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Some Comments on the Critical History of James Fenimore Cooper

Taisuke Suzuki
(Asahi University, Japan)

Presented at the 10th Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 1995

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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. 62-76)

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Editor’s Note
Professor Suzuki has undertaken the considerable task of preparing a talk, in what is for him a foreign language, for presentation to a group of American specialists. Living in a country where Cooper materials are hard to come by, he has chosen to examine a series of articles on Cooper from the files of American Literature, most of them long forgotten by contemporary Cooper scholars. In doing so, he reminds us that people have been thinking about, and writing about, Cooper for many years -- and that we owe it to our own understanding to return from time to time to what earlier scholars have had to say. In editing Professor Suzuki’s paper, I have generally limited myself to standardizing punctuation, spelling, and references. I have not sought to revise his use of English, which often displays a freshness that only enhances what he has to say. His deep appreciation of Cooper and his works always comes through clearly. I have added descriptive headings to each of Professor Suzuki’s 25 mini- essays. -- Hugh C. MacDougall (James Fenimore Cooper Society)

I have been reading many papers on Cooper written by American scholars who were in many cases unknown even in your country. Needless to say, many years later some of them came to be known in the world. Many young scholars, however, were unknown in and out of this country when they firstly wrote their theses.

Above all, the Cooper Society has many eminent scholars all over the world. Many distinguished and leading scholars take part in this Cooper Seminar. But there were many young unknown students of Cooper who published the results of their research. Today we can read their important materials for Cooper study if we take several kinds of publications.

I gave attention to the American Literature; A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography which was published from 1929 to 1984. There are 56 volumes in all. Another kind of edition is Nineteenth Century Fiction which has been published by University of California Press. This has also over 50 volumes. I began reading through papers which appear in the American Literature about two years ago. It was in this Cooper Seminar two years ago that I decided to investigate young scholars’ ideas in the past in the U.S.A. The reason why I made up my mind to do so is quite a simple one; the method of Cooper study has become very complicated one especially these years. Needless to say, many good books have been published by American scholars on Cooper.

About nine years ago, I published a little book, titled How Fenimore Cooper Took Actions as a Writer1 which was written in Japanese. In that book I handled 16 authors in all; now I enumerate their names in order of their books’ publication -- Thomas R. Lounsbury, William B. Shubrick Clymer, Henry W. Boynton, Robert E. Spiller, Dorothy Waples, Henry Nash Smith, Arvid Shulenberger, James Franklin Beard, Donald A. Ringe, Edwin Fussell, John P. McWilliams, George Dekker, Warren S. Walker, H. Daniel Peck and so on. In that book I tried to make a historical survey, making a short comment one by one. All the authors I took up were, of course, very famous here and in Japan, too. It goes without saying that these eminent scholars brought about a great advance in Cooper-study.

Adding to them, I cannot forget many important scholars who are presenting here now before me. Some of them were very kind to give me their book. Thank you very much for your kindness. As far as Cooper-study is concerned, no other place is so becoming and appropriate as this seminar is because everyone here may have passionate love and enthusiasm for Cooper’s literature. We are all tied with strong strings of the literary world of James Fenimore Cooper.

Not change the subject, but this time I’ll try to think about unknown researchers on Cooper. As I said before, I’ve been reading American Literature; A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography one by one. It was my first idea that I should read all through the 56 volumes and another edition of Nineteenth Century Fiction. But my plan is still under way. So I wish to confine my remarks to several researchers in their youth.

Some authors whom I took up here are famous and have been so for a long time. Others may be unknown or hardly known to the world. Of course it’s quite probable that I couldn’t realize them as widely accepted. But even in such a case, such investigators as I take up here have been ignored in spite of their writings are of much importance.

Robert E. Spiller said thirty-two years ago in his great book, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times: "It is once more a time for critics; a time for us to reconsider this most thoroughly critical mind that early America produced."2 So let me say now the same words here; It is high time for us Cooper students; a time for us to reconsider the unknown scholars that early America produced.

This idea is what I’ve had in my mind these years. Then let’s carry out considerably minute examination of those young and unknown students on Fenimore Cooper in the United States of America.

(1) Cooper’s Letters from Europe

In "Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times -- New Letters from Rome and Paris, 1830-31,"3 Robert E. Spiller observes Cooper’s literary characteristics in the writer’s controversial prose and his personal letters. After reading many letters of Cooper, Spiller concluded that his letters conveyed as much as numerous notebooks did. What Spiller took notice of was that Cooper’s letters showed him as "a commentator upon the political conditions of his times." He says: "Cooper letters reflect the self-confidence of a man whose place in the world is assured by his proven abilities, but they [63] contain as well the root of his future controversies, a haughty scorn for shallowness and hypocrisy wherever he finds them, in Governments or in his fellows...." Concluding as mentioned above now, Spiller explains Cooper’s stay in Europe more than seven years. Especially he pays attention to political events in Europe in the years 1830-31, for the years "were watched with a vital interest by Americans." Spiller tells us much about the July Revolution of 1830. The relationship between Lafayette and Cooper gave much on Cooper’s works. Spiller speaks much of it in this thesis. Thirty years later, James Franklin Beard writes very voluminous books, The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper,4 which consist of six volumes. And Cooper’s grandson, James Fenimore Cooper published the writer’s Correspondence5 in two volumes. Through these books, we can realize well Cooper’s footprints in Europe. In case of thinking about Cooper there, Spiller’s explanation of the writer gives us much help. Because Spiller investigates not only the minute feelings of Cooper and all the members of his family in Europe, but also friends and acquaintances in his mother country and in Europe. There are the same letters in Spiller’s book as are seen in The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper. But there are some differences in the way of writing between the two books. So the difference itself will attract some researchers. For example, as to the letter addressed to Charles Wilkes from Paris to New York on 29 September in 1831, there are two differences between the two books.

You say nothing of my old friend George. I do not know whether he is guiltless of matri[mony] and murder, two things which Doctors commit in the first years of their practice.... (Underlined by the author.)
My only apprehension is, that in his desire to settle the affair, he may have deceived himself as to the amount justly due.

The citations mentioned above are from The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper. Take notice of the words underlined. Then read carefully the following:

You say nothing of my old friend George. I do not know whether he is guiltless of matrimony and murder, two things which doctors commonly commit in the first years of their practice.
My only apprehension is, that in his desire to settle the affair, he may deceive himself as to the amount justly due.

These two citations are from "Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times" by Robert E. Spiller which is contained in American Literature Volume I, 1929-1930. It goes without saying that there are many other examples of the difference between Cooper’s letters in the two books. These differences teach us the importance of reading carefully both of the books. As to the thesis by Robert E. Spiller, it gives us much information about Cooper’s life in Europe. We know well the voluminous book by R. E. Spiller which was published in 1963 in the same title proved his extensive and acute judgments about the writer. At any rate, this thesis by Spiller, which appeared in the American Literature, Volume 1, 1929- 1930, appeals to us.

(2) Review of Gleanings in Europe: France.

Kenneth B. Murdock6, Harvard University, makes a short comment on Gleanings in Europe: France edited by Robert E. Spiller. Spiller published this book by the Oxford University Press in 1928.

Cooper’s books on his travels are neither well known nor easily accessible, Murdock says. Murdock writes also Robert E. Spiller gave us an excellent summary of Cooper as a social critic. According to him, Cooper’s pages on France contain much that is historically interesting, and reveal, now and then, points about Cooper himself. Aside from this, Murdock keeps his eye on Cooper’s literary point of view; after reading Cooper’s pages on France, Murdock points out "Cooper’s attitude toward his own country, his aristocratic prejudices, and the standards by which he judged men and women." From critical point of view, Murdock is right. As we know, Robert E. Spiller is the first who asserted Cooper to be "a social critic. " So Murdock’s review in the "Book Review" of American Literature, Volume 1 is most profitable.

