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Lord John Russell has been what Sir R. pion of human freedom, the advocate of Peel has never been, an author, both as a popular rights, in years when such queshistorian and a poet. But it will not be in tions were unpopular, and above all as havthis capacity that he will go down to pos- | ing been the man who was trusted to proterity: it will be as having been the cham-pose the Reform Bill.
William Cooper, the emigrant ancestor of Rev. Thomas Ellison, rector of St. of James Fenimore Cooper, arrived in Peter's, in Albany, who had fitted for the America in 1679, and settled at Burling- university three of his elder brothers, and ton, in New Jersey. He immediately took on the death of that accomplished teacher an active part in public affairs, for his was sent to New Haven, where he completed name appears in the list of members of the his preparatory studies. He entered Yale colonial legislature for 1681. In 1687, or College at the beginning of the second term subsequent to the establishment of Penn at for 1802. Here he maintained a respectaPhiladelphia, he obtained a grant of land ble position, and in the ancient languages opposite the new city, extending several particularly had no superior in his class. miles along the margin of the Delaware and In 1805, he quitted the college, and, the tributary stream, which has since borne obtaining a midshipman's warrant, entered the name of Cooper's Creek. The branch the American navy. His frank, generous, of the family to which the novelist belongs and daring nature made him a favorite, and removed more than a century since into admirably fitted him for the service, in Pennsylvania, in which Staté his father which he would unquestionably have obwas born. He married early, and while a tained the highest honors, had he not finally young man established himself at a hamlet made choice of the ease and quiet of the in Burlington county, New Jersey, which life of a private gentleman. After six years continues to be known by his name, and afloat, six years not unprofitably passed, afterwards in the city of Burlington. Hav- since they gave him that knowledge of mariing become possessed of extensive tracts of time affairs which enabled him subsequently, land on the border of Otsego Lake, in cen- almost without an effort, to place himself at tral New York, he began the settlement of the head of all writers who in any period his estate there in the autumn of 1783, and have attempted the description of the sea, in the following spring erected the first he resigned his office, and on the first day of house in Cooperstown. From this time January, 1811, was married to Miss De until 1790, Judge Cooper resided altern- Lancey, a sister of the present Bishop of ately at Cooperstown and Burlington, keep- the diocese of Western New York, and a ing up an establishment at both places. descendant of one of the oldest and most
James FENIMORE Cooper was born at influential families in America. Before Burlington on the 15th of September, removing to Cooperstown, he resided a short 1789, and in the succeeding year was carried time in Westchester, near New York, and to the new home of his family, of which he here he commenced his career as an author. is now proprietor. Judge Cooper being a His first book was “ Precaution.” This member of the Congress, which then held work was undertaken under circumstances its sessions in Philadelphia, his family re- purely accidental, and published under mained much of the time at Burlington, great disadvantages. Its success was modewhere our author, when but six years of age, rate. It is a ludicrous evidence of the commenced, under a private tutor of some value of critical opinion in America, that eminence, his classical education. In “Precaution" was thought to discover so 1800, he became an inmate of the family much knowledge of English society as to raise
a question whether its alleged author could would, and the discussion ended by his have written it. More reputation for this promising to write a sea story which could sort of knowledge accrued to Mr. Cooper be read by landsmen, while seamen should from “ Precaution,” than from his subse- feel its truth. “The Pilot” was the fruit quent real work on England. It was pub- of that conversation. It is one of the most lished in London, and passed for an Eng-remarkable novels of the time, and everylish novel. The “Spy” followed. No where obtained instant and high applause. one will dispute the success of this “ Tale “Lionel Lincoln” followed. This was a of the Neutral Ground.” It was almost second attempt to embody history in an immediately published also in all parts of American work of fiction. It failed, and Europe. The novelty of an American book perhaps justly; yet it contained one of the of this character probably contributed to nicest delineations of character in Mr. give it circulation. It is worthy of remark Cooper's works. I know of no instance in that all the leading periodicals of the United which the distinction between a maniac States looked coldly upon it, though the and an idiot is so admirably drawn. The country did not. It was decidedly the best setting was bad, however, and the picture historical romance then written by an Ame- was not examined. In 1826, came “ The rican ; not without faults, indeed, but with Last of the Mohicans." This book suca fair plot, clearly and strongly drawn cha- ceeded from the first, and all over Chrisracters, and exhibiting great boldness and tendom. It has strong and weak parts, originality of conception. Its success was but it was purely original, and originality perhaps decisive of Mr. Cooper's career, always occupies the ground. In this respect and it gave an extraordinary impulse to it is like “ The Pilot." After the publiliterature in the United States, more than cation of “ The Last of the Mohicans," anything that had before occurred; it Mr. Cooper went to Europe, where his roused the people from their feelings of reputation was already established as one intellectual dependence. In 1823, appear of the greatest writers of romantic fiction ed “ The Pioneers.” This book, it seems which our age, more prolific in men of to me, has always had a reputation