Cooper, the inventor of the "sea novel", tells one of his classic stories here: a story of romance, adventure, political intrigue, revelations of mistaken identity, and much more. All of Melville, all of Hawthorne, all of Henry James, Emerson and Thoreau and Mark Twain--these and the writings of other notable American novelists, historians, poets, philosophers, and essayists are, for the first time in our history, being published in a series of handsome and durable volumes. Each compact, elegant book includes several unabridged works and contains 800 to 1600 pages. Major support for the series has been provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humaities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Thanks to their generosity, America, like other nations, can offer readers the collected works of its major authors in auoritative editions. Only after thorough research is a text selected for this series. Each volume contains a chronology of the author's lfe and career and an essay on the choice of texts. A distinguished scholar has prepared some notes for the general reader.
James Fenimore Cooper
(1789-1851) grew up at Otsego Hall, his fathers manorial estate near Lake Otsego in upstate New York. Educated at Yale, he spent five years at sea, as a foremast hand and then as a midshipman in the navy. At thirty he was suddenly plunged into a literary career when his wife challenged his claim that he could write a better book that the English novel he was reading to her. The result was Precaution
(1820), a novel of manners. His second book, The Spy
(1821), was an immediate success, and with The Pioneers
(1823) he began his series of Leatherstocking Tales. By 1826 when The Last of the Mohicans
appeared, his standing as a major novelist was clearly established. From 1826 to 1833 Cooper and his family lived and traveled in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Two of his most successful works, The Prairie
and The Red Rover
, were published in 1827. He returned to Otsego Hall in 1834, and after a series of relatively unsuccessful books of essays, travel sketches, and history, he returned to fiction and to Leatherstocking with The Pathfinder
(1840) and The Deerslayer
(1841). In his last decade he faced declining popularity brought on in part by his waspish attacks on critics and political opponents. Just before his death in 1851 an edition of his works led to a reappraisal of his fiction and somewhat restored his reputation as the first of American writers.
Thomas Philbrick is professor emeritus of English at the University of Pittsburgh.
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