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Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers
No. 20, December 2004, pp. 1-10
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Although it is painful for an admirer of James Fenimore Cooper to admit, it must be said: Cooper could be, at times, a vain man. An author who allegedly started a literary career by throwing down a novel and declaring, "I could write a better book myself!" could hardly be said to be free from the tugging of egotism. And an author who fathered the genre of the sea novel with The Pilot after hearing Walter Scott praised for his attempts at seamanship in The Pirate might easily be suspected of being susceptible to one-upsmanship. This is not to detract in the least from Cooper's genuine power and ability as an author, or the gregarious, generous qualities he was reported to have as an individual; nor does it mean that his egotism was necessarily a negative quality. One of the many things that makes Cooper interesting is the way he could take gut reactions or flashes of egotism and flesh them out into principle or story, albeit with varying degrees of success.
Depending on one's point of view at the time, it may have seemed either patriotic or vain when Cooper, living in Europe between 1826 and 1833, took it upon himself to defend his country in print against European prejudices and to wean his own countrymen from unhealthy foreign influence while refining their tastes. When his shift to more overt social criticism led to critical opposition and brought him under the guns of increasingly polemical Whig newspaper editors, Cooper interpreted their hostility and the seeming public tolerance for it as a sign that America had rejected him and therefore was not ready for a truly national literature. His exhaustive hundred-page self-defense in his pamphlet A Letter to His Countrymen, wherein he also announced his intention to lay down his pen, certainly appeared to some as another strike against his vanity.
It probably seemed particularly egotistical too, then, when Cooper published in The Knickerbocker magazine for October 1838 an article unfavorable to the most famous writer of the day, the late Sir Walter Scott, by reviewing the much-awaited official biography written at Scott's request by his son-in-law, J.G. Lockhart.1 Cooper was certainly not immune to rivalry, and though he professed that such considerations were far from his mind, he cringed at being called the "American Scott." He similarly disliked the free advice dispensed by critics that he be more like his fellow American, the amiable Washington Irving, who would never write "controversial" works along the lines of Cooper's Notions of the Americans. Perhaps out of deference to a fellow countryman, Cooper refrained from putting his judgments of Irving into print, despite his disgust at Irving's writing for Scott's Tory magazine The Quarterly Review while in England, among other issues. He had no similar restraint in Scott's case, especially after discovering published references to himself, one of which--thanks to a misreading by Lockhart--implied a seemingly disapproving "want of manners" in Cooper rather than a more neutral "want of manner," or freedom from affectation. And Cooper had little admiration for Lockhart, whom he privately called a "professional liar."2
Whatever personal motivations may have come into play, Cooper was doing more than simply debunking the "myth" of Sir Walter. He was, implicitly, laying down his own ethical statement about professional authorship by demonstrating through Lockhart's book that Scott, for all his popularity—or perhaps because of it—was guilty of grossly dishonest and self-serving conduct as a professional author. Seldom one to delve into the mysteries of the hows and whys of authorship, Cooper never wrote anything along the lines of Poe's "Philosophy of Composition" in terms of self-criticism. But in the review Cooper makes a pioneering effort in defining the ethical code that would distinguish the true professional literary artist in America from those who would advance their careers through either questionable art or questionable professional practices. With an eye toward posterity, he attempted to place his own practices beyond question and pass on a more wholesome model of professional literary activity than had provided by the press or even by his fellow authors.
Cooper was at least wise enough to anticipate that his review would be controversial, seeing as "admiration of Scott's talents is so general and profound." The rationale for the review, he explains, is the need to expose truth where delusion reigns, since Lockhart's paraded Scott's failings before the world in a way that would call upon the public to "venerate a name that, in a moral sense, owes its extraordinary exaltation to some of the most barefaced violations of the laws of rectitude, that ever distinguished the charlatanism of literature" (349-50). "We think it time," Cooper continued, "that someone should step forward in defence of truth" (350).