(3) Who Was Harvey Birch?

A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper by Robert E. Spiller and Philip C. Blackburn (New York, 1934) shows us that Cooper’s second novel, The Spy was published in the United States and in Europe. In 1821, it was brought out by Wiley and Halstead, a publisher in New York, while on the other hand it was also issued by G. and W. B. Whittaker, a publisher in London in the following year. The other publishers in London such as Henry Colburn, Richard Bentley, William Milner and George Routledge put the novel into print in 1840 and 1850. In France also, Charles Gosselin, a publisher printed the same novel in 1822 and other publishers such as Firmin-Didot Frères and [64] Gustave Barba brought it out in 1840 and 1849 in Paris. The novel was published in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain between 1820’s and 1840’s. In short, Cooper became a world-famous writer by this second story. It was then obviously true that even a great publisher in London such as John Murray could not keep disregarding the writer any more.

When I finished reading this novel, I realized that I felt a deep affection for this main character, Harvey Birch. For a couple of months, wherever I might be, I kept murmuring the name of Harvey Birch. I had to go so far, for Harvey Birch was depicted very impressively.

It was only natural that when Cooper published The Spy late in the year 1821, there arose a great argument about the identification of the main character of the story. Tremaine McDowell,7 The University of Minnesota, tells us in his essay: "Was Harvey Birch, readers demanded, modeled after a secret agent of the Revolution? If such was his origin, who, they asked, was the model?" McDowell says: "Of the various individuals since presented as prototypes of Cooper’s spy, a certain Enoch Crosby has been urged most persistently. Although it has been categorically denied that there can be any connection between the two men, the majority of those who have discussed the matter accept the identification. And yet there has never been a conclusive answer to the question, Who was Harvey Birch? The problem, therefore, is provocative."

In his 10-page essay, McDowell maintains that minute comparison of the authentic Crosby with that of Harvey Birch reveals few general and no specific parallels. McDowell is fully justified in saying that any novelist is privileged to treat facts with a free hand and to embroider on history at will, and that Cooper dealt with an authentic spy in this imaginative fashion. In conclusion McDowell asserts that Harvey Birch is not the spy of Jay, not Enoch Crosby, not another Westchester patriot, but he is, rather, the original creation of Cooper’s imagination. Harvey Birch is unique.

(4) Cooper and Lafayette

Robert E. Spiller,8 Swarthmore College, reports in his essay that the relationship between Cooper and Lafayette during his stay in France profoundly influenced his literary works. During the writer was staying in Paris with his family, he was an often visitor to the salons led by the General. Spiller says Cooper had already strayed from the field of pure fiction, and his frequent visits to La Grange and in the Rue d’Anjou were prompted by a sympathy of opinions on political and social topics as well as by regard for the character of the General.... Thomas K. Lounsbury had thought that Cooper’s stay in Paris, especially his social and political controversy with many people in Lafayette’s salons gave "the most important turning point in his career and the primary cause of that unpopularity which embittered the last fifteen years of his life and motivated his later novels with political and social criticism...." Spiller is more prudent in saying Cooper’s contribution to the General can not be soon appreciated. He asserts the extent and value of Cooper’s contribution could not be rightly estimated without a study of the contemporary parliamentary records and periodical press of France.

Spiller cites several instances in illustration of his theory. From his point of view, Cooper’s letter To the American People, dated from Vevey, Switzerland, October 1, 1832 was "an attempt to correct the misrepresentations of the American press in a matter which had aroused his patriotic zeal." In this letter, Cooper wrote about his role as an earnest debater concerning "the town, village, county, city and state charges;" in short Cooper argued with many French gentlemen to procure "a general summary of all the impositions on the citizen." What made him get angry was that many Americans misunderstood him, which led him to write this long letter to his countrymen. If we read this long letter to his American people, we can understand well he was then quite hopeless to make himself understood by his countrymen. After reading Robert E. Spiller’s "Fenimore Cooper and Lafayette: The Finance Controversy of 1831-1832," we see many American people were against Cooper’s idea. But at the same time, Cooper had many friends who were good readers of the writer’s deep mind.

Spiller reports us that "Cooper’s involvement in the whole of this affair was entirely creditable. He entered the field against his will because his friend had asked him directly for a public expression of his opinion on a subject which affected the good name of the United States on foreign shores." (p. 43)

Through his series of letters, Cooper expressed his idea of defense of "American institutions abroad." Namely Cooper was a strong fighter against misunderstanding in Europe of the institutions of his country and against ignorance for the political purposes of the United States.


(5) Review of Gleanings in Europe (England)

Gregory Paine, The University of North Carolina, makes this amusing comment on Gleanings in Europe (England),9 by James Fenimore Cooper, edited by Robert E. Spiller, New York: The Oxford University Press, 1930. According to Paine’s conjecture, Cooper wrote the series of his sketches in 1828 and revised them in 1837 before publication. He tells us that Professor Spiller’s Introduction gives much about this point. Paine reports us: according to Robert E. Spiller, Cooper went to England in February, 1828, especially to see his publishers, and that business concerns kept him in London until spring.... (p. 104) Cooper met many men of importance such as Samuel Rogers, a retired business man; William Spencer, a fashionable poet; Sir James Mackintosh, the philosopher: William Sotheby, a translator of Homer; Sir Walter Scott and other notables.

Paine highly estimates Spiller’s explanation, for Spiller is a good analyst of Cooper’s character and is a good teller of Cooper’s anti-British attitude. Paine says: "The reading of this and other miscellaneous writings will aid as to understand the real James Fenimore Cooper, who is not the Cooper of Greeley or Mark Twain, or even of Lounsbury or Brownell." And he thinks Gleanings in Europe (England) as it has abundant evidence of Cooper’s militant Americanism, and the various incidents revealing it are the salty meats of the travel sketches. Paine introduces Francis Bowen’s words, "...We sympathize heartily with Mr. Cooper’s pride of country, and preference of republican institutions, while we judge, from his book, that his exhibition of these feelings abroad was unseasonable, excessive, and in very bad taste." After saying so, Paine finishes his words with a brief comment: "In 1931, after nearly a century, we know how maliciously unjust this criticism was and we are ready to read and confirm James Fenimore Cooper’s criticisms of England and America."

(6) Review of Boynton’s James Fenimore Cooper

Tremaine McDowell,10 The University of Minnesota estimates highly James Fenimore Cooper, by Henry Walcott Boynton, New York, 1931. As we know, Boynton’s James Fenimore Cooper brought about many changes in the history of Cooper-study. This book played an epoch-making role in the foundation of a new phase in studying Cooper. It brought a change. Since Thomas R. Lounsbury wrote James Fenimore Cooper in 1882, Lounsbury’s idea had been dominant among students in America; Lounsbury believed that Cooper depicted in a bad way especially women in his novels. To this way of thinking, Boynton fought it out to the end.

