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Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Learn to edit Community portal Recent changes Upload file. Congressman, easily secured a commission for him through his long-standing connections with politicians and naval officials. On February 24, he received orders to report to the naval commander at New York City. Cooper's first naval assignment came on March 21, aboard the USS Vesuvius , an foot bomb ketch that carried twelve guns and a thirteen-inch mortar. The vessel was intended for use in a war with Great Britain which had yet to begin. It was in this service that Cooper learned shipbuilding, shipyard duties and frontier life.
During his leisure time, Cooper would venture through the forests of New York state and explore the shores of Lake Ontario. He occasionally ventured into the Thousand Islands. His experiences in the Oswego area later inspired some of his work, including his novel The Pathfinder. After completion of the Oneida in , Cooper accompanied Woolsey to Niagara Falls , who then was ordered to Lake Champlain to serve aboard a gunboat until the winter months when the lake froze over.
Cooper himself returned from Oswego to Cooperstown and then New York. Aboard this ship, Cooper met his lifelong friend William Branford Shubrick , who was also a midshipman at the time. In , when reading a contemporary novel to his wife Susan, he decided to try his hand at fiction, resulting in a neophyte novel set in England he called Precaution Its focus on morals and manners was influenced by Jane Austen 's approach to fiction. He anonymously published Precaution which received modestly favorable notice in the United States and England.
It became the first novel written by an American to become a bestseller at home and abroad, requiring several re-printings to satisfy demand. Set in the "Neutral Ground" between British and American forces and their guerrilla allies in Westchester County, New York, the action centers around spying and skirmishing taking place in and around what is widely believed to be John Jay's family home "The Locusts" in Rye, New York of which a portion still exists today as the historic Jay Estate.
Following on a swell of popularity, Cooper published The Pioneers , the first of the Leatherstocking series in The series features the inter-racial friendship of Natty Bumppo , a resourceful American woodsman who is at home with the Delaware Indians and their chief Chingachgook. Bumppo was also the main character of Cooper's most famous novel The Last of the Mohicans , written in New York City where Cooper and his family lived from to The book became one of the more widely read American novels of the 19th century. In , he became a member of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. In August of that same year, his first son died. Cooper witnessed his arrival and was one of the active committee of welcome and entertainment.
In , Cooper moved his family to Europe,  where he sought to gain more income from his books, provide better education for his children, improve his health, and observe European manners and politics firsthand. While overseas, he continued to write. During his time in Paris, the Cooper family became active in the small American expatriate community. Cooper's distaste for the corruption of the European aristocracy, especially in England and France, grew as he observed them manipulate the legislature and judiciary to the exclusion of other classes. He defended the United States against a string of charges brought 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 frequently for both at once. This opportunity to make a political confession of faith reflected the political turn that he already had taken in his fiction, having attacked European anti-republicanism in The Bravo 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 some Americans objected that Cooper had apparently abandoned American life for European—not realizing that the political subterfuges in the European novels were cautions directed at his American audiences.
Thus The Bravo was roughly treated by some critics in the United States. In , Cooper returned to the United States and published A Letter to My Countrymen in which he gave his criticism of various social and political mores. Promotional material from a modern publisher summarize his goals as follows:. In it, he defines the role of the "man of letters" in a republic, the true conservative, the slavery of party affiliations, and the nature of the legislative branch of government.
He also offers her most persuasive argument on why America should develop its own art and literary culture, ignoring the aristocratically tainted art of Europe. Influenced by the ideals of classical republicanism , Cooper feared that the orgy of speculation he witnessed was destructive of civic virtue and warned Americans that it was a "mistake to suppose commerce favorable to liberty"; doing so would lead to a new "moneyed aristocracy. In the later s—despite his repudiation of authorship in A Letter To My Countrymen —he published Gleanings in Europe , five volumes of social and political analysis of his observations and experiences in Europe.
His two novels Homeward Bound and Home as Found also criticize the flamboyant financial speculation and toadyism he found on his return; some readers and critics attacked the works for presenting a highly idealized self-portrait, which he vigorously denied. 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 put in order. At first, he wintered in New York City and summered in Cooperstown, but eventually he made Otsego Hall his permanent home. He publicly announced his intentions to author such a historical work while abroad before departing for Europe in May , during a parting speech at a dinner given in his honor:. Encouraged by your kindness, I will take this opportunity of recording the deeds and sufferings of a class of men to which this nation owes a debt of gratitude—a class of men among whom, I am always ready to declare, not only the earliest, but many of the happiest days of my youth have been passed.
