, Brown published two political pamphlets concerning economic restrictions after Spain revoked the United States’ right of deposit in New Orleans. Legal obstructions to trade along the Mississippi River were of immediate concern for the Brown family’s shipping investments. In October 1803, working with Philadelphia printer-publisher Joseph Conrad, Brown founded a new periodical, The Literary Magazine and American Register, which he would edit until 1807. In November of 1804 Brown and Elizabeth Linn were married in Philadelphia by Elizabeth’s father William Linn. Brown, like his older brothers, married a non-Quaker and was subsequently reprimanded or “disowned” by the Philadelphia meeting for marrying outside the Society of Friends.
From 1805 to his death in 1810, Brown began raising a family and pursued his literary career primarily as editor of two major periodicals. While overseeing the final years of the Literary Magazine, likely during 1805-1806, Brown drafted the lengthy and experimental historical fiction that was mostly published in the posthumous Dunlap biographical miscellany (1815) and which has become known as the Historical Sketches. Beginning in 1807, again in collaboration with publisher John Conrad, Brown founded a new periodical, The American Register, and contributed to it a lengthy historical narrative of Atlantic geopolitics in the Napoleonic era, “The Annals of Europe and America.” Brown continued to edit The American Register until he was incapacitated by tuberculosis in late 1809 and died in February 1810. During his later years, Brown’s letters suggest that his social life was primarily organized around close associations with members of the Linn family and with professional and literary associates in Philadelphia and New York. At his death in 1810, Brown left behind, among other papers, the manuscript for at least one volume of a planned two-volume A Complete System of Geography; the text was extravagantly praised by nineteenth-century writers and editors who saw the manuscript, but is now lost.
- James’ name disappears from Philadelphia street directories after 1809, so he likely moved to London sometimes between 1808 and 1809. Although we do not know when James died, we do know that in 1833 he is alive and living in Snaresbrook, then a northern suburb of London, because the painter Charles Robert Leslie records for Dunlap’s biographical sketch that “I saw this gentleman [“Mr. James Brown, the brother of Charles Brockden Brown”] in good health on the 18th of September, 1833.” See William Dunlap, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Design (1918), 3:4. The case Barton v. Baker (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 1815. 1 Serg. & R. 334, 7 Am. Dec. B20) reveals that notes on James Brown & Co. were being drawn in June 1808 after the firm was insolvent.
- As of 2015, Work for the Collected Writings edition, beginning with the Letters, has turned up a total of thirty-five lawsuits involving the Brown brothers mercantile firm. Information about these lawsuits will eventually be included on this project website.
- Modern and contemporary biographical discussions of Brown include Harry R. Warfel, Charles Brockden Brown: American Gothic Novelist (1949); David Lee Clark, Charles Brockden Brown: Pioneer Voice of America (1952); Steven Watts, The Romance of Real Life: Charles Brockden Brown and the Origins of American Culture (1994); and Peter Kafer, Charles Brockden Brown’s Revolution and the Birth of American Gothic (2004).
- Kafer, Charles Brockden Brown’s Revolution (2004), 42.
- Warfel, Charles Brockden Brown (1949), 30-35; Clark, Charles Brockden Brown (42-49).
- See Bryan Waterman, Republic of Intellect (2007).
- Alan Axelrod, Charles Brockden Brown: An American Tale. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983. 126
- The project's "Primary Bibliography" provides complete references for all of Brown’s known publications.
- Brown family interests in New Orleans shipping are attested in thirty New Orleans City and County Court cases in 1805-1807 involving Elijah Brown, Jr., Armitt Brown, and James Brown and Co.
Chronology of the Life of Charles Brockden Brown
This chronology is a work in progress and will be supplemented as additional information becomes available over the course of the project.
