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The Tortured Profession of Authorship: Novelist Again

Steven P. Harthorn
(University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

Placed on line August 2019

©2005 by Steven P. Harthorn
Republished with permission of the author by the James Fenimore Cooper Society

Chapter 1 of James Fenimore Cooper, Professional Authorship, and the American Literary Marketplace, 1838-1851 (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2005), available in full at the Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange (TRACE).

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Homeward Bound; or, The Chase. A Tale of the Sea. By the Author of “The Pilot,” “The Spy,” Etc. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 4 August 1838.

Home as Found. By the Author of Homeward Bound, The Pioneers, &c. &c. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 15 November 1838.

[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.


“I am nearly half through with my last romance, for the pen and I have quarreled. The country is getting to be too big for men of my caliber. I must give way to my betters, of which it would seem to be full, but their talk . . . Thank God, I am nearly done with them. You must not be surprised if you hear of my sailing a sloop between Cape Cod and New-York ere long. Let it pass.”[1] Thus James Fenimore Cooper forecast his “retirement” from writing in a letter to his close friend, the sculptor Horatio Greenough, in January 1833, while working on what was supposed to be his thirteenth and final novel, The Headsman. Shortly before publication, the exasperated author wrote once again to Greenough: “The quill and I are divorced, and you cannot conceive the degree of freedom I could almost say of happiness I feel, at having got my neck out of the halter. I could write forever -- or as long as God pleased -- for a nation that was a nation -- but Heaven help us! Mr. Greenough, we are but indifferent gentlemen at the best. The tales are done. There are a few half finished manuscripts on other subjects to finish, and I turn sailor again –- or something else --”[2] Cooper carried out this plan publicly in his 1834 pamphlet A Letter to His Countrymen, by J. Fenimore-Cooper, taking the unusual step in the age of “anonymous” authorship of directly addressing himself to his readers in order to defend his previous actions and writings, to warn his countrymen of their excessive reliance on foreign opinion, and to announce, after these lengthy arguments, that “I lay aside my pen,” presumably retiring from writing.[3]

As it turns out, however, Cooper never did retire, and his career as an author was only half done. The “few half finished manuscripts” he described to Greenough turned out to be a novel-like allegorical satire, The Monikins (1835), and a series of five travel memoirs reflecting his observations during seven years in Europe. By the middle of 1837, he was nearly finished with these projects and was meditating something new, but not the change of career he had projected to Greenough. “A freak has gotten into my head to write a novel again,” he wrote to his English publisher Richard Bentley on 6 July 1837. “I do not know yet whether it will be done, or not, but if I do it will be something like ‘Templeton in 1837.’ This may not be the name, but it gives the idea.”[4] This “freak” would eventually become the double novel Homeward Bound and Home as Found, published in 1838, which restored Cooper to a career as a novelist after a hiatus of four years. Cooper would go on to publish fifteen more novels as well as several non-fiction works of history, biography, and analysis, making his last thirteen years of writing (1838-51) more prolific, though far less profitable, than his first thirteen (1820-33).

Perhaps because Cooper never did follow through on his plan to retire, his decision has never been fully appreciated as the significant moment it was in the progress of American literature. More than any other writer of his era, Cooper is identified as an innovator, a creator of many “firsts” in American literature. Among these firsts is his financial success as America’s first professional novelist. No other American author save Washington Irving reaped the returns Cooper did on creative work, and unlike Irving, who took up diplomatic duties overseas, Cooper relied almost wholly on his pen for his support. Between 1826, when he entered into an agreement with the Philadelphia publishers Carey & Lea to buy the copyright of The Last of the Mohicans for $5000, and 1833, when he published The Headsman, Cooper pulled in no less than $4500 for each of his next seven new novels. As well, he received smaller but still substantial payments for copyrights for some of his earlier novels and for his Notions of the Americans (1828). And this was only the return from America: in England, his earnings (for instance, £600 for The Bravo in 1830—about $2850[5]) were likewise respectable. Sums from other countries on the continent occasionally trickled in, but Cooper considered these trifling and seldom worth the time and trouble to pursue them regularly. In other words, money was not the issue for Cooper. The market for native literature in America—at least for fiction—could support an author like Cooper, though he was certainly the exception rather than the rule.

What motivated Cooper instead was a sense of frustration at what he perceived to be an ever-widening divide between his sensibilities and those of his countrymen, particularly over political philosophies concerning republican government but extending to cultural attitudes, manners, and even the proper function of an artist/entertainer in America. Cooper had left for Europe in 1826, when John Quincy Adams was president, and returned in November 1833, the first year of Andrew Jackson’s second term. During these years of great social and political shifts in America, Cooper could only observe from afar, through correspondence with friends and accounts in newspapers. Amid the cultural attainments of Europe, Cooper found his own country lacking, particularly in light of the “leveling influences” its democratic social structure had upon refined taste. America had little of the civilized grandeur of European scenery, architecture, or learning, yet Cooper became convinced that because of their provincialism and blind patriotism Americans insisted upon their “things,” to use Cooper’s term, being as good as European ones. At the same time, Cooper in Europe found himself mingling in elite circles in a culture more stratified than America’s—something that did not bother him in and of itself except for the fact that many of these Europeans entertained suspicions and prejudices against America and its republican form of government. These political tensions became especially noticeable in France, where questions of republicanism versus monarchy had already been fought out in the French Revolution, and where the subsequent attempts of monarchists to shut out proponents of republicanism, including Cooper’s close friend (and well-known Revolutionary War hero) the Marquis de Lafayette, became particularly aggressive.

Faced with these forces, and being uniquely situated to observe both European and American practices, Cooper had felt patriotically and moralistically compelled as a prominent American in Europe to take a stance in writing for republicanism. Though always alert to political matters, and never one to shy away from exploring patriotic themes (as he had done practically from the start with The Spy), Cooper entered more directly into discussions of political philosophy in his writing. Turning away from novel writing temporarily in 1828, he wrote a lengthy series of epistolary essays purporting to be the casual observations of a European count traveling with a club of bachelors in America, entitled Notions of the Americans, Picked Up by a Travelling Bachelor. With these imaginary letters he intended to provide an answer to the superficial accounts of America provided by European travelers in memoirs not unlike those that Fanny Trollope and Charles Dickens would write in the years to come. Backing up his remembered knowledge of the northeastern United States with statistical information, Cooper used the persona of the count to give the air of impartiality to his comments on his native land, which were largely salutary. Even more unusual than the fact that Cooper was writing several volumes of “travels” in America while living in Europe was his introduction of the first idealized self-portrait to appear in his writings, an American acquaintance of the count named John Cadwallader. Having encountered Cadwallader on the road between Moscow and Warsaw, the count is so taken by this “calm, reasoning American,” taciturn and weary with the selfishness of Europe yet “so fresh, so original in his way of treating things,” that he decides to travel with his new American friend back to the United States.[6] During their “travels” the count, aided by Cadwallader, observes American manners, customs, history, scenery, and so forth, noting statistics and making constant comparisons to Europe. Cooper painted optimistic pictures of America in order to counter the disparaging portrayals that European travelers—whose books were also being read in America—had drawn.

This was a risky move for Cooper, the kind of risk his amiable and popular fellow author Washington Irving, also living in Europe at the time and writing for the aristocratic Quarterly Review, would never have taken. Cooper could have predicted that the cause involved considerable hazard in Europe, but he did not anticipate that his efforts to defend his country would be met with indifference and even suspicion in his homeland. Already before its publication, Carey & Lea had expressed doubts about the salability of Notions, offering a mere $1500 at a time when they were paying $5000 apiece for his novels. By contrast his deal with Colburn in England was a much more generous £400 (nearly $2000). Reviews of the work were mixed, too, often praising the “useful information” the work provided but objecting to either Cooper’s undertaking of non-fiction work of a political nature or his use of a fictitious narrator and characters in an otherwise fact-oriented work.

Hurt but undeterred, Cooper remained engaged in the political realm but shifted to a new style of novel-writing, designed to meet European novelists on their own terms—and turf—and to explore the principles that underlay American and European systems of governing. Cooper’s art had already changed during his stay in Europe, evincing among other things, for instance, his greater willingness to experiment and a deeper appreciation for the poetry and symbolism in his stories. He credits his contacts with “certain literary men” on the continent for his motive to “experiment” in his 1829 novel The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish with producing “a familiar poem, rather than a common work of fiction.”[7] Likewise, in his 1830 novel The Water-Witch, he intermixed the aura of supernatural mystery and his usual minuteness in describing locale—“the real with the purely ideal.” Twenty years later, in writing a new preface for the edition published by George Palmer Putnam, he could recognize the book as a “comparative failure” but still claim it as “a bold attempt” and “the most imaginative book ever written by the author.”[8] Up to this point, all of his works save his first, Precaution (1820), had deliberately maintained American settings and American characters, making them instantly recognizable to the common reader as “American” novels. In his next work, The Bravo (1831), however, as well as the two that followed, The Heidenmauer (1832) and The Headsman (1833), Cooper turned away from American “things”—its scenery, customs, characters--to examine more minutely the foundations of American principles. In doing so he directed his gaze at Europe, setting the scenes of The Bravo in the “republic” of Venice rather than in America, hoping to show Europeans the dangers of their governments and by extension to warn Americans about the potential for aristocracy—in this case commercial oligarchy rather than hereditary nobility—to take root in their own. The Bravo was a thesis novel, warning against concentration of power in a few hands.

Cooper’s new path at first won him accolades at home. Critics approved of the tale and the republican values Cooper was promoting, and The Bravo became a critical success as well as a strong seller--so much so that Cooper abandoned a plan for his next book, set on Lake Ontario “with Indians intermingled” (eventually to become The Pathfinder nine years later) to write The Heidenmauer, another European tale.[9] At one point his plan included some half a dozen European novels, if his letter to friend Peter Augustus Jay is any guide:

I have just published one book [The Bravo] and am already printing another [Heidenmauer]. I have shifted my ground to Europe, where, if nothing unlooked for arises, I propose laying the scene of half a dozen more tales. I do not know how you will like this transformation at home, but here, it appears to answer very well.[10]

But something “unlooked for” did arise, causing Cooper to abandon the series--and, for a time, his career as a novelist--after three novels.

Living in Paris from 1830-32 and keeping close association with Lafayette, Cooper was drawn into the French “Finance Controversy,” an argument over whether or not republican forms of government such as the United States had were cheaper than European systems. Though he wished to stay out of French internal affairs, he could not resist the importuning of Lafayette, who was then the most powerful republican in France, to respond to an article in Revue Britannique which had purported to demonstrate that the American form of government was more expensive than that in nearly every other country, not less so as Cooper had tried to show in Notions of the Americans. [11] Much as Cooper had set out to correct travelers’ misconceptions of the United States in Notions, in his Letter of J. Fenimore Cooper, to Gen. Lafayette he entered into a detailed statistical refutation. [12] This letter soon became a source of controversy in the French government, leading Cooper, with few public allies in the press to back him, into a series of follow-up letters to vindicate his statements. Worst of all was the fact that some American critics resented Cooper’s involvement at all in the internal affairs of a foreign country, and editors who were once Cooper’s personal friends, such as Charles King of the New-York American and William Stone of the Commercial Advertiser, turned to sometimes ruthless attacks. On 7 June 1832, eight months after The Bravo had appeared in print, a “review” of the work appeared in the New-York American, under the signature of “Cassio.” Abusive of the novelist as well as his writings, the piece, as James Beard summarizes, accused Cooper of “unintelligibility, self-imitation, mercenary motives, plagiarism, barrenness, and other literary sins.”[13] Upon being shown the article by an agitated Samuel F.B. Morse, Cooper opined that it must have been written by a Frenchman as revenge for his role in the Finance Controversy, particularly because the writer had quoted a French edition of The Bravo and had used what Cooper considered stylistic oddities in his English. Penning a letter to Morse on 2 April 1833 that Morse, in a misguided attempt to defend his friend, then published in the Albany Daily Advertiser, Cooper boasted that “I detected its French origin before twenty lines were read.”[14] Eventually, however, it was revealed that the author of the piece was no Frenchman but indeed an American (Edward Sherman Gould, who was at that time the Paris correspondent of the American). The “Cassio” incident proved to be a major embarrassment for Cooper, causing him to suffer ridicule not just in the review but in his handling of the “conspiracy” behind it. Over a year later, in his Letter to His Countrymen, Cooper was still explaining himself. Cooper thus became a target of opportunity, a symbol of arrogance, aristocratic (i.e., elitist) attitudes, and hypersensitivity.

In his business dealings Cooper was becoming frustrated, too. Carey & Lea, always tremulous about the large amounts they ventured on Cooper works, were discouraged with his European novels, perhaps reflecting some of the criticism then in circulation (Henry Carey, like many literary publishers, had Whig sympathies). Cooper’s earnings per novel had dropped from $5000 with The Water-Witch to $4500 with The Bravo, a sum that remained steady through the European series. Despite the unqualified success of The Bravo against Carey & Lea’s doubts, they expressed hesitation about his next novel, The Heidenmauer (1832), worried about bad conditions in the book trade, the quality of the story, and even the title—“that detestable name wh. no one can pronounce.”[15] Carey & Lea delayed publishing until September, supposedly to await more favorable conditions for sales. Whether or not Carey & Lea had created their own self-fulfilling prophecy from the start, they announced the following to Cooper on 8 October 1832:

The book is published, but we are sorry to say that it has failed – and failed more completely, we think, than any book you have written – The times are against it, but it was very much against itself, as you will perhaps be satisfied, should you ever read it over – It has not the interest that is to be desired & it has too much politics.—

Had it possessed the interest of many of your books it would have triumphed over the times, but wanting it, they have triumphed over it, as we feared would be the case – So strong was our impression that such would be the case, that we would very gladly have sold out at cost, or below it, before publication --[16]

Letters such as this raised Cooper’s already healthy distrust of publishers, causing him to confide to William Dunlap in November 1832, “My booksellers have been cutting me down gradually these four years, and they have lately written me such a letter, as they would not have written to a man, who had a cordial, or even a respectable support from the public.”[17] Cooper also fretted about his lack of control over the marketing of his novels in America, expressing alarm at the possibility of Carey & Lea publishing excerpts from his letters or advance chapters of his novels in newspapers, and displaying annoyance upon reading unsubstantiated rumors in the New-York Commercial Advertiser that “booksellers quarrel for his custom,” implying a mercenary spirit.[18] Such deteriorating relations prompted Cooper to write, clearly ironically, “I begin to distrust my ability to please gentlemen so exquisitely critical, though the moral is, that while you like nothing I do, of late, you do nothing yourselves!”[19]

With the foundations of his career crumbling, or appearing to crumble, Cooper was ready by the middle of 1832 to return to America to lay his uncertainties to rest, for better or worse. As he explained to Greenough,

I go home, if home I do go, to take a near view for myself, and to ascertain whether for the rest of my life I am to have a country or not. The decision will be prompt, free from all humbug, and final. It is time that we understand one another. I am tired of wasting life, means, and comfort in behalf of those who return abuse for services, and who show so much greater reverence for fraud and selfishness than for anything else. I can never change my principles except on conviction, but I should be a very dog to fawn on those who spurn me. I am heart-sick and will say no more on the ungrateful subject.[20]

When he and his family finally made their belated return to America in November 1833 (two years later than he had originally planned), however, the solution was not so simple. His feelings upon arriving “home” were mixed, but mostly inclined toward the negative: society had changed, his circle of friends had shrunk, and he returned a controversial figure rather than a celebrated artist. A mere ten days after arriving home he had concluded that “with the majority of those who affect to lead opinion, anti-American sentiments are in more favor than American. The heart of the nation, however, is sound, or else God knows what would become of us.”[21] Claiming that he remained in America for the sake of his family, Cooper stayed in New York while seeking out a more permanent residence, eventually purchasing the mansion his father had built in Cooperstown, Otsego Hall, remodeling it in the Gothic style to suit his tastes, and establishing his family there by May 1836, never going overseas again. Professionally, he planned to publish “a little work, of an entirely new kind”—eventually The Monikins—which would “probably be the last of my labour in the way of an author,” and then move on. To what, Cooper never seemed to be certain; he would not seek office or political appointment (denying rumors of the “Bank press” to the contrary),[22] and as a gentleman of his social stature and age (forty-four), his options were few.

While the Cooper family was still in New York, the attacks by “Cassio” resumed once again in December 1833, prompting Cooper to abandon his plan to slip silently away from authorship and instead to justify himself in print. Originally intending to publish his renunciation of authorship in one of the daily newspapers, the work eventually grew to become a pamphlet of over a hundred pages, its “hastily written” body supplemented by sixteen pages of postscript notes, corrections, and amplifications—Cooper holding a conversation with himself, as it were. After some delay, ostensibly due to conditions in the trade, A Letter to His Countrymen, by J. Fenimore Cooper appeared in June 1834, published by John Wiley, son of Cooper’s old publisher Charles Wiley. Those who wished to discover Cooper’s views were put in the position of having to pay for it, a move that no doubt gave credence to Whig caricatures of Cooper as mercenary in his business dealings. The letter itself makes public, in a more deliberate manner, many of the complaints he had voiced in his correspondence. Robert Spiller, with only slight hyperbole, ascribes Cooper’s motivation to his overidentification with republican principles: “Like Milton, he had always identified himself wholly with the cause he served. Any comment, whether praise or blame, upon his writing was a comment upon the principles to which he held. . . . He must defend himself in order to defend his country from herself.”[23] Under the thesis that America’s “practice of deferring to foreign opinion is dangerous to the institutions of the country,” Cooper not only complained of how British parliamentary precedents were being invoked in Congress (to justify the censure of Jackson for removing funds from the Bank of the United States) but also exhaustively detailed his ill-treatment over The Bravo (including as “ancillary data” that American critics were being influenced by politically-motivated hostility toward him in Europe).[24] In laying aside his pen, he attributed his disappointed hopes of being “useful in my generation” to the failure of his countrymen to achieve mental and intellectual independence: “I have felt a severe mortification that I am to break down on the question of distinctive American thought.”[25] Had he stuck to the vigorous tone of his letters, he would have produced a more readable tract; as it stands, the piece is stiff and lawyerish, and its emphasis on minutiae belies the “suitable simplicity” he sought in his tone.[26] Unfortunately for Cooper, his attempts at a dignified tone, as well as the elaborate explanations to justify himself, only confirmed his egotism in the minds of his opponents. The predictable result, as James Beard states, was that “Cooper’s remarkable naïveté in coupling personal and partisan political issues invited the Whig editors to argue their political points by smearing the author.”[27] For the rest of the decade Cooper would become a stock figure for self-important ineptness in the more polemical papers of the Whig press.

