Gleanings in Europe: England

Gleanings in Europe: England

by James Fenimore Cooper
     
 

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A contemporaneous reviewer called James Fenimore Cooper’s England “unquestionably the most searching and thoughtful, not TO say philosophical of any” of the books “published by an American on England.” Another cited with approval the “potent causticity” with which a fellow reviewer “develope[d] the gangrene of the author

Overview

A contemporaneous reviewer called James Fenimore Cooper’s England “unquestionably the most searching and thoughtful, not TO say philosophical of any” of the books “published by an American on England.” Another cited with approval the “potent causticity” with which a fellow reviewer “develope[d] the gangrene of the author’s mind in its most foul and diseased state.”

Such were the extremes of response elicited by publication in 1837 of the fourth and most controversial book in Cooper’s travel series, Gleanings in Europe. Partly because of his ambivalence for most things British, England is perhaps the most fascinating of the travel volumes to the modern reader. Probably no American of his time was received more hospitably by the British upper classes, nor did any reciprocate with shrewder or more scalding criticism.

Cooper himself thought well of his book, taking some delight in the stir it made in London and expecting it to do much good at home. The modern reader will be delighted by his novelist’s eye for the revealing scene or detail and by the multidimensional perspective he provides on British-American cultural conflicts of the 1820s and 1830s.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780873954594
Publisher:
State University of New York Press
Publication date:
06/28/1983
Series:
Writings of James Fenimore Cooper Series
Pages:
375

Read an Excerpt


FRANCE. LETTER I. To James E. De Kay, Esquire. We have not only had Mr. Canning in Paris, but Sir Walter Scott has suddenly appeared among us. The arrival of the Great Unknown, or, indeed, of any little Unknown from England, would be an event to throw all the reading clubs at home, into a state of high moral and poetical excitement. We are true village lionizers. As the professors of the Catholic religion are notoriously more addicted to yielding faith to miraculous interventions, in the remoter dioceses, than in Rome itself; as loyalty is always more zealous in a colony, than in a court; as fashions are more exaggerated in a province, than in a capital, and men are more prodigious to every one else, than their own valets, so do we throw the ha- VOL. II. 2 loes of a vast .ocean around the honoured heads of the celebrated men of this eastern hemisphere. This, perhaps, is the natural course of things, and is as unavoidable as that the sun shall hold the earth within the influence of its attraction, until matters shall be reversed by the earth's becoming the larger and more glorious orb of the two. Not so in Paris. Here men of every gradation of celebrity, from Napoleon down to the Psalmanazar of the day, are so very common, that one scarcely turns round in the streets, to look at them. Delicate and polite attentions, however, fall as much to the share of reputation, here, as in any other country, and perhaps more so, as respects literary men, though there is so little wonder-mongering. It would be quite impossible that the presence of Sir Walter Scott should not -excite a sensation. He was frequently named in the journals, received a good deal of private, and some public notice, but,on the whole, much less of both,! think, than one would have a right to expect for hi...

Meet the Author

James Fenimore Cooper was born in 1789 in New Jersey, the son of a wealthy land agent who founded Cooperstown in New York State. Cooper attended Yale, but was expelled in 1805 and spent five years at sea on merchant then naval ships. He married in 1811, and eventually settled in New York. Precaution, Cooper's first novel, was written in 1820 as a study of English manners; its successors, The Spy and The Pilot, written within the next three years, were more characteristic of the vein of military or seagoing romance that was to become typical of him. In 1823 he began the Leatherstocking Tales series of novels, centred on a shared Native American character at different periods of his life, for which he is chiefly remembered. Cooper's reputation as one of America's leading authors was quickly established, and spread to Europe by a long stay there from 1826, making him one of the first American writers popular beyond that country. After his return to America in 1832, however, conservative political essays and novels dramatising similar views, as well as critiques of American society and abuses of democracy, led to a decline in his popularity. James Fenimore Cooper died in 1851.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 15, 1789
Date of Death:
September 14, 1851
Place of Birth:
Burlington, New Jersey
Place of Death:
Cooperstown, New York
Education:
Yale University (expelled in 1805)

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