First American Novel

First American Novel

The First American Novel

by Terry Breverton

Paperback, 215x148 mm, 363 pages, ISBN 9781903529201

Price £5.99

Part 1: 'The Journal of Penrose, Seaman', the first American novel, written by William Williams and based on his experience of living with Indians when marooned on the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua. First published in 1815; this publication is edited by Terry Breverton.

Part 2: 'The Author, The Book and The Letters', compiled by Terry Breverton.

"I would imagine that the revelation that the first American novel was written by a man of Welsh descent will surprise many readers, as it did me.

The background to this novel, including information concerning the author, William Williams, has demanded exacting research not only by Terry Breverton for this enterprise but also by other literary historians. This is an edited version of The Journal of Penrose Seaman. The text of the novel runs to over two hundred pages while the very detailed and extensive annotations run to over a hundred pages. In its day, the novel was praised by Byron and Southey.

Williams's work is, to all intents and purposes, a fusion of fact and fiction, a genre usually referred to nowadays as faction, and focuses on a first person narrative of a young man's experiences as a castaway on the South American coast. It remains a compulsive read.

As far as we know, William Williams was almost certainly born in Bristol in 1727. But his family was of Welsh extraction. He was a cultivated man who developed a love of art and an antipathy to slavery. The literary academic Dr Moira Dearnley has described Williams' novel as "a work of considerable literary quality". It is good that it has been made available to a modern readership in this finely produced paperback."

Dewi Roberts

A review from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Glyndŵr Publishing (Wales Books)