1771 January 17 Born 17 January to Elijah (b. 1740) and Mary Armitt Brown 1777 September Elijah Brown, Sr. exiled to Virginia by American (and later British) authorities for refusal to participate in the revolution (Kafer) 1778 April Elijah Brown returns from exile (Kafer) 1781 enters Friends' Latin School, Philadelphia (Kennedy) 1786 earliest extant writing, the poem "On Some of His School Fellows" (Kennedy) 1787 begins law study with Alexander Wilcocks forms "Belles Lettres Club" with eight friends 1788 writes "Henrietta" letters, basis for projected epistolary novel (Brown, 19 May 1792) 1789 Wilcocks named recorder of Philadelphia Spring meets William Wood Wilkins; introduces him to Club August First installment of "The Rhapsodist," Columbian Magazine September Second installment of "The Rhapsodist," Columbian Magazine October Third installment of "The Rhapsodist," Columbian Magazine November Fourth installment of "The Rhapsodist," Columbian Magazine 1790 Elihu Hubbard Smith moves to Philadelphia; Brown meets him sometime before his return to New York in 1791; Brown helps form "Society for the Attainment of Useful Knowledge" December death of John Davidson
1792 gives up law study; begins writing "Julius" (Brown 19 May 1792) October Wilkins moves to Trenton (Clark 24); Brown visits Wilkins in Trenton (Brown, n.d.; Wilkins 25 December 1792) 1793 April 8 Wilkins moves to Woodbury, NJ (Kennedy; Brown 4 May 1793) May 22 Brown arrives Litchfield, CT to visit E.H. Smith; remains three months (Brown 22 May 1793) Summer Yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia December Bringhurst moves to Wilmington, Delaware (Brown 20 December 1793) 1794 April 24 sees performance of Dunlap's Fatal Deception, New York (Brown 28 November 1794) Summer visits Elihu Hubbard Smith in New York (Smith) August 31 back in Philadelphia, has noon meal at home of Henry & Elizabeth Drinker with T.C. Cope and Benjamin Wilson (Drinker) September writes poem "Devotion: An Epistle" to Deborah Ferris (Ferris) Fall teaches at Friends' School in Philadelphia? (Warfel 44-45, Clark 108) 1795
February 15 Wilkins dies of tuberculosis April 5 visits "John Eckstein & Sons exhibit room" with Deborah Ferris, Ruth Paxson, Mary Attmore Summer visits Smith in New York (Bringhurst 15 June 1795) and Dunlap in Perth Amboy, NJ (Ferris 4 September 1795) September 3 returns to Philadelphia (Ferris 4 September 1795; Smith 7 September) September begins writing "Philadelphia Novel" (probably Arthur Mervyn; Brown September 1795) 1796 late July moves to Perth Amboy to visit Dunlap (Smith 24 July 1796) Summer brother Joseph Brown marries and moves to New York (Brown 1 September 1796) August moves to New York through March, 1797 (Smith 31 August 1796) September 10 attends Friendly Club at Dunlap's (Smith) September 24 attends Friendly Club (Smith) October 3 sees Road to Ruin and The Spoiled Child at the theatre (Smith) October 31 sees premiere of Dunlap's The Mysterious Monk and The Midnight Hour (Smith) November 12 attends Friendly Club at Woolsey's (Smith) November 19 attends Friendly Club at Smith's (Smith) November 26 attends Friendly Club at Kent’s (Smith) November 30 sister Elizabeth Brown marries, Stacy Horner of Burlington, New Jersey (Genealogical Records) December 3 attends Friendly Club at Dunlap's (Smith) December 10 attends Friendly Club at Johnson's (Smith) December 17 attends Friendly Club at William Woolsey's (Smith) December 24 attends Friendly Club at George Woolsey's (Smith) December 31 attends Friendly Club at Smith's (Smith) 1797 January 7 attends Friendly Club at Dunlap's (Smith) January 12-16 James Brown visits (Smith) January 14 attends Friendly Club at Smith's (Smith) March 11 attends Friendly Club at Smith's (Smith; Club had not met since January) March 16 leaves for Philadelphia (Smith) April-May Smith visits Brown in Philadelphia (Smith) 1798 February 3 first issue of Weekly Magazine March tells Smith he is "in love" with Susan Potts (Dunlap 29 March) March-April