partly genius than any other, had produced. The factitious. It is the poorest of the “ Lea- first of his works after he left the United ther Stocking” tales, nor was its success States was “ The Prairie.” Its success was either marked or spontaneous. Still it was decided and immediate. By the French very well received, though it was thought to and English critics it was deemed the best be a proof that the author was written out. of his stories of Indian life. It has one With this book commences the absurdity of leading fault, however, that of introducing saying Mr. Cooper introduced family traits any character superior to the family of the and family history into his novels. "The squatter. Of this fault Mr. Cooper was Pilot” succeeded. The success of “The himself aware, before he finished the work; Pilot” was at first a little doubtful in Ame- but as he wrote and printed simultaneously, rica ; but England gave it a reputation it was not easy to correct it. In this book, which it still maintains. It is due to Bos- notwithstanding, Natty Bumpo is quite up ton to say that its popularity was first mani- to his mark, and is surpassed only in “ The fested there. I say due to Boston, not Pathfinder.” The reputation of “The from considerations of merit in the book, Prairie,” like that of “ The Pioneers,” is but because, for some reason, praise for in a large degree owing to the opinions of Mr. Cooper from New England has been the reviews; it is always a fault in a book
America has no original litera- that appeals to human sympathies, that it ture, it is said.
Where can the model of fails with the multitude. In what relates “ The Pilot” be found ? I know of no- to taste, the multitude is of no great authing which could have suggested it but the thority, but in all that is connected with following fact, which was related to me in fceling, they are the highest ; and for this a conversation with Mr. Cooper. “ The simple reason, that as man becomes sophisPirate" had been published a short time ticated, he deviates from nature, the only before. Talking with the late Charles true source of all our sympathies. Our Wilkes, of New York, a man of taste and feelings are doubtless improved by refinejudgment, our author heard the universal ment, and vice versa ; but their roots are knowledge of Scott extolled, and the sea struck in the human heart, and what fails portions of “The Pirate” cited as a proof. to touch the heart, in these particulars, He laughed at the idea. as most seamen fails, while that wbich does touch it, suc
ceeds; the perfection of this sort of writing the subjects introduced in the Chambers is that which pleases equally the head and was the comparative cheapness of the systhe heart. “ The Red Rover” followed tem of government of the United States; “ The Prairie." Its success surpassed that the Absolutists asserting that the American of any of its predecessors. It was written people paid more direct and indirect taxes and printed in Paris, and all in a few than the French. Lafayette appealed to months. Its merits and its reception prove Mr. Cooper, who entered the arena, and the accuracy of those gentlemen who allege (though from his peculiar position, at a that Mr. Cooper never wrote a successful heavy pecuniary loss, and the danger of inbook after he left the United States. It curring yet greater misfortunes) by a masis certainly a stronger work than “ The terly exposé silenced at once the popular Pilot," though not without considerable falsehood. So, in all places, circumstances, faults. “ The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish,
,” and times, he was the “ American in Euor “ The Borderers," was the next novel. rope," as jealous of his country's reputa“ The Water Witch” succeeded.
tion as his own. Of all Americans who ever visited Eu- Immediately afterwards he published rope, Mr. Cooper contributed most to his “ The Bravo," the success of which was country's reputation. His high character very great; probably equal to that of made him everywhere welcome; there was « The Red Rover." It is one of the no circle, however aristocratic and distin- best, if not the very best, of the works Mr. guished, in which, if he appeared in it, he Cooper had then written. Although he was not the observed of all observers; and selected a foreign scene on this occasion, no he had the somewhat singular merit of one of his works is more American in its never forgetting that he was an American. essential character. It was designed not Halleck, in his admirable poem of Red only to extend the democratical principle Jacket, says well of him
abroad, but to confirm his countrymen in
the opinion that nations “cannot be governCooper, whose name is with his country's woven, led by an irresponsible minority, without First in her fields, her pioneer of mind; A wanderer now in other lands, has proven
involving a train of nearly intolerable His love for the young land he left behind.
abuses." It gave aristocracy some hits,
which aristocracy gave back again. The After having been in Europe about two best notice which appeared of it was in the years, he published his “Notions of the famous Paris gazette, entitled “ Figaro," Americans,” in which he “ endeavored to before “ Figaro” was bought out by the repei some of the hostile opinions of the French Government. The change from the other hemisphere, and to turn the tables biting wit which characterized this periodiupon those who at that time most derided cal to the grave sentiment of such an artiand calumniated us." It contained some cle was really touching, and added an inunimportant errors, from having been writ- describable grace to the remarks. ten at a distance from necessary document- Heidenmaur” followed. It is impossible ary materials, but was altogether as just as for one to understand this book who has it was eloquent in vindication of the insti- not some acquaintance with the scenes tutions, manners, and history of the United and habits described. " The Headsman of States. It shows how warm was his patri- Berne" did much better. It is inferior to otism,-how fondly, while receiving from “ The Bravo,” though not so clashing to strangers an homage withheld from him at aristocracy. It met with success.
