James Fenimore Cooper Society Website
[may be downloaded and reproduced for personal or instructional use, or by libraries]
Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art (No. 10), Papers from the 1995 Cooper Seminar (No. 10), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Hugh C. MacDougall, editor. (pp. 32-37)
Return to SUNY Seminars | Articles & Papers
The lack of a confessional strain in James Fenimore Cooperís works, let alone overt autobiography, makes it difficult to map his inner terrain. Although his letters, travel writings, and fiction consistently draw on his experiences, they do so in a fragmented and indirect way; the man himself is usually absent from his pages except as the site of strong opinions that constitute him more as a character within the text than a genuine autobiographical subject.1 Nonetheless, I think we may gain access to the inner man by attending to the nuances with which personal issues arise in his writings. As an example of how we may do so, I want to focus here on what may seem to be a relatively straightforward event of Cooperís early adulthood -- his 1826 decision to alter his name -- and its textual adumbrations. I recognize that names, as the outer means by which others refer to individuals, usually have very little to do with inner meanings, or if they do it is because their associations call those meanings into being after the fact. When, however, names are expressive rather than referential -- that is, when individuals name or rename themselves -- they may reveal a good deal of inner truth. In Cooperís case I think this is particularly true.
First, a review of the basic facts. While one commonly reads that James Fenimore Cooper was born in Burlington, New Jersey, on September 15, 1789, when William Cooper and his wife Elizabeth Fenimore named their youngest son, in fact they called him simply "James Cooper." Not until after both of his parents and all but one of his twelve siblings had died -- and Cooper himself had won fame as a writer in the early 1820s -- did he assume his motherís maiden name as part of his own. He did so through a petition to the legislature of New York, which eventually passed an act permitting a modified version of the change. No impulsive gesture, Cooperís 1826 petition had a prologue in Cooperstown many years before. Young Jamesís mother, having no brothers, had sought to ensure the continuance of her familyís name by offering her youngest child some property she owned in her own right if he would "take her family name in lieu of that of Cooper."2 When the boyís father opposed the change, Elizabethís offer was put aside, soon to be obscured beneath a rush of events that began with Judge William Cooperís death late in 1809 at the age of fifty-five.3
Tragic as Judge Cooperís loss may have been, his six surviving children could look past their grief to presumably comfortable futures sketched by a will promising each of them an inheritance worth an estimated $50,000. Not for nothing had young James Cooper remained a Cooper.4 What being a Cooper meant, though, changed as more severe challenges arose in the next decade. It was not entirely a surprise when Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper, long in retreat from the world, passed away in 1817; but by then two of Jamesís adult brothers already had died, and in 1819 the other two followed, none of them having reached the age of forty. Because his sister Ann had married Cooperstown druggist George Pomeroy in 1803, James Cooper was now the last of his fatherís immediate family who bore the family name. While under other circumstances James might have concentrated at least some of the familyís remaining wealth in his own hands as a result of these tragedies, in fact by the time his last brother died the various Cooper estates were a shambles. All James inherited was a mountain of debt, a herd of lawsuits, and a flock of nieces and nephews requiring love, support, care -- and cash.