Lounsbury wrote; "His failure in characterization was undoubtedly greatest in the women he drew. Cooper’s ardent admirers have always resented this charge. Each one of them points to some single heroine that fulfills the highest requirements that criticism could demand." (James Fenimore Cooper, p. 278)

Boynton was against such an idea: "Lounsbury is right about the fact of Cooper’s technical lapses. But when he says curtly that Cooper ‘rarely attained to beauty of style,’ he declares his own insensitiveness to great writing as contrasted with neat ‘composition.’" (James Fenimore Cooper, p. 386)

Returning to the subject of McDowell’s book, this investigator says that chapter titles and head-quotations are neatly chosen and the style is informal and easy. After saying much for Boynton’ a way of writing, McDowell refers to the essence of the book: "The early chapters of the biography, covering the years to 1819, are excellently done. For the first time, the significance in Cooper’s life of the Otsego country is fully demonstrated...."

In the latter half of the essay, McDowell is sharp in pointing out Boynton’s errors:

Contemporary memoirs and travels are now and then drawn upon, but their resources are in the main unexplored. Nor is Cooper’s literary reputation carefully studied, save in so far as it may be (dubiously) reconstructed from his correspondence. As for the matter actually employed, it is commonly, but not always handled in competent fashion. (American Literature, p. 334)

After saying so, McDowell illustrates many mistakes in Boynton’s quotations from Ned Myers. For example, accepted becomes accompanied (Boynton, p. 36); out becomes on (p. 37); that of is omitted (p. 38); ordered our helm hard up becomes ...hard down (p. 40) etc. Before closing the essay, McDowell adds more several mistakes such as flouting chronology, omitting dates, and so disregarding time as to permitting of such expressions as Cooper’s "year or two," "then or a little later," and the like.

McDowell ends his essay with the next words: "...Thus academic readers -- for whom the biography was not written -- may be inclined to apply to it Mr. Boynton’s description of Lounsbury’s volume: ‘a good book, but not conceivably to be taken as the last word.’" This last saying may sound a little bit severe.


(7) Review of Mencken’s edition of The American Democrat

Robert E. Spiller,11 Swarthmore College, points out "striking similarities" between Mencken and Fenimore Cooper. Spiller says "there are striking similarities between them in field of interest, in intentions, and in methods of writing, as well as in personalities." According to Spiller, both "find a particular zest in swimming against the current, both are sworn enemies of the demagogue, and both by fearless and forceful expression of their opinions have helped America to a knowledge of herself." After these words, Spiller insists that there are equally striking differences. Spiller says "Cooper fought from the citadel of his own pride; Mr. Mencken comes down into the thick of the battle."

Now, similarities between them aside, let’s return to further examination of Spiller’s critical essay on Cooper. Spiller continues his discussion, taking up Cooper’s several works, "Letter to General Lafayette" (1831), Letter to His Countrymen (1834), The History of the Navy of the United States (1839), The Bravo, Home as Found, and The Redskins. Spiller regards The American Democrat as the most important statements of his social creed. The other important works, he says, are Notions of the Americans, the five volumes of his European travel record, The Monikins and the three anti-rent novels, of which Satanstoe, he says, is the best. Spiller puts forward the claim that in Satanstoe, for the first time, Cooper outlined at length "his faith in his own conception of the American democratic ideal."

It is sure that Cooper exhibited great talent for controversy between him and the critics’ circle, which interests us very much.

(8) Cooper and Coleridge

In this short report, Earl Leslie Griggs,12 University of Michigan tells us Cooper’s acquaintanceship with people well known in literary circles in England. During his stay in London in 1828, James Fenimore Cooper is said to have met William Sotheby and Coleridge. Cooper listened to Coleridge talk on "one of his favorite themes-the theory that The Iliad was the work of many individuals."

Griggs cites passages from Cooper’s England. With Sketches of Society in the Metropolis (London, 1837), II, 31-35. In these long cited passages, we can read how Cooper watches the famous poet with great interest. To Cooper’s ears, the eloquent discourse of Coleridge and the perfect mastery of his subject and of his language were excellent. The poet’s strong and clear voice sounded perfect. Cooper was especially struck by the beauty of the language.

After saying so, the letter shows that Cooper not only found time to enjoy the hospitality of his friends but that he was anxious to meet Coleridge more informally. The letter to Sotheby, Saturday, Noon, [April 26,] 1828, proves how deeply the writer was impressed with the poet. In this letter we see no picture of the later American great novelist of strong spirit.

Griggs concludes his words by citing Coleridge’s letter to Sotheby, saying that Coleridge himself felt Cooper as "the American Sir Walter."

(9) Reviews of Spiller’s Fenimore Cooper: A Critic of His Times and Outland’s The "Effingham" Libels on Cooper

Gregory Paine13 University of North Carolina, expresses his frank opinions: the general reader estimates James Fenimore Cooper either as a romancer of Indian and sea tales, or as a choleric old fellow who sued newspapers for alleged libel. After saying that, Paine expresses his critical attitude as to Cooper; the well-read student of American literature, however, recognizes Cooper as a pioneer among American novelists, the founder of a school of American fiction writers, a keen, sound interpreter and critic of American life, whose spirited comments are pertinent to the America of 1933. He was an able critic of his times.

Paine highly estimates Spiller’s book,14 saying that it "brought to us the rich fruits of his study of Cooper’s life, writings, and ideas." Paine tries to classify the great book under three main topics; according to him, "the first relates the biographical and literary facts about Cooper, from his birth in 1789 to his departure for Europe in 1826." And "the second part of the book covers the period of Cooper’s sojourn abroad from 1826 to 1833...." "The last part of the book covers the period of Cooper’s life from 1833 to his death in 1851...."

Paine shows us the headlines in each part of the three. Paine notices one of them favorably, adding that it is Spiller’s remarkable achievement to explain in "The Retreat of the Indians" in the first chapter that "the Indian history of New York colony is briefly but accurately narrated. Some sentences about Cooper’s knowledge of the Indians might well be noted by students who insist that Cooper knew the ‘real’ Indians."

[67] Paine has a bold idea in saying that "the friends and descendants of Cooper will read this book with pleasure; his enemies will find little to nourish their prejudices; students in colleges and universities will find it a readable biography, free from false statements and meretricious journalistic tricks...." Paine completes his explanation, saying that readers will find "a dozen perplexing questions about Cooper’s life and writings unanswered."

In his second book review, Paine makes a considerable point of commending Miss Outland’s The "Effingham" Libels on Cooper for its "laborious care in securing photographic copies of the newspaper articles connected with the Cooper libel suits, and for examining the court records of these suits." It is said that the original of her thesis, deposited in the University of Wisconsin library, contains the complete file of these articles and records a rich collection. According to Paine, it is regrettable that Miss Outland could not reprint all of this material, "but even with the abridgments the volume will be valuable to future students."

Paine praises Miss Outland for her not simply narrating the story of the Cooper suits against newspaper editors, but her advancing the thesis in her original views. Paine finishes this review after saying that he will "continue to honor Cooper for his courageous checking of the arrogance of the Fourth Estate."

(10) Review of Ross’s The Social Criticism of Fenimore Cooper

Tremaine McDowell,15 The University of Minnesota, says: "since 1927, when the late Vernon Parrington outlined Cooper’s position as a critic of American life, literary historians have questioned with increasing frequency whether the creator of Leatherstocking is to be studied as a romancer or as a commentator on society."

Mr. Ross favors the latter view, says McDowell. According to him, "romanticism dominated Cooper from The Spy to The Prairie, colored his novels of European life, completely (and amusingly) routed criticism in Homeward Bound, broke out triumphant in the great romances of the 1840’s, and persisted even in the novels of manners and the last weak volumes of protest." While saying so, McDowell has a sharp eye for us students of Cooper. For "students of Cooper will eventually become reconciled to the dual nature of the writer’s genius, and pay full tribute simultaneously to his achievement as critic and to his success as a romancer."

