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Introductions to Novels by James Fenimore Cooper

by Susan Fenimore Cooper

The Red Rover (1828)

Return to Susan Fenimore Cooper

Introductions to novels by her father, with significant biographic and literary information, were written by Susan Fenimore Cooper as prefaces to excerpts from 25 Cooper novels in Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, with Notes by Susan Fenimore Cooper (New York: W.A. Townsend and Co., 1861). She also wrote introductions to 15 (not all the same) novels published between 1876-1884 as the Household Edition of the Works of J. Fenimore Cooper (New York and Cambridge: Houghton, Mifflin and Co. [Hurd and Mifflin]).
These introductions are collected for the first time on the Cooper Society Website. Lengthy quotations have been reproduced in indented form, but retaining the quotation marks of the original, and their sources have been indicated in [square brackets].

Topics Covered:

I: From Pages and Pictures
The Red Rover the story of a unruly man restored to morality by his sister; such regeneration is in fact common; description of Zenaida Dove of the Florida Keys, and anecdote from Audubon on a pirate who repented after being left alone with some doves; The Red Rover the most maritime novel in English literature; formal love story insignificant, and "true lovers of the narrative" are the white sailor Dick Fid and the noble Negro sailor S'ip; novel written rapidly in summer of 1827 in St. Ouen, outside Paris; long quotation from Cooper about his life at St. Ouen; Cooper's first visit to Newport (site of famous tower that figures in the novel) when he sailed his whaling ship Union there; Cooper never believed it anything but a windmill; box made from Captain Cook's ship Endeavor given to Cooper by Newport citizens in honor of The Red Rover; novel's title not derived from Scott.

II: From Household Edition
Cooper's summer writing the novel at St. Ouen, outside Paris; The Red Rover the story of an unruly man restored to morality by his sister; such regeneration common; anecdote from Audubon about a pirate who reformed after encountering the innocent zenaida dove on a Caribbean key; Cooper's visit to Senlis, Compiègne (of Joan of Arc fame) and its forest (where game commoner than around Cooperstown), and ruins (since rebuilt) of the Pierrefonds château; Cooper's belief in need for laws to protect forests from destruction; The Red Rover the most maritime novel in English literature; true lovers are Dick Fid and the noble, heroic Negro Sip; Cooper's first visit to Newport and his disbelief in story of medieval origin of the "Newport Tower"; gift of box made from wood of Captain Cook's ship Endeavor; title of novel not derived from Scott; dedicated (like The Pilot to Commander Shubrick.

I. Pages and Pictures, pp. 174-183

Contents: THE RED ROVER. -- St. Owen [sic] -- The terrace -- the bourgeois in a punt -- French fields -- Hill at Newport -- The Zenaida Dove -- S'ip and Fid -- Extract, The Wreck of the Royal Caroline

[174] SINGULARLY different from "The Prairie" was the book now planned. A brilliant romance of the sea followed the wild movement of Pawnee and Dahcotah over the great plains; a character as widely opposite as possible from the beautiful picture of the trapper, in his serene and sylvan old age, becomes the principal figure in the new work. A nature quick in intellect, endowed with great force of will, possessing every advantage of social position and culture in early life, but wildly passionate and wayward, is represented as having, in an evil hour, while smarting under some act of official injustice, violently thrown off all social restraint, and cast itself loose on the stormy tide of life, an outlaw in spirit, a corsair in deed. This figure appears for a few brief weeks of its wayward course before the reader. He comes in the height of a career, successful in so far as evil may claim reality of success -- having achieved ruthless fame, and power, and treasure, in the dark field of violence; a few weeks pass over; a short but most eventful drama is enacted on the bosom of the deep, within the narrow bounds of two ships. The rover is brought once more into contact with pure influences, from which he had long utterly estranged himself. The voice of a sister falls upon his ear -- an elder sister, one who had been more than a companion; one who, beyond a sister's affection, had given something of a mother's deep love, and anxious tenderness, and compassionate sympathy to the wayward youth at her side. Old memories awaken; home feeling revives; conscience is powerfully aroused. The passionate spirit, in the very hour of its greatest triumph, bows in penitence. The rover surrenders his captives; his wild [175] crew is disbanded; with his own hand he fires the beautiful and victorious craft which had long been the scourge of the seas. He disappears. Half a lifetime passes away in obscurity. Again he crosses his sister's threshold to die, having been victorious in honorable conflict under the flag freshly unfurled to the western breezes by the young republic. A character like that of the rover was exceedingly difficult to draw. To represent a man who had so recklessly outlawed himself, to give him the ungovernable, passionate nature which could alone throw him into such a course, to make no attempt at veiling the dark coloring of that career of violence, and yet to avoid all revolting detail, and to throw about the individual just such a degree of lingering intellectual and moral light as to awaken our sympathies, and to render final penitence and submission to just restraints probable -- this was assuredly no easy task. Many similar characters have been drawn, some by the hands of masters; is there one in English literature, whether in prose or in verse, more clearly conceived, more skilfully carried out? The principle on which the contrition of the rover is founded is one entirely true to reality. We see it constantly in the quiet course of daily life. There are few men, probably, among those blessed with pure home influences in boyhood, over whose hearts those influences do not retain a secret, intent power, even in the dark period of a career of sin. The feeling may be feeble in degree, it may be unacknowledged by the heart in which it still lives, it may be silenced by pride, it may be stifled by evil passion, chilled by the cold sneer of the world, polluted by corrupt example, perverted by sophism, entangled within the thousand petty webs of a miserable selfishness -- but rarely indeed -- nay, perhaps never -- does it become utterly and irretrievably extinct so long as that heart beats. Again and again, in the course of life, it moves in the secret depths of the soul -- it whispers to conscience, it appeals to reason. Belonging in its essence to eternal Truth, like truth, it is undying in spirit. The ultimate fate of the individual, the final coloring which his life is to receive, must ever depend on the response given to such appeals. With many men in this condition, as years move onward, time discovers, one by one, all that is false and treacherous in the thousand alluring deceits of crime, and vice, and sin. Their souls open anew to the blessed influences of Holy Truth. With many men this renovation is effected slowly indeed, often almost imperceptibly; step by step they regain something of the lost ground, something of those treasures which prodigal manhood has trifled away -- the humility, the simplicity, the faith, the love of their childhood. But there are others for whom a few brief days -- nay, some signal hour -- shall accomplish the same great work; the scales of error are torn from their eyes, the pure light of Heaven shines once more upon the darkened mind, and warms anew [176] into a better life that chilled and hardened soul. A singular incident, bearing this moral, offering as it were an illustration of the narrative we are now looking over, has been placed on authentic record by a great and truthful writer. Unhappily, the book is not within reach; a version necessarily imperfect must be accepted for the original words.