The close of A Letter to His Countrymen, with its sixteen pages of postscript following the hundred-page farewell, is a suitable emblem for the next four years of his career. No clear direction suggested itself, but Cooper continued to add footnotes to his supposedly finished career, still writing in a vein of social observation and criticism. He continued work on the “few half-finished manuscripts on other subjects” he had mentioned to Greenough, publishing The Monikins in July 1835, an allegorical satire he had started in 1832, and then a series of five travel memoirs based on his journals and recollections from seven years abroad: Sketches of Switzerland and Sketches of Switzerland, Part Second (the Rhine) in May and October 1836, Gleanings in Europe (France) and Gleanings of Europe: England in March and September 1837, and Gleanings in Europe: Italy in May 1838. From December 1834 to February 1836, Cooper also contributed letters on current events to New York’s The Evening Post under the pseudonym “A.B.C.,” becoming, as it were, a prototype of the syndicated columnist. Free from many of the constraints of his existing reputation, he could enjoy a more candid approach to the issues, and his letters were often reprinted in other papers.[28] Other projects were also kept in motion, most notably research for his naval history of the United States that he had started in the 1820s but also a “little book for schools” on American government and manners, The American Democrat, and eventually a local history of Cooperstown, The Chronicles of Cooperstown, both published by H. & E. Phinney in Cooperstown in 1838. Meanwhile, he dabbled in other investments, including a purchase of land in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, and oversaw the renovations to his house that Morse had masterminded.

By the time he arrived at his “freak” notion of writing another novel in mid-1837, it had become clear that apart from The Monikins none of these other projects he had completed since the Letter to His Countrymen would add much to either his income or his reputation. He had sold The Monikins for a respectable sum--$2500 from Carey & Lea (now Carey, Lea, & Blanchard) and £550 (about $2650) from Bentley[29]--but both publishers reported heavy losses on their investments, the work being almost universally panned, in part due to Bentley’s insistence that the work “make the usual number of volumes” of a regular novel but mainly because of its unorthodox nature and the reputation of its author.[30] The work soon became a sore point for both publishers, with Carey, Lea, & Blanchard complaining of losses of $2600 on the work and Bentley, who already felt deceived about the nature of the work, stipulating a deduction of £100 should Cooper’s next work also fail to sell.[31] With the travel books, Cooper could also report no greater success. Despite Switzerland’s gaining some currency as a guidebook and Italy’s earning praise for its relative freedom from politics, the series was a critical failure, with England coming under particularly hostile fire for the gossipy, damning portrayals of “society” life it contained. His negotiating power rapidly declined, sparked by the heavy losses on The Monikins: from his American publishers he received $1000 for both parts of Switzerland, $750 for France and England, and only $200 for Italy, the firm initially having “no inducement to take Italy as a speculation” considering the difficult times and the losses they had sustained on the previous volumes.[32] Bentley was more forgiving, allowing Cooper £200 (roughly $975-$1025) for each of the two volumes on Switzerland as well as for France and Italy, and £300 (roughly $1450-$1500) for England, but he, too, was glad to hear of the end of the travel series. “I am glad to hear,” he wrote on 13 May 1837, “that with ‘Italy’ you intend to close your Sketches of travel, inasmuch as though the consideration hitherto paid to you is very modest, the publication, as I have already mentioned, is unattended by profit.”[33]

Such statements have often led to the assumption that these publishers, who had once reaped healthy profits from their dealings with Cooper, were “indulgent” in keeping him, operating at a net loss out of respect for his earlier reputation and gratitude for the early rewards their partnership had brought. Although such a case could plausibly be argued for Bentley by the end of Cooper’s career, such was hardly the case for Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. Scholars focusing on each new book that Cooper published have inadvertently created the impression of a linear progression of one-time literary performances, as if once a book were published it quickly disappeared from the scene.[34] They have tended to overlook the fact that he had considerable literary property in his old books, which were still popular with the public—perhaps even more so than some of his more recent ones. For these valuable properties Cooper often showed very little concern, not fully realizing even late in his life how profitable they could be. In 1827 he had struck a bargain with Carey & Lea for rights to five of his old books—The Spy, The Pioneers, The Pilot, Lionel Lincoln, and The Last of the Mohicans—wherein they could reprint as they saw fit for the remainder of the copyright period for the books. For this he had received $2500, or $500 for each book. In 1836 he renewed this agreement, granting Carey, Lea, & Blanchard rights to “re-print and publish” these books “until you shall receive a written notice – from me to the contrary –” an agreement that would last until August 1844 (shortly after his connection with the firm ended) for all except Mohicans, which was erased from the agreement in September 1841, “it having been included by mistake.”[35] Nothing indicates a payment to Cooper for these rights; perhaps in light of losses suffered on The Monikins, he had granted these rights to the firm as a concession, but it is difficult to be certain. Unlike most of their new publications, the reprints were not entered into the firm’s cost books, so their true value to the company is still very much a mystery. Whatever the case, though, these copyrights could not have been attended with much loss to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. New imprints appearing between 1826 and 1838 were plentiful, as the table in Appendix A demonstrates (See Appendix A). Even The Heidenmauer was being issued in “A new edition” in 1835, only three years after Carey, Lea, & Blanchard had bemoaned its failure. Certainly the mere existence of these imprints does not always indicate a new printing: occasionally a new title page graced unsold copies of older editions. But many of the “new editions” issued between 1833 and 1836 did represent new impressions. Further highlighting the Carey firm’s profit potential on these reprints is the fact that despite Cooper’s own contract with Bentley to revise, correct, and provide new prefaces for many of his novels to be included in the “Bentley’s Standard Novels” series (with compensation of £50 a book), the American publishers opted not to buy rights to these revised editions but continued to reprint from their existing—and sometimes corrupt—stereotype plates. Indeed, until George Palmer Putnam’s 1850 publication of a new author’s revised edition, The Last of the Mohicans continued to be reprinted from its original 1826 plates.[36] Overall, the frequency of these reissues taken together suggests that whatever losses might have amounted with The Monikins and the travel books, the publishing relationship with Cooper still had a substantial potential for profit.

The lack of any reprints save Last of the Mohicans and The Water-Witch for 1834 is noteworthy, for it reflects one of the first of the many famines in the trade that would typify the 1830s. President Jackson’s withdrawal of deposits from the Bank of the United States in September 1833 had slowly caused repercussions in the economy and the book industry, with the folding of New York’s Collins & Hannay in February 1834 marking the first of many bankruptcies. Carey, Lea, and Blanchard were more financially robust than most firms, but they also had substantial credit extended to many of the bankrupt firms, including Collins & Hannay.[37] Unwilling to risk too much in such a market, the Carey firm halted most of their new publications: some seventy titles that had been announced were never published, as David Kaser notes.[38] Richard H. Gassan further points out that some sixty out of 129 cost book entries for 1833-1834 show no binding costs, suggesting that they were left printed and unsold till business improved.[39] By 1835, more normal conditions returned, as the profusion of Cooper reprints reinforces. The timing of Cooper’s “retirement” had saved him from some of these fluctuations, but the dismal mood in the book trade would not be shaken easily. Financial panics during the next several years, particularly that of 1837, kept the industry on edge, with money being difficult to come by and credit being a risky thing to extend. In such a climate, Cooper’s non-fiction travels were easily outpaced by reprints of his older works. The travels, though printed in tiny editions of 1000 or 750 copies, never sold well enough to be reprinted. Carey’s firm issued no new reprints of Cooper’s novels in 1837 either. It is no wonder, then, that Cooper would report to Bentley in his proposal for his germinal “Templeton in 1837” that “Carey is at me constantly” for a novel, for fiction was one of the few things that continued to sell with some regularity.[40] Nothing else on his agenda was likely to be attended with substantial profit, save possibly his long-awaited History of the Navy, and that only in America.

With an apparent lack of clear plans after the History of the Navy (eventually to appear in 1839) and the other smaller projects on Cooper’s agenda (The American Democrat and the revised edition of Precaution), one can hardly help but wonder how much of a “freak” his idea for a new work of fiction really was. Certainly his plan for the book itself was new, but a postscript of a letter to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard from 8 September 1837 gives an impression that a new novel project may have been forthcoming even if it had followed a different plan: “I am in a half negotiation with Bentley for a novel, and have sold him the Naval History. We differ as to subject, mine being a whim of my own, which has seized upon me suddenly, and he being a little [surly?] about the sea – By the way, what do you say to the Naval History?”[41] The difference only “as to subject,” rather than the yes or no question of whether to write a novel or not, seems to suggest an inevitable return—Cooper with his mind made up, but unsure of how to proceed, given his previous bridge-burning and the “disgust” he needed to overcome.[42] Possibly, of course, Cooper may have had reason to talk up the proceedings to raise Carey’s interest, since at that time their relations had sunk to a low point due to the failure of the travel series, and Bentley’s support for a new work would carry great weight in swaying his American publishers. Ultimately, the deals Cooper struck showed Bentley to be the more impressed: he agreed to £500, nearly the old rate for Cooper’s novels, while the Philadelphia firm made its original bargain for the book at $1550 for 3250 copies, with arrangements for further editions if necessary, a deal that failed to meet Cooper’s expectations, as he told his wife: “I have made an arrangement with Carey, for the New-Book. It is not what I hoped for, though, in the end, it may do better.”[43] What followed from these agreements was a work that soon evolved to something quite unlike what his publishers—and even perhaps Cooper himself—had expected, stretching the ordinary format of the novel so much that it became two books, Homeward Bound and Home as Found. The constraints of the typical novel were becoming increasingly inadequate for Cooper’s new purposes as a novelist.

That Cooper should return to fiction with social observation and criticism in mind is hardly surprising from a thematic point of view, given the course of his career earlier in the 1830s, yet it is remarkable considering the financial and critical rebukes his social observations had earned him. His stated plan for the book as expressed in the preface to Homeward Bound (written after it was clear that one book could not handle the job) suggests a good deal of continuity with the travel literature that immediately preceded it:

It was commenced with a sole view to exhibit the present state of society in the United States, through the agency, in part, of a set of characters with different peculiarities, who had freshly arrived from Europe, and to whom the distinctive features of the country would be apt to present themselves with greater force, than to those who had never lived beyond the influence of the things portrayed. (1:iii)[44]

With his attention focused this time toward his own country, getting his audience to read and buy such a book naturally presented a challenge. Americans had bought European books critical of American institutions and manners, such as Fanny Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans out of curiosity about what opinions someone from the “mother country” had about her colonial cousins, and Cooper had earlier tried his own pseudo-travel narrative (Notions of the Americans) as well as direct address—neither with much success. His European trilogy had advocated American principles by extension but had done so through romantic story lines and settings. The question remained unanswered as to whether or not Americans would buy the new type of book he was writing, one that would contain an “international” theme and portray American society as it existed in the present. How could Cooper structure such a story to make it interesting?

The development of the tale shows that Cooper himself did not have all the answers even as he began work on the tale. A very linear writer who usually worked with only a minimum of outlines or notes for his stories, he had occasionally gotten himself into binds earlier in his career while writing new types of novels then without existing parallels. With both The Spy and The Pilot, he had nearly abandoned the books in despair of ever finishing them before finally working out a way to proceed. In instances like these the now-established customs and expectations of the novel format—two volumes in America, three in England—became a burden on the spirit of experimentation Cooper so often showed. In order to assure his publisher that The Spy would not extend to an excessive length, for instance, he had written and set in print the final chapter before writing many of the preceding ones. Bentley’s own stipulation that The Monikins be a work of the “usual number of volumes” and “of a nature to be considered as one of your works of fiction”[45] essentially ruined Cooper’s plan for a short, succinct satire, as his daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper recollects:

But, as a complete work, the book was scarcely successful; it was too long, the vein of irony was often too complicated, while the blending of the humorous story of Sir John and his lady-love, introduced to give the volumes something of the character of a regular novel, was clearly an error. . . . “The Monikins” is one of those books which prove that publishers may sometimes mistake their own interests. It would have been the author’s wish to write a single volume, exclusively filled with his Monikin people. . . ; something approaching to the regular novel in size and plot was required of him, in order to attract, if possible, the general reader. The attempt to combine both objects proved, as might have been foreseen, an error.[46]

The problem with the Home novels stems, in part, not from any particular stipulations that his publishers had imposed upon him in advance but, rather, from false expectations he had created in selling his proposal for the book and unseen difficulties in adapting his new approach to the ordinary limits of the novel as he wrote his story.

For his main characters, Cooper reached back to his second novel, The Pioneers, which had already been the genesis of three of his most famous books in bringing before the world Natty Bumppo, the old hunter. But for the Home novel, Cooper explored an alternative sequel. Much as The Pioneers had presented a slice of frontier life in Templeton (a fictionalized version of Cooperstown), rather than a tale of adventure as Cooper had subsequently developed in The Last of the Mohicans and The Prairie, the new Home novel would bring Templeton to the present day in an attempt to show how America and Americans had changed in the four decades that intervened between the settings of the two tales. For his main cast, then, he created descendants of the nominal “hero” of The Pioneers, Oliver Effingham (a.k.a. Oliver Edwards), who had married Judge Marmaduke Temple’s daughter Elizabeth at the close of that novel: Edward Effingham, a graying widower of fifty; his daughter Eve, a young woman of eighteen, and his cousin John, who shares Edward’s birthday, age, and appearance but not his mild temperament. These characters would be brought back to Templeton after a stay of fourteen years in Europe, evoking implicit comparisons with the well-known frontier setting of The Pioneers.

Bentley, however, had predicated his offer for the tale on the assumption that it would contain some adventure: should the novel be “a tale of the sea, or of the back-woods, I would venture, notwithstanding the disastrous nature of the times, to offer you (supposing the work to be of the usual extent) the sum of Five Hundred Pounds for the copyright in England.”[47] Templeton in 1837 was hardly the backwoods, and given Cooper’s cast of genteel protagonists the option of dragging them through the forests was essentially out of the question. America in 1837 had little of the wild character of the frontier in its eastern settlements. The sea, however, was still full of wildness and adventure, and Cooper, as the “father” of the sea novel, was perhaps even more famous in his own time for his nautical romances than for his forest ones. Thus, instead of beginning his tale on American soil, Cooper begins his tale as the Effinghams and the rest of the cast are about to embark upon their voyage home to America, boarding the American packet ship Montauk, skippered by one Captain Truck. Cooper’s decision to begin his novel this way seems calculated to meet Bentley’s expectations, and perhaps also to raise the interest of readers and to draw them into the story before dropping the full weight of his thesis upon them (a plan he would continue to follow in his Littlepage Trilogy of novels in 1845-46, culminating in the didactic The Redskins).[48]

Certainly his plan to include both ship and shore elements had a great deal of potential, as his 1844 double-novel Afloat and Ashore (in many ways a revisiting of the “American gentleman” themes of the Home novels) would demonstrate more artfully. Setting part of the story aboard ship would allow Cooper to display in the two Effingham men and in Paul Blunt that combination of American values, European grace, and nautical acumen which, in his view, constituted the ingredients for the ideal gentleman. Edward Effingham’s exterior denotes equal ease on ship or land, so much so that “several of the seamen swore he was a man-of-war’s man in disguise” (1:8). The nautical knowledge of Eve’s eventual suitor, Paul Blunt/Powis, earns him the respect of Captain Truck (1:103) and his heroics in the upcoming action would show better than any parlor scene could that he is a man of action and suited to Eve’s hand. The device of a ship also would bring together in close proximity classes of society normally not likely to associate to any great degree. Homeward Bound is perhaps the first major novel to treat the ship as a microcosm of society, a theme later convincingly developed by Melville. Here Cooper brings together with the Effinghams characters of good breeding, such as the mysterious Mr. Sharp (later revealed to be Sir George Templemore, an Englishman, using a pseudonym upon finding out that an imposter is on board) and Mr. Blunt (Paul Powis, who turns out to be of American extraction), as well as lower-class characters such as the alcoholic Mr. Monday, the imposter Sir George Templemore, the Yankee reporter Steadfast Dodge, and others. Melville later would explore in Moby Dick the more “cosmic” sense of the microcosm, but here Cooper’s interests are nowhere as lofty. It is, indeed, “people-watching” that dominates Cooper’s concern in both parts of the Home tales. Conveniently, the boarding of the ship gives Cooper an opportunity to introduce the other characters of the book through an almost Chaucerian procession, with the Effinghams, from their cabin, commenting upon each group as it boards.

