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: Italyby James Fenimore Cooper, John Conron
In theory, the picturesque style of writing could produce verbal sketches that embodied a visual complexity similar to that of the great
Describing Italy as “the only region of the earth that I truly love,” James Fenimore Cooper used the style of picturesque impressionism to convey his vision of Italy as the microcosm of an ordered and a beautiful world.
In theory, the picturesque style of writing could produce verbal sketches that embodied a visual complexity similar to that of the great Baroque and Romantic landscape paintings. In practice, the hundreds of travel books written in the picturesque style in the early 1900s communicated rapturous enthusiasm with blurred or even false reports of actual scenes. Cooper, with his scrupulous fidelity to the seen world, intended to alter this practice decisively.
The response of his imagination to the light, color, forms, artifacts and figures of the Italian landscape and to the manifold significances they embody follows in joyful appreciation of the land, culture and people of a country that induced in him the desire “to enjoy the passing moment.”
In Italy, Cooper refrained from commenting on politics, though he was an incorrigibly political man who responded to an insistent need to define the New World in defining the Old. The independence of his observations drew censure from American reviewers of the 1830s, who could not comprehend that his preference for the Bay for Naples over New York Harbor reflected his intellectual passion to rise above nationalistic feelings in matters of taste, morality and justice.
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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