On the shores of southern Florida, and among the rocky islets or "keys" of the Gulf of Mexico, there is a rare and a beautiful bird, to which the name of the Zenaida Dove has been given by Prince Charles Bonaparte, the ornithologist. This creature is very beautiful in its delicate form and plumage; its general coloring is of a warm and rosy gray, varying in lighter or deeper shades, and barred with brown and white on back: and wing, while its breast bears a shield of pure and vivid blue, bordered with gold, and its cheeks are marked with spots of deep ultramarine. Legs and feet are of a deep rose-color, and the nails black. Harmless and innocent, like others of its tribe, this little creature flits to and fro, in small family groups, over the rocky islets, and along the warm, sandy beaches of the Gulf -- "Tampa's desert strand."

"On that lone shore loud moans the sea."

There are certain rocky keys where it loves especially to alight, attracted by the springs which here and there gush up pure and fresh among the coral rocks. The low note of this little creature is more than usually sweet, pure, and mournful in its tone. But the doves are not the only visitors of those rare springs. A few years since, pirates haunted the same spots, seeking, like the birds, water from those natural fountains. It chanced one day, that a party of those fierce outlaws came to a desolate key to fill their water-casks, ere sailing on some fresh cruise of violence. A little flock of the rosy-gray doves -- and their flocks are ever few and rare -- were flitting and cooing in peace about the rocky basin when these wretched men appeared; in affright they took wing and flew away. The casks were filled, and the fierce crew rowed their boat off to the guilty craft lying at anchor in the distance. For some reason unexplained, however, one of the band remained awhile on the island, alone. He threw himself, in a quiet evening hour, on the rocks near the spring, looking over the broad sea, where here and there a low solitary islet rose from the deep, while the vessel with which his own fate had long been connected, lay idle in the offing. Presently the little doves, seeing all quiet again, returned to their favorite spring, flitting to and fro in peace, uttering to each other their low, gentle notes, so caressing, and so plaintive. It may have been that in the wild scenes of his dark career, the wretched man had never known the silent force of solitude. He was now gradually overpowered by its [177] influences, pressing upon heart and mind; he felt himself to be alone with his Maker and his conscience. The works of the Holy One surrounded him -- the pure heavens hanging over his head, the sea stretching in silent grandeur far beyond the horizon; one object, alone, connected with man, lay within range of his eye -- the guilty craft, which, like an evil phantom, lay in the offing, brooding sin. A fearful consciousness of guilt came over the wretched man. Curse, and ribald jest, and brutal threat, and shriek of death, had long been sounds most familiar. And now those little doves came hovering about him, uttering their guileless notes of tenderness and innocence. Far away, in his native woods, within sight of father's roof, he had often listened in boyhood to other doves, whose notes, like these, were pure and sweet. Home memories, long banished from his breast, returned. The image of his mother stood before him. Those little doves, still uttering their low, pure, inoffensive note, seemed like the far-off echoes of every sacred word of devout faith, of pure precept, of generous feeling, which in happier years had reached his ear. His heart was utterly subdued. The stern pride of manhood, and the callous pride of sin, gave way. A powerful tide of contrition swept away all evil barriers. Bitter tears of penitence fell upon the stone on which his head rested. It was the turning point of life. He arose from the rock resolved to retrace his steps -- to return to better things. The resolution was adhered to. He broke away from his wicked courses, thrust temptation aside, returned to his native soil to lead a life of penitence and honest toil. Years later, a stranger came to his cabin, in the wild forests of the southern country -- a man venerable in mien, shrewd and kindly in countenance -- wandering through the woods on pleasant errands of his own; the birds of the region were his object. The inmate of the cabin had much to tell on this subject; gradually, as the two were thrown together in the solitude of the forest, the heart of the penitent opened to his companion. He avowed that he loved the birds of heaven; he had cause to love them -- the doves especially; they had been as friends to him; they had been with him, they had spoken to his heart, in the most solemn hour of life! Then came that singular confession. The traveller was Audubon, the great ornithologist, who has left on record in his works the striking incident. In olden time, what a beautiful ballad would have been written on such a theme: fresh and free as the breeze of the forest, sweet and plaintive as the note of the dove!
[anecdote from John James Audubon, Birds of America (1827-1838), under Zenaida Dove]