In between her first offer to James and her death in 1817, Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper had returned more than once to the subject. Apparently moved by her arguments but mindful of his fatherís feelings, James ultimately offered a compromise: he would not give up his fatherís family name, but would add hers to it. Because Cooper later claimed that he would not accept the relatively modest property connected to Elizabethís offer, the whole affair had a basically sentimental rationale that the deadly decade following 1809 might well have buried in oblivion: the real challenge for James Cooper in the 1820s was to ensure the survival of the rest of his motherís children and grandchildren, after all, not her maiden name. Cooper sought to ensure both as he struggled to keep the Cooper family and its property together, though he mostly lost the latter fight because of dismal frontier land prices, poor foresight on Judge Cooperís part, and prodigality on that of his children, James included.5 The effort took a serious toll on Jamesís health, which suffered a serious, permanent impairment owing in part to nervous causes.6
Despite all this, as Cooper prepared to move his wife and children to Europe for an indefinite period in 1826, he decided to act on the suspended promise that dated back in one form or another almost two decades. He petitioned the legislature of New York to allow him, as he described the idea in a letter written twenty years later, "to add [my motherís] name to my fatherís, and to use both as a family name."7 Although a tradition among Cooper scholars running at least from Mary E. Phillips in 1913 to Henry Walcott Boynton in 1931, Stephen Railton in 1977, and Alan Taylor in 1995 asserts that Cooper wanted to change his name to "James Cooper Fenimore," to date I have located no surviving evidence that would justify this assertion.8 Cooper did not say in the 1847 recollection just quoted where he intended to make the addition, and his 1826 petition does not survive to give us his own language at that time. It seems likely, however, that his eldest brother Richardís example (which Cooper mentioned in his 1847 letter) was in Cooperís mind in the earlier year. Christened in honor of Elizabeth Cooperís father Richard Fenimore on his birth in 1775, Richard Fenimore Cooper was an easy model for Jamesís own rechristening half a century later, although James would be giving what had been Richardís middle name added weight and meaning. The earliest surviving published evidence on the subject points to this same conclusion. The New York Assembly Journal first mentioned the issue (under February 20, 1826) in this manner: "The petition of James Cooper of the city of New-York praying for permission to change his name by the addition of a middle sirname [sic], was read, and referred to a select committee, consisting of Mr. Sherman, Mr. Root, and Mr. Huntington." The wording here, not yet contaminated by the modification of the request eventually insisted on by the legislature, clearly indicates that the petitioner wanted to call himself "James Fenimore Cooper," perhaps intending to use a hyphen to mark the combined family name.9
From these known facts on the issue, we must turn to the question of Cooperís timing and motives. His decision to act on the name change came at a crucial time in his literacy career, in between the three early successes of The Spy (1821), The Pioneers (1823), and The Pilot (1824), and the most famous of all his books, The Last of the Mohicans (1826), on which he had finished work shortly before his petition came before the legislature. Here he was, however, the last and now arguably the most famous of the Coopers, seeking to soften the finality of that family name by acknowledging publicly his motherís claim on his allegiance and perhaps his identity.10 Although he would remain a Cooper all along in fact and name, his adoption of his motherís name just prior to leaving the United States might be read as an effort to downplay one personal past in order to play up another, thereby achieving emotional closure and assuming a new identity for the new scenes awaiting him overseas. In some ways, Cooper had already played with this theme in his Cooperstown novel, for in The Pioneers Oliver Edwards "becomes" Edward Effingham to mark the resolution of long- standing conflicts in his familyís past: like Edwards, Cooper in 1826 was about to reveal that he also had unsuspected legacies to claim and a new name to mark their legitimation.11 Similarly, as the characterís two names (and his two personae) show a marked difference in social origins, the common artisanal name "Cooper" was easily upstaged by the elite "Fenimore." The manorial roots of the new name, traced by Cooper to Oxfordshire, offered a more genteel background of the sort for which (despite his conscious democratic ideology) the novelist always had a weakness. Given the "high" origins of his wifeís De Lancey forebears, too, the Fenimore connection might be seen as soothing the unease Cooper apparently felt, especially after his own familyís misfortunes, in the presence of Susan De Lancey Cooperís family.12