As to Ross’ theory, McDowell reviews with admiration, particularly for Ross’ "full and sympathetic summary of Cooper’s ideas" in Notions of the Americans, The Monikins, The American Democrat, and Home as Found. And McDowell asserts that no reader can challenge Ross in his account of Cooper’s long and violent attack on social topics.

But, on the other hand, McDowell points out Ross’ ideas sounding awkward. He proceeds with his explanation that Cooper is not to be "portrayed as a reasoned and deliberate advocate of an individualistic philosophy and a prophet of true Emersonian self-reliance." McDowell recognizes Cooper as individualistic and in his relations to society Cooper was an honest but highly opinionated reformer.

At the end of his review, McDowell lays stress on the importance of thinking Cooper, especially "Cooper’s ideas prior to 1826 as revealed in his early novels and the events of his life, the influence of Europe on his thought, the full significance of A Letter to His Countrymen, his pointed comment on society in the European Gleanings, his letters to the press and similar minor publications, the changes wrought in his attitude by partisan attacks on himself and his books, the social theories expounded in his anti-rent trilogy, the themes of his last feeble novels."

(11) Cooper, Lafayette, and Polish Freedom

In this thesis, Robert E. Spiller,16 Swarthmore College refers to the suppressed Poles in 1830. In those days Polish liberals asserted their independence from the Russian oppression. Lafayette in Paris was taking part in the revolutionary movement. Concerned with the political situation, Spiller gives us close information. His description illustrates general survey on the revolution which broke out on November 29, 1830. What is most important may be that Spiller succeeded in giving full explanation of Lafayette’s contribution to the revolution, to say nothing of the General’s playing decisive part in the revolution of the Polish. After giving full illustration of Lafayette’s position concerning the Polish insurrection, Spiller continues the most important point, making some references to close cooperation between Lafayette and Cooper. He reports that among the many Americans then in Paris Cooper was the recognized leader of opinion. So with Cooper’s aid Lafayette succeeded in accomplishing much. According to Spiller, a committee of the American residents of Paris was formed, with Cooper as its chairman. And Spiller reports that Cooper’s first definite participation in the cause was at a meeting held on July 9, 1831. We are reported also that a letter to the American people was drafted, which Cooper, as chairman of the meeting, signed and probably wrote.

[68] Spiller presents several kinds of documents to us. There are letters of the Chairman to Gen. Lafayette and answer of General Lafayette as well as a letter to the American people written by Cooper. They seem to be invaluable as historical documents. As to the letter to the American people, many of you may have read it in The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper which was edited by James Franklin Beard in 1960-1968.

(12) Review of Spiller and Blackburn’s Descriptive Bibliography of Cooper

At the opening of the book review, Gregory Paine,17 The University of North Carolina, introduces the career history of the two gentlemen who compiled Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1934). I knew that Mr. Blackburn, formerly of the New York Public Library, was the collaborator with Mr. William L. Langfeld in compiling the bibliography of Washington Irving.

Next Paine explains that Spiller "sketches Cooper’s struggle against careless printers and publishers, and his partially successful efforts to protect his book rights against pirates, in the lack of an international copyright law."

In the next passages, Paine illustrates the real state of things with regard to the copyright of the American authors in 19th century in the U.S.A. Cooper’s first book, Precaution seems to have been promptly pirated by Henry Colburn in London. According to Paine’s very concrete explanation, literary piracy seemed to have been committed by many publishing firms in Cooper’s days not only in the U.S.A. but also in many countries in Europe.

At the end of the review, Paine complains that "the fourth section being entitled ‘Attributions, Adaptations, Etc.,’ each item should have received more detailed comments." But at the same time, Paine has the highest praise for the compilers, saying that "this volume is more than a mere bibliography and it is a chapter in the history of American publication; it contains evidence to aid the literary historian in understanding the chief causes for the retardation in the production of a native literature."

(13) The Red Rover on Stage

John D. Gordan,18 Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gordan has the highest praise for R.E. Spiller’s and P.C. Blackburn’s Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1934). The reason for his praise may be sought for in the following fact that the book "lists an amazing number of American and British editions and of Continental and even Asiatic translations of his works."

After saying that, Gordan states his own opinion about Cooper’s sea story, The Red Rover which was published in Paris on November 27, 1827; in London on November 30; and in Philadelphia on January 9, 1828. He says that "at least seven adaptations, and perhaps even more, seem to have been made." He thinks that the first American production was put on at the Chestnut Street Theater in Philadelphia on February 21, 1828.

Gordan pays attention on a playbill which, he says, is preserved in the Widener Library. He reports that the playbill announces The Red Rover was being produced for the first time on any stage. Wemyss, the manager of the Chestnut Street Theater called upon, Gordan says, one of his actors, Samuel H. Chapman, to make the adaptation. Thus Chapman had the opportunity to build for himself the chief role in the adaptation. According to him, in 1830, ten months after his marriage, Chapman was thrown from his horse and died of injuries at the age of thirty-one.

Gordan conjectures that Chapman’s adaptation of The Red Rover was published by F. Turner in Philadelphia: two copies in the Widener Library, he says, bear no date. He asserts that the probable date may be 1828, but Chapman’s version was published in 1829 or even later, after other adaptations had been successful in England.

Gordan says on September 7, 1829, at the Surrey Theater, London, a version of The Red Rover was performed that was anonymous.

This novel, Gordan says, could inspire a successful travesty half a century after the novel first appeared and over a quarter of a century after Cooper’s death, which indicates a more enduring popularity than has been hitherto suspected.

Finally, Gordan illustrates the works by Edward Fitzball, an English adaptor whose real name was Ball and who was a prolific carpenter of nautical dramas. "Fitzball was not only the author of a dramatization of The Red Rover, but besides such pieces as Nelson and The Floating Beacon, he carpentered a stage version of The Pilot, produced at the Adelphi Theater, London, on October 21, 1826." According to Gordan’s explanation, an actor named T.P. Cooke, famous for his nautical roles, played 785 times in Black-Eyed Susan, 562 times in The Pilot, 269 times in My Poll and My Partner Joe by Haines, and 120 times in The Red Rover. Gordan concludes his paper by saying that "these facts suggest that part of the continuing popularity of Cooper in the nineteenth century was due to the success of theatrical adaptations of his sea stories."


(14) Review of Satanstoe

At first, Gregory Paine19 explains the summary of this novel. Satanstoe (1845) "is a novel of the New York Colony during the French and Indian War of the eighteenth century, having the same general place and time settings as The Last of The Mohicans and The Pathfinder. But the spirit and atmosphere of Satanstoe and Cooper’s method of narration differ from those of the two Leather- Stocking tales." Paine says that the narrative takes the form of the autobiography which Cornelius Littlepage tells readers about the fictitious "Littlepage Manuscripts." The storyteller, the young Dutch-American Cornelius Littlepage is of wealthy family, having lived for several generations on the estate of "Satanstoe" in Westchester County. "Corny" is a man educated at the Princeton in his early days, learns a better English speech than the Yankees of Yale could teach him.

In the story "the hero sees the plays of Cato and The Beaux Stratagem. This man rescues the lovely Anneke Mordaunt from the claws of a managerie lion." After rescuing Anneke again from the Hudson River in flood, Corny gets married to her. After their marriage the hero "examines the land holdings of the Littlepages at ‘Mooseridge’ in the Adirondack wilderness."