"The Red Rover" is most completely a book of the sea -- as much so as "The Mohicans" is a tale of the forest. The whole drama is almost entirely enacted on the ocean. The curtain rises in port; but the varied scenes, so full of nautical interest, and succeeding each other in startling rapidity, are wholly unfolded on the bosom of the deep. It is believed that there is scarcely another book in [178] English literature so essentially marine in spirit. It is like some material picture of the sea, drawn by a master hand, where the eye looks abroad over the rolling waves, where it glances at the sea-bird fluttering amid the spray, and then rests upon the gallant ship, with swelling canvas, bending before the breeze, until the land behind us, and the soil beneath our own feet, are forgotten. In the Rover, the different views of the ocean, in majestic movement, are very noble, while the two vessels which carry the heart of the narrative with them come and go with wonderful power and grace, guided by the hand of one who was both pilot and poet in his own nature. The love story, as usual in the novel of that period, and that particular class, is insignificant, though "Gertrude" is certainly very pretty and proper, which is much more than one would venture to aver of many heroines of the present hour. In reality, however, our worthy friends Dick Fid, that arrant old foretopman, and his comrade, Negro S'ip, are the true lovers of the narrative; and most worthy and most real they are -- the last, indeed, is a noble creature, a hero under the skin of Congo. As for Wilder, the author professed to owe him an apology for having thrown a sufficiently clever fellow, and an honorable man no doubt, into a position slightly equivocal; he declared himself however, very much indebted to a friendly critic who saw much to admire in the course pursued by the young lieutenant -- this crachat of the obliging reviewer relieving the author's mind, as he avowed, of a great weight of responsibility on that particular point!

The book was very rapidly written, within some three or four months, during the summer of 1827. The writer was then living in the small village of St. Ouen, near Paris, occupying a pleasant country house on the banks of the Seine, [179] adjoining a small château where Madame de Staël had passed much of her time, at the period when M. Neckar [sic] was in power. The village itself had little indeed to recommend it, being insignificant in every way, but the house was one the writer much enjoyed, from its spacious rooms, beautiful garden and shrubbery, all shut in within gray walls fourteen feet in height, a little blooming paradise in itself, like so many similar gardens on the outskirts of the ancient cities of Europe. A broad terrace lay at the end of the garden, overhanging the river, which in itself could boast of little beauty, broad and brown, seldom enlivened even by a sail-boat; a wide extent of beautiful plain lay beyond, bounded by fine bold hills, teeming with gray villages and hamlets. A pleasant summer-house, or pavillon, stood at one extremity of the terrace, and here many pages of "The Red Rover" were written. A few passages from letters of this period are given:

