"And I-my joy of life is fled, My spirit's power, my bosom's glow; The raven locks that grac'd my head, Wave in a wreath of snow! And where the star of youth arose, I deem'd life's lingering ray should close, And those lov'd trees my tomb...
"And I-my joy of life is fled,
My spirit's power, my bosom's glow;
The raven locks that grac'd my head,
Wave in a wreath of snow!
And where the star of youth arose,
I deem'd life's lingering ray should close,
And those lov'd trees my tomb o'ershade,
Beneath whose arching bowers my childhood play'd."
I was born in a valley not very remote from the sea. My father had been a sailor in youth, and some of my earliest recollections are connected with the history of his adventures, and the recollections they excited. He had been a boy in the war of the revolution, and had seen some service in the shipping of that period. Among other scenes he witnessed, he had been on board the Trumbull, in her action with the Watt-the hardest-fought naval combat of that war-and he particularly delighted in relating its incidents. He had been wounded in the battle, and bore the marks of the injury, in a scar that slightly disfigured a face, that, without this blemish, would have been singularly handsome. My mother, after my poor father's death, always spoke of even this scar as a beauty spot. Agreeably to my own recollections, the mark scarcely deserved that commendation, as it gave one side of the face a grim and fierce appearance, particularly when its owner was displeased.
My father died on the farm on which he was born, and which descended to him from his great-grandfather, an English emigrant that had purchased it of the Dutch colonist who had originally cleared it from the woods. The place was called Clawbonny, which some said was good Dutch others bad Dutch; and, now and then, a person ventured a conjecture that it might be Indian. Bonny it was, in one sense at least, for a lovelier farm there is not on the whole of the wide surface of the Empire State. What does not always happen in this wicked, world, it was as good as it was handsome. It consisted of three hundred and seventy-two acres of first-rate land, either arable, or of rich river bottom in meadows, and of more than a hundred of rocky mountain side, that was very tolerably covered with wood. The first of our family who owned the place had built a substantial one-story stone house, that bears the date of 1707 on one of its gables; and to which each of his successors had added a little, until the whole structure got to resemble a cluster of cottages thrown together without the least attention to order or regularity. There were a porch, a front door, and a lawn, however; the latter containing half a dozen acres of a soil as black as one's hat, and nourishing eight or ten elms that were scattered about, as if their seeds had been sown broad-cast. In addition to the trees, and a suitable garniture of shrubbery, this lawn was coated with a sward that, in the proper seasons, rivalled all I have read, or imagined, of the emerald and shorn slopes of the Swiss valleys.
James Fenimore Cooper is considered by many to be America's first great novelist. His most popular work, The Last of the Mohicans, has remained one of the most widely read novels throughout the world, greatly influencing the way many cultures have viewed both the American Indians and the frontier period of U.S. history.
James Cooper (he added the Fenimore when he was in his 30s) was born September 15, 1789, in Burlington, New Jersey, to William Cooper and Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper. In 1790 the family moved to the frontier country of upstate New York, where William established a village he called Cooperstown. Although cushioned by wealth and William's status as landlord and judge, the Coopers found pioneering to be rugged, and only 7 of the 13 Cooper children survived their early years. All the hardship notwithstanding, according to family reports, the young James loved the wilderness. Years later, he wrote The Pioneers (1823) about Cooperstown in the 1790s, but many of his other books draw deeply on his childhood experiences of the frontier as well.
Cooper was sent to Yale in 1801 but he was expelled in 1805 for setting off an explosion in another student's room. Afterward, as a midshipman in the fledgling U.S. Navy, he made Atlantic passages and served at an isolated post on Lake Ontario. Cooper resigned his commission in 1811 to marry Susan Augusta De Lancey, the daughter of a wealthy New York State family. During the next decade, however, a series of bad investments and legal entanglements reduced his inheritance to the verge of bankruptcy.
Cooper was already 30 years old when, on a dare from his wife, he became a writer. One evening he threw down, in disgust, a novel he was reading aloud to her, saying he could write a better book himself. Susan, who knew that he disliked writing even letters, expressed her doubts. To prove her wrong he wrote Precaution, which was published anonymously in 1820. Encouraged by favorable reviews, Cooper wrote other books in quick succession, and by the time The Last of the Mohicans, his sixth novel, was published in 1827, he was internationally famous as America's first professionally successful novelist. Eventually he published 32 novels, as well as travel books and histories. Cooper invented the genre of nautical fiction, and in the figure of Nathaniel or "Natty" Bumppo (Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans) -- the central character in the five Leatherstocking Tales Cooper published between 1823 and 1841 -- he gave American fiction its first great hero.
Shortly after publishing The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper moved his family to Europe, but in 1833 he returned to America, moving back into his father's restored Mansion House in Cooperstown. He died there on September 14, 1851.
Author biography courtesy of Barnes & Noble Books.
Good To Know
Cooper was expelled from Yale due to his passion for pranks, which included training a donkey to sit in a professor's chair and setting a fellow student's room on fire.
Between 1822 and 1826 Cooper lived in New York City, and was a major player on its intellectual scene. He founded the Bread and Cheese Club, which had many high-profile members, including notable painters of the Hudson River School and writers like William Cullen Bryant.