Of course, the more common strand in Cooperís identity was definitely real -- unlike that fictionalized by Effingham in his masquerade as "Edwards" -- and Cooper hardly renounced it in 1826. It did, however, suffer something of an eclipse in his early adulthood, an eclipse marked by the name change more than caused by it, and was to emerge into greater clarity only after he came back to the United States in 1833 after having deployed and displayed his new identity across Europe for seven years. A story worth repeating here will suggest how his homecoming undid the shifts of affiliation to be traced in his earlier experience. When Cooper embarked in 1834 on his first trip back to Otsego since his motherís death there in 1817, he passed through the German settlements of nearby Schoharie county, where he encountered an "old Dutchman" who answered Cooperís questions about what had become of his one-time acquaintances there. When the German turned the inquiry about, asking Cooper "Are you of these parts?" Cooper replied, "No," but his negative was less sweeping than it might seem. "No," he said. "I am from Otsego," and then, as if the phrase had some newly reemerging power, he added that he was "a Cooper of Cooperstown." Cooper continued the story in the letter he wrote to his wife Susan that evening: "The old Dutchman bowed, eyed me sharply, and muttered -- ĎAh -- you are a Cooper,í" a response that Cooper himself welcomed and even cherished.13
It meant so much because Cooper was now about to recreate his fatherís world (he would acquire the vacant family mansion in Cooperstown that summer and begin to restore it, thereby restoring himself to the town), and because he had wandered so far from this place and its meanings since 1817 (and, in other ways, 1826), only to feel upon revisiting it exactly how deep his attachment to it was. For all Cooper knew on leaving Cooperstown in 1817, he might have been leaving it for good, and he set about remaking himself and redefining his identity on his own terms. One notes that the 1826 petition to the legislature named him as "James Cooper of the city of New-York," with no reference to the "Coopers of Cooperstown," no claiming of kinship with his father or his fatherís world.14 In the passage from Notions of the Americans cited in a note above, Cooper likewise referred to himself as a former resident of the Cooperstown area. In his book of Swiss travels, written in the mid-1830s but concerned with Cooperís experience in the summer of 1828, he offered similar proof of his inner sense of where he belonged in America. Responding to a Swiss womanís humorous notion that all of America was a wilderness, he had told her "I live in America near a street that contains eight hundred  houses, and two hundred shops" -- that is, in New York City, even though his only dwellings there in the period from 1822 to 1826 had been a series of rented quarters, the last of them given up before his ship sailed two years prior to his encounter with the Swiss woman.15 Cooper became "a Cooper of Cooperstown" only after he rediscovered that village and its deep roots in his feelings when he was in his mid-forties.
I want to return to Cooperís motives for acting on the "Fenimore" promise just when he did, which are nowhere directly stated. The mere fact that he expected to be out of the country for at least five years conceivably influenced his timing: he could not have changed his name overseas, and when he came back his children would have been old enough that the change, intended for the whole family, might be awkward for them. Be that as it may, Alan Taylor argues that the legislature may have suspected motives tied to the large indebtedness of the William Cooper estate, for which James remained in part personally responsible. Did Cooper hope that obscuring his original name might aid him in escaping his obligations? Aside from the fact that up to that point Cooper had not so much fought the losses in his fatherís estate as suffered them, he claimed in 1847 that he had been "extricated from the law" by early 1826, and no longer needed to delay the change out of concern for any legal confusion it might produce -- the closest thing to an explanation of his timing that he himself ever offered. Taylor rightly notes that the legal troubles of the family hardly were over by 1826, though his reading of Cooperís claim about being "extricated" probably results from a difference in emphasis. Cooper almost certainly was referring in his 1847 letter to a specific suit arising from his personal debts, which was resolved in February of 1826, and which had particular relevance to the change of name he initiated at virtually the same time.16
As he scrambled to keep his own finances afloat late in the previous decade, Cooper had borrowed substantial sums of money at high interest from lawyer Robert Sedgwick, with whom he was previously acquainted. The tortuous path on which the two thereafter entered need not be completely mapped here. For the present purposes what matters most is that Sedgwick managed to gain control of a property in Otsego county that held special meaning for Cooper. This was his farm, called "Fenimore," which was located on the lake shore north of Cooperstown; here from 1813 to 1817 Cooper had lived with his own family in a small wood farmhouse while a stone mansion they intended to occupy was being built (as it happened, they left Cooperstown before they could move into the new house). Over the next several years, Cooper was to feel the loss of Cooperstown primarily as a loss of his home, but it must have been hard for him to separate the intangible meaning of