- James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper
Portrait by John Wesley Jarvis
Born September 15, 1789
Burlington, New Jersey
Died September 14, 1851(aged 61)
Cooperstown, New York
Occupation Novelist Genres Historical fiction Literary movement Colonial Realism Notable work(s) The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper (September 15, 1789 – September 14, 1851) was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales, featuring frontiersman Natty Bumppo. Among his most famous works is the Romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans, often regarded as his masterpiece.
James Fenimore Cooper was born in Burlington, New Jersey, the son of William and Elizabeth (Fenimore) Cooper. His father was a United States Congressman. Shortly after his first birthday, his family moved to Cooperstown, New York, a community founded by his father.
At 13, Cooper was enrolled at Yale, but he did not obtain a degree due to being expelled. His expulsion stemmed from a dangerous prank that involved him blowing up another student's door. Another less dangerous prank consisted of training a donkey to sit in a professor's chair. He obtained work as a sailor on a merchant vessel, and at 18, joined the United States Navy. He obtained the rank of midshipman before leaving in 1811.
At age 21, he married Susan DeLancey. They had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood. The writer Paul Fenimore Cooper was a great-grandson.
He anonymously published his first book, Precaution (1820). He soon issued several others. In 1823, he published The Pioneers; this was the first of the Leatherstocking series, featuring Natty Bumppo, the resourceful American woodsman at home with the Delaware Indians and especially their chief Chingachgook. Cooper's most famous novel, Last of the Mohicans (1826), became one of the most widely read American novels of the 19th century. The book was written in New York City, where Cooper and his family lived from 1822 to 1826.
In 1826 Cooper moved his family to Europe, where he sought to gain more income from his books as well as provide better education for his children. While overseas, he continued to write. His books published in Paris include The Red Rover and The Water Witch—two of his many sea stories.
In 1832 he entered the lists as a political writer; in a series of letters to the National, a Parisian journal, he defended the United States against a string of charges brought against them by the Revue Britannique. For the rest of his life, he continued skirmishing in print, sometimes for the national interest, sometimes for that of the individual, and not infrequently for both at once.
This opportunity to make a political confession of faith reflected the political turn he already had taken in his fiction, having attacked European anti-republicanism in The Bravo (1831). Cooper continued this political course in The Heidenmauer (1832) and The Headsman: or the Abbaye of Vigneron (1833). The Bravo depicted Venice as a place where a ruthless oligarchy lurks behind the mask of the "serene republic". All were widely read on both sides of the Atlantic, though The Bravo was a critical failure in the United States.
In 1833 Cooper returned to the United States and immediately published A Letter to My Countrymen, in which he gave his own version of the controversy and sharply censured his compatriots for their share in it. He followed up with novels and several sets of notes on his travels and experiences in Europe. His Homeward Bound and Home as Found are notable for containing a highly idealized self portrait.
In June 1834, Cooper decided to reopen his ancestral mansion, Otsego Hall, at Cooperstown. It had long been closed and falling into decay; he had been absent from the mansion nearly 16 years. Repairs were begun, and the house was speedily put in order. At first, he wintered in New York City and summered in Cooperstown, but eventually he made Otsego Hall his permanent home.
His books related to current politics and Cooper's self promotion increased the ill feeling between author and public. The Whig press was virulent in its comments about him, and Cooper filed legal actions for libel, winning all his lawsuits.
After concluding his last case in court, Cooper returned to writing with more energy and success than he had had for several years. He wrote a history of the US Navy, and returned to the Leatherstocking series with The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841) and other novels. He wrote again on maritime themes, including Ned Myers, or A Life Before the Mast, which is of particular interest to naval historians.
He turned again from pure fiction to the combination of art and controversy in which he had achieved distinction with the Littlepage Manuscripts (1845–1846). His next novel was The Crater, or Vulcan's Peak (1847), in which he attempted to introduce supernatural machinery. Jack Tier (1848) was a remaking of The Red Rover, and The Ways of the Hour was his last completed novel.
Cooper spent the last years of his life back in Cooperstown. He died of dropsy on September 14, 1851, the day before his 62nd birthday. His interment was in Christ Episcopal Churchyard, where his father, William Cooper, was buried. Several well-known writers, politicians, and other public figures honored Cooper's memory with a dinner in February 1852; Washington Irving served as a co-chairman for the event, alongside William Cullen Bryant and Daniel Webster.