The most important of these characters to Cooper’s satirical aims is Steadfast Dodge, a newspaper journalist from New England, editor of the “Active Inquirer,” and extreme democrat. In him Cooper blends two of his dearest prejudices, that against newspapermen and that against New Englanders, to create a caricature of the “press-ocracy” (1:196, 214) that Cooper felt was attempting to dictate in America. The name Steadfast Dodge itself conveys the lack of consistency that Cooper saw from this class, whose only real constant, he felt, was certainty of avoiding the truth in the drive for personal and partisan gain. Dodge’s chief aim is popularity; desiring to be a “man of the people” (1:88), he has no sense of individuality in terms of having distinctive opinions of his own. Yet his quest for popularity gives him an ambition (or, as Eve more aptly notes, “a pretension that mistakes itself for ambition,” 1:194) that will stop at nothing, as long as his own neck is not on the line. He is nosy: Cooper compares him on several occasions to the Inquisition (1:78, 170), and he snoops in the staterooms to read the Effinghams’ letters (1:211). The public, after all, has a right to know. Full of provincial ignorance and prejudices, he attempts to portray his own biases as public sentiment, even going so far as to suggest to Captain Truck that the course he has chosen for the ship is “monstrous unpopular” (1:86). To such an ultra-democrat, polls and committees are his addiction. At one point he is polling the passengers on their preferences of Van Buren versus Harrison (1:79); at others, he proposes putting Truck’s decisions to a committee vote. Despite his leveling devotion to democracy, however, he butters up people of influence, such as the imposter Sir George Templemore (who is really no nobleman at all), and blindly admires English ways. He dislikes the Effinghams, Mr. Sharp (the real Sir George Templemore), and Mr. Blunt (Paul Powis), however, because they do not condescend to participate in his schemes. They are, to Dodge, too “purse-proud and grand” (1:86) because they value their privacy, live with refined habits, fail to see that “one man is as good as another” (1:95), and do not condescend to participate in his schemes. The action of the story shows Dodge to be a coward as well; apart from his bravery in attacking political minorities, at “the instant party-drill ceased to be of value, Steadfast’s valour oozed out of his composition” (1:89).

Dodge is often thwarted in his feckless scheming by the unflappable Captain Truck, himself a New England man but one who knows his craft and knows his position in society. Confident in his command, and in his knowledge of international maritime law as set forth by “Vattel,”[49] Truck decides to flee a British revenue cutter seeking to board the Montauk as she departs Portsmouth to search for an English defaulter, on the grounds that such a search would be a belligerent act. From this Cooper builds the adventure of the story. Cooper, up to this point in his career, had never set a novel so near the present day, and the challenges of finding suitable motivations for adventure, particularly in a time of peace, were considerable to him. Indeed, most of Cooper’s other tales with a contemporary setting (most notably The Redskins and The Ways of the Hour) show weaker plots, longer digressions, and more chattiness among the characters; the exception, Jack Tier, leaves the dubious implication that the only contemporary adventure to be had lay in the hands of those who were up to no good. Cooper’s handling of the story starts out advantageously: plot and dialogue blend in balanced proportions. But with the pace established, he could not so easily get his ship and characters across the ocean to America. Soon after Truck evades the British cutter and gets fairly out to sea, the British cruiser, the Foam, is spotted in the distance giving chase to the Montauk. Unable to discern the motive for the chase (they would hardly bother for the sake of a defaulter), Truck again decides to run. The Foam, however, is not so easily outrun, and depending upon conditions, one ship has only slight advantage over the other. Making the best of his packet-ship’s capabilities, Truck changes course, gets caught in the gale, and loses his pursuer—and the masts of his ship. By now they are off the western coast of Africa, where, after meeting an American ship that agrees to take most of the Montauk’s steerage passengers, Truck decides to put ashore near a Danish wreck whose masts are intact to refit his ship. Here, perhaps inspired by Captain James Riley’s Sufferings in Africa (a best-seller reprinted several times after appearing in 1817), Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive (Tyler’s only novel, for which Cooper expressed his admiration), or his own research on the Barbary Wars of 1801-05 for his History of the Navy, Cooper brings his characters into contact with a hostile party of Arabs. By this time, the story, like the Montauk itself, has gone off course. The “sea” half of the work had grown so long that Cooper could no longer do justice to the “shore” parts of it within the usual physical constraints of the novel.

Cooper’s “official” explanation of the situation appears in his preface to Homeward Bound, most likely written after that novel was completed:

By the original plan, the work was to open at the threshold of the country, or with the arrival of the travelers at Sandy Hook, from which point the tale was to have been carried regularly forward to its conclusion. But a consultation with others has left little more of this plan than the hatter’s friends left of the sign [referring to “Franklin’s well-known apologue of the hatter and his sign”]. As a vessel was introduced in the first chapter, the cry was for “more ship,” until the work has become “all ship;” it actually closing at, or near, the spot where it was originally intended it should commence. Owing to this diversion from the author’s design—a design that lay at the bottom of all his projects—a necessity has been created of running the tale through two separate works, or of making a hurried and insufficient conclusion. The former scheme has, consequently, been adopted.

It is hoped that the interest of the narrative will not be essentially diminished by this arrangement. (1:iii)

Likewise in the preface to Home as Found he pleads, “We are fully aware of the disadvantage of dividing the interest of a tale in this manner; but in the present instance, the separation has been produced by circumstances over which the writer had very little control” (1:iii)[50] These explanations may or may not be partial or wholesale falsehoods, but they do seem to run counter to what can be established as facts about the composition of the book. Cooper’s seminal notion of “Templeton in 1837” as he first proposed it to Bentley may very well have been to start the story “at the threshold of the country,” but his first revelations about the tale to someone outside his family, expressed in a letter to his best friend Captain William Branford Shubrick on 2 October 1837, suggest that no such plan was followed once he commenced writing but, rather, that an equal division between sea and land settings was intended:

Now for a secret. The state of things in this country has put another novel into my head. My plan is laid, and the book is already one sixth written. I think it will be done in November – I shall call it “Homeward Bound, or the things that are.” One volume on board a London Packet, another at Templeton. It is a regular novel, and half sea half shore. This is a secret, however, though the book is contracted for on the other side. As yet I have mentioned the name to no one but my wife and yourself. You may tell it to yours, who will tell it to Mary, who will tell it to sixteen more, and I shall save something in advertisements. If it stop with Mary [Shubrick’s daughter], however, I shall not complain.[51]

The language there—“My plan is laid”; “One volume on board a London Packet, another at Templeton”; “half sea half shore”—render his later claim shaky. Besides Cooper’s barely concealed glee about the “secret” nature of his communication, the letter reveals a vague bravado about how this “half sea half shore” division would work out on paper.

Cooper’s preface also gives the impression in his preface that “others” are responsible for the hijacking of the narrative, yet apart from Bentley’s interest in having Cooper write another sea story, no surviving documents give any indication that such was the case. As it was, Cooper kept having to break the news to Bentley about the nautical elements taking over the work. By the time he sent the first third of the book to Bentley (English novels typically being published in three volumes versus two in America) on 17 October, the book had already become two-thirds nautical:

Dear Sir,

By the packet of the 24th I send to your address, care of Roskell, Ogden & co Liverpool, the manuscript of vol. I. of

Homeward Bound


Afloat and Ashore,

by the

Author of the Pilot and the Pioneers

…Two Volumes of Homeward Bound will be at sea, the third at the Templeton of the Pioneers, at the present day. The volume you will receive is merely introductory, but the next, I think will be a little exciting.[52]

Likewise he reported to Shubrick in an update of 8 November that

Homeward Bound is half done, and one volume has gone to England. It will be a little rum in the last vol -- scene at Templeton: the two first volumes are nautical and rather interesting though quite in a new way. Not in the least like either of the others, or as little so as comports with the sea I think. The girls [his daughters], who have copied it for me, rather like it.[53]

By now, however, with two-thirds of the novel at sea, there was no way to do justice in the remaining third to his plans ashore. In terms of the dramatic unity of the story, it would hardly do to tack on a much more sedate story on land after his sea adventure as a sort of drawn-out denouement to the tale; better to save the “shore” portion for another work. He knew from experience that Bentley preferred works of the standard British three-volume size (equivalent to the American two-volume), which had become a fixture of lending libraries in England, so adding a fourth volume was not an option that Cooper entertained, and he did not propose the idea to Bentley, seeing as how the work was to be “of the usual extent.” The length and unnecessary plot complexities of the remainder of the Arab siege suggest that Cooper was drawing it out to fill the requisite number of pages. A month later, as he sent Bentley the second volume, he reported how his plans had undergone further change as the nautical adventure took over the work, nevertheless painting a rosy picture of things, and keeping mum about his plans for the Templeton part of the story:

When I wrote you before, I thought this book would be part sea and part shore –- In advancing I find it necessary to make it nearly all sea, so that I wish you to omit in the title “Afloat and Ashore,” and merely preserve “Homeward Bound.” We are just coming to the strong scenes, which I hope will satisfy you --”[54]

Bentley had long been expressing interest in a nautical work from Cooper’s pen, and Cooper’s letter maintained an impression that the work had become just that. But by 21 January 1838, he was forced to show his plan for the continuation of the story at Templeton, a plan which would involve an entire additional book:

You will find that contrary to my original intentions, <that> this book is all sea. I found it impossible to do my plot justice in the narrow limits I had left myself and it is necessary to continue the tale in another work to be put to press immediately. The Preface will explain the plan -- I hope this division of the subject will not essentially affect the sale of Homeward Bound, as the adventures of the ship terminate in it, and I think when the continuation, which I shall call, “At Home,” or by some such name, appears the two works will sustain each other. There is a pretty good plot, and an excellent opportunity to develop it in the continuation -- If, however, it should be found that the separation of the subject, is likely to affect the sale of “Homeward Bound” I will make a deduction on the price of the continuation. I shall assume that you will take the latter, and send you a volume, in about a month. My own opinion is that the continuation will be better liked in England than in America, as I do not spare the follies and peculiarities of this country -- You have had many caricatures of our society, and my aim is to give a true picture, coute qui coute.

Bentley, faced with the alternatives of publishing only half a tale or accepting Cooper’s presumptuous “offer,” had little choice but to contract for the continuation, which would be called Home as Found in the United States, renamed Eve Effingham; or Home by Bentley for England. His reply indicated his “regret” that Homeward Bound would not be completed in one work, requiring a “continuation”; his experience with sequels showing that they did not sell as well as the first part, usually justifying a smaller printing and a deduction in payment. “In this respect,” he continued, “you have been so considerate as to anticipate me by being prepared to make a deduction in the price of the continuation,” namely, £100 from the price he had received for Homeward Bound. In an effort to give Cooper the benefit of the doubt “should the Work be more successful than sequels generally are,” Bentley offered to print the same size edition as for Homeward Bound and pay Cooper the £100 difference “should the impression go off.”[55]

Cooper worried, however, that Carey, Lea, & Blanchard might not take the sequel at all, telling his wife in a letter of 25 May 1838 that “I think my connection with Carey draws near a close. I do not expect that he will publish either Home-As-Found, or the Naval History.”[56] It was difficult enough to get them to take Homeward Bound considering their unhappiness over the travel series, and with all that had gone wrong with Cooper’s planning things did not look good for the Home as Found. Carey, Lea, and Blanchard also had to endure frustrating delays in publication for Homeward Bound as well as on Italy. They had planned to save time and produce a more accurate edition by printing from Bentley’s sheets rather than from the manuscript, yet the sheets failed to show up at the expected time. “This delay we fear will make sad work,”[57] the firm wrote to Cooper on 29 March, and the first set of sheets did not arrive until 22 May, over a week after Bentley had already published. Finally publishing their edition of Homeward Bound on 4 August 1838, some three months after Bentley’s, the Philadelphia publishers did not anticipate a large sale, especially knowing how much change the plan for the work had undergone. Consequently, they seem to have settled no bargain for Home as Found. Cooper had reported on 13 April that "‘Home as Found’ is about half ready, and I must soon know whether you print it or not," but no offers were forthcoming over the course of the next three months, leaving Cooper in limbo.[58] But on 10 August 1838, a mere six days after Homeward Bound was published, their position had changed:

It is now nearly two weeks since "Homeward Bound" has been issued & there is a reasonable prospect of the edition going off. Under this expectation we are now ready, if you have not disposed of the continuation, to take it on the same terms. Viz, of course to print from the London edition, which can be ordered[?] out by return of the Great Western sailing on the 16th. The difference of cost in printing from that on the M.S. is material.[59]

Cooper’s original reply of 14 August is unlocated, but probably contained inquiries about the fate of Homeward Bound and the payment of some notes due him. Following up on their letter of a week earlier, with more urgency, they proposed terms in hopes of striking a quick bargain:

Dear Sir,

We have your letter of 14th in & are very glad to be able to inform you that we have only about 250 copies of "Homeward Bound" on hand & from the present state of orders we are satisfied that more will sell. It would not, however, answer us to engage the same number of copies as before & a less number would not admit of the same pay per copy & to sustain the composition. We would therefore suggest what you may refuse, but that which we are satisfied would prove most to your interest, that is to permit us to stereotype "Homeward Bound" at once & if done instantly we will take 2000 copies & pay you one thousand dollars for them, from which will be deducted the Bill for stereotyping. The plates of course to be yours. We accept your offer for "Home as Found" but do not send you our notes believing that it is your interest to stereotype this work also. If you agree with us in this idea we will print 4000 copies from the plates & pay you two thousand dollars less the cost of stereotyping. The plates & copyright of course yours.

If you think as favorably of this as we do it need not interfere with these notes which you now demand as they can be sent at once. These are our suggestions & we know them to be sound, but fear that you will not agree with us. It is for you to choose. But, bear in mind that you can then command the market to its full extent & the result may be to place more in your pocket than an absolute sale of the copy right.

As we are now to publish the new book it must be a quick operation & it would perhaps be best to print from the M.S. as it ought to appear without much delay. Pray send it at once & we will decide in regard to this.[60]

The proposed stereotyping of both works demonstrated the publishers’ anticipation of healthy sales for the works beyond the editions printed—something that had not been in evidence for the initial agreement of Homeward Bound (nor, apparently, for any of the European travel series). Cooper, hoping to make his income from the works as predictable as possible, haggled with Carey’s firm over the terms of the agreement. He objected to the provision that he absorb the stereotyping expenses (which could sometimes run to greater costs than expected, particularly if corrections needed to be made), and suggested slightly different terms for the use of the copyright. With these details ironed out, Carey, Lea, & Blanchard laid out the final terms in a letter of 1 September, to which Cooper acquiesced in his own letter on the same day, agreeing to allow Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to stereotype both works at their expense and to print the 2000 more Homeward Bound and 4000 Home as Found. For these Cooper would receive $800 and $1800, respectively, paid in notes as was their custom. An allowance to print further copies within the next two years was also agreed upon, the publishers originally stating a payment of $500 for every 1000 copies above the stipulated printings, but amending their proposal in a postscript, probably at Cooper’s insistence, to a payment per copy of fifty cents—a wise move on Cooper’s part to avoid loopholes whereby the publishers might issue a lower number of copies.[61] Cooper’s bargaining to have the stereotyping done at the publishers’ expense proved wise: by sacrificing $200 on his sale price for each book he was able to avoid paying stereotype bills of $430.56 and $480.54, respectively, out of his own pocket.[62]

Lea & Blanchard’s (Henry Carey’s retirement was announced on 1 October 1838) new urgency to get the sequel out can be seen in their publishing the American edition of the work nearly two weeks before Bentley issued his in England (Lea & Blanchard on 15 November, Bentley on 28 November). What the publishers ended up with in Home as Found, however, was a vastly different book from Homeward Bound. Most of the characters remain, with a few new players thrown in—most notably Aristabulus Bragg, a lawyer born in western Massachusetts who, with his speculating, his contempt of tradition, and his crude manners, embodies the bragging “go-a-head-ism” (1:25) of Americans, as his name suggests. Brought from the microcosm of the ship into the larger world, characters are no longer thrown together by chance and necessity. Yet somehow one finds Dodge turning up at the Effingham home in Templeton—with little explanation of why they keep putting up with him.[63] With the adventure at sea over, no subsequent plot emerges with sufficient strength to provide “interest” to the narrative; instead, the work is more episodic, like The Pioneers. Like that book, the nominal plot concerns a mystery of identity, here that of Paul Blunt, now Paul Powis, who at the end of Homeward Bound was removed from the Montauk by Captain Ducie of the Foam—the same British cruiser that had pursued them on the other side of the Atlantic. Eventually it is revealed that Paul Powis is really Paul Effingham, John’s son from a secret marriage that even Edward Effingham did not know about. By the end of the story, too, Paul has successfully courted Eve. Little else in the way of plot guides the work, with the main lines of the story being fictionalized versions of some of Cooper’s own experiences upon returning to America. The first seven chapters take place in New York City, with visits to old friends, society galas, and the stock exchange. Then comes a trip up the Hudson River and west to Templeton, where Edward Effingham’s house, originally built for Marmaduke Temple in The Pioneers, has been refurbished in the gothic style under his cousin’s supervision, albeit not with complete success (Cooper had his own house remodeled with assistance from Samuel Morse, also with mixed results, most notably a castellated roof that accumulated ice in winter). The Effinghams find in New York that they are labeled as “Hajjis” on account of their “pilgrimage” to Paris, and in Templeton that their property rights matter but little to the people of the town, many of whom are migratory New Englanders who are ultimately just passing through on their way west.