It was home, he remembered the scenes of his first the last of Mr. Cooper's novels written in trials and triumphs, and how ready he was Europe. to sacrifice personal popularity and profit The first work which Mr. Cooper pubin defence of his country. He was not lished after his return to the United States only the first to defend and to praise Ame- was a Letter to his Countrymen. They rica, but the first to whom appeals were had yielded him but a hesitating applause made for information in regard to her, by until his praise came back from Europe; statesmen who felt an interest in her des- and when the tone of foreign criticism was tiny.
changed, by acts and opinions of his which Following the Revolution of the Three should have banded the whole American Days, in Paris, a fierce controversy took press for his defence, he was assailed here place between the Absolutists, the Repub- in articles, which either echoed the tone, licans, and the Constitutionalists. Among I or were actual translations of attacks upon
him by foreigners. The custom, peculiar | History of the Navy, of the United States ;' to the United States, of “ quoting the opi- and his early experience, his studies, bis nions of foreign nations by way of helping associations, and, above all, the peculiar to make up its own estimate of the degree felicity of his style when treating of nauof merit which belongs to its public men,” tical affairs, warranted the expectation that is treated in this letter with caustic and his work would be a solid and brilliant conjust severity, and shown to be “ destructive tribution to our historical literature. It of those sentiments of self-respect, and of appeared in two octavo volumes in 1839, that manliness and independence of thought and reached a second edition in 1840, and that are necessary to render a people great, a third in 1846. The American public had or a nation respectable.” The controlling no reason to be disappointed ; great diliinfluence of foreign ideas over the litera- gence had been used in the collection of ture, fashions, and even politics of Ameri- materials ; every subject connected with ca, are illustrated by the manner in which the origin and growth of the national he was himself treated, and by what he marine had been carefully investigated, and considers the English doctrines which have the result was presented in the most been broached in the speeches of many of authentic and attractive form. Yet a warm their statesmen. It is a frank and honest controversy soon arose respecting Mr. book, which was necessary as a vindication Cooper's account of the battle of Lake of Mr. Cooper, but was called for by the Erie, and, in pamphlets, reviews, and existence of the abuse against which it was newspapers, attempts were made to show chiefly directed ; though it seems to have that he had done injustice to the American had but little effect
it. Of the politi- commander in that action. The multitude cal opinions it contains I have no more to rarely undertake particular investigations ; say than that I do not believe in their cor- and the attacks upon Mr. Cooper, conrectness. It was followed by “ The Moni- ducted with a virulence for which it would kins," a political satire, which was a fail- be difficult to find any cause in the history,
assuming the form of vindications of a brave The next publication of Mr. Cooper was and popular deceased officer, produced an his “Gleanings in Europe.” “Sketches impression so deep and so general, that he of Switzerland,” first and second series, was compelled to defend the obnoxious paseach in two volumes, appeared in 1836; sages, which he did triumphantly in a small and none of his works betray more striking volume, entitled “The Battle of Lake and vivid descriptions of nature, or more Erie ; or, Answers to Messrs. Burgess, agreeable views of character and manners. Duer, and Mackenzie," published in 1843, It was followed by similar works on France, and in the notes to the last edition of his Italy, and England. All of these were “ Naval History well received, notwithstanding an inde- Besides the Naval History," and the pendence of tone (which is rarely popular), essays to which it gave rise, Mr. Cooper and some absurdities, as, for example, the has published in two volumes, “ The Lives imputations upon the American Federalists of American Naval Officers;" a work of in " The Sketches of Switzerland.” The the highest merit in its department, every book on England excited most attention, life being written with conciseness, yet fuland was reviewed by some writers in Eng- ness, and with great care in regard to facts ; land with much asperity. Altogether, the and in the “ Democratic Review” has pubten volumes which compose this series may lished a reply to the attacks upon the be set down as the most intelligent and American marine by James and other Briphilosophical books of travel, which have tish historians. been written by Americans.
