Today is the anniversary of the publication in 1789 of William Hill Brown’s first novel, which he saddled with the ungainly title The Power of Sympathy: Or the Triumph of Nature. Founded in Truth. This book, which I’ve not read, was the first novel published in America written by an author born in America. Today’s installment of The Writer’s Almanac describes the plot thusly:
The Power of Sympathy is a cautionary tale whose plot and subplots feature several young couples. Harriot and Harrington are lovers who discover that they are half-siblings and their relationship is incestuous, and Harriot is so upset that she becomes ill and dies, and then Harrington kills himself. There is Ophelia, who is seduced by her sister’s husband, Martin, becomes pregnant, and kills herself. Fidelia is “carried off by a ruffian” a few days before her wedding, and her fiancé kills himself because of the shame. And finally, there is a young woman who gives birth to an illegitimate child with an unknown father, and then dies.