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Cooper on Stage

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by Edward Harris

(Central Missouri State University)

(Originally issued on disk as James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers, Electronic Series No. 1)

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Table of Contents

Introduction

I - Cooper on Stage

Plays
In America
In Europe
Peforming Arts
Opera
Ballet
Songs
The Orchestra
Cooper and the Theatre
Cooper and Adapters
The Chanting Cherubs
Upside Down

II - Adaptations

The Spy
The Pioneers
The Pilot
Lionel Lincoln
The Last of the Mohicans
The Red Rover
The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish
The Water-Witch
The Bravo
The Headsman
The Pathfinder
The Deerslayer
The Wing-and-Wing

III - Performances by Date

The Spy
The Pioneers
The Pilot
Lionel Lincoln
The Last of the Mohicans
The Red Rover
The Wept of Wish-ton Wish
The Bravo
The Headsman
The Pathfinder
The Deerslayer
The Wing-and-Wing
Upside Down

IV - Selected Bibliography

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Introduction

This article is divided into four sections. The original paper covered an overview of the plays, music, burlettas, operas, and ballets adapted from James Fenimore Cooper's books in America and in Europe; Cooper's interest in the theater; and his attempts to write for the theater. Section two is a brief history of the adaptations by book. A more detailed listing of reported performances by date with cast lists, comments, and reviews comprise section three. The last section is a selected bibliography.

The author is indebted to: Dr. Thomas Gladsky who asked if the book I was writing had any plays based on Cooper's books and to John Small, Electronic Resources Librarian, Central Missouri State University, for his helping to create the society's original web page and the conversion of this paper to HTML. The author wishes to thank the Central Missouri State University library staff and especially the cataloging staff for helping him use OCLC; the Self Instruction Center Staff for computer help; Pat Downing and Lori Fitterling of the Interlibrary Loan Staff; and Terry McNeeley, Instructional Design, for helping to design the disc label and the web site.

The Author welcomes comments, corrections and updates. He may be contacted by e-mail at Edward Harris

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Cooper on Stage

Stage Performances

In a young country voraciously looking for native dramatic material, it was inevitable that James Fenimore Cooper's books would be used as the basis for American drama. Cooper's popularity was riding high in the decade 1820-1830. He produced 10 novels [nine of them on American subjects]. It did not take Cooper long to prove English critic Sidney Smith wrong: "In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?" [Smith, pp. 79-80]. Beginning with The Spy, Cooper's "American" books were widely published. Spiller and Blackburn provide long lists of American, British, European, and Asian editions. Despite many of the critics of the time, Cooper's books were discovered and were widely read by the public. Military, patriotic, and period adventure (Indians and pirates) themes were often portrayed on the early stage. Cooper's novels provided the dramatic action for all these themes. Consequently his books became a major influence on the theater both in America and in Europe. In 1834 James Rees said, ". . . suppose I dramatize Cooper's Headsman for you (Hugh Reinagle) ... The popularity of the work will attract, though the piece may be d--d." [Rees, p. 117] Indians and the frontier were very much a part of the American experience. Cooper wrote eleven Indian Tales. Between 1820-1840 thirty Indian plays were staged and twenty have been accounted for between 1840 and the Civil War. Over one-third of Cooper's oeuvre were adapted for the stage. After the Civil War, new dramatic adaptations of Cooper's novels were written in 1870, 1873 and 1874. [Jones, p. 109]

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In America

The 1790 American copyright law for books enabled any American author who had published elsewhere to copyright their book regardless of when it was published. In England the first statute giving dramatists the exclusive right of performing their plays was passed in 1833. The United States granted stage-right in 1851 to dramatists who had their plays copyrighted here. The sole right to license the performance of a play was established by an act in America in 1856. Unfortunately the law required only the title to be registered; hence, often the same play was registered many times with a different title. Many stage productions in this era have been lost because of the lack of a published script and/or an official copyright record. Dramatists customary received the proceeds for the third night of production, but in the 1830's many playwrights had an additional arrangement with the theater manager for a one time payment of money. [Grimsted, p. 146-147] Of course, once the play was sold the author had no property rights to the play regardless of how successful it became. Novelists, like Cooper, whose works were adapted received no compensation. "Earlier story-tellers were not moved to protest when they saw their fictions employed by the playwrights; in fact, they were often inclined to accept this as a compliment to their original invention." [Matthews, 1916, p. 98] Some authors may have thought the dramatization was sound advertising for their novel.

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In Europe

Except for a few adaptations, Cooper fared dramatically much better in Europe than at home in America: there were more offerings of his works on foreign stage and these adaptations had longer runs [ie: were more successful] than their American counterparts. British playwright Edward Fitzball "borrowed" Long Tom Coffin and made him into a British sailor with great success: a run of 200 nights. "The Indian chiefs of Fenimore Cooper lacked the popularity, on the boards, of his pirates and sailors who took naturally to the footlights." [Disher, p. 241]