The first novel published by Mr. Cooper, “ The American Democrat; or, Hints after his return to the United States, was on the Social and Civil Relations of the Homeward Bound." The two generic United States of America,” was published characters of the book, however truly they in 1835. The design is stated to be “ to may represent individuals, have no make a commencement towards a more just semblance to classes. There may be Capdiscrimination between truth and preju- tain Trucks, and there certainly are Steaddice.” It is essentially a good book on the fast Dodges, but the officers of the Amerivirtues and vices of American character. can merchant service are in no manner or
For a considerable time Mr. Cooper had | degree inferior to Europeans of the same entertained an intention of writing “ The pursuits and grade ; and with all the
abuses of the freedom of the press there, but this is a fault that may be pardoned in the American newspapers are not worse a romance. Mr. Cooper has written nothan those of Great Britain in the qualities thing of description, whether of sea or land, of which Mr. Cooper arraigns them. that surpasses either of the battle scenes of
The opinions expressed of New York this work; especially that part of the first society in " Home as Found" are identical where the French ship is captured. with those in “ Notions of the Americans,” | Two Admirals” appeared at an unfortunate a work almost as much abused for its praise time, but it was nevertheless successful. of America as was “ Home as Found” for “ Jack-o'-Lantern, or Le Feu Follet,” was its censure, and most men of refinement published in 1842. The interest depends and large observation seem disposed to ad- chiefly upon the manœuvres by which a mit their correctness. This was, no doubt, French privateer escapes capture by an the cause of the feeling it excited, for a English frigate. Some of its scenes are nation never gets in a passion at misrepre- among Mr. Cooper's best, but altogether it sentation. It is a miserable country that is inferior to several of his nautical novels. cannot look down a falsehood, even from a "Wyandotte, or the Hutted Knoll,” in native.
its general features, resembles “ The PathThe next novel was « The Pathfinder." | finder” and “The Deerslayer.” The It is a common opinion that this work de- female characters are admirable, and but serves success more than any Mr. Cooper for the opinion, believed by some, from its has written. I have heard Mr. Cooper say, frequent repetition, that Mr. Cooper is inthat in his own judgment the claim lay be- capable of depicting a woman, Maud tween “ The Pathfinder” and “ The Deer- Meredith would be regarded as among the slayer,” but for myself I confess a prefer- very first class of such portraitures. Next ence for the sea novels. Leather Stocking came
Leather Stocking came “The Autobiography of a Pocket appears to more advantage in “ The Path- Handkerchief,” in one volume.
It is a finder” than in any other book, and in story of fashionable life in New York, in “ Deerslayer" next. In “ The Pathfinder” some respects peculiar among Mr. Cooper's we have him presented in the character of works, and decidedly successful. a lover, and brought in contact with such “ Ned Myers,” in one volume, which folcharacters as he associates with in no other lowed in the same year, is a genuine stages of his varied history, though they biography, though it was commonly reare hardly less favorites with the author. garded as a fiction. In the beginning of The scene of the novel being the great 1844, Mr. Cooper published“ Afloat and fresh water seas of the interior, sailors, In- Ashore," and a few months afterwards, dians, and hunters, are so grouped together“ Miles Wallingford,” a sequel to that that every kind of novel writing in which tale. They have the remarkable minutehe has been most successful is combined in ness, yet boldness of description, and one complete fiction, one striking exhibition dramatic skill of narration, which render of his best powers. Had it been written the impression he produces so deep and by some unknown author, probably the lasting. They were as widely read as any country would have hailed him as much su- of his recent productions. perior to Mr. Cooper. “ Mercedes of The extraordinary state of things which Castile," a romance of the days of Colum- for several years has disgraced a part of the bus, came next. It may be set down as a state of New York, where, with unblushing failure; the necessity of following facts that effrontery, the tenants of several large prohad become familiar, and which had so prietors have refused to pay rents, and lately possessed the novelty of fiction, was claimed, without a shadow of right, to be too much for any writer. “ The Deer- absolute possessors of the soil, gave just slayer" was written after “Mercedes” and occasion of alarm to the intelligent friends “ The Pathfinder,” and was very success of the institutions of the United States; ful. Hetty Hunter is perhaps the best and this alarm increased, when it was obfemale character Mr. Cooper has drawn, served that the ruffianism of the “antithough her sister is generally preferred. renters," as they are styled, was looked “ The Two Admirals” followed “ The upon by many persons of respectable social Deerslayer.” This book, in some respects, positions with undisguised approval. Mr. stands at the head of the nautical tales. Cooper addressed himself to the exposure Its fault is dealing with too important and correction of the evil, in a series of events to be thrown so deep into fiction ; ( novels, purporting to be edited from the