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James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper

I The prime distinction among novels is between those of adventure and those of character. In novels of character the events are subordinate, serving to reveal and develop the characters. Such were the novels of

Hawthorne and of Holmen. In novels of adventure the characters are of subordinate importance, sometimes little more than lay figures, the interest lying

in the succession of JAMES FENIMORE COOPER (1789-1852).

unexpected events. Cooper is the most distinguished American


novelist of adventure, and in the world's literature has often been compared with Walter Scott.

II He was born Sept. 15, 1789, in Burlington, N. J., but before he was a year old his family had removed to Otsego Hall, in what is now the village of Cooperstown.

His father was a judge and a member of congress, and his mansion was then and for a long time afterwards the largest private residence in that part of the State.

His name originally was James Cooper, but in 1826 the legislature made the family name Fenimore-Cooper. He wrote the name for a time in that way, but afterwards omitted the hyphen.

III At an early age he was sent to Albany as a private pupil, but in 1802, while only 13 years old he entered Yale college. During his junior year he was dismissed on account of a frolic in which he engaged. In 1806 he went the sea as a sailor before the mast, and after a year he entered the navy as a midshipman, remaining a navy officer until



249 1811, when he married a daughter of John Peter DeLancey, who had been a British captain during the revolution. After residing a year and a half at Mamaroneck he moved in 1814 to Cooperstown and began building a large stone farmhouse ; but in 1817 was persuaded by his wife to go back to Westchester county, where he soon took up his residence at Scarsdale.

IV His life divides itself naturally into decades. After 10 years of boyhood at home, and 10 years at college and in the navy, he lived 10 years a quiet family life, without a thought of authorship. But in 1820, when he was 30 years old he was one day reading to his wife a novel describing English society, when he laid down his book and said, “I believe I could write a better story myself.” His wife challenged him to make good the boast, and on Nov. 10 he published “Precaution", a novel in two volumes. It did him no great credit, for it was a tale of English life, purporting to be written by an Englishman, uttering English views in English expression. But his friends felt

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