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Several French plays were based on Cooper's books. C. C. Etienne used Job Pray and Captain Polworth from Lionel Lincoln for the basis of his "Arwed, ou les Represailles [Arwed, or the Reprisals]" early in 1830 according to the Mercure de France au XIXe siècle in the Chronique Théâtrale. Anicet-Bourgeois wrote a five act drama, "La Vènitienne," based on The Bravo in 1834 as noted in La Quotidienne, March 24, 1834. Le Constitutionnel [May 26, 1838] reported that Hippolyte Romand's well received work, "Le Bourgeois de Gand," used The Spy as its inspiration. Honoré de Balzac [November 16, 1843 letter] was reported to have considered writing a play based on The Spy with the character of Harvey Birch adapted to the great French actor Lemaître. Frédéric Lemaître is said to have talked Balzac out of it after seeing the failure of Helvéy's "L'Espion (The Spy)." Conner reported that Balzac also considered a dramatic adaptation of The Red Rover. Alexandre Dumas wrote "Le Capitaine Paul" using Cooper's character from The Pilot. A translation by William Berger in 1839 played in New Orleans as "Paul Jones." Partridge [p. 177] stated that "The American novelist [Cooper in France] ... was popular in the theatres for about twelve years, but the sameness of his stories caused him soon to be exhausted as a `mine à exploiter.'"

According to Fritz Leuchs there were two dramatic versions of The Spy produced in German. The earliest was in 1829 when "Der Spion" played on the Dresden stage. This may have been the same "Der Spion oder George Washington" by E. Doench that played in New York on Washington's birthday 1864. The second play, by Julius Dornau, was produced in Dresden in 1847. [Leuchs, p. 215]

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Performing Arts
Opera

Several adaptations of Cooper's books found their way to the stage of the opera house. The Spy was transformed into a three- act opera: "La Spia" by Luigi Arditi. Fillippo Manetta provided the libretto in both Italian and English. A second Italian opera "La Spia" was written by A. Villanis. "Le Pilote" by J. Urich is reported to have had one performance by Tower [Vol. 2, p. 1001]. The Bravo had several operas adapted from it: Marco Marliani's opera in three acts, libretto by A. Berrettoni, and Saverio Mercadante's "Il Bravo" with the libretto by Gaetano Rossi. Tower [p. 104] lists six French, German and Italian operas by this name. The novel/opera was adapted to the English stage by Thomas Cooke and entitled "The Red Mask." It was viewed by Henry Crabb Robinson at the Drury Lane Theatre on December 3, 1834. Robinson reported that the scenery was "worth the money -- the musick nothing." [Brown, E., p. 145] "The Last of the Mohicans," a lyric tragedy in three acts, was written by Carlo Zangarini with the score by Paul H. Allen. E. C. Phelps' "Last of the Mohicans" may not have been performed. To celebrate the American Bicentennial, Alva Henderson was commissioned to write an opera. "The Last of the Mohicans" was performed in Wilmington, Delaware in June 1976.

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Ballet

There have been reported at least two French adaptations of Cooper's works for the ballet. According to Le National, July 10, 1837, "Les Mohicans" appeared as a ballet. Aldolphe Adam wrote the music and choreography was by Antonio Guerra. The two act ballet was produced at the Paris Opéra. Partridge [p. 177] reported that in 1847 Mercedes of Castille was used by Corali as a basis for the ballet "Oza" [L'Union, May 10, 1847]. Beaumont [p. 148], reported that Jean Coralli was the author of "Oza" in 1847; but Beaumont indicated that the ballet was based on "the voyages of the celebrated French explorer, M. de Bougainville (1729-1814)." Reading the scene by scene outline of the ballet would indicate that Beaumont was correct. Cooper's Wept of the Wish Ton Wish was also adapted as a ballet. [Rourke, p. 114]

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Songs

At least four songs survive that were used in stage productions inspired by Cooper's novels. Fitz-Greene Halleck wrote a song for the popular play "The Spy." Another song is alluded to in The New York Evening Post (March 5, 1822) article (by William Coleman) which indicates that although they did not know the "youthful dramatist" ... "it is enough for us that our friend Croaker has thought it not beneath him to volunteer a song, in aid of the piece, and as a mark of friendship for the author (Charles P. Clinch)." [Croaker was Dr. Joseph Rodman Drake who with Halleck (Croaker Junior) wrote for the Evening Post; Halleck wrote the poem for Clinch] Thomas Dibdin wrote one for his adaptation of The Pilot. George Herbert Rodwell wrote "My Brigantine, The Words from the Water Witch." Louis V. Saar got a copyright in 1901 for "My Brigantine" for mixed chorus and gave credit for the words to Cooper. M. H. Parnell composed the music to the words of the song "All Hands Unmoor!" which the Red Rover sings in Chapter 23 of Cooper's book. The English burlettas also featured various songs specifically written for their productions. Many of these are lost to us at this time.

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The Orchestra

Opus 21, the well known "Le Corsair," by Hector Berlioz was originally entitled "La Tour de Nice [The Tower of Nice]." He worked on the overture at that ruin in 1831 and in 1844, but he was not satisfied with its first performance on January 19, 1845. Berlioz (London 1851-1852) revised and renamed the work "Le Corsair Rouge" [the title of The Red Rover in French] memorializing Cooper who had died on September 14, 1851. Eventually Berlioz dropped "Rouge" from the title.

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Cooper and the Theatre

Cooper's interest in the theater is reported at an early age. Cooper's second daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper, in her introduction to The Pioneers, remembers her father delighting to recall his performances in Cory's amateur theatricals. At Cooperstown young Cooper was a student of Master Cory at the Academy where "The future author of "The Pioneers," then a child some eight years old, was much commended on one of these occasions for his moving recitation of the "Beggar's Petition," in the character of an old man, wrapped in a faded cloak, and bending over his staff."

