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.
Gleanings in Europe: Franceby James Fenimore Cooper
France (1837) was the third volume published in Cooper’s Gleanings in Europe series, but first in the chronology of his European experience. Less sequential than his other travel narratives, France distills his impressions of French and European culture during his first two years abroad. Exhibiting many qualities of the familiar essay, it considers a wide range of topics of interest to Cooper, his friends, and potential readers in the United States. As a celebrity thoroughly at home in the brilliant society of Bourbon Paris, Cooper was able to provide fascinating glimpses of personalities, spectacles, institutions, and mannersfrom his distinctly American perspective.
Indeed, as Professor Philbrick remarks, “No other of Cooper’s works, perhaps, brings us closer to his speaking voice or puts us more directly in contact with the man himself, with all his idiosyncratic preoccupations, his quick resentments, his restless curiosity, his surprising humor, and his nobility of principle.”
The reader of this edition is brought even closer to Cooper in the draft of a hitherto unpublished letter, probably intended for this book, which illustrates Cooper’s grasp of the still finer points of French customs and attitudes.
Meet the Author
- Date of Birth:
- September 15, 1789
- Date of Death:
- September 14, 1851
- Place of Birth:
- Burlington, New Jersey
- Place of Death:
- Cooperstown, New York
- Yale University (expelled in 1805)
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