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"I FIND," says a great American essayist, “a provision in nature for the writer;" that is, the acute observer quoted finds, that it is perfectly necessary for the writer to exist, because he purifies, exalts, enobles, and instructs, the human race; he chronicles the deeds, he notices the chances and changes, he defines and characterises humanity;—and for these last qualities amongst writers, the novelist holds his rank. With these, the name at the head of our article is of no mean value, not only on account of his position as a writer, but as being the very first of American novelists.

Men are only seen in their true greatness by comparison; one compares Virgil to Homer, and Dante to Milton; and, following this out, flatterers call the prosaic Klopstock the German Milton, and, more truly, Béranger the Burns of France, and the subject of the present paper the American Scott. Recently this great man has passed that bourne from which none return, and in the fulness of a fame which few will reach, although to which many will aspire.

James Fennimore Cooper was born on the 15th of September, 1789, and, had he lived but a few hours longer, would have completed his sixty-second year, dying on the 14th of his natal month, 1851. His father was a high dignitary in the American law, and resided at the period of Fennimore's birth at Burlington, New Jersey, at which place, there being, we presume, a sufficient academy, the future novelist commenced his education, which was further eliminated at New Haven and Yale colleges.

One who goes to sea at sixteen, as a midshipman in the American navy, which was the case with Cooper, cannot be expected to be very deeply learned in dead languages and mathematics, and therefore various hip-andthigh sticklers for school education, should have been more chary of their sneers against the novelist's lack of

these accomplishments. Certain it is that he made a very respectable progress, which he was careful afterwards to improve. For six years, or thereabouts, Cooper's life was bustling and full of activity, various adventures occurring which afforded him excellent materiel, hereafter to be worked up in his various novels. He was brought thoroughly into contact with scenes of which he afterwards gave so faithful and glowing a rescript. In one of his latest novels, " Afloat and Ashore," he has embodied many of these scenes. The book is pronounced, by those who best knew him, to be essentially autobiographical, and one of the incidents is an anecdote in which the author figures in propriâ personâ. It will not be trespassing to quote it. The hero is in an American vessel, when a hostile French privateer approaches; being in the maintop, he observes the movements of the enemy, and gives notice of them to his captain by dropping a copper wrapped in a piece of paper, on deck, on which was written, "The brig's forecastle is filled with armed men, hid behind the bulwarks."

"Captain Digges heard the fall of the copper, and looking up-nothing takes an officer's eyes aloft quicker than to find anything coming out of a top-he saw me pointing to the paper. I was rewarded for this liberty by an approving nod. Captain Digges read what I had written, and I soon observed Neb and the cook filling the engine with boiling water. This job was no sooner done than a good place was selected on the quarter-deck for this singular implement of war, and then a hail came from the brig.

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"Philadelphia. Do not luff so near me; some accident may happen.'

"Vat you call 'accident?" Can nevair hear, eh? I will com tout prés.' "Give us a wider berth, I tell you! Here is your jib-boom nearly foul of my mizzen-rigging.'

666 "Vat mean zat bert' vidair, eh? Allons, mes enfants; c'est le moment !'

"Luff a little, and keep his spar clear,' cried our captain. 'Squirt away, Neb, and let us see what you can do!'

"The_engine made a movement just as the French began to run out on their bowsprit, and, by the time six or eight were on the heel of the jib-boom, they were met by the hissing hot stream, which took them en echelon, as it might be, fairly raking the whole line. The effect was instantaneous. Physical nature cannot stand excessive heat, unless particularly well supplied with skin; and the three leading Frenchmen, finding retreat impossible, dropped incontinently into the sea, preferring cold water to hot-the chances of drowning to the certainty of being scalded. I believe all three were saved by their companions on board, but I will not vouch for the fact. The remainder of the intended boarders, having the bowsprit before them, scrambled back upon the brig's forecastle as well as they could; betraying by the random way in which their hands flew about, that they had a perfect consciousness how much they left their rear exposed on the retreat. A hearty laugh was heard in all parts of the Tigris, and the brig, putting her helm hard up, wore round like a top, as if she were scalded herself."

Adventures of this sort he had sufficient during the short time he was at sea, to furnish his memory and to aid his invention.

