The Pioneers: or, The Sources of the Susquehanna

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The first of the five Leatherstocking Tales, The Pioneers is perhaps the most realistic and beautiful of the series. Drawing on his own experiences, Cooper brilliantly describes Frontier life, providing a fascinating backdrop to the real heart of the novel--the competing claims to land ownership of Native Americans and settlers. This edition follows the publication of The Last of the Mohicans in the World's Classics series and uses the standard text approved by the Modern ...
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The Pioneers

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Overview


The first of the five Leatherstocking Tales, The Pioneers is perhaps the most realistic and beautiful of the series. Drawing on his own experiences, Cooper brilliantly describes Frontier life, providing a fascinating backdrop to the real heart of the novel--the competing claims to land ownership of Native Americans and settlers. This edition follows the publication of The Last of the Mohicans in the World's Classics series and uses the standard text approved by the Modern Language Association.

The release of the popular film The Last of the Mohicans has increased interest in Cooper's works. The first in his renowned Leatherstocking Tales, The Pioneers portrays frontier life in a New York settlement in the late 1700s, and is considered the first true bestseller, selling over 3,000 copies within hours of its publication in 1823. Reissue.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Another fine book in this excellent series. These books are attractive, durable, reasonably priced, and impeccably edited."--Richard A. Hook, Denison University

"A well-produced edition."--Jeff Cupp, Troy State University

"A very handsome edition."--E. N. Feltskog, University of Wisconsin

"It's great to have available these well-designed and edited editions of past literature in a comparatively inexpensive paperback."--Arlie E. Herron, University of Tenn.-Chattanooga

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192836670
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Series: Oxford World's Classics Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Lexile: 1260L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.75 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) grew up at Otsego Hall, his father’s manorial estate near Lake Otsego in upstate New York. Educated at Yale, he spent five years at sea, as a foremast hand and then as a midshipman in the navy. At thirty he was suddenly plunged into a literary career when his wife challenged his claim that he could write a better book that the English novel he was reading to her. The result was Precaution (1820), a novel of manners. His second book, The Spy (1821), was an immediate success, and with The Pioneers (1823) he began his series of Leatherstocking Tales. By 1826 when The Last of the Mohicans appeared, his standing as a major novelist was clearly established. From 1826 to 1833 Cooper and his family lived and traveled in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Two of his most successful works, The Prairie and The Red Rover, were published in 1827. He returned to Otsego Hall in 1834, and after a series of relatively unsuccessful books of essays, travel sketches, and history, he returned to fiction – and to Leatherstocking – with The Pathfinder (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841). In his last decade he faced declining popularity brought on in part by his waspish attacks on critics and political opponents. Just before his death in 1851 an edition of his works led to a reappraisal of his fiction and somewhat restored his reputation as the first of American writers.

Biography

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.

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

Table of Contents

A Note on the Text vi
Introduction vii
Suggestions for Further Reading xxiii
Preface to the First Edition (1823) 3
Introduction to the 1832 Edition 6
Introduction to the Putnam Edition (1851) 11
The Pioneers 15
Notes 457
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 18, 2010

    Least exciting of the Leatherstocking Tales

    Though this is the fourth book of the "Leatherstocking Tales" in which Nathaniel Bumppo, alias Deerslayer, Hawkeye, Pathfinder, and Leatherstocking, appears when the five books are arranged in the chronological order of Bumppo's life, it was the first published. I had more trouble slogging through it than any of the first three, and I believe that the reason is simple. The Pioneers was not written about the exploits of Natty Bumppo. Yes, he is a main character in the book, but the plot mainly revolves around Judge Marmaduke Temple, who settled the area of Lake Otsego, NY, with his family and activities as the taming of the wilderness interacts with the needs and wishes of the now seventy-year-old hunter.
    It is believed that Cooper based the character of Temple on his own father (the founder of Cooperstown, NY) and the character of Natty Bumppo on some hunter whom Judge Cooper encountered. Natty became such a hero that people wanted more novels about him, so Cooper obliged with The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Pathfinder. Those books are about Natty and his exploits. They are filled with excitement and adventure. The Pioneers is said to be "the most realistic of the Leatherstocking Tales." That may be true, but to me it is also the most boring so far. Like many other novels of the nineteenth century, it begins very slowly with a lot of descriptive introduction and background. The last third of the book has more action and thus is more interesting, but, unfortunately, one cannot understand the last third without having to wade through the first two-thirds.
    Even the afterword in my copy says, "Taken in this context, the novel does not have the appeal of The Deerslayer, in which Natty is presented in all his youthful vigor; The Last of the Mohicans or The Pathfinder, in which he is still in his full strength; or The Prairie, in which he strikes out once more for the Garden of the West and is at last fully portrayed by his creator as one of the really great characters of fiction. But The Pioneers is also the first novel in which Natty appears, and he is obviously not the principle reason why the novel was written. The reader who picks it up, therefore, as just one of the romantic tales of the wilderness scout is in for a disappointment." That is certainly true. Natty is pictured in The Pioneers as a somewhat crotchety and petulant old man, although he is still honest and loyal to a fault. It also seems to me that there is more bad language, with the "d" word and taking the Lord's name in vain, as well as references to drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, than in the previous books. However, it is still an interesting story and fans of Natty Bumppo will not want to miss it.

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    Posted June 17, 2011

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    Posted March 17, 2014

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