It is probable a true history of human events would show that a far larger proportion of our acts are the results of sudden impulses and accident, than of that reason of which we so much boast. However true, or false, this opinion may be in more important matters, it is certainly and strictly correct as relates to the conception and execution of this book. The Pilot was published in 1823. This was not long after the appearance of "The PIRATE," a work which, it is hardly ...
It is probable a true history of human events would show that a far larger proportion of our acts are the results of sudden impulses and accident, than of that reason of which we so much boast. However true, or false, this opinion may be in more important matters, it is certainly and strictly correct as relates to the conception and execution of this book.
The Pilot was published in 1823. This was not long after the appearance of "The PIRATE," a work which, it is hardly necessary to remind the reader, has a direct connection with the sea. In a conversation with a friend, a man of polished taste and extensive reading, the authorship of the Scottish novels came under discussion. The claims of Sir Walter were a little distrusted, on account of the peculiar and minute information that the romances were then very generally thought to display. The Pirate was cited as a very marked instance of this universal knowledge, and it was wondered where a man of Scott's habits and associations could have become so familiar with the sea. The writer had frequently observed that there was much looseness in this universal knowledge, and that the secret of its success was to be traced to the power of creating that resemblance, which is so remarkably exhibited in those world-renowned fictions, rather than to any very accurate information on the part of their author. It would have been hypercritical to object to the Pirate, that it was not strictly nautical, or true in its details; but, when the reverse was urged as a proof of what, considering the character of other portions of the work, would have been most extraordinary attainments, it was a sort of provocation to dispute the seamanship of the Pirate, a quality to which the book has certainly very little just pretension. The result of this conversation was a sudden determination to produce a work which, if it had no other merit, might present truer pictures of the ocean and ships than any that are to be found in the Pirate. To this unpremeditated decision, purely an impulse, is not only the Pilot due, but a tolerably numerous school of nautical romances that have succeeded it.
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.