The title of "Littlepage Manuscripts" means the three novels, to say nothing of the one mentioned above. There are two other novels. They are The Chainbearer (1845) and The Redskins (1846). The one is "the autobiography of Mordaunt Littlepage, the son of Cornelius and Anneke, and deals with the period immediately following the Revolution. The other is the story of Hugh Roger Littlepage, the, son of Mordaunt Littlepage, who tells of his troubles with the Anti-Renters." After summing up the saga, Paine comments that "Cooper relates incidents involving deeds of violence and bloodshed committed by Anti-Renters disguised as Indians, against the heirs of the patroons. Although he had no financial stake in this local brawling, Cooper sustains the rights of landowners against illegal landjumpers."

According to Paine, it naturally follows that "as created by Cooper, Littlepage is a wealthy young man of the mid-eighteenth century, the son of an aristocratic, estate-holding colonial family, who expresses the views of his class and his time. It is wrong to quote them as indubitably the views of Cooper himself. The study of Cooper will go more askew than it is now if the casual utterances of Leather-Stocking, Chingachgook, Harvey Birch, Effingham, and a hundred other characters are quoted as the ideas of Cooper himself. One can prove anything for or against Cooper if such evidence is admitted to court."

Finally Paine asserts that we must read and study Satanstoe as a "chronicle of manners."

(15) Review of Waples’s The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper

Marcel Clavel,20 University of Aix, Marseille, the author of this review takes notice of this work, saying that soon any Cooper scholars in the world over must have understood the value of the literary world of James Fenimore Cooper through this book.

After saying so, Clavel refers to Waples’s way of accusing Lounsbury of having begun "the tradition of minimizing the novelist’s political connections." Next, Clavel expresses his approval for Waples’s pointing out Cooper’s support given to the Democratic press at the time of the libel suits. Then Clavel is gently critical of Waples’s attitude, for she will not "explain in detail why the Whig abuse and the ‘Whig Myth’ did not die out as a result of the firm stand taken by Cooper against the Anti-Renters, the evils of trial by jury, and the rights of women." Clavel says this is Waples’s "strange oversight." But Clavel admires the value of Waples’s book "as a scholarly plea in vindication of Cooper’s character."

(16) Review of Clavel’s Fenimore Cooper and His Critics

Robert E. Spiller21 says: "Professor Clavel’s life of Fenimore Cooper has been awaited with great eagerness for the past ten and more years by those who knew that it was in progress and who were familiar with the fine scholarly mind and sensitive literary judgment of its author."

Spiller expresses admiration for professor Clavel, saying that he has "a combination of qualities not possessed by any previous student of Cooper." According to Spiller, Marcel’s biography supersedes all others for the period which it covers. It is said that Marcel was cordially welcomed by the late grandson of the novelist, so he could have limited access to what papers survived in the Cooper family prior to any other recent biographer or critic. That’s why Marcel made an exhaustive study of all printed sources.

[70] The most valuable point is, Spiller says, that Marcel brought to light many inconsistencies and contradictions on important as well as minor points in all other commentaries. Marcel’s excellent point is to be seeked for his thorough investigation of many moot questions without any dogmatism or condemnation. This is what Spiller wants to say about the book. To use Spiller’s words, M. Clavel is the first of Cooper’s critics to take seriously Precaution and Lionel Lincoln and to devote to their study the care which a masterpiece would merit. This book published for the first time Cooper’s own notes in connection with his novels, which makes the book indispensable to anyone who would again review his literary career.

(17) Sources of Mercedes of Castille

Most Cooper specialists take notice of The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer, while on the other hand they will not turn their attention to the novel that appeared midway between the two novels mentioned above. This is what Donald M. Goodfellow,22 Carnegie Institute of Technology, doubted. He says as follows: "for its many literary faults Mercedes of Castile has suffered well-deserved neglect. Yet it seems strange that no one has hitherto considered it worthy of study simply for the light which it throws on Cooper’s use of source material."

After stating the brief outline of the story, Donald refers to the preface to Mercedes written by Cooper. In his preface to the story, Cooper gave passing comments of "the political situation in Spain in the year 1469 together with thumbnail biographies of John of Aragon, Henry of Castile, and the latter’s family." Here Donald shows us how William Hickling Prescott has a great influence on Cooper’s idea. Prescott wrote The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella (Boston, 1838). Donald observes that Cooper is "attempting to condense into two paragraphs material to which Prescott devotes thirty-three pages."

After saying that Prescott’s History was very helpful in Cooper’s depiction, Donald explains how Cooper gave a picture of the life of Isabella and another woman, Beatriz de Bobadilla, a lifelong friend. Donald’s analysis shows that Cooper’s way of depiction is "reminiscent of Shakespeare’s in the well-known scene in The Merchant of Venice in which Portia and Nerissa discuss the former’s suitors."

Donald’s investigation continues in following chapters. His point of view includes Cooper’s sentence, the characters in the fiction, the similarity between the Columbus of the Life and Voyages and the Columbus of Mercedes etc. Finally, Donald utters a warning against hasty conclusion founded upon careless reading of this novel. Donald concludes his explanation, saying: "at a time when publishers are flooding the world of books with volumes of fictionalized history, many of which have been compiled by writers who respect facts and sources, an examination of this novel, unique in method among the works of the first important American novelist, is of considerable interest."

(18) Cooper and Charles Sealsfield

Karl J. Arndt,23 Louisiana State University, seems to say the following with special emphasis: the careful reading of "an interesting exchange of criticism between Cooper and Sealsfield" will lead us to "a better and more lasting appreciation of the works of Charles Sealsfield." Arndt teaches us that Cooper, soon after his arrival in England, read an article by Charles Sealsfield in the London Quarterly Review: it was titled "The United States of North America, As They Are Now in Their Political, Religious, and Social Relations."

According to Arndt, Sealsfield reviewed the then American life from many-sided view-points -- the political, physical, and moral state of the North America. He was aware that his sayings with eloquence about the political situation in America would be displeasing to the American people. Arndt says Sealsfield’s picture of the United States was not unfair or untrue. That’s why Cooper’s Notions of the Americans was "extended by the appearance of Sealsfield’s book." Arndt says Cooper disliked Sealsfield’s realistic picture, which resulted in idealized notions of a refined America. Arndt, however, points the relation between the Notions and "The United States...," saying that the relation must have been "apparent to all those who had read the two books, especially those parts of the two works dealing with Adams and Jackson." Arndt reports us that Sealsfield’s first published criticism of Cooper appeared in the New-York Mirror of February 12, 1831, under the title "The Works of the Author of The Spy."

From the viewpoint of Arndt, Sealsfield’s comment on Cooper seemed to be clear. For example, Sealsfield criticizes that Cooper’s Indians are too sophisticated. They talk too much and too little. So far as Natty is concerned he also talks entirely too much for a man loving solitude. "Of this the writer seems to have been aware," Sealsfield says, "for he kills him (Natty) by a natural death at the conclusion of the story...." Sealsfield finds also that Cooper is least able to paint civilized women, saying that Cooper is more successful on the water than on the land. Sealsfield believes that [71] Cooper is aided by his professional experience which enables him to describe the various appearances of the ocean and the tactics of a ship "with all the accuracy of a log-book, though not with the same brevity." He says that in his sea novels Cooper has excellent ready-made materials at his command which are beyond his reach on land. Sealsfield closes his thesis by saying that Cooper’s works are slow in progress of his narratives. He believes that "this failing, if not soon corrected, will undermine his popularity." To Sealsfield’s eyes Cooper appeared to "commit the sin of writing too much."

