J. Fenimore Cooper

Biografie şi Bibliografie

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.


Early life

Jameson 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 for childish pranks. 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 nineteenth 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 party 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.
Otsego Hall, Cooper's ancestral home

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 America and immediately published A Letter to My Countrymen, in which he gave his own version of the controversy in which he had been engaged and sharply censured his compatriots for their share in it. This attack 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 portrait of himself.

In June 1834, he resolved to reopen his ancestral mansion, Otsego Hall, at Cooperstown, then long closed and falling into decay; he had been absent from the mansion nearly 16 years. Repairs were at once 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 abode.


All these books touching upon the topics of politics and of Cooper himself tended to increase the ill feeling between author and public. The Whig press was particularly virulent in its comments, and Cooper plunged into a series of actions for libel. He emerged victorious in 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 then returned to the Leatherstocking series with The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841) and other novels. He then returned to writing on maritime themes, including Ned Myers, or A Life Before the Mast, which is of particular interest to naval historians.

Later life

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 rifacimento 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[citation needed]. Cooper's stories have been translated into nearly all the languages of Europe and into some of those of Asia.

Though some scholars may dispute Cooper being classified as a Romantic, Victor Hugo pronounced him greater than the great master of modern romance[citation needed], 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.” He was most memorably criticized by Mark Twain whose vicious and amusing review is still read widely in academic circles. Twain's essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895), particularly criticized The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder. Twain wrote at the beginning of the essay: "In one place in Deerslayer, and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record. "Twain listed 19 rules "governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction", 18 of which Cooper violates in The Deerslayer.

His reputation today rests upon the five Leatherstocking tales and some of the maritime stories. His presentation of race relations and native Americans has generated much comment, not all of it sympathetic. 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.


1820 Precaution, England, 1813-1814
1821 The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground, Westchester County, New York, 1778
1823 The Pioneers: or The Sources of the Susquehanna, Leatherstocking, Otsego County, New York, 1793-1794,
1823 Tales for Fifteen: or Imagination and Heart, written under the pseudonym: "Jane Morgan"
1824 The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea, John Paul Jones, England, 1780
1825 Lionel Lincoln: or The Leaguer of Boston, Battle of Bunker Hill, Boston, 1775-1781
1826 The Last of the Mohicans: A narrative of 1757, Leatherstocking, French and Indian War, Lake George & Adirondacks,
1827 The Prairie, Leatherstocking, American Midwest, 1805
1828 The Red Rover: A Tale, Newport, Rhode Island & Atlantic Ocean, pirates, 1759
1828 Notions of the Americans: Picked up by a Travelling Bachelor, America for European readers
1829 The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish: A Tale, Western Connecticut, Puritans and Indians, 1660-1676
1830 The Water-Witch: or the Skimmer of the Seas, New York, smugglers, 1713
1830 Letter to General Lafayette, France vs. US, cost of government
1831 The Bravo: A Tale, Venice, 18th century
1832 The Heidenmauer: or, The Benedictines, A Legend of the Rhine, German Rhineland, 16th century
1832 No Steamboats    
1833 The Headsman: The Abbaye des Vignerons, Geneva, Switzerland, & Alps, 18th century
1834 A Letter to His Countrymen, Why Cooper temporarily stopped writing
1835 The Monikins, Antarctica, aristocratic monkeys, 1830s; a satire on British and American politics.
1836 The Eclipse, Solar eclipse in Cooperstown, New York 1806
1836 Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland (Sketches of Switzerland), Hiking in Switzerland, 1828
1836 Gleanings in Europe: The Rhine (Sketches of Switzerland, Part Second), Travels France, Rhineland & Switzerland, 1832
1836 A Residence in France: With an Excursion Up the Rhine, and a Second Visit to Switzerland    
1837 Gleanings in Europe: France, Living, travelling in France, 1826-1828
1837 Gleanings in Europe: England, Travels in England, 1826, 1828, 1833
1838 Gleanings in Europe: Italy, Living, travelling in Italy, 1828-1830
1838 The American Democrat : or Hints on the Social and Civic Relations of the United States of America, US society and government
1838 The Chronicles of Cooperstown, Local history of Cooperstown, New York
1838 Homeward Bound: or The Chase: A Tale of the Sea, Atlantic Ocean & North African coast, 1835
1838 Home as Found: Sequel to Homeward Bound, Eve Effingham, New York City & Otsego County, New York, 1835
1839 The History of the Navy of the United States of America, US Naval history to date
1839 Old Ironsides, History of the Frigate USS Constitution, 1st pub. 1853
1840 The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea, Leatherstocking, Western New York, 1759
1840 Mercedes of Castile: or, The Voyage to Cathay, Christopher Columbus in West Indies, 1490s
1841 The Deerslayer: or The First Warpath, Leatherstocking, Otsego Lake 1740-1745
1842 The Two Admirals, England & English Channel, Scottish uprising, 1745
1842 The Wing-and-Wing: le Le Feu-Follet, Italian coast, Napoleonic Wars, 1745
1843 Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief      
1843 Wyandotte: or The Hutted Knoll. A Tale, 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, Ulster County & worldwide, 1795-1805
1844 Miles Wallingford: Sequel to Afloat and Ashore, 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, New York City, Westchester County, Albany, Adirondacks, 1758
1845 The Chainbearer; or, The Littlepage Manuscripts, Westchester County, Adirondacks, 1780s (next generation)
1846 The Redskins; or, Indian and Injin: Being the Conclusion of the Littlepage Manuscript, Anti-rent wars, Adirondacks
1846 Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers     biography     
1847 The Crater; or, Vulcan's Peak: A Tale of the Pacific, Philadelphia, Bristol (PA), & deserted Pacific island, early 1800s
1848 Jack Tier: or the Florida Reefs
1846 Captain Spike: or The Islets of the Gulf, Florida Keys, Mexican War
1848 The Oak Openings: or the Bee-Hunter, Kalamazoo River, Michigan, War of 1812
1849 The Sea Lions: The Lost Sealers, Long Island & Antarctica, 1819-1820
1850 The Ways of the Hour, "Dukes County, New York," murder/courtroom mystery novel, legal corruption, women's rights, 1846
1850 Upside Down: or Philosophy in Petticoats, satirization of socialism
1851 The Lake Gun, Seneca Lake in New York, political satire based on folklore
1851 New York: or The Towns of Manhattan, Unfinished, history of New York City, 1st pub. 1864

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