"One of our great amusements is to watch the living life on the river; there is no still life in France. All the washerwomen of the village assemble, three days in the: week, beneath our terrace, and a merrier set of grisettes is not to be found in the neighborhood of Paris. They chatter, and joke, and splash, and scream from morning to night, lightening the toil by never-ceasing good humor. Occasionally an enormous scow-like barge is hauled up, against the current, by stout horses, loaded to the water's edge, or one without freight comes dropping down the stream, nearly filling the whole river as it floats broad-side to. There are three or four islands opposite, and now and then a small boat is seen paddling among them. We have even tried punting ourselves, but the amusement was soon exhausted. Not long since I passed half an hour on the terrace, an amused witness of the perils of a voyage across the Seine in a punt. The adventurers were a bourgeois, his wife, sister, and child. Honest Pierre, the waterman, had conditioned to take the whole party to the island opposite, and to return them safe to the main for the modicum of five sous. The old fox invariably charged me a franc for the same service. There was much demurring and many doubts, about encountering the risks; and more than once the women would have receded had not the man treated the matter as a trifle. He affirmed 'parole d'honneur' that his father had crossed the Loire a dozen times, and no harm had come of it! This encouraged them, and with many petty screams they finally embarked. The punt was a narrow scow that a ton weight would not have disturbed, the river was so low and sluggish that it might have two-thirds of the distance, and the width was not three hundred feet. Pierre protested that the danger was certainly not worth mentioning, and away he went, as philosophical in appearance as his punt. The voyage was made in safety; but the bows of the boat had touched the shore on its return before the passengers ventured to [180] smile. The excursion, like most travelling, was likely to be most productive of happiness by the recollections. But the women were no sooner landed, than that rash adventurer, the husband, brother, and father, seized an oar, and began to ply it with all his force. He wished to be able to tell his confreres of the Rue Montmartre how a punt might be rowed, Pierre had landed gallantly to assist the ladies, and the boat, relieved of its freight, slowly yielded to the impulse of the oar, and inclined its bows from the land. 'Oh, Edouard! mon mari! mon frère! -- que fais-tu?' exclaimed the ladies. 'Ce n'est rien,' returned the man, puffing, and giving another lusty sweep, by which he succeeded in forcing the punt fully twenty feet from the shore. 'Edouard, cher Edouard!' 'Laissez moi m'amuscr! -- je m'amuse! je m'amuse!' cried the husband in a tone of indignant remonstrance. But Edouard, a light, sleek little épicier, of about five-and thirty, had never heard that an oar on each side was necessary in a boat, and the harder he pulled the less likely was he to regain the shore. Of this he now began to be convinced, as he whirled more into the centre of the current; his efforts became really frantic; his imagination probably painting the perils of a distant voyage in an unknown bark, to all unknown land, and all without food or compass! The women screamed. The louder they cried, the more strenuously he persevered, plying vigorously with both arms his single oar, and crying, 'Laissez moi m'amuser! je m'amuse! je m'amuse!' By this time the perspiration was streaming from his face. I called to the imperturbable Pierre, who stood in silent admiration of his punt playing such antics, and desired him to tell the man to put his oar on the bottom, and push his boat ashore. 'Oui, monsieur!' and the rogue, with a leer, for he remembered the francs, and we soon had our adventurer safe on terra firma again. Then began the tender expostulations, the affectionate reproaches, and the kind injunctions for the truant to remember that he was a husband and a father. Edouard, secretly cursing the punt and all rivers in his heart, made light of the matter, however, protesting to the last that he had been amusing himself.
"We have had a fête, too; for every village in the vicinity of Paris has its fête. The square was filled with whirligigs and flying horses, and all the ingenious contrivances of the French to make and to spend a sous [sic] pleasantly. There was service in the parish church, at, which our neighbors sang in a style fit for St. Peter's; and the villagers danced quadrilles on the green, with an air that would be thought fine in many a country drawing-room. I enjoy all this greatly. We have also visited Enghien and Montmorenci. The latter, as you know already, stands on the side of a low mountain, in plain view of Paris. It is a town of some size, with very uneven streets, some of them being actually sharp acclivities, and [181] a Gothic church that is seen from afar, and that is well worth viewing near by. These quaint edifices afford us deep delight by their antiquity, architecture, size, and pious histories. What matters it to us, how much or how little superstition may blend with the rites, when we know and feel that we are standing in a nave that has echoed with orisons to God for a thousand years? This of Montmorenci is not quite so old, however, having been partially rebuilt some three centuries since. Dulaure, a severe judge of aristocracy, denounces the pretensions of the Montmorencis, to be the premiers barons chrétiens; affirming that they were neither the first barons nor the first Christians, by a great many. He says that the extravagant title has most probably been a war-cry in the time of the crusaders. According to his account of the family, it originated, about the year 1008, in a certain Burchard, who, proving a bad neighbor to the Abbey of St. Denis, the vassals of which he was in the habit of robbing, besides now and then despoiling a monk, the king caused his fortress in the Isle St. Denis to be razed; after which, by a treaty, he was put in possession of the mountain hard by, with permission to erect another hold, near a fountain, at a place called in the charters Montmorenciacum. Hence the name and the family. This writer thinks that the first castle must have been built of wood! We took a road that led us up to a bluff on the mountain, behind the town, where we obtained a new and very peculiar view of Paris and its environs. The French towns have no straggling suburbs. A few wine-houses, to save the octroi, are built near the gates, compactly, as in the town itself, and there the buildings cease as suddenly as if pared down by the knife. The fields touch the walls in many places; between St. Ouen and the guingettes at the Barrière de Clichy, a distance of two miles, there is but one solitary building. A wide plain separates Paris on this side from the mountains, and of course our view extended across it. The number of villages was absolutely astounding. Although I did not attempt counting them, I should think not fewer than a hundred were in sight, all gray, picturesque, and clustering round the high nave, and high church-tower, like chickens gathering beneath the wing. The day was clouded, and the hamlets rose from their beds of verdure, sombre but distinct, with their faces of wall now in subdued light, and now quite shaded, resembling the glorious darks of Rembrandt's pictures.
"I am often in the saddle since our removal to St. Ouen. I first commenced exploring in the cabriolet, with my wife for a companion, during which time, several pretty drives, of whose existence one journeying along the great roads would form no idea, were discovered. At last, as these became exhausted, I mounted, and pricked into the fields. The result has been a better knowledge of the details of ordinary rural life, in this country, than a stranger would get by a [182] residence of years after the ordinary fashion. I found the vast plain intersected by roads as intricate as the veins of the human body. The comparison is not unapt, by the way, and may be even carried out much further; for the grandes routes can be compared to the arteries, the chemins vicinaux, or cross-roads, to the veins, and the innumerable paths that intersect the open fields in all directions, to the more minute blood-vessels, circulation being the object common to all. I mount my horse and gallop into the fields at random, merely taking care not to quit the paths. By the latter, one can go in almost any direction; and as they are very winding, there is a certain pleasure in following their sinuosities, doubtful whither they tend. Much of the plain is in vegetables, for the use of Paris; but there are occasional vineyards and fields of grain. The weather has become settled and autumnal, and is equally without the chilling moisture of winter, or the fickleness of the spring. The kind-hearted peasants see me pass among them without distrust, and my salutations are answered with cheerfulness and civility. One of my rides is over the plain that lies between St. Ouen and Montmartre, ascending the latter by its rear to the windmills that, night and day, are whirling their ragged arms over the capital of France. A view from this height is like a glimpse into the pages of history; for every foot of land it commands, and more than half the artificial accessories, are pregnant with the past. Looking down into the fissures between the houses, men appear like the mites they are; and one gets to have a philosophical indifference to human vanities by obtaining these bird's-eye views of them in the mass. It was a happy thought that first suggested the summits of mountains for religious contemplation. The cathedral of Notre Dame should have been reared on this noble and isolated height, that the airs of heaven might whisper through its fane, breathing chants in honor of God."
[James Fenimore Cooper, Gleanings in Europe: France [1837] (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), Letter XVI, pp. 193-197]