Scott's literary crimes are catalogued thoroughly. His designation of an official biographer left only "faint hopes of a frank and fair exhibition of the truth" as it placed "one who should possess the impartiality of a judge, in the position of an advocate" (350). Furthermore, Scott had established the Quarterly Review in a secret scheme to promote aristocratic Tory dogma in answer to the Whig Edinburgh Review, all the while professing impartiality, rather than taking the "fair and honest course" by debating the Edinburgh directly and "trusting to reason and facts for success" (352). An even worse practice in the Quarterly Review was Scott's reviewing of his own works, a "gross system of fraud" that goes against the very nature of a review as "an impartial judgment, made up by an impartial judge" (356). As Cooper well knew, a review could make or break the fortunes of a book. Finally, Scott's use of secret pre-arranged codes in letters of introduction constituted "treachery, cloaked in the garb of friendship" (351) by preserving the appearance of a recommendation while secretly instructing the recipient to limit his civilities. Popularity overruled honesty, for a letter that carried its true meaning on its face "might have lost both the parties a supporter!" (351).
The common root to all these charges is an assertion by Cooper of a lack of candor and honesty on the part of Scott—a calculating instinct geared toward fame and popularity. Cooper implies, then, his own truthfulness and forthrightness in distinction to Scott's predominating quality of "seemliness," which crept even into Scott's literary art. In his writings, Scott could "direct the imagination of the reader," or give "a pleasing exhibition of manners and customs, without any moral aim" (363), very much unlike Cooper at this time, who viewed the thesis novel as practically a moral necessity. Scott enveloped everything he did with the appearance of "tact" and grace, the vraisemblence in his novels being in keeping with the seemliness of his life (364). Whereas Scott's "studied kindnesses" had won him great admiration, false though he was, Cooper hints that his own perceived slide in popularity comes from his forthright honesty. Scott "paid the penalty of popularity, by being compelled to feign that which he did not feel, say that which he did not think, and do that which he did not desire" (366). By contrast, Cooper implicitly suggests, he has paid the price of truth by being unpopular.
We can see in this review, then, Cooper's conflicted view of professional authorship emerging. He sounds a cautionary note to critics and the public about the way literary reputations are made and sustained. Critics had spent much time during the early years of American literature obsessing over what qualities would make a literary work "American" or give it a proper moral tone—questions concerned with the consumption of literature that caused them to fixate, as Cooper implies, on the superficial "features" of the work while ignoring underlying principles and the authorial ethic behind its production. Cooper was clearly asking different questions and setting different terms. If critics were to serve any useful purpose in arbitrating literary taste and moral value, they must use their watchdog roles to ensure ethical conduct in the profession of authorship and their own profession of reviewing, looking to principal rather than shallow appearances of respectability. To the public, Cooper likewise implies a role in reining in abuses among reviewers and authors. In according authors a high social standing and a high degree of fame, Cooper also obligates them with a high standard of social responsibility. He speaks of what the public has a "right" to expect, and in labeling Scott's dishonesty "unworthy of a man of high literary fame" (351) emphasizes a higher standard of public accountability for authors. With literary reputation and accomplishment Cooper perceives the need for an accompanying code of personal ethics that requires the author to rise above the ordinary every bit as much as the art that the author produces.
Cooper clearly appropriates a high social standing for authors that goes beyond celebrity. By his concern about Scott's behavior being "dangerous to the young" he attributes to authors a potential influence that extends to affect national destinies and future generations. Such influence, Cooper suggests, demands attention to national principles as well as more general moral ones. He wished to show that his fame as a deliberately American author was established on different terms than those of his more famous predecessor: he had sacrificed, in his view, much of the romance of European scenery, the grandiosity of the great fleets of the naval powers, and even the promise of larger financial returns, all to remain loyal to his native land. If his readers would escape their reliance on foreign opinion and read beneath the surface of appearances, they would see in Scott and others a true display of compromised principles that pointed to the corrupted aristocratic ethic of Europe. As an author who almost excessively identified his own interests with those of his country, Cooper had determined that the proper ethic of the American author was to be one of guileless truth—an essential quality in a republican system where good governance depended upon the wisdom of the people. Rejecting the notions of a subjective standard of truth, Cooper insisted on objectivity. Truth, if made apparent, would carry its own weight; attention to "facts" would resolve uncertainty, if people were freed from their intellectual chains and made receptive to them.