that term from the tangible one. His fatherís house, occupied by his mother until her death, fell victim to the collapse of the Cooper estate, fetching a fraction of its value at a forced sale in 1821, during James Cooperís executorship. When, two years later, his own poor management resulted in the sale of "Fenimore," his only other home in Otsego was likewise torn from his control. Sedgwick was a sharp dealer who manipulated the interest he charged Cooper until it was technically usurious (and, in Cooperís view, actionable on those grounds), and engaged in practices that Cooper thought tantamount to forgery; Cooper fought back in this case harder than he had in others, but his basic response to Sedgwick was profound disgust with his ungentlemanly conduct. Part of Sedgwickís sharp dealings involved his subsequent sale of the "Fenimore" in such a way that it yielded minimal returns which did not cover Cooperís debt.17
The losses associated with "Fenimore" did not stop here, however; in the summer of 1823, prior to Sedgwickís sale, the unoccupied mansion was burned, probably by an unknown arsonist whose grudge against the Cooperstown gentry led him to torch a number of buildings that summer.18 The effect of the ruinous fire on Cooperís memories and his present feelings was devastating, especially coming when it did, and may have solidified his sense that the landscape of the past was unenterable geographically as well as emotionally now. Jamesís eldest daughter Susan recalled how she had been sitting with her mother when her father entered the room in July of 1823 and without a word handed his wife a Cooperstown paper opened to the account of the mansionís destruction. Shortly after came the serious reversal in Cooperís health, with its nervous as well as physical origins. The double loss of "Fenimore," to the treachery of a creditor and the violence of an arsonist, was deepened by the fact that Susan and Jamesís "poor little boy," their first son, died in the month following the fire. He, of course, was also named "Fenimore." How, after all these frustrated attempts, was he to either maintain his ties to his fatherís village or give his motherís memory its lasting embodiment?19
When these concatenating losses occurred, ironically, Jamesís tale of his familyís hopeful founding of Cooperstown was enjoying great success: Cooper had just managed, in other words, to repossess the imaginative terrain of his family legacy precisely at the time when his legal (and emotional) ties to it had been so definitely ended. The Pioneers, however, was a slippery act of repossession which modelled one of the main characters on Cooperís father, but gave this fictional judge a single child, not the six left alive at Judge Cooperís death. Furthermore, the model for Judge Templeís single child was not the young author but his long-dead older sister Hannah (named for William Cooperís mother, Hannah Hibbs Cooper), whose fictional rebirth here expressed Jamesís perpetual sense of her tragic loss: she served him as a fitting symbol (especially after other tragedies accrued) of all the other Cooper legacies no longer available to him except  in cherished memories. He entered the story through Elizabeth Temple, to be sure, but he also recognized in creating her that he was perpetually outside whatever he might recall, as lost to that world as Hannah was. Memory was a letting go, and in a multiple sense. Despite her emotional origins in the two Hannah Coopers, the character Elizabeth Temple was christened in memory of Cooperís own mother, as well as several other now lost Elizabeth Coopers named in Elizabeth Fenimore Cooperís honor, including Jamesís niece, who died as a result of burns suffered in an accidental fire in 1811, and his own first born child, who suddenly sickened following Jamesís move to Cooperstown and died at the age of two in 1813.20
Through some inner logic, perhaps, young James Cooper sensed that he did not belong in the world he was reimagining even as he very much wanted to bring it back to life because it had meant so much to him. Or perhaps he wanted to reimagine it with himself absent from the fantasy so that he could dissociate himself from the disastrous second half of the family tale, lessening the loss by lessening his prior claim. Or, because recognition and denial often coexist in human motivation, both factors may have been operating at the same time. Then, too, in "becoming" Elizabeth Temple at the same time that he recognized her difference from him, Cooper may have been acting on the same impulse toward renaming himself that was to surface again in 1826, a possibility that would explain why, as with his first daughter and his first son and the farm in Cooperstown, he named the character after his mother. If Elizabeth Templeís self-naming suitor embodied some of James Cooperís complex emotions, so too did the woman Edwards/Effingham wins and weds in the novel, and their marriage effected Jamesís imaginative return to Cooperstown as well as his final break with it. The drama of the plot, including the part played in it by the effectually expelled Natty Bumppo, was energized by a fractionalizing of Cooperís emotions, which worked against each other in this fantasy as they must have in reality. How could someone who had gone through all he had in recent years, and bore the weight of it in his weakened health, not feel conflicted by it all?
