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The Cooper Epigraphs

Sources of the Epigraphs in the Novels of James Fenimore Cooper and Susan Fenimore Cooper

by Hugh C. MacDougall
Secretary/Treasurer, James Fenimore Cooper Society

©1999 by James Fenimore Cooper Society
[may be downloaded and reproduced for personal or instructional use, or by libraries]

Originally published as James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers No. 12, August 1999.

Updated and amended to June 2009 (in blue) as new sources of Cooper epigraphs have been discovered.

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See also Finding Lost Cooper Epigraphs for information on long unsourced epigraphs that have now been found.

Introduction

by Hugh C. MacDougall

Both James Fenimore Cooper and his daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper habitually prefaced their works with a title-page "motto" or epigraph -- a few lines of borrowed verse or prose -- intended to set the tone of the work as a whole. Their novels usually began each chapter with a similar epigraph, in lieu of a chapter title. In this they emulated many writers of the period, most notably Sir Walter Scott, the "British Cooper."

Epigraphs are an often overlooked clue to the meaning of the works in which they are used. For the Coopers, father and daughter, title-page epigraphs often seem important to the underlying theme of the novel as a whole; frequently, they seem intended to carry with them not only the selected words of the epigraph itself, but all or part of the complete work from which they have been taken.

An example is the epigraph for Cooper's famous novel The Deerslayer (1841), taken from Thomas Grey's poem The Bard:

"What Terrors round him wait!
Amazement in his van, with Flight combined
And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind."

The words of this epigraph, though unattributed by Cooper, seem intended to carry with them Gray's poem as a whole. The Bard, published in 1757 and well-known in the 19th century, tells of King Edward I's attempted destruction of Welsh culture by killing their traditional poets or Bards, of a curse invoked by the dying Bards on the House of Plantagenet, and how this curse destroyed the lives of each of Edward's descendants until the dynasty was overthrown in 1486 by Henry Tudor of Wales. With this in mind, the slaughter of the Hurons by Captain Warley's troops at the conclusion of The Deerslayer takes on, it seems to me, considerable added meaning.

In addition to assisting in the reading of texts, the proper identification of epigraphs can also aid in understanding an author's literary background, interests, and current reading.

Cooper's attributions are short (usually an author, a title, or a character), and not always easy to track down. On occasion he misattributes an epigraph, or fails to notice typographical errors (e.g., Henry VI for Henry IV) that have been carried down since from edition to edition. Except for a few epigraphs attributed to "Duo," which appear to be of his own composition, Cooper did not emulate Scott in misleading his readers with faked quotations or phoney attributions.

Cooper evidently considered the search for appropriate epigraphs as something of a chore. His "mottoes" (as he called them) seem to have been selected only after his manuscript was otherwise complete. Manuscripts I have seen show them on the reverse of the first page of each chapter. An acquaintance quoted him as once saying:

To a novel writer above all, [Shakspeare] is an invaluable friend. Publishers will have mottoes for every chapter; and how I should get along without Shakspeare I cannot conceive. I like to take them from my contemporaries whenever I can, and particularly from our own poets. It is a kind of compliment which they have a right to, and I am always glad when I can pay it. Sometimes, however, it is no easy thing. Many a page have I turned over and over without being able to find anything to my purpose; but I never yet turned over three in Shakspeare without hitting upon just what I wanted."

[Quoted by George Washington Greene in "Personal Recollections of Cooper," in his Biographical Studies (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1860), p.56]

The following is a preliminary compilation of the sources of chapter and title page epigraphs (about a thousand in all) from thirty novels by James Fenimore Cooper and one by Susan Fenimore Cooper. Title page epigraphs are added from a number of other works by both authors. I should have preferred to transcribe the epigraphs as well as giving their sources, but this would take too much space.

A. James Fenimore Cooper
B. Susan Fenimore Cooper

Appendix: Shakespeare quotations in The Water-Witch (1830)

Texts of Missing Epigraphs: Texts of epigraphs as yet unidentified; please help us find them!