Alcuin published April 11-13 Dunlap visits Brown in Philadelphia; reads Brown's Sky-Walk (Dunlap) June visits brother James in Princeton (Dunlap 3 July 1798) July 3 arrives at New York; remains through September 24 (Dunlap 3 July 1798) July 19 attends constitutory meeting of American Mineralogical Society, Columbia University (Dunlap) July 23 Swords begins printing Wieland (Smith) September finishes writing Carwin (Dunlap 5 September, 14 September) September 19 Smith dies of Yellow Fever September 24 leaves New York for Perth Amboy (Dunlap) September 28 brother James visits Brown in Perth Amboy (Dunlap) October 9-11 walks to Brunswick, NJ October 21 leaves Perth Amboy for Burlington, New Jersey (Dunlap) November 15 arrives in New York (Dunlap) 1799 February Ormond published March 30 last issue of Weekly Magazine April first issue of Monthly Magazine May Arthur Mervyn Part I published June Stephen Calvert begins serialization in Monthly Magazine Summer Edgar Huntly published 1800 February John Davis meets Brown in New York (Davis I.157) March journey to Connecticut with T.P. Cope (Brown 1 April 1801) April first meeting with Elizabeth Linn in New York (Brown 23 March 1801) Summer Arthur Mervyn Part II published August returns to Philadelphia (Cope August 28, Kennedy 1315); partnership with Joseph Brown in family mercantile business (Kennedy) November second meeting with Eliza Linn (Brown 23 March 1801) December last issue of Monthly Magazine
1801 Winter meets with English actor John Bernard to form American version of Covent Garden's "Beefsteak Club" March begins corresponding with Eliza Linn June Clara Howard published June 4 attends fake ventriloquism demonstration by Rennie (Cope 62) June 23 John Davis meets with Brown (Davis II.20) June 29 leaves with Cope for New York; lodged at Brunswick (Cope) June 30 arrives in New York, 1 p.m.; CBB stays with Johnson (Cope) July 4 Dinner with Cope, Johnson, Dunlap "opposite the park" (Cope) July 6 Breakfast with Cope at the Miller's (Cope) July 7 sails for Albany with Cope on the sloop Harriet (Cope) July 10 arrives at Troy, New York (Cope) July 12 arrives at Albany, 2:00 p.m. (Cope) July 13 leaves for Lebanon, NY (Cope) July 14 CBB writes verse on wall of inn; leaves by stage 5 p.m. (Cope) July 15 stops at Northampton, Massachusetts (Cope) July 16 leaves by stage for Hartford, CT (Cope) July 17 visits R. Alsop at Middletown; arrives at New Haven in evening (Cope) July 19 attends sermon on angels by Timothy Dwight at Yale College (Cope) July 21 returns to New York; Cope returns to Philadelphia the next day, Brown stays with Dunlap (Cope) October 2 CBB is back in Philadelphia; tea with Cope, Bleecker, Irvin (Cope) October 3 visits alms house, prison, etc., with Cope, Bleecker, Irvin (Cope) November 30 leaves for New York with Cope (Cope) December 1 arrives at New York, lodges at Little's Hotel (Cope) December Jane Talbot published; Brown tours Hudson River 1802 Spring Grandmother Armitt dies; CBB named executor (Krause) July 3 arrives in New York (Cope) 1803 January 20 Cession of Louisiana published February 19 agrees to write History of Slavery, but never finishes (Cope) March 3 Monroe's Embassy published October first issue of Literary Magazine 1804 publishes translation of Volney's View of the Soil and Climate of the United States with CBB's notes and commentary November 19 marries Elizabeth Linn 1805 "Sketch of the Life and Character of J. B. Linn" published in Linn's poem Valerian July Dunlap paints portrait of Elizabeth Linn Brown (Dunlap) August 10 twin sons born, Charles Jr. and William Linn Brown 1806 Brown Brothers mercantile firm dissolved January 3 Dunlap paints Charles B. Brown's portrait (Dunlap) January 6 Dunlap paints second version of Elizabeth Brown's portrait (Dunlap) March 20 CBB's name proposed to replace Poulson as City Librarian (Cope) March 25 Dunlap stays three weeks with CBB (Dunlap 395) April 12 CBB withdraws his name from candidacy for City Librarian (Cope) June 12 CBB