This essay discusses Charles Brockden Brown's historical short stories. Although better known for his novels, Brown uses short pieces of fiction to create an early form of a metafictional impressionism. In doing so, Brown seeks to keep the associative freshness of his fiction by implication, using text that is not there. Critics have argued that Brown's narrators may end up in paranoid interpretations. The essay argues, however, that Brown's early short stories reveal stylistic and formal features that he developed in greater detail in historical tales like “Death of Cicero, A Fragment” (1800) and “Thessalonica: A Roman Story” (1799). Brown's Roman stories are complex textual games that are based upon a high degree of intertextuality and metafictional narrative devices. Brown's “unaccountable pleasure in dissecting” is therefore neither a narcissistic endeavor nor an intellectual fancy but a programmatic dimension of Brown's early short stories.

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