Citations identify: Act, Book, or Canto (large Roman numerals); scene or verse (small roman numerals); line numbers (Arabic numerals). Where Cooper misattributed an epigraph, or his text differs markedly from the standard version, his attribution or words are shown following the Part II citation.

I have accepted with gratitude epigraphs identified in the eleven novels so far published in the Cooper Edition (SUNY Press, Albany, 1980 to date): The Pioneers, The Pilot, Lionel Lincoln, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie, The Red Rover, The Pathfinder, The Deerslayer, The Two Admirals, Wyandotté, and Satanstoe. A few errors have been corrected. I have also accepted epigraphs identified by Thomas Philbrick in his editions of The Crater (Harvard University Press, 1962) and The Wing-and-Wing (New York: Henry Holt, 1998). Prof. Wayne Franklin of Northeastern University, and Ms. Michaelyn Burnette of the Library at the University of California at Berkeley, have both assisted in tracking down epigraphs from sources not available in Cooperstown. My thanks to all.

The editions from which epigraphs were taken can only rarely be identified. James Fenimore Cooper's eight-volume "travelling set" of Shakespeare (London: J. Nichols et al., 1811), was at his side constantly from at least 1826 until his death. Novels written in Europe suggest that he had with him the poetical works of Byron, Scott, and Samuel Rogers. Many epigraphs from the mid-1840s appear to be taken from anthologies edited by Rufus W. Griswold: The Poets and Poetry of America (1842 and later editions), and The Poets and Poetry of England in the Nineteenth Century (1844 and later editions), both published by Carey & Hart of Philadelphia. Most of the non-Shakespearean epigraphs in The Ways of the Hour (1850) seem to be from a two-volume collection, The British Drama: A Collection of the Most Esteemed Tragedies, Comedies, Operas & Farces in the English Language (London: Jones & Co., 1831; reprinted Philadelphia: Thomas Davis, 1850).

I hope that readers with corrections, emendations, or further identification of Cooper epigraphs, will submit them to me, so that they can be incorporated (with credit where due) into revisions of this compilation. And I hope that The Cooper Epigraphs will prove useful to Cooper scholarship.

Hugh C. MacDougall
Secretary, James Fenimore Cooper Society
8 Lake Street, Cooperstown, NY l3326
August 1999

Table of Contents

James Fenimore Cooper: Part I--Epigraphs by Novel
Precaution (1820) [title] The Heidenmauer (1832) Wyandotté (1843)
The Spy (1821) The Headsman (1833) Afloat and Ashore (1844)
The Pioneers (1823) The Monikins (1835) [title] Miles Wallingford (1844)
Tales for Fifteen (1823) Homeward Bound (1838) Satanstoe (1845)
The Pilot (1823) Home as Found (1838) The Chainbearer (1845)
Lionel Lincoln (1825) Chronicles of Cooperstown [title] The Redskins (1846)
The Last of the Mohicans (1826) The Pathfinder (1840) The Crater (1847)
The Prairie (1827) Mercedes of Castille (1840) Jack Tier (1848)
The Red Rover (1828) The Deerslayer (1841) The Oak Openings (1848)
The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829) The Two Admirals (1842) The Sea Lions (1849)
The Water-Witch (1830) The Wing-and-Wing (1842) The Ways of the Hour (1850)
The Bravo (1831) Part II--Epigraphs by Author Part III--Unidentified Epigraphs
Susan Fenimore Cooper
Elinor Wyllys (1846) Rural Hours (1850) [title]
Shakespeare quotations in The Water Witch Texts of Missing Epigraphs

A. James Fenimore Cooper

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Part I--Epigraphs by Novel

(a) chapter number; (b) attribution (verbatim, even if incorrect); (c) author (unless included in attribution); (d) short title (unless included in attribution); (e) epigraph citation. Shakespeare is abbreviated to "WS."