The scene of "The Red Rover," as the reader is already aware, lies at Newport. After leaving the navy, while living at Angevine, Mr. Cooper became interested in a whaling ship, as one of its owners. The name of this ship was the [183] "Union;" her port was Sag Harbor, but on several occasions she made short trips for repairs, or other purposes, to different points of the coast, and in two or three instances, more probably from pleasure than any other motive, Mr. Cooper played skipper as she passed to and fro under his direction. One of these trips carried him to Newport. He was much pleased with the spot, and some years later laid the opening scene of "The Rover" in that port. Of course he had explored the famous ruin, which not even the genius of romance, however, could induce him to see in any other light than that of a windmill. The reader is probably already familiar with the deed which degrades the old mill from the dignity of temple or fastness to the humble duties of agricultural labor in behalf of the nearest farmer; and he has also, no doubt, made merry over that very clever and rather wicked Yankee jeu d'esprit which so sadly bewildered the very venerable Society of antiquaries at Copenhagen.

A pleasant little gift was made to the author of "The Red Rover" not long after its publication, by some gentlemen of Newport. It would seem that the keel of the "Endeavor," the famous exploring ship of Cooke [sic], after going round the world, found its way into Newport harbor; a box, bearing a silver plate and engraving on its lid, was made from this wood, black as ebony with age and adventure, and sent to France to the writer, who was much gratified by the friendly remembrance.

In one of Sir Walter Scott's works, which appeared subsequently to "The Red Rover," allusion is made to a famous corsair of olden times, whose craft bore the same name. So far, however, as any previous knowledge of it may go, this name was original with Mr. Cooper. Of the old Scotch corsair he had never heard. The alliterations alone naturally suggested the title.

Excerpt: "The Wreck of the Royal Caroline" [James Fenimore Cooper, The Red Rover (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), Chapters 15-16, pp. 214-231.]

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II. Household Edition, pp. xi-xxi

[xi] "THE Pilot" was succeeded by "Lionel Lincoln," "The Last of the Mohicans," and "The Prairie," which was published February 7, 1827. Mr. Cooper was at that time in Paris.

Early in the summer of the same year he removed with his family to a pleasant country-house in the little hamlet of St. Ouen, on the Seine, not far` from St. Denis. It was at that day an insignificant, isolated village, with a level stretch of open fields between its last houses and the walls of Paris. Its position, however, on the bank of the river and at a short distance from the town, had led to the building Of several pleasant villas in the heart of the little village with grounds sloping to the water. One of the largest of these country-houses, a small château indeed, had been for some years the residence of Madame de Staël after her marriage, and while her father, M. Necker, was in power. Its small park, laid out in the old French style with straight avenues and stiffly clipped trees, offered a pleasant promenade to the American family to whom the owner had kindly offered the freedom of the grounds, the house being then uninhabited. The villa occupied by Mr. Cooper was a large, cheerful house, between a court-yard opening on a dirty village street and a beautiful flower garden and shrubbery sloping towards a terrace on the river-bank. On three sides the grounds, a little blooming paradise, were inclosed within gray walls eleven feet in height, like so many similar gardens on the outskirts of the ancient cities of [xii] Europe. The river, boasting of little beauty, broad and brown, was seldom enlivened by even a solitary sail-boat, though great, uncouth, trading craft, drawn by horses, were not unfrequently passing to and fro. On the opposite bank lay a wide reach of fertile plain, bounded by fine, bold hills, teeming with villages and hamlets. At one side of the garden terrace overlooking the river stood a pleasant summer-house or pavillon, and here on his traveling desk the author wrote many pages of a new novel. Those chapters were often composed to an odd accompaniment. On a strip of waste bank immediately below the terrace the village washerwomen gathered for their work, beating the clothes as usual with their wooden bats; with the water of the Seine often so brown and muddy, it was surprising that these peasant women could cleanse and whiten the linen so thoroughly as they never failed to do. From time immemorial the washerwomen on the continent of Europe have gathered in public places, about fountains, and on river-banks, often forming very picturesque groups.

