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pion of human freedom, the advocate of popular rights, in years when such questions were unpopular, and above all as having been the man who was trusted to pro
Lord John Russell has been what Sir R.
WILLIAM COOPER, the emigrant ancestor of James Fenimore Cooper, arrived in America in 1679, and settled at Burlington, in New Jersey. He immediately took an active part in public affairs, for his name appears in the list of members of the colonial legislature for 1681. In 1687, or subsequent to the establishment of Penn at Philadelphia, he obtained a grant of land opposite the new city, extending several miles along the margin of the Delaware and the tributary stream, which has since borne the name of Cooper's Creek. The branch of the family to which the novelist belongs removed more than a century since into Pennsylvania, in which State his father was born. He married early, and while a young man established himself at a hamlet in Burlington county, New Jersey, which continues to be known by his name, and afterwards in the city of Burlington. Having become possessed of extensive tracts of land on the border of Otsego Lake, in central New York, he began the settlement of his estate there in the autumn of 1783, and in the following spring erected the first house in Cooperstown. From this time until 1790, Judge Cooper resided alternately at Cooperstown and Burlington, keeping up an establishment at both places.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER was born at Burlington on the 15th of September, 1789, and in the succeeding year was carried to the new home of his family, of which he is now proprietor. Judge Cooper being a member of the Congress, which then held its sessions in Philadelphia, his family remained much of the time at Burlington, where our author, when but six years of age, commenced, under a private tutor of some eminence, his classical education. In 1800, he became an inmate of the family
of Rev. Thomas Ellison, rector of St. Peter's, in Albany, who had fitted for the university three of his elder brothers, and on the death of that accomplished teacher was sent to New Haven, where he completed his preparatory studies. He entered Yale College at the beginning of the second term for 1802. Here he maintained a respectable position, and in the ancient languages particularly had no superior in his class.
In 1805, he quitted the college, and, obtaining a midshipman's warrant, entered the American navy. His frank, generous, and daring nature made him a favorite, and admirably fitted him for the service, in which he would unquestionably have obtained the highest honors, had he not finally made choice of the ease and quiet of the life of a private gentleman. After six years afloat, six years not unprofitably passed, since they gave him that knowledge of maritime affairs which enabled him subsequently, almost without an effort, to place himself at the head of all writers who in any period have attempted the description of the sea, he resigned his office, and on the first day of January, 1811, was married to Miss De Lancey, a sister of the present Bishop of the diocese of Western New York, and a descendant of one of the oldest and most influential families in America. Before removing to Cooperstown, he resided a short time in Westchester, near New York, and here he commenced his career as an author. His first book was "Precaution." This work was undertaken under circumstances purely accidental, and published under great disadvantages. Its success was moderate. It is a ludicrous evidence of the value of critical opinion in America, that "Precaution" was thought to discover so much knowledge of English society as to raise
would, and the discussion ended by his promising to write a sea story which could be read by landsmen, while seamen should feel its truth. "The Pilot" was the fruit of that conversation. It is one of the most remarkable novels of the time, and everywhere obtained instant and high applause.
a question whether its alleged author could have written it. More reputation for this sort of knowledge accrued to Mr. Cooper from "Precaution," than from his subsequent real work on England. It was published in London, and passed for an English novel. The "Spy" followed. No one will dispute the success of this "Tale" Lionel Lincoln" followed. This was a of the Neutral Ground." It was almost immediately published also in all parts of Europe. The novelty of an American book of this character probably contributed to give it circulation. It is worthy of remark that all the leading periodicals of the United States looked coldly upon it, though the country did not. It was decidedly the best historical romance then written by an American; not without faults, indeed, but with a fair plot, clearly and strongly drawn characters, and exhibiting great boldness and originality of conception. Its success was perhaps decisive of Mr. Cooper's career, and it gave an extraordinary impulse to literature in the United States, more than anything that had before occurred; it roused the people from their feelings of intellectual dependence. In 1823, appeared "The Pioneers." This book, it seems to me, has always had a reputation partly factitious. It is the poorest of the "Leather Stocking" tales, nor was its success either marked or spontaneous. Still it was very well received, though it was thought to be a proof that the author was written out. With this book commences the absurdity of saying Mr. Cooper introduced family traits and family history into his novels. "The Pilot" succeeded. The success of "The Pilot" was at first a little doubtful in America; but England gave it a reputation which it still maintains. It is due to Boston to say that its popularity was first manifested there. I say due to Boston, not from considerations of merit in the book, but because, for some reason, praise for Mr. Cooper from New England has been so rare. America has no original literature, it is said. Where can the model of
The Pilot" be found? I know of nothing which could have suggested it but the following fact, which was related to me in a conversation with Mr. Cooper. "The Pirate" had been published a short time before. Talking with the late Charles Wilkes, of New York, a man of taste and judgment, our author heard the universal knowledge of Scott extolled, and the sea portions of "The Pirate" cited as a proof. He laughed at the idea. as most seamen