leaves for Albany to visit his in-laws June 16 CBB observes total eclipse July CBB returns home to Philadelphia (Dunlap, July 6) 1807 British Treaty of Commerce and Navigation published January last issue of Literary Magazine July 26 son Eugene Linn Brown born October 29 brother Joseph dies in Holland (Krause) November first issue of American Register 1809 daughter Mary Brown born; publishes prospectus for A System of General Geography January 3 Address to Congress published January 8 Brown's father-in-law William Linn dies Summer convalescent trip to Albany 1810 February last issue of American Register published (Dunlap) February 15 Cope visits the dying CBB in Philadelphia (Cope) February 21 CBB dies in Philadelphia February 24 CBB's funeral in Philadelphia
William Pitt Beers (b. 1765), prominent Albany attorney, William Pitt Beers was a 1785 Yale graduate who became Clerk of Albany County in 1810. Brown admired his 1800 oration on the death of George Washington.
Anthony Bleeker (1770-1827) or "Bleecker," a New York lawyer, was graduated 1791 from Columbia; he was a founder of the New York Historical society, and a would-be poet. Samuel Kettell printed three of Bleecker's poems in Specimens of American Poetry (Boston: 1829), though a great deal of his verse appeared anonymously in New York periodicals, and according to Kendall B. Taft, "was not collected during his lifetime, and most of it now escapes identification" (Minor Knickerbockers, New York: American Book Company, 1947, p. 378.
Joseph Bringhurst, Jr. (1767-1834), an older classmate of Brown's at Robert Proud's Latin School, who studied medicine upon matriculating, later practicing in Wilmington. With Elihu Hubbard Smith he published some of the first American sonnets in The Gazette of the United States in 1791. Brown and Bringhurst both courted Deborah Ferris in 1794-95; Bringhurst married her.
Armit[t] Brown (1768-1832) Brown's younger brother who followed in the footsteps of his older brothers and became a Philadelphia merchant after the dissolution of the Brown Brothers Mercantile firm in 1806.
Elizabeth Linn Brown (1775-1834), daughter of the eminent Presbyterian divine William Linn, "Eliza" married Brown in November of 1804.
James Brown (b. 1762), a partner with his brother Joseph (1764-1807) in the import-export firm (and a grocery store in Edenton, North Carolina), James gave his brother the now-famous literary advice to avoid the "gloom" of his first four novels.
Thomas Pym Cope (1768-1854), Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, owner of the first Philadelphia to Liverpool packet line, and later a director of the Bank of the United States. His Quaker family housed the traitor Maj. John André during the Revolution. A strong anti-slavery Quaker, Cope commissioned Brown to write a history of the manumission society, which Brown never completed.
John Davidson (d. 1790) a schoolmate at Robert Proud's Latin School, it was Davidson who suggested the idea for The Belles Lettres Club which Brown and his circle began in 1787. In 1788 Brown sent the "Henrietta" Letters to Davidson.
William Dunlap (1766-1839), often called the "Father of American Theater," was the first professional playwright in the United States, writer of the first American tragedy, and a celebrated portrait painter (founder of the National Academy of Design). Dunlap painted the last portrait of Brown in 1809, and completed Brown's first biography, begun by Paul Allen.
Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) a Swiss immigrant to America, was President Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury, and would continue in that post through the first year of the Madison administration. Gallatin was one of the founders of the Anti-Federalist (later Republican) Party. Brown met him at the home of Maria Nicholson in 1798, when Gallatin was under attack in Congress during the anti-French fervor of the XYZ Affair. Brown wrote to him years later to promote his political pamphlets.