"One of our great amusements is to watch the living life on the river; there is no still life in France. All the washerwomen of the village assemble, three days in the: week, beneath our terrace, and a merrier set of grisettes is not to be found in the neighborhood of Paris. They chatter, and joke, and splash, and scream from morning to night, lightening the toil by never-ceasing good humor. Occasionally an enormous scow-like barge is hauled up, against the current, by stout horses, loaded to the water's edge, or one without freight comes dropping down the stream, nearly filling the whole river as it floats broadside to. There are three or four islands opposite, and now and then a small boat is seen paddling among them." [James Fenimore Cooper, Gleanings in Europe: France [1837] (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), Letter XVI, p. 193]

The new book, written almost entirely in the pavillon at St. Ouen, was to be a second tale of the ocean, and ere many pages had been completed it received the name of "The Red Rover." It was singularly different from its predecessor, [xiii] "The Prairie," recently completed in the Rue St. Maur. A brilliant romance of the sea followed the wild movement of Pawnee and Dahcotah over the great plains; a character as widely opposite as possible from the beautiful picture of the trapper in his serene, sylvan old age, becomes the principal figure in the new work. A nature quick in intellect, endowed with great force of will, possessing every advantage of social position and culture in early life, but wildly passionate and wayward, is represented as having, in an evil hour, while smarting under some act of official injustice, violently thrown off all social restraint and cast itself loose on the stormy tide of life; an outlaw in spirit, a corsair in deed. This figure appears for a few brief weeks of its wayward course before the reader. He comes in the height of a career, successful in so far as evil may claim reality of success, -- having achieved fame, and treasure, and power in the dark field of violence; a few weeks pass over; a short but most eventful drama is enacted on the bosom of the deep, within the narrow bounds of two ships. The Rover is brought suddenly into contact with pure influences, from which he had long estranged himself. Old memories awaken; the ties of strong, natural affection revive; conscience is powerfully aroused. The passionate spirit in the very hour of triumph bows in penitence. The Rover surrenders his captives; his wild crew is disbanded; with his own hand he fires the beautiful craft which had long been the scourge of the seas. He disappears; half a lifetime passes away in obscurity. Again he crosses his sister's threshold to die, having been victorious in honorable conflict under the flag freshly unfurled to the western breezes, by the young republic. A character like that of the Rover was exceedingly difficult to draw. To represent a man who had so recklessly outlawed himself, to give him the ungovernable, passionate nature which could alone throw him into such a course, to make no attempt at veiling the dark coloring of that career of violence, and yet to avoid all revolting detail, and to throw about the individual just such a [xiv] degree of lingering, intellectual, and moral light as to awaken our sympathies, and to render final penitence and submission to just restraints probable, -- this was assuredly no easy task. The principle on which the contrition of the Rover is founded is one true to real life. There are few men, probably, among those blessed with pure home influences in boyhood, over whose hearts those sacred influences do not retain a secret, intent power, even in the dark period of a career of sin. The feeling may be feeble in degree; it may be unacknowledged by the heart in which it still lives; it may be silenced by pride; stifled by evil passion; chilled by the cold sneer of the world; polluted by corrupt example; perverted by sophism; entangled within the thousand coils of a miserable selfishness; but rarely, indeed, nay, perhaps never, does it become utterly and irretrievably extinct, so long as that heart beats. Again and again, in the course of life, it moves in the secret depths of the soul; it whispers to conscience; it appeals to reason. The ultimate fate of the individual, the final coloring which his life is to receive, must ever depend on the response given to such appeals. With many men, as years move onward, time discovers gradually all that is false and treacherous in the alluring deceits of vice and sin; step by step they regain something of the lost ground, something of those treasures which prodigal manhood has trifled away -- the humility, the simplicity, the faith, the love of their childhood. But there are others for whom a few brief days -- nay, some signal hour -- shall accomplish the same good work; the scales of error are torn from their eyes, the pure light of heaven shines once more upon the darkened mind, and warms anew into a better life that chilled and hardened soul.

A singular and remarkable incident bearing this moral has been placed on record by a great and truthful writer, Mr. Audubon. Among the birds illustrated by the distinguished ornithologist is the zenaida dove: a lovely little creature, very beautiful and delicate in form and plumage; of a warm, rosy gray in coloring, and barred in white and [xv] brown on back and wing; while its breast bears a shield of vivid blue bordered with gold; and its cheeks are marked with deep ultramarine blue; legs and feet are of a deep rose color; and the nails black. These dainty creatures once had the honor of converting a pirate. Harmless and innocent, like others of their tribe, these little doves flit to and fro in small family groups over the rocky islets and along the warm, sandy beaches of the Gulf,--

"Tampa's desert strand.
On that lone shore loud moans the sea."