(19) Review of The Crater

Harold N. Scudder,24 University of New Hampshire, shows us that The Crater is the story of the Rancocus, a ship out of Burlington, N. J., which in the night crashes into an uncharted reef in mid-Pacific. After telling this to us, Harold is very efficient in drawing a clear picture of the whole story of The Crater. Then we are told that in writing the story, Cooper "made use of some recent geological events which had attracted a great deal of attention among scientists and sailors." Harold adds that Cooper "could, presumably, have gained some of his information upon these matters directly from navy acquaintances and from newspapers and periodicals, and perhaps did so; but Lyell’s Principles of Geology seems to have been his immediate source." Harold makes foot-notes here with respect to the source book: Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, Fourth ed. (London, 1835).

According to Harold, it is likely that Cooper collected information relating to "the rise and eventual subsidence of Graham’s Island, in the Mediterranean, 1831, named by Captain Senhouse of the Royal Navy, who first landed upon it." Harold says that "Cooper needed a setting for his story remote from organized society, where human nature might freely develop and exhibit its peculiarities.... Cooper thought it best to provide no soil at all but to force his castaways to make their own; and nothing but a perfectly new volcanic island, in a remote sea and in an equable climate, would meet his requirements...."

Harold reports us that in the story, the submarine eruption lifts and enlarges the original island and brings into view the Peak; Cooper makes use of other details offered him by Lyell. Cooper seems to have learned the economic history of the colony through books by Henry Charles Carey, an Anglophobe, son of Matthew Carey, an Irish immigrant. Harold H. Scudder thinks that Cooper might have taken his idea from Carey’s Principles of Political Economy. But the Carey’s book seems to have been revised into his next book, The Past, The Present, and the Future which was published in 1848, after the appearance of The Crater. Harold reports us: in the book, Carey writes that man will not be able to live in his sound economic life, when the producer of food will be driven away by the producer of other forms of capital. In the last, Harold accentuates that Cooper may have read some of Carey’s manuscript previous to the publication of the book. Harold ends his words, saying:

It is interesting to note, finally, that when in the colony described in The Crater the government is not well administered, and when the property of the governor is no longer secure, and when the people become engaged in religious controversy, the author finds it necessary to bring the colony’s career to a close.

(20) The Sources of The Prairie

At the beginning of the thesis, E. Soteris Muszynska-Wallace,25 New York University, declares that Cooper knew little about the Indians. In spite of it, The Prairie shows Cooper’s remarkable verisimilitude, Soteris says. Quoting several passages from some authors, Soteris tries to show us that Cooper knew much of the plains and the Indians, saying: "...the sum total of his knowledge regarding aboriginal life, as culled from direct observation, was still negligible." Soon after saying this, Soteris tells us that Cooper did "the business of building up his background in the way any modern novelist would who could not visit the actual setting of his story." Carrying out further examinations of this, Soteris refers to necessity of a careful comparison of The Prairie with the Lewis and Clark History of the Expedition. According to Soteris, we’ll find after reading the two books that "Cooper knew the latter work well and made frequent borrowings from it." We are also told that Cooper took the names of two of his Indian characters, Weucha and Mahtoree from the book mentioned above now.

According to E. Soteris, Cooper seemed to have read the following book, that is, Edwin James, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburg to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819 and ’20,...under the Command of Major Stephen H. Long (Philadelphia, 1823). Soteris quotes numerous details drawn by Cooper from its pages. Soteris explains that "expressions such as Big Knives and Long Knives, found in The Prairie and used by the Indians to name men of the white race, were widespread among the North American aborigines, but the actual Indian dialect translation for the singular of Long Knives occurs in the Expedition...to the Rocky Mountains alone...."


(21) Review of Grossman’s James Fenimore Cooper

At the beginning of the book review, Gregory L. Paine,26 The University of North Carolina, praises the "labor and considerable literary skill" of Mr. Grossman for his good summary of the plots of all Cooper’s works and compiling "a most useful reference guide for readers and students." What is most reliable is, Paine asserts, that Mr. Grossman never summarizes Cooper’s works without adding his "personal criticism of each book." And "the good books are praised, and the poorer books are condemned", Paine says. After presenting several examples of Grossman’s critical comments on Cooper’s works, Paine reached the conclusion that Grossman had liked the Leather-Stocking Tales most. For the eyes of Grossman, Paine says, "the interrelated stories of Natty Bumppo, Chingachgook, Judge Temple, and Elizabeth Temple form ‘one of the most profitable and interesting of Cooper’s novels.’" Grossman considers The Last of the Mohicans to be Cooper’s most famous and most widely read work, to be his first great adventure story of Indian fighting and perhaps his best, adding that "the doom of the Indians was later to become a true theme with Cooper." Paine reports us that Grossman found merit in Cooper’s characterization of Leather-Stocking in The Prairie as "a very old man living alone on the Great Plains, surrounded by fierce Indian tribes," who "has become almost a formal philosopher of the ‘natural’ life and of the true equality of all men." Paine adds some of Grossman’s important words: "In The Pathfinder Cooper combined his two best subjects, a ship and Indian fighting," and gave to "his greatest character...a new role, that of a lover." In The Deerslayer "The unspoiled beauty of Otsego Lake ... dominates the story and gives it a tone of deep and lovely unreality." Perhaps Paine does want to tell us Grossman’s keen sense about the hero in the Leather-Stocking Tales, citing "Natty in keeping clear of civilization’s responsibilities and errors has held on to its higher and also its pleasanter values. The primitive forest in which he lives in his youth and the naked plains on which he dies are scenes of horror and violence because of the deeds of the other white characters in the story, but for Natty they are always the great good places.... Natty turns the wilderness into a salon and indulges with every newcomer the passion for endless talk."

According to Paine’s explanation, Mr. Grossman affirms that of Cooper’s sea tales, Homeward Bound is "one of Cooper’s freshest novels and for a landsman, one of his finest sea tales." Adding to it, he cites Mr. Grossman’s words that Afloat and Ashore, with its sequel Miles Wallingford, forms "a splendid collection of exciting adventures in which action and commentary interrupt each other to their mutual advantage so that we never tire of either."

Mr. Grossman discusses that the Anti-Rent novels, Satanstoe, The Chainbearer, and The Redskins, are excellent, "for here he uses his legal knowledge of the struggle between the patroon landlords and their tenants." After saying that, Paine’s keen words succeed: Mr. Grossman finds these three books to be poor ones, although "they reveal their author’s power in character portrayal, and his vigor in caricature and satire."

(22) Sources of The Crater

In the first place, W. B. Gates,27 Texas Technological College, says that James Fenimore Cooper "drew most of the material dealing with the islands of the Pacific from The Voyages of Captain James Cook and Lieutenant Charles Wilkes’s Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, either lifting items almost bodily or employing a descriptive passage as the basis of a plot incident." That is to say, Gates wants to say that Cooper’s description of a storm in the Pacific represents a "combination of items from Cook and Wilkes."

According to Gates’s explanation, on June 12, 1770, "during a storm, Captain Cook had precisely the experience which Cooper recounts." Gates says that the ship named Endeavor was driven upon and over a reef, enclosing the ship in a narrow, winding channel. After a final trial the Endeavor was "extricated and moved safely into harbor." Gates’s explanation goes on: "the account of the barren island on which Cooper marooned his mariners was almost certainly based on the following passage from Wilkes’s Narrative:

Apolima is evidently the crater of an extinct volcano. Perpendicular cliffs rise from the sea around its whole circuit, except at a single point.... Here the lip of the crater is broken down, and admits the water of the sea into a small bay, which affords harbour for boats. The entrance to this is so narrow as to admit no more than one boat at a time, and is therefore dangerous whenever there is any surf (Narrative, p. 108).