His historical account of the U. Navy was well received, though his account of the roles played by the American leaders in the Battle of Lake Erie led to years of disputes with their descendants, as noted below. Cooper had begun thinking about this massive project in , and concentrated on its research in the late s. His close association with the U. Navy and various officers, and his familiarity with naval life at sea provided him the background and connections to research and write this work.
Cooper's work is said to have stood the test of time and is considered an authoritative account of the U. Navy during that time. It was a review of the court martial of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie who had hanged three crew members of the brig USS Somers for mutiny while at sea. One of the hanged men, year-old Philip Spencer, was the son of U. Secretary of War John C. He was executed without court-martial along with two other sailors aboard the Somers for allegedly attempting mutiny. Prior to this affair, Cooper and Mackenzie had disputed each other's version of the Battle of Lake Erie.
However, recognizing the need for absolute discipline in a warship at sea, Cooper still felt sympathetic to Mackenzie over his pending court martial. In , an old shipmate, Ned Myers, re-entered Cooper's life. To assist him—and hopefully to cash in on the popularity of maritime biographies—Cooper wrote Myers's story which he published in as Ned Myers, or a Life before the Mast , an account of a common seaman still of interest to naval historians. Shubrick , and Edward Preble. It was the history of the Navy ship USS Constitution and, after European and American Scenery Compared , , was one of several posthumous publication of his writings.
The work was an account of the U. Navy in the early 19th century, through the Mexican War. However, it was criticized for accuracy on some points by some contemporaries, especially those engaged in the disputes over the roles of their relatives in Cooper's separate history of the Battle of Lake Erie. Whig editors of the period regularly attacked anything Cooper wrote, leading him to numerous suits for libel, for example against Park Benjamin, Sr.
Cooper's writings of the s related to current politics and social issues, coupled with his perceived self-promotion, increased the ill feeling between the author and some of the public. Criticism in print of his naval histories and the two Home novels came largely from newspapers supporting The Whig party, reflecting the antagonism between the Whigs and their opposition, the Democrats, whose policies Cooper often favored. Cooper's father William had been a staunch Federalist, a party now defunct but some of whose policies supporting large-scale capitalism the Whigs endorsed.
Cooper himself had come to admire Thomas Jefferson, the bete-noire of the Federalists, and had supported Andrew Jackson's opposition to a National Bank. Never one to shrink from defending his personal honor and his sense of where the nation was erring, Cooper filed legal actions for libel against several Whig editors; his success with most of his lawsuits ironically led to more negative publicity from the Whig establishment. Buoyed by his frequent victories in court, Cooper returned to writing with more energy and success than he had had for several years. As noted above, on May 10, , he published his History of the U. But on occasion he returned to addressing public issues, most notably with a trilogy of novels called the Littlepage Manuscripts addressing the issues of the anti-rent wars.
Public sentiment largely favored the anti-renters, and Cooper's reviews again were largely negative. Faced with competition from younger writers and magazine serialization, and lower prices for books resulting from new technologies, Cooper simply wrote more in his last decade than in either of the previous two. Half of his thirty-two novels were written in the s. They may be grouped into three categories: Indian romances, maritime fiction, and political and social controversy—though the categories often overlap. The s began with the last two novels featuring Natty Bumppo, both critical and reader successes: The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer Wyandotte , his last novel set in the Revolutionary War, followed in and Oak Openings in He also turned from pure fiction to the combination of art and controversy in which he achieved notoriety in the novels of the previous decade.
His Littlepage Manuscripts trilogy-- Satanstoe , The Chainbearer , and The Redskins --dramatized issues of land ownership in response to renters in the s opposing the long leases common in the old Dutch settlements in the Hudson Valley. He tried his hand with serialization with The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief , first published in Graham's Magazine in , a satire on contemporary nouveau riche. In The Crater, or Vulcan's Peak he introduced supernatural machinery to show the decline of an ideal society in the South Seas when demagogues prevail. The Ways of the Hour , his last completed novel, portrayed a mysterious and independent young woman defending herself against criminal charges.