Legacy and criticism
Cooper was one of the most popular 19th-century American authors, and his work was admired greatly throughout the world. While on his death bed, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert wanted most to read more of Cooper's novels. Honoré de Balzac, the French novelist and playwright, admired him greatly. Cooper's stories have been translated into nearly all the languages of Europe and into some of those of Asia.
Cooper's work is read carefully by law and literature scholars such as Nan Goodman, who argues that several of Cooper's novels, particularly The Pioneers and The Pilot, demonstrate an early 19th century American preoccupation with prudence and negligence in a country where property rights were often still in dispute. However, despite his close association with the period, he also innovated in several ways. Amongst these, Cooper was the first major American Novelist to include African and African American characters. Though these black characters often fell into stereotypical roles, he still used slaves, free Negroes and mulattoes throughout his books.
Furthermore, Cooper was innovative in his use and portrayal of Native Americans, who play central roles in his Leatherstocking Tales. However, his treatment of this group is a complex and highlights the tenuous relationship between frontier settlers and Indians. Often, he gives contrasting views of Native characters to emphasize their potential for good, or conversely, their potential for mayhem. In Last of the Mohicans, the stereotypical, nineteenth century view of the native is seen in the character of Magua, who is devoid of almost any redeeming qualities. In comparison, Chingachgook, the last chief of the Mohicans, is portrayed as noble, courageous, and heroic.
Though some scholars may dispute Cooper being classified as a Romantic, Victor Hugo pronounced him greater than the great master of modern romance, and this verdict was echoed by a multitude of less famous readers[who?], who were satisfied with no title for their favorite less than that of the "American Scott.” The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder were criticized by Mark Twain in a satirical but vicious essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" (1895), which has often been criticized as unfair and distorted. As scholars Schachterle and Ljungquist write, "Twain's deliberate misreading of Cooper has been devastating....Twain valued economy of style (a possible but not necessary criterion), but such concision simply was not a characteristic of many early nineteenth-century novelists' work. Writing with the expectation that their readers would often read their works aloud, Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Cooper, and Melville favored a full, sometimes rotund, style that Twain and his fellow Realists a generation later spurned."
His reputation today rests upon the five Leatherstocking tales and some of the maritime stories. Literary scholar Leslie Fiedler, however, noted that Cooper's "collected works are monumental in their cumulative dullness."
Cooper was also criticized heavily for his depiction of women characters in his work. James Russell Lowell, Cooper's contemporary and a critic, referred to it poetically in A Fable for Critics, writing, ". . . the women he draws from one model don't vary / All sappy as maples and flat as a prairie."
Three dining halls at the State University of New York at Oswego are named in Cooper's remembrance (Cooper Hall, The Pathfinder, and Littlepage) because of his temporary residence in Oswego and for setting some of his works there. The gilded and red tole chandelier hanging in the library of the White House in Washington DC is from the home of James Fenimore Cooper. It was brought there through the efforts of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in her great White House restoration.
Date Title: Subtitle Genre Topic, Location, Period 1820 Precaution  novel England, 1813–1814 1821 The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground  novel Westchester County, New York, 1778 1823 The Pioneers: or The Sources of the Susquehanna  novel Leatherstocking, Otsego County, New York, 1793–1794, 1823 Tales for Fifteen: or Imagination and Heart  2 short stories written under the pseudonym: Jane Morgan 1824 The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea  novel John Paul Jones, England, 1780 1825 Lionel Lincoln: or The Leaguer of Boston novel Battle of Bunker Hill, Boston, 1775–1781 1826 The Last of the Mohicans: A narrative of 1757  novel Leatherstocking, French and Indian War, Lake George & Adirondacks, 1757 1827 The Prairie  novel Leatherstocking, American Midwest, 1805 1828 The Red Rover: A Tale  novel Newport, Rhode Island & Atlantic Ocean, pirates, 1759 1828 Notions of the Americans: Picked up by a Travelling Bachelor non-fiction America for European readers 1829 The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish: A Tale  novel Western Connecticut, Puritans and Indians, 1660–1676 1830 The Water-Witch: or the Skimmer of the Seas  novel New York, smugglers, 1713 1830 Letter to General Lafayette politics France vs. US, cost of government 1831 The Bravo: A Tale  novel Venice, 18th century 1832 The Heidenmauer: or, The Benedictines, A Legend of the Rhine novel German Rhineland, 16th century 1832 No Steamboats short story 1833 The Headsman: The Abbaye des Vignerons  novel Geneva, Switzerland, & Alps, 18th century 1834 A Letter to His Countrymen politics Why Cooper temporarily stopped writing 1835 The Monikins  novel Antarctica, aristocratic monkeys, 1830s; a satire on British and American politics. 