What was the most important thing to explain for Gates might be as follows; though Fenimore Cooper borrowed a plot incident out of Captain Cook’s experience, many pages of The Crater were full of excellent description grounded on Cooper’s faculty as a competent story teller.


(23) Appraisal of Cooper

Marius Bewley,28 Catholic University of America thrusts the following words before us: "If we single out the best American novelists in the nineteenth century -- let us for a convenient triumvirate choose Cooper, Hawthorne, and Henry James -- under the diversity of types their art represents, one is aware of a concealed fellowship among them...." Mr. Bewley believes that "the American novel had to find a new experience, and discover how to put that experience into art." Bewley says "the process by which it was done was one of progressive self- discovery for the nation...." The American people experienced once the Great Awakening in the 18th century. Of course it was claimed for the cause of religious belief especially in New England region. But from the viewpoint of the literary history of the U.S.A., the first half of the 19th century of this country was again going into a new era. That is to say, the American literature was to experience the American Renaissance in 1850s. So the American literature of the first half of the 19th century was then coming to the new era with Cooper’s writings. This is what Marius Bewley wanted to say.

According to Marius’ words, "Fenimore Cooper has been consistently underestimated as an artist. He can easily rank with Hawthorne, James, and Melville as one of the four greatest novelists America produced in the nineteenth century, nor is he an insignificant addition to the group. Conrad called him a rare artist and one of his own masters, and Conrad’s words deserve more serious attention than they have received." After saying these words, Marius tries to show us how Cooper’s political novels are important to think about "a strikingly original economic analysis of history and of his own times." Marius asserts that Cooper’s three European political novels are to be mentioned first; they are, he shows to us, The Bravo (1831), The Heidenmauer (1832), The Headsman (1833). Marius writes clearly that The Heidenmauer is "far from a success, but it must occupy an important place in any consideration of Cooper’s intellectual powers." Here Marius, after summarizing the story briefly, argues against the opinion of Robert E. Spiller. Spiller stated in his book, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times (New York, 1931), p. 220:

In thus showing the effect of Lutheranism in liberating the mind of man from superstition, and the social order from corruption and hypocrisy, Cooper draws an obvious parallel to his own time in the effect of the American ideal in liberating the modern mind from the corruption of a world controlled by the ancient régime. He does not state this in so many words, however, and there is small reason to suppose that anyone in his own day understood the point of his conclusion.

Marius argues against this Spiller’s opinion:

Nothing, I think, could be more remote from Cooper’s intention than this description of it. One looks in vain for any enthusiastic support of the Reformers in The Heidenmauer. There are no obvious villains in the novel, but the three who might be considered as embodying nobility, disinterestedness, and that magnanimity of character that Cooper admired so much are Father Arnolphe of Limburg, the devout Ulrike, and Odo von Ritterstein, the penitent nobleman whose integrity and virtue are revealed through many years of cheerfully accepted penance for having committed an offense against the Church in his youth. Cooper’s "noble" characters, in short, prove the opposite of Mr. Spiller’s contention. All three are products and ardent adherents of the old regime, and no evidence that they were ever to change their allegiance is either given or implied. (p. 170)

I do want to point out one fact that such an argument as this was already done in the mid 1950’s in the United States. Spiller’s way of thinking contrasts strikingly with that of Marius’s. I have no intention of deciding which view of them might be better. But I want to appeal to all of you that this sort of argument will surely improve the quality of Cooper-study. Marius evaluates The Heidenmauer, saying that this novel "may not be an exciting or a successful novel, but it may claim its importance as a brilliant intellectual analysis far in advance of its time." Next, Marius says Satanstoe (1845), the first novel in The Littlepage trilogy is Cooper’s best novel after the Leather-Stocking tales. The Chainbearer (1845) is also, good, he says, but The Redskins (1846) is "a declamatory failure." Here Marius gives a summary of how the Littlepage family came to New York, making a fortune from heir to heir. According to Marius’s words, "his trilogy is intended as an illustration of everything, in addition to money, that land means when it becomes the focal point for the activities and interests of a family." In a word, Marius believes that Cooper was "one of the most astute politico-social critics America has ever had." What Marius wanted to say most was that Cooper’s best idea was realized in The Littlepage trilogy in its best way. So Marius gave careful consideration to the political situation of New York then. It was only natural that he reviewed Cooper’s political novels from the historical view-point of New York state.

At the near end of the long thesis, Marius concludes that "Cooper’s grasp of reality seems momentarily relaxed in these novels, the idyllic scenes of American aristocratic life, the benevolent high Toryism that Cooper depicts in his landlords, is as agreeable as anything he ever wrote, saving only the Natty Bumppo series...."


(24) Who Was Harvey Birch?

The greatest concern of James S. Diemer,29 Butler University, is who was the real model of Harvey Birch, the main character of Cooper’s second novel, The Spy. Here Diemer refers to Tremaine McDowell’s way of thinking. Professor McDowell says that: "Harvey Birch is the original creation of Cooper’s imagination.... Harvey Birch is unique."

This point of view met with strong opposition from Diemer. Diemer draws a conclusion that "Cooper evidently received a tangible suggestion for the character of his spy from a reading of Henry Lee’s Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States." Diemer reports the following facts to us:

Chapter XX of Lee’s Memoirs is the story of Sergeant John Champe, a story which Cooper read and remembered:....
There are significant parallels between the careers of Champe and Birch. In the first place, of course, Champe is Washington’s secret agent, an important qualification lacked by the other persons proposed as the model for Harvey Birch. Secondly, John Champe is highly reluctant to take the job because it demands the destruction of his character and reputation: in order to deceive the British, Champe deserts his troop, with the true facts of his desertion known only to Lee and Washington. Thus, like Birch, Champe is in danger from both his own countrymen and the British. Furthermore, whereas neither Jay’s agent nor Enoch Crosby escapes from his countrymen under fire, both Champe and Birch do. (p. 243)

After explaining like this, Diemer examines the other resemblances between the two books. For example, Champe’s actual desertion can be found, he says, in The Spy, in which Birch and Wharton make their escape. As another example of resemblance, Diemer refers to the designed parallelism between the case of Major André and the plight of Henry Wharton. Finally, Diemer explains the parallel in the dating of the stories-the activities of the two characters of Champe and Birch. The former retires from service, at Washington’s request, early in 1781; the latter retires, also at Washington’s request, in the fall of 1781. Diemer ends his minute analysis with suggesting that Lee’s Memoirs "furnished Cooper with a model for Harvey Birch and also with additional material which he was able to adapt to his purpose."

(25) Review of Shulenberger’s Cooper’s Theory of Fiction

Forty years ago, Robert E. Spiller said: "it was inevitable that someone sooner or later would write a book on Cooper’s theory of fiction." After saying that, Professor Spiller emphasized, "...and seldom has there been so much emphasis on systematic theory in literature as there is in American criticism, today. The effort to discover a systematic theory, with an accompanying method, in Cooper was long overdue."

This book by Arvid Shulenberger,30 University of Chicago, which consists of merely 105 pages gives us deep impression of the author’s keen interest in Cooper’s prefaces. As Professor Spiller says, the readers of Cooper learned for the first time that Cooper tried to let us know the true intent of his idea of creating his many stories. Through this short pages of treatise, Arvid Shulenberger taught us the great importance of the prefaces to understand the literary world of James Fenimore Cooper.