Noah Miller Ludlow was traveling with Samuel Drake who was taking a theater company from Albany, NY to Frankfort, KY. In his first performance at Cooperstown, Ludlow forgot all of his lines. He reported that Cooper "did us the honor to attend" that performance of "The Prize" in 1815, and "encourage our pioneer efforts in the cause of the Drama." [Ludlow, pp. 9-10]

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From April 10-14, 1823 Cooper accompanied the "celebrated comedian" Charles Mathews from England on The Chancellor Livingstone (a steamboat) up the Hudson River to Albany, NY so "that he might see something more of America and American Manners than are to be found in a seaport town." [Dunlap, History, Vol. II, pp. 329-330] Mathews so loathed the US that he "actually came to rehearsal with his nose stopped with cotton, to prevent his smelling "the d--- American mutton chops!" The idea of the trip was to convert him, but he was offended "by both the matter and manner" of the only meal. When evening came and he found out that all the men were going to sleep in one cabin his "feeling revolted and he protested against taking rest on such terms." Cooper came to the rescue. He got permission to use the Captain's cabin and ordered food and whiskey punch to last until morning. Mathews wrote to his wife: "most amply was I gratified." "The Spy" which had been produced in March 1822 was the leading subject of discussion. [Phillips, pp. 320-322] Cooper developed a life long friendship with the dramatist William Dunlap who accompanied them. Their diary/journals/letters indicate that they often visited each other and talked for hours. Dunlap dedicated his book on the theater in 1832 to Cooper. [Dunlap, History]

It is interesting to note that William Dunlap's last play "A Trip to Niagara; or, Travellers in America," ran for 24 performances at the Bowery Theatre opening on November 28, 1828. The setting of the second act is on a steamboat going up the Hudson River. Mr. Wentworth, a stuffy Englishman who flaunts his arrogance, and his sister, Amelia who is already persuaded of the quality and beauty of America, are aboard. Dunlap had Leatherstocking enter in the third act and recount some adventures from The Pioneers. Leatherstocking is successful in changing Wentworth's idea of America.

Cooper made his home in New York City from 1822 until 1826 when he and his family sailed for Europe. We can assume that he attended the theater. In 1828 Cooper commented in Notions of Americans (p. 149) that the American theaters were generally superior to those in England partly because they were "not yet sufficiently numerous (though that hour is near)..." Cooper may have viewed some of the plays based on his books. We have no proof in his known correspondence of his seeing any plays in the United States. His only known theatrical attendance while living in New York is reported by both Adkins and Wilson. Cooper attended the opening of Italian Opera in New York in 1825 and sat beside Fitz-Greene Halleck.

Cooper's seven year stay in Europe was from the summer of 1826 to November 1833. We don't presently know whether he saw any of the dramatic adaptations of his books in Europe. Cooper's references to his attending the theater in Europe are sparse. From his knowledgeable comments about opera and the theater, we could surmise that he attended both. Cooper's discourse on the American stage in Notions of Americans (1828) would indicate that he was familiar with the dramatic milieu of his time. [Cooper, Vol. II, pp. 112-114] In a letter to Dr. James E. DeKay, Cooper reported attending a performance at Covent Garden with Samuel Rogers [they sat in a box with Sir John Leach, the vice chancellor]. An interesting observation Cooper made was that " . . . the lower tier was reserved for people in evening dress, and that the men sat with their hats off," (men wore them in American theaters; ladies often tied theirs to the columns by ribbons) this gave "the spectacle an appearance of respectability and comfort . . . that is now seldom seen in any of our own places of public resort." [Cooper, England, pp. 266-267] In Letter III to his nephew R(ichard) Cooper, he tells of his visit to old Drury and Covent Garden. Cooper and Mr. Lynch attended the opera in London to hear Madame Pasta, and Cooper compared her to Madame Malibran who was singing in New York. [Cooper, France, pp. 38-39]

During his four and one half years in France, Cooper saw some of the notable personages of the stage and compared them to American and English performers. He concluded " . . . that a Frenchman is a great actor all the while, and that when he goes on stage, he has much less to do, to be perfect, than an Englishman . . . or an American . . . " Cooper had seen Mademoiselle Mars and stated, "I have never beheld her equal." [She was the actress who played Frances Wharton in Ancelot's adaptation of The Spy. Cooper did not see her in "L'Espion" as he was not in Paris the latter half of 1828 nor the first two months of 1829 when the play was performed]. He commented on the morals of many of the pieces performed in Paris. [Cooper, France, pp. 181-185] Cooper felt that it was an immense advantage in having a National Theatre. He declared, "Our moralists have made a capital blunder in setting their faces against the stage . . . " "It should be patronized and regulated by the state, as the best means of . . . checking, if not totally repressing its abuses." "The common argument, that theatres are places of resort for the vicious, and particularly for women of light manners, is built on narrow views and great ignorance of the world." [Cooper, England, p. 267]

