[graphic][merged small][subsumed][ocr errors]


JAHES FENIORE COOPER, the celebrated American novelist, was born in Burlington, New Jersey, in the year 1789. His father, William Cooper, an English emigrant, who had settled there many years before, had purchased a large quantity of land on the borders of Lake Otsego, New York, and thither Cooper was removed in his infancy, and there passed his childhood,-in a region that was then an almost unbroken wilderness. At the age of thirteen, he entered Yale College, but left it in three years, and became a midshipman in the United States Nary, in which he continued for six years, making himself, unconsciously, master of that knowledge and imagery which he afterwards employed to so much advantage in his romances of the sea. In 1811, having resigned his post as midshipman, he married Miss Delancey, sister of Rev. Dr. Delancey, with whom, after a brief residence in Westchester County, the scene of one of his finest fictions, he removed to Cooperstown, where, with the exception of his occasional absences in Europe, he passed the greater part of his life, and where he died on the 14th of September, 1851.

Before bis removal to Cooperstown, he had written and published a novel of English life, called Precaution, which met with but little favor. But The Spy, which followed in 1821, at once established his fame, and was soon republished in England and on the Continent. It had its faults, indeed,-defects in plot, and occasional blemishes in the composition ; but it was a work of original genius, and was widely read and admired. The Pioneers, which appeared in 1823, not only sustained but advanced his reputation; and each succeeding volume of the Leather-Stocking Tules, The Prairie, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, and The Deerslayer, was read with increasing interest. Shortly after the success of The Pioneers had made Mr. Cooper the first novelist of the country, he achieved a triumph on the sea as signal as that he had already won upon the land. His romance of The Pilot, followed at intervals by The Red Rover, The Water-Witch, The Tico Admirals, Wing and Wing, &c., placed him at the head of nautical novelists, where he still stands, perhaps, without a rival.'

In the year 1826, Mr. Cooper went to Europe, where his fame had preceded him, and where, while advancing his own reputation by new fictions, he defended

1 Read articles on his writings in “North American Review,” xxiji. 150, xxvii. 139, xlix. 432; "American Quarterly," lvii. 407. In the “ Bibliotheca Americana,” by 0. A. Roorbach, is a list of all his works, amounting to forty volumes.

The following, I believe, is a complete list of his novels, with the dates of their publication :Precaution, 1821.

The Heidenmauer, 1832. Wyandotte, 1843. The Spy, 1821.

The Headsman, 1833.

Afloat and Ashore, 1844. The Pioneers, 1823.

The Monikins, 1835.

Miles Wallingford, 184. The Pilot, 1823.

Ilomeward Bound, 1838. The Chainbearer, 1845. Lionel Lincoln, 1825.

Il me as Found, 1838. Satanstoe, 1845. Last of the Mohicans, 1826. The Pathfinder, 1840.

The Red Skins, 1816. Red Rover, 1827.

Mercedes of Castile, 18-10. The Crater, 1847. The Prairie, 1827.

The Deerslayer, 1841.

Jack Tier, 1848. Travelling Bachelor, 1828. The Two Admirals, 1842. Oak Openings, 1818. Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, 1829. Wing and Wing, 18+2. The Sea Lions, 1819. The Water-Witch, 1830. Ned Myers, 1813.

The Ways of the IIour, 1950. The Bravo, 1831.

that of his country by pamphlets and letters. These again brought upon him a shower of rejoinders, and much of the time when he was abroad was spent in controversial writings. In 1833, he returned home.

Besides his novels, Mr. Cooper was the author of a History of the United States Nary, Gleanings in Europe, Sketches of Switzerland, and several smaller works, which have run through many editions. His mind was always fertile and active, and his mode of treating his subjects full of animation and freshness. He was one of those frank and decided characters who make strong enemies and warm friends,—who repel by the positiveness of their convictions, while they attract by the richness of their culture and the amiability of their lives. He was nicely exact in all his business relations, but generous and noble in the management of his means. His beautiful residence on the Otsego was ever the home of a large and liberal hospitality; and those who knew him best were those who loved him most, and who deplored his loss with the keenest feelings.


“ Tom,” cried Barnstable, starting, “there is the blow of a whale."

“Ay, ay, sir,” returned the cockswain, with undisturbed composure; “here is his spout, not half a mile to seaward; the easterly gale has driven the creater to leeward, and he begins to find himself in shoal water. He's been sleeping, while he should have been working to windward !"

“ The fellow takes it coolly, too! he's in no hurry to get an offing.”

“I rather conclude, sir,” said the cockswain, rolling over his tobacco in his mouth very composedly, while his little sunken eyes began to twinkle with pleasure at the sight, " the gentleman has lost his reckoning, and don't know which way to head, to take himself back into blue water."

“ 'Tis a fin back !” exclaimed the lieutenant; "he will soon make headway, and be off.”

“No, sir; 'tis a right whale," answered Tom; “I saw his

1 “Mr. Cooper's character was peculiar and decided, creating strong attachments and equally strong dislikes. There was no neutral ground in his nature. He had fixed opinions, and was bold and uncompromising in expressing them. He was exact in his dealings and generous in his disposition. His integrity and uprightness no one ever called in question. He had less fear of public opinion, and more self-reliance, than are coinmon in our country; and his courage and truthfulness were worthy of all praise. He was an ardent patriot, and as ready to defend his country when in the right, as to rebuke her when he deemed her in the wrong. He was affectionate in his domestic relations, and his home was the seat of a cordial and generous hospitality.”—G. S. Hillard.

Mr. Cooper dined with me. He was in person solid, robust, athletic; in voice, manly; in manner, earnest, emphatic, almost dictatorial,—with something of selfassertion bordering on egotism. The first effect was unpleasant, indeed repulsive; but there shone through all this a frankness which excited confidence, respect, and at last affection.”Goodrich's Recollections.

« ForrigeFortsett »