There are certain rocky keys where they especially love to alight, attracted by the springs which here and there gush up pure and fresh among the coral reefs. The low note of this little creature is more than usually sweet, pure, and mournful in its tone. But the doves are not the only visitors of those rare springs. Half a century since pirates haunted the same spots, seeking, like the birds, water from those natural fountains. It chanced one day that a party of those fierce outlaws came to a desolate key to fill their water-casks. A little flock of the rosy-gray doves -- and their flocks are ever few and rare -- were flitting and cooing in peace about the rocky basin when the men appeared; in affright they took wing and flew away. The casks were filled; the boat rowed away; but for some reason unexplained, one of the band remained for a time alone on the island. Presently the little doves, seeing all quiet again, returned to their favorite spring, flitting to and fro, uttering their low, gentle notes so caressing and so plaintive. It may have been that in the wild scenes of his dark career the wretched man had never known the silent force of solitude. He was now gradually overpowered by its influences; he felt himself to be alone with his Maker and his conscience. One object alone connected with man lay within range of his eye, -- the guilty craft which, like an evil phantom, lay in the offing brooding violence. A fearful consciousness of guilt came over the wretched man. Curse and ribald jest [xvi] and brutal threat, and shriek of death, had long been sounds familiar. And now the little doves came hovering about him, uttering their guileless notes of tenderness and innocence. Far away in his native woods, within sight of his father's home, he had often in boyhood listened to other doves, whose notes like these were pure and sweet. Home memories long banished from his breast returned with force; the image of his mother rose before him; those little doves still uttering their low, innocent notes seemed like the far-away echoes of every word of devout faith, of pure precept, of generous feeling which in happier days had reached his ear. His heart was utterly subdued. Bitter tears of penitence fell upon the stone on which his head rested. He arose from the rock resolved to retrace his steps -- to return to better things. The resolution was adhered to. He returned to his native soil to lead a life of penitence, and honest toil, in the wild forests of the southern country Here Audubon met him, and heard from his own lips the singular confession of the pirate, and his declaration that his heart had been first softened by the notes of the little doves reviving pure, home memories. The truthfulness of Mr. Audubon is above suspicion, and we may therefore yield full credence to his record of this very singular incident, which is repeated here as a sort of commentary on the penitence of the Rover.
[anecdote from John James Audubon, Birds of America (1827-1838), under Zenaida Dove]

The romance was written very rapidly, within three or four months of the summer at St. Ouen. It was a summer varied by several pleasant excursions. On one occasion in a private carriage with Mr. Cooper and two others of his family party, he made a tour of a week or two among the small towns to the eastward of Paris, selecting the most interesting sites for occasional halting ground. After exploring St. Denis and its Abbey Church, and listening to the horrible details of the desecration of the royal tombs by the mob, the travelers drove leisurely along the broad, paved roads, between avenues of dusty, clipped elms, and surrounded by open fields, to Senlis. It would have amused [xvii] a European familiar with mediæval ground to have followed the eager American writer about the picturesque gateways, walls, and towers of this really interesting little city, whose origin goes back beyond the Roman conquest. Cæsar's legions surrounded it with walls and towers, the fragments of which were explored by the trans-Atlantic traveler with the greatest zest. And blended with the enduring Roman brickwork were picturesque feudal gateways and towers and bridges, over which came prancing plumed and armored phantom knights under the rival colors of Burgundy or Orleans; or those of a later generation, when the English standard floated for a while over the walls, and the brave Pucelle with her following of stout French generals, came prancing around the walls. "Yes," exclaimed the American traveler, "Joan of Arc has passed over that very bridge, beneath that long, arched gateway!" At Compiègne were still clearer memories of the marvelous shepherd-girl; there, indeed, was the very bridge over which the maid rode for the first time in armor; besieged in the city, she made a bold sortie one pleasant May day at the head of six hundred men; after a vigorous and successful charge she brought her party off in good order; the gate was opened to them, pausing for an instant she made the men all pass in before her; but the English were in pursuit, the governor of the town ordered the portcullis to drop, and the Pucelle alone was left without the walls. The ruins of the tower in which the brave girl was a prisoner were visited with pathetic interest. The gate still belongs to the city; for many years the following inscription remained over the treacherous opening:--

"C'y fust Jehanne d'Ark, près de cestui passage
Par le nombre accablée et vendue à l'Anglais.
Qui brüla, le felon, elle faut brave et sage,
Tous ceux-là d'Albion n'ont faict le bien jamais!"

The Cathedral, with one of the finest spires in France, was greatly admired. the religious teaching within its walls three centuries since must have been more truly Christian [xviii] than that of some other imposing cathedrals. Whenever the: name of Senlis is mentioned one fact should not be forgotten: when orders were received for a general massacre of the Huguenots on the fatal St. Bartholomew's day, no blood was shed. The Huguenots received timely warning from the authorities, and all withdrew to safer ground; a fact borne in grateful remembrance by the American party, some of whom had Huguenot blood in their veins.