Cooper wrote a letter dated 20 December 1828 from Florence, Italy to Mrs. Peter Augustus Jay, in which he said, "I have found a London acquaintance, here, who gives private theatricals, and we have been there . . . " [Walker] While in Florence, Lord Normanby invited the Coopers to his private theatricals in 1829 [Beard, Vol. 1, p. 346] There were . . . "two English theatres, with amateur-performers; at the head of one of which is Lord B(urghersh), and at the head of the other Lord N(ormanby). At the latter only, however, can one be said to see the legitimate drama; the other running rather into music . . ." according to Cooper. "We have seen Shakspeare in the hands of these noble actors once or twice, and found the representation neither quite good enough to please, nor yet bad enough to laugh at." Cooper found the American verses to a comic song about different nationalities . . . "an exaggerated and coarse caricature, positively suited only to the tastes of a gallery in a sea-port town." [Cooper, Italy, pp. 24-26]

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Cooper and Adapters

As far as we know, Cooper did not act as a consultant to any stage productions as some modern writers do, nor did he aid any playwrights as Sir Walter Scott aided Dan Terry in adapting Scott's novels for the stage. We do not know if Cooper wrote any of the scripts for the stage productions of his books. William Dunlap writes in his diary that the playwright Charles Powell Clinch ["The Spy"] "tells me that J. F. Cooper dramatized his Pioneers & that it did not succeed." (Sunday, April 28, 1833 entry). This may have been "The Pioneers" which played at the Park Theatre April 21, 22, 23, 1823, and it may have been the revised production entitled "The Wigwam; or, Templeton Manor" which played at the Park Theatre July 3, 7 and December 11, 30, 1830. Sherman [p. 432] indicated that "The Pioneers" was written by Cooper and played in New York in 1823. Whether Cooper wrote the play(s) or not, they were poorly received and only had a few performances. He may have tried in 1823, 1830, before 1847, as well as in 1850 to write for the theater as a medium of expressing his creativity.

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The Mystery of the Chanting Cherubs

George B. Wittmer recounts a fascinating story of discovery of a two-act play "Mingos and Soldiers at Ft. Henry" in the base of Horatio Greenough's statue: "Chanting Cherubs." Cooper resided in Florence, Italy from October 1828 to July 1829. Here he met Horatio Greenough an American sculptor. While they were visiting the Pitti Palace, Cooper pointed out a painting (La Madonna del Baldacchino) by Raphael. Cooper asked Greenough if the two little angelic figures singing in the foreground would be a good subject for sculpture. Greenough executed the group in marble, incised on the back of the plinth "Sculptured in Florence for James Fenimore Cooper, 1830," and Cooper purchased it. After a grand tour of America, "Chanting Cherubs" rested for many years in the parlor at Cooperstown according to Wittmer. Cooper had to sell the statue in 1847 to settle his debts with Henry Ogden.

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In late June of 1980, Wittmer wrote that he went to a public auction of the Dobson family estate in Newton, KS. There he purchased the marble works given by Ogden to his daughter who married Elmo Dobson. They had staked out a claim near Newton just before Kansas statehood in 1858. Some minor damage at the lower right edge of the statue's base had loosened the felt. Within was found a scrap of yellowed printer's paper scrawled with these lines: "Tendered here as payment in full and in final [Cooper's italics] dramatic mss Mingos and statuette Cherubs to Henry Ogden, N. Y./ J. Fenimore Cooper/March 15, 1847." The twenty-one page play was also found secreted in the base. Ogden presumably had no use for the play, therefore it was never produced. One might hopefully wonder how many other plays by Cooper remain to be discovered? Wittmer's article indicated that he gave the manuscript to the "Bolton Galleries" the geographical location of the gallery is not cited.

Additional details and information about the "Chanting Cherubs" are found in: Cooper's letter to James Ellsworth DeKay, May 25, 1829 [Beard, Vol. 1, pp. 369-372]; Cooper's correspondence with Greenough [Beard, Vol. I, p. 389, 394-395, 398, 402, 407, 413, 431-433]; biographies of Horatio Greenough; and Wright who indicated that the putti statue was sold to Mrs. Stevens (probably the wife of John C. Stevens)[Wright, 1963, p. 321]. Beard quotes a letter dated August 3, 1848 from Amariah Storrs to Cooper that a Mrs. Stephens bought the group. The statue was stored in NY for many years, and Cooper tried to interest several individuals in purchasing it. He also offered it to the House of Representatives. "Present ownership of the Cherubs, if it survived, is unknown." [Beard, Vol. V, pp. 109-110]

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Upside Down; or, Philosophy in Petticoats

Cooper's only known play that was produced was his unsuccessful venture as a dramatic script writer in a comedy he called "The Law of Nature, or the Female Philosopher." It was first produced under the name of "Upside Down; or, Philosophy in Petticoats" in New York at Burton's Chambers Street Theatre June 18, 1850. Cooper received $250 from William E. Burton for his script. The play "was never published and the manuscript has not been discovered." [Spiller and Blackburn, p. 209] Cooper had sent the manuscript to James Henry Hackett, "the American Falstaff," hoping that he would play the major role of Richard Lovel. John Atlee Kouwenhoven has written about the discovery of this play in the Autumn, 1938 issue of The Colophon: A Quarterly for Booklovers. Cooper was in Cooperstown June 11 September 12, 1850 and could not have attended his play. It is interesting that Cooper left New York City (June 11) a week before his play was produced. He also reported in a letter to James H. Hackett dated June 30, 1850 that he was unable to attend a rehearsal. [Beard, Vol. VI, p. 198] Cooper probably had disassociated himself publicly from the play because of his "negative image" as promoted by the press.

