James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper was born in September 1789 in Burlington, New Jersey. He was a great American author of books about the American Frontier. He developed an original form of American literature that has been used by writers such as Louis L'amour and Zane Grey. Cooper was the eleventh of twelve children, most of whom died in infancy, as was all too common at the time. When he was one year old, the family moved to Cooperstown, New York. It was a community that was founded by his father. It was placed on a large piece of land he bought for development. The town was in central New York and had been owned by the Iroquois of the Six Nations. After the Revolutionary War, the Iroquois had been forced to cede their land because they had been allies with the British.

When Cooper was thirteen he was enrolled at Yale University. He was expelled in his third year because he instigated a dangerous prank that involved blowing up another student's door after having already locking a donkey in the recitation room. At seventeen years old, Cooper joined the crew of a merchant's vessel. By the age of twenty-two, he had become a midshipman in the emerging United States Navy. At twenty years old, Cooper inherited a fortune from his father. The next year he married Susan Augusta de Lancey. They had seven children, but only five lived to see adulthood. Their daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper carried on her father's profession and became a writer. She wrote on nature and women's suffrage.

In 1820 his wife made a bet with him that she thought he could write a better book than the one she was reading. So he wrote Precaution inspired by Jane Austen. He published it anonymously and it sold well in America and Britain. Afterward, he wrote The Spy inspired by a story told to him by John Jay. This book stepped up to the best seller.

Later in his life, Cooper began writing books that weren't fiction. He wrote with a combination of art and controversy. He also delved into the supernatural with The Crater or Vulcan's Peak in 1847. The Ways of the Hour was his last completed novel.

On September 15,1851 Cooper died of dropsy on his sixty-second birthday. He was buried in Christ Episcopal Churchyard near his father. His wife, Susan died a few months later and was buried by his side. In books such as his Leatherstocking tales, Cooper was one of the first American writers to include African, African-American and Native American characters in his books. But, his treatment was sometimes insensitive. As an example, when he wrote "The Last of the Mohicans" he portrayed the Native Americans as bloodthirsty and with very little morals. But, he put his own morals in by making the Native American character, Uncas fall in love with a girl that was of mixed race. Her father white, her mother black. At this time in history, that was as far as Americans could push the bar in race relations. But, never the less, he was one of the first writers to invent the "noble red man" persona in literature, by giving the Mohicans, a noble, courageous and heroic mien.

The Last of the Mohicans

"The Last of the Mohicans" is the second book in a series written by James Fenimore Cooper and published in 1840. These books were part of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy. It was preceded by The Pioneers, published in 1823, and The Prairie, published in 1827. "The Pathfinder" is the next in the series and published in 1840, fourteen years later. Set during the French and Indian … [Read more...]