Precaution (1820)
The Spy (1821)

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The Pioneers (1823)

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Tales for Fifteen (1823)

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The Pilot (1824)

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Lionel Lincoln (1825)

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The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

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The Prairie (1827)

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The Red Rover (1828)

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The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829)

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The Water Witch (1830)

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The Bravo (1831)

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The Heidenmauer (1832)

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The Headsman (1833)

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The Monikins (1835)

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Homeward Bound (1838)

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Home As Found (1838)

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The Chronicles of Cooperstown (1838)

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The Pathfinder (1840)

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Mercedes of Castille (1840)

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The Deerslayer (1841)

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The Two Admirals (1842)

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The Wing-and-Wing (1842)

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Wyandotté (1843)

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Afloat and Ashore (1844)

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Miles Wallingford (1844)

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Satanstoe (1845)

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The Chainbearer (1845)

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The Redskins (1846)

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The Crater (1847)

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Jack Tier (1848)

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The Oak Openings (1848)

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The Sea Lions (1849)

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The Ways of the Hour (1850)

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Part II--Epigraphs by Author

(a) author; (b) (birth and death dates); (c) [dates of first and last work citing the author]; (d) title (with date of publication for major works); (e) novel; (f) chapter; (g) epigraph citation. Notice is taken of misattributions, and significant alterations in quoted texts.

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[A]

ADDISON, Joseph (1672-1719) [1824-1850]

AKENSIDE, Mark (1721-1770) [1845]

ALEYN, Charles (17th century) [1842]

ALLSTON, Washington (1779-1843) [1842-1848]

AMICUS (presumably a pseudonym) [1824-1842]

ANONYMOUS

ANSTEY, Christopher (1724-1805) [1838]

[B]

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BAILLIE, Joanna (1762-1851) [1838-1841]

BALL, John (? -1381) [1845]

BARLOW, Joel (1754-1812) [1845]

BARTON, Bernard (1789-1849) [1847-1849]

BAYLY, Thomas Haynes (1797-1839) [1849]

BEATTIE, James (1735-1803) [1823]

BEAUMONT, Francis (1585?-1616) and FLETCHER, John (1579-1625) [1840-1845]

BIBLE (King James Version) [1831-1838]

BLAIR, Robert (1699-1746) [1825]

BOWLES, William Lisle (1762-1850) [1838]

BOYSE, Samuel (1708-1749) [1840]

BRAINARD, John G.C. (1796-1828) [1842-1849]

BRYANT, William Cullen (1794-1878) [1824-1849]

BURGER, Gottfried (1747-1794) -- See SCOTT, Sir Walter.

BURNS, Robert (1759-1796) [1825-1845]

BUTLER, Samuel (1613-1680) [1823]

BYRON, George Gordon (LORD BYRON) (1788-1824) [1823-1849]

[C]

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CAMPBELL, Thomas (1777-1844) [1821-1849]

CERVANTES, Miguel de (1547-1614) [1835]

CHATTERTON, Thomas (1752-1770) [1832-1841]

CHURCHYARD, Thomas (1520?-1604) [1840-1847]

COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) [1840-1850]

COLLINS, William (1721-1759) [1824-1845]

CONGREVE, William (1670-1729) [1841-1850]

COTTON, Charles (1630-1687) [1840]

COTTON, Nathaniel (1705-1788) [1833-1838]

COWPER, William (1731-1800) [1821-1845]

COXE, Arthur Cleveland [1843]

CRABBE, George (1754-1832) [1821-1833]

CUMBERLAND, Richard (1732-1811) [1850]

CUNNINGHAM, Allan (1784-1842) [1846]

[D]

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DANA, Richard Henry (1787-1879) [1829-1849]

DANIEL, Samuel (1562-1619) [1840-1842]

D'AVENANT, Sir William (1606-1668) [1825-1842]

DAVIDSON, Margaret Miller (1823-1838) [1841-1842]

