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Wieland, or the Transformation
Charles Brockden Brown
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"Theodore Wieland, the prisoner at the bar, was now called upon for his defence. He
looked around him for some time in silence, and with a mild countenance. At length he
"It is strange; I am known to my judges and my auditors. Who is there present a stranger
to the character of Wieland? who knows him not as an husband--as a father--as a friend?
yet here am I arraigned as criminal. I am charged with diabolical malice; I am accused of
the murder of my wife and my children!
"It is true, they were slain by me; they all perished by my hand. The task of vindication is
ignoble. What is it that I am called to vindicate? and before whom?
"You know that they are dead, and that they were killed by me. What more would you
have? Would you extort from me a statement of my motives? Have you failed to discover
them already? You charge me with malice; but your eyes are not shut; your reason is still
vigorous; your memory has not forsaken you. You know whom it is that you thus charge.
The habits of his life are known to you; his treatment of his wife and his offspring is
known to you; the soundness of his integrity, and the unchangeableness of his principles,
are familiar to your apprehension; yet you persist in this charge! You lead me hither
manacled as a felon; you deem me worthy of a vile and tormenting death!
"Who are they whom I have devoted to death? My wife--the little ones, that drew their
being from me--that creature who, as she surpassed them in excellence, claimed a larger
affection than those whom natural affinities bound to my heart. Think ye that malice
could have urged me to this deed? Hide your audacious fronts from the scrutiny of
heaven. Take refuge in some cavern unvisited by human eyes. Ye may deplore your
wickedness or folly, but ye cannot expiate it.
"Think not that I speak for your sakes. Hug to your hearts this detestable infatuation.
Deem me still a murderer, and drag me to untimely death. I make not an effort to dispel
your illusion: I utter not a word to cure you of your sanguinary folly: but there are
probably some in this assembly who have come from far: for their sakes, whose distance
has disabled them from knowing me, I will tell what I have done, and why.
"It is needless to say that God is the object of my supreme passion. I have cherished, in
his presence, a single and upright heart. I have thirsted for the knowledge of his will. I
have burnt with ardour to approve my faith and my obedience.
"My days have been spent in searching for the revelation of that will; but my days have
been mournful, because my search failed. I solicited direction: I turned on every side
where glimmerings of light could be discovered. I have not been wholly uninformed; but