1836 The Eclipse  memoir Solar eclipse in Cooperstown, New York 1806 1836 An Execution at Sea  short story execution of a murderer on a ship 1836 Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland (Sketches of Switzerland) travel Hiking in Switzerland, 1828 1836 Gleanings in Europe: The Rhine (Sketches of Switzerland, Part Second) travel Travels France, Rhineland & Switzerland, 1832 1836 A Residence in France: With an Excursion Up the Rhine, and a Second Visit to Switzerland  travel 1837 Gleanings in Europe: France travel Living, travelling in France, 1826–1828 1837 Gleanings in Europe: England travel Travels in England, 1826, 1828, 1833 1838 Gleanings in Europe: Italy travel Living, travelling in Italy, 1828–1830 1838 The American Democrat : or Hints on the Social and Civic Relations of the United States of America non-fiction US society and government 1838 The Chronicles of Cooperstown history Local history of Cooperstown, New York 1838 Homeward Bound: or The Chase: A Tale of the Sea  novel Atlantic Ocean & North African coast, 1835 1838 Home as Found: Sequel to Homeward Bound  novel Eve Effingham, New York City & Otsego County, New York, 1835 1839 The History of the Navy of the United States of America history US Naval history to date 1839 Old Ironsides  history History of the Frigate USS Constitution, 1st pub. 1853 1840 The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea  novel Leatherstocking, Western New York, 1759 1840 Mercedes of Castile: or, The Voyage to Cathay novel Christopher Columbus in West Indies, 1490s 1841 The Deerslayer: or The First Warpath novel Leatherstocking, Otsego Lake 1740-1745 1842 The Two Admirals novel England & English Channel, Scottish uprising, 1745 1842 The Wing-and-Wing: le Le Feu-Follet  (Jack o Lantern) novel Italian coast, Neopolitan Wars, 1745 1843 Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief , also published as
- Le Mouchoir: An Autobiographical Romance
- The French Governess: or The Embroidered Handkerchief
- Die franzosischer Erzieheren: oder das gestickte Taschentuch
novelette Social satire, France & New York, 1830s 1843 Richard Dale 1843 Wyandotte: or The Hutted Knoll. A Tale   novel Butternut Valley of Otsego County, New York, 1763–1776 1843 Ned Myers: or Life before the Mast  biography of Cooper's shipmate who survived an 1813 sinking of a US sloop of war in a storm 1844 Afloat and Ashore: or The Adventures of Miles Wallingford. A Sea Tale  novel Ulster County & worldwide, 1795–1805 1844 Miles Wallingford: Sequel to Afloat and Ashore 
British title: Lucy Hardinge: A Second Series of Afloat and Ashore (1844)
novel Ulster County & worldwide, 1795–1805 1844 Proceedings of the Naval Court-Martial in the Case of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, &c. 1845 Satanstoe: or The Littlepage Manuscripts, a Tale of the Colony  novel New York City, Westchester County, Albany, Adirondacks, 1758 1845 The Chainbearer; or, The Littlepage Manuscripts novel Westchester County, Adirondacks, 1780s (next generation) 1846 The Redskins; or, Indian and Injin: Being the Conclusion of the Littlepage Manuscripts novel Anti-rent wars, Adirondacks, 1845 1846 Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers biography 1847 The Crater; or, Vulcan's Peak: A Tale of the Pacific  (Mark's Reef) novel Philadelphia, Bristol (PA), & deserted Pacific island, early 19th century 1848 Jack Tier: or the Florida Reefs 
a.k.a. Captain Spike: or The Islets of the Gulf
novel Florida Keys, Mexican War, 1846 1848 The Oak Openings: or the Bee-Hunter  novel Kalamazoo River, Michigan, War of 1812 1849 The Sea Lions: The Lost Sealers  novel Long Island & Antarctica, 1819–1820 1850 The Ways of the Hour novel "Dukes County, New York", murder/courtroom mystery novel, legal corruption, women's rights, 1846 1850 Upside Down: or Philosophy in Petticoats play satirization of socialism 1851 The Lake Gun  short story Seneca Lake in New York, political satire based on folklore 1851 New York: or The Towns of Manhattan  history Unfinished, history of New York City, 1st pub. 1864
- ^ http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug02/COOPER/cooperbiography.html
- ^ http://www.readprint.com/author-24/James-Fenimore-Cooper-books#biography
- ^ James Fenimore Cooper, The Bravo, Oneonta University
- ^ Charles Ledyard Norton (1900). "Cooper, James Fenimore". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.
