James Fenimore Cooper Society Website
This page is: http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/introduction/mitchell/syn-alonzo.html

Synopsis of Alonzo and Melissa

by Isaac Mitchell

[From the Poughkeepsie Political Barometer, June - October 1804]

Return to: Alonzo and Melissa | Isaac Mitchell | What's Here and Where to Find It | Home Page

[Placed on-line December 2002]

No. 105, June 5:

Alonzo meets Melissa, sister of his friend Edgar. at New London, Connecticut, where she his being courted by the fashionable Beauman. Alonzo accompanies her on a walk along the seashore, where they visit her favorite rock and admire nature together.

No. 106, June 12:

Alonzo begins to call on Melissa at her western Connecticut home; Beauman is also making visits. As Alonzo's love for Melissa grows, he worries that she will prefer Beauman; a long walk with her to her favorite hill leaves him still uncertain.

No. 107, June 19:

Alonzo receives a letter -- local gossip expects Melissa to marry Beauman. He pays a visit, and finds Beauman there; after Beauman leaves Alonzo has a private talk with Melissa, in which she refuses to say whom she prefers, but asks Alonzo to return in four weeks to hear her final decision.

No. 108, June 26:

As Alonzo mopes, he receives a second letter saying that Melissa is to wed Beauman. Nevertheless, as he had promised, he visits her again; they go to her favorite hill, but she continues to vacillate. The next day Bauman arrives, and Melissa's father calls them in to receive her decision. As they are of equal social status, he will respect her choice. She has, he then tells them, chosen Alonzo!

No. 109, July 3:

Beauman was shattered; Alonzo unexpectedly elated. Two weeks later Alonzo, taking shelter in a rainstorm, encountered Melissa visiting her friends the Simpsons. The American Revolution was beginning, and as Alonzo expected his services would be needed, they decided to hasten the wedding. They visited a rustic village where they planned to settle. Winter passes, and the Spring marriage day approaches.

No. 110, July 10:

While Alonzo is prepared to enlist in the Revolution, he must for a time look after his aging father's business affairs. He and Melissa visit the rustic village where they plan to live. Returning home, his finds that his father suddenly impoverished and in debt due to British impounding of his ships and the treachery of associates; the Sheriff seizes what is left. Alonzo's friend Mr. Vincent, noting that Melissa's father will now oppose the marriage, arranges for Alonzo and Melissa to meet at his house.

No. 111, July 17:

Melissa is gloomy at the prospects of their marriage. Alonzo calls on Melissa's father, who says he must give up hopes of marrying her. Alonzo meets Melissa, who says a maiden aunt who fiercely opposes the marriage, is her father's main adviser. They agree to communicate through the Vincents. Returning home, Alonzo learns that a few friendly creditors have given his father the money to buy a small farm. He sets out for the Vincents.

No. 112, July 24:

At the Vincents Melissa tells Alonzo that her father has ordered her to marry Beauman, who has renewed his proposal; she has refused and is in despair. She promises to return to the Vincents the next night. Melissa's brother Edgar says he'll try to help. Summoned the next day by Melissa's father, Alonzo refuses pointblank to abandon her. That evening Melissa fails to appear at the Vincents -- Alonzo sets off to her house.

No. 113, July 31:

Alonzo goes to Melissa's father's house and speaks with Melissa through a window; Melissa is being kept confined under guard by her aunt. She promises to communicate via Mrs. Vincent. Leaving the house, Alonzo meets and quarrels with Beauman, who is confident of eventually winning Melissa's hand. When Mrs. Vincent visits the house, she finds that Melissa and her aunt have left for an unknown destination. The aunt takes Melissa to an isolated, walled, and deserted castle-like mansion on the shore, with a crude caretaker named John, where she is to remain until Alonzo departs the area. Melissa collapses but gradually recovers.

No. 114, August 7:

Melissa gradually becomes accustomed to the mansion. Her aunt takes to staying away for nights at a time, leaving Melissia the interior keys. On these occasions, though she has locked all the interior doors, Melissa first begins to hear mysterious voices; then whispering in her room; and one night an icy hand that grasps hers as she sleeps. She searches the mansion and grounds, but can find no trace of anyone's presence. She gets John to bar all the doors on the inside, so that even false keys would not work; he also leaves her the keys to the outer gate and (which we now first learn of) drawbridge a moat.

No. 115, August 14:

The next night is quiet, but on the following one Melissa's room is invaded by horrible noises, sounds of a murder, a ghastly blood-covered corpse, and other apparently spectral apparitions. Knowing that all the doors are both locked and barred, Melissa assumes this must be supernatural. The following day there is not trace of anything amiss, and she walks in the garden. Towards evening a terrific thunderstorm comes up, shattering an elm tree in the garden; Melissa retreats to her room, but when she goes down to make sure the front door is locked she suddenly encounters -- Alonzo.

No. 116, August 21:

Melissa tells Alonzo her story (leaving out the nightly apparitions). Alonzo tells her how he had sought her in vain, despite the assistance of the Simpsons, and, searching along the shore took refuge against the storm in the apparently abandoned mansion, using a tree struck by lightning to get across the wall. They agree that he shall return the next night to take her to refuge with the Simpsons, and arrange a signal that all is clear. When he returns, the signal candle is lit, but Melissa has vanished; Alonzo searches the house and grounds all night, and sadly departs without her.

No. 117, August 28:

The caretaker John tells Alonzo that the aunt had taken Melissa away. After visiting his parents (now happily farming), and after all attempts to learn more about Melissa had failed, Alonzo sets out for New London, where he had first met her staying with her cousin there. At the cousin is a girl who resembles, but proves not to be, Melissa. That night Alonzo has two dreams: one of Melissa dead, the other of his happy marriage to her. The next day he finds her obituary in the local paper-- she has died in Charleston, South Carolina, while visiting her uncle. Alonzo faints.