Cooper's problem was breaking those chains, something that put him in direct confrontation with such potentially dark forces as markets, critics, public opinion, and human nature. In writing that "we think it time that someone should step forward in defence of truth" (350), Cooper silently acknowledges the lack of others publicly expressing views like his. And following his own defeats at the hands of the press and the failure of his social criticism to succeed commercially, Cooper realized that taking the "fair and honest course" of "trusting to reason and facts for success" was often a lost cause. Yet in hopes of an eventual vindication, Cooper pressed on, considering himself in advance of the age, prophet-like, though changing his methods from those he had employed in the review or in his blatantly autobiographical social novel Home as Found to more subtle and commercially palatable ones.
How closely Cooper held this ethic of authorship and theory of "truth," and how keenly he felt the country's rejection of them, can be seen in his development of these themes in several of the novels that followed his review of Scott. Certainly one obvious place to look would be 1838's Home as Found, wherein Cooper recast some of his post-Europe quarrels as ill-disguised fiction, creating idealized alter egos in the characters of the mild-mannered Edward Effingham and his more caustic cousin John to express his mixed feelings about America. When the transparency of the parallels became a subject of Whig ridicule, Cooper responded with his infamous libel suits but avoided such obvious exposure in future works. In his next novel, The Pathfinder (1840), he consciously strove to make a commercial and artistic statement that largely, but not entirely, sidelined "politics," controversy, and self-portraiture.3 However, his next two works, Mercedes of Castile (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841) are particularly relevant since in them Cooper creates in his protagonists nearly visionary voices of "truth" and ponders, perhaps vicariously for himself, the fate of truth at the hands of more designing parties.
In Mercedes of Castile, a story based on Christopher Columbus's first voyage and published in 1840, Cooper finds a suitable voice for truth in the character of Columbus. The novel (a perfect example of oneupsmanship gone wrong in Cooper's attempt to best Irving's Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus) has been rightly criticized for its plodding pace and excessive dialogue, and especially for being "source-bound," leaving little room for an appealing story to develop.4 While Cooper's fixation on, and failings with, the character of Columbus certainly may have much to do with his excessive dependence on historical sources, a further cause is his investing too much of himself in his portrayal of Columbus as a voice of "truth." In Columbus, the visionary explorer who appears nearly a madman to those unwilling to believe in him, Cooper finds a reflection of his own self-image as an author: a pioneer, ahead of his age, and unappreciated. Here, indeed, Cooper departs from his sources with regularity to tap into his own sensibilities. For instance, lacking many specifics of Columbus's physical description, Cooper instead brings Columbus on the scene surrounded by a dignified moral aura reminiscent of that surrounding the Effinghams in Home as Found: upon first seeing Columbus from a distance, the character Don Luis de Bobadilla perceives him as "a man of very grave and reverend appearance, though of simple deportment" (I, 57); the friar who pointed out Columbus to Luis, Father Pedro, similarly observes in Columbus "a loftiness in his dignified countenance that one is not accustomed to meet in those who are unused to power" (I, 57).5 Queen Isabella's reflections later in the story confirm similar qualities, intended to reflect Cooper's own uniquely elevated position as an American author intent on guileless truth, particularly in contrast to Scott's "seemliness":
The queen was deeply impressed with the air of lofty truth that elevated the thoughts and manners of the speaker. . . . Columbus had not the finish of manner that is fancied courts only can bestow, and which it would be more just to refer to lives devoted to habits of pleasing; but the character of the man shone through the exterior, and, in his case, all that artificial training could supply fell short of the noble aspect of nature, sustained by high aspirations. To a commanding person, and a gravity that was heightened by the loftiness of his purposes, Columbus added the sober earnestness of a deeply-seated and all-pervading enthusiasm, which threw the grace of truth and probity on what he said and did. No quality of his mind was more apparent than its sense of right, as right was then considered in connection with the opinions of the age. . . . (I, 134)
