General World News

What was the ‘first American novel’? On this Independence Day, a look at what it started

NEW YORK — In the winter of 1789, around the time George Washington was elected the country’s first president, a Boston-based printer quietly launched another American institution.

William Hill Brown’s The Power of Sympathy, published anonymously by Isaiah Thomas & Company, is widely cited as something momentous: the first American novel.

Around 100 pages long, Brown’s narrative tells of two young New Englanders whose love affair abruptly and tragically ends when they learn a shocking secret that makes their relationship unbearable. The dedication page, addressed to the “Young Ladies of United Columbia” (the United States), promised an exposé of “the Fatal consequences of details ⇒

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