- ^ Jones, Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2008: 391. ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4.
- ^ Letter from Schubert to Franz von Schober, November 12, 1828
- ^ Nan Goodman, Shifting the Blame: Literature, Law, and the Theory of Accidents in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton UP 1998
- ^ O'Daniel, Therman B. (2nd Qtr., 1947). "Cooper's Treatment of the Negro". Phylon (1940-1956) (Clark Atlanta University) 8 (2): 164–176. JSTOR 271724.
- ^ http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/projects/rissetto/offense.html "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences"
- ^ Lance Schachterle and Kent Ljungquist, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Defenses: Twain and the Text of The Deerslayer" in Joel Myerson, ed., Studies in the American Renaissance, 1988 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988) (pp. 401-417)
- ^ Schachterle and Ljungquist, p. 410)
- ^ Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. Dalkey Archive Press, 2008 (reprint): 180. ISBN 978-1-56478-163-5
- ^ Porte, Joel. The Romance in America: Studies in Cooper, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and James. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969: 20.
- ^ http://www.oswego.edu/library/resources/buildings.html
- Works by or about James Fenimore Cooper at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
- Works by James Fenimore Cooper at Project Gutenberg (multiple formats)
- Works by or about James Fenimore Cooper in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- James Fenimore Cooper at Open Library
- James Fenimore Cooper Society Homepage
- James Fenimore Cooper at the Internet Movie Database
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Cooper, James Fenimore". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- The Cambridge History of American Literature, Book II, Chapter VI, Fiction I: Brown, Cooper
- "James Fenimore Cooper". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=228. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- James Fenimore Cooper Society Website
- Essay on Fenimore Cooper: Works in biographical/historical context
- Thomas R. Lounsbury: James Fenimore Cooper. 6th Edition. Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886 (American Men of Letters). PDF from the Arno Schmidt Reference Library
Works of James Fenimore Cooper Leatherstocking Tales novels Other novelsAfloat and Ashore • Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief • The Bravo • The Chainbearer • The Crater • The Headsman: The Abbaye des Vignerons • The Heidenmauer • Home as Found: Sequel to Homeward Bound • Jack Tier, or the Florida Reef • Lionel Lincoln • Mercedes of Castile • Miles Wallingford • The Monikins • The Oak Openings • The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea• Precaution • The Red Rover • The Redskins • Satanstoe • The Sea Lions • The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground • The Two Admirals • The Water-Witch • The Ways of the Hour • The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish • The Wing-and-Wing • Wyandotte Short stories and PlaysTales for Fifteen • No Steamboats • Upside Down • The Lake Gun Non-fictionThe Chronicles of Cooperstown • The Eclipse • The History of the Navy of the United States of America • Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers • Ned Myers • New York: or The Towns of Manhattan • Notions of the Americans • Old Ironsides • Proceedings of the Naval Court-Martial in the Case of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, &c. Political writingsLetter to General Lafayette • A Letter to His Countrymen • The American Democrat Travel writingsGleanings in Europe: Switzerland • Gleanings in Europe: The Rhine • A Residence in France • Gleanings in Europe: France • Gleanings in Europe: England • Gleanings in Europe: Italy Maritime writersShane Acton · David Baboulene · Maurice and Maralyn Bailey · Howard Chapelle · Charles Frederic Chapman · Owen Chase · Francis Chichester · Joseph Conrad · James Fenimore Cooper · Edward Ellsberg · C. S. Forester · Robin Lee Graham · Max Hardberger · Annie Hill · Eric Hiscock · Geoff Holt · Stan Hugill · Irving and Electa Johnson · Robin Knox-Johnston · David Henry Lewis · John D. MacDonald · Weston Martyr · Ferenc Máté · Herman Melville · Bernard Moitessier · Samuel Eliot Morison · Eric Newby · Thomas Nickerson · Patrick O'Brian · Lin and Larry Pardey · Valentin Pikul · Dudley Pope · Peter Pye · Arthur Ransome · Hal Roth · John Rousmaniere · Joshua Slocum · Konstantin Staniukovich · Serge Testa · Alan Villiers · John Voss · Frederick William Wallace · more...
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