In one telling incident, the Effinghams find that townspeople have trespassed on and vandalized a family picnic ground, Fishing Point, causing Edward Effingham to post a notice in the local newspaper, which prompts an outcry among the so-called leaders of the town who claim that the public owns the spot. An article by Dodge spreads word of the battle throughout the region, and even the proof of title the Effinghams can produce does little to lessen the hysteria of their opponents. This episode is but a thinly disguised version of Cooper’s experience with a plot of family land at Three Mile Point on Lake Otsego. When Cooper gave notice that the public was no longer to trespass on Three Mile Point, newspaper editors in the region, and eventually Thurlow Weed in Albany, denounced him, triggering the first wave of Cooper’s numerous lawsuits for libel.[64]

Another noteworthy chapter in the book seems much less connected to actual events but demonstrates Cooper’s attitude toward the literati and trends in literature at the time. Before leaving for Europe, Cooper was at the center of New York literary life, as a frequent socialite at Wiley’s bookstore and as the leading member of the “Bread and Cheese” club. But upon his return to America he avoided most literary connections. Perhaps the dominance of Whigs in the New York literary circle had something to do with it, but there was also the fact that he had heard few of his fellow authors standing up for him while he attempted to defend America overseas. Whatever his motivations, Cooper turns a satirical eye to the literary scene with the suggestion that few real literary talents exist in America, at least in what passes for the literate circles. In chapter six of the novel, Cooper takes his characters to a literary soirée of one Mrs. Legend, “a lady of what was called a literary turn” (1:92) who fancies herself the lynchpin of New York literate society. At a prior gala elsewhere, a naïve young woman had assumed that Captain Truck was an Anglican clergyman, so that by the time Mrs. Legend’s ball comes around gossip has further inflated Truck’s reputation to make him a prominent English writer, the “Hon. And Rev. Mr. Truck, a gentleman traveling in our country, from whose liberality and just views, an account of our society was to be expected that should, at last, do justice to our national character” (1:93). Consequently, every literary aspirant of modest talent turns out for this “rally of literature” to meet the supposed Englishman. Cooper’s catalogue of them leaves few contemporary genres untouched:

We might here very well adopt the Homeric method, and call the roll of heroes and heroines, in what the French would term a catalogue raisonnée; but our limits compel us to be less ambitious, and to adopt a simpler mode of communicating facts. Among the ladies who now figured in the drawing-room of Mrs. Legend, besides Miss Annual, were Miss Monthly, Mrs. Economy, S. R. P., Marion, Longinus, Julietta, Herodotus, D. O. V. E., and Mrs. Demonstration; besides many others of less note; together with at least a dozen female Hajjis, whose claims to appear in such society were pretty much dependent on the fact, that having seen pictures and statues abroad, they necessarily must have the means of talking of them at home. The list of men was still more formidable in numbers, if not in talents. At its head stood Steadfast Dodge, Esquire, whose fame as a male Hajji had so far swollen since Mrs. Jarvis’s réunion, that, for the first time in his life, he now entered one of the better houses of his own country. Then there were the authors of “Lapis Lazuli,” “The Aunts,” “The Reformed,” “The Conformed,” “The Transformed,” and “The Deformed;” with the editors of “The Hebdomad,” “The Night Cap,” “The Chrysalis,” “The Real Maggot,” and “The Seek no Further”; as also, “Junius,” “Junius Brutus,” “Lucius Junius Brutus,” “Captain Kant,”[65] “Florio,”[66] the ‘Author of “The History of Billy Linkum Tweedle’, the celebrated Pottawattamie Prophet, “Single Rhyme,” a genius who had prudently rested his fame in verse, on a couplet composed of one line; besides divers amateurs and connoisseurs, Hajjis, who must be men of talents, as they had acquired all they knew, very much as American Eclipse gained his laurels on the turf; that is to say, by a free use of the whip and spur. (1:94-95)

The Effinghams, however, have heard of none of these writers in this inbred crowd, even though “most of them had been so laboriously employed in puffing each other into celebrity, for many weary years” (1:99). Among such a crowd, Truck becomes the center of fawning adulation. They sigh in longing over his supposed Englishness, and debate whether his head is “Byronic” or really more “Shakespearian,” with “a little of Milton about the forehead” (1:98). None of them can actually name anything he may have written. Truck finds himself in a “category”—his term for a hot spot—as he is badgered by the crowd for his insights, and as soon as he can, he escapes to a corner of the room where three authors of true talent, Mr. Pindar, Mr. Pith, and Mr. Gray, are assembled. These modest and insightful men quickly discern the mistaken identity, and they aid the frazzled captain in procuring a light for his cigar. Attracted by the scent, the crowd soon besieges Truck again, admiring his unusual manners. By now Truck is “fairly badgered into impudence,” and he spouts off noncommittal or nonsensical answers to equally nonsensical questions with as much certitude as if he were issuing an order aboard ship:

“Do you think, Mr. Truck,” asked D.O.V.E., that the profane songs of Little have more pathos than the sacred songs of Moore; or that the sacred songs of Moore have more sentiment than the profane songs of Little?”

“A good deal of both, marm, and something to spare. I think there is little in one, and more in another.” (1:107-08)

“Is Gatty (Goethe) really dead?” inquired Longinus, “or is it the account we have had to that effect, merely the physical apotheosis of his mighty soul?”

“Dead, marm—stone dead—dead as a door-nail,” returned the captain, who saw a relief in killing as many as possible. (1:110)

Truck’s answers, of course, are taken as gospel by his admirers, until the crowd suddenly thins out. Steadfast Dodge, envious of the attention Truck was receiving, had “let the cat out of the bag” (1:111). Cooper’s satiric take on the gullible New York literary circle ends with a baiting comment on the fictional nature of the whole thing: “As for the literary soirée, the most profound silence has been maintained concerning it, neither of the wits there assembled having seen fit to celebrate it in rhyme, and Florio having actually torn up an impromptu for the occasion, that he had been all the previous day writing” (1:112).

With such satire as this, Cooper could anticipate that the book would not be a success with the critics. On the day the novel was issued, Cooper cherished no great expectations: “Home As Found is published, and will not take, of course, though no one has yet read it,” he wrote to his wife.[67] The reviews would justify his prediction.

A new novel by Cooper after so many years’ absence was significant news, and Homeward Bound and Home as Found were widely reviewed. Cooper’s enemies naturally used the occasion of the books’ appearance to renew their attacks, but even these reviews are not without insight into the literary character of the book and the critical acumen of the period. Almost unanimously, critics expressed distaste for Cooper’s introduction of social commentary in a work of fiction. Yet reviews of Homeward Bound also show some reviewers eager to accept Cooper back on his old terms. Cooper, of course, was working under new ones, and Home as Found quickly erased whatever positive sentiments the critics had earlier expressed.

The serious, rather than politically motivated, reviews of Homeward Bound and Home as Found confirm that the two-part structure of the story caused many readers initially to underestimate the extent of Cooper’s social purposes for the tale. Reviews of Homeward Bound are often marked with gratitude for Cooper’s return to fiction and admiration for his talent for the sea tale. Substantial portions of the reviewing class expressed themselves ready to forgive Cooper his "sins" of the past years on account of his still considerable powers as a storyteller. Generally disliking the social criticisms that permeate the work, many critics nevertheless tolerated these as remnants of Cooper’s unpleasant phase, as if they were only digressionary distractions from the story rather than central to Cooper’s theme. The reviewer for Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine welcomes Cooper with the “advice of a well wisher” to “never leave the ship, unless you wish a ramble in the woods of your native land--you have done yourself no credit by your recent wanderings in foreign parts,” continuing with praise for another novel from his pen:

We are truly rejoiced once more to see the author of the Pilot on his old cruising ground. As some atonement for the jaundiced sermonisings lately inflicted upon the faithful public, he has given us another "Tale of the Sea"--a story replete with wholesome excitement, and abounding with those minute and vivid descriptions which have gained Mr. Cooper a name pre-eminent in the ranks of imaginative writers.

Whereas Cooper’s nonfiction works are so filled with prejudice as to be scarcely believable, Cooper’s fictions are so life-like as to “impart the charm of actual truth.” The reviewer for Burton’s goes so far as to recommend Homeward Bound as “one of the very best books of the day.” [68] Another reviewer in the Journal of Belles Lettres (probably Fitzgerald Tasistro) opines that although Homeward Bound “partakes largely of his former errors and faults as well as beauties,” many readers “must have pardoned Mr. Cooper his recent sins of publishing, for the pleasure they have received from his thrilling scenes and incidents in ‘Homeward Bound.’” For the reviewer’s part, “We always pardon a man recently returned from abroad if he is a little savage on manners and things in general,” although there are some doubts as to whether Cooper will let up, as he seems to have a “heart scald of some kind.” Nevertheless, Cooper is “again so happy in his sea scenes that the reader is continually tempted to forgive him, and to exclaim that he is ‘as good as ever.’” The reviewer’s final assessment is that “with all its faults "Homeward Bound" is not a bad sea novel; the conclusion we shall be as ready to devour as we have been eager to hurry through the commencement. It will be a real kindness not to delay the publication of whatever is to follow.”[69]

The Southern Literary Messenger contains two reviews, the first welcoming “the wanderer back once more to the sea—the open, the grand, and stirring sea.” Cooper, to the reviewer, is “the very embodiment of mental fortitude, and he is only at home when he is in the voiceless solitudes of the lands or seas.”[70] The other review, prefaced by a long essay on the proper style to be used in a novel, also commends Cooper’s return to fiction, expressing relief that he has returned to his proper sphere: “When we first heard that ‘Homeward Bound—A Tale of the Sea,’ was in press, we hailed with delight the novelist’s return to his own good ship and ancient cruising ground; for, with many others, we had lamented his late rover life, and thought that he was gaining neither honor nor gold thereby.” The reviewer also expresses “impatience” for the sequel.[71] Even the anti-Cooper New-York American pleads for more of the kind of writing Cooper had formerly produced:

We certainly concur in the cry of ‘more ship,’ for, upon the ocean, Mr. Cooper always produces something worthy of his reputation; and were we of the council, we should earnestly advise that the promised sequel, if it must come, instead of being devoted to an exhibition of the present state of society in the United States, should content itself with the return voyage of the Montauk.[72]

Two weeks later, the American reprinted a portion of a review of Homeward Bound from the Alexandria Gazette (which had, in turn, reprinted the review from the American mentioned above). It criticized the American for being “hardly severe enough. . . . Apart from the sea scenes, the book is intolerably dull and uninteresting. Some parts of it are laughably ridiculous—others Monnikinish—which may be made to mean heavy as lead.” But the reviewer goes on to admit that “Cooper is, nevertheless, at home, on the sea.” His problem lies in thinking that he is “a great political economist” and “moreover, a moral philosopher—and he would fain weave his disquisitions on these subjects into his novels. He makes a great mistake. He spoils his books—and does not advance his theories.” In concluding, the reviewer expresses, like many others, the hope that Cooper will return to his old grounds: “Cooper is a man of talents, and might put his powers to use and profit. His Spy, Pioneers, Pilot, &c. proves that he has many of the requisite qualifications for a Novelist. Why will he not walk in the path he, at first, marked out for himself. His ambition might then be satisfied.”[73]

The North American Review, reliably anti-Cooper for years, did not have even the ambivalence of most other critiques. The reviewer, most likely Francis Bowen, claims that Homeward Bound, like the rest of Cooper’s recent works, has “added nothing to his own reputation, or to the stores of American literature.” Cooper’s powers of description are virtually the only positive: “Nothing redeems it from utter and deplorable dulness, save a few descriptive passages, and two or three animated actions.” The socio-political “outbreaks” in Cooper’s recent books might be expected from “a ruthless partisan, careless of truth in aiming at the reputation of an opponent whom he wishes to ruin,” but the “poet and the man of letters, sitting apart, ‘in the still air of delightful studies,’ ought to be wholly exempt” from them.[74] Less severe is The Knickerbocker, a less partisan journal, which begins by noting the brisk sales of the work:

These volumes have already passed to a second edition, and the publishers have found it necessary to stereotype the work, in order to supply the increasing demand. Moreover, many of the most spirited passages, which could be separated from the context, and preserve their interest, have been extensively copied in the journals of the day.

The reviewer disapproves of Cooper’s using the novel as “a vehicle for the expression of private opinion, or promulgation of prejudice, against his own country, her institutions, manners, customs, etc.,” yet defends Cooper against the denunciation he has suffered in recent years:

Is this the man, we cannot help asking ourselves, who is now denounced, in respectable periodicals, as ‘a writer without talent, above the ordinary level, and his scenes as conveying to a stranger no permanent impression?’ The celebrity of which we have been speaking, was deserved. . . Even the faults of his productions are preferable to the tame insipidities and corrupt morals of most modern novels. . . What though, at times, our Homer not only nods but snores? . . . Are not the ‘Spy,’ the ‘Pioneers,’ the ‘Pilot,’ and ‘Lionel Lincoln’ his, also? Who can forget them? Is there not in all these fine original productions enough of good to lessen present animosity, and to atone for much that has been brought against our author?

The reviewer recommends, then, that the total sweep of Cooper’s career be considered in the present assessments. And as to the proper response to the new books, the reviewer takes a decidedly market-oriented approach: “Let the silent disapprobation of public opinion, if need be, correct misplaced dalliance with unprofitable or interdicted subjects. Books that are not read, are not sold, and books that are not sold, are not written.”[75]

Reviewers found much to fault with Cooper’s abilities to draw appealing characters (though Captain Truck generally wins favorable remarks), with comments directed most often at his rendering of Eve Effingham and particularly Steadfast Dodge. Eve is criticized as “a pompous absurdity” and “a mere doll, born in America and sent to Europe to be dressed.”[76] She proves that “Mr. Cooper is ignorant of those delicate conceptions of feminine character, that should distinguish a novel writer; and she moves before our eyes the artificial boarding-school girl, ripened through the tortuous avenues of affectation, into the cold and stately patroness of prudery.”[77]

Dodge, however, receives special contempt from the reviewers, particularly as Cooper’s satire hits closely to home for many of them. “Mr. Dodge, the traveling editor of the Active Inquirer, is an extravagant fiction—certainly the original can exist nowhere but in Mr. Cooper’s brain, teeming as it does with all sorts of horrid visions of American editors,” states the New-York American.[78] To the reviewer at The Journal of Belles Lettres, the exaggerated difference between Dodge—“a poor, sniveling, ignorant, Yankee editor”—and the exclusive Effinghams shows Cooper’s “derangement,” since Cooper “takes the best and the worst of two opposite classes, and puts in the keeping of the latter the American character”; Dodge is “a broad caricature, though, as in caricatures generally, there may be a likeness.”[79] The reviewer for The Knickerbocker, noting that Dodge is meant to stand for the entire “editorial fraternity” in America, exclaims, “Now what a sweep is here! There are no reservations, whatever. . . Such wholesale caricaturing will work Mr. Cooper ‘much annoy,’ and his reputation no little harm.”[80] The Southern Literary Messenger claims in its first review that Dodge “is made to utter as much nonsense as should gratify Mr. Cooper’s spleen for the balance of his life. . . Now we are willing to wager a box of segars with Mr. Cooper, that there is no man in America, particularly no American editor, who could utter sentiments so perfectly ridiculous, as those attributed to that unfortunate representative of our calling, brother Dodge!”[81] In the second review in that periodical, the critic goes so far as to bring up the idea of libel:

Mr. Dodge is not only a caricature, but a gross libel on the newspaper editors of our country; not because there are none of that profession equally despicable, but because he is held up as a fair representative of the whole class, and the author’s declared object is the correct delineation of the state of American society.[82]

The notion of “libel” was certainly on other reviewers’ minds too, whether or not Cooper’s early libel suits were spurring their thoughts on the matter. The reviewer for Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine writes that “If any other author had conceived such a character as Dodge, he would have been denounced by Mr. Cooper himself as a libeller of the United States and the prerogatives of its citizens.”[83] The Burton’s reviewer, moreover, thinks that Cooper “unconsciously satirizes himself” in the character of Dodge when Dodge is shown reading excerpts from his “travels” to passengers aboard the Montauk. The New York Review, however, sees little to fear in Cooper’s drawing of Dodge, wounding as it is: “still the press has nothing to fear from the shafts sped from our author’s bow, so long as they are aimed at such a man of straw as he has here shot at.”[84]

In all these reviews, one can see the trouble that would be brewing for Cooper with Home as Found. Reviewers consistently disapproved of the social themes of the book, both in terms of the specific criticisms involved and in terms of their suitability to be included in a novel. The aims of fiction were recreational, to “amuse and occupy our hours of leisure,” according to The North American Review.[85] As the Southern Literary Messenger would express the matter,

The great majority of readers seek in a novel, as their principal and almost exclusive object, light and agreeable entertainment. Works of fiction that do not afford this, no matter what merit they may possess otherwise, are usually thrown aside as insipid and worthless. Such food is sought for, not as a means of nourishment, but for the piquancy of its flavor. Whatever, then, may be the favorite object with which a writer composes a novel, certainly his first and chief aim should be to make the story interesting—the plot and incident should receive primary attention.[86]

Almost by accident, Cooper had followed to some degree the guidelines stated by the Messenger: in Homeward Bound he had maintained a plot with sufficient adventure to keep his former successes as a storyteller before the reader. Cooper himself seemed surprised at the success of the story: “The Book has a goodish name in this part of the world, much better than I anticipated, I confess,” he wrote to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard three weeks after the book appeared. Had Cooper maintained a sense of adventure in his sequel, his social criticisms might have been better received, but to most reviewers, Home as Found presented all of the “bad” Cooper and none of the good.

The publication of Home as Found almost completely erased the welcome Cooper had received upon returning to novel-writing. Reviewers often express a feeling of betrayal, bitter in their disappointment at the turn the story had taken. The substitution of a more Pioneers-like loose and episodic plot in Home as Found for the adventure of Homeward Bound quickly made Cooper’s real aims apparent, and its setting on American soil rather than in the romantic world aboard ship or on the coast of Africa made Cooper’s critiques hit home with much more force than they had in the previous work. In Homeward Bound much of Cooper’s criticism of America, when not coming from the mouths of the Effinghams or the narrator, had been concentrated in Steadfast Dodge, but in Home as Found it becomes more widespread and hits on other recognizable types. One can only speculate on how Cooper’s fortunes might have been different had he been able to unify the tale better, both in its structure and in its publication. It seems apparent enough, though, that whatever good the two-part structure of the Home tale did him at the start, the concentration of his domestic criticism in Home as Found brought him considerably more ill-will than it would have had the work been published outright as a unified whole.

One of the kindest of the reviews, that of the Southern Literary Messenger, agrees with Cooper that America is comparatively barren of materials for a “Roman de Société. Nevertheless, Cooper makes too much use of dialogue and opinion to carry the story:

Instead of endeavoring to throw the fascination of romance around his opinions, he has attempted to make the latter supply the interest which his story lacks. No Roman de Société ever written, however well it may have illustrated particular social manners and customs, has owed success chiefly, or in any great degree, to this excellence. Indeed, had Mr. Cooper made his original purpose collateral to that of producing a finished tale, however he had failed as to the former, he might nevertheless have given entire satisfaction to a reader contemplating only an agreeable recreation.