DIBDIN, Thomas John (1771-1841) [1821]

DRAKE, Joseph Rodman (1795-1820) [1844-1849]

DRAYTON, Michael (1563-1631) et al. [1824]

DRYDEN, John (1631-1700) [1824-1845]

[E]

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ELLIOTT, Ebenezer (1781-1849) [1846]

[F]

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FALCONER, William (1732-1769) [1823]

FAWCETT, Joseph [1843]

FLETCHER, Giles (1585/6-1623) [1841]

FRENEAU, Philip (1752-1832) [1823-1848]

[G]

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GLOVER, Richard (1712-1785) [1838]

GOLDSMITH, Oliver (1730?-1774) [1821-1823]

GOULD, Miss Hannah F. (1789-1865) [1848]

GRAY, Thomas (1716-1771) [1821-1841]

GREVILLE, Fulke (Lord BROOKE) (1554-1628) [1840]

GRIFFIN, Edmund D. [1843]

[H]

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HALLECK, Fitz-Greene (1790-1867) [1821-1848]

HARTE, Walter (1709-1774) [1845]

HEBER, Reginald (1783-1826) [1845]

HEMANS, Mrs. Felicia (1793-1835) [1838-1849]

HILLHOUSE, James Abraham (1789-1841) [1843-1849]

HOGG, James (1770-1835) [1840-1846]

HOME, John (1722-1808) [1833]

HOPKINSON, Francis (1737-1791) [1825]

HUMPHREYS, David (1752-1818) [1825]

[J]

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JOHNSON, James (fl. 1787-1805??) [1841]

JONES, Henry (1721-1770) [1850]

[K]

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KEATS, John (1795-1821) [1848]

[L]

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LILLO, George (1693-1739) [1850]

LONGFELLOW, Henry Wadsworth (1807-1882) [1843-1849]

LUNT, George (1803-1885) [1843-1848]

[M]

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MACAULAY, Thomas Babington (1800-1859) [1847-1850]

MALLET, David (1705-1765) [1845]

MASON, William (1725-1797) [1840]

MASSINGER, Philip (1583-1648) [1838-1850]

MERRICK, James (1720-1769) [1841]

MICKLE, William Julius (1734-1788) [1840]

MILMAN, Henry Hart (1791-1868) [1823-1848]

MILTON, John (1608-1664) [1833-1850]

MOLIÈRE, Jean Baptiste Poquelin de (1622-1673) [1830]

MONTGOMERY, James (1771-1854) [1827-1846]

MOORE, Thomas (1779-1852) [1821-1850]

[N]

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NORTON, Caroline (aka Lady STIRLING-MAXWELL) (1808-1877) [1845]

NORTON, John (1651-1716) [1838]

[O]

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OTWAY, Thomas (1652-1685) [1850]

[P]

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PARK, Roswell (1807-1869) [1838]

PARNELL, Thomas (1679-1718) [1826]

PAULDING, James Kirke (1778-1860) [1823-1847]

PEABODY, William B. (1799-1847) [1847-1848]

PERCIVAL, James Gates (1795-1856) [1842-1849]

PERCY, Thomas (1729-1811) [1821-1841]

PHILIPS, Ambrose (1674-1749) [1850]

PIERPONT, John (Amer. 1785-1866) [1846]

PINKNEY, Edward Coote (1802-1828) [1840-1848]

POPE, Alexander (1688-1744) [1823-1846]

PRESCOTT, Robert [1825]

PRIOR, Matthew (1664-1721) [1824]

[R]

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RICHARDSON, David Lester (1801-1865) [1842]

ROGERS, Samuel (1763-1855) [1829-1848]

[S]

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SACKVILLE, Thomas (1536-1608) [1841-1846]

SANDS, Robert Charles (1799-1832) [1843-1848]

SAVAGE, Richard (? -1743) [1847]

SCHEFFER, Johan (1621-1679): SPY 19 (vii.1-4) [1821]