At the same time, however, Professor Spiller reviews in a very critical way:

...Mr. Shulenberger recognizes at the start that Cooper was unsystematic and pragmatic in his thinking and that the principal value of each preface is in its relationship to the book it was written for; but he does not realize that this fact makes a systematic analysis of his theory of literature, as such, impossible. As a result, he is torn between an intuitive understanding of what Cooper is about (he is a novelist and poet himself) and an effort to show organization and development in Cooper’s theory on a rational level....

In these words Professor Spiller seems to have to have tried to show how Cooper study should be for the coming new American era. That is to say, Professor Spiller saw through the essentials of Cooper’s literary world and at the same time Shulenberger’s too systematic analysis.

At the end of the book review, Spiller says: "Mr. Shulenberger’s instincts are sound, but his study is too superficial to do much more than raise and befog some of the issues involved in the problem. He does not know enough to place it in the contexts of British and French theories and practices of fiction between 1750 and 1850, or the growth of Cooper’s whole personality and thought, or the general state of critical thinking in America at that time...." In spite of Professor Spiller’s words, it goes without saying that Shulenberger’s little book brought us much to think about the great importance of Cooper’s prefaces concerned with his many works.



I’ve considered so far about some unknown scholars (though some of them are now very noted in and out of this country). If some of papers of these scholars have been ignored concerned with Cooper-study, we should greatly reflect on this point. The results of the study on Cooper now isn’t independent of the writings of the past.

In recent years new and original study on Cooper has been done. It’s needless to say that we must read these new books. There’s no terminal station in a branch of learning. If we read Cooper from a new point of view which the recent researchers have arrived, we can get many from it. We can say that there may be innumerable means of reading Cooper. And the more we have many ways to Cooper literature, the more can we enjoy the good quality of the great writer. It’s the same with any other writers.

Can’t we say, however, that many new methods of Cooper-study may come from the old and outstanding scholars of the past? If we can say so, why can we make light of them? That’s why I’ve read papers of them these years. And I came to realize that their forgotten papers may teach me something great about Cooper’s literary world. Such an idea has been a matter of importance and of concern to me for these several years.

What I learned most from the unknown papers of many years ago which were written by unknown scholars was that many of them were of great importance from the following points; the way of verifying others’ criticism on Cooper is done through a critical and keen eye. They play a role in fact as harsh criticism against others’ view on Cooper. Of course they are not always severe on all occasions. One time they show a friendly attitude to other’s thesis. Another time they give no quarter to adversary in an argument. Cooper’s literary works will be read by us much better only after many literary critics have given and taken enlightened way of reading Cooper.

As I said before, I’ve finished coming only half the gate to the literary criticism on Cooper. It will take more several years to complete my work. The literary path to James Fenimore Cooper will continue far towards the setting sun,-the foremost in that band of Pioneers, who are opening the way for the march of your nation across the American continent. So I will be in pursuit of Judge Temple. And someday I’ll be able to see him who are the real judge of the literature of James Fenimore Cooper.


1. Taisuke Suzuki, How Fenimore Cooper Took Actions as a Writer (Tokyo, 1986).

2. Robert E. Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times (New York: Minton, Balch, & Co., 1931), p. 317.

3. Robert E. Spiller, "Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times: New Letters from Rome and Paris, 1830-31," American Literature; A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography, Vol. 1 (May 1929) (Kraus Reprint, 1966), pp. 131-148. [hereafter cited as American Literature].

4. James Franklin Beard, The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960-1968), Vols. 1-6.

5. James Fenimore Cooper [grandson of the novelist], Correspondence of James Fenimore Cooper (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922), Vols. 1-2.

6. Kenneth B. Murdock, Review of Gleanings in Europe: France, ed. by Robert E. Spiller (London: Oxford University Press, 1930), American Literature, Vol. 1, 1929-1930.

7. Tremaine McDowell, "The Identity of Harvey Birch," American Literature, Vol. 2 (May 1930), pp. 111-120.

8. Robert E. Spiller, "Fenimore Cooper and Lafayette: The Finance Controversy of 1831-1832," American Literature, Vol. 3 (March 1931), pp. 29-44.

9. Gregory Paine, "Book Reviews," American Literature, Vol. 3 (1931-1932), pp. 104-107.

10. Tremaine McDowell, "Notes and Queries," American Literature, Vol. 3 (1931-1932), pp. 332-335.

11. Robert E. Spiller, review of The American Democrat, by James Fenimore Cooper, with an introduction by H. L. Mencken, ("Americana Deserta Series" ed. Bernard DeVoto, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1931)", American Literature, Vol. 4 (1932-1933), pp. 71-73.

12. Earl Leslie Griggs, "James Fenimore Cooper on Coleridge", American Literature, Vol. 4 (January 1933), pp. 389-391.

13. Gregory Paine, American Literature, Vol. 4 (1932-1933), pp. 404-407.

14. Robert E. Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times, (New York, Minton, Balch and Company, 1931).

15. Tremaine McDowell, Review of The Social Criticism of Fenimore Cooper, by John F. Ross (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 1929), American Literature, Vol. 5 (1933-1934), pp. 201-202.

16. Robert E. Spiller, "Fenimore Cooper and Lafayette: Friends of Polish Freedom, 1830-1832." American Literature, Vol. 7 (March 1935), pp. 56-75.

17. Gregory Paine, Review of A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, by Robert E. Spiller and Philip C. Blackburn, (New York: K. K. Bowker Company, 1934), American Literature, Vol. 7 (1935-1936), pp. 111-113.

18. John D. Gordan, "The Red Rover Takes the Boards," American Literature, Vol. 10 (March 1938), pp. 66-75.

19. Gregory Paine, Review of Satanstoe, American Literature, Vol. 10 (1938-1939), pp. 232-235.

20. Marcel Clavel, Review of The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper, by Dorothy Waples, American Literature, Vol. 10, 1938-1939, pp. 376-378.

21. Robert E. Spiller, Review of Fenimore Cooper and His Critics: American, British and French Criticism of the Novelist’s Early Work (Aix-en-Provence, 1938), by Marcel Clavel, American Literature, Vol. 10 (1938-1939), pp. 498-499.

22. Donald M. Goodfellow, "The Sources of Mercedes of Castile," American Literature, Vol. 12 (November 1940), pp. 318-346.

23. Karl J. Arndt, "The Cooper-Sealsfield Exchange of Criticism," American Literature, Vol. 15 (March 1943), pp. 16-24.

24. Harold H. Scudder, "Cooper’s The Crater," American Literature, Vol. 19 (May 1947), pp. 109-126.

25. E. Soteris Muszynska-Wallace, "The Sources of The Prairie," American Literature, Vol. 21 (May 1949), pp. 191-200.

26. Gregory L. Paine, Review of James Fenimore Cooper, by James Grossman (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1949), American Literature, Vol. 22 (1950-1951), pp. 195-198.

27. W. B. Gates, "Cooper’s The Crater and Two Explorers," American Literature, Vol. 23 (May 1951), pp. 243-246.

28. Marius Bewley, "Fenimore Cooper and the Economic Age," American Literature, Vol. 26 (May 1954), pp. 166-195.

29. James S. Diemer, "A Model for Harvey Birch," American Literature, Vol. 26 (May 1954), pp. 242-247.

30. Robert E. Spiller, Review of Cooper’s Theory of Fiction: His Prefaces and Their Relation to His Novels, by Arvid Shulenberger (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1955), American Literature, Vol. 27 (1955-1956), pp. 592-593.

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