The Ways of the Hour

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This is Fenimore Cooper's last and in some ways bitterest novel, an outspoken examination of contemporary American legal practices and marriage law.
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The Ways of the Hour (Barnes & Noble Digital Library)

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Overview

This is Fenimore Cooper's last and in some ways bitterest novel, an outspoken examination of contemporary American legal practices and marriage law.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780750911580
  • Publisher: Sutton Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Series: Pocket Classics Series
  • Edition description: POCKET
  • Pages: 337
  • Product dimensions: 5.03 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

James Fenimore Cooper
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.

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)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "It is the innocent who have most reason to dread the law"

    James Fenimore Cooper's last novel (1850), THE WAYS OF THE HOUR, is an old man's sometimes grumpy criticism of America in general and New York State in particular. Opinions are debated freely among young and old, refined and uncouth, idealistic and pragmatic and even the sane and not so sane. Some topics debated:

    -- Does the U.S. Constitution's protection of the institution of slavery make slavery a good idea? (Does this remind you of today's press-supported pubic excitement about a mosque at Ground Zero in Manhattan?) *****

    -- Does the New York State constitution, revised in 1846, do well or ill in giving a wife complete control over any wealth she has inherited before marriage? *****

    -- Does God intend women to be supremely independent of husbands? *****

    -- Is the jury system a perversion of justice when jurors increasingly glory in ignoring a judge's instruction as to the law's meaning? *****

    -- Is telling the truth the aim of America's "free" press? Or, rather, is making money at any cost the supreme god of journalism? *****

    -- Why does the justice system treat convicted criminals more fairly and kindly than it does the innocent -- who may lose fortunes paying lawyers to defend them from malicious renters and jealous neighbors? "It is the innocent who have most reason to dread the law" (Ch.29). *****

    All this political and sociological debate is scattered throughout a crime narrative which is reasonably straightforward but also immersed in late Gothic conventions of mysterious ancestry and wealth, a weakened mind, love, courtship and marriage of one aging couple and two young ones. *****

    At its narrative core THE WAYS OF THE HOUR (a phrase meaning much the same as "the signs of the time") is a murder mystery and courtroom drama. Two charred bodies are found in a somewhat isolated New York cottage less than 20 miles from downtown New York City. There are witnesses who saw the cottage in flame and a beautiful young woman boarder being assisted to escape by two men who later disappeared. There is flimsy circumstantial evidence, especially a notched foreign gold coin belonging to the dead (or at least disappeared) landlady. This being found in boarder Mary Monson's purse, she stands trial for arson and double murder. Established star of the New York City bar, 60-ish bachelor Thomas Dunscomb is strangely drawn to the mysterious, beautiful obviously wealthy young defendant and represents her in court. *****

    Crime scene investigation was in its infancy in the 1840s. But sloppy police investigation does not seem to matter, once public opinion, fanned by the yellow dog press of New York, becomes convinced of the guilt of Mary Monson. There is jury tampering. The accused lives luxuriously in prison, where she plays on a harp like an angel or King David. The lead defense lawyer discovers toward trial's end that Mary is the granddaughter of his one and only love who had jilted him for a richer man. Mary is permitted to cross examine the principal witness against her, regarding Mary's post-crime possession of the notched gold coin known to belong to the disappeared landlady. Mary then proves as good a lawyer as Portia in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE and better even than Perry Mason in applying pressure to a witness. This is a rich, rich novel, deserving more than one reading. -OOO-

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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