The reviewer constantly remarks Cooper’s “exceedingly loose and unfinished” construction and “awkwardly constructed, diffuse and inflated sentences.” Cooper’s plot is as bad as anything “put forth by the most infantile magazine or newspaper contributor that the public forbearance has emboldened.” The reviewer also finds Cooper to be too liberal a Christian, and objects to his introduction of “polemic theology of a particular sect” into a work of fiction. Cooper is advised to exclude religious discussion from his fiction, or at least to remember that “trifling levity” and “sarcasm and ridicule” are unfit weapons for “ecclesiastical warfare.”[87]

The New York Review differs from Cooper’s polemical Whig enemies in attributing Cooper’s supposed maliciousness to “a bursting out of superabundant bile” rather than the venting of his spleen the Whigs inevitably reference. The reviewer forgoes “literary criticism” of the work to consider the moral issues involved: “the literary offenses seemed to be so completely merged in the moral one, as to be undeserving of notice.” Cooper’s great sin is giving, under “the convenient disguise of the characters of a novel,” a picture of his own country “more falsely colored than was ever drawn by any foreign hireling.” As he is a countryman, and carries a literary reputation, his criticisms fall more heavily than if any ordinary American had made them. Claiming to be a friend “to our country, to justice, and to letters,” the reviewer leaves Homeward Bound and Home as Found wishing “that Mr. Cooper had not written them.”[88]

The Albany Evening Journal, under the guidance of Thurlow Weed, whom Cooper had already threatened with a libel suit over comments he had made about Cooper relevant to the “Three-Mile Point” incident in Cooperstown, also noticed the book. Weed maintains the forms of the typical review while resorting to outright mockery in his comments:

There may be those among the readers of the Evening Journal who struggled through the pages of "Homeward Bound," in obedience to some feeling as prompts the Antiquary to visit a time-worn shrine, not for what it is, but for what it has been, not to admire its present ruin, but to ponder over its past magnificence. Should the same motive urge them to a repetition of the experiment, spite of dear bought experience, they will be at a loss to discover in "Home as Found" the faintest trace of Mr. Cooper’s former powers, and will be forced to draw largely upon their imaginations to realize the fact that the author of the Spy, the Pioneers, and the Prairie, is identical with the splenetic and self-conceited hack who has elaborated such dull drivel.

On the literary qualities of the book, Weed pronounces “The plot, what there is of it, is bungling and improbable, and the aliases of the Hero are quite too numerous for the most accomplished pickpocket in the land.” He ascribes Cooper’s motive for writing the book as “an opportunity of wreaking his vengeance upon those who had offended his dignity, in a field all his own.” The work shows above all, according to Weed, that Cooper’s skills as a novelist are exhausted: “the fire of his genius is extinct: peace to its ashes!”[89]

These critiques were mild, however, compared to those Cooper received at the hands of partisan Whig journalists. Reviews like the ones above hinted at or openly suggested a want of patriotism, moral judgment, or good character, but ventured nothing blatantly false in terms of factual information about Cooper or his novels. What turned the tide for Cooper was when supposed literary criticism of his work went beyond simply questioning his character to include promulgation of deliberate falsehoods about him or his writings. A review by James Watson Webb in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer for 22 November 1838 set things in motion. Webb, who had been briefly acquainted with Cooper in boyhood, had recently returned from Europe himself, and he viewed Cooper’s efforts in Homeward Bound and Home as Found to be attempts by Cooper to gain more money overseas. That this can be proven false today, given the constantly downward slide of Cooper’s earnings from England, mattered little at the time; Cooper had no wish to draw specifics of his income into the public sphere. Cooper refuted many of Webb’s other charges with little difficulty too, but one charge was harder to shake: that his character Edward Effingham was little more than a vain self-portrait. Although Cooper would eventually win on even that point in a court of law, the attribution, once made, had staying power.

It is difficult to capture the flavor of Webb’s commentary in summary, filled as it is with the animated language of condemnation. Although other Whigs who picked up on the cause, particularly Park Benjamin, expressed their ridicule of Cooper with a sense of humor, as if delighting in denigrating him, Webb’s remarks carry the full weight of serious resentment. His charges against Cooper are as follows:

Let any candid person read attentively “Homeward Bound,” and “Home as Found,” and he cannot fail to arrive at the conclusion, that the leading purposes of the author, were, first, to create a market for his works in England, in imitation of other hireling writers; secondly, to give vent to his spleen against his countrymen for not hailing his return as they did that of Washington Irving; and thirdly, to produce the impression abroad that he is in the descendant of a long line of noble ancestors, and in point of antiquity of family, not only far above his countrymen, but the equal to the noblest blood in England.[90]

Webb attributes commercial motives to Cooper’s criticism of America in Home as Found, claiming that by destroying the character of his country in literature, he could earn more money from his English editions. According to Webb, then, Cooper is a traitor to his country and should leave it:

We may, and do know him as a base minded caitiff, who has traduced his country for filthy lucre and from low born spleen; but time only, can render harmless abroad, the envenomed barb of the slanderer, who is in fact a traitor to national pride and national character. . . we ask as a duty incumbent upon all Americans, that they may be universally read in this country at least; and then there will ascend to Heaven one universal prayer, that the viper so long nursed in our bosom, may shortly leave our shores never again to disgrace with his presence a land to which he has proved an ingrate, and to which he has been anything but a reputable, useful, or even harmless citizen.

In addition, if his motives to gain favor with the English do not offer enough reason to condemn him, Cooper has domestic motives for the reckless cruelty of Home as Found, according to Webb:

Another object of this selfish book is to enable Mr. Cooper to abuse the public for having laughed at his political address to the people in behalf of General Jackson, when he hoped to be appointed Secretary of the Navy; and also to explain the nature of his recent quarrel with the villagers in regard to a certain Point of Land in Lake Otsego, and to villify and traduce Lockhart, whom he declares to be “inherently a knave,” for having reviewed as he did, Mr. C.’s work on England.

Most offensive of all to Webb, however, is Cooper’s supposed attempt to create for himself the air of nobility about him by embodying himself in the novel as the character Edward Effingham. Webb worries that European readers, not having access to factual information about Cooper, will glean improper assumptions about Cooper’s personal nature. He takes pains, at the expense of facts, to demonstrate Cooper’s low origins and high aspirations. Although it is supposedly “well known that he has named his place and dates all his letters from “Temple Hall,” Cooper’s father, who rose from humble beginnings to become a Congressman and one of the largest landholders in the state of New York, was only, according to Webb’s selective emphasis, “a highly respectable WHEEL-WRIGHT of New Jersey, who has frequently been heard to declare that he was proud of his occupation and only regretted that while he labored at it, he was unable to manufacture as good wagons as his brothers in the trade.”[91]

Cooper’s portrayal of himself as Edward Effingham, therefore, bespeaks the highest vanity to Webb. He lists various instances of Cooper’s using flattering adjectives to describe Effingham: “At page 130 of vol. I he speaks of himself as ‘the mild and thoughtful Mr. Effingham!’” and so forth. After giving these specific examples, he recapitulates them collectively:

What we have extracted, is with a view to demonstrate the justice of the apparently harsh terms we have used toward this “handsome,” “thoughtful,” “mild,” “Philosophical,” “upright,” “clear-headed,” “just minded,” and “liberal” Gentleman, whose “courtesy and mild refinement” are so self-evident, and who is so “simple, direct, and full of truth,” that he has published two volumes to prevent the public’s forgetting it.[92]

Cooper’s supposed portrayal of himself as Edward Effingham was too good to resist, and other allies of Webb’s soon picked up on the notion.

Park Benjamin, then on the editorial staff of the New-Yorker, is acknowledged to have written the “review” of Home as Found” which appears in the edition for 1 December 1838. Practically disclaiming the real role of the reviewer from the start, Benjamin writes,

After many vigorous struggles to read “Home as Found,” with any thing like that particularity which is necessary for a criticism, we gave up the attempt in downright despair. It is duller even than “Homeward Bound;” and he who could go deliberately through the whole series of four volumes, would be regarded with no less wonder than that remarkable individual who is pointed at by the boys in Broadway “as the man what read the Monikins.”

But Benjamin takes a different view from Webb on the question of Cooper’s writing to earn more in England, stating that Cooper’s contempt falls wherever he may happen to be. Benjamin portrays Cooper as supposing that he alone would be the proper teacher to instruct on European and American morals, an idea which strikes Benjamin as the height of folly. Cooper, he rants, must be crazy:

We differ from Mr. Webb in the opinion that Mr. Cooper’s object in villifying his own country and lauding Europe was to make his works saleable in London. Mr. Cooper is too fond of pouring out his bile and venting his spleen, to wait for a motive to induce his course of conduct or writing. When in England, he blackguarded the English; now that he is at home, he blackguards his own countrymen. He is as proud of blackguarding as a fishwoman is of Billingsgate. It is as natural to him as snarling to a tom-cat or growling to a bull-dog. Finding that people would not buy his books of “Gleanings”—which he put forth as outlets for his pent-up indignation—he resorted to his old trick of novel-making, and took advantage of those forms of literature, under which he had become popular with the American public, to asperse, villify, and abuse that public. But he has not sown the wind without reaping the whirlwind. He is the common mark of scorn and contempt of every well-informed American. The superlative dolt! Did he suppose that no intelligent Englishman had every moved in our circle of good society, so that his lying caricatures would not be trampled under foot? Quem Deum vult perdere, prius demenat. If this adage be true, and Mr. Cooper be not near his ruin, he is the craziest loon that was ever suffered to roam at large without whip and keeper. We respectfully hint to his friends the necessity of an early application to the benevolent Director of the Insane Hospital.

Further, despite these minor shades of difference with Webb, Benjamin agrees wholeheartedly with the idea that Cooper portrays himself in Edward Effingham: “Mr. Webb charges Mr. Cooper with making himself the hero of his tale under the name Mr. Effingham; and the charge is irrefragably maintained.” [93]

Cooper’s response to Webb and Benjamin would sooner (in Webb’s case) or later (in Benjamin’s case) take the form of legal action, and others would become involved too, based upon their comments either on Cooper or the lawsuits. In the meantime, the “Effingham” attribution made its rounds to critics in other areas. In Philadelphia, the reviewer at Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine obviously had been paying attention to Webb’s review, for he addresses the matter of Cooper’s supposed courting of favor among Europeans, as Webb had charged:

We believe he has no intention of rendering America and Americans ridiculous in the eyes of Europeans, for the sake of currying favor with the Europeans, but we positively do believe that Mr. Cooper’s jaundiced views will not allow him to speak well of any country in the world, except it presents a comparison degrading to the land under repudiation by the universal defamer.

Nor does the reviewer agree with the charge of “anti-nationality” against Cooper, for “From some physical defect, or some deeply seated disease which has produced mental obscuration of the most dense description, Mr. Cooper has, within these last few years, found fault with all creation, excepting his own immaculate self.”[94]

The review of Home as Found in the Southern Literary Messenger also shows signs of influence:

“Mr. Cooper has been charged with attempting a portraiture of himself, in the character of Mr. Edward Effingham. . . . There is scarcely any popular novelist who has not borne the same accusation, and perhaps there has been some ground for it wherever it has been made. . . . But Mr. Cooper has given stronger ground for the charge. . . . He has introduced into the narrative well-known scenes in his own private history, and has embodied in his delineation of Mr. Effingham many of his before-expressed opinions on various subjects, and even his peculiar feelings and prejudices.”

But given that most novels “are partially founded on fact,” the reviewer “cannot see why Mr. Cooper may not embellish or illustrate his narrative, by describing scenes in his own life, and yet have no intention to bring himself before his readers,” though it may be imprudent to do so.[95]

“Fact” would indeed become the key issue for Cooper in fighting his opponents. Cooper, in New York at the time of Webb’s “review” of Home as Found, fired off his first response to Webb’s opening salvo in a letter to the New York Evening Post that same day, denying the allegations and setting the stage for his future proceedings:

Mr. Editor –-

The Courier & Enquirer of this morning, in a pretended review of Home as Found, contains a series of libellous falsehoods of a personal nature. . .

It is not true that I call my house ‘Temple Hall,’ or Templeton Hall, any more than it is true that I have endeavored to delineate myself in any character of any book I ever wrote. The scene of Home as Found, is transferred to the Templeton of the Pioneers, in order to show the difference which half a century has made in the appearance and usages of an American village. The house in which I live was originally called ‘Otsego Hall,’ a name that was early lost in the American term of ‘Mansion House.’ On my return from Europe, I found the name changed by the inhabitants to Templeton Hall, with a connection too obvious to need explanation. It is hardly necessary to say that such a name was unpleasant to me, and I caused the old name of Otsego Hall to be revived, in order to get rid of it.[96]

Cooper refuted claims that he wrote Home as Found to get a higher price in England (“I never wrote any thing with a view to higher or lower prices”), that he hoped to become Secretary of the Navy, that Webb had known him since youth, and that he had once said there were “not three ladies in America.” Ending on an ominous note, Cooper concludes, “As the libels of the article will be made the subject of a legal investigation, I shall say no more.” Amusingly, Cooper did say more two days later; he had consulted his memory and could confirm that, indeed, he had not made the “three ladies” comment, or if he had, it was in “no serious conversation,” but only in “some moment of levity or of pleasantry.” Cooper had become so cautious of the motives of his enemies at this point that he wished “to guard myself against the effects of even that quibble.” And by this point, he had already given instructions “to prosecute for the grossest of these libels.”[97] Cooper would settle the matter in a court of law by suing Webb and, eventually, Benjamin, William Leete Stone (of the New York Commercial Advertiser), Horace Greeley (of the New York Tribune), and Thurlow Weed, among others, for libel.

Revelant as his famous libel suits are to Cooper’s career and his sense of authorship, the complete course of them is too complicated to recount here. Fortunately, despite the need for further scholarship in this area, several works have provided detailed accounts. Ethel Outland’s The “Effingham” Libels on Cooper, which appeared in 1929, is the first thorough consideration of Cooper’s legal battles.[98] Although Outland is a little too zealous in claiming that Cooper was instrumental in laying the foundations for America’s libel laws, relying on “testimony” from a contemporary legal expert, she provides a study that is objective in tone and rich with excerpts from the primary sources. Another secondary work, Dorothy Waples’s 1938 book The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper, gives comparatively little information about the libel suits but a good deal about the political battles that inspired them. Her argument suffers from excessive partisanship, evident both in her denigrating Cooper’s Whig opponents and in her making Cooper a party Democrat—something he certainly was not, though his sympathies usually lay in that direction at the time.[99]

Although discerning whether either side’s real motives were predominantly based upon principle or self-interest would be difficult, both sides certainly saw larger issues at stake. For the reviewers, the matter was portrayed as a stand for the freedom of inquiry necessary to conduct a proper review of a book when that book called for a sharper than usual critical eye. As Park Benjamin states, the issue is one of the respective “immunities” of authors and critics:

Does an author fairly subject himself to personal criticism by submitting a work to the public? Not necessarily, we are inclined to believe. But if he makes his work the channel of disparaging remarks upon others—whether individuals or in masses—is not the case essentially altered? . . . If he made his works the vehicle and engine of his personal resentments, would not personal feeling be expected to enter somewhat into the criticism which they could hardly fail to call forth?[100]

One of Cooper’s own perspectives on the matter can be seen in a letter to the editors of the Journal of Commerce dated 15 June 1840:

Has not the author of a book the same right to obtrude on the public his private opinion concerning the private affairs of his fellow citizens, as the editors of newspapers? Or have the latter, in your estimation, acquired rights by the long and gross abuses that they have practiced, in connection with this subject that are peculiar to themselves?[101]

The relationship of authors to their critics up to this point in American literature had largely been dictated by critics, who lay down the “proper” principles of fiction, poetry, and so forth, that American authors ought to follow. Cooper had often flaunted those principles but had never violated them with such a vengeance as he did with Home as Found. Now, as an author, he wished to pin down the specifics of the relationship with more certainty.

The lawsuits transferred the question of what was properly considered a “review” and what were a reviewer’s rights and privileges to a court of law, causing a great outcry among Cooper’s opponents, who viewed the move as a cowardly one indicative of the failure of his powers as a writer. The lawsuits had implications for creative authorship too, for in order to win his “Effingham” lawsuits he needed to demonstrate, among other things, that he was not the Mr. Effingham of Home as Found. And from this came broader questions, to be settled, it seemed, in a court of law rather than in literary circles: did an author have the right in a work of fiction to draw upon whatever he wished? And what exactly constitutes a fiction?


Almost every reader and critic of Homeward Bound and particularly Home as Found admits to the basic truth of the claim made by Cooper’s Whig enemies that in Mr. Edward Effingham, Cooper intended an idealized self-portrait. The resemblances in circumstance, thought, and self-image are too numerous to miss. But to be fair, Edward Effingham is only one part of Cooper’s complicated self-portraiture in these novels. Cooper had mentioned, in proposing the tale to Bentley, that he “had some disgust to overcome” in reconciling himself to the idea of writing another novel. He seems to portray much of that disgust through Edward Effingham’s cousin John Effingham. In the Home tales, Cooper creates two characters that are virtually doppelgangers, representing his own divided character toward his own country, Edward Effingham embodying the optimistic Cooper, John Effingham the pessimistic.

Edward Effingham and John Effingham are noted from the beginning of the book to be so nearly alike as to practically be twins. Their similarities are uncanny:

Edward and John Effingham were brothers’ children; were born on the same day; had passionately loved the same woman, who had preferred the first-named, and died soon after Eve was born; had, notwithstanding this collision in feeling, remained sincere friends, and this the more so, probably, from a mutual and natural sympathy in their common loss; had lived much together at home, and travelled much together abroad, and were now about to return in company to the land of their birth, after what might be termed an absence of twelve years; though both had visited America for short periods in the intervals,-John not less than five times.