When James Cooper petitioned the legislature for his change of name about two years later, I believe his intention was in part to recognize and symbolically move beyond some of his losses. The legislature, as legislatures are wont, gave and took away at the same time. It allowed Cooper to achieve his ostensible purpose of memorializing and honoring his mother but insisted that the past dominate any new future he might craft for himself. It thus approved only his assumption of a largely symbolic middle name, allowing him to become in effect "James F. Cooper," much to the petitionerís disappointment if not anger. Cooper felt that no one ought to know better what suited a person than the person himself -- a reasonable point but one that, as regards naming, runs opposite to our cultureís practice.21 Cooper could do nothing in the face of the legislatureís response but begin to sign himself "J. Fenimore-Cooper" (soon dropping the hyphen) and to assert that "Fenimore" would become a permanent though merely customary fixture of his childrenís and descendantsí last names, as it remains to this day.
As suggested above, names clearly occupied a most interesting place in Cooperís imagination. One of the first and most successful practitioners of the fictional sequence, he created as his most famous character a man whose many names keep shifting throughout the five "Leather-Stocking Tales": Natty, Nathaniel Bumppo, Hawkeye, the "Trapper," the "Man without a Cross," "Deerslayer," "la Longue Carabine," "Pathfinder," and so on. This seemingly endless sequence of sobriquets tells us a good deal, I think, about the fluidity of Cooperís sense of selfhood. In his art as in his life, names were something that could be deployed so as to signify the serial or simultaneous layering of identity, for Cooperís own experience had proved identity to be complex and continually shifting. While the most devastating lesson on this last point may have come in the collapse of his family demographically and economically between 1809 and 1813, I would close by suggesting that the emergence of his unsuspected literary talent in the 1820s may have given him the best hints on the subject. Having seen so many parts of his legacy lost or challenged in the past decade, Cooper fortuitously discovered something inside himself that could help him recast and reclaim his identity. So much that he cared for had died despite his feverish efforts to protect and preserve it, and then something that restored his confidence came almost by accident to him -- for he really just happened on a literary career. It may be that James Cooper changed his name in 1826 to celebrate his own growth, about which his mother could have known nothing, more than to memorialize her in her own right. To become a Fenimore Cooper was to recall both parts of his heritage while being subsumed under neither.
In The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper had just shown a continuing fascination with a kind of ontological indeterminacy, stressing how people and animals and things and even places could shift or reveal the complexity of their shapes and natures;22 he also had made the last of his doomed Mohicans a son who predeceased his father, as if the plot marked its authorís own death as Judge Cooperís son as well as his seemingly autochthonous rebirth in his entirely new guise as author. It was strangely appropriate that Cooper, as he left Chingachgook to mourn his dead son Uncas, petitioned the legislature of New York to take note that he was no longer -- or no longer just -- Judge Cooperís offspring. What James  Cooper had become by 1826 was not, as it might well have been, scripted by his father. How different in this sense was his fate from that of Henry James, Jr., that other son (and grandson) of upstate wealth, whose art fulfilled a parental vision of greatness rather than amended it. In the long crisis of his early adulthood, Cooper derived his identity from what he happily discovered in himself and then by application and faith nurtured until, with the mixed connivance and direction of the state, he could sign himself "J. Fenimore Cooper."23
1. On the indirectness of Cooperís presence in even his most autobiographical writings, consider the manner in which he structured his five travel books as collections of fictional letters: although the texts seem as if they were written in his own voice, and are addressed to people (sometimes named) with whom he was personally intimate, they are not in fact composed of actual letters ever written by Cooper as a private correspondent.