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Hackett reported the opening night: "The first act told exceedingly well -- the second began pretty well but grew heavy towards the close, & the third act dragged very heavily . . . " [Cooper, Correspondence, II, p. 682-683] In a letter to Hackett after the play bombed, Cooper offered to repurchase the play from Burton. [Beard, Vol. VI, p. 198] The reviews of the play were not kind. The play only ran three nights [June 18, 20-21, 1850]. Reviewers found the play talky, too polemical, and the characters lacking motivation. The Albion did say that the dialogue was ". . . at all times smart, neat, and occasionally pointedly telling," but thought "The characters, too, are all the time talking, without incident, motives or action . . . " "The comedy is in three acts; the plot, however, is so meager that it might well have been condensed in one, for the last two are but duplications of the first." "... he (the novelist) may indulge in repetitions and re-productions -- but all this is not tolerated by theatrical audiences." [Albion, June 22, 1850] The Express wrote that "It showed up socialism beautifully" and that " . . . its only fault is being upon the whole a little too conventional or closetty . . . " and the critic found the scene in which Burton (Lovel) was "wooded by the she-Socialist ... screamingly delectable." [Express, June 22, 1850] The Literary World reported that "The piece moves off extremely slow, the characters not appearing much interested in what they have to do, but preferring to `express their sentiments' on the topics of the day." "The plot has no probability . . . " "It is not dramatic . . . " "It might rather be called a lecture . . . thrown into a dramatic form . . . than a comedy." Cooper's play was an attempt . . . "to ridicule the follies of the time." The critic thought that Lovel, the gouty old bachelor, was a projection of Cooper himself: "the only wonder is, how he should have been able to have presented such another caricature of himself, . . . without seeming to be aware that he was doing so." The review, lists the cast, outlines the plot, and gives an accolade to Burton for his role of Richard Lovel. The June 29, 1850 Literary World ends on a positive note: "But he has never succeeded in his pictures of society . . . He is at home only in the forest, or on the ocean, or prairie, where we have all been so often delighted to accompany him." Both The Albion (June 22, 1850) and William E. Burton, in a letter dated June 5, 1850 [Cooper, Correspondence, pp. 681 682], expressed the hope that Cooper would write again for the stage. Plays adapted from his novels by other dramatists were to fare better on the stage than Cooper's attempt at writing for the boards. Boynton [p. 382] states, "The incident matters only as showing that to the end of his life Cooper still had the impulse to try new things."

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Most of Cooper's books written from 1823 to 1833 became the basis for stage productions both here and in Europe. Ten of Cooper's first 14 novels were adapted for the stage. No mention of Precaution nor of The Prairie being dramatized was found. Although Waples wrote that The Prairie received spectacular dramatization [Waples, p. 64], her citations would indicate that she meant The Red Rover. There is no present history of Notions of the Americans nor of The Heidenmauer taking the boards. Following the adaptation of The Headsman (1834) there was a long hiatus before The Deerslayer (1841) and Wing-and-Wing (1842) were given a brief life on stage.

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ADAPTATIONS

THE SPY

Cooper holds the distinction of writing the first American novel to be dramatized. It was an adaptation of Cooper's second book which was published on December 22, 1821. The play was produced ten weeks later on March 1, 1822 in New York City at the New Park Theater. "The Spy" was written by Charles Powell Clinch with twenty two scenes and follows the novel fairly closely . Clinch contributed three original scenes, hence most of the play is Cooper's work. The play was also presented in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. Fitz-Greene Halleck wrote a song "The Harp of Love" which Miss Johnson sang in the role of Frances Wharton. "The Spy" remained a popular play over the decades and was still being presented in 1858. A new adaptation for the centennial by C. W. Barry was presented for the 1875-1876 New York theater season and ran for three weeks. Odell and Fishman both provide lists of the many performances and of the casts when available. Enoch Crosby gained some notoriety by claiming to be Cooper's model for Harvey Birch. Crosby was able to command a box seat at some performances based on his claim. Cooper indicated in a letter that the first time he heard of Crosby was when he returned from Europe. [Cooper, Correspondence, Vol II, p. 684]

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Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Defauconpret's first translation of Cooper's books was The Spy in 1822 and began Cooper's popularity in France [McBride]. Jacques Ancelot adapted The Spy [L'Espion] for the French stage in December, 1828, and it played at the Salle Richelieu of the Theatre Français. The play was originally scheduled to be produced at the less prestigious Theatre de l'Odéon, but Ancelot chose to change theaters. The director of the l'Odéon, Lemetheyer, commissioned Léon Halévy, Louis Marie Fontan, and Gustave Drouineau to adapt a play. The play was rehearsed and staged within two weeks and Halévy's "L'Espion" was presented at the l'Odéon on December 6, 1828 a week before Ancelot's adaptation. Halévy's play had twenty characters and reflected the short time taken in writing. The reviews were generally poor although the play was presented thirteen times between its December 6th opening and February 14, 1829. In contrast Ancelot and his collaborator E. J. E. Mazéres opened at the Theatre Français on December 13, 1828. The play was attended by the Duchess of Berry and the princes of the House of Orleans. It was a gala event that was well received by the public and by the reviewers. The play followed Defauconpret's translation of Cooper's novel fairly closely with some scenes played word for word. Mademoiselle Mars, the most celebrated actress of the time, played Frances Wharton. She appeared in 39 of the 44 scenes in this five-act play. Although out of proportion to Wharton's role in the novel, Mlle. Mars' appearance helped insure the success of the play. It was presented seventeen times between its opening on December 13th and February 1, 1829.