There was a strong family likeness between the cousins, their persons and even features being almost identical; though it was scarcely possible for two human beings to leave more opposite impressions on mere casual spectators when seen separately. Both were tall, of commanding presence, and handsome; while one was winning in appearance,- and the other, if not positively forbidding, at least distant and repulsive. The noble outline of face in Edward Effingham had got to be cold severity in that of John; the aquiline nose of the latter, seeming to possess an eagle-like and hostile curvature,-his compressed lip, sarcastic and cold expression, and the fine classical chin, a feature in which so many of the Saxon race fail, a haughty scorn that caused strangers usually to avoid him. (Homeward Bound, 1:10)

The two men are a study in opposites in some respects, John usually coming out on the dark side: Edward Effingham gets his wealth from his hereditary estate and is relatively free from the world of commerce, whereas John has inherited a commercial fortune of much greater value, yet owns nary a scrap of land (Homeward Bound, 1:11). Cooper himself was the son of one of New York’s most powerful land holders, but the death of his father and brothers, the press of widows and orphans, and a plummeting market in land values stripped away most of Cooper’s fortunes in the decade previous to his becoming an author. Returning to Otsego Hall, he had begun to renew his pursuit of the country gentleman-farmer lifestyle, purchasing a mountainside farm he called “The Chalet,” though he never tried his luck in trusting to the farm alone for his support. Like John Effingham, too, he had gained much through his commercial, professional status as an author, a pursuit which, if it made him more money, also brought him more vexation, not unlike that displayed by John Effingham. John is the more variable one, given to “caustic” remarks or “growling” in sarcasm, whereas for Edward, sarcasm with much bite is “quite unusual for him” (Homeward Bound, 1:16). Edward Effingham has lived in “intellectual retirement” free from the strife of the world, amiable and virtually unflappable, and, if not sophisticated, at least correct: “and while hundreds were keener, abler in exposition of subtleties, or more imposing with the masses, few were often as right” (Homeward Bound, 1:56). John Effingham, on the other hand, possesses “an intellect much more acute and vigorous than that of his cousin,” but also “passions less under control, a will more stubborn, and prejudices that often neutralized his reason” (Homeward Bound, 1:56). As a younger man “he had plunged into the vortex of monied speculation” and had “entered warmly and blindly into all the factions and irreconcilable principles of party,” getting himself entangled in the errors “with which faction unavoidably poisons the mind” (Homeward Bound, 1:56). John Effingham is not without his good qualities, of course; Paul Blunt finds him to be “so different from what report and his own fancy had pictured” (Homeward Bound, 1:129), and he, more than anyone, becomes the father Paul never knew (long before finding out, at the end of Home as Found, that he really is Paul’s father). John simply tells the truth in a more caustic manner that renders him less transparent to the casual observer or foe.

Through these renderings of Edward and John Effingham (often repeated with variation throughout the two books), Cooper creates, as it were, a reflection of his own “split personality” in regard to his own career and his feelings toward his native land. Cooper’s life, despite all its successes, was one of losses that stripped him of what should have been an easy life as the youngest son of a wealthy landholder. Edward Effingham seems a portrait of what Cooper might have been and what he still attempted to be in his ideals. He would perhaps be less keen but morally more correct. Yet the realities, the unhealed wounds, and the predilection for sharper words seems to speak to the Cooper who has “plunged into the vortex” of professional authorship, becoming a sophisticated artist, active and engaged in the world, at the expense of his peace and good nature. How intentionally Cooper created these reflections of himself would be difficult to gauge, but with the substantial likeness of John Effingham to himself, one can see why Cooper would take stronger objection to the attribution of Edward Effingham to his character. These are also not the only likenesses to Cooper in the book.

Much as Edward Effingham’s calmness and facility aboard ship cause several of the crew to swear, as previously noted, that “he was a man-of-war’s-man in disguise” (Homeward Bound, 1:7), Paul Blunt also possesses a good deal of the proper sense of perception Cooper would emphasize as necessary to a good gentleman. “We must call on you for assistance,” says Eve to Paul, toward the end of Homeward Bound, “for we are all so lubberly that none of us can see that which we so earnestly desire” (Homeward Bound, 2:208). Like Cooper, who resigned from the US Navy shortly after his marriage, most likely due to the influence of the De Lancey family, his in-laws, Paul has been “induced” to resign because of conditions set by his guardian (Home as Found, 2:59). Other characters, too, speak for Cooper in smaller ways: Mr. Jarvis, one of the few true gentlemen remaining in New York in Home as Found, speaks up for Cooper’s republican principles: “But a republic does not necessarily infer equality of condition, or even equality of rights—it meaning merely the substitution of the right of the commonwealth for that of a prince” (Home as Found, 1: 52-53). And certainly, as this description shows, Captain Truck has a little of Cooper’s spirit:

John Truck sailed his own ship; was civil to his passengers from habit as well as policy; knew that every vessel must have a captain; believed mankind to be little better than asses, took his own observations, and cared not a straw for those of his mates; was never more bent on following his own views than when all hands grumbled and opposed him; was daring by nature, decided from use and long self-reliance, and was every way a man fitted to steer his bark through the trackless ways of life, as well as those of the ocean. (Homeward Bound, 1: 89-90)

Characterizations such as these, along with Cooper’s heroine Eve, who always offers the proper womanly sentiment a la Cooper’s sense of etiquette, prompts the review for the New-York American to write:

Could the characters of the Homeward Bound, after springing from Mr. Cooper’s brain, become independent of him in thought and language, and give us really the impressions made upon minds thus constituted, by persons and scenes in America, we should willingly attend to their accounts; but however much they were intended by Mr. Cooper to differ in their organization, they are all mere satellites in everything relating to America, and only vary in reflecting more or less strongly Mr. Cooper’s inveterate prejudices against his native land.[102]

In Home as Found, of course, Cooper also used as material for his story lightly fictionalized versions of events or places in his own life. In The Pioneers his fictional Templeton corresponded to the real-life Cooperstown, and many have suggested that Marmaduke Temple portrays some of the characteristics of the author’s father, William Cooper. Cooper had admitted to Samuel Carter Hall in March 1831 that he did intend Templeton to resemble Cooperstown, whatever his later positions might be: “The Pioneers contains a pretty faithful description of Cooperstown in its infancy, and as I knew it when a child. It is now much altered, of course.”[103] In Home as Found the topography was essentially the same and easily identifiable as being Cooper’s home and hometown. “Fishing-Point” in Home as Found equals Three-Mile Point on Lake Otsego; the Effingham home, “The Wigwam,” resembles Otsego Hall, complete with its partially successful gothic renovations.

Cooper had objected in his letter to the Evening Post in response to Webb that he did not, as Webb had charged, call his home “Temple Hall,” or “Templeton Hall,”[104] but the actual name mattered little to Park Benjamin: “The fact of his not calling his ‘Otsego Hall’ or ‘Mansion House,’ ‘Templeton Hall,’ is quite immaterial. If the scene as described can be fixed there, it is enough to substantiate the charge—even if the elegant, accomplished, refined owner should have chosen to call it ‘Adonis Hall,’ out of compliment to his own charms and graces.”[105] To Benjamin, in other words, it mattered little whether Cooper meant the actual item or something based upon it. To Cooper, however, it made a great deal of difference. According to the strict and very narrow limits he marked out for fiction at this point in his career, circumstantial similarities between an author and materials in his works of fiction did not prove a deliberate likeness. If he said that Edward Effingham was not him, and the facts did not correspond, it did not matter how much resemblance in attitudes, opinions, and other circumstances might exist. Cooper would not accept the “political” truth that circumstantial appearances create the supposed reality, at least not as it affected an individual such as himself. The charge persisting throughout the libel suits among the Whig editors who complained about them was that, if the reviewers had indeed libeled Cooper, it was because Cooper had libeled America equally as much—the problem being that Cooper could escape any sort of legal prosecution by them on account of there being no real individual singled out in his writing. In the preface to Homeward Bound Cooper had toyed with readers about the “truthfulness” of the scenes he presents, inviting readers to find the log-book of the Montauk, and, if it should be found to contain a single sentence to controvert any one of our statements or facts, a frank recantation shall be made” (1:iv). In his legal suits he took the same approach, demanding recantation where editors actually had controverted the “facts” about Cooper. Meanwhile, Cooper, according to his views of fiction and the prerogatives of creative authorship, could build and populate his own fictional worlds as he pleased.

The American Antiquarian Society preserves four pages (nearly legal-size) of manuscript notes, entitled “Questions,” that Cooper drafted for one of his Effingham lawsuits.[106] Although they are undated, they clearly relate to the Webb case, since they mention his name several times as well as matters that Webb had brought up in his “review” of Home as Found. Written in Cooper’s hand, they are designed to be used by his lawyer, nephew Richard Cooper, in questioning the author upon the witness stand. They occasionally contain parenthetical instructions as to how the discourse will proceed. From the start, they are designed to show that Mr. Cooper was not Mr. Effingham:

Are you the author of these books?

How old are you?

When did you go to Europe?

When did you return?

How long did you stay abroad?

How old were you the day you sailed from Europe?

Cooper then moves on to The Pioneers, presumably to establish it as a fictional work: “Did you mean to describe the village of Cooperstown in The Pioneers? Did you mean to describe your father’s house, in the House of Judge Temple?” All this leads to the more relevant matter of the Effinghams:

Did you mean to describe yourself in Edward Effingham?

Did you describe your daughter in Eve Effingham?

[inserted] How many daughters have you?

What are the points of resemblance between you and Edward Effingham?

What are the points of dissemblance between you and Edward Effingham?

Likewise, resemblances of various secondary and minor characters to living individuals are disclaimed:

Was Aristabulus Bragg drawn from any particular individual?

Was Steadfast Dodge drawn from any particular character?

Cooper also writes questions designed to disprove Webb’s charge that Cooper was claiming to be noble:

Do you represent the Effinghams any where as noble?

Have you ever represented yourself as noble?

Any of your family as noble?

Is a baronet noble?

He addresses the original purpose for writing the book as relevant to the case, presumably to answer Webb’s claim that he had written for profit in England:

Why did you take the characters of H. as F. to the Templeton of the Pioneers?

Which object had you in view in writing Homeward Bound and Home as Found?

Did you insert a word in that book in order to make the book sell in England?

About midway through the questioning, Cooper gets to the meat, as far as it concerns principles of fiction. Asking about the similarities and differences between the real Three-Mile-Point incident and the fictitious one in Home as Found, the questions continue:

Why did you make them so nearly alike?

Why did you make them differ at all?

Is it usual for authors of works of Fiction to introduce real events into their works?

Is it usual for them to introduce incidents connected with their own experience?

Can you cite any instances to that effect?

(Here the answer will cite Goldsmith and Walter Scott.)

Were Goldsmith and Scott ridiculed for doing this?

Is Goldsmith represented to have been a handsome man?

Did you ever know[?] of his having been called The “Handsome Mr. Goldsmith” on account of the coincidences between his own history and that of George Wilmot of The Vicar of Wakefield? Did you ever meet with any personal ridicule on account of the coincidence in She Stoops to Conquer?

Have you ever connected with your fictions, events, or opinions, that are connected with your own personal experience?

Any in Homeward Bound, or Home as Found?

In bringing up his own dealings with his publishers, Cooper plans to be asked about the sums he was paid for his Notions of the Americans and for a novel, and their preference for fiction over other types of work, implying that Homeward Bound and Home as Found were not particularly marketable books: “Which did your publishers in both countries prefer to have you write?”

Cooper’s questions are too numerous to cover in full, but as can be seen from these excerpts, Cooper was, by arguing technical point after technical point, hoping to demonstrate that Webb’s accusations were false and that his own motives were within the bounds of propriety for a writer of fiction. All fiction writers, he implies here, make use of their personal histories and opinions in creating their stories, yet only he is being victimized for doing so. Cooper also seems eager in these questions to demonstrate that he was not seeking to find a lucrative market in criticizing America and that his professional practices are sound. Showing Cooper’s response under fire for his socially active approach to authorship, the libel suits represent just one way in which Cooper was redefining not just the prerogatives of fiction but also the professional ethic that guided the literary artist beyond the mere “vortex” of greed.


As if Cooper had not stirred up enough controversy in the past decade, he also decided that the reputation of the most famous author of his time (till Dickens came along) should be taken down a peg or two. In between the publication of Homeward Bound and Home as Found, or, as the Southern Literary Messenger more wryly states, “as a sort of interlude between the parts of his Roman de Société,” Cooper published in The Knickerbocker for October 1838 a review of J.G. Lockhart’s much-anticipated biography of Sir Walter Scott, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. It was a review which, among other things, brought forward questions about the ethics of Sir Walter and, by extension, the ethics of authorship generally. In the three decades of Cooper’s career, his middle years in the 1830s usually have been noted as the time when Cooper was actively laying out his social philosophy, stimulated as he was by his experiences during and after his stay in Europe. But it was also a time when Cooper was making his most comprehensive statements to date about his philosophy of authorship, particularly in defining the ethical code that would distinguish the true professional literary artist from those who would advance their careers through either questionable art or questionable professional practices.

Chief among the irritants that stirred him to such statements were the Whig polemicists, who had gone beyond his politics to attack his art and his person. He had made a partial defense of his conduct as an author in A Letter to His Countrymen, making an exhaustively detailed effort to prove his correctness in contrast to the false and partisan motives of “Cassio” and others in the Whig press. Among his defenses was the protest that he had entered into the disputes he was involved in with “clean hands.” He had not maintained secret connections with journals that reviewed his works; he had not used undue influence provided by his literary reputation to secure diplomatic appointments (he had at the beginning of his travels carried a largely symbolic consulship to Lyons, France, as a means of facilitating his movements, but this position carried no authority or pay). His Letter, however, had not had its effect; Whig attacks had not disappeared, and Cooper’s critical popularity had declined as a result of standing up for his principles against those who, in his view, cultivated appearances for the sake of power. Cooper had, by his retirement, essentially conceded the battlefield, but the ridicule—personal and professional—did not cease. Thus Cooper set out in the late 1830s to straighten matters that he felt had been twisted by wily manipulators of public opinion, who elevated people and things convenient to their causes and attacked those who would advocated differing views—specifically, the truth. Cooper attempted to place his own practices beyond question, setting an example against his rivals and passing on to posterity a more wholesome model of professional literary activity than had been provided by the press or even by his fellow authors.

Perhaps the clearest documentation of Cooper’s ethic of authorship during this period comes not from one of his novels, but from this aforementioned review of Lockhart’s Memoirs of Scott. The review is an unusual production for Cooper, who had done little in this line after authoring a few reviews in the earliest years of his writing career. That Cooper should undertake a review at this point in his career is noteworthy: his sensitivity—perhaps excessive—about his standing in relation to, and inevitably in comparison with, his widely acclaimed predecessor speaks to his larger insecurities about his status as a professional author and a public figure, particularly as he was setting before the world a pair of books that departed substantially from the Scott-like romances that had made his fame.

Cooper’s attitude toward Scott, who had died in 1832, had previously been one of cordial respect tinged with a dose of artistic rivalry. Cooper had, after all, made many of his early successes by one-upping Scott’s romances in The Spy and The Pilot, pointing specifically in a preface to the latter work to Scott’s overrated vraisemblence in portraying movements of ships at sea as the primary inspiration for the book. Cooper was sensitive to implications that he was merely an American imitator of the Scottish master: he disavowed the idea of rivalry and cringed at being labeled “The American Scott,” as he explains in a letter to Samuel Carter Hall in 1831:

In a note you call me the ‘rival’ of Sir Walter Scott -- Now the idea of rivalry with him never crossed my brain. I have always spoken, written, and thought of Sir Walter Scott (as a writer) just as I should think and speak of Shakspeare [sic] -- with high admiration of his talent, but with no silly reserve, as if I thought my own position rendered it necessary that I should use more delicacy than other men. What I like I say I like, and it is most that he has written, and what I do not like, I say I do not like. . . .

If there is a term that gives me more disgust than any other, it is to be called, as some on the continent advertise me, the “American Walter Scott.” It is offensive to a gentleman to be nicknamed at all, and there is a pretension in the title, which offends me more than all the abusive reviews that were ever written.[107]

Despite this tension, however, Cooper’s limited contacts with the man himself had been friendly. Cooper had even offered, in November 1826, to undertake a legal plan to secure payment for Scott’s works published in America, since under the existing system of piracy any money offered to British authors was left to the “generosity” of publishers, though Scott eventually substituted his own plan instead, with Cooper to vouch for it.[108] The few meetings these two had in Europe had been friendly as well.