2. James Franklin Beard, Jr., ed., The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960-1968) 4:200-201. Cooper said that the offer embraced some eight or ten farms Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper had acquired in exchange for some property in her native New Jersey. It was not uncommon in the period for individuals to change their names for both sentimental and material reasons, which often were linked. The English actress Fanny Kembleís American husband thus changed his name from Buller Mease to Pierce Butler, also in 1826, in order to inherit his grandfatherís property in Georgia.
3. On the circumstances surrounding Judge Cooperís death, see Alan Taylor, "Who Murdered William Cooper," New York History 72 (1991): 261-83, and William Cooperís Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (New York; Knopf, 1995), pp. 363-71.
4. On the terms of William Cooperís will, see William Cooperís Town, pp. 372-74; and table 12, p. 436.
5. On Cooperís refusal to accept the offered property, see Letters and Journals, 5:201; on the difficulties confronting the Cooper estate, see William Cooperís Town, pp. 374-73, 386-32.
6. On Cooperís health, see Letters and Journals, 1:84, 103-104. Alan Taylor, William Cooperís Town, p. 400, writes that "throughout the long and painful liquidation [of William Cooperís estate following 1817], James Cooper remained strangely detached and passive, never bothering any return to Cooperstown...." While he faults Cooper for this passivity, one might read it as a further sign of his deep emotional distress over the family tragedy.
7. Letters and Journals, 5:201.
8. Mary E. Phillips, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: John Lane, 1313), pp. 2-3; Henry Walcott Boynton, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Century Co., 1931), pp. 142-43; Stephen Railton, Fenimore Cooper: A Study of His Life and Imagination (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 64-65; William Cooperís Town, p. 400.
9. Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York; at their Forty-Ninth Session (Albany: E. Crosswell, 1826), p. 226 (February 20, 1826). Philander Benjamin Prindle, to whom Cooper addressed his 1847 letter on the subject of the name change, left a description of the 1826 petition, which he personally had seen in his capacity as clerk of the New York State Assembly. In a letter to Cooper from Albany dated 3/29/1847, Prindle wrote, "There is on the files of the Assembly of the year 1826 your petition for the authorized insertion of ĎFenimoreí as a middle name" (quoted in Letters and Journals, 5:202, note 1; this description, though, may have been influenced by the final form of the Assemblyís decision). Cooper seems to have understood Prindle as asking permission to print the Cooper petition (or perhaps only his signature on it) in a collection of autographs Prindle was preparing for publication; however, it seems more likely that Prindle was asking permission to remove the document physically and place it in his private "book" of autographs. If Prindle did remove it, it probably burned with the rest of his library prior to 1890.
10. Although Cooperís works technically were anonymous, it was quickly and widely known that he was their author. In Notions of the Americans (1828), Cooper went so far as to mention, in speaking of Cooperstown, that "There resided formerly near this village, a Gentleman who is the reputed author of a series of Tales, which were intended to elucidate the history, manners, usages, and scenery of his native Country.... One of them, (the Pioneers) is said to contain some pretty faithful sketches of certain habits and even of some individuals who were known among the earlier settlers of this very spot." Notions of the Americans: Picked Up by a Travelling Bachelor, ed. Gary Williams (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), p. 216.
11. Of course, the name "Effingham" precedes "Edwards" in the order of history, but the plotís apparent reversal makes the young manís restoration seem like his rechristening.