THE PIONEERS

The play was enthusiastically awaited according to the article in the Albion. "The Pioneers" opened at the Park Theatre, April 21, 1823. Odell provides a list of the full cast, but "Despite the good cast, The Pioneers failed to achieve the success of The Spy; it reached only the third performance --the traditional author's night." [Odell, Vol. III, p. 63] Cooper was in West Point from April 19-24, 1823, therefore we can assume that he did not see "The Pioneers" at the Park Theatre, April 21-23. Ireland noted that "The Pioneers" played with Maywood as Natty and lists the cast. [Ireland, I, p. 414]

William Dunlap's diary states that C. P. Clinch, who adapted The Spy, told him that Cooper had dramatized The Pioneers. [Dunlap, April 28, 1833 entry] This reference could be to "The Pioneers" which had the three night run in 1823.

A revised version of the play called "The Wigwam, or Templeton Manor" was presented on July 3, 1830 at the Park Theatre. The new "Melodrama" was also produced on July 7th; it was revived on December 11, 1830 [Odell, full cast list, Vol. III, p. 492]; and repeated on December 30, 1830.

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Odell lists the cast of a May 19, 1849 production at William E. Burton's Chambers Street Theatre (formerly Ferdinand Palmo's New York Opera House, 39 & 41 Chambers St.), and this is the last we hear of "The Pioneers." [Odell, Vol. V, p. 443]

THE PILOT

The dramatization of this novel gave Cooper another first: the successful adaptation of a pirate novel to the stage [others followed: "The Water Witch" and "The Red Rover". Paralleling the success of Cooper's first sea novel was the great triumph of the dramatization of The Pilot. Fishman reported that Edward Fitzball wrote an adaption of The Pilot that was performed at the Park Theatre on October 29, 1824. Fitzball also wrote a burlesque version that takes place off the American coast with British sailors and which makes the ridiculous characters Yankees. This version had great success in England. Sir Walter Scott recorded his viewing the play and the support it got from British sailors. [Lockhart, Vol. 5, p. 10]

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"Paul Jones, or, a Storm at Sea" was written by W. H[enry] Wallack. It was first played March 21, 1827 at the Chatham Theatre. [Cooper was in Europe] Mrs. Wallack played Kate Plowden, and it is said that James M. Scott's Long Tom Coffin became a stage tradition with the name clinging to him. The 17th performance was on the 10th of April.

Theater based on The Pilot was very successful over a 45-year span as evidenced by Odell's reporting a first performance in 1824 and the last reported performance in 1869 in the United States. A comic opera entitled "Paul Jones" played in 1889 [Nicoll, V, pp. 363, 791]. Brown also reported a comic opera by H. B. Farnie by the name of "Paul Jones" that played October 6, 1890 at the Broadway Theatre; February 20, 1892 at the Union Square Theatre; February 20, 1892 at the Harlem Opera House; and January 31, 1898 at the American Theatre. The only connection may have been the name.

LIONEL LINCOLN

Cooper's fifth novel, Lionel Lincoln, or, The Leaguer of Boston was not a success. Thomas R. Lounsbury called it one of Cooper's worse failures [Lounsbury, p. 51], and Henry W. Boynton said, "The trouble with Lionel Lincoln is not that it is based on fact but that it fails to transmute fact." [Boynton, p. 126-130] Cooper may have had a similar evaluation because he did not attempt to write any of the other twelve novels in his planned series for the original thirteen states. Nevertheless, as adapted for the stage by Steven E. Glover we can see that it was performed for a period of 25 years from 1832 to 1857. The play incorporated much of the dialogue from the novel. "The Cradle of Liberty" was a popular Fourth of July offering with its exceptional description of the battle of Bunker Hill.

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LAST OF THE MOHICANS

The Last of the Mohicans, published in February, 1826, was a great success as a book. Lounsbury states, "Of all the novels written by Cooper, "The Last of the Mohicans" is the one in which the interest not only never halts, but never sinks," [Lounsbury, p. 52-53]. One wonders why then with such wide acceptance it took until December 27, 1831 to produce a play from the novel. Captain Steven E. Glover adapted the book for the stage, and the play was presented at the Richmond Hill Theatre in NYC. The developments of the characterizations, dialogue and the plot were close to the novel. Hoole says that the play was presented in Charleston January 6, 1830; and Fishman states that it played in New Orleans at the American Theatre intermittently from April 1830 to March 1831. [Fishman, p. 88] The play did not catch on and was last seen in London at the Pavilion on March 3, 1866 according to Fishman and in America at the Broadway Theatre on June 20, 1873. [Fishman, p. 88 89] Brander Matthews wrote, "The dramatizations of Scott, of Cooper, and of Dickens, . . . were none of them good plays, nor were they ever wholly satisfactory to those who knew and loved the original novels." Matthews suggests a reason for a play from an excellent book not catching on: "The more famous the novel -- one might almost say the better the novel -- the less likely is it to make a good play . . . in the end the play becomes a mere series of magic-lantern slides to illustrate the book . . . " [Mathews, pp. 32-63]