Cooper pays homage here to the Quaker heritage of his father, William Cooper, by lending Columbus the honest air of a Quaker enthusiast. Elsewhere Columbus reflects Cooper's ideals in maintaining a self-respect "not to be lessened by clamour," appreciating "ignorance and narrowness of views too justly to suffer them to change his own high purposes" (I, 110). Cooper's own frustrated aspirations of having his vision appreciated by any besides "a few of the more liberal and enlightened minds of the nation" are perhaps clearest in a passage where Columbus, temporarily dismissed from the Spanish court after seven years of unsuccessful solicitation, finds his hopes dashed:
He had thought his motives understood, his character appreciated, and his high objects felt; but now he found himself still regarded as a visionary projector, his intentions distrusted, and his promised services despised. In a word, the bright expectations that had cheered his toil for years, had vanished in a day, and the disappointment was all the greater for the brief but delusive hopes produced by his recent favour. (I, 121)
Still, Columbus/Cooper refuses to undervalue himself or his ideas; perhaps idealistically recasting the author-publisher relationship, Cooper has one minor character, Luis de St. Angel, voice the opinion that "'the character of the man, and the value of his intentions, may be appreciated by the price he setteth on his own services'" (I, 124). Columbus's steadfastness causes the wise Queen Isabella to remark to her advisers, "We must be neither harsh nor hasty with this Genoese. . . He hath the virtues of devoutness and fair-dealing, and these are qualities that sovereigns learn to prize. His demands, no doubt, have become somewhat exaggerated by long brooding, in his thoughts, on a favorite and great scheme; but kind words and reason may yet lead him to more moderation" (I, 107). Such words seem to point to an acknowledgement on Cooper's part of his own high-spiritedness in the 1830s but also express a hope that Cooper's own habits of "fair-dealing" may be appreciated in a way that will once again restore him to the favor of his countrymen.
In Columbus's success, Cooper finds the triumph of visionary steadfastness that loosely parallels his own initial success as an author but far surpasses anything he received in his campaign for "truth." Columbus returns to honor, glory, and rewards of greater resources for undertaking his further explorations-and, what is more important, a vindication of his ideas, soon to revolutionize the world. Yet Cooper is also keen to show that success will not be allowed to stand. At the conclusion of the story, Columbus speaks to Luis of how his further voyages will be made even more hazardous by men seeking actively to undermine his reputation:
"I go forth from Spain, on a far more perilous adventure than that in which thou wert my companion. Then I sailed concealed in contempt, and veiled from human eyes by ignorance and pity; now, have I left the old world, followed by malignancy and envy. These facts am I too old not to have seen, and foreseen. In my absence, many will be busy with my name. Even they who now shout at my heels, will become my calumniators, revenging themselves for past adulation by present detraction. The sovereigns will be beset with lies, and any disappointment in the degree of success will be distorted into crimes. . . On ye, then, do I greatly rely, not for favours, but for the interest of truth and justice." (II, 226)
Such a passage calls to mind someone like Charles King, once a member of Cooper's "Bread and Cheese" club in the 1820s but later one of his chief detractors in the 1830s as editor of the New-York American; doubtless Cooper had others, particularly critics, in mind as well. What would remain to be seen, particularly in the libel suits that were beginning to heat up as Cooper composed and published the novel, was whether or not Cooper would be vindicated in the court of law, which he felt confident would happen, and in the court of public opinion, about which he was not as sanguine. In Mercedes of Castile, then, Cooper never wholly endorses his idea of "trusting to facts and reason for success," but creates a fantasy of eventual vindication for his long years of struggle for the attention of his countrymen. What stands out as most interesting in Cooper's portrayal of authorial concerns in Columbus is the audacity of his identification with one of history's major figures, which hints at either (or perhaps both) Cooper's grand vision for his vocation as an author or a hubris that seemed to afflict him at the time he wrote Mercedes.6