SCOTT, Sir Walter (1771-1832) [1821-1850]

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SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616) [1821-1850]

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SHAW, Cuthbert (1739-1771) [1845]

SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822) [1833-1845]

SHENSTONE, William (1714-1763) [1845]

SHERIDAN, Richard (1751-1816) [1841-1850]

SUTERMEISTER, John Rudolph (1803-1826) [1840]

SIGOURNEY, Mrs. Lydia H. (1791-1865) [1846-1849]

SIMMS, William Gilmore (1806-1870) [1846-1848]

SMITH, Elizabeth Oakes (Amer.) [1843]

SMITH, Horatio (Horace) (1779-1849) [1847]

SOMERVILLE, William (1675-1742)

SOUTHEY, Mrs. Caroline Anne (nee Bowles) (1786-1854) [1849-1850]

SOUTHEY, Robert (1774-1843) [1821-1850]

SPENSER, Edmund (1552?-1599) [1840]

SPRAGUE, Charles (1791-1875) [1843-1849]

STEVENS, George Alexander [1824] "The Storm": PILOT Title page (2), 5 (64).

[T]

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TATHAM, John (Engl., fl. 1660) [1842]

THOMSON, James (1700-1748) [1823-1845]

TOMKIS, Thomas (Engl. fl.1607) [1845]

TOWNSHEND, JOHN (1757-1833) [1840]

[W]

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WARE, Henry, Jr. (1794-1843) [1842-1849]

WARTON, Thomas (1728-1790) [1845]

WATTS, Isaac (1674-1748) [1848]

WHITTIER, John Greenleaf (1807-1892) [1848]

WILCOX, Carlos (1794-1827) [1849]

WILLIS, Nathaniel Parker (1806-1867) [1843-1845]

WILSON, John (aka Christopher NORTH) (1785-1854) [1821-1848]

WOLFE, Charles (1791-1823) [1841-1848]

WORDSWORTH, William (1770-1850) [1828-1846]

[Y]

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YOUNG, Edward (1683-1765) [1833-1847]

Part III--Unidentified Epigraphs

For texts, see below under Missing Epigraphs; help us find them!
(a) attribution; (b) novel; (c) chapter

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B. Susan Fenimore Cooper

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Elinor Wyllys

Elinor Wyllys; or, The Young Folk of Longbridge,
by Amabel Penfeather (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 2 vols., 1846)

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By Chapter

Volume I

Volume II

By Author

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ANONYMOUS

COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834)

CORREGGIO, Antonio Allegri (1494-1534)

COWPER, William (1731-1800)

CRABBE, George (1754-1832)

FRANCIS I (King of France): (1495-1547)

HABINGTON, William (1605-1664)

HEBER, Reginald (1783-1826)

ROGERS, Samuel (1763-1855)

SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616)

WORDSWORTH, William (1770-1850)

Rural Hours

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Rural Hours, by A Lady
(New York: George P. Putnam, 1850)

Appendix: Shakespeare quotations
in The Water Witch (1830)

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In Chapters 14-16 of Cooper's The Water-Witch (1830), the figure-head of the eponymous brigantine writes cryptic messages in the form of Shakespearean quotations; there is also a quotation from Shakespeare in the Preface.

Texts of Missing Epigraphs

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The following epigraphs have not been located. Please help us find them, and report any suggestions to: The James Fenimore Cooper Society, 8 Lake Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326. E-mail: jfcooper@stny.rr.com

The Spy (1821)

The Pioneers (1823)

Tales for Fifteen (1823)
"Heart"

The Pilot (1824)

The Water-Witch (1830)

The Bravo (1831)

Homeward Bound (1838)

Mercedes of Castille (1840)

The Two Admirals (1842)

The Wing-and-Wing (1842)

Miles Wallingford (1844)

Satanstoe (1845)

The Redskins (1845)

The Crater (1847)

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The End