second attempt to embody history in an American work of fiction. It failed, and perhaps justly; yet it contained one of the nicest delineations of character in Mr. Cooper's works. I know of no instance in which the distinction between a maniac and an idiot is so admirably drawn. The setting was bad, however, and the picture was not examined. In 1826, came "The Last of the Mohicans." This book succeeded from the first, and all over Christendom. It has strong and weak parts, but it was purely original, and originality always occupies the ground. In this respect it is like "The Pilot." After the publication of "The Last of the Mohicans,” Mr. Cooper went to Europe, where his reputation was already established as one of the greatest writers of romantic fiction which our age, more prolific in men of genius than any other, had produced. The first of his works after he left the United States was "The Prairie." Its success was decided and immediate. By the French and English critics it was deemed the best of his stories of Indian life. It has one leading fault, however, that of introducing any character superior to the family of the squatter. Of this fault Mr. Cooper was himself aware, before he finished the work; but as he wrote and printed simultaneously, it was not easy to correct it. In this book, notwithstanding, Natty Bumpo is quite up to his mark, and is surpassed only in "The Pathfinder." The reputation of "The Prairie," like that of "The Pioneers," is in a large degree owing to the opinions of the reviews; it is always a fault in a book that appeals to human sympathies, that it fails with the multitude. In what relates to taste, the multitude is of no great authority; but in all that is connected with feeling, they are the highest; and for this simple reason, that as man becomes sophisticated, he deviates from nature, the only true source of all our sympathies. Our feelings are doubtless improved by refinement, and vice versa; but their roots are struck in the human heart, and what fails to touch the heart, in these particulars, fails, while that which does touch it, suc
ceeds; the perfection of this sort of writing is that which pleases equally the head and the heart. "The Red Rover" followed "The Prairie." Its success surpassed that of any of its predecessors. It was written and printed in Paris, and all in a few months. Its merits and its reception prove the accuracy of those gentlemen who allege that Mr. Cooper never wrote a successful book after he left the United States. It is certainly a stronger work than "The Pilot," though not without considerable faults. "The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish," ," or "The Borderers," was the next novel. "The Water Witch" succeeded.
Of all Americans who ever visited Europe, Mr. Cooper contributed most to his country's reputation. His high character made him everywhere welcome; there was no circle, however aristocratic and distinguished, in which, if he appeared in it, he was not the observed of all observers; and he had the somewhat singular merit of never forgetting that he was an American. Halleck, in his admirable poem of Red Jacket, says well of him
Cooper, whose name is with his country's woven,
After having been in Europe about two years, he published his "Notions of the Americans," in which he "endeavored to repel some of the hostile opinions of the other hemisphere, and to turn the tables upon those who at that time most derided and calumniated us." It contained some unimportant errors, from having been written at a distance from necessary documentary materials, but was altogether as just as it was eloquent in vindication of the institutions, manners, and history of the United States. It shows how warm was his patriotism,-how fondly, while receiving from strangers an homage withheld from him at home, he remembered the scenes of his first trials and triumphs, and how ready he was to sacrifice personal popularity and profit in defence of his country. He was not only the first to defend and to praise America, but the first to whom appeals were made for information in regard to her, by statesmen who felt an interest in her destiny.
the subjects introduced in the Chambers was the comparative cheapness of the system of government of the United States; the Absolutists asserting that the American people paid more direct and indirect taxes than the French. Lafayette appealed to Mr. Cooper, who entered the arena, and (though from his peculiar position, at a heavy pecuniary loss, and the danger of incurring yet greater misfortunes) by a masterly exposé silenced at once the popular falsehood. So, in all places, circumstances, and times, he was the "American in Europe," as jealous of his country's reputation as his own.
Immediately afterwards he published "The Bravo," the success of which was very great; probably equal to that of "The Red Rover." It is one of the best, if not the very best, of the works Mr. Cooper had then written. Although he selected a foreign scene on this occasion, no one of his works is more American in its essential character. It was designed not only to extend the democratical principle abroad, but to confirm his countrymen in the opinion that nations" cannot be governed by an irresponsible minority, without involving a train of nearly intolerable abuses." It gave aristocracy some hits, which aristocracy gave back again. The best notice which appeared of it was in the famous Paris gazette, entitled "Figaro,' before "Figaro" was bought out by the French Government. The change from the biting wit which characterized this periodical to the grave sentiment of such an article was really touching, and added an indescribable grace to the remarks. "The Heidenmaur" followed. It is impossible for one to understand this book who has not some acquaintance with the scenes and habits described. "The Headsman of Berne" did much better. It is inferior to "The Bravo," though not so clashing to aristocracy. It met with success. It was the last of Mr. Cooper's novels written in Europe.
The first work which Mr. Cooper published after his return to the United States was a Letter to his Countrymen. They had yielded him but a hesitating applause until his praise came back from Europe; and when the tone of foreign criticism was 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 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, his 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 upon 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 and popular deceased officer, produced an impression so deep and so general, that he was compelled to defend the obnoxious passages, which he did triumphantly in a small volume, entitled "The Battle of Lake Erie; or, Answers to Messrs. Burgess, Duer, and Mackenzie," published in 1843, and in the notes to the last edition of his "Naval History."