In Cooper's next work, The Deerslayer, published in 1841, Cooper maintains a similar interest in the importance of "truth" over seemliness in his portrayal of Natty Bumppo's youth, but offers a far more palatable rendering of his theme than in Mercedes of Castile. Although Natty had already appeared in four previous Leatherstocking tales, including The Pathfinder only a year before, in none of the other tales does Cooper place so much emphasis upon the honesty and truthfulness of Natty. In The Pathfinder, for instance, where the term "truth" is occasionally applied to Natty, it is usually listed without particular stress in conjunction with other complementary qualities: Charles Cap finds Natty's reasoning on one point of contention to possess "the force of truth, faith, and probability," and Mabel Dunham on another occasion declares that Natty's "truth, honesty, simplicity, justice, and courage are scarcely equalled by any of earth" (26, 270).7 Whereas in The Pathfinder Natty is first described as having "an open honesty, a total absence of guile in his face" (18), in The Deerslayer Cooper amplifies the introductory depiction of Natty's countenance:
This expression was simply that of guileless truth, sustained by an earnestness of purpose, and a sincerity of feeling, that rendered it remarkable. At times this air of integrity seemed to be so simple as to awaken the suspicion of a want of the usual means to discriminate between artifice and truth, but few came into contact with the man, without losing this distrust in respect for his opinions and motives. (21)8
This description establishes Natty's role in the novel, suggesting how he will differ from Hetty Hutter, who is utterly honest yet lacks the "usual means" of separating truth and falsehood, and Judith Hutter, who is often quite competent in her faculties of perception but addicted to artifice out of what James Beard calls an "ineradicable strain of deceit or duplicity."9 By contrast, Natty's devotion to truth is inextinguishable and nearly compulsive; in the final chapter Cooper writes that "Truth was the Deerslayer's polar star. He ever kept it in view, and it was nearly impossible for him to avoid uttering it, even when prudence demanded silence" (545). It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Cooper saw much of himself in these descriptions; indeed, the line about Natty's "opinions and motives" being appreciated by those who met him is similar in substance to what many of Cooper's acquaintances said about him.
Cooper's treatment of the Effinghams in the Home novels had amply illustrated the importance Cooper attached to the role of a dignified manner in communicating and upholding truth (despite his being out of touch with how some elements of the public might receive it), and, accordingly, Natty appears in The Deerslayer with a truthfulness that is unflappably calm, so much so that it often inspires agitation in those who have the most to fear from it. Judith Hutter, herself the partial victim of men's duplicity, appreciates the value of Natty's truthfulness yet also finds it a source of great mortification: "'It is a hard thing to fear truth, Hetty,' she said, 'and yet do I more dread Deerslayer's truth, than any enemy! One cannot tamper with such truth—so much honesty—such obstinate uprightness!'" (313-14). She herself, of course, has much to fear from the truth because of her lapses in moral judgment and her questionable background. Even more telling in light of Cooper's views of the author as social critic and conscience is an exchange between Deerslayer and "Hurry"-Harry March, a character often interpreted as representative of the "Go-Ahead" spirit of Whiggism.10 When early in the story Natty challenges Harry's lawless boast that he would kill any husband Judith Hutter might have taken in his absence, Hurry quickly boils in rage, going so far as to seize Natty by the throat. Natty, however, remains "unmoved," not even resorting to "the artifice of louder tones" in his reply: "'You may shake, Hurry, until you bring down the mountain. . . but nothing beside truth will you shake from me'" (28-29).
Deerslayer's honest demeanor prevails in his dealings with his Indian foes. Cooper portrays the Indians as subtle and wily in the rhetorical arts, particularly the Iroquois chief Rivenoak, who stands in contrast to the steadfastly true Natty. One perhaps can see veiled allusions to Whig editors or others practiced in "seemliness" in statements such as this:
Next to arms, eloquence offers the great avenue to popular favor, whether it be in savage or civilized life, and Rivenoak had succeeded, as so many have succeeded, before him, quite as much by rendering fallacies acceptable to his listeners, as by any profound or learned expositions of truth, or the accuracy of his logic. (489)11
Yet Natty shows the inherent superiority that comes from a true and guileless character. On one occasion, when negotiating ransom for the captured Hurry-Harry and Tom Hutter, the usually unruffled Rivenoak becomes "a little warm" in the discussion as a result of Natty meeting "all the arguments and prevarication of his subtle opponent with his own cool directness of manner, and unmoved love of truth" (245). Natty's self-assurance becomes all the more powerful on the occasions when he becomes a captive of the Indians.
