Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland

Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland

by James Fenimore Cooper
     
 

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In the summer of 1828 James Fenimore Cooper, his wife, and their five children set out from Paris for Switzerland, and Cooper wrote that he experienced a “glorious anticipation,” for “a common-place converse with men was about to give place to a sublime communion with Nature.”

Sketches of Switzerland, the book which describes this experience

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Overview

In the summer of 1828 James Fenimore Cooper, his wife, and their five children set out from Paris for Switzerland, and Cooper wrote that he experienced a “glorious anticipation,” for “a common-place converse with men was about to give place to a sublime communion with Nature.”

Sketches of Switzerland, the book which describes this experience and which is republished here for the first time in the United States since its original issue in 1836, was the first of five European travel books written, Cooper said, “for my own Countrymen,” in which the American novelist gave “rapid sketches” of what he saw “with American eyes,” studiously avoiding the drab, factual accounts of ordinary tourists.

His indispensable resources in the composition of Switzerland were his gifts of total recall and his skill in writing prose pictures in the style then known as “picturesque.” Seeking an immediacy analogous to that of the artist’s brush, Cooper captures various elements of “picturesque” style, especially the incongruity between the sublime, terrifying scenery and the more familiar sights and associations of domestic life.

Even in the creation of verbal pictures, Cooper could not resist expressing his concerns with society and politics; and though his criticism seems harmless enough today—perhaps even salutary—it was disturbing to American readers less secure than Cooper in their confidence in their institutions and society. Partly, at least, for this reason, Cooper’s most successful nonfictional experiment in the “picturesque” mode has never been adequately appreciated.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780873954228
Publisher:
State University of New York Press
Publication date:
06/28/1983
Series:
Writings of James Fenimore Cooper Series
Pages:
361
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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.

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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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