The publication of Scott’s official biography, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., by his son-in-law J.G. Lockhart in 1837, turned Cooper’s view decidedly to the negative. Lockhart, editor of the London Quarterly Review, was no favorite of Cooper or of many other authors, for that matter. He carried a reputation as a fierce and reckless reviewer and, what was worse in Cooper’s eyes, wrote for a periodical that was staunchly Tory in its politics and, in his view, anti-American. The Quarterly Review had printed a long and scathing review of Gleanings in Europe: England, dissecting Cooper’s book with ridicule. Although Cooper did not think so, Lockhart had written the piece; in a moment worthy of the “Cassio” incident, Cooper had even tried to demonstrate through internal evidence that Lockhart could not possibly have written the piece.[109] Lockhart had dismissed England as having “nothing solid but its ignorance, and nothing deep but its malice”; its subject was not England but Cooper, an “autobiography of excoriated vanity.” Lockhart mocked the elaborate parsing of English manners and the supposed affronts Cooper had received in England, setting down as Cooper’s main characteristic his “endeavour to make his personal distastes national grievances.” His imagery was most unflattering:

We now and then read in the newspapers of some unhappy brewer’s workman falling into a vat of hot wash, from which he escapes alive indeed, but with the loss of every particle of skin on his body. This is a very accurate image of the state of Mr. Cooper’s mind: a scalding vanity has stripped it of every inch of epidermis. He winces at every breeze—writhes and groans under the gentlest touches of good nature or sympathy—and the ordinary contacts of society drive him to absolute frenzy.[110]

It is difficult to deny the basic truth of charges, however severe the language may be. In England Cooper never escaped feelings of awkwardness and discomfort in the complex social circles to which his celebrity status admitted him. His visits were short, and he spent much more of his time in France, where his friendship with Lafayette gave him a firmer standing. To be ridiculed in the manner of the review hit a sore spot for Cooper. It was, he told Horatio Greenough, “a feeble piece of blackguardism,” but attempting an answer would be useless, for “what can an honest man gain by a contest with a professional liar”?[111]

Scott had ordered his biography before his death, appointing Lockhart for the task of writing it. Among the materials Scott had transmitted to Lockhart were his diaries, from which Lockhart had included passages in the biography. Naturally, when the Memoirs of Scott came out, Cooper sought out allusions to himself--and found them. A pair of entries for 3 & 6 November 1826 documented Cooper’s first visit with Scott. In his original diary entry for 3 November, Scott had written, in part, “Visited Princess Galitzin, and also Cooper, the American novelist. This man, who has shown so much genius, has a good deal of the manner, or want of manner, peculiar to his countrymen,” referring to Cooper’s lack of the studied mannerisms that typified Europeans. Yet, in the Memoirs, the entry referred instead to Cooper’s “manners, or want of manners.” James Beard considers the alteration likely to be an accidental one; perhaps Lockhart saw what he was already predisposed to think about Cooper.[112] However the error crept in, it was not corrected until 1890, so Cooper never knew what Scott’s original entry actually said. He was left with an impression that Scott thought him lacking in manners—a disapproving judgment—rather than the more neutral assessment that he was without guile. Though Cooper obviously was hurt by this discovery, he feigned indifference in a letter he penned to Lewis and Gaylord Clark of The Knickerbocker to explain the allusions to himself in the Memoirs. “On the subject of manners,” he wrote, “I have very little to say. Sir Walter Scott struck me as having national peculiarities of this sort, and it is not surprising that the feeling should be reciprocal.”[113] Perhaps Scott had attached more importance to “civilities,” or perhaps, Cooper theorized, he disliked Cooper’s offer to help secure a return on his books in America. Either way, it was a rejection for Cooper; Scott had substituted his own plan instead, which failed (perhaps Cooper is implying that his own might have worked). The publication of passages from Scott’s diary, particularly when they alluded to him, was disturbing: things that had taken place in a supposed atmosphere of confidence became exposed before the world. Whether they were embarrassing or not, Cooper disliked such exposure. He had already given Carey instructions not to publish excerpts from his letters, wanting to avoid the “quackery of drawing attention to myself in that manner.”[114]

Whether or not any of these particular incidents stirred Cooper to write the review is unclear, but according to Dorothy Waples, it was Cooper who approached Lewis Gaylord Clark of The Knickerbocker with a request to publish the review.[115] Cooper was at least wise enough by this point to anticipate that his review would be controversial, seeing as “admiration of Scott’s talents is so general and profound.” The rationale, he explains, is the need to expose truth where delusion reigns, on a number of fronts. Lockhart’s work, Cooper explained, paraded Scott’s failings (“not to use a harsher term”) 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).

Since Scott had ordered his biography and transferred the materials for writing it to Lockhart, he was not entitled to the protection usually afforded to the dead. “The very fact of designating a biographer,” Cooper writes, “unless in extraordinary instances, infers something very like a fraud upon the public, as it is usually placing one who should possess the impartiality of a judge, in the position of an advocate, and leaves but faint hopes of a frank and fair exhibition of the truth” (350). Cooper also objects to publication of Scott’s diary entries and other materials which “reflect injuriously, and in many instances unjustly, on third persons,” (namely Cooper himself, though he does not mention it) with Scott knowing full well that his diaries would be published after his death.

Furthermore, Scott’s establishment of the Quarterly Review was based on a deception whereby it would profess impartiality but secretly scheme to promote Tory political ends. Scott had wished to counter the Whig Edinburgh Review but did not want to take it on directly, preferring instead to create a work with the appearance of neutrality. To Cooper, this sort of act constitutes an “advantage obtained under false pretences” (351); instead, “The fair and honest course would have been, to assail the political opinions of the Edinburgh directly, trusting to reason and facts for success” (352). The Quarterly is additionally loathsome, to Cooper, for promoting aristocratic dogmas and for substituting temporary political expedients for true principle. “All this was worthy of a Grub-street hack,” Cooper declares.

But a still worse practice in the Quarterly Review was Scott’s reviewing of his own works. Self-reviewing was a “gross system of fraud that is practiced on the world by some of its greatest names, and has all the air of truth about it” (356), something that works directly against its express purpose. “A review, on its face, professes to be, as far as it goes, an impartial judgment, made up by an impartial judge,” writes Cooper; if writers were to write all their own reviews, who could trust them? Cooper is annoyed to find Lockhart nowhere as strict as he ought to be: “Mr. Lockhart evidently considers the practices of regular reviewers as very innocent things” (356). Cooper did not. A review could make or break the fortunes of a book, and in his own case, with the “Cassio” incident particularly, his own reputation had suffered as the result of what were little better than literary pranks.

Finally, the use of pre-arranged codes in letters of introduction when Scott was to limit his civilities offended Cooper because it was “treachery, cloaked in the garb of friendship” (351). Such letters, by which Scott might spare himself from constantly being called on, preserved the appearance of goodwill on their face and were transmitted by unknowing parties innocent of the deception. Scott and those who conspired with him in these lies placed popularity above honesty, for an honest letter that carried its meaning on its face “might have lost both the parties a supporter!” (351). The fact that Scott had condoned such practices of questionable character was, in Cooper’s view, becoming a justification for others to do the same. Scott’s example, and Lockhart’s book, are “dangerous to the young,” and Cooper fears that “we are not to be surprised if we find the young and inexperienced following in footsteps that are made to appear hallowed” (349).

The common root of 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. Not one of Scott’s “mystifications” was found to be in his error; they all worked for his own benefit. The fact that these sorts of practice might not be unusual was no defense in Cooper’s view. Sir Walter had been acclaimed for his “uncommon,” not his common, qualities, and such dishonesty was “unworthy of a man of high literary fame” (351). Cooper’s emphasis here is significant. With literary reputation and accomplishment he conceived there to exist a code of personal ethics that required the author to rise above the ordinary every bit as much as the art that the author produced. In commenting upon Cooper’s review, the Southern Literary Messenger dryly interpreted Cooper’s view as follows:

Mr. Cooper appears to imagine that, if any stain upon Scott’s moral character can be detected, it must appear doubly dark on account of his literary fame. Literary men, he seems to think—but how his opinion has been formed, the reader will be at a loss to divine—are usually so much superior to others, in point of moral worth and probity that, like angels, if they slip, they must fall into the deepest hell of infamy. Perhaps the reader will feel the same difficulty that we do, in understanding why a literary man is more culpable than any other of equally good moral training, both having committed the same offence.[116]

The reviewer, however, overlooks the obvious public dimension of literary figures. Only a few months earlier, this same periodical, and probably this same reviewer, in reviewing Homeward Bound provided his own answer to “why a literary man is more culpable”:

Why did he turn abruptly to the dogmas and the doubts of the politician? Why leave the marble pavement of the temple to riot on the sanded floor of the miserable beer-shop? These are questions pertinent to his fame, and which we have a right to ask. Mr. Cooper’s reputation is identified with the literary character of the country, for he has stamped the genius of American naval and descriptive romance upon the age, and he has opened a way of fiction that many have pursued with varied success. Mr. Cooper is the author of the peculiar marine style that has often delighted us in the “Red Rover;” and when we opened “Homeward Bound,” we felt assured from this title alone that he would preserve his reputation. Standing at the fountainhead of American fiction, he should have felt like a brave knight, with buckler on, and lance in rest, ready to assert the purity of his ladye-love, or in other and plainer phrase, to have kept up to the mark of his former achievements. We had a right to expect this at his hands; for doubtless, he agrees with us in the opinion that romance, with moral ends, is a vast engine of activity upon an imaginative people, (who always have their peculiar sympathies to be affected by a peculiar school of writers,) for it stirs up their blood and fills their big veins with a noble enthusiasm, leading directly to the fruition of honor, liberty and law. We cannot stop here to lay before the reader the reasons that have conducted us to this opinion. To those who wield the attributes of this power, appertain many hopes that no lips have yet expressed, but which many hearts, studious of philosophic results, have felt.[117]

The language here speaks of authors as a public property, indeed even granting the public “rights” to certain expectations of their authors. Authors carry the identity of the nation; they are leaders, even warriors for their country, wielding their moral and aesthetic powers as weapons for good or evil, in the language of the reviewer. Particularly in a republic, where public opinion could have direct influence upon the governance of the nation, authors had great power to affect discourse. Far from distancing himself from this sort of approach, which is not unlike the customer-oriented approach to much business today, Cooper—in the review of Scott, at least—embraced this view. If Scott had “professed” his aims in establishing the Quarterly Review as “another tribunal of taste, sound principles, and just criticism in literature,” then the reading public should be allowed to insist that the content of the periodical comply: “This was what the world had a perfect right to expect, and a perfect right to insist upon” (351). If authors and their property were public property, in a sense, and leaders of that public, Cooper insisted that they were to be moral like any other leader. If they were professional, then they should have a professional code of ethics.

As American literature had begun to emerge in the previous decades, much discussion had taken place over the moral value of creative literature, particularly fiction. The preoccupation, for those both for and against it, was on consumption first, and then upon the production of literature that would produce the desired moral effect when consumed. What moral effects would literature have upon the reader? Could a novel convey a proper moral tone, and, if so, how could it do so? As one of the first American authors of creative literature to gain a widespread reputation, Cooper had seen his novels reviewed constantly under such paradigms. But, as his assessment of Scott exemplifies, he was also asking different questions about what lay behind the production of art. It was not enough to create a wholesome moral effect in a literary work. The author behind the work needed to have credibility as a moral authority by maintaining a personal ethic that promoted honesty above all else.

Cooper was not exactly breaking new ground here in terms of the thesis itself. Years before readers and critics alike had fretted over how to square Byron’s power and wit as an author with his scandalous private life as a man, never fully reaching a satisfactory moral conclusion; Scott, by comparison, had reflected little of Byron’s controversial character on his surface. However, Cooper’s statements were coming not from a consumer of literature but from a producer of it. As one of the first American authors to gain a widespread reputation, 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, 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 ethical stance of the American author was to be one of guileless truth. 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 receptive to them.

Cooper had implied, then, his own truthfulness and forthrightness in distinction to Scott’s predominating quality of “seemliness.” 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 nearly a moral necessity. Scott enveloped everything he did with the appearance of “tact” and grace, the vraisemblence in his novels 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 indirectly suggests, he has paid the price of truth by being unpopular.

Cooper’s review was not entirely negative. He praised Scott as “a man of a century, as respects talents,” and credits Scott for raising the novel to “the dignity of the epic” (363-64), for instance. With the unfavorable view dominating, though, reaction to the review was predictably harsh. Two months later, under the auspices of fair play, The Knickerbocker printed a responding essay, “A Reply to the Attack on Sir Walter Scott, in the Knickerbocker for October.” The anonymous author, devoting page after page to excerpts of the review, finds Cooper guilty of setting an unreachable standard for authors—“nothing short of perfection.”[118] Thurlow Weed in the Albany Evening Journal makes reference to “the late atrocious attack, said to be his [i.e., Cooper’s], upon the pure fame and imperishable works of Walter Scott,” an “assault upon a dead brother-novelist” written with “extreme and malignant virulence.”[119] Cooper himself reported a friend’s assessment of the book, delighting in the “honesty” of the review:

Barnard tells me the review makes a great sensation, a thing I could have foretold, for the honesty of it, is a great novelty in this country. He tells me it has made an impression, and that the better portion of the community is settling down into common sense on the subject. Tant mieux pour elle –-”[120]

The Southern Literary Messenger appends a discussion of it to an already unfavorable review of Home as Found, calling the review “an article. . . written by Mr. Cooper under the galling consciousness of his own literary wane.”[121] The author objects to Cooper’s project on grounds of tact: “It is always in bad taste for an author to set about decrying the character and productions of a fellow-author, laboring in the same field of literature as himself.”[122] But Cooper had long since given up the idea of a club-like fraternity existing among authors: keeping that reserve would prevent truth.

Despite the complaints about Cooper’s appropriateness, the reviewer of the Southern Literary Messenger essentially concedes most of the ethical points that Cooper discusses. Of Scott’s bias in reviews for the Quarterly Review, the reviewer admits, “From other evidence, however, we believe it may be shown, that Scott probably did consider strict impartiality, in reviewing, rather a matter of policy than of conscience” (177). Of Scott’s self-reviewing, another concession is made: “By far the most reprehensible action, on which Mr. Cooper comments, was Scott’s reviewing himself. The species of reviewing is said to be, at present, very common in Britain. If so, Scott’s example has, probably, done mischief; for we doubt whether the practice was as common, at the time when he committed the sin” (177). This was indeed verging on Cooper’s argument that Scott’s examples were “dangerous to the young.” And of Scott’s scheme of marking letters of introduction, the reviewer thinks Cooper too harsh in his judgment, given the artificiality of English society, yet acknowledges that “we agree with him in considering it an inexcusable deceit” (177). Whatever infamy Cooper was acquiring through his review of Scott, he was at least successful in making points of conduct a topic of conversation among the literati.

Cooper was also vindicated by publication of a pamphlet entitled Refutation of the Misstatements and Calumnies Contained in Mr. Lockhart’s Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Respecting the Messrs. Ballantynes, by the trustees and son of James Ballantyne, Scott’s late publisher.[123] Written to contradict Lockhart’s claims that Scott’s financial ruin in his late years was caused by the incompetence of the Ballantynes, the book showed, through a presentation of accounts and other detailed evidence, that the reverse was actually true; namely, that Scott’s own insatiable wants, particularly in real estate and lavish hospitality, had devoured all the capital of the Ballantyne firm, which served as something of a front for Scott’s money. The estates Scott had bought were unassailable by creditors, but Ballantyne was ruined. The pamphlet revealed that Lockhart had ignored proof of Scott’s true culpability, all the while courting the dying James Ballantyne for materials for the Memoirs. The Knickerbocker ran a brief review of the American reprint of this pamphlet in their November 1838 issue. Their certainty of its truth was firm: “We venture to say, however, that not a single reader will rise from the perusal of this clear, succinct, and in all respects well-written pamphlet, without an entire conviction, that the energies of two upright and confiding men were devoted to the prosecution of a business which would have been eminently successful, but for Sir Walter Scott’s ambition to become a landed proprietor, and to ‘endow a family,’ before he had the means of effecting either, upon any sound foundation.”[124]

The timely appearance of the Ballantyne pamphlet silenced at least one of Cooper’s critics on the Scott matter. Charles King of the New-York American had intended to publish a denunciation of Cooper’s review but had deferred because of other pressing matters. In the meantime, the pamphlet reached him, and the proofs were convincing. Cooper was considerably amused by the conversion of his one-time friend, as he reports to Shubrick:

Here is a good thing with my friend Charley King. I have been reviewing Lockhart, and say that he was not a proper man to write Scott’s Life, on account of his habits, love of mystification, and predilection for fibbing &c &c. Well, Charley blusters, calls the review lamentable, and promises to notice it, in a proper way. Yesterday I was told I was to get it, Charley having lain by, merely on account of the election. Alas, Charley comes out, in a small voice, last night, and announces that he has been reading a pamphlet of young Ballantyne, who proves, (figures can’t lie) that Scott ruined Ballantynes, and that Mr. Lockhart is shown to be a man unworthy to have been charged with the important task of writing his father in Law’s biography; or, in other words, just what I have been pronounced him to be, on internal evidence that had escaped Charley’s sagacity! Now nothing is plainer than the fact, that if Lockhart is a scamp for treating the Ballantynes as he has, Scott was a bigger, as he knew all along the injustice the world was doing them on his account, and yet who put on an air of magnanimous forgiveness of the wrong they had done him! Mark my words –- Posterity will regard Scott as I have written him down.[125]

Left with such damning evidence, most of Cooper’s critics dropped the matter, although the charge would again surface when he published The Pathfinder that in his portrayal of the Scottish Lieutenant Muir, Cooper was again ridiculing Sir Walter, some eight years after his death.

The review of Scott, then, set down Cooper’s view of an ethic of authorship which emphasized the author as a public figure active in, rather than removed or distant from, a national and even international public discourse. Since in a republic the virtue of citizens would prove the true governing force of the nation, the truth and personal ethics of those moderating that discourse would be a vital concern. Recognizing a wide-ranging influence of authorship that extended beyond mere celebrity, Cooper sought to hold authors culpable as much for personal behavior as for the moral content of his or her writings, with transparency as to their motives. Indeed, without proper precautions, the habits of authors, like those of newspaper journalists, would establish precedents for the worse and contribute to the unsettling of the foundations of republican government. Cooper’s convictions on these points held firm long after the review of Scott, finding their way into even some of his most commercially-oriented works, as shall be seen in Chapter Three. As in the essay on Scott, Cooper would continue to conflate public and personal concerns, continuing to suggest through his fiction his own role as a nearly prophetic voice of truth and pondering the potential fate of truth and truth-tellers in society. This sustained theme, however, was only part of the broader conflation of public and personal concerns that affected Cooper’s vision of professional authorship. Long considered an authority on nautical matters following his pioneering invention of the sea novel early in his career, Cooper would nevertheless find his reputation challenged after publishing what was supposed to be a non-controversial work, his 1839 History of the Navy of the United States. As Chapter Two will show, these and other developments in the realm of nautical literature would affect Cooper’s role in the marketplace and his vision of authorship nearly as much as the social controversies he was more overtly addressing in his works of the 1830s.