The forest of Compiègne was rather a disappointment, the timber being much smaller than had been expected in a region which from time immemorial had been overshadowed with wood, -- never cleared, as a Yankee might say. The forest laws of France Mr. Cooper admired, in their general character at least; he believed that ere long something of the same kind would be required in America to protect our woods from reckless waste. During the drive in the very heart of the forest a beautiful deer leaped across the road, directly in front of the carriage. It was the first creature of the kind that one of the American children had ever seen, although her home lay in the Otsego highlands, a wilderness fifty years earlier. At another point a large wild boar was seen, -- the first interview of the American author with that uncouth animal. The coachman, meanwhile, , as the travelers trotted along through the shady wood, regaled them with exciting stories of the inroads of bears and wolves during the previous winter in villages of his pays, in Auvergne. Strange that all these wild creatures should linger so much longer in ancient Europe than in new America! The free use of fire-arms by our people has probably caused the difference. One object of the drive through the forest was the grand old ruin of Pierrefonds, a feudal castle of great strength -- a very noble picture in its way -- standing in the heart of the silent forest, alone with the memories of past battle and siege and tourney. No finer feudal ruin in France; and yet its existence was scarcely known at Paris; not one among the American writer's French friends in Paris having ever heard of [xix] it. He occasionally used to declare to them that he had discovered Pierrefonds. It has recently become one of the lesser way-marks of modern history, having been entirely rebuilt at great expense by the Empress Eugènie, who made it the centre of her summer court for a portion of every season. It is said, indeed, to have been for that imperial lady what the Trianon became to Marie Antoinette, the source of much popular dissatisfaction from the extravagant sums expended on it.

"The Red Rover" is most completely a book of the sea; as much so as "The Mohicans" is a tale of the forest. The whole drama is almost entirely enacted on the ocean. The curtain rises in port; but the varied scenes, so full of nautical interest, and succeeding each other with startling rapidity, are wholly unfolded on the bosom of the deep. It is believed that there is scarcely another romance in English literature so essentially marine in spirit. It is like some material picture of the sea, drawn by a master's hand, where the eye looks abroad over the rolling waves; where it glances at the sea-bird fluttering amid the spray, and then rests upon the gallant ship with swelling canvas bending before the breeze, until the land behind us and the soil beneath our own feet are forgotten. In "The Rover" the different views of the ocean in majestic moments are very noble, while the two vessels which carry the heart of the narrative with them come and go with wonderful power and grace, guided by the hand of one who was both pilot and poet. The true lovers of the narrative are our worthy friends, Dick Fid, that arrant old foretopman, and his comrade, Negro Sip; and most worthy and most real they are. Sip, indeed, is a noble creature, a hero under the skin of Congo. As for Wilder, the author professed to owe him an apology for having thrown a sufficiently clever fellow, and an honorable man no doubt, into a position slightly equivocal. He declared himself very much indebted to a friendly critic who saw much to admire in the course pursued by the young lieutenant; this crachat of the obliging reviewer re[xx]lieving the author's mind, as he avowed, of a great weight of responsibility on that particular point.

The scene of the opening chapters of "The Red Rover," as the reader is already aware, lies at Newport. After leaving the navy Mr. Cooper became interested in a whaling ship, as one of its owners. The name of this ship was the Union; her port was Sag Harbor, but on several occasions she made short trips for repairs, or other purposes, to different points of the coast, and in two or three instances Mr. Cooper played skipper, as she passed to and fro under his direction. One of these trips carried him to Newport. He was much pleased with the town and harbor, and some years later laid the opening and the closing scenes of "The Red Rover" in that port. Of course he had explored the famous ruin. Not even the genius of romance, however, could induce him to see it in any other light than that of a windmill. The reader is probably already aware of the more recent discovery of an old deed which degrades the ruin from the dignity of temple or fastness to the humble duties of agricultural labor in behalf of the nearest farmer. There are said to be several old windmills still existing in England which closely resemble the Newport ruin. One at Chesterton, in Warwickshire, is precisely similar in plan, and is said to have been built about the year 1600, from a design of Inigo Jones.

A pleasant little gift was made to the author of "The Red Rover," not long after its publication, by some gentlemen of Newport. It would seem that the keel of the Endeavor, the famous exploring ship of Captain Cooke [sic], after going round the world, found its way into Newport harbor, where it laid its bones. From this wood, black as ebony with age and adventure among the waves of the ocean, a box was made, with a silver plate on the lid, bearing an engraving of the Royal Caroline. This was sent to the writer, then in France, and he was much gratified by the friendly remembrance.

In one of Sir Walter Scott's works, which appeared subsequently to "The Red Rover," allusion is made to a famous corsair of olden times, whose craft bore the same name. So far, however, as any previous knowledge of it may go, this name was original with Mr. Cooper. Of the old Scotch corsair he had never heard. The alliteration suggested the title.

This second romance of the sea was dedicated, as the first had been, to his intimate friend, Commander William Branford Shubrick, of the navy. The book was published November 1, 1827 [sic].

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