Interestingly in light of these self-referential elements, it is Deerslayer's very commitment to truth that places him squarely in the hands of his enemies. In the story, Natty faces the temptation to go back on a pledge to return to his Indian captors, who have released him on furlough because of his reputation for honesty, with the condition that he return for his eventual torture and death. Despite entreaties from Judith, Natty returns and is soon bound for torture. One can hardly escape the conclusion that here, too, Cooper is idealistically recasting how his own commitment to truth, particularly during his years in Europe, played into the designs of Whig editors and caused him to be, in essence, bound for rhetorical torture upon his return to America. Deerslayer's response in the face of manipulation by his foes is unswerving. Yet it is clear that his honesty nearly dooms him. When Judith Hutter's ridiculous attempt at deceiving the Indians by dressing up in a formal dress and posing as European royalty fails, Natty's case seems to be a lost one as the Indians prepare to torture him to death. He is saved only by the timely arrival of British troops (fetched by Hurry-Harry) at the Indian camp. The indiscriminately bloody rout of Indians that follows is troubling not only for its brutality in the context of the story itself but also for what it suggests about Cooper's treatment of "truth" in the novel. Certainly in comparison to Mercedes of Castile Cooper offers a resolution that is even more unsettled and ambiguous. Natty is saved, but not by his own truth; he nearly becomes a martyr for his honesty. Despite a happy ending to the story, Cooper leaves us with a deus ex machina that seems to cast doubt upon the real efficacy of truth in a society Cooper often portrayed as being too easily swayed by hostile rhetoric. Such doubts more accurately reflect Cooper's view of his own prospects as an author and as an American than does the more sanguine fantasy of vindication he seems to ponder in Mercedes of Castile.
Taken together, these works give insight into Cooper's notions of the social value of the author as a sort of visionary or even prophet devoted to the unflinching delivery of necessary, sometimes unwelcome truths. That Cooper should invest so much of this spirit of prophetic "truth" into his fictions also demonstrates that the rejections he had suffered at the hands of his critics and publishers profoundly shaped his vision of his own vocation, affecting even his art for a number of years. In the years that followed, Cooper never abandoned his belief in the role of the author as social critic, as works such as The Redskins, The Crater, and The Ways of the Hour attest. But he also shifted his attention to truth away from the author himself to look for his eventual vindication not at the hands of critics or readers, but at those of a higher power.
1 Review of Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. By J.G. Lockhart. "Literary Notices." The Knickerbocker Magazine 12 (October 1838): 349-66.
2 JFC to Horatio Greenough, 31 June 1838; published in The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, Ed. James Franklin Beard (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960-68): III, 329.
3 George Dekker, in James Fenimore Cooper: The American Scott (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967) writes of an emphasis on "truth" in terms of fidelity in The Pathfinder, discussing Natty's faithfulness to his vocation as a reflection of Cooper's own recognition that "in returning to Leatherstocking, he was again being true to his own best gifts" (166). My emphasis, though related, is on a kind of factual and moral correctness Cooper tended to emphasize. Where Cooper seems most autobiographical in The Pathfinder is in his handling of the theme of suspicion against Jasper Western, echoing, through Major Lundie's credulousness of an anonymous letter purporting that Jasper is a French spy, his own injury at the hands of anonymous or pseudonymous critics.
4 See Donald M. Goodfellow's "The Sources of Mercedes of Castile" in American Literature 12 (1940): 318-28; Thomas Philbrick's James Fenimore Cooper and the Development of American Sea Fiction (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961): 125-26; and particularly Robert D. Madison's article "Cooper's Columbus" in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art No. 5 (1984): 75-85, or online at the Cooper Society website
5 Citations from Mercedes of Castile are from the first edition (2 vols., Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1840).
6 Cooper's inflated proposals of the work to Richard Bentley and his subsequent trifling over the title amply demonstrate how the negative sides of Cooper's egotism affected the work.
7 Citations from The Pathfinder come from the scholarly "Cooper Edition" (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981).
8 Citations are from the scholarly "Cooper Edition" of The Deerslayer (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987).
9 "Historical Introduction," The Deerslayer (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987): xxxv.
10 George Dekker writes, for instance, "Cooper's conception of the character was almost certainly influenced by the Whig election campaign of 1840. . . . Hurry is an 1840 Whig—a man with a frank Western manner but with the conscience of a cut-throat city man" (176).
11A more poignant example confirms the direction of Cooper's allusions: see James F. Beard's "Historical Introduction," xxix, and "Emendations," 627, of the Cooper Edition of The Deerslayer for instances where Cooper removed clear references to editors--such as "any blackguard who may happen to control a press"—in favor of more vague, general references to blackguardism.
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