Cooper spent the last years of his life back in Cooperstown. He died on September 14, , the day before his 62nd birthday. Cooper's wife Susan survived her husband only by a few months and was buried by his side at Cooperstown. Several well-known writers, politicians, and other public figures honored Cooper's memory with a memorial in New York, six months after his death, in February Daniel Webster gave a speech to the gathering while Washington Irving served as a co-chairman, along with William Cullen Bryant , who also gave an address which did much to restore Cooper's damaged reputation among American writers of the time. Cooper's father was a lapsed Quaker; probably influenced by his wife's family, the DeLanceys, Cooper in his fiction often favorably depicted clergy of the Episcopal Church , though Calvinist ministers came in for their share of both admiring and critical treatment.
In the s as Cooper increasingly despaired over the United States maintaining the vision and promise of the Constitution, his fiction increasingly turned to religious themes. In The Wing-And-Wing , , the hero, a French revolutionary free-thinker, loses the Italian girl he loves because he cannot accept her simple Christianity. In contrast, in the The Sea Lions the hero wins his beloved only after a spiritual transformation while marooned in the Antarctic. And the The Oak Openings features a pious Parson Amen who wins the admiration of the Indians who kill him, praying for them during torture.
After establishing permanent residence in Cooperstown, Cooper became active in Christ Episcopal Church, taking on the roles of warden and vestryman. As the vestryman, he donated generously to this church and later supervised and redesigned its interior with oak furnishings at his own expense. He was also energetic as a representative from Cooperstown to various regional conventions of the Episcopal church.
But only several months before his death, in July , was he confirmed in this church by his brother-in-law, the Reverend William H. Cooper was one of the more popular 19th-century American authors, and his work was admired greatly throughout the world. Lawrence believed that Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Maupassant, and Flaubert were all "so very obvious and coarse, besides the lovely, mature and sensitive art of Fennimore Cooper.
Cooper's work, particularly The Pioneers and The Pilot , demonstrate an early 19th-century American preoccupation with alternating prudence and negligence in a country where property rights were often still in dispute. Cooper was one of the early major American novelists to include African, African-American and Native American characters in his works. In particular, Native Americans play central roles in his Leatherstocking Tales.
However, his treatment of this group is complex and highlights the relationship between frontier settlers and American Indians as exemplified in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish , depicting a captured white girl who marries an Indian chief and has a baby with him, but after several years is eventually returned to her parents. Last of the Mohicans includes both the character of Magua, who fearing the extinction of his race at the hands of the whites savagely betrays them, as well as Chingachgook, the last chief of the Mohicans, who is portrayed as Natty Bumppo's noble, courageous, and heroic counterpart. According to Tad Szulc , Cooper was a devotee of Poland's causes uprisings to regain Polish sovereignty.
He organized a club in Paris to support the rebels, and brought flags of the defeated Polish rebel regiment from Warsaw to present them to the exiled leaders in Paris. With his friend the Marquis de La Fayette, he supported liberals during the regime changes in France and elsewhere in the s. Though some scholars have hesitated to classify Cooper as a strict Romantic, Victor Hugo pronounced him greatest novelist of the century outside France. Cooper was also criticized heavily in his day 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, " Cooper's lasting reputation today rests largely upon the five Leatherstocking Tales.
In his study focusing on romantic relationships, both hetero- and homo-sexual, literary scholar Leslie Fiedler opines that with the exception of the five Natty Bumppo-Chingachgook novels, Cooper's "collected works are monumental in their cumulative dullness. Cooper was honored on a U. 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.
Cooper Park in Michigan 's Comstock Township is named after him. Cooper's novels were very popular in the rest of the world, including, for instance, Russia. In particular, great interest of the Russian public in Cooper's work was primarily incited by the novel The Pathfinder , which the renowned Russian literary critic Vissarion Belinsky declared to be "a Shakespearean drama in the form of a novel". This name became a symbol of exciting adventures among Russian readers.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American writer — For other people named James Cooper, see James Cooper disambiguation. Photograph by Mathew Brady , It is largely what led to the War of Knowledge of Cooper's life comes primarily from what he divulged in his published works, notes, and letters of that period. Retrieved November 21, Harper and Brothers. Archived from the original on April 2, Retrieved March 22, In: Martin J. Manning ed. Wyatt ed. Volume I. University of California Press. ISBN University of Chicago Press. The New York Times. September 18, Retrieved July 7, James Fenimore Cooper Society. Retrieved July 22, Retrieved October 17, Washington Irving: An American Original.
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