JAMES FENIMORE COOPER

(1789-1851)

Cooper, James Fenimore (1789-1851), was an American novelist and social
critic. He is best known for The Leather — Stocking Tales, five novels
obout Natty Bumppo, a frontiersman. The character has other names in the
series, including leatherstocking. In the Leather-Stocking Tales,
Cooper became the first author to seriously portray American frontier
scenes and characters.

In The Leather — Stocking Tales, Cooper described Natty Bumppo’s
retreat from the advancing settlement of the forect. The novels
introduce Natty Bomppo as a young man and follaw him to old age and
death. The Leather-Stocking Tales, in the order of the hero’s life, are
The Deerslayer (1841), The last of the Mohicans (1826), the Pathfinder
(1840), the Pioneers (1823), and the Prairie (1827). These action –
filled stories contrast two ways of life. Natty Bomppo and his brave,
noble Indian friends live a life of freedom close to nature. The
settlers bring civilization and social order but they also selfishly or
thoughtlessly misuse the wilderness.

Coper’s conservative ideas about society are reflected in many of his
writings. His works show his concern for the freedom of individuals and
the rights of property owners. Cooper declared that he believed in
democracy. However, he said he feared that majority rule would bring
disorder and injustice. Although he was deeply patriotic, Cooper thought
that the United States should be governed by a small aristocracy of
cultured and public-spirited landowners.

Cooper wrote several nonfiction works criticizing American life. The
best known include the essays A Letter to his Countrymen (1834) and the
American Democrat (1838). He also wrote fiction about his ideals on
civic leadership, including Homeward Bound (1838) and Home as Fond
(1838).Cooper defends property rights in three novels called the
Little-page Manuscripts. They are Satanstoe (1845), The Chainbearer
(1845), and The Redskins (1846).

Cooper wrote the first American novel about the sea, The Pilot (1823).
This romance has a memorable character, Long Tom Coffin, who, like Natty
Bumppo, is a daring figure who lives close to nature. Cooper also wrote
ofher historical tales of exciting sea chases.

Cooper was born in Burlington, N. I. He was raised in the scenic
lakeside community of Cooperstown, N.Y., which was named for his father,
William Cooper. The Pioneers ahd the Deerslayer are set in this lake
region. Cooper served in the U.S. Navy from 1808 to 1811. He settled in
upstate New York, intending to become a gentleman farmer.

Cooper wrote his first novel, Precaution, in 1820, but it received
little critical praise. His next novel was The Spy (1821), a story about
families durind the Rewolutionary War. Its immediate success encouraged
Cooper to devote himself to writing.

Additional resources

Grossman, James. James Fenimore Cooper. Stanford, 1967. First published
in 1949.

Iames Fenimore Cooper: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. by Wayne
Fields. Prentice-Hall, 1979.

Rihge, Danald A. James Fenimore Cooper. 2 nd. ed. Twayne, 1988.

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