John Elihu Hall (1783-1829), Philadelphia attorney and editor of the first American legal periodical, The American Law Journal. Before that, however, Hall published verse and personal essays in Dennie's Portfolio under the pseudonym of "Sedley." His fictional "Memoirs of Anacreon" there were particularly popular. Brown published Hall's miscellany columns The Reflector and Adversaria in The Literary Magazine in 1806; Hall's ode appeared under the pseudonym "Sedley" on p. 78 of the 1806 volume (month?); he also wrote under the pseudonym "Valverdi."
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third President of the United States. Brown's only letter to the President (which Jefferson kindly answered) accompanied a complementary copy of Brown's novel Wieland.
William Keese (b. 1780), New Yorker who married Brown's sister-in-law Rebecca Linn in 1803.
John Blair Linn (1777-1804), a Presbyterian minister like his father William Linn, J.B. Linn was educated at Columbia (B.A. 1795, M.A. 1797) and Union College (M.A. 1797). A prolific writer, Linn published five volumes of poetry and three of theological prose, and had a play produced in New York, all in the space of a decade. Brown married Linn's sister Elizabeth.
Mary Linn (1782-?), youngest sister of Brown's wife, Elizabeth Linn.
Rebecca Linn (1780-?), younger sister of Brown's wife, Elizabeth Linn.
Susan Linn (1778-?), younger sister of Brown's wife, Elizabeth Linn.
Dr. William Linn (1752-1808), eminent Presbyterian minister and educator, president of Washington College and Queens College (now Rutgers University), and at one time chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives. Linn performed the marriage ceremony of his daughter Elizabeth to Brown on November 15, 1804.
Rev. Samuel Miller (1769-1850), clergyman, studied at University of Pennsylvania 1788-89, ordained 1793, served three churches in New York City where he became a member of the Friendly Society with Brown.
Maria Nicholson, a member of the social circle of Elihu Hubbard Smith, who mentions her several times in his diary.
John Howard Payne (1791-1852) a prolific playwright and actor; he was already a published writer when Brown met him on a convalescent trip in the summer of 1806, having edited the Thespian Mirror, a review of the New York theater. Although his plays and operas, and even his name, are now forgotten, one of his songs, "Home Sweet Home," from his opera Clari: or The Maid of Milan (1823) has become a permanent part of our culture.
Susan Potts, referred to by Smith in his diary as Charles' "mistress" in 1798, though there seems to be a family objection to Brown's relationship with her. Nothing more is known about her, and there are no references to her after 1798.
Robert Proud (1728-1813), Philadelphia historian and educator, Proud taught Latin and Greek at the Friends' Latin School since his emigration from England in 1759; he was headmaster when Brown attended the school, 1781-1787.
John Brodhead Romeyn (1777-1825), a Columbia-educated (B.A. 1795) clergyman. Despite being ordained in the Dutch Reformed Church (1798), Romeyn assumed leadership of the First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady in 1803, where he came in contact with Brown's father-in-law, William Linn, becoming a close family friend just before Brown married into the family. It was Romeyn who communicated to Brown and his wife the death of Rev. Linn in 1808.
Elihu Hubbard Smith (1771-1798), a child prodigy, Yale's youngest graduate in the 18th century (1786), member of the first American school of poetry (the Connecticut Wits), editor of the first anthology of American poetry, and an influential physician trained by Benjamin Rush. It is in the rooms Smith shared with William Johnson that Brown's writing was nurtured, and Smith helped read proofs for Alcuin.
William Wood Wilkins (1773-1795), a lawyer who studied with Philadelphia attorney Alexander Wilcocks at the same time Brown did. Like Brown, he contributed verse and essays to many periodicals during his law study; unlike Brown, he entered the legal profession and showed much promise until struck down by tuberculosis.