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let slip by ten years, in this quiet retirement before he came before the public. When he had once broken the ice, which was in 1821, by publishing a novel called "Precaution;" his rise in favour was rapid, although the preliminary work was an unsuccessful one; but the same year produced "The Spy," "The Pioneers," and "The Pilot." Of the origin of the latter novel Mr. Griswold tells the following anecdote, which at the late meeting in New York, to erect a monument to Cooper, Mr. Bryant, the American poet, repeated:

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"Talking with the late Charles Wilkes, of New York, a man of taste and judgment, our author heard extolled the universal knowledge of Scott, and the sea portions of The Pirate" cited as a proof. He laughed at the idea, as most seamen 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.*

From this the "Pilot" resulted, which lifted Cooper at once into celebrity. Sir Walter Scott himself, in a letter to Miss Edgeworth, bore testimony to its truth and excellence. "The novel," he writes, "is a very clever one, and the sea scenes and characters in particular, are admirably drawn. I advise you to read it as soon as possible." The novel was worthy of the panegyric, and a higher still has been bestowed, and worthily, upon it. It became immediately popular, and was eagerly read in England, translated into the various European languages, and, stranger still to relate, into Persian, an honour, as far as we know, as regards novels, reserved for the "Spy" and the "Pilot." "This novel," says a critic, speaking of the "Spy," ". was the first which brought Cooper into notice, which gave him his earliest reputation, and which will continue to preserve it."+ His descriptions of marine scenery, of the moving, restless ocean, and of the ever varying changes of the sky, were at once seen to be unsurpassed in freshness and truth. They rivalled his word pictures of American woods and savage man, and, as Mr. Prescott truly remarks, are "alive with the breath of poetry." "Witness," says the last-quoted autho

*The Prose Writers of America. + North American Review, Jan. 1852.

rity, "his infinitely-various pictures of the ocean; or still more, of the beautiful spirit which rides upon it-the gallant ship."

The "Pilot" was, for the time, the first favourite of Cooper's novels. That his countrymen should love a novel wherein their own bravery was prominently placed before them, and whereof the heroes were American, none can wonder; and the novel-readers of England let their prejudices succumb to their admiration. But, more than this, it enjoyed a reflected fame, for an English dramatist, a Mr. Fitzball, seizing upon the work, cleverly turned its sting against the Americans, by producing a drama of the same name (the Pilot,") wherein Long Tom Coffin was personated by Mr. T. P. Cooke, which had an extraordinary long run at the Adelphi Theatre. Sir Walter Scott went, amongst others, to see this piece, and in his diary notices "the quiet effrontery" of the dramatist, in turning the offensive parts of the story against the Yankees. Let us add, that the drama is still popular.

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Shortly after these publications, Mr. Cooper visited Europe, where he remained some years, and became one of the literary lions of the day. In England, he was introduced to Sir Walter Scott, then at the zenith of his popularity, who thus notices his fellow author:

"Nov. 23, 1826.-Visited Princess Galitzin, and also Cooper, the American novelist. This man, who has shown so much genius, has a good deal of the manners (or want of manners) peculiar to his countrymen. He proposed to me a mode of publishing in America, by entering a book as the property of a citizen. I will think of this. Every little helps, &c."

"Nov. 6.-Cooper came to breakfast, but we were obsèdes partout. Such a number of Frenchmen bounced in successively and exploded, or, I should say, discharged their compliments, that I could hardly find an opportunity to speak a word, or to entertain Mr. Cooper at all."*

These, we believe, are the only extracts in which Cooper is noticed by the author of "Waverley," and as they were the cause of much animosity on

* Diary of Sir Walter Scott, as quoted in "Lockhart's Life."

the other side of the Channel, when first brought to light, they are worthy of some notice.


