The creator of two genres that became staples of American literature — the sea romance and the frontier adventure — James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) was born in New Jersey, raised in the wilderness of New York, and spent five years at sea before embarking on his successful writing career. Among Cooper’s many novels, his best-known books are the five "Leatherstocking" tales — including The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans — each featuring the fictional hero Natty Bumppo.
Recollections of Europe by James Fenimore Cooperby James Fenimore Cooper
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It may seem to be late in the day to give an account of the more ordinary characteristics of Europe. But the mass of all nations can form their opinions of others through the medium of testimony only; and as no two travellers see precisely the same things, or, when seen, view them with precisely the same eyes, this is a species of writing, after all, that is not likely to pall, or cease to be useful. The changes that are constantly going on everywhere, call for as constant repetitions of the descriptions; and although the pictures may not always be drawn and coloured equally well, so long as they are taken in good faith, they will not be without their value.
It is not a very difficult task to make what is commonly called an amusing book of travels. Any one who will tell, with a reasonable degree of graphic effect, what he has seen, will not fail to carry the reader with him; for the interest we all feel in personal adventure is, of itself, success. But it is much more difficult to give an honest and a discriminating summary of what one has seen. The mind so naturally turns to exceptions, that an observer has great need of self-distrust, of the powers of analysis, and, most of all, of a knowledge of the world, to be what the lawyers call a safe witness.
I have no excuse of haste, or of a want of time, to offer for the defect of these volumes. All I ask is, that they may be viewed as no more than they profess to be. They are the gleanings of a harvest already gathered, thrown together in a desultory manner, and without the slightest, or, at least, very small pretensions, to any of those arithmetical and statistical accounts that properly belong to works of a graver character. They contain the passing remarks of one who has certainly seen something of the world, whether it has been to his advantage or not, who had reasonably good opportunities to examine what he saw, and who is not conscious of being, in the slightest degree, influenced "by fear, favour, or the hope of reward." His compte rendu must pass for what it is worth.
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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