Appendix A

Cooper Reprints with Carey & Lea; Carey, Lea, & Carey; Carey, Lea, & Blanchard; 1826-1838

Title of Book and Year of Original Publication

Spy (1821)

Pioneers (1823)

Pilot (1824)

Lionel Lincoln (1825)

Last of the Mohicans (1826)

Prairie (1827)

Red Rover (1827-28)

Notions of the Americans (1828)

Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish (1829)

Water-Witch (1831)

Bravo (1831)

Heidenmauer (1832)

Headsman (1833)

Year Reprint Issued




















































































X, W





































Key:        2E, 3E, 4E, etc. = Edition number (Second, Third, Fourth, etc.) stated on title page.     X = Reprint, no specific edition indicated.     NE = “A new edition.”     W = Issued as part of multi-volume set, entitled “Cooper’s Novels,” “Novels and Tales,” or similar on spine; uncertain as to specific edition status of each individual work in set.  May overlap with other editions noted.

* No stated Fourth Edition of The Pilot seems to exist, perhaps suggesting multiple impressions of the Third Edition.

Spiller and Blackburn incorrectly list the Third Edition, rather than the “New Edition,” as being reprinted in 1835, 1836, 1838, 1839, and 1841.

Sources: Spiller, Robert E., and Blackburn, Phillip C., A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1934); Bibliography of American Literature, Vol. 2, comp. Jacob Blanck (New Haven: Yale UP, 1957); The Cost Book of Carey and Lea, 1825-1838, ed. David Kaser (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1963); American Antiquarian Society Online Catalog (http://catalog.mwa.org); Lyle Henry Wright, American Fiction: A Contribution toward a Bibliography, 2nd rev. ed. (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1969).


1. In addition to the Carey reprints, Justin Carpenter in New York and P.N. Wood in Baltimore issued several reprints in 1834, including some as a multi-volume “Cooper’s Works” set. [Author's note: These were likely produced from the Carey plates, and it is even possible that some copies represented unsold Carey stock repackaged under new imprints.]

2. The American Antiquarian Society catalog also suggests a possible 1833 issue of a “Novels and Tales” set, identical in content to the 1836 set. An 1828 set is also suggested, but its existence seems more speculative.


[1] JFC to Horatio Greenough, 19 January 1833, in The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, ed. James Franklin Beard, 6 vols. (Cambridge: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1964-68) 2:368.

[2] JFC to Greenough, 13 June 1833: Letters and Journals 2:384.

[3] A Letter to His Countrymen, By J. Fenimore-Cooper (New-York: John Wiley, 1834) 98.

[4] JFC to Richard Bentley, 6 July 1837: Letters and Journals 3:269.

[5] This and all subsequent dollars/pounds conversions are calculated according to historical exchange rate data at Lawrence H. Officer, "Exchange rate between the United States dollar and the British pound, 1791-2000." Economic History Services, EH.Net, 2001. URL: http://www.eh.net/hmit/exchangerates/pound.php.

[6] James Fenimore Cooper, Notions of the Americans, Picked Up by a Travelling Bachelor (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, & Carey, 1828) 3.

[7] From the revised preface Cooper prepared for the Bentley “Standard Novels” edition of The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish, entitled in Britain The Borderers; or The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish. A Tale (London: Richard Bentley, 1833) vii.

[8] The Water-Witch; or, The Skimmer of the Seas. A Tale (New York: George P. Putnam & Co., 1852) v.

[9] JFC to Henry Colburn, 1 Feb 1831: Letters and Journals 2:52; JFC to Colburn and Bentley, 8? August 1831: Letters and Journals 2:131-32.

[10] JFC to Peter Augustus Jay, 2 Jan 1832: Letters and Journals 2:175.

[11] Revue Britannique n.s. 6 (June 1831): 272-324.

[12] Letter of J. Fenimore Cooper, to Gen. Lafayette, on the expenditure of the United States of America (Paris, Baudry’s Foreign Library, 1831).

[13] Letters and Journals 2:305.

[14] JFC to Samuel F.B. Morse, 2 April 1833: Letters and Journals 2:376; published excerpts in Albany Daily Advertiser for 4 June 1833.

[15] Carey & Lea to JFC, 23 March 1832: Letters and Journals 2:151.

[16] Carey & Lea to JFC, 8 October 1832: Letters and Journals 2:361-62.

[17] JFC to William Dunlap, 14 November 1832: Letters and Journals 2:360.

[18] JFC to Carey & Lea, 6 November 1831, 30 December 1831: Letters and Journals 2:149, 170; JFC to Samuel Carter Hall, 14 August 1831: Letters and Journals 2:133-34; JFC to Carey & Lea, 6 November 1831: Letters and Journals 2:149-50.

[19] JFC to Carey & Lea, 30 December 1831: Letters and Journals 2:170.

[20] JFC to Horatio Greenough, 14? July 1832: Letters and Journals 2:268.

[21] JFC to John Stuart Skinner, 15 November 1833: Letters and Journals 3:10.

[22] See JFC to William Cullen Bryant and William Leggett for the New York Evening Post, 12 June 1834, Letters and Journals 3:37-38, for instance, or the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer for 25 June 1834.

[23] Robert E. Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times (1931. New York: Russell & Russell, 1963) 226.

[24] Letters and Journals 3:7.

[25] Letter to His Countrymen 99.

[26] Letter to His Countrymen 100.

[27] Letters and Journals 3:7.

[28] See Letters and Journals 3:61-64.

[29] A small memorandum book of Cooper’s notes a receipt of $3500 for The Monikins; Carey and Lea’s cost books, however, state that $2500 was paid for copyright. How Cooper arrives at his figure is unclear. See ZA Cooper 31, “Memorandum Book of J. Fenimore Cooper, 1835,” Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; and The Cost Book of Carey and Lea, 1825-1838, Ed. David Kaser (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1963) 173 (entry #496).

[30] Bentley to JFC, 28 March 1835: Letters and Journals 3:60.

[31] David Kaser, Messrs. Carey & Lea of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1957) 82; Bentley to JFC, 15 October 1835: Letters and Journals 3:172.

[32] Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to JFC, 13 September 1837: Letters and Journals 3:290. Kaser suggests that Cooper received nothing for Italy, but Lea & Blanchard’s cost books show $200 to “Author” for “Italy.” (Lea & Febiger Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Kaser makes many similar inexplicable errors and omissions, apparently having forgotten that Carey, Lea, & Blanchard was superseded by Lea & Blanchard upon Henry Carey’s retirement in 1838.

[33] Bentley to JFC, 13 May 1837: Letters and Journals 3:262.

[34] For instance, Thomas Lounsbury, James Fenimore Cooper (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1883); James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper: A Biographical and Critical Study (New York: Sloane, 1949); Donald Ringe, James Fenimore Cooper (Boston: Twayne, 1962, 1988); or Robert Emmet Long, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Continuum, 1990). Though hardly scholarship in the strict sense, Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, with Notes by Susan Fenimore Cooper (New York: W.A. Townsend, 1861) could also be included here. Undoubtedly these works are all of high value as criticism; it is simply that their interpretive focus, often on the works themselves, tends to obscure some of the professional realities of Cooper’s career.

[35] JFC to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 18 July 1836, with amendment, 18 September 1841: Letters and Journals 3:229-30.

[36] Stringer & Townsend stretched the tired, nearly worn-out plates even further, reprinting some editions off them through the 1850s, and the firm’s successors used them even into the 1870s.

[37] Kaser, Messrs. Carey & Lea, 55-56.

[38] Kaser, Messrs. Carey & Lea, 56.

[39] Richard H. Gassan, “Carey & Lea, Printer and Publisher: Seasonal Variations in its Business Cycle, 1833-1836,” From Revolution to Reconstruction: An .HTML Project (University of Groningen, Netherlands, 1994-2003). URL: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/E/carey_lea/carey01.htm.

[40] JFC to Bentley, 6 July 1837: Letters and Journals 3:269.

[41] JFC to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 8 September 1837: Letters and Journals 3:289.

[42] JFC to Bentley, 6 July 1837: Letters and Journals 3:269.

[43] Bentley to JFC, 5 August 1837: Letters and Journals 3:270; Cost Books, Lea & Blanchard, 30 July 1838 (Lea & Febiger Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania); JFC to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 25 August 1838: Letters and Journals 3:335; JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 7 December 1837: Letters and Journals 3:303.

[44] Citations are from the first edition, Homeward Bound; or, The Chase. A Tale of the Sea, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1838) 1:iii.

[45] Bentley to JFC, 28 March 1835: Letters and Journals 3:60.

[46] Susan Fenimore Cooper, Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, with Notes by Susan Fenimore Cooper (New York: W.A. Townsend, 1861) 323.

[47] Bentley to JFC, 5 August 1837: Letters and Journals 3:269-70.

[48] One wonders if this plan for the book is a little too much like the “advantage obtained under false pretences” for which he would criticize Sir Walter Scott in the review of Lockhart’s Memoirs (Knickerbocker 12 [October 1838]: 351).

[49] Emerich de Vattel (1714-67), author of Droit des gens, 1758 (tr. Law of Nations, 1760), a standard work on international law.

[50] Citations from Home as Found are from the first edition, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1838) 1:iii.

[51] JFC to William Branford Shubrick, 2 October 1837: Letters and Journals 3:294.

[52] JFC to Bentley, 17 October 1837: Letters and Journals 3:298.

[53] JFC to Shubrick, 8 November 1837: Letters and Journals 3:299-300.

[54] JFC to Bentley, 6 December 1837: Letters and Journals 3:302. Cooper would recycle his discarded subtitle, of course, six years later for his main title of his four-volume story of Miles Wallingford, Afloat and Ashore.

[55] Richard Bentley to JFC, 22 February 1838: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

[56] JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 25 May 1838: Letters and Journals 3:326.

[57] Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to JFC, 29 March 1838: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

[58] JFC to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 13 April 1838: Letters and Journals 6:326.

[59] Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to JFC, 10 August 1838: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

[60] Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to JFC, 18 August 1838: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

[61] Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to JFC, 1 September 1838: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; JFC to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 1 September 1838: Letters and Journals 3:336.

[62] Lea & Blanchard Cost Books, Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The price Cooper received for these books was no longer substantially higher than what other authors received. John Pendleton Kennedy (famed for his Horseshoe Robinson), for instance, received $1850 for 4000 copies of Rob of the Bowl around this time, the cost books show.

[63] The reviewer for the Southern Literary Messenger notes along the same lines that “The latter person [Dodge] seems gifted with ubiquity” and cannot understand how Dodge and Bragg, despite their repulsiveness, are still tolerated—even invited—by Mr. Effingham into the company of his family.

[64] See Ethel Outland, The “Effingham” Libels on Cooper: A Documentary History of the Libel Suits of James Fenimore Cooper; Centering Around the Three Mile Point Controversy and the Novel Home as Found, 1837-1845 (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1929).

[65] Perhaps meant to signify Charles King of the New-York American: “‘He was never known to publish a falsehood, and of his foreign correspondence, in particular, he is so exceedingly careful, that he assures me he has every word of it written under his own eye,’” says Mrs. Legend (86). John Effingham says he has a “newspaper mind, as he reduces everything in nature or art to news” (87).

[66] Perhaps “Cassio”: he worships the English or, rather, what he thinks to be English. When John Effingham is asked if he knows Florio, he replies, “If I do, it must indeed be by accident” (87).

[67] JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 15 November 1838: Letters and Journals 3:349.

[68] Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine 3 (September 1838): 216.

[69] Review of Homeward Bound, The Journal of Belles Lettres 12.7 (14 August 1838): n.p.

[70] “Homeward Bound—Or the Chase; A Tale of the Sea.” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 4 (November 1838): 724.

[71] “Another Review of ‘Homeward Bound.’” Southern Literary Messenger 4 (November 1838): 728.

[72] New-York American (Semi-Weekly Edition), 18 August 1838: 2 (col. 2).

[73] New-York American (Semi-Weekly Edition), 1 September 1838): 2 (col. 5).

[74] [Francis Bowen] Review of Homeward Bound, North American Review 47 (October 1838): 488-89.

[75] Review of The Homeward Bound: or, The Chase, “Literary Notices,” The Knickerbocker 12 (September 1838): 263-67.

[76] New-York American (Semi-Weekly Edition), 18 August 1838: 2 (col. 2); Review of Homeward Bound, The Journal of Belles Lettres 12.7 (14 August 1838): n.p.

[77] “Homeward Bound—Or the Chase; A Tale of the Sea.” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 4 (November 1838): 725.

[78] New-York American (Semi-Weekly Edition), 18 August 1838: 2 (col. 2).

[79] Review of Homeward Bound, The Journal of Belles Lettres 12.7 (14 August 1838): n.p.

[80] Review of The Homeward Bound: or, The Chase, “Literary Notices,” The Knickerbocker 12 (September 1838): 263-67.

[81] “Homeward Bound—Or the Chase; A Tale of the Sea.” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 4 (November 1838): 726.

[82] “Another Review of ‘Homeward Bound.’” Southern Literary Messenger 4 (November 1838): 733.

[83] Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine 3 (September 1838): 216.

[84] “Cooper’s Last Works” [Review of Homeward Bound and Home as Found], New York Review 3 (January 1839): 212.

[85] North American Review 47 (October 1838): 488.

[86] “Home as Found.” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 5 (March 1839): 169.

[87] “Home as Found.” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 5 (March 1839): 169-75.

[88] “Cooper’s Last Works” [Review of Homeward Bound and Home as Found], New York Review 3 (January 1839): 209-221.

[89] [Thurlow Weed], Review of Home as Found, Albany Evening Journal, 22 November 1838: 2 (col. 4).

[90] [James Watson Webb], Review of Home as Found, Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, 22 November 1838.

[91] See Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (New York: Knopf, 1995) for a thorough study of William Cooper’s real character.

[92] [James Watson Webb], Review of Home as Found, Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, 22 November 1838.

[93] [Park Benjamin], “Mr. Cooper’s Last Novel.” New-Yorker 6 (1 December 1838): 173.

[94] “The New American Novels,” Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine 4 (January 1839): 66.

[95] “Home as Found.” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 5 (March 1839): 172.

[96] JFC to William Cullen Bryant for The Evening Post, 22 November 1838: Letters and Journals 3:350-51.

[97] JFC to William Cullen Bryant for The Evening Post, 24 November 1838: Letters and Journals 3:352-53.

[98] Ethel R. Outland, The “Effingham” Libels on Cooper: A Documentary History of the Libel Suits of James Fenimore Cooper; Centering Around the Three Mile Point Controversy and the Novel Home as Found, 1837-1845 (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1929).

[99] Dorothy Waples, The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper (New Haven: Yale UP, 1938) 1.

[100] New Yorker 6 (23 February 1839): 361.

[101] JFC to David Hale and Gerald Hallock, for The New Journal of Commerce and Gazette, 15 June 1840: Letters and Journals 4:45.

[102] New-York American (Semi-Weekly), 18 August 1838: 2.

[103] JFC to Samuel Carter Hall, 8-11? March 1831: Letters and Journals 2:59.

[104] JFC to William Cullen Bryant for The Evening Post, 22 November 1838: Letters and Journals 3:350-51.

[105] [Park Benjamin], “Mr. Cooper’s Last Novel,” New-Yorker 6 (1 December 1838): 173.

[106] “Questions,” “Effingham” Libel Suit: James Fenimore Cooper Papers, Box 1, Folder 12, American Antiquarian Society.

[107] JFC to Samuel Carter Hall, 21 May 1831: Letters and Journals 2:83.

[108] See Letters and Journals 3:319 for an overview of the related correspondence and Cooper’s summary of the plan.

[109] JFC to Lewis Gaylord Clark and Willis Gaylord Clark for The Knickerbocker, [April?] 1838: Letters and Journals 3:320-24. Cooper offers his supposed proof as an opportunity “to rebuke the provincial credulity of a very presuming, and yet a very ignorant, portion of the American reading public” (3:321). By his calculations, Frederick Marryat, a rival sea novelist, was the likely author. See also JFC to Horatio Greenough, 31 June 1838: Letters and Journals 3:329, wherein Cooper also explains why the author of the review could not have been Lockhart.

[110] [J.G. Lockhart], Review of England, with Sketches of Society in the Metropolis [English title of Gleanings in Europe: England], London Quarterly Review 59 (October 1837): 327-61.

[111] JFC to Horatio Greenough, 31 June 1838: Letters and Journals 3:329.

[112]Letters and Journals 3:318 (Cooper’s excerpt from the Memoirs); Letters and Journals 3:323.

[113] JFC to Lewis Gaylord Clark and Willis Gaylord Clark, for The Knickerbocker, [April?] 1838: Letters and Journals 3:318.

[114] JFC to Carey & Lea, 6 November 1831: Letters and Journals 2:149.

[115] Waples 182.

[116] “Home as Found” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 5 (March 1839): 176.

[117] “Homeward Bound—Or the Chase; A Tale of the Sea” [Review], Southern Literary Messenger 4 (November 1838): 724.

[118] Knickerbocker 12 (December 1838): 508-520.

[119] Albany Evening Journal, 22 November 1838: 2.

[120] JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 10 November 1838: Letters and Journals 3:344.

[121] “Home as Found” [review], Southern Literary Messenger 5 (March 1839): 176.

[122] Southern Literary Messenger 5 (March 1839): 176.

[123] Refutation of the Misstatements and Calumnies Contained in Mr. Lockhart’s Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Respecting the Messrs. Ballantyne (London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838; Boston: J. Munroe and Co., 1838).

[124] “The Messrs. Ballantynes and Mr. Lockhart.” Knickerbocker 12 (November 1838): 467.

[125] JFC to Shubrick, 12 November 1838: Letters and Journals 3:347.