THE RED ROVER

The second of Cooper's sea novels was equally popular to his first. Gordon tells us that at least seven adaptations (3 American; 4 British) appear to have been made with four available in print [Gordon, p. 66]. It only took six weeks after the book was at the printer to see an adaptation on the stage of The Red Rover. Francis C. Wemyss (manager of the Chestnut (Chesnut) Street Theatre, Philadelphia, PA) secured a copy from Carey and Lea (Cooper's publishers) in advance and gave it to Chapman to dramatize. The play was written by Samuel Henry Chapman who was offered $20.00 a night for every night it played. It was first produced on February 21, 1828 and ran for four nights in February; four in March; and two in April at the Chestnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, PA. The play followed closely the plot, the dialogue, and the characterizations of the book. Chapman added only two scenes of his own to the thirteen scene adaptation. The play was reported to have been a challenge for the author, painter and machinist. According to Wemyss all acquitted themselves well including the excellent music of Mr. Braun. "Never in any theatre, was a more successful piece produced; enabling us to act on the Tuesday and Thursday nights, to five hundred dollars per night . . . " [Wemyss, 1847, pp. 149-150; Wemyss, 1848, p. 129]

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A second adaption was produced at the Park Theatre on May 1, 1828 and a third at the Lafayette Theatre in May, 1828.

The play was last seen at the Park Theatre on April 16, 1879: a fifty-one-year life span. James Rees wrote that F. C. Wemyss wrote "Red Rover" which played at Pittsburgh, PA [Rees, p. 138]. This could have been Chapman's adaptation with which Wemyss had been closely associated.

Edward (Fitz)ball also adapted the book in a two-act nautical drama: "The Red Rover; or, the Mutiny of the Dolphin." This played in Edinburgh at the Theatre Royal in April 1830 and had a long run at the Adelphi Theatre in London. Fitzball was successful in persuading the management to put his adaptation ahead of another adaptation that they had commissioned. His nautical burletta was produced at the Adelphi on February 9, 1829. Thomas Potter Cooke, a former British seaman, who had great success on the stage, played Fid. (Cooke also played Long Tom Coffin in Fitzball's "The Pilot")

Nicoll reports an anonymous adaptation was played at the Surrey Theatre in London on September 27, 1829. [Nicoll, II, p. 516] A Surrey playbill in the Widener Library lists T. P. Cooke again playing Fid. John Gordon speculates that this could have been Fitzball's adaptation because of Cooke's role. There was also an anonymous English adaptation presented at the Royal Cobough Theatre in 1829. [Nicoll, Vol. IV, p. 97]

The February 15th John Bull announcement that the "Red Rover" a play "originally written for the Adelphi Theatre but from certain circumstances never performed there" would indicate that this was the burletta that Fitzball succeeded in edging out. It was written by R. T. Weaver and performed at the Sadler's Wells Theatre on March 2, 1829. The three act, eleven scene play follows the story and uses Cooper's dialogue.

Attesting to the popularity of Cooper's work, there was also a burlesque written years later by Francis Cowley Burnard [of "Box and Cox" and "Punch" fame] which played at the Strand Theatre December 26, 1877. [Clarence, p. 378]

The publication of Cooper's book in England spawned a school of nautical sketches and stories between 1829-1831. Some writers feel that because of his peculiar origins and conflicting obligations, Frederick, the hero of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," is the replica of Cooper's Wilder.

THE WEPT OF THE WISH-TON-WISH

The dramatization of this novel gave Cooper another first: the successful dramatization of an Indian theme. The Wept of the Wish-Ton Wish was published in September, 1829 and depicts the manners and customs of New England Puritans. The capture by Indians of the Heathcote's daughter (Ruth), being an Indian (Chief Conanchet's) wife (Narramatah) and a mother, and her return to her family are the elements of drama. The first adaptation of the novel written for the stage premièred on December 1, 1834. The last reported adaptation was a two act dramatization in 1851. [Moody, p. 104] A burletta by English playwright W. B. Bernard played at the St. Charles in New Orleans in 1835-36. The plays ran intermittently over a duration of decades: November 12, 1830 to November 30, 1878. Mlle. Celeste and later Marie Zo played their favorite Narramattah character for many years.

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THE WATER WITCH

Dunlap lists a "Taylor" (Charles Western Taylor?) as the author of "The Water Witch." Whether it was the one in which Mrs. Hamblin gave over 100 performances we do not know. Richard Penn Smith also wrote an adaption of "The Water Witch" one of which played on Christmas Day, 1830. There were at least two other versions produced after Penn Smith's attempt. [Quinn, p. 213] Josephine Fishman indicates that Smith's adaption was presented at the Philadelphia, PA Chestnut Theatre Christmas week 1831, and January 1832. [Fishman, p. 90] She also lists a performance of a version by Henry James Finn at the American Theatre, New Orleans on January 19, 20, 21, and November 20-22, 1839. Clapp [p. 295] noted that Finn's "Water Witch" "had a good run" at the Tremont Theatre in the 1831-32 season. J. S. Wallace is listed as the author of the play at the Arch Street Theatre Philadelphia on September 4, 6-9, 1841 and September 30, 1843, and C. W. Taylor is listed as the author of the play at the Bowery May 31, 1844 [Fishman, p. 91]. Performances are listed from 1830-1862. Davis said, "Of all the picaresque heroes the most popular was Tom Tiller, `The Skimmer of the Seas'. . . This stage piece of 1830 was performed more often than any other play of the period." [Davis, p. 14]

