James Fenimore Cooper was an American writer of the first half of the 19th century. Their historical romance captures the frontier and American Indian life in the early American days, creating a unique form of American literature.
He lived most of his life in Coopers town, New York, founded by his father William on the property he owned. Cooper was a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and contributed generously to it. He attended Yale University for three years, where he was a member of the Linnean Society.
Cooper served in the US Navy as a midshipman, which influenced many of his novels and other writings. His career novel was The Spy, a story about counter-espionage during the American Revolutionary War and published in 1821.
He also wrote several maritime stories, and his most famous compositions are five historical novels of the frontier period, The Leatherstocking Tales.
Cooper’s works in the US Navy were well received among naval historians but were sometimes criticized by his contemporaries. Among his most famous compositions is the romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans, often considered his masterpiece.
10 years after their marriage, Cooper led an active but unproductive life of dabbling in agriculture, politics, the American Bible Society, and the Westchester Militia.
It was in this amateurish spirit that he wrote and published his first novel on the challenge he met his wife. The precaution (1820) was a fascinating imitation of Jane Austen’s novels of English Gentry etiquette.
It is primarily interesting today as a document in the history of American cultural colonialism and as an example of a clumsy attempt to mimic Jane Austen’s investigation of the ironic discrepancy between illusion and reality.
His second novel, The Spy (1821), was based on another British model, Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverly” novels, which are stories of adventure and romance set in 17- and 18th-century Scotland.
But The Spy Cooper broke the new premise by using an American Revolutionary War setting (based on the experiences of his wife’s British loyal family) and introducing several distinct American character types.
Like Scott’s novels in Scotland, The Spy is a play of conflicting loyalties and interests in which the action mirrors and expresses more subtle internal psychological tension.
Spy soon brought him international fame and a certain wealth. The latter was very welcome, indeed necessary, as his father’s estate proved to be at least sufficient, and with the death of his elder brothers, he had found himself responsible for the debts and widows of the entire Cooper family.
At the time of his death on September 14, 1851, Cooper was more successful and respected overseas than at home. Step by step with his countrymen, his work was very influential for European writers such as Honoré de Balzac and Leo Tolstoy.
Nevertheless, Fenimore’s imagined weaknesses are quite well known and widely spread. Mark Twain contrasts Fenimore’s romanticism in the Fenimore Coopers Literary Offense (1895).
Frankly, Fenimore’s tone was criticized, being reactionary as well as romantic and academic in tone. However, Cooper contributed greatly to the genre of American fiction.
In the grand enterprise, even today, everyone has read books and seen films that are directly and indirectly influenced by Cooper’s conception of Natty Bumppo and the making of the American novel.