The next publication of Mr. Cooper was his "Gleanings in Europe." "Sketches of Switzerland," first and second series, each in two volumes, appeared in 1836; and none of his works betray more striking and vivid descriptions of nature, or more agreeable views of character and manners. It was followed by similar works on France, Italy, and England. All of these were 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 ten volumes which compose this series may be set down as the most intelligent and philosophical books of travel, which have been written by Americans.
The American Democrat; or, Hints on the Social and Civil Relations of the United States of America," was published in 1835. The design is stated to be "to make a commencement towards a more just discrimination between truth and prejudice." It is essentially a good book on the virtues and vices of American character.
For a considerable time Mr. Cooper had entertained an intention of writing "The
and in the "Democratic Review" has published a reply to the attacks upon the American marine by James and other British historians.
The first novel published by Mr. Cooper, after his return to the United States, was "Homeward Bound." The two generic characters of the book, however truly they may represent individuals, have no semblance to classes. There may be Captain Trucks, and there certainly are Steadfast Dodges, but the officers of the American merchant service are in no manner or degree inferior to Europeans of the same 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 of which Mr. Cooper arraigns them.
The opinions expressed of New York society in "Home as Found" are identical with those in "Notions of the Americans," a work almost as much abused for its praise of America as was "Home as Found" for its censure, and most men of refinement and large observation seem disposed to admit their correctness. This was, no doubt, the cause of the feeling it excited, for a nation never gets in a passion at misrepresentation. It is a miserable country that cannot look down a falsehood, even from a native.
thing of description, whether of sea or land, that surpasses either of the battle scenes of this work; especially that part of the first where the French ship is captured. "The Two Admirals" appeared at an unfortunate time, but it was nevertheless successful. "Jack-o'-Lantern, or Le Feu Follet," was published in 1842. The interest depends chiefly upon the manoeuvres by which a French privateer escapes capture by an English frigate. Some of its scenes are among Mr. Cooper's best, but altogether it is inferior to several of his nautical novels. "Wyandotte, or the Hutted Knoll," in its general features, resembles "The Pathfinder" and "The Deerslayer." The female characters are admirable, and but for the opinion, believed by some, from its frequent repetition, that Mr. Cooper is incapable of depicting a woman, Maud Meredith would be regarded as among the very first class of such portraitures. Next came "The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief," in one volume. It is a story of fashionable life in New York, in some respects peculiar among Mr. Cooper's works, and was decidedly successful. "Ned Myers," in one volume, which followed in the same year, is a genuine biography, though it was commonly regarded as a fiction. In the beginning of 1844, Mr. Cooper published "Afloat and Ashore," and a few months afterwards,
The next novel was "The Pathfinder." It is a common opinion that this work deserves success more than any Mr. Cooper has written. I have heard Mr. Cooper say, that in his own judgment the claim lay between "The Pathfinder" and "The Deerslayer," but for myself I confess a preference for the sea novels. Leather Stocking appears to more advantage in " The Pathfinder" than in any other book, and in "Deerslayer" next. In "The Pathfinder" we have him presented in the character of a lover, and brought in contact with such characters as he associates with in no other stages of his varied history, though they are hardly less favorites with the author. The scene of the novel being the great fresh water seas of the interior, sailors, Indians, and hunters, are so grouped together" Miles Wallingford," a sequel to that that every kind of novel writing in which he has been most successful is combined in one complete fiction, one striking exhibition of his best powers. Had it been written by some unknown author, probably the country would have hailed him as much superior to Mr. Cooper. "Mercedes of Castile," a romance of the days of Columbus, came next. It may be set down as a failure; the necessity of following facts that had become familiar, and which had so lately possessed the novelty of fiction, was too much for any writer. "The Deerslayer" was written after "Mercedes" and "The Pathfinder," and was very successful. Hetty Hunter is perhaps the best female character Mr. Cooper has drawn, though her sister is generally preferred. "The Two Admirals" followed "The Deerslayer." This book, in some respects, stands at the head of the nautical tales. Its fault is dealing with too important events to be thrown so deep into fiction;
tale. They have the remarkable minuteness, yet boldness of description, and dramatic skill of narration, which render the impression he produces so deep and lasting. They were as widely read as any of his recent productions.
The extraordinary state of things which for several years has disgraced a part of the state of New York, where, with unblushing effrontery, the tenants of several large proprietors have refused to pay rents, and claimed, without a shadow of right, to be absolute possessors of the soil, gave just occasion of alarm to the intelligent friends of the institutions of the United States; and this alarm increased, when it was observed that the ruffianism of the "antirenters," as they are styled, was looked upon by many persons of respectable social positions with undisguised approval. Mr. Cooper addressed himself to the exposure and correction of the evil, in a series of novels, purporting to be edited from the