In the first place, the "mode of publishing," noticed by Sir Walter, does great honour to Cooper. It was, of course, nothing less than the copyright bill in embryo, which Cooper endeavoured zealously to introduce, and which would have been, if introduced, one of the greatest boons to American literature, and without which that literature is now suffering, and has become dwindled, dwarfish, and imitative. * Sir Walter, who regarded literature-as a late critic has said-as a mere money-making machine," did not see the patriotism of the proposal, but clutched at the idea of making more; "every little helps," he writes, and, we believe, let the matter drop. Not so Cooper; he wrote at once to Messrs. Carey and Lea, the great American publishers, and, in a manly letter which we have before us, set forth the advantages which such a measure would be to American literature. "The whole range of English literature," he writes, "is thrown open to the American publisher. He chooses his book, after it has gone through the ordeal of a nation of publishers, and offers it to his countrymen, supported by the testimony and praise of reviews. Against this array of names the American writer has to make head, or fail."+

Cooper suggested, as a remedy, the law of copyright; but the booksellers were too strong for him, and they still triumph, and fortunes have been made, and still are being made, out of the works of Dickens, Scott, Bulwer, and Macaulay, for which the English author has never received one penny from the American publisher; English booksellers are now making reprisals upon American authors; but that only aggravates the evil. Cooper did not

* The writer is not ignorant of the many excellent American authors, but is constrained to adopt the opinions expressed, from his own observations, and from the The "North American Review," the first opinions of the Americans themselves. critic of that continent, expressed itself both severely and sorrowfully on the question a few months since.

"The Knickerbocker,"-New York magazine, April, 1838.

cease, however, to agitate and to press this important question, both in the various literary journals and elsewhere. His next works, perhaps not in exactly correct date of appearance, were what is called the Leather Stocking" novels; that is, a series of five novels, so called from the chief personage or character, which runs throughout the series, which comprises "The Deer Slayer," "The Pathfinder," "The Last of the Mohicans," "The Pioneers," and "The Prairie." Of these the finest is the "Last of the Mohicans," a novel which is held by many to be the masterpiece of its author. "The book," says a great authority, "has a genuine game flavour; it exhales the odours of the pine woods, and the freshness of the mountain wind. Its dark and rugged scenery rises as distinctly on the eye as the images of the painter's canvass, or rather as the reflections of nature herself. But it is not as the mere rendering of material forms, that these word paintings are most highly to be esteemed, they are instinct with life, with the very spirit of the wilderness; they breathe the sombre poetry of solitude and danger." The Scotch bard, Burns, effected so great a triumph over imagination, that the very window through which Tam O'Shanter saw (?) the witches dance, although a creation of the fancy, has been pointed out by the guides; a similar story is told of the author of Waverley's creation of Michael Scott's grave in Melrose Abbey. Nor were American guides behind hand; so vividly had Cooper described each spot, that the scene of the fight of Gleenis Falls (a very marked portion of the novel), is pointed out as if this fictitious combat were a scene of history. "Nay," says a narrator, "if the lapse of a few years has not enlightened the guide's understanding, he would as soon doubt of the reality of the battle of Saratoga as that of Hawkeyes' fight with the Mingoes."

These novels made Cooper's fame complete, and together with the nautical ones were his chief triumphs; others, but of less grandeur, were to follow. "The Wept of Wish-ton-wish," a strange story, with a stranger title, is much admired for its melancholy interest. Lionel Lincoln," bore testimony to his power, accuracy, and spirit, in description of military movements



and detail. The battles of Lexington and Bunker's Hill are admirably given. Next come "The Pathfinder," The Red Rover," "The Water Witch," and "The Two Admirals;" followed quickly "The Jack O'Lantern; or, The Privateer," a novel which Cooper wrote, somewhat out of opposition to his critics, who insisted upon his vein of seafaring novels being exhausted; it is not very successful. The story of Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson, and that cruel murder of Prince Caraccioli, are introduced; and various new characters, one of which is a British tar, figure on the scene. In 1843, "Wyandotte; or, the Hutted's Knoll," a quiet narrative novel of American scenery, followed; and was itself succeeded by "Raven's Nest," introducing three happy characters,-Captain Hugh Littlepage, Uncle Ro and Mistress Oportunity Newcome. In this novel Cooper indulged in some asperities, for he was somewhat like one of our own authoresses, whose name shall of course not transpire-always in hot water with his critics.