No. 118, September 4:

How can a novel kill its heroine in the midst of the story? But is not sorrow often the center of real life? Alonzo is in despair, and takes to his bed, mourning his lost Melissa. Gradually recovering, he visits her favorite rock on the shore, and resolves to cut himself off from his past. He enlists on a New London warship escorting American merchant ships to Europe. Before it sails he meets Melissa's cousin, who confirms her death.

No. 119, September 11:

Separated from its convoy by a storm, the ship fights one English warship to a standstill and is then captured by another. Taken to a London prison, Alonzo hears the sad story of fellow-prisoner Malcomb, who, tricked by a practical joke, had jealously murdered both his fiance and his sister, and is now mournfully awaiting execution. At Melissa died confident of Alonzo's love. Alonzo escapes from the prison, using all his clothing as a rope, and finds himself alone on a London street at night, stark naked.

No. 120, September 18:

Jack Brown, an English sailor, rescues Alonzo and gives him clothes and lodging. Alonzo visits a hospital where wounded American prisoners have been taken, and encounter the dying Beauman, who also knows of Melissa's death. Jack Brown arranges for a smuggler to take Alonzo to France, where he calls on the American Minister in Paris, Dr. Franklin, and explains in detail his whole life story. As Alonzo does not want to return to America, Franklin arranges a job for him with Mr. Grafton, a bookseller. One day Alonzo comes upon a purse in the street, containing Melissa's miniature; a nearby poster offers a reward for it -- he goes to the address given and finds Edgar, Melissa's brother.

No. 121, September 25:

Edgar had learned of Melissa's death in Charleston, and sought to drown his grief abroad as secretary to the American Consul in Holland, where he was now bound. He had visited Alonzo's parents, who were content, though his father had been ill. Edgar had lost, and advertised for, the miniature, which he now insists Alonzo keep. Franklin calls in Alonzo, and lectures him on the transitory nature of passion (which Alonzo rejects) and on his duty to his parents and country to return to America (which he accepts). Franklin has investigated the supposed financial failure of Alonzo's father, who was an old friend, and has recovered his stolen fortune, which Alonzo can obtain in Philadelphia. Alonzo sets sail for Savannah, hires a coach, and while passing through Charleston visits and weeps over Melissa's grave.

No. 122, October 2:

At an inn, Alonzo meets a handsome young Army officer; the next day, delayed by a storm, he goes to the theater, where he again meets the officer-- who leaves hurriedly when a lady with him faints. The next day, as Alonzo prepares to depart, the officer reappears, and tells him that the girl who had fainted was beautiful, rich, and talented, and had some time before, one night, dreamed of seeing her her true love, though she awakened before he could speak. At the play she had recognized Alonzo as the "invisible lover"of whom she had dreamed, and fainted. The officer determines that Alonzo is respectable, a bachelor, and unattached, but Alonzo refuses to meet the lady -- citing his lifelong devotion to a departed love. But, as he gets into his carriage, the young officer again begs Alonzo to come to the lady's house so she can see him; he reluctantly agrees, is ushered into her room, and the lady proves to be -- Melissa!

No. 123, October 9:

How can this be? All the evidence showed that Melissa was dead! It was indeed Melissa, and she and Alonzo embrace. Albert, finding them thus, joshes them -- and is introduced as Melissa's cousin. They go to the home of Col. D-, Melissa's uncle. Melissa tells Alonzo how she had was surprised at the old mansion by her father, who sent her to live with her uncle in Charleston. Col. D- had heard Melissa's story, and token her side. He had a daughter, also named Melissa and of her age and appearance, who was little known in Charleston; when the daughter died, it was made known that it was Melissa the heroine who was dead; thus misleading her relations and Beauman back in Connecticut.

No. 124, October 16:

Melissa explains how Albert had gone to Connecticut in a fruitless search for Alonzo, explaining the deception about Melissa's death to everybody but Melissa's father; though the latter not expressed regret at having prevented Alonzo's marriage to her. The aunt, deceived by a relative, had pined away and died. Alonzo and Melissa return to Connecticut, where Alonzo informs his parents they are no longer poor, and induces Melissa's sorrowful father (who still believes her dead) to preside over his wedding to another lady "who resembles her." Edgar returns to conduct the ceremony, during which Melissa reveals her survival to her astonished father.

No. 125, October 23:

Alonzo's father regains his lost property, with interest; Melissa tells of the frightening events at the old mansion. Edgar and Alonzo, with an armed guard, go to investigate the now uninhabited buildint. They surprise a gang of smugglers, carrying contraband, paid for with counterfeit continental currency, to the British on Long Island, who had used the mansion as a meeting place. One wounded gang member is captured and, after being guaranteed immunity, tells all: the gang's activities, the secret doors and trapdoors with which they had filled the mansion, and how they had sought to frighten Melissa away.

No. 126, October 30:

The gang member, taken to town for interrogation, he says he has money to restore to an English prisoner of war there, who had given it to him for safekeeping when about to be captured. It is Jack Brown, the English sailor who had rescued Alonzo in London; Alonzo gives him 500 pounds and he is sent to Long-Island to be exchanged. Alonzo and Melissa build a home in their favorite rural village; Edgar (married to one of the Miss Simpsons) becomes the local Minister. Jack Brown writes after the war to say he has used Alonzo's money to start an inn -- "The Grateful American." Alonzo and Melissa, frequently visited by family and friends, live happily ever after.

Return to Top of Page.