12. On the Oxfordshire origins of the family, see Letters and Journals, 5:201. On Cooperís strained relations with the De Lanceys, see James H. Pickering, "Fenimore Cooper as Country Gentleman: A New Glimpse of Cooperís Westchester Years," New York History 72 (1991): 299-318; on Cooperís later intense interest in the familyís history and "connections," see Letters and Journals, 5:296-301, 318-321.
13. Letters and Journals, 3:42. Cooper noted rather poignantly in his letter to Susan that when the old man responded to his name, "I thought he spoke respectfully[,] as if he remembered the time when the [Cooper] name had influence in this region."
14. But see the language in the certified manuscript copy (dated 5/8/1826) of the State act sent to Cooper by Archibald Campbell, Deputy Secretary of State at the time: "An Act Authorizing James Cooper to assume a middle name. Be it enacted by the People of the State of New York represented in Senate and Assembly that it shall be lawful for James Cooper formerly of Cooperstown in the County of Otsego and at present of the City of New York to assume and take the middle name of Fenimore and shall hereafter be known and distinguished by the name of James Fenimore Cooper," American Antiquarian Society, Cooper papers, box 5. The reference to Cooperstown here may have derived from language used by Cooper himself in the lost petition, or -- to anticipate the story a bit -- may have been aimed at pinning down Cooperís ties to the Judgeís estate and his own still unresolved financial problems.
15. For Notions, see note 10. Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland, historical introduction and explanatory notes by Robert E. Spiller and James F. Beard, text established by Kenneth W. Staggs and James P. Elliott (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980), pp. 240-41. The inner geography is a bit complex here because at the time Cooper wrote Switzerland, he was residing in Cooperstown in the summer and in New York City in the winter, so the recollection of his 1828 exchange may have been contaminated by current realities.
16. William Cooperís Town, p. 400; for Cooperís 1847 claim see Letters and Journals, 5:201.
17. See Cooperís summary of the affair in his letter to his lawyer, Peter A. Jay, Letters and Journals, 1:121-24, and Beardís note 2, 5:124-125.
18. William Cooperís Town, pp. 424-25; [James Fenimore Cooper], The Chronicles of Cooperstown (Cooperstown: H. & E. Phinney, 1838), pp. 71-72.
19. Susan Fenimore Cooper, "Small Family Memories," in James Fenimore Cooper [1858-1938], ed., Correspondence of James Fenimore-Cooper (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922), 1:52; for Cooperís description of the death of his "poor little boy" Fenimore, see Letters and Journals, 1:103.
20. On Cooperís niece Elizabeth, daughter of his brother Richard, see William Cooperís Town, p. 316 (and note 52); on his daughter Elizabeth, see Isaac Cooper diary, 7/6/1813, New York State Historical Association, Col. 100. In addition, Elizabeth Pomeroy, daughter of Cooperís sister Ann, perished in infancy less than two months after Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper died in 1817 (see Wayne Wright, The Cooper Genealogy, New York State Historical Association Library Notes, 1983, p. 15); and James and Annís own sister Elizabeth, twin of their brother William, Jr., had died in childhood (Wright, p. 3)
21. See Letters and Journals, 5:201.
22. See Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel, 2nd ed. (New York: Dell Publishing, 1966), p. 201.
23. In his 1847 letter to Prindle, Cooper claimed that he began using Fenimore immediately "as part of my family name, except in discourse" (by which he meant that it became part of his signature but that he was still just "Cooper" in conversation) and that he typically signed himself "J. Fenimore Cooper," "abbreviating the James for shortness." For the first surviving example of the use of his new name, see H. C. Carey & Lea to "J. Fennimore [sic] Cooper Esqr.," 4/3/1826, American Antiquarian Society, Cooper papers, box 2 (Carey and Leaís misspelling was an ominous note for the future, as even some of Cooperís closest friends, such as William Dunlap, persisted in getting it wrong years after the change). For the first surviving signature using the name, see Cooperís reply to Carey and Lea the next day, Letters and Journals, 1:131-32.
Return to Top of Page