Not only also was this on his own side of the channel, but also upon English ground did the Novelist carry his warfare. One cause of this was Cooper's extreme sensitiveness to adverse criticism, and secondly, the fact that he wrote severely himself of others. Having travelled in Europe, and been lionized in England, a book on the various countries in which he sojourned was as much expected as were the "American Notes" from Dickens. The result in both instances was much the same; the institutions of the country were commented upon freely and severely; our overbearing aristocracy, our lord-loving commoners, and the etiquette which allows a man of superior rank, conferred either by birth or chance, to walk out of a room, or to enter it, and to be announced before the rest of the company, especially before a man of genius, were exposed to the most indignant and searching


There were also other things upon which Fennimore Cooper lectured the English; hewould insist, in a few cases, that they mispronounced words, which the Americans had preserved in all their purity. In fine, whilst giving us credit for many admirable institutions, for hospitality, and kindness, he perhaps,

naturally enough insisted, that the younger country, of which he was the native, had progressed, whilst we, the parent one, had fearfully degenerated.

The "Quarterly Review," of which Lockhart, son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, had recently assumed the editorship, took up the cudgels for England, and in a sparkling but spitefully written review of Cooper's book, took a vigorous reprisal upon him. "He has questioned our English," said they; "let us try his." And thereupon the reviewer proved the American author guilty of several sins against the rules of Lindley Murray and Company. Next he directed his shafts against American manners, and gave them a more severe handling than Cooper had our own, and finally dismissed the work as totally unworthy of America, of Cooper, of printer, publisher, buyer, or reader.

The literary circles at New York naturally took the novelist's side of the question, and the magazines of the period will witness on perusal, of how virulent a nature are the "quarrels of authors."

"Tantæne animis cœlestibus iræ."

We need not lead our readers further into the affray. We may here mention that Lockhart did not write the review in question (of which he was accused, and Sir Walter Scott's diary was brought into the quarrel), and that succeeding quarrels with the literary vehicles of his own country served to erase from Cooper's mind the great fall out with the English and with the Quarterly. One of his productions, characterized by those who have read it as a weak and injudicious tale, quite unworthy of the author's reputation, was the "Monikins," and this was fixed upon by some American journals as a subject of banter and jest; epigram and pasquinade followed each other upon the unfortunate book, and annoyed the sensitive author, who even threatened to relinquish his pen and be silent altogether.

The promise, although hailed with apparent delight by some ill-natured critics, was not kept: in 1848 he was ready with the "Bee Hunter," wherein was again revived, for this time only, the vast prairies and solitudes of his earlier and happier productions. Pale



faces and red men again ask our attention, and ask it, alas! almost in vain ; we feel that the potent power is leaving the great magician, and that he had better bury his pen, as Prospero does his magic wand" certain fathoms in the earth;" but a little time, however, and then he will have ceased. In 1849 appeared the "Sea Lions," a novel in which the venue is laid in those " gions of thick ribbed ice," wherein Sir John Franklin and his gallant crews are immured. There is in this last novel originality, force, and a dramatic reality, which will carry the reader through with the book. Last of all, announced as last, positively the last, of a very long list of novels of which we have not mentioned one half, came the "Ways of the Hour," in which the failing power of the author was but too visibly shown. Cooper had written himself out.

Besides the very numerous progeny of novels, some of which we have mentioned above, and to others of which we have alluded, Cooper contributed to the history of his country, that of the "United States Navy;" to biography," Lives of distinguished Naval Officers;" and to travel, "Sketches of Switzerland," and Gleanings of Europe."


But not by these or by his later productions will the name of James Fennimore Cooper be handed down to posterity; but by his earlier and fresher productions, by his pictures of humanity in its untamed and savage state, with its heroism, its magnanimity, and its cunning; his prairies stretching out to the eye of the imaginative boy, who first reads his romance, with more than the vastness and grandeur of reality, forming a picture which age scarce dims, or time diminishes his sailors and squatters, true children of nature under different aspects; his pictures of sea-fight and storm, or of tempests in those vast interminable forests of America, which we children of Europe only dream of. This he was born to introduce and to describe, and he has done it nobly; and amongst praise for great original talent, and undoubted honesty of purpose, let us not forget that he has never written one word or sentence subversive of morality, or one book which is improper for our children to read.

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