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THE BRAVO

Odell reported "The Bravo, or, The Black Gondola" played at the American Theatre in the Bowery June, 1833. Richard Penn Smith wrote two adaptations. One was called, "The Bravo, or, The Red Mask" which played in Philadelphia in 1849, and an adaptation in blank verse called "The Venetian" which was produced in New York in 1845 and in Philadelphia at the Arch Street Theatre in 1849. Quinn also indicated Penn Smith wrote a blank verse dramatization as a five-act tragedy in 1836 that was produced as "The Venetian" at the Arch Street Theatre in 1849. According to Fishman, Richard Penn Smith wrote "The Bravo, or, The Red Mask" which played at the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, PA on October 2, 4, 6, 1849. [Fishman, p. 102] A. H. Wilson reported that W(illiam) T(homas) Moncrieff wrote a play entitled "The Bravo of Venice." [Wilson, pp. 555, 721] Last performance is reported on March, 1860 at the New Bowery Theatre.

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THE HEADSMAN

James Rees wrote an adaptation in 1834 for Hugh Reinagle, the scene designer who also helped write the prologue, that played at the American Theatre in New Orleans on May 17, 1834. Mr. Scott, who played Long Tom Coffin so often, played the Headsman. Odell reported an adaptation called "Mount St. Bernard or The Headsman" which played at the American Theater in New York in March of 1834 and again in April, 1849. It would seem that this play had a short life.

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THE PATHFINDER

There were only two references found to the dramatization of The Pathfinder. Jonas B. Phillips wrote the adaptation, and it reportedly played at the Bowery Theatre, NY in 1840.

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THE DEERSLAYER

Odell reported a play by this name at the Bowery Theater in September of 1841. He indicates that this was a revival. When was the original? Spiller and Blackburn report this performance at the Bowery Theatre, NY on September 23, 1841. Quinn lists "The Deerslayer" by an unknown author at the Bowery on the same date.
Robert St. Clair wrote a 3 act play called "Deerslayer" in 1937.

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THE WING-AND-WING

There is only one report of a play by the title of "Wing-and-Wing." It played sometime between December 16-26, 1842 at the Chatham Theatre as one of three or four plays presented in an evening.

Many of the minor theaters did not advertise in the major papers of the day, but rather depended on posted notices and/or on the distribution of handbills. This practice makes it difficult to assure that some performances were not missed. The actors moved from one theater to another with ease. The producers of the plays often changed the spelling and/or the names of the characters. Managers attempted to offer a variety in their theater's repertoire. This often resulted in their advertising subtitles of the play, sometimes changing part of the title, and/or creating an entirely new name for their play's promotion.

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Cost of a night at the theatre ran from 12 cents to $.75 or $1.00 for a box seat depending on which theatre you attended, where you sat, and the state of the economy of the country. Performances often included several plays and scenes from favorite plays, orchestra music, recitations, vocal solos, ballets, pantomimes, minstrel shows, etc. to round out the night's entertainment.  These multiple offerings were a great bargain for an evening's entertainment compared to the theater in New York today -- although undoubtedly not as comfortable for the patron. Patrons sat on benches or stood which could make a long evening. Odell reported that one big improvement to the seating was when a theater ad indicated that ladies no longer had to walk over the benches as the seats were now hinged and could be raised. Early patrons had to put up with dripping wax from the chandlers (the first gas lights were installed in the Chestnut Street Theatre in 1816); dirty benches and filthy floors; the free flow of liquor empowered the patrons to yell out to the orchestra demanding their favorite songs, hiss and boo those on stage, and throw things at the actors.  Segar smoking was finally limited during performances because many theaters perished in flames.

The history of the development of the theater in the United States is a fascinating story which has already been well documented. Cooper saw many changes in American theater. In 1841 the first box set was imported from England and used instead of the traditional backdrops and wings. P. T. Barnum, Tom Thumb, and the birth of the Minstrel Show also came in the early 1840's. America's first professional author, J. Fenimore Cooper, played a notable part in the history of the first half of eighteenth century theater creating narratives which were readily adapted to the boards.

Following are the occurrences of titles of plays by the same name as Cooper's published works. As few of these scripts exist today, it is possible that on occasion the name of the play is the only thing in common with Cooper's book.

REPORTED PERFORMANCES BY DATE

THE SPY

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THE PIONEERS
"The Wigwam"

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THE PILOT

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"Paul Jones"

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LIONEL LINCOLN
"Rake Hellies" or "The Cradle of Liberty"

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THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS

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THE RED ROVER

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THE WEPT OF WISH-TON-WISH
"The Indian Girl"
"Miantonimoh"

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"Narramattah; or, The Lost Found"
"The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish"

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THE WATER WITCH

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THE BRAVO
THE HEADSMAN
THE PATHFINDER

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THE DEERSLAYER

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THE WING-AND-WING

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UPSIDE DOWN; OR, PHILOSOPHY IN PETTICOATS

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SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY