Ritual and Aesthetic: The Influence of Europe on the Art of Fenimore Cooper

Helen Phinit-Akson [Dr. Helen James] (Thammasat University, Bangkok Thailand)

Copyright © 1976, Thammasat University Press, Bangkok.

Placed online with permission of the author.

Publisher’s Note: Since 1967, Helen Phinit-Akson has taught English and American Literature at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., and at Thammasat and Chulalongkorn Universities in Bangkok, THAILAND. She earned her B.A. (Arts/Oriental Studies) from the Australian National University, and M.A. and Ph. D from the University of Pittsburgh.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

SUMMARY (from rear cover of original):

RITUAL AND AESTHETIC: The Influence of Europe on the Art of Fenimore Cooper by Helen Phinit-Akson analyzes the varied artistic techniques of James Fenimore Cooper as found in eight of his novels written between 1828 and 1849. Across these twenty years, Cooper’s artistic modes changed from iconography to motif and ritual, to allegory and symbol as this first American novelist of International reputation responded positively to the Renaissance art and architecture of Europe. In this manner, Cooper’s artistry becomes a definition of the human condition. The eight novels treated here — The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, The Bravo, The Heidenmauer, The Headsman, The Wing-and-Wing, Mercedes of Castile, The Oak Openings, The Sea Lions reflect a Cooper with interests vastly different from those of the author of the Leatherstocking saga.


{i} This book grew from my conviction that America’s first novelist of international stature deserves more recognition than as a spinner of Indian yarns, as the Leatherstocking series is often considered. Among the forty-two volumes of Cooper’s fiction, three groups are usually recognized: the Sea tales, the tales of the Prairie and the Indian, and the tales of Social Criticism. For students of American literature who are not native speakers of English, only the Indian tales are often thought appropriate. Yet, in fact these may hold the least interest for bi-lingual students. Among the Sea tales and the tales of Social Criticism, several volumes of racy narrative in Cooper’s best style would attract more interest and be more engaging to the bi-lingual student than those of the Leatherstocking saga e.g. The Pilot, The Red Rover, The Wing-and-Wing, The Bravo, Satanstoe.

There is however, a fourth group of novels in Cooper’s fiction which includes some of the Sea tales and some of the volumes of Social Criticism, but which really forms a new group. These are, the eight novels which are profoundly influenced in technique and theme by Cooper’s experiences while travelling in Europe, 1816-1833. Superficially, this group includes and subsumes the three former groups, for the Indian and the Settler, the Sea, and Social Criticism have been utilized as narrative elements in articulating Cooper’s vision of the nature and condition of man in the universe. However, when the extent of the influence of Cooper’s experiences on his art is recognized, it can be seen that this fourth group of eight novels distinctly deals with one overall theme, his spiritual vision of man’s responsibility as a finite creature within an infinite universe. The eight novels on which this study focuses show that Cooper’s artistic methods were conditioned by his response to European art and architecture, especially that of the Renaissance. His techniques are most assuredly not those of Henry James and it is a mistake to judge him by these; his style is not faultless as Mark Twain has shown, and as any devotee of Cooper will admit; but, his artistry has a form and validity which deserves appreciation. At his best, Cooper is incisive, pithy, and devastatingly accurate in his analysis of society and man.

It is hoped that this book will aid and stimulate teachers and students of nineteenth-century American literature to judge the achievement of this first American novelist of international renown. It is one of the ironies of Cooper’s fortunes that he has been more appreciated overseas than in his own country, partly because of his belligerent criticism of social and moral codes which he considered were in decay during his own time. Yet his remarks are not merely local, but have universal relevance wherever man pretends to be other than a fallible being.

hapter 1 — AN AFFAIR OF FAITH: Cooper in Europe

{1} Myth-maker, social critic, creator of the American sea novel, Fenimore Cooper has been the subject of resurgent interest in academic literary circles since the 1920’s. The religious concerns dominating those of his novels which do not fall into these categories have been the subject of various articles by Howard Mumford Jones, Charles A. Brady, Donald A. Ringe, and Frank M. Collins. Suggestive, though not exhaustive, as these articles have been, they bring into focus this important religious dimension attested to by numerous letters and journals of Fenimore Cooper as well as by his non-fiction travel books. In Paris during his European sojourn, 1826-1833, Cooper once declared: “Selon moi chaque homme devrait être le maître de ses propres intérêts jusque au point où cette liberté ne gêne pas l’ordre public et la justice, et avec moi, la religion est une affaire de foi et pas de raisonnements. Un Dieu que je pourrais comprendre deviendrait un égal, et les égaux ne s’adorent pas .” 1 Religion, Cooper believes, is a matter of faith for him, not reason — faith in the benevolence of an incomprehensible Deity in whose omnipotence he delights. Such antinomian feelings were confirmed in Cooper during his residence in Europe and resound throughout his fiction, especially the novels of his last decade, 1840-1850.

Commenting on the religious dimension in Cooper’s fiction, Howard Mumford Jones points out that Cooper is “the only American novelist of international stature to take Christianity seriously both as personal motive and as social force.” 2 He recognizes Cooper’s insistence on Christian principles as the only valid guides for individual conduct and as the only reliable bases of a worthwhile human community. Fenimore Cooper, the social critic established during the 1930’s by the valuable studies of Robert E. Spiller 3 and Dorothy Waples, 4 becomes a necessary forerunner of Brady’s Christian romancer, the Cooper who is “the most religious of our major novelists.” 5 Cooper’s religious views could be defined as the unqualified acceptance of Trinitarian Christianity; from this position, Cooper constantly analyzes man and society. In his fiction, man “cannot hope to arrive at truth or justice solely through the use of his unaided reason.” 6 Cooper condemns those who do uphold the sufficiency of their own rational faculty; he “abhorred Deism, automaticallY anathematized Paine and Voltaire, shuddered and later shook at the mention of{2} Unitarianism.” 7 Though his religious opinions may lack originality and may leave a God-less generation untouched, they assert a profound influence on the form and technique of his fiction, an influence fostered and nurtured by experiences during his European travels.

This religious dimension was first alluded to by Thomas R. Lounsbury, the novelist’s first biographer, who remarks on Cooper’s deeply religious nature and traces the importance of theology in Cooper’s fiction from his first novel, Precaution, to his penultimate work, The Sea Lions (1849). Lounsbury’s unsympathetic attitude towards his subject and his inability to obtain access to family documents since published by James F. Beard cause him to portray a bigoted Cooper, a “Puritan of the Puritans,” whose religion is merely “pietistic narrowness.” Completely misreading The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, Lounsbury says Cooper was unable to delineate the Puritan character sympathetically because he shared their “earnestness, their intensity, their narrowness, their intolerance, their pugnacity, their serious way of looking at human duties and responsibilities,” all of which in Lounsbury’s view “correspond with elements in his own character.” Discussing Cooper’s late novels, 1840-1850, Lounsbury believes that they merely illustrate “his regard for the Episcopal church and his dislike of New England.” With the excuse of writing fiction, Cooper supposedly attacked “those whose religious views differed from his own.” 8

With Lounsbury’s acid judgment of Cooper, Marcel Clavel totally disagrees. Cooper, he declares, was a “Chrétien convaincu — si convaincu et si sincère qu’il n’avait pas encore osé se présenter à la table de communion — épiscopalien pratiquant et même agissant, il n’avait rien du dévot ni du sectaire. Son hostilité contre les puritains — dont il reconnaissait d’ailleurs les mérites et les vertus — venait en partie du sectarisme avec lequel ils avaient persécuté les coreligionnaires de ses ancêtres quakers, tandis que l’impression durable que lui avait laissée la poésie de culte catholique espagnol témoignait éloquemment de son manque de préjugés .” 9 In his monumental study of Cooper’s early works, Clavel here agrees with the novelist’s friend and contemporary, Samuel Morse, who testifies that Cooper was “theoretically orthodox, a great respecter of religion and religious men, a man of unblemished moral character,” 10 and with William C. Brownell who appreciated the fact that Cooper’s antipathy to the Yankee archetype in his fiction was a critique of religious fanaticism, self-sufficiency, and disputatious sectarianism. Bearing in mind Cooper’s responses to the various European religious cultures in {3} The Bravo (1831), The Heidenmauer (1832), The Headsman (1833), Mercedes of Castile (1840), and The Wing-and-Wing (1842), Brownell disperses the spectre of bigotry: “Catholicism and Catholics always receive just and appreciative treatment at his hands.” 11 The sympathetic treatment of Catholicism in these latter two novels is especially noteworthy because Cooper wrote them following the violent anti-Catholic agitation in the United States subsequent to the publication, in 1836, of Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery. Cooper closely followed the religious controversies of the years, 1834-1840, before incorporating his conclusions in his final novels.

Cooper’s friends thus support recent scholars in their growing appreciation of the religious dimension in his novels. The man who declared to C. Henry that religion was, to him, a matter of faith, not reason, appears in his writings, not as a zealot, but as a man of encompassing breadth of soul whose compassion for his fellow creatures caught in their human limitations led him to examine the implications of Christian theology as the basis of Western civilization. In several of his novels, Cooper presents a religious vision of life stemming from his intuition of the original catholicity of an untheorized Christianity before disputatious sectarianism stripped the spirit from the system. This religious vision is most clearly presented in eight of his novels written between 1829 and 1849 — specifically, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), The Bravo (1831), The Heidenmauer (1832), The Headsman (1833), Mercedes of Castile (1840), The Wing-and-Wing (1842), The Oak Openings (1848), and The Sea Lions (1849). These novels show that Cooper, as artist, seeks to demonstrate the necessity for man to acknowledge the inadequacy of his reason to find truth; for humility as a fallible being whose only chance of avoiding gross error lies in accepting the will of Providence and the theological disciplines of orthodox Christianity.

As expressed in his fiction, Cooper’s religious vision appears to have been stimulated by the art and architecture of Catholic Europe. During his seven years in Europe, 1826-1833, he assiduously sought out the relics of the once powerful Holy Roman Empire. Thus, soon after his arrival in France, Cooper wrote to his sister a lengthy description of the Cathédrale de Notre Dame at Rouen. Quite attracted by this “fine specimen of the Gothic,” he commended the ornamentation of “saints, virgins, cherubim, angels, and other sacred images” and then proceeded to describe the interior and minor altars decorated with paintings, religious images, and burning candles, altars “which are in use by pious devotees at all hours of the day — { 4} Remember you never enter a Catholic Church without finding some one at prayer, counting his or her beads, or performing a penance.” 12 Gothic art and architecture appear to have been on Cooper’s mind frequently during these years, for in this same letter he also mentions a specific visit to the ruins of Netley Abbey and a church near Carisbrooke Castle on the English Isle of Wight and confesses that the Coopers are “great hunters after the Gothic” which they have “since enjoyed in such perfection in France.” 13

Just what did Gothic mean to Cooper — Not the Protestant, night-mare visions of the late eighteenth century Gothic novelists. Nor does he appear to emulate the Gothic ideal of structural balance such as Charles Muscatine has found in Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale.” 14 For Cooper, Gothic conjures up that fabulous era of medieval piety when artisans and artists were stimulated by their faith to produce masterpieces of art and architecture for the purpose of magnifying the greatness of their God. The Gothic held a natural attraction to a novelist who declared that religion was a matter of faith to him, faith in the benevolence of an incomprehensible Deity who presided over a unified Catholicism.

Not surprisingly then, Cooper’s letters and journals during his European sojourn show that, while travelling in Belgium 29 May to 10 June 1828, he deliberately sought out churches in Breda, Antwerp, and Mechlin — Catholic cathedrals with Gothic associations. At Antwerp, he also visited the art gallery where his journals specify that he saw Ruben’s painting of Calvary and the Descent from the Cross. 15 Cooper says that he saw another Rubens in the church of Mechlin; which painting, he does not specify, but Rubens is known to have painted twelve versions of the “Assumption of the Virgin” and fifteen of the “Adoration of the Magi,” 16 and it is not impossible that Cooper saw one of these studies. Indeed, Cooper’s letters and journals show that he soon developed a connoisseur’s delight in religious art. He eagerly visited galleries in Dresden, Munich, and Florence; discussed Raphael and Murillo, 17 whose paintings were being copied in the Louvre by Cooper’s friend, Samuel Morse; cemented friendships with the American artists, Horatio Greenough and Thomas Cole. Later, Cooper was anxious to obtain the painting by Washington Allston, “Elisha in the Wilderness.”

Cooper’s comments on art and artists seem to indicate that he had a special predilection for the works of the Counter-Reformation and the historical relics of this movement. At the home of his English friend, Samuel Rogers, in 1828, Cooper {5} had indulged himself wandering around Roger’s fabulous collection of art works among which were some fine paintings of the Madonna, a favorite subject for artists of the Counter-Reformation. 18 Like the Belgian painter, Rubens, whom Cooper noted in his journal, Raphael and Murillo were similarly renowned for their Madonnas, as were the galleries of Dresden, Munich, and Florence at this time. Since there is much latent mariolatry in the novels Cooper wrote after 1828, it would seem as if these works of art and the Gothic, religious spirit inspiring them were acting as a catalyst for Cooper’s imagination.

Mariolatry and the relics of Gothic Catholicism seem to have been on Cooper’s mind during his extended visit to Switzerland, 1828 - 1830. For the Protestant churches of the Bernese Oberland, Cooper showed no such enthusiasm as he had accorded the French Gothic structures. Not until he was in the Catholic regions of Zurich, Goldau, and Soleure-Constance did Cooper show more than desultory interest in the art and architecture once more. He deliberately sought out the Dominican convent in Constance where John Huss had been tried and condemned for heresy in 1414. Cooper made a detailed examination of the hall in which the Council of Constance was held and later visited the site of the execution of Huss. In this Dominican stronghold of Langenthal and Constance, he was, as in Belgium, confronted with mariolatry — the Dominican polemicists, St. Bernard and St. Thomas Aquinas, had both upheld this dogma. In his journal, Cooper noted that these convents together with those at Sachseln and Sarnen also celebrated St. Nicholas, who, as the patron saint of children, is often found in religious paintings of the Virgin and Child. 19 It is not surprising then to find that his experiences in this region are directly incorporated into his novel, The Heidenmauer, (1832).

A further instance of Cooper’s confrontation with mariolatry, also incorporated into The Heidenmauer, is his experience at the shrine of Einsiedeln. Fascinated by the large number of pilgrims of humble station, all praying aloud as they made their offerings inside the shrine to the Virgin and Child, Cooper earnestly commended their simple faith and their lack of skepticism, a characteristic observation for a novelist who had declared: la religion est une affaire de foi et pas de raisonnements. Empathizing with the villagers, Cooper supposed that they felt “awe” before the “mysterious looking countenances” 21 of the Mother and Child.

Cooper’s interest in religious art and architecture increased during his residence in Italy (12 October 1828, to 7 May 1830). During this time, he deliberately {6} immersed himself in the religious art of the Italian Renaissance. To Milan he went to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” 21 while Corregio’s painting of St. Jerome with the Madonna and Child draws praise from him in the cathedral of Parma. 22 In Florence, the city he enjoyed most of all, Cooper frequented the art collection in the Pitti Palace and commissioned Horatio Greenough to execute for him a sculpture from Raphael’s painting, “La Madonna del Trono.” 23 His enthusiastic response to Rome and to the religious spirit of Italian Renaissance art is noticeably in contrast to the tepid remarks of the novelist, Hawthorne, or the explicit antipathy of his near-contemporary, Dickens.

Quite aware of the inherent dangers of the doctrine of mariolatry, at the Sorrento shrine, Cooper suspects idolatry in the people’s worship, a reservation he had also documented at the Einsiedeln shrine. 24 Idolatry decreases the idealized aspects of the Madonna and emphasizes the human features of the figure to a deplorable extent. Thus we find two entries in Cooper’s journal which elucidate his fear:

Sunday, 27 Sept. A procession in which a waxen image of the Virgin was carried in state passed this morning to the church of the Archbishop.  Sunday, 4 Oct. The Virgin of an adjoining church to the deserted convent on the point went in procession to some of the other churches. She is a gay doll in wax, with a wig of raw cotton and much bedizzened with lace and cotton. 25

Cooper infers that the inappropriate attire of the image, which contravenes the rules set by the Council of Trent for the representation of the Virgin, is more suited to Persephone than to the Mother of Christ. She seems to be an emblem of fertility, rather than of immortality.

To the themes of mortality and immortality, Cooper’s immersion in the religious cultures, art, and architecture finally led him. Confronted by the massive ruins of Rome, Cooper had an overwhelming sense of the insignificance of human endeavors and the fragility of human life. At the tomb of Cecilia Motella, he marvelled at the chance which had preserved her story for posterity: “In this manner do we come into the world, struggle through, furnish some frail memorial of our self esteem, in an effort to be remembered, and perish from the memory of our fellows.” 26 The limits of human endeavor were again on Cooper’s mind as he stood at the shrine of the Three Magi at Cologne Cathedral in 1832. As at the tomb of Cecilia Motella, the bony memorials induce in Cooper that humility which {7} he regarded as the stepping-stone to faith, a condition which he believed was aided by the external appurtenances peculiar to Catholic culture.

Cooper’s letters and journals, consequently, furnish proof that the novelist enthusiastically absorbed himself in European Catholic culture. His travels through Ancona, Loretto, Venice all attest to this point. The Gothic cathedral and convent at Nonnenswerth, an island in the Rhine river of Germany, once close to the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, evoked a positive response from him. This ancient, Benedictine convent was, at the time of Cooper’s visit in 1832, a tavern! While his family lodged felicitously in the apartments of the former Abbess, about ten o’clock at night, with lightning and thunder outside, Cooper strolled, candle in hand, into the chapel alone. The glare of the lightning, images of saints, crucifixes, altars, all combined to produce “a sensation” in Cooper who admitted he had been “enjoying all this.” 27 To Samuel Morse later, Cooper declared that he went to the chapel deliberately “in quest of a sensation;” on seeing the images and crucifixes, he exclaimed: “Here was what I wanted.” His sensitivity to the atmosphere of this ancient convent is explicit in a paragraph concluding his account to Morse of the chapel adventure:

Tis near midnight Mr. Morse — all but nature is asleep, and I have been walking and musing in the long and empty corridors. Strange thoughts come uppermost in such a place and at such a time, Master Samuel. The rushing of the winds seem as the murmuring of uneasy sisters, the pattering of the rain like floods of tears and the thunders sound as so many gémissements at the sins of man. 28

In view of this intense interest in the art and architecture of Catholic Europe, Cooper’s response to the Swiss Alpine scenery may not be a coincidence; it is couched in spiritual terms. In his novels, The Heidenmauer, The Headsman, and The Sea Lions, recollection of this scenery inspires him to religious themes in his own art. Cooper regarded the alpine peaks, Jung Frau and Wengern, as piercing into a different sphere separated from the intrigues of the lower world. He comments on the “spectral and unearthly appearance of the Alps when seen through broken intervals in the clouds, which resemble glimpses into the interior of another world.” 29 On the Niesen and neighboring mountains, Cooper declares: “The separation from the lower world was made the more complete, from the contrast between the sombre hues beneath and the calm but bright magnificence above. ... [It] resembled a glimpse {8} through the windows of heaven.” Significantly, he continues: “It was impossible to look at them without religious awe ... I could hardly persuade myself I was not gazing at some of the sublime mysteries that lie beyond the grave.” 31 Did Cooper see in these alpine pinnacles the Gothic spires which had attracted him in France — Certainly they provoked his imagination in the same manner as did the religious art and architecture of Catholic Europe.

Cooper’s letters, journals, and travel books, therefore, support the contention of Marcel Clavel that Cooper was a devout Christian, interested in all the manifestations of this Faith, appreciative of the poetry within Catholic culture, and completely untainted by sectarian bigotry. The Bishops’ scandal and the hysterical fear of a Catholic conspiracy in the United States in the decade following Cooper’s return from Europe, caused him to write to The Churchman:

Would it not be healthful for some among us to remember that there is to be a general union of all the churches, making a truly catholic body, and does any sane man suppose that any particular branch of the church is now so infallible, that this can be done without mutual concessions — I believe that Rome and our own church are one day to be united, and yet I doubt if transubstantiation will ever be received again, as catholic doctrine. 31

Cooper’s abiding interest in theology and the schisms within Christianity continued throughout his lifetime. His journal for 1 January 1848 shows him beginning a systematic reading of the Bible from the Gospel of St. John through the Pauline Epistles to Revelation before returning to Genesis and on to Numbers — surely part or a continuous performance as Boynton suggests. 32 Before his death, 14 September 1851, Cooper’s family prevailed on him to accept the sacraments of the Episcopal church. After a lifetime of consciously confronting the variations of religion in diverse cultures, Cooper finally felt he could participate in the Eucharist himself. In his last decade, his novels attest to this continuing analysis of Christianity.

As a prelude to his final novels, Cooper transformed his European experiences into a series of travel books on England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy, The prolific references to the vine, wine-making, vineyards, in both parts of the Sketches of Switzerland (1836) emphasize Cooper’s interest in the proper uses of the vine. Thus, he comments on the vine and olive which both “help to make up the sum of the picturesque, though quite as much through association as through {9} the eye.” 33 He also refers to the “classical associations” 34 evoked by the vines of Vevey — surely a reference to the Bacchus-Dionysus cult in the Roman and Greek pantheons. Bacchus figures prominently in the Festival of Vine-growers in The Headsman which was written at Vevey. In the travel books, therefore, Cooper suggests that the misuse of the vine in Bacchanalian revelry is inappropriate to its sacred associations with the Eucharist in the Christian dispensation. The second part of the Sketches of Switzerland further expounds Cooper’s concern with the misuse of the vine as representative of wilful disregard of the sacrifice of Christ. 35 On an excursion to the former abode of Voltaire, whose rationalistic philosophy he abhorred, Cooper significantly described Voltaire’s exaltation of Reason in terms of inebriation; to make an idol of the human intellect is testimony to a “vanity so besotted.” 36 Cooper thus equates misuse of the Eucharistic vine with the pride of reason which represents besotted human disregard of the decrees of Providence. By following the motif of the vines in the Sketches we arrive at a perception of Cooper’s increasing distrust of the rational faculty when man’s pride of reason displaces his faith, a major emphasis in his last novels. In this non-fiction, Cooper is clearly re-working his European experiences and transforming them to provide a vehicle for artistry in his fiction. The shrine of Einsiedeln and the church of St. Jaques at Liège evoke from him the wish that he had been educated a catholic “in order to unite the poetry of religion with its higher principles.” 37 To Cooper’s imagination, the Christian mysteries made a fervent appeal apprehended by his reason as the catholicity of Christianity. Not only did his experiences with the diverse religious cultures of Europe condition the themes of his novels, but also they suggested the forms and techniques of his fiction from the European novels of the 1830’s to those of the final decade, 1840-50.

hapter 2 — MOSAIC AND ICONOGRAPHIC: The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish

{12} Environmental influence on themes and techniques is evident in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), perhaps Cooper’s most overtly religious work up to this time. Written mostly in Calvinistic Switzerland following Cooper’s brief visit to Holland and Belgium where he sought out the cathedrals and the religious art of Rubens, 38 The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish shows Cooper foregoing the use of European materials for the moment, to employ the Calvinistic New England setting of late seventeenth-century America. The novelist has reacted to his European environment by producing this fictional analysis of two Calvinistic communities in his native country. Both theme and technique are the results of his reaction to his Calvinistic environment, always rather uncongenial to Cooper. Thus, his analysis of the blighting effect on human life by the Mosaic principle of vengeance is carried by the prolific use of Biblical texts and iconographic details of setting. Though Cooper’s theme renders the work a powerful, if ironic, study of Puritan characteristics, his technique makes it aesthetically unsatisfactory as the texts and the iconography fail to jell.

The undeniable, thematic power of the book has prompted Donald A. Ringe to write that it is “not so much a Puritan as a broadly Christian book full of biting ironies that make telling comments about true and false religion. 39 One of the most glaring of these ironies is the structure of Cooper’s narrative from the Christian to the Mosaic dispensation, an inversion, of course, of the Biblical sequence, and an effective method of emphasizing his theme. In this regression from the Christian to the Mosaic, the well scene and holocaust form a structural pivot between two communities whose bases of moral action are directly opposed. By tracing the blighting effects on human life subsequent to the annihilation of the Christian dispensation by the Mosaic formulae, Cooper announces the extinction of the human species should man continue to disregard the “characteristics of our mild and forbearing doctrines” 41 at the heart of Christianity. The religious theme is clearly fundamental to the novel, not just a sentimental accretion to an Indian tale. Consequently, the carefully developed symbolism of the well scene merits close attention.

The most flagrant emphasis of the symbolism in this scene is on flaming destruction, fiery sacrifice, and the desolation of a flourishing community evocative of an apocalyptic end before the Second Advent. Not only is the reader led to {13} believe that the Heathcotes have perished, but also that a particular manner of life, an entire culture has been destroyed. Thus, while the Heathcote family and their surviving retainers seek refuge in the empty well in the centre of their fortification, the wooden defences, swiftly ignited by the Indians, “kindled fiercely. ... They became too violent to be subdued. ... The subtle element flashed ... and ... was stealing up ... the outer side of the heated block itself” (p. 222). Numerous phrases — “wrapped in flames”, “crackling of the flames”, “the interior was in a blaze”, “rekindled”, “smouldering pile ” — all contribute to Cooper’s impression of fiery Apocalypse. Utter destruction is the mood of his realistic picture of the settlement (p. 226) as Conanchet, the Indian lad who had dwelt with the Heathcotes, wanders around the smoking ruins “so lately consecrated by the agony and martyrdom of a Christian family” (p. 227). The narrator points out that this destruction forms an “effectual check ... to the further progress of civilization in the ill-fated valley of the Wish-ton-Wish” (p. 228). Since civilization has been obliterated, the second community in the same valley will logically represent a regression of human culture, not a confident march to progress.

To re-inforce this suggestion of ironic regression from Christian to Mosaic, Cooper employs iconographic details inherent in the natural setting: the bird, the well, the trees and environment of the second settlement in the same valley. Thus, the “Wish-ton-Wish” is said to be the “Whip-Poor-Will” (pp. 246-247), a name for the American Night Hawk; however, Cooper indicates the emblematic significance of the name for him in his work by comparing the song of the Wish-ton-Wish to a message of peace 41 which is inaudible above the crackling flames of the holocaust. Associated with a pacific, Christian dispensation, the Wish-ton-Wish is reduced to an inept representation of itself in the reborn community where it seems an “unknown bird” (p. 246), for the moral values of the second settlement are a mere effigy of Christian principles. The air of death at the well site is not so much the literal extinction of a people as the death of their Christian values. The guiding principle of the second community will be the Mosaic code of vengeance (p. 329).

Secondly, Cooper’s description of the natural setting reflects the changed moral state of man when he rises, Phoenix-like, from the ashes to rebuild his community. Though the apocalyptic destruction in winter (the prescribed season for the event, Matt. 24:20-21) is succeeded by the traditional resurrection in spring of both human nature and external nature, there is no spiritual renewal. The “renovated existence” (p. 225) contains no illusions about inherent human worth. The human {14} beings who appear from the well rise “with marked suspicion” (p. 229) about their fellow creatures. Gone is their pre-lapsarian innocence and trust in man. The Phoenix-like rebirth from the well, as Ringe suggests, is heavily ironic, for Christian resurrection implied by this image is quite inapplicable to the vengeful characteristics of the second community. 42

In establishing the nature of this second community, Cooper has also drawn on Christian iconography with which he was familiar from his study of religious art. Through the emblem of the dried-up well the narrator suggests that it is an essentially Grace-less community now that the young Ruth Heathcote has been spirited away during the holocaust. As ancestress of David, the Biblical Ruth is regarded as a type of the Virgin. Further evidence that Cooper is taking advantage of the religious connotations of Ruth’s name appears in the use of other attributes of the Virgin also given to Ruth in the novel: the dove, apple, daughter of the morning, and the lady of the snows. 43 In addition, the dried-up well from which this second community is born seems specifically disassociated from the well which is always full, the well of Grace which Christ discussed with the woman of Samaria (John 4:13-14). Since Christian charity is in short supply in the new settlement, the desire to wreak vengeance on the attackers has clearly dried-up the springs of Grace in the hearts of the settlers. Mark Heathcote’s warnings not to seek vengeance are unheeded. As a group of the survivors prepare to take news of the disaster to townships on the lower Connecticut, it was “evident ... [his] forgiving principle might be forgotten, should chance ... bring them on the trail of any wandering inhabitant of the forest” (p. 232). In this rebuilt community dominated by the principle of vengeance, the Reverend Meek Wolfe is far more influential than Mark Heathcote. Instead of the fruitful life which draws its vitality from the full well, blight and death are to be the characteristics of this Grace-less second community reborn from the empty well.

The iconographic tradition in Christian symbolism is again apparent in Cooper’s description of the natural setting of the rebuilt settlement. Notably more specific than that accorded the original community, 44 the description focuses on the trees and flowers characteristic of this new settlement. The forty dwellings in the village cluster around the “devious course” (p. 244) of a river bordered by willow and sumach; other trees dominant in the settlement are elms and a large sycamore in the centre of the main street; roses and lilacs bloom in front of the dwellings. The home of the Heathcotes, which Cooper specifies has been reconstructed from the remnants of the first settlement has a flourishing apple orchard. These botanical {15} details may be just a naturalistic description of a rural, New England village; on the other hand, in other works of Cooper, the willow and the sumach are associated with particular qualities. In The Prairie, a novel he completed in Europe, the few trees existing in the dreary, wasteland setting have particular thematic functions; it is a willow from which Abiram White is hanged for the murder of his nephew; the solitary willow, moreover, is associated pre-eminently with sterility and death, for its naked trunk, “tempest-riven,” is a “solemn monument of former fertility,” which “proclaimed the frailty of existence and the fulfillment of time.” 45 In a later work of Cooper, The Deerslayer, “Sumach” is the name of a bloodthirsty Indian woman who seeks revenge on Natty Bumppo for the deaths of her husband and brother. Cooper says she was given the name because she was “as acid as the berry from which she derived her name.” 46 He associates her acidity with “fury, rage, mortified pride” as she becomes a “volcano of wrath” launching a maniacal attack on Leatherstocking. The willow and sumach, therefore, would seem to have particular values of sterility, bitterness, and violence in Cooper’s consciousness.

Cooper does not always use natural details functionally, however; the deciduous maple and beech among the evergreens of the village of Templeton in The Pioneers, have no symbolic significance, for here Cooper uses the architecture of Judge Temple’s house to carry his theme instead. On the other hand, in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish he seems to reflect the moral state of man in the physical setting. Just prior to his description of the rebuilt settlement in the valley of the Wish-ton-Wish, Cooper indicates that the country exhibits a “concurrence of moral and physical causes” (p. 243). The physical environment seems intended, therefore, to indicate the moral stature of the settlement. Moreover, the author deliberately pauses to “take another hasty view of the country” (p. 243) before continuing his narrative.

The particular trees Cooper has chosen for his scene grow in the valley of the Jordan river 47 as well as in New England. He could have chosen other trees indigenous to New England which are not also found in biblical lands: for example, the maple and beech already employed in The Pioneers. Trees such as the poplar, bay laurel, and oak which grow In both locales 48 do not have the same emblematic connotations as the willow, elm, and sycamore. The specific natural details which Cooper has chosen to employ strengthen the suggestion that he is working in the iconographic tradition of Christian symbolism to indicate clearly the values of the second settlement led my Meek Wolfe, and to distinguish it from Mark Heathcote’s first community. These iconographic details re-inforce the irony of the structural {16} pattern in the regression from Christian to Mosaic. In Cooper’s development as a novelist, his use of iconography seems to be a direct result of his experiences with the religious art of Europe. If we accept the idea that Cooper is working in the iconographic tradition, then his naturalistic details draw added meaning from the biblical commentaries where the deciduous trees, the willow of sterility and the elms grow beside the waters of cupidity. 49 The willow is particularly associated with those sterile in Christian charity, a value Cooper adopted for the willow in The Prairie. As in The Deerslayer, the sumach is again related to violence, indicative of the vengeful heart of the second community. Into these trees associated with the waters of cupidity offered by the woman of Samaria, intrude “occasional masses of evergreens” (p. 214) that contrast with the deciduous trees bearing no fruit. The moral bases of this graceless community born from the dried-up well are opposed to those of the Living Waters and Tree of Life by which the Christian dispensation is often designated in the iconographic tradition.

To re-inforce his other emblematic, botanical details, Cooper’s sycamore, a center for idle gossiping, represents the useless, worldly knowledge of vana scientia which, in the biblical commentaries, is the opposite of sapientia, the wisdom of the Christian doctrine. The sycamore, the “Ficus Fatuus” whose fruit is inedible, is emblematic of the barren condition of human life in a society based on the Mosaic code of vengeance. 51 To leave no doubt of the iconographic significance of his sycamore being the foolish fig of scientia, Cooper deliberately associates it with the fig in the parable of St. Matthew (24:32) with which he has already worked closely in developing his apocalyptic destruction of the first community. In addition, the action of the second settlement is located in summer, when the fig “putteth forth leaves,” not winter, the time of tribulation specified in St Matthew 24:20)

Among Cooper’s other botanical details, the roses, lilacs, and apple orchard are only indirectly related to the motif of fruition embedded in his conjunction of emblematic trees. They do, however, represent a center of opposition to the thematic connotations of the trees. The roses and lilacs, emblematic of the Virgin and of Christ (Cant. 2:1-3) indicate the residue of the Christian dispensation lingering in the second community. Significantly, the flourishing apple orchard of the Heathcotes, in stark contrast to the barren condition of the trees in the town, has existed only eight or ten years, the time elapsed since the first conflagration. Since Cooper specifies that the orchard has a “deep moral interest attached to its existence” {17} (p. 497), he would appear to he using this traditional emblem of the fall of man as a reminder of man’s need of redemption. The apple is appropriately located on the land of the Heathcotes. Anxious about the lost Ruth (Grace), they are most conscious of the graceless state of the second community. It is no accident that the church and the tavern in this settlement seem identical, for the unregenerate community, in the security of its self-righteousness, is largely unaware of its need of redemption. Cupiditas controls both sacred and secular spheres.

Worldly knowledge, scientia, absolute confidence in their intellectual powers are the dominant characteristics of both the Reverend Meek Wolfe, alleged spiritual leader of the community, and his secular counterpart, Dr. Ergot, another version of that intellectual blindness which Cooper had celebrated in The Prairie. In The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, however, pride of reason in the secular sphere is not fully developed, for Cooper has chosen to concentrate on the perversion of sacred principles when intellectual pride dominates the spiritual sphere. Meek Wolfe, Cooper’s Anti-Christ, is thus more powerful and more dangerous than Dr. Ergot. In presenting the minister who, as Kay Seymour House suggests. embodies the “discordant parts of Puritan theology” 51 Cooper employs biblical texts instead of iconography to which he returns only when Ruth is restored to the community. Meek Wolfe thus becomes the epitome of the Mosaic dispensation as he preaches from Judges (6:1), corrupts the texts of the New Testament (Matt. 7:13-14, John 10:16), and finally invokes the ultimate Mosaic formula of vengeance: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. 52

A careful selection of biblical texts informs Meek’s great scene as Anti-Christ on the Sabbath when the second destruction of the community occurs. Thus, a skilful combination of passages from the Old Testament elucidates the vengeful spirit of the killer Wolfe, while those from the New Testament show Meek identifying himself with Christ. The texts emphasize that Meek approaches the battle with the Indians as one between the Israelites (his own congregation) and the Philistines on whom he prays that burning coals may fall. With heavy irony, while Meek comes to judge, not to save, Cooper allows him to cry out in the tone of a Messiah: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Judgment pronounced in the tones of an angry God is the theme of Meek’s major appearances in the novel. During his first sermon after the Indian attack, Meek chooses to ignore the clemency of Conanchet, denounces him and Philip {18} (Metacom) as agents of Moloch, and urges retribution. Ho stirs the congregation, as Israelites, to dispossess the Judeans and establish the “empire of the true faith” (p. 385) by arrogating to themselves the right “to visit the former possessors of the country with what he termed the wrath of an offended Deity” (p. 385). Characteristically, Meek expresses approval of the destruction of Pettyquamscott during the preceding winter by the men of the Wish-ton-Wish. Though Cooper describes the desolation of Conanchet’s chief settlement indirectly through the conversations of Meek, Content Heathcote, Philip, and Conanchet, a vivid picture of fearful destruction emerges. Not the Indians, but the men of the Wish-ton-Wish, are the agents of Moloch. 53 For Meek, the slaughter at Pettyquamscott is a “triumph of the righteous cause” (p. 385). He thereby applauds this fiery sacrifice and himself becomes identified with Moloch. In such a role, Meek is morally antagonistic to the Christian dispensation. It is no surprise then that Meek should ignore the mercy of Conanchet and approve the plan to use the captured Mohtucket, Judas-like, to betray the chief.

Cooper subjects this supreme representative of the Mosaic dispensation to superb irony on the restoration of Ruth (Narra-mattah). As this emblem of Grace is returned to her family, though not to the settlement as a whole, Meek proclaims that he is “rejoicing that enough of redeeming grace hath been found to save the Gomorrah of our hearts” (p. 411). Only by the mercy of Conanchet has Grace been restored; yet, it is this instrument of the return of God’s Grace which Meek plans to eliminate. Meek accurately describes the state of his heart as a Gomorrah. His subsequent derision of mercy and charity 54 shows he is ironically ignorant of the implications of his texts by which he unconsciously demonstrates his anti-Christian nature. Cooper does not miss an opportunity to emphasize his irony. Evoking Matt. 7:15-20 “Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them”, this Meek who is barren of “the fruit of Christian qualities” (p. 416) admits “the tree is known by its fruits” (p. 416). This minister is clearly a corrupt tree producing only evil fruit engendered by the seeds of vengeance. At the murder of Conanchet, Cooper leaves no doubt that it is Meek and the society he represents which have been judged and found wanting in humility, mercy, and charity, the essences of the Christian dispensation.

By contrast with Meek’s society, the first settlement in the valley of the Wish-ton-Wish is rendered in specifically Christian terms. The bird after which the settlement has been named carries overtones of St. Mark’s dove of the Holy Spirit {19} (Mark 1:10) suitable to this estate of Edenic rural beauty. The Puritan patriarch, Mark Heathcote, has placed the blockhouse for his family’s security on a foundation of rock in prescribing to the precept: “Do as thou wouldst be done by!” (p. 31). As the narrative begins, however, the Edenic beauty of the settlement has been marred by the ubiquitous, blackened tree stumps indicative of the mark of Cain which looms over the community, for Eben Dudley has participated in the murder of Miantonimoh prior to joining the Heathcotes. The old patriarch’s principles, therefore, must contend with a post-lapsarian condition in man and recognize his need of redemption, a concept Mark acknowledges in the piety of his Christian practice, as he attempts to alleviate the slate of fallen man. His affectionate, family circle, in contrast to Meek Wolfe’s apparent lack of family affection, is a result of his practice of Christian precepts. In developing his moral and religious vision through the history of this first community, Cooper discards the Mosaic texts identified with Meek Wolfe, and returns to the fruitful iconographic tradition: the emblem of the lost sheep, and the woman clothed with the sun of Revelation.

The “fine and fruitful season” (p. 25) of Christian fellowship in the wilderness is almost finished, when the motif of the lost sheep is introduced. From the literal event of the lost sheep, Cooper moves swiftly to establish its metaphorical significance in the remarks of Whittal Ring. The lad, on finding some wool from the lost sheep hung on the branch of a tree, has remarked: “Queer fruit this!” (p. 33); with obvious associations with the Crucifixion, Whittal seems to be posing the question: “What kind of fruit is engendered by a tree on the thorns of which a lamb has been hung — ” Cooper answers the query in the linked destinies of the young: Ruth, Conanchet, and Submission.

Indeed, through the emblem of the lost lamb, Cooper prefigures the salvation and redemption of Conanchet. He is early brought into the Christian pale first by Mark Heathcote: “Hither hath he been led in order to be placed upon the straight and narrow path (p. 82)”, and then by the young Ruth (Narra-mattah) herself. Pre-eminently associated with grace and mercy, she becomes the most important instrument redeeming Conanchet from paganism, for, during the Indian onslaught she causes Conanchet to hearken to the pleas for mercy, and thus draws him into the Christian dispensation. The Indian lad, therefore, becomes a suitable subject for salvation and redemption. Conanchet’s fate is also linked to that of Submission who initially has caused the death of the emblematic lamb (p. 45). Like the death of Conanchet, the loss of the lamb is arbitrary and unjustified, since Mark Heath{20}cote could have satisfied the stranger’s needs. Cooper clearly foreshadows the destinies of Ruth and Conanchet in the interlocking motifs of fruit, tree, and lost lamb. The destruction of the first community is rendered in terms of the Apocalypse (Rev. 8-12) as the seven blasts on the conch evoke the seven trumpets of Doomsday following which the powers of Anti-Christ (Meek Wolfe) will be conquered by the “blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 12:11) To the elder Ruth, her daughter seems to become the sacrificial lamb whose blood atones for the sins of others (p. 235). At the graveside scene after the holocaust, a parallel of a similar scene later between Meek Wolfe and Conanchet, Mark Heathcote emphasizes that the loss of Ruth is a “seeming evil” from which will spring good fruit to fulfil God’s purposes.

Not only is Mark Heathcote’s prediction fulfilled in the subsequent relations between the young Ruth and Conanchet, but also in those of Conanchet and Submission. During the second attack, the community is saved by Ruth’s influence on Conanchet when he rejects Metacom’s call for vengeance, and thus remains within the Christian pale. As a logical consequence, Conanchet enacts the Christian concept: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), when he braves capture by his enemies, the Mohicans, in order to save the life of Submission. The scapegoat role has certainly been cast for the former regicide as Kay Seymour House suggests; 55 however, he is also the instrument by which Cooper demonstrates that Conanchet himself is eligible for salvation, Speaking to Ruth just before his death, he invokes the Lamb of God (John 1:59): “They say that one just man died for all colors” (p. 460) he says, and he completes his destiny as the sacrificial lamb himself whose life is given for that of Submission. Overtones of the crucifixion which cling to his death at the “fatal tree,” “the pine tree” (pp. 456, 464), enhance the suggestion that Cooper may be redeeming the society of Meek Wolfe by the violent sacrifice of Conanchet. Certainly, his death has a powerful effect on all present. Narra-mattah (Ruth) becomes again a little child — the biblical overtones are surely intentional — before her spirit follows that of Conanchet, the two bound together in death “by a mysterious and unearthly intelligence (p, 470).” No longer secure in the righteousness of his own judgment, Meek Wolfe now prays “to ask the Omnipotent Ruler of Heaven and Earth to sanctify his dispensation to those who survive (p. 471).” As the accuser who has been cast down, he has been conquered “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Rev. 12:11) From Meek Wolfe there descends a Reverend Meek Lamb {21} whose name, Cooper points out, may indicate come changes in the doctrinal interpretation of his duty. 56

Cooper’s final iconographic emblem, the woman clothed with the sun, raises his novel to tragic intensity in this narrative of ironic regression from Christian to Mosaic. Just before her death, the young Ruth cries out “an evil Spirit besets me (p. 470),” which has been interpreted as referring to Conanchet. More appropriately, it is likely this phrase indicates Meek Wolfe, the beast of Revelation, who has challenged the maternity of Ruth, the daughter of the morning, the woman “clothed with the sun.” (Rev. 12:1) She has already been developed as a type of the Virgin with whom this text is usually identified. In addition, the two Ruths, who seem to be incorporated into one during the orchard scene, have been given a prime attribute of the Virgin, the Mater Dolorosa, or Sorrowing Mother, a figure familiar to Cooper in the religious art of Europe. The incidents of Revelation subsequent to the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11, 12) thus accompany Ruth’s second departure from the community, as they did the first. Her transfiguration, and that of Conanchet, are simultaneous with the decay of the symbolic apple orchard, for in the redeemed community, there is no place for this emblem of God’s wrath at the audacity of man.

As Cooper confronts the religious art and culture of Europe, he appears to be examining the basic tenets of his faith, In the conflict between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations, he has dramatized the blighting of all earthly aspirations when the principles of divine love are ignored. He has raised the possibility of the annihilation of the human species, if man is guided by a code of vengeance, and he has courageously recognized a common brotherhood of mankind at the heart of the Christian message. If The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish as a whole seems rigid, it is perhaps owing to Cooper’s essential discomfort with the sectarian materials he is forced to use in the Calvinist setting of early American colonial history. Secondly, the prolific use of biblical texts seems too overt for an aesthetic success. On the other hand, his imagination seems to be released by the iconography he employs at different stages in the novel. The aesthetic success of a subsequent novel, The Bravo (1830), suggests that Cooper learned in writing The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish that the non-sectarian, European, Catholic setting was most congenial to his imagination as it allowed him to use the generative, emblematic technique, refined and disciplined, with which he first experimented in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish.

hapter 3 — ETHICS AND RITUAL: The Bravo

{25} Inspired by his brief sojourn in Venice during the spring of 1830, The Bravo marks Cooper’s first departure from American materials. Its aesthetic success suggests that Catholic Italy provided Cooper with the environment needed to release his imagination. From his correspondence it is clear that Cooper was charmed by the Italian scene, by Italy’s art, and its Church; he commends the Italian people for their grace, their poetry, and their piety. 57 In contrast to the negative response which the sectarian materials of Puritan New England drew, the Catholic milieu of Venice became a catalyst inspiring the generative motifs which enable Cooper, in The Bravo, to subordinate his biblical sources to the demands of fictional aesthetic. Thus, Cooper specifically turns to Catholic ritual and sacrament to provide an integrated structure for his religious theme in this novel. As Cooper again draws inspiration from particular aspects of the New Testament, the Catholic, Venetian environment seems more conducive than sectarian New England to articulating the universal significance of those basic tenets of his faith already examined in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish.

The Venetian setting was important to Cooper’s inner eye for the mental images it evoked. He confesses “no other place ever struck my imagination so forcibly,” 58 a sentiment he repeats to William Branford Shubrick: “[Venice] took such deep hold on my fancy, that I have been obliged to disburthen it in a tale.” 59 To Samuel Rogers, Cooper acknowledges “I frequently stimulated the imagination by reading your own images and tales of that part of Europe.” 61 The Bravo thus incorporates Cooper’s imaginative, religious response to Catholic Venice and reflects his enjoyment of Italy which derives from his appreciation of the deep piety of the people, and their emphasis on spiritual values. Cooper’s religious theme, drawn from a specifically Christian mythos, distinguishes his work from numerous others set in Venice. Depicting a decadent, Venetian, social system, after all, is not original with Cooper, for Venetian injustice and corruption had been dramatized at least as early as Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserved (1682). The mythos of The Bravo itself originates from the German J. H. D. Zschokke’s Abaellino, a Venetian Bravo, translated by Cooper’s friend, William Dunlap, as Abaellino the Great Bandit (1801). Thus, neither Cooper’s mythos, nor the social commentary incorporated in the novel {26} sufficiently account for the undeniable power of the book. That power comes from Cooper’s artistic blend of the fictional elements of setting, character, action, and time while simultaneously investing the received mythos with the mass of associations drawn from his personal responses to the Italian landscape, culture, and religion. The religious associations based on Catholic ritual enable Cooper’s theme to transcend local time and place, and invest it with universal applications.

In his fictional Venice, Cooper has incorporated all types of dominating minorities: the doge and his regal trappings represent at once monarchial and religious domination, for the titular ruler of the Venetian state, revered almost as a deputy of God in competition with the Vatican, is identified with a St. Mark who exacts unquestioning obedience from those over whom he presides; the Venetian senators, ostensible representatives of republicanism, inherit their positions and thus form a traditional, hereditary aristocracy. Since their wealth derives from maritime commerce, the senators at the same time compose a commercial oligarchy jealously excluding the majority of citizens from sharing their wealth. Overtones of a quasi-religious domination by the senators are apparent in the machinations of the Council of Three, the Venetian Inquisition. The Venice of The Bravo is Cooper’s version of every possible example of a “narrow and exclusive system” which exerts baleful influence on “the sacred rights of individuals.” 61 Cooper, therefore, appears to have found in the religious art and culture of Catholic Italy the generative motifs which provide an integrated structure for his narrative analysis of individuals who assert their moral principles in defiance of corrupt, secular authority.

Through the Venetian setting, the topography of the city, the dwellings which comprise it, as well as the actions of the citizens high and low, Cooper shows that the secular authority controls a perverted world; Venice is his “loathsome ... state of society that reduces the feelings of neighbourhood, religion, veneration for the past, hope for the future, country, kindred and friends, to the level of a speculation.” 62 The Venetian citizenry concealed behind their masks are emblems of the state itself disguising its tyranny with the dogma of the infallible justice of St. Mark. Over this region, the moon holds sway; at the beginning, Cooper writes: “The sun had disappeared behind the summits of the Tyrolean Alps, and the moon was already risen above the low barrier of the Lido” 63 At the close of the novel, after the Carmelite has quit the city following Jacopo’s execution, “the sun fell behind the mountains of the Tyrol, and the moon reappeared above the Lido” (p. 460). It is a city which lives by moonlight; most of the major crises of the {27} novel occur under moonlight. Antonio is taken to the Council of Three during the night of a “brilliant moon” (p. 160), a night which provides “privileged security” for “the conspirator and the agent of police” (p. 158); he is drowned in the Lagunes in “the bright beauty of that moonlight night” (p. 231). The moonlight itself is associated with the devious policies of concealment practised by the state; fleeing the official assassins, Jacopo “blended his wake in a line with one of those bright streaks that the moon drew on the water, and which, by dazzling the eye, effectually concealed the objects within its width” (p. 225). A tool of the state, the Lion’s Mouths, “the receptacles of secret accusations” (p. 48), are lit by moonlight as Gino entrusts Don Camillo’s ring to Giacomo Gradenigo, mistaking him for Jacopo. Moonlight is thus associated with treachery and intrigue. Cooper presents this world lit by moonlight as a wilderness in which the likes of Antonio Vecchio and his grandson find themselves “solitary wanderers” (p. 427). Cooper is clearly working in the Ptolemaic tradition depicting the sublunary world as a cesspool of putrefaction.

Cooper also associates moonlight with its traditional values of illusion and deception, perhaps stimulated by his moonlight visit to the square of St, Mark about which he writes: “It was now evening, but a fine moon was shedding its light on the scene, rendering it fairylike. Passing beneath an arch, we issued into the great square of St. Mark. No other scene, in a town, ever struck me with so much surprise and pleasure. ... The moon, with its mild, delusive light, aided the deception, the forms rising beneath it still more fanciful and quaint.” 64 In Cooper’s narrative of Venice by moonlight, one character, Jacopo, is constantly shown in the light of the moon. On an errand for Don Camillo, Gino sees Jacopo in the square of St. Mark, with “the rays of the moon full upon the calm countenance” (p.51); Jacopo sits “in the light of the moon” (p. 104) while he listens to Antonio, in error, accuse him of being a public assassin. The ignominy in which Jacopo lives has been fostered by the state for its own purposes; the melancholy face bathed in moonlight, which Gino fears, belongs to a being deceived by the state that he serves in the delusion that he can ransom his father’s life. Deceptive moonlight also falls on Giacomo Gradenigo when he appears to Gino as Jacopo, but this corrupt and homicidal scion of an aristocratic family must retain the illusion of an unsullied reputation, and he escapes the capital punishment unjustly meted out to Jacopo. Terminating his service to the state at the conclusion of his interview with Don Camillo, Jacopo declares: “The delusion is over; from this hour I serve them no longer (p. 267).” The brilliant sun shining on his execution seems to transfer Jacopo from the sublunary sway of the moon in the light of which exists the illusion of a {28} just, secular authority, to the more ethereal sphere above the moon, Cooper’s firmament which is “sublime in immensity (p. 218).”

In this sublunary world of illusion and deception, the natural topography is perverted too. The Canale Orfano holds the bodies of criminals while a member of the council of Three admits that the other canals are “encumbered with slimy weeds (p. 198).” Annina, the spying daughter of a wine-seller, on being seized by Don Camillo, exclaims: “This is a bold step to take in the heart of the canals!” (p. 319), for the polluted waterways are thought to protect those in tune with their perverted world; the canals are “convenient graves for sudden deaths (p. 109).” Water here is not purifying; it is an agent of corrupted men and involved in their evil. Following Antonio’s execution in the Lagunes, Jacopo, searching the water for him is confronted with “the profound repose of the treacherous element (p. 233).” Venetian maritime interests have already caused the deaths of Antonio’s sons, and are responsible for the plight of his grandson; the fisherman’s subsequent challenge to the power of the watery element leads to his death by drowning in the Lagunes.

Sterile and unstable are the foundations of this world, for they owe their existence to the debris carried by the rivers flowing away from the Alps, debris which has gradually increased to become low, sandy islands by the accumulation of decayed vegetation (p. 32). The Lido, as these sandy islands are called, is devoid of all signs of natural fertility, the only exception being the isolated spot which is the last refuge for Venetian social outcasts. Here, the “modest graves” support a “meager vegetation that is in slight contrast to the sterility of most of the bank (p. 260).” Disassociating himself from the values of the Venetian world after the death of Antonio, Jacopo comes to this sandy, temporal refuge where he tells Don Camillo: “The canals choke me — I can only breathe in freedom on this bank of sand! (p. 263).” In this setting, Cooper points out that “there is no base of rock (p. 32);” yet, the citizens have chosen to make this unstable, unproductive, sandy foundation support the “superincumbent loads of palaces. churches, and public monuments (p. 33).” It is no wonder then, that in this world, government, religion, and public affairs are distorted and perverted, for the Venetian society, in a moral and material decline, is like the foolish man who, ignoring the teachings of Christ, chooses to build his house upon the sand “and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fail of it (Matt. 7:24-27),” Though the fall of this society is imminent, the senators try to {29} postpone the final collapse. Thus, they propagate the doctrine of the infallibility of their secular authority, for their privileged positions are secure only as long as the populace believes that the senators are able to determine truth and dispense justice. Their specious doctrine is but part of the larger evil enveloping their total environment, for the horned bonnet of the doge, ostensible ruler of Venice, emphasizes the satanic character of this secular sphere.

In such an environment, conflict arises between those who are willing to capitalize on necessity and surrender to the circumstances of any given moment, and those who refuse to compromise their individual moral principles. The conduct of the latter is guided by their recognition of the ethical authority of a higher power beyond the immediate interests of self; despite all the forces urging pragmatic expediency, their homage to this transcendent authority never fails. Thus, their potentially insurgent individualism, which impels them to challenge the corrupt, secular authority in the temporal sphere, is limited. Dealing with the relation of moral principles to individualism in The Bravo, Cooper asserts that only this limitation of the individual impulse by the ethical principles of a transcendent power distinguishes these adherents of expediency from their opponents.

In The Bravo, Senator Gradenigo typifies this immersion in circumstance. Living in a palace whose darkness, silence, and air of distrust make its “gloomy grandeur ... no bad type of the republic itself (p. 67),” Gradenigo, in the capacity of inquisitor on the Council of Three, assents to the exile of his son for pursuing his wealthy ward, Donna Violetta Tiepolo, a courtship encouraged by the senator himself in order to add her riches to his own bulging coffers. He acquiesces in Violetta’s removal from his charge, and approves the plan for her incarceration in a convent. He makes no attempt to rescue Antonio, his foster brother, from the wrath of the secret tribunal; instead, he participates in the trial of the fisherman, and condones the assassination: “He had been too long familiar with the sinuous policy of the council ... not to understand that he would run the risk of a more serious accusation were he to hesitate in acknowledging its justice (p. 198).” Recognizing the expediency of disposing of Violetta and Antonio in the interests of the state, Gradenigo assumes an expression “as treacherous as that of his wily companion” and “submit[s] with that species of desperate resignation which becomes a habit, if not a virtue (p. 199).” Gradenigo’s behavior in the secret tribunal is predictable for one who has cultivated the “specious reasoning of the state” (p. 80) at the expense of all moral principles.

Gradenigo represents those who choose the expedient rather than the honorable course in conducting their affairs. His life is geared to the accumulation of wealth, for in his opinion “property was ... the absorbing interest of civilized life. ... Calculation had substituted taste for principles (p 99).” Gradenigo, like Meek Wolfe, misuses the scriptures to support his favorite social theories and vested interests. In the Great Chain of Being he recognizes not the limitations of man in relation to the magnitude of the created order, but a sanction for asserting the infallibility of the aristocratic order in the Venetian social structure. 65 Consequently, he encourages his profligate son, Giacomo, to intrigue against the safety and life of Don Camillo by placing accusations in the Lion’s Mouth, since the death of Don Camillo will eliminate a rival claim to the wealth of his ward; his only concern is that unfavorable attention play be directed thereby to Giacomo himself. A worthy disciple of his father, Giacomo reassures him: “My progress is by secret and gradual means. Neither my countenance nor my mind is unused to a mask — thanks to necessity! (p. 75).” Giacomo’s remark is just one more strand in the frequently recurring theme of deceptive appearances found throughout Cooper’s works.

The Council of Three, the real power in Venice, is but an extension of the deceitful traits exhibited by the Gradenigo family. In addition to its major decisions affecting Violetta, Antonio. and Jacopo, Cooper indicates two other occasions when the secret tribunal adopts an expedient suited to the circumstances. In competition with the Vatican, the tribunal has made an abortive attempt to intercept letters of the Holy See to the French ambassador; since the failure of the agents has been publicized by the intended victim, the state, in time-honoured fashion, disassociates itself from the venture lest the reputation of Venice suffer: “Care must be had to issue orders for the arrest of the robbers, else may the Republic fall into disrepute with its friends. There are names on our list which might be readily marked for punishment, for that quarter of our patrimony is never in want to conceal an accident of this nature (p. 188).” On learning from Jacopo that Don Camillo and Violetta have escaped to Ancona by his contrivance, the tribunal “instantly admitted the wisdom of making a virtue of necessity” (p. 421) and determines that “it will be seemly to send letters of congratulation to the cardinal secretary, on the union of his nephew with so rich an heiress of our city (p. 421).” The ease with which the tribunal disposes of these two embarrassments predetermines Jacopo’s treatment in the hands of the council. Moreover, Cooper suggests that expediency governs all classes of Venetian society by the antics of Annina, the wily daughter of the wine-seller, who spends her time smuggling contraband and spying on Gino, Violetta, {31} and Don Camillo; easily duping her confiding cousin, Gelsomina, comfortable in mask and disguise, she is a suitable tool of the state, the epitome of the vacuous citizenry each of whom lives only for himself.

In addition to this espousal of expediency, Senator Gradenigo’s commitment to materialism is likewise shared with all classes of Venetian society, even with the doge himself who is unable to comprehend Antonio’s rejection of the golden oar. 66 Gold is so revered in this society, whose paramount concern is the augmentation of its wealth from maritime commerce, that Cooper seems to suggest it has become the state religion; that the state has established a golden idol. During Antonio’s first confrontation with Gradenigo when the aged fisherman begs that his influence be used to free Antonio’s grandson, the senator twice offers gold to appease the fisherman. 67 Triumphant in the gondola race, Antonio again begs for the release of his grandson in place of the victor’s golden chain and oar; but, the doge believes a gondola or the right to fish in the Lagunes is of more importance, and he commands Antonio: “Take thy golden chain and oar, and depart among thy fellows in triumph (p 151).” Offered the golden prize a second time the same evening in order to buy his silence, Antonio rejects it again: “I should think the bauble coined of my grandchild’s blood! (p. 159). The Lion of St. Mark which presides over Venice may not be a golden calf, but, as an emblem of the state, all citizens must acknowledge the paramount importance of gold in continuing the dominion of the winged Lion. It therefore carries strong overtones of a state religion which worships a golden idol.

In contrast to those who serve the state, Don Camillo and Donna Violetta, Antonio and Jacopo, Gelsomina and Father Anselmo, in various degrees demonstrate their firm moral principles when they challenge the power of the corrupt, secular authority. For all of them, intrigues concerning wealth test their ethics. By refusing to take the most expedient course they affirm their moral principles and effect a triumph of the human spirit.

Unlike Gradenigo, Violetta does not value her wealth or position. Warned by the Carmelite, Father Anselmo, that in her environment the freedom to act ethically is in inverse proportion to worldly comfort, she replies: “I would there were less of luxury and more of liberty within its [her palace’s] walls (p. 61).” The magnificent art of Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Bellino, Montegna, and Palma Vecchio, which Cooper says adorns her palace, seems excessive; in contrast to this {32} oppressive luxury, Violetta’s own apartments are decorated with pictures from “the pencil of some youthful amateur” (p. 58) instead of the works of these artists who were employed by the state. This luxurious edifice erected on an unstable foundation, 68 its courtyard in darkness, its household concealing agents of the state, is an inappropriate and dangerous dwelling for those opposed to the premises of the state. Consequently, liberty for Violetta and Don Camillo comes by fleeing to Ancona aboard Stefano’s felucca and divesting themselves of their Venetian wealth. Significantly, the Carmelite later joins them in Ancona, the “States of the Church” (p. 49), the earthly repository of spiritual strength and refuge for those recognizing the ethical authority of a transcendent power beyond the politic interests of self. Don Camillo’s withdrawal from Venice and the senatorial honors he has claimed there by inheritance is appropriate. for one who “joyfully abandons” (p. 209) this wealth in favor of Violetta, whom he declares is “far more precious than the horned bonnet itself” (p. 219), is opposed to the policies of expediency adopted by the senators.

For Antonio and Jacopo, adherence to moral principle becomes more serious and complicated. In accordance with Cooper’s emphasis on the place of the Spirit in human destinies, he turns to religious rituals to support his theme. Thus much of the action concerning the fates of Antonio and Jacopo can be seen in the terms of inverted sacraments — inverted, because this environment and society devoted to expediency have established an idol of gold and denied the place of the Spirit. The marriage of Venice to the Adriatic is, consequently, a mere travesty of the sacrament of marriage, since it is a wedding to circumstance for the material reason of maintaining wealth derived from maritime commerce. This marriage Antonio symbolically nullifies by retrieving the wedding ring thrown into the Adriatic by the doge and returning it to the Council of Three. 69 By contrast, the marriage of Violetta and Don Camillo is a true sacrament; their moral principles enable the human spirit to triumph over the agents of circumstance.

Antonio’s action is consistent with his character as it is exhibited in the first interview with Senator Gradenigo, to whom he asserts: “A fisherman hath his feelings as the Doge (p. 78).” He rejects the doge’s golden oar; he questions the justice of St. Mark whom he implicitly accuses of usury by comparing the state emblem to “the most grasping Hebrew of the Rialto” (p. 185); he humbly acknowledges that “God hath not given to all the same chances in life ... for it often happens that I draw an empty net ... ... but this is to punish my sins or humble my heart (p. 184).” All these actions prepare Antonio’s destiny which Cooper again treats in terms of {33} the sacraments. On the second evening of the tale, Antonio is fishing in the Lagunes where Jacopo joins him after the examination by the Venetian inquisition. Antonio refers to their natural setting as a “chapel,” one he prefers above all others that Venice can offer: “There is not a chapel in Venice, Jacopo, in which a sinner may so well lay bare his soul as this (p. 220).” Disavowing the perverted, natural setting of Venice, Antonio perceives an uncorrupted nature which is the work of the Lord: but, it is essentially a supra-lunar world which he confronts. Earlier, in the square of St. Mark, Antonio is shown “beneath the rays of the moon” at which he gazes “as if [he] sought to penetrate into another world, in quest of that peace which he had never known in this (p. 100).” Now, on the wide Lagunes, he says that he is “alone with God, having the gates of Paradise open before my eyes” and adds: “I see the image of my Saviour, Jacopo, in those bright stars, that moon, the blue heavens, the misty bank of mountains, the waters on which we float; ay, even in my own sinking form, as in all which has come from His wisdom and power. I have prayed much since the moon has risen (p. 220).” Through Antonio, Cooper thus distinguishes the perverted, sublunary world from the more ethereal sphere above the moon.

As Jacopo converses with him, Antonio is shown as a deeply pious and humble man seeking his Savior in another world. To him Jacopo brings bread, wine and figs, a repast which surely carries overtones of the Last Supper. This most important sacrament at once is a memorial of Christ’s death establishing a new covenant, and it indicates participation in the body and blood of Christ. Cooper’s additional detail of “figs” may seem puzzling at first; however, he may be evoking the two parables of the fig used by Christ. The first parable shows the fig tree withered by the power of Christ (Mart. 21:19-21); in the second (Matt. 24:32), the fig tree sprouting tender leaves in summer, its season of fruition after a starkly bare winter, is indicative of a rapid change approaching and thus is connected with the proper attitude of man in facing the future. 71 Figs then are an appropriate addition to this repast for Antonio who will soon experience the power of his Lord. At the moment when Jacopo offers this symbolic meal to Antonio, the fisherman hesitates to accept it, however, since he believes the bravo tainted. Yet Jacopo’s action does lead to a new covenant for Antonio and himself, as the two subsequently converse while the agents of the state draw nearer. Jacopo shortly witnesses Antonio’s execution, which directly determines him to thwart Venetian intrigues henceforth.

{34} Ritually, however, Antonio is not quite ready for membership in this new covenant since he has refused the figs, wine, and bread (John 6:47-58). Consequently, Cooper turns to the sacraments of Penance and Baptism to mark Antonio’s acceptance into the Church in the fullest meaning of this word. Cooper’s first sacrament of the Last Supper however, does indicate symbolically Jacopo’s affinity with the spiritual world. Meanwhile, as ritual preparation for participation in the new covenant, Antonio submits to the sacrament of Penance administered innocently by Father Anselmo. Before the priest arrives, Antonio indicates that he has not been to confessional for a long time, and that he has been fasting. 71 Conscious of his “sinful passions” roused by his recent conflict with the state, Antonio asks the Carmelite to give him “counsel and absolution, that I may have hope” (p. 229). Though he confesses: “In bitterness of heart I cursed them” (p. 230), he then asks mercy for his persecutors and may receive absolution from the Carmelite. Antonio is now fully prepared for his final sacrament — the baptism into a new life by the water of the Lagunes. As in legends of the lives of the Saints, Antonio’s ordeal by evil in the temporal world earns him a new life in the spiritual sphere; and, since his martyrdom occurs because of his efforts on behalf of another, his grandson in this case, the fisherman of the Lagunes therefore exemplifies the text: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24-25).

By reversing the usual order of these sacraments, Cooper strengthens the thematic lines he has been drawing carefully and emphasizes the perverted, worldly wilderness in which the Spirit starves and from which it must free itself to eternal life. Antonio’s baptism thus at once washes away the original sin of his temporal existence and transfers his spirit to eternity. His vocation of fisherman is no accident, for the events following his death proclaim him a true “fisher of men” (Mark 1:17).

In this case, Antonio’s vocation is justified by his influence on Jacopo and the latter’s response to the call to abandon his former life. To change the metaphor, the fruit brought forth by Antonio’s death is Jacopo’s own spiritual rejuvenation and eventual entrance into eternal life also. Initially, as a bravo, a hired assassin serving the horned bonnet of Venice, Jacopo would seem to have delivered his soul to the Devil, to have committed himself to circumstance. The nature of his involvement with expediency, however, identifies him as eminently suitable for martyrdom. Falsely accused of defrauding the state, Jacopo’s father is condemned to life imprison{35}ment. As ransom for his father’s life, Jacopo has agreed to accept the public odium attaching to a bravo, a role he must maintain despite final proof of his father’s innocence by the confession of the real culprit, for the state finds Jacopo too valuable to release him from his irksome task. Moreover, his service to the state has been to supply information, not commit murders, as the public has been allowed to believe. His father, consequently, remains in durance, and Jacopo’s ordeal continues, his existence alleviated only by his love for Gelsomina, the jailer’s daughter, who braves official censure to take Jacopo to visit his father in prison. His agony is indicated early in the first chapter: “The cheeks were bloodless, hut they betrayed rather the pallid hue of mental than of bodily disease” (p. 17). His patron saint during the gondola race is, appropriately, St. John of the Wilderness whom he hopes “may have pity on me, in this living desert” (p. 128).

Jacopo’s response to Antonio is first seen during the gondola race when he allows the aged fisherman to win and follows his example in rejecting the prize of precious metal. On the Lagunes at night, Jacopo participates in a duet with Antonio, each maintaining “alternate parts ... until the music ceased, by the two singing a final verse in chorus” (p. 220). While responding to the song of the fisherman, Jacopo’s gondola approaches that of Antonio, a journey which Cooper compares to “the fancied progress of a spirit” (p. 219). Cooper thus indicates the extent of Antonio’s influence on Jacopo as the bravo draws farther away from the maxims of Venice and foreshadows the common fate they will share. Like Antonio, Jacopo shows that he looks towards a more just world beyond the unprincipled temporal regions. 72 Evoking the parable of the sower, Antonio believes that Jacopo is the “good seed cast on a rock” (p. 225) which cannot take root itself “but dureth for a while” (Matt. 13:20-21). Under Antonio’s influence, the stony ground in Jacopo becomes fertile.

Taking refuge on the sandy island which is the last refuge on earth of the outcast, Jacopo’s mental agony is assuaged, and he achieves a measure of serenity. With the vision of a martyr he acknowledges his destiny: “I wait only for the last solemn scene, which is now certain, and then I quit this city of deceit, to seek my fortune in another region. ... God may yet lighten the load” (p. 272). Jacopo has earned pity for the aid he extended to Antonio in the race, for supporting his petition to the doge, and for placing himself in jeopardy in his attempt to save Antonio from the wrath of the state. In addition, he has refused to carry out Giacomo Gradenigo’s plot to assassinate Don Camillo; by his last act of mercy {36} towards his fellow human beings, abetting the escape of Don Camillo and Violetta aboard Stefano’s felucca, he affirms his own moral principles and testifies to the strength and triumph of the Spirit, for he had defied the corrupt, secular authority which has long held him in bondage. This rejuvenation of Jacopo is thus directly the fruit of Antonio’s death: it is fitting, therefore, that the fisherman, in the terms of St. John, does not “abideth alone.”

In Cooper’s fiction, the first chapter often presages actions later in the novel. The Bravo appears to follow this method, for the martyrdom of both Antonio and Jacopo is foreshadowed in an ironic parody of the metaphysical theme of the novel. Stefano observes to Gino, gondolier of Don Camillo, that the “Council of Three has a fashion of feeding the fishes of the Lagunes which might throw the suspicion of his death on some unhappy Ancona man, were the body ever to come up again” (p. 19). Of course, here Stefano thinks that Jacopo may be fed to the fishes and a foreigner like himself blamed for the deed; but, in the context of later actions and the metaphysical theme, Cooper seems to refer to Antonio’s death, of which Jacopo is accused. Since “Ancona” is the “States of the Church,” a refuge for the Spirit, the designation of Jacopo as an “unhappy Ancona man” is appropriate. Much later, after advising Don Camillo to make Ancona his destination instead of following the treacherous waters to Naples and there in Ancona seek the “protection of the Cardinal Secretary” (p. 331), Jacopo attains a kind of epiphany. In reply to Don Camillo’s question: “What wilt thou become in their hands — ” he replies: “Fear not for me, Signore. God disposes of all as he sees fit (p, 311).” Both Jacopo’s actions and mental state now qualify him to join Antonio. By asserting his principles in favor of Don Camillo and Violetta, those other advocates of a spirit independent of the expedient policies of secular Venice, Jacopo has become the fertile ground from which the seed of his eternal life will be harvested.

Cooper’s techniques for presenting Jacopo’s martyrdom are aesthetically perfect. With the overtones of a Pontius Pilate washing his hands of Christ, the doge, aided by Signor Soranzo, sacrifices Jacopo to appease the incensed fishermen. 73 Circumstances in Venice cause the rulers to fear Jacopo’s spirit as, in another age, the purity of Christ was feared by those too corrupted to comprehend it. The ostensible charges against Jacopo and his trial by the Venetian inquisition also recall Christ’s tribunal. In contrast to his fictional treatment of Conanchet in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, Cooper is not making Jacopo a Christ-figure who {37} redeems his society; but, the mass of associations surrounding his fate emphasizes his spiritual affinities and final martyrdom. Subsequently, the tribunal offers him freedom for information about Don Camillo and Violetta — “It may yet redeem thy life, wert thou wise enough to turn it to account” (p. 418); for the Romans, it would nave been sufficient for Christ to deny publicly that he was the King of the Jews.

Boldly acknowledging his part in Don Camillo’s escape and refusing to treat with expediency, Jacopo is handed over to the lesser tribunals to be dealt with as a common criminal. Giacomo Gradenigo for planning the assassination of Don Camillo, is, like Barabbas, almost exonerated — “ten years’ retirement in the provinces” (p.424) merely relieves Venice of an embarrassment. The inquisitor’s travesty of spiritual matters, “Remember thou hast still a life to redeem” (p. 421), is echoed later at the place of execution by Father Anselmo: “Remember thy Redeemer, son. He suffered ignominy and death for a race that denied his Godhead, and derided his sorrows (p. 455).” Jacopo, however, with his faith in God, 74 asserts his spiritual nature and by death is redeemed from his living desert into eternal life. By his final refusal to compromise with the state of Venice in “its mockery of those sacred principles which are alone founded on truth and natural justice,” (p. 461) he testifies to the strength of the individual integrity and its ability to rise supreme despite all corrupting institutions and personal vicissitudes.

Jacopo’s martyrdom also seems to be re-inforced by Cooper’s time-theme, for the entire action occurs over six days. The evening of the first day establishes the major action and theme for the following days, for here are introduced the Don Camillo-Violetta relationship, the difficulties in dealing with the corrupt and devious Venetian government, the environment of deceit and treachery amidst a masked citizenry whose actions are motivated by duplicity, a citizenry among whom Jacopo is a feared and isolated man. On the second day, the bravo and Antonio in the gondola race are triumphant before a fickle populace, but their rejection of the prizes is also the rejection of the moral norms acceptable to the Venetian environment and marks their ensuing conflict with that environment. In the evening of the second day, Antonio stands before the inquisition and later that night, by moonlight, he dies. The third twenty-four hour period sees Don Camillo and Violetta suit Venice for a haven more conducive to spiritual growth. During the fourth day, Jacopo is betrayed and cast off; the public funeral of Antonio {38} takes place on the fifth day, an occasion for the state to prepare the populace emotionally to approve the execution of Jacopo on the sixth day.

These six days, which conclude with the sacrifice of one unsuited spiritually to remain any longer in the polluted, temporal environment, suggest the final week of Christ’s life — the moment of triumph for a being destined to be sacrificed, followed by public execration and death on the sixth day. Since Christians regard Sunday as the first day of the week, Jacopo’s execution would, like Christ’s have taken place on a Friday. Though Cooper has deliberately omitted reference to specific days of !he week, he does emphasize, on the first day, that the “sun had disappeared” (p. 9), which is appropriate since the Sabbath would have ended. On the sixth day of the action also, the sun is shining gloriously until after Jacopo’s death; the the sun disappears, and the moon again presides over a world of delusion and despair, of symbolic, spiritual darkness. Perhaps this is reading too much into Cooper’s time-scheme; nevertheless, he has assigned an event important thematically to each twenty-four hour period during the six days. Since the whole setting, as we have seen, is symbolic, and the actions, by their associations, may be read symbolically too, it seems possible that Cooper intended that the time-scheme of the novel should also be seen in this manner, so that the reader may associate these events thematically with those preceding the first Easter.

Certainly, no Roman eagles preside over the actions occurring during these six days; but the winged lion guarding Venice is as much a symbol of Empire as the eagle. As Don Camillo warns Father Anselmo, it is useless to expect that “the winged lion would become a lamb” (p. 240). Despite Shakespeare, from whom Cooper often borrows chapter tags, the quality of mercy is so strained in this environment that it is non-existent, It is to be expected that this world dominated by moonlight should be a world of insanity; here the efforts of Gelsomina and the Carmelite on behalf of real justice, mercy, and humanity are derided — . “Tis a maniac” cried one (p. 457); “The girl raves” declares another (p. 458) as Gelsomina protests Jacopo’s innocence. 75 In this world of reversed and perverted principles, what the populace regards as irrational behavior is utterly sane. The priest and Gelsomina cannot help placing themselves in jeopardy at Jacopo’s execution, for, as he does, they hold intact the individual integrity undefiled by surrounding circumstances. in The Bravo, this principle prevents enmeshment in a world of insanity.

{39} Cooper’s response to spiritual values in The Bravo is obvious. His experiences in Europe and his interest in Catholic art have enabled him to develop an aesthetically satisfying technique for the presentation of his religious theme. The religious ritual of Catholic Italy, the Italian landscape, and the Italian people have released his imagination in a way not possible when he was dealing with the sectarian material of Puritan America. By following Cooper’s generative, religious motifs, we can see that he has extended the vengeful society of Meek Wolfe’s Wish-ton-Wish until its power seems to cover the sublunary world from whose corrupting influence individuals free themselves and transcend the limited human order by recognizing the place of the Spirit as a guide to ethical action.

hapter 4 — MIRACLE AND MYSTERY: The Heidenmauer

{42} Cooper’s European sojourn, 1826-1833, produced five novels which show direct response to European religious cultures: The Bravo (1831), The Heidenmauer 1832), The Headsman (1833), Mercedes of Castile (1840), and The Wing-and Wing (1842). When judged by the standards of Jamesian realism, The Heidenmauer seems artistically deficient, prosy and rhetorical for Cooper has chosen to abandon the generative motifs he used in The Bravo, in favor of declamations by key characters. If the novel is approached as a miracle play, however, it presents an aesthetically satisfying thematic unity which condemns egotistical individualism. The miracle play form is thus an artistic construct which emphasizes the idea that self-centered individualism in inimicable to a fruitful, human existence. Indeed, the doctrinal implications of egotistical man assaulting established authority is traditionally the theme of the miracle plays of medieval drama. Did Cooper recall this early literary form while travelling in the country of Martin Luther — It would be a miracle if he did not! Not only do allusions to Luther abound in the novel, but also Cooper shows clearly that he is aware of the schisms in the Church caused by the Lutheran assault on established, religious authority.

In two earlier novels inspired by experiences and associations from his European travels, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish and The Bravo, Cooper responded to European, religious cultures with tales that focus on the sterility of the Mosaic dispensation and the efforts of courageous individuals to combat the selfish interests of a vengeful society. Such sacrificial figures as Conanchet and Jacopo, whose destinies bear associations from the life of Christ, do not appear again in Cooper’s fiction until his portrayal of Parson Amen in The Oak Openings (1848). In The Bravo, individual ethics, the refusal to accommodate oneself to a corrupt, temporal authority, are celebrated. In The Heidenmauer, however, Cooper has become deeply suspicious of the individualistic urge. He shows that the individual assertion of one’s own opinions in defence of established authority, both sacred and secular, can easily degenerate into arrogant egotism. Though this novel has usually been approached as social criticism, 76 it is not the social, but the religious concerns which predominate, a specific response to the European environment in which Cooper was travelling.

{43} During an excursion in the Rhineland in 1831, Cooper rested at the village of Deurckheim in the vicinity of which he explored the ruins of an abbey and a castle, a pagan’s wall and a devil’s stone — the Heidenmauer, and the Teufelstein in Cooper’s novel. Quite enchanted, he wrote to Charles Wilkes: “I fell in with a bit of scenery, some old ruins, a multitude of traditions in Rhenish Bavaria, that will cost me a book.” 77 Cooper’s imagination evidently transmuted his experiences among these ruins to provide the form and setting for his religious drama. Thus, on his return to Paris, Cooper told a friend that the ruins “so beset my fancy, that I must give vent to the impression in three volumes” 78 and asked her aid in obtaining for him a copy of the Almanach de Gotha of 1827 in which there was a short paragraph on the history of the Princes of Leiningen-Hartenburg, former owners of the ruined castle near Deurckheim. Defending the title of his book, Cooper resisted all suggestions that it be changed to the “Baron of Hartenburg.” Instead, he suggested the “Abbey of Limburg,” “The Benedictines,” or simply “Jaegerthal” [sic] as alternates. 79 Cooper thus seems to be more preoccupied with the existence of the religious brotherhood than with the adventures of a Bavarian count; moreover, Cooper told his publishers that he wished to “fill up the picture of monkish life” 81 by taking his main characters on a pilgrimage to the Swiss shrine of Einsiedeln in the final volume of The Heidenmauer. Cooper’s emphasis is clearly not on the economic bases of the Reformation as Bewley and Grossman suggest, for his theme surpasses the “operation of greed and worldly interest on a dull and superstitious people.” 81

Recalling his first view of the ruins in his preface to The Heidenmauer, Cooper evokes the era of Charlemagne and the proliferation of baronial castles, the embodiment of physical power, to which he opposes the abbey, emblematic of a supernatural power incomprehensible to man. For Cooper, the abbey is “an excresence of that mild and suffering religion, which had appeared on earth, like a ray of the sun.” Jealous of the abbey’s influence, the baron inevitably clashes with the priest in a contest for temporal power antagonistic to the pacific origins of the abbey. Cooper believed that the monk “secretly distrust[ed] the faith he professed” while the baron “trembl[ed] at the consequences of the blow his own sword had given.” 82 As Cooper establishes the tensions of his work, therefore, his language demonstrates that his attention is directed to religious concerns evoked by his journey through southern Germany and that these will be presented in terms of the conflict between secular and sacred authority.

{44} As Cooper moves from The Bravo to The Heidenmauer, he has chosen to abandon his very successful technique of presenting his theme in terms of generative motifs with religious associations; instead, he has used rhetorical declamations by key characters. A similar difference in technique may be observed in Shakespeare’s plays, The Winter’s Tale and Henry VIII, which frequently provide Cooper with chapter headings. Essentially, Cooper seems to have moved from a narrative to a dramatic technique for conveying his theme. If the work is approached as drama instead of narrative, it appears as a play in four movements (or acts), and the numerous authorial intrusions which may mar it as a novel become detailed stage directions in the manner of the Shavian commentary. Thus, in the first movement, chapters 1-15, Cooper indicates the approaching conflict between secular and sacred authority as the castle of Hartenburg and the town of Deurckheim seek to overthrow the power of the monks of Limburg Abbey. The second movement, chapters 16-21, deals with the storming of the abbey and its doctrinal consequences. In the third movement, chapters 22-28, Cooper presents the reconciliation with divine authority by means of the pilgrimage to Einsiedeln shrine. The final movement, chapters 29-31, shows the re-integration of society as a result of this submission to divine authority. Conflict with divine authority, repudiation of that authority, reconciliation, and then re-integration are the essential movements of the miracle plays, for example, the thirteenth century work of Rutebeuf, Le Miracle de Théphile. Throughout the four movements in Cooper’s Heidenmauer, there are no panoramic narrative sweeps as are commonly found in his other works. All Cooper’s scenes in The Heidenmauer are centered on particular stage properties — a pagan’s wall, a castle banquet room, a burghers meeting hall, a mountain pathway, and a shrine. Indicating his theatrical settings, Cooper specifies the time of day, season if necessary, lighting, costumes of the characters in his scene and their placement on his stage. Thus the audience is told “imagine a narrow and secluded valley, for the opening scene of this tale. The time was that in which the day loses its power. ... The hue meant is not a sickly yellow, but rather a soft and melancholy glory” (p. 33). On the way to Einsiedeln, after specifying time and setting, Cooper places characters:

In advance marched two men. One wore the gown and cowl of a Benedictine, while he carried like the rest, the staff and wallet of a pilgrim. His companion had the usual mantle decorated with scallop shells, and also bore his scrip and stick. The others had the same attire, with the usual exceptions {45} that distinguish the sexes. They consisted of two men of middle age, who followed those in front; two of each sex in pairs, all still young and active; two females who were in their prime, though wearied and sad; and a maiden, who dragged her limbs after them with a difficulty disproportioned to her years. At the side of the latter was a crone whose infirmities and age had enabled her to obtain the indulgence of an ass, on which she was seated comparatively at her ease; ... In the rear of all came two males, who seemed to form a sort of rear guard to the whole party. This group was composed of the prior and Emich, who led the van; of Heinrich, and Dietrich, the smith; of Gisela and Gottlob, with a youth and maiden from Deurckheim; of Ulricke and Lottchen; of Meta and Ilse; and of M. Latouche and the knight of Rhodes. (p. 358)

Such obtrusive stage directions are quite lacking in The Bravo where setting and character, lighting and action are silently integrated into the narrative medium. The difference in form, moreover, appears to be a function of the changed thematic emphasis, for the drama of The Heidenmauer, which focuses on submission to divine authority, is essentially a miracle play wherein the power of God is manifest to skeptical man. The re-integration of society at the end of the work after the Providential resurrection of the romantic male lead, as Northrop Frye has demonstrated, 83 is basically comic form — the Divine Comedy of the Christian scheme. The sacrificial ritual of the tragic catharsis in The Bravo is complemented by the resurrection of comic catharsis in The Heidenmauer. The divisive tensions followed by death and resurrection in Cooper’s miracle play may thus be seen as the logical development of The Bravo in both form and theme.

Cooper pursues his pattern of conflict, which provides the energy for his play, through the relations of three juxtaposed groups: the Castle of Hartenburg, the Abbey of Limburg, and the town of Deurckheim, representative of state, church, and citizenry. As Cooper displays them, however, no group represents the assaulting individual ego, nor does any group monopolize selfless action. The historic backdrop throughout the four movements of this spatial drama nevertheless projects the theme of schism within state and church as secular and spiritual concerns conflict. Thus the Elector Friedrich is beset by his enemies; his insecure throne and authority inspire his baronial vassals to martial forays such as that of Count Emich against the Abbey of Limburg. The count’s soubriquet, the “Summer Landgrave,” {46} derived from an abortive attempt to seize the title, is indicative of the general struggle for power within the state as ambitious individuals attempt to advance their secular interests. The withdrawal of the Elector’s troops sent to protect the abbey against the designs of the count emphasizes the inadequacy and confusion of the temporal authority when the social structure is beset by cupidity. Not only the state, but the church also is subject to deep schism at this time as individuals dispute the authority and traditional discipline of Catholic doctrine and support Luther in undermining the universal sway of established religious authority. The Abbot of Einsiedeln remarks to Bonifacius of Limburg: “I doubt that the severest blow we are to receive will come from one of ourselves! If all that rumor and missives from the bishop reveal be true, this schism of Luther promises us a lasting injury!” (p. 386). Cooper is conscious that much support for Luther originates from local contentions as individuals seek a course most advantageous to themselves. Resisting the terms of the monks for reconciliation, the burgomaster of Deurckheim, Heinrich Frey, declares that such conditions may be “a short way of recruiting the followers of Brother Luther! (p. 337).”

The theme of schism in the historic state and church is transferred to Cooper’s fictional settings and is opposed to the idea of “Catholic” in its original meaning of “comprehensive, universal, or broad in sympathies.” In the conversation of Bonifacius and Abbot Rudiger of Einsiedeln, schism arises from the “flood-gates of discussion” (p. 388) when individuals spend their intellectual energies in theoretical controversy designed to justify their own desires. Aware of the danger of fragmenting the church should the theories of Luther prevail, Bonifacius would rather see Luther reform the existing church than propagate new doctrines encouraging the rejection of Catholic discipline and authority. As Father Arnolph realizes, however, the schism draws momentum from the scandalous behavior of some of those ministers who represent the church’s traditional authority. Catering to their temporal comforts, undisciplined themselves, monks such as Cuno and Siegfried, even Bonifacius himself, are unable to chasten the rampant worldly ambitions of a Count Emich or a Heinrich Frey,

In the three fictional centres of action, the propensity for disputation with which schism is associated is prominent in those characters especially devoted to cupidity, ambition, and self-interest; in their egotistical pursuit of worldly advantage, they resist any authority beyond themselves. Thus Count Emich and Heinrich Frey, {47} the chief representatives of castle and citizenry, challenge the dominion of the Abbey of Limburg; but having increased their wealth at the expense of the monks, the burghers of Deurckheim are subsequently dismayed to find their new autonomy subjected to the sovereignty of rebellious Count. In Gottlob, the cow-herd whose ironic name is appropriate to his role as a comical, profane reflection of his master, the count, Cooper presents a fluent rogue who delights to repeat scandalous rumors concerning the monks, momentarily baffles the wily Siegfried with his sarcastic flattery, and ostensibly barters, information for a golden mark from the Abbot’s casket. 84 Carefully pocketing the gold, though he intends to dupe the monks and play the Trojan horse when Emich storms the abbey, Gottlob places his linguistic abilities at the service of his mercenary instincts; with relish, he advises Abbot Bonifacius:

Were our good Mother of the Church to take this method of securing friends, she might laugh at all the Luthers between the Lake of Constance and the ocean, him of Wittenberg among the number: but, by some strange oversight, she has of late done more toward taking away the people’s gold than toward bestowing! I am rejoiced to find that the mistake is at last discovered; and chiefly am I glad that one poor and unworthy as I has been among the first that she is pleased to make an instrument of her new intentions! (p. 182).

Unlike his foster-brother, Berchtold Hintermayer, Cooper has provided Gottlob with no pious mother to chasten his turbulent nature, and the cow-herd eagerly participates in the count’s unlawful assault on religious authority.

Despite their calling, the religious brotherhood is not immune to these temptations of cupidity and pride either. Following the storming of the abbey, the dispossessed monks are sent forth “like disbsnded mercenaries” to “prey upon society in a new shape” (p. 323). They are given refuge in the Abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland, where they receive the jasper, gold, and silver gifts of the penitents to augment their depleted treasury; unchastened by his recent conflicts with Count Emich, Abbot Bonifacius is “replete with religious pride” (p. 378) as he confronts the penitents. In his subsequent scene with Abbot Rudiger concerning the challenge to established religious discipline by disputatious sectarians, 85 Bonifacius exemplifies the priest in Cooper’s preface who distrusts the faith he professes — an equivocal position for the head of a religious brotherhood. Among the representatives of the {48} church, the cultivation of ego takes a different form in Father Johan’s desire for martyrdom. Neither worldly status nor material comfort attracts him, but he is subject to the more dangerous ambition to be a demi-god. Displaying the relics at the storming of the abbey, he assumes the right to demand a miracle from the Deity which will enhance his own power over priests and laity alike: “There was a gleam of wild delight in his eye, when he found, of all that powerful and boasted fraternity, that he alone remained to defend the altars. ... He anticipated the effects which were to follow from his firmness with the self-complacency of prurient confidence, and with the settled conviction of an enthusiast.” (p. 312) Secure in his own piety as a member of a religious order devoted to ensuring individual sanctification, 86 Johan harangues the congregation at the Sabbath morning mass with the fear of judgment, “narrows the fold of the saved within metaphysical and questionable limits” (p. 155) and threatens Emich with damnation should he violate the altars of the abbey. In the contest for the soul of Count Emich between Johan and Father Arnolph, the fiery rhetoric of Johan destroys the more benign influence or Arnolph and confirms Emich in his decision to rid himself of these pesky priests. 87 Johan’s egotistical will thus undermines the religious authority of the brotherhood and directly contributes to Emich’s assault on the abbey.

Thus, in Cooper’s analysis of insurgent self-interest challenging secular and sacred authority, he demonstrates that the undisciplined, individual will creates a climate of social dissent conducive to sectarian schism. Cooper’s emblem of religious authority, the Abbey of Limburg, is inhabited by the Benedictines, a cenobite order whose communal rules should temper the individual ego of each brother. Ideally, the chastened conduct of a disciplined Benedictine community should provide a type for exemplary harmonious relations between man and his Creator. Cooper specifically approves the cenobite discipline since it impels man to “move among his fellows doing good, filling his part in the scale of creation, and escaping from none of the high duties which God has allotted to his being.” (p. 59) At the same time, he distrusts the eremite impulse for he believes it often embodies “extraordinary pretension to godliness” which conceals “ambition and deceit” (p. 58). The reward of a hermit is “a rich harvest of veneration and moral dependence among the untrained minds of his admirers” (p 59). Cooper is obviously very suspicious of the eremite retreat from communal discipline, for it stimulates a dangerous egotism by lauding the personal sanctity of the individual.

{49} Though a nominal member of the Benedictine community, Father Johan exemplifies the same dangerously arrogant egotism. Through his actions and character, Cooper points out the inherent weakness in the Benedictine order whose concept of a religious community devoted to individual sanctification is at odds with its concept of religious discipline, for the arrogant rectitude of Johan and the unchastened cupidity of Bonifacius result in the destruction of the Benedictine Abbey of Limburg. On a broader scale, the religious pride and worldly ambition of some of the representatives of divine authority lead to the abuses by which the resulting schism within the church is justified. Such abuses, for Cooper, stem from the “independent exercise of human volition, that seems nearly inseparable from human frailty” (p. 103). Though Cooper suggests that reforms in the temporal administration of religious doctrine are necessary, he nevertheless distinguishes between the fallible human ministers and the church they serve, and emphasizes the “sacred origin” (p. 102) of that church, now racked by schism.

Only Father Arnolph, the prior of the Abbey seems untainted by the divisive, schismatic principle of self-aggrandizement. Instead of the pride and sensuality of Bonifacius, Arnolph’s features have a “chastened expression” (p. 177) suited to one who acknowledges “high ecclesiastical authority” (p. 341); consequently, he becomes Cooper’s spokesman, for he upholds the divine authority of the religion he professes and is conscious of the errors of the other priests, and of Count Emich. Thus Father Arnolph’s sermon at the morning mass, unlike that of Johan, is “charitable and full of love” like the doctrine of “the divine being he served” (p. 157). Carrying out his spiritual duties, Arnolph is not tempted to take advantage of his position to advance his personal power; he thus exemplifies Cooper’s ideal spiritual guide who fills his place in the scale of creation by philanthropic acts for his fellow men.

Arnolph’s duty to “high ecclesiastical authority” requires that he try to avert the impending assault on the Abbey of Limburg; therefore, he tries to make Emich aware of the doctrinal implications of his plan to destroy the abbey and succeeds temporarily in ameliorating Emich’s opposition to the brotherhood, for the count admits that his plan is “not an act for a Christian” (p. 167). Though he eventually fails to avert the assault, Arnolph does not curse the enemies of the abbey as does Bonifacius, If he cannot sincerely bless them, since he regards the attack on the abbey as sacrilege, he yet refrains from pronouncing a malediction. Instead, he directs his efforts towards effecting a reconciliation between church, castle, and town, arranges for the pilgrimage to Einsiedeln, and attempts to obtain masses for {50} the soul of Berchtold who is believed to have perished in the flames of the abbey while trying to rescue Father Johan. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Bonifacius who is skeptical of the validity of the religious discipline he represents is unable to comprehend such a man as Arnolph: “He is not ambitious, for thrice hath he refused the mitre, He is sustained by no wild visions or deceitful fantasies, like the unhappy Johan: nor yet is he indifferent to any of the more severe practices of his profession. ... He is learned, without the desire of discussion; meek amid a firmness that would despise the stake; and forgiving to a degree that might lead us to call him easy.” (p. 390) Father Arnolph appropriately articulates Cooper’s belief that an attack on the abbey is an assault on the symbol of God’s temporal dominion by foolhardy individuals arrogating to themselves die right to challenge the Deity. In the chapel of Limburg, Arnolph warns Emich: “Thou raisest thy impotent arm and thy audacious will against thy God! Thou wouldst despise his promises, profane his altars, nay, thou wouldst fain throw down the tabernacle that he hath reared! Dost thou think that Omnipotence will be a nerveless witness of this sin; or that an eternal and benign wisdom will forget to punish — (p, 168).

Father Arnolph’s deep piety and submission to a divine authority transcending immediate self-interest attract Ulricke to the abbey’s sphere. As he does, Ulricke makes explicit to castle and town the doctrinal significance of assaulting the abbey. Hoping to gain her support in persuading her husband, the burgomaster Heinrich Frey, to aid him in reducing the power of the monks, Emich promises pecuniary benefits to forward the marriage of her daughter, Meta, with his forester, Berchtold Hintermayer. Ulricke, however, is not tempted to abandon her principles and warns Emich that he will repent his deed: “Limburg is reared in honour of God. ... If there are unworthy ministers at its altars, there are also those that are worthy. ... The mission is too high to be sullied by any frailty of those who abuse their trusts.” (p. 214) Like Father Arnolph, she realizes that the depravity of some of the priests does not justify an assault on an emblem of divine power; to storm the abbey is to oppose the will and power of the individual against that of the Deity. In the abbey church during an expiatory midnight mass for Odo von Ritterstein, the Anchorite of the Cedars, Ulricke adopts the same stance before her husband as she had taken when confronting Count Emich previously. Castigating his action as a “fearful crime,” she recalls to Heinrich and his followers the fate of Odo von Ritterstein who now lives in the Heidenmauer; twenty years earlier, the Anchorite, too, had assaulted established religious authority by attacking the altar of Limburg, {51} an action which Ulricke specifies carries the “weight of sacrilege” (p. 297). For Ulricke, Heinrich’s challenge to divine authority stems from his cupidity and the fact that his first allegiance is to his “Deurckheim council and its selfish policy” (p. 298). She warns the assailants that, like Lucifer and his cohorts, they are disputing the rights of the Deity in desecrating His altars and can expect retribution.

Ulricke’s emphasis on the sanctity of the altars has been carefully prepared for in Cooper’s pageant of the Sabbath matins. The thematic points conveyed in his description are part of an essentially static theatrical spectacle in which the chapel of Limburg and its decorations become his stage properties. Since Catholic ritual may be a controversial topic for a major part of his audience, Cooper points out that, when “justice has been done to the formula of this [Catholic] church, ... there is deep and sublime devotion in its rites” (p. 153). For Cooper, the purpose of Christian worship is to stimulate reverence for the Deity in the congregation and to re-inforce a sense of their own insignificance in those participating in the worship. Such deference to temporal rank and secular power as has been accorded Heinrich Frey inspires “pride and presumption” rather than “humility and penitence” (p. 147) and is inimical to the spirit of Christian worship. Consequently, Cooper suggests that all means of arousing the appropriate feeling of devotion are justified.

In his pageant, the villagers from the surrounding countryside answer the summons of the church bells calling the faithful and the skeptical alike to morning worship. The mass thus must operate on Emich, Berchtold, and Heinrich Frey, as well as on such devoted adherents as Ulricke and Meta. When the congregation assembles, it confronts a highly ornate chapel whose marble altars and walls hung with religious paintings designed to “heighten the beauty of the place” (p. 151) are “imposing to the senses” (p. 150). Cooper specifies that the major altar sustaining the “blessed Mary and her deified child” (p. 154) is “sanctified” and protected from “profane feet” by a gilded railing behind which are the officiating priests ablaze in gold, purple, and white vestments — surely a scene to stimulate an emotional response in the congregation. Cooper feels it is a vision of “gorgeous and elaborate splendour, in which the noble architecture united with the minute preparations of the service to lead the spirit to lofty contemplations” (p. 154). Increasing the emotional appeal of these visual impressions, the music which accompanies the procession of priests into the chapel, and their chants as the mass commences form a “startling appeal to the soul” (p. 154). In martial accoutrements and flushed with his triumph over Bonifacius in the drinking bout the previous evening, Emich {52} responds to the influence of the music by dropping his sword; a single voice in the choir seems to Emich now like “heavenly strains ... floating in the vault above the choir” (p. 155). The emotional appeal of the mass creates in Emich “an expression of human charity” (p. 155) which contrasts with the proud, avaricious nature the baron usually exhibits. Responding to the music also, Emich’s followers join in the “spirit of concord” (p. 155) within the congregation. The value of this part of Cooper’s pageant thus lies in its power to assuage egotistical human nature.

These visual and auditory appeals, however, are only temporarily successful. Following the music, the ritual prayers accompanied by gestures incomprehensible to the congregation fail to stimulate the imagination and do not inspire the skeptics to reverence the Deity. Thus Emich and his followers resume their incredulous attitude, for the rebellious will of each is finally unchastened by the service. Their resistance is strengthened, moreover, by the subsequent angry denunciation of Father Johan. Yet, the value of the mass to ameliorate the audacious human will is unaltered by the administrative faults of the priests, and Cooper firmly concludes the morning worship with the milder sermon of Father Arnolph warning the congregation that he “who would impute the sins of its [Christian doctrine] mistaken performance to aught but his erring creatures, casts odium on that which is instituted for his own good; and he who would do violence to its altars, lifts a hand against a work of omnipotence!” (p. 158).

Undaunted by Arnolph’s warning, Emich leads his defiant band to assault the abbey the same Sabbath. As his followers interrupt the expiatory midnight mass for Odo von Ritterstein and destroy the chapel, it seems as if “the enmity of the conquerors was transferred ... to the dreaded Being in whose name the rites had b=en celebrated” (p. 305). Only the main altar bearing the host and representation of the Virgin remains inviolate when Emich appears before its “elaborate beauty” (p. 306) which touches his conscience now, as it had during the morning mass. Doubting the lawfulness of his actions, Emich is attracted to the image of the Virgin and feels that her gentle expression is “in reproach of the sacrilege” (p. 306) Enforcing his conviction that the desecration of the chapel constitutes sacrilege, Cooper develops the role of Emich as a Lucifer figure who has induced Berchtold and Heinrich to follow his example. During his scene with Father Arnolph prior to the assault, laughs like a “scoffing ... demon” (p. 166) as he dares to raise his “impotent arm and audacious will” (p. 166) against the Deity. Preparing to depart from the carnage in the early hours of the following morning, Father {53} Arnolph declares that Emich has waged war against the Deity: consequently, he denies the count a blessing, for to pronounce a benediction on this demonic figure would be “treachery to Heaven” (p. 311).

In the first two movements of his drama, Cooper has thus thoroughly demonstrated his conviction that the sanctity of the chapel as a visible emblem of divine power should remain inviolate; that it should be disassociated from the fallible ministers attending its altars, for their faults do not justify the sacrilege committed by storming the abbey. In Cooper’s terms, the sacrilege originates in the selfish desires of egotistical men seeking to assert their power at the expense of the Deity: consequently, the Lucifer associations clinging to Emich when the chapel is destroyed, emphasize Cooper’s concern with the doctrinal implications of undisciplined individualism. In view of his pre-occupation with religious schism arising from a challenge to established religious authority, the attack on the abbey is emblematic of the general schism rending Christendom and is ultimately an assault on the rights of the Deity similar to the rebellion of Lucifer. Cooper is thus very suspicious of those egotistical individuals who seek to deify themselves, for the god-like “I” of their audacious will destroys God’s created order and reduces the world to anarchy.

In the final two movements of Cooper’s “miracle play”, he presents the restoration of social and individual harmony which results from the villagers’ being reconciled with the divine power. The events surrounding Berchtold Hintermayer’s apparent death and resurrection enable Cooper to develop the comic form of his “miracle play” and complement the potentially tragic, disintegrating forces of the first two movements of the work. Cooper’s pivotal scene, linking the descent into anarchy with his positive affirmation of a re-integrated society, takes place in the Deurckheim meeting hall after the destruction of Limburg Abbey. In the context of Cooper’s religious concerns, the scene in Deurckheim hall has only one thematic point: Father Arnolph arrives to make it clear to the villagers that they have challenged a “double power: ... that of the church, as it is constituted and protected on earth, and that of God (p. 337);” however, in the total drama, the scene is a fine theatrical representation of the uneasy consciences of the citizens, their fears and divisions as each passes the blame to his neighbor for the recent assault. An apparently extraneous scene in a novel thus becomes very necessary to account for the ease with which Father Arnolph persuades the citizens to be reconciled to ecclesiastical authority by undertaking a penitential pilgrimage to Einsiedeln. {54} In this transitional scene, Cooper deftly effects the movement towards restoring harmonious relations with divine authority.

The disintegration threatening their lives as a result of the sacrilege is presented to the citizens in the destiny of Odo von Ritterstein, the Anchorite of the Cedars, who has returned to Deurckheim after twenty years as a wandering outcast cut off from normal human pursuits. In a moment of assertive egotism, he had crushed the host beneath his heel in Limburg chapel “for a silly triumph over a terrified monk” (p. 262). In the Heidenmauer, his temporary refuge, he agrees with Ulricke, to whom he was once betrothed. that “his wicked act changed the course of both our lives” (p. 261). In Deurckheim specifically to submit himself to divine authority during an expiatory midnight mass in Limburg chapel, Ode yet feels that his soul is in jeopardy; that he cannot sufficiently atone for his challenge to the Deity. In contrast to Odo, Emich and his followers are primarily concerned with purchasing reconciliation with the Benedictines, the earthly administrators of religious discipline, in order to avoid the retribution of the Holy Roman Emperor. They are little concerned with obtaining divine forgiveness. In the play, Emich remains a rebellious, Lucifer, figure, a centrifugal point of anarchy. Yet, if the pilgrimage is merely an expedient for Emich, there are among the penitents those who recognize their act as “humble and necessary atonement to God” (p, 354); in Cooper’s scheme, the piety of Ulricke, Meta, and Lottchen, Berchtold’s mother, ransoms their community from the threatened disintegration. Analogous to the role of the Virgin Mary, the vehicle for God’s mercy in sending His Son to redeem mankind, Cooper’s pious, female characters are the main instruments for the return of divine grace to their rebellious community.

Part of Odo’s atonement in his search for divine mercy is to guide the affairs of Meta and Berchtold, since he thus chooses to participate again in human concerns — an important consideration for Cooper who prefers the cenobitic to the eremitic impulse. Though the relationship of Meta and Berchtold may seem romantic nonsense to some readers, it has a significant bearing on Cooper’s theological concerns as they are manifest in the theme of sacrilege which provides the narrative energy in this “miracle play” Initially, Odo is interested in the young couple because Meta could have been his own daughter had he not committed sacrilege. A reflection of Ulricke, Meta has the appropriate religious principles which prepare her to carry the promise of a regenerate community freed from the sin of sacrilege. Berchtold, however, has initially given his allegiance to Count Emich, the Lucifer {55} principle, by participating in the storming of the abbey. In Cooper’s terms then, he must be purged of his egotistical individualism exhibited in assaulting the rights of the Deity, if he is to form a regenerate community.

Cooper has prepared Berchtold as a character capable of redemption in his first scene with his foster-brother, Gottlob. In contrast to the cow-herd, Berchtold acknowledges a “mysterious power that rules the earth (p. 48);” he seems to be free also of that bumptious self-assurance which characterizes Gottlob, for Berchtold has experienced a sense of his own powerlessness when lost in the forest. Reducing him to the “helplessness of infancy” (p. 47), this experience has impressed him with a sense of his dependence on a transcendent power to alleviate his condition. In the forest, Berchtold has learnt “the humiliation and depression that come over the mind, when we stand on this goodly earth, cut off from all communication with our fellows, in a desert, though surrounded by living men, deprived of the sense of sight and hearing for useful ends, and with all the signs of God before the eyes, and yet with none of the common means of enjoying his bounty, from having lost the clue to his intentions” (p. 47). Though Berchtold is here describing his own condition, his speech also indicates the state of the Anchorite, for the forester recognizes the sterility of an existence such as Odo’s, isolated from the human community, because he has abrogated harmonious relations with the Deity. In contrast to Meta, Berchtold’s principles, as yet, are insecure. He confesses that he has no clear understanding of his own place in God’s creation. His intellectual confusion causes him to unite his destiny to the secular and profane interests of Count Emich, a destiny which could have paralleled that of the Anchorite, for, after the attack on the abbey, Ulricke declares that Meta, like herself, would shun one who has committed sacrilege. From this destiny, Berchtold is rescued, because of the generous impulse which urges him to place himself in jeopardy attempting to save Father Johan from the flaming ruins of Limburg chapel — the most important step in his redemption from the bonds of Count Emich.

Cooper’s emphasis on the grief of Meta, the serious attempts to procure masses for Berchtold’s soul at the Abbey of Einsiedeln, and Heinrich’s relief that he will be spared Berchtold as a son-in-law surely indicate that the audience is meant to accept as fact the likelihood that Berchtold Hintermayer has died in the flames of Limburg chapel. Nor can we miss the implication later, when he reappears from the forest near the Heidenmauer, that he has been purified by the fire. The Berchtold Teufelstein — Devil’s Stone — as Heinrich disparagingly calls him in the {56} castle of Count Emich, disappears, Berchtold finally emerges from the forest which has been his original haunt at the beginning of the drama, before his immersion in the secular interests of the castle. In the first movement, Cooper has presented the forest as the domain of those creatures who “distrusted the power of man” (p. 34) and who are not indifferent to “the mysterious power that rules the earth” (p. 48). Berchtold’s movement in space from the forest to the castle and back to the forest parallels his spiritual regeneration, for the intellectual confusion he first voices in the forest leads to his error in the abbey from which he is purified by the fire. The physical and spiritual injuries that he has sustained necessitate his convalescence and re-education under the ministry of the Anchorite, an appropriate mentor to temper Berchtold’s religious skepticism.

Cooper suggests, however, that Berchtold’s return to life is ultimately an act of divine mercy; that the forester has been ransomed from a fate like Odo’s by the penitential pilgrimage of Meta, Ulricke, and Lottchen. Certainly, his attempt to rescue Johan and his humble stance in the forest make him a suitable object of mercy. Yet, he has committed sacrilege, and to be consistent Cooper should condemn him to Odo’s fate. In contrast to Odo, however, Berchtold has not crushed the host beneath his heel. Cooper also avoids showing the forester actively participating in the sacrilege as does Dietrich the smith. Berchtold’s chief fault is religious skepticism which has caused him to join in the assault. He needs to be ransomed from this skepticism lest he become one of those “bold bold spirits [who] assail the mysteries and dogmas of the venerable church that has so long governed Christendom” (p. 261). After the penitents from Deurckheim have submitted themselves to the religious authority of Abbot Rudiger of Einsiedeln, Meta, Ulricke, and Lottchen return to the Heidenmauer where their piety is rewarded by the re-appearance of Berchtold — the result of an apparently miraculous manifestation of divine power. Just before he appears, Lottchen feels that “God is about to reveal his power for some great end” (p. 445). To the spectators, the forester seems to spring “from the incarnate to the carnate” (p. 445) as a result of the pilgrimage to Einsiedeln.

Cooper has prepared for this apparent act of divine mercy during the Swiss pilgrimage. Directed by Father Arnolph, the distraught Meta gazes at a cross on the summit of a nearby mountain as the priest explains: “That rock is the type of God’s durable justice — that cross is the pledge of his grace and love” (p. 424). Acknowledging this symbol of divine mercy, Meta returns to the Heidenmauer with renewed faith. The restoration of Berchtold and his marriage to Meta, however, {57} can take place only after the representatives of castle and town have chastened their spirits by submitting to the ritual pilgrimage to Einsiedeln. Cooper thus indicates that the cross which gives Meta hope for divine mercy on Berchtold’s behalf has another function. Aloft on the ruined chapel of Limburg, remains another crucifix, an “image of His sacrifice” (p. 328), Meta’s emblem of mercy. Yet, there could have been no sacrifice or mercy without the supreme example of submission to the divine will in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). Associating God’s mercy with acceptance of His authority, Cooper thus suggests that a fruitful, human existence is contingent on chastening the propensity for self-centred individualism and recognizing one’s place in Creation. After Berchtold has been miraculously restored, even Odo, with his unforgivable sin weighing on him, eventually finds a last resting place in the newly re-integrated community which has risen from the chaos caused by egotistical man assaulting established authority. The form of the miracle play has clearly enabled Cooper to unify the multiple elements in his work and becomes a most appropriate vehicle for conveying his spiritual vision.

hapter 5 — ILLUMINATION AND ALLEGORY: The Headsman

{59} By the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, 10 September, 1832, Cooper commenced The Headsman, intending it to be his last novel. He focused his work on the major religious and moral themes which engaged him continuously throughout his life Under the influence of the Swiss, Alpine environment and his experiences with the European religious matrix, he expresses his conviction that the essentially limited human intellect must, on occasion, commit gross errors. For Cooper, man is never more at fault than when his pride of reason convinces him that he has the ability to determine truth and execute judgment on his fellow men, since he thereby arrogates to himself the rights of the Deity. Social injustice, the result of man’s limited intelligence, is thus the logical condition of human society. Under the influence of Europe, Cooper wrote The Headsman as the summation of his ideas on the human condition. The romantic visions of The Bravo and The Heidenmauer, wherein redemption was readily available, now seem beyond the reach of fallen man. The previous gigantic stature of his characters has now been reduced to that of minuscule puppets caught in the limitations of the human condition, yet ironically unaware of their status. Only Balthazar, the headsman, is exempt, for his enforced occupation makes him keenly aware of the limits of human ability to determine moral truth. His humility contrasts with the assertive confidence of his contemporaries in their absurd attempts to control their universe.

In expressing his vision, Cooper has turned to the allegorical, religious art sculptured on the Gothic cathedrals of Europe. The three major scenes of his work thus focus on allegorical, literary pictures — the storm-tossed characters of The Winkelried, their ship of fools carrying them on a pilgrimage of life, the wine-festival at Vevey revealing the limitations of the human intellect, and the Alpine journey to enlightenment, in which man must confront the Blind Deity, impartial, Divine justice. Over the absurd antics of his puppets dominate the majestic, Alpine peaks. eloquent testimonials, for Cooper, of the power of the Creator present in a sublime, upper world separated from the impure, nether regions of ordinary activity. 88 in their attempts to exert intellectual control of their universe, the human beings swarming around the bases of these Alpine regions {60} are largely unaware of any power superior to their own. This contrast between the upper and lower worlds presented by the Alpine environment provides Cooper with thematic nucleus from which to send his puppets on an involuntary pilgrimage to moral and religious enlightenment in regions of “more radiant light and brightness ... above the impurities that cling to this nether world.” 89 Climbing the alps above Vevey, Cooper himself had been reminded of an allegorical journey, the passage of human life, for he associated the mountain pathway with the “Pilgrim’s Progress, by the rocks, marshes, burdens, and weary ascents, and it appeared as if the end of our labours, like his, was to be heaven.” 91 The motley group of travellers assembled on the Winkelried to cross the Leman to Vevey and thence to the Alpine regions of the Great St. Bernard has an opportunity to perceive the necessity to acknowledge their total dependence on the “grand and ceaseless Providence of God” (p. 351) in order to complete successfully their journey on the “great highway of life (p. 352).” For Cooper, this emphasis on the necessity of man to acknowledge a power greater than his own is an indispensable corollary of his distrust of the idol of selfhood, egotistical individualism. By contrast, the Gothic art of Catholic Europe presented itself to Cooper’s imagination as the epitome of the sublimation of selfhood in the service of an ideal. It is not surprising then that the three major scenes of The Headsman — the ship of fools, the wine festivities, and the Alpine pilgrimage — should frequently be rendered as literary examples of the religious images which Cooper saw in his travels.

The first section of The Headsman, the journey on the Winkelried, is crowded with allusions to the allegorical “ship of fools” tradition. In pre-Jamesian manner, the intrusive narrator bluntly points out that his is a “vessel of human life, which floats at all times subject to the thousand accidents of a delicate and complicated machinery.” (p. 71) it is clear that Cooper’s fools journeying to the Bacchanalian festivities of Vevey are shipped across the waters of a fallen world, for their journey, beginning on the sea and ending in the more etherial mountain sphere, is the dichotomy of St. John for the fallen world/New Jerusalem of Revelation (Rev. 20-21), As in Revelation also, Cooper’s dead lie in a lake of fire, for the Leman reflects the “fiery opening” in the angry heavens from which issues “a flash of red quivering light (p. 100).” In the manner of Erasmus, Cooper has gathered together representatives of all social strata — the Augustine priest, Father Xavier, the wily pardoner, Conrad, from the clergy; among the aristocracy, the Doge of Genoa, Gaetano Grimaldi, his friend, the Swiss Baron Melchior de Willading and his daughter, Adelheid; the soldier of fortune, Sigismund; of the bourgeoisie, the Ber{61}nese cheese merchant, Nicklaus Wagner; the Westphalian student; Pippo, the itinerant entertainer and his audience of varlets; Baptiste, the owner of the Winkelried. and the last executor of human justice, the headsman Balthazar. The best of his pilgrims attempts to act justly and ascertain truth as far as the limited ability of fallen man will permit. The worst among his unwitting travellers does not even attempt to be just. From the inevitable conflict between the motives of the best and the worst of his pilgrims, Cooper derives his ironic vision of the motley, human race attempting to charter an advantageous course through a turbulent world.

On the lake, the pilgrims are confronted with the inadequacy of their powers to achieve their ends, a concept introduced at the beginning of the journey in a brief encounter between. the seaman, Maso, and the priest, Father Xavier. Only limited knowledge of different kinds is available to the various spheres of earthly activity, for none of the travellers has the ability to control all portions of his journey on the highway of life. Thus Maso separates his dog, Nettuno, from Uberto, the mastiff of Father Xavier, since, like their masters, “both are too useful, in their several ways, and both of too good character to be enemies” (p. 15). The dangers of the journey by sea and mountain demonstrate that the skill of Maso and Nettuno, and Father Xavier and Uberto to preserve human life is limited to particular spheres — the sea for Maso, the pathway to the Great St. Bernard for Father Xavier.

As his travellers begin their journey, Cooper’s vessel of human life must cope with a danger greater than the latent fury of nature, for it is charged with the weight of the cupidity of most of its passengers. Baptiste has delayed his departure too long in order to receive the fares of as many travellers as possible going to Vevey. His greed causes him to miss the evening breeze, and he is unable to bring his vessel safely into harbor. His knowledge of seamanship is totally inadequate for his position as captain of the Winkelried, and he soon allows his craft to wallow in the waves of the lake: “The cupidity of Baptiste had indeed charged his good bark to the uttermost. ... Unjustifiable greediness of gain had tempted the patron to commit the unseamanlike fault of overloading his vessel (pp. 50-51).” His “unseamanlike fault,” resulting from an inadequate knowledge of moral truth, moves him to steer his vessel on a dangerous course which eventually costs his life. His fault is shared by many of his companions, especially the cheese merchant, Nicklaus Wagner. Pompous and avaricious, he is an easy target for the knavish mountebank, Pippo, who taunts Nicklaus with the possibility that he will lose the {62} profits of an early market for his cheeses owing to Baptiste’s inability to deliver the Winkelried to Vevey at a seasonable hour. Nicklaus’ skills extend only to the acquisition of material wealth. Maso rightly accuses him of a “narrowness of spirit” (p. 104) which finally entangles him in the death grip of Baptiste, for neither has sufficient knowledge of the moral truths necessary to navigate the turmoil aggravated by their cupidity.

In contrast to Baptiste and Nicklaus, Maso demonstrates his skill as a seaman after taking control of the vessel from the inept Baptiste and using his knowledge to bring the craft safely to port. Distrusting the apparent tranquillity of the lake and guided by the signs of tempest gathering in the heavens, Maso has attempted to rouse Baptiste from his ignorant security, but the patron wilfully misunderstands the warning light of Roger de Blonay 91 indicating that he should humbly acknowledge the dominion of the Creator over land and sea. His own puny skills are painfully inadequate to cope with the burden of his venality. With greater spiritual knowledge than Baptiste, not motivated by greed, Maso is able to avoid the error of “the ignorant [who] exist in security, even on the brink of destruction (p. 100).” Thus, he orders that the cargo, emblem of the cupidity of most of the passengers, be abandoned. Similar to Bunyan’s pilgrims earlier, each passenger on Cooper’s ship of fools must be freed from the weight of his personal sin in order to avoid destruction. The corrupted aspects of each must be discarded in order to complete successfully his journey through life.

Maso’s superiority to most of the other passengers is amply demonstrated during the tempest. Not only does his control of the fallen world enable him to rescue Gaetano and Melchior, and pilot the vessel safely through the turbulent waters to port, but also he is shown as a spiritual guide trying to show his fellow passengers how to save their souls as well as their lives. Since he acknowledges the beacon of Roger de Blonay as his spiritual guide, he is appropriately shown urging his companions to jettison the cargo of their cupidity. In the manner of limited man each appears to comply, but each is anxious to preserve his own cargo while abandoning that of his neighbors. Each would like to believe that his own freight is blameless for the plight of the vessel, though the extra burden of the sins of his neighbors should he plucked forth immediately. Ignorant of the mote in his own eye, each is intent on drawing out that of his neighbor (Luke 6:41-42). Eulogized as a “water-god” who exhibits “sublimity in the intelligence, deliberation, and {63} calculating skill” (p. 116) with which he braves the tempest, Maso is Cooper’s instrument to reflect the idea that cupidity is a consequence of defective spiritual knowledge resulting in the inability to follow a true course on the journey through life. Those who survive the tempest have received demonstrable proof of the limits of human ability to direct their pilgrimage and their dependence on the “grand and ceaseless Providence of God (p. 351).”

Though Maso has been the instrument of the pilgrims temporary safety, his knowledge, too, is severely limited, for he can operate successfully only in the watery regions of a fallen world beneath an angry God. His knowledge does not extend to a God of Love; consequently, he can guide the travellers only to a temporary, “artificial” harbor (p. 130). As the illegitimate son of the Doge of Genoa, he bears unjust social ostracism for the sins of his father. Deprived of love himself, he is thus unable to recognize a benign Deity behind the aspect of anger. Reputedly a smuggler and freebooter, he has chosen to pervert his skills until the original “fair spirit” (p. 148) has become distorted. The wages of misusing his knowledge is to become “prematurely old in body, and with a spirit that hath already the hellish taint of the damned (p. 456).” Clearly, Maso, too, has deficient spiritual knowledge which needs to be corrected on the journey to spiritual illumination in the “holy mystery” (p. 81) of the upper, Alpine regions of “radiant light and brightness (p. 339).”

In the second section of the pilgrimage, the Bacchanalian land of misrule in Vevey, the travellers witness the inept administration of secular justice resulting from man’s misplaced confidence in his ability to discover truth. The bailiff, Peter Hofmeister’s, comically ignorant comments during the procession, his definition of the cornucopia of Ceres as “perhaps a milking vessel in use among the gods and goddesses (p. 269),” indicate his dogmatic assurance that he has the correct answer to all situations. Unlike Maso, he is not conscious of the limitations of his intellect. His misplaced confidence in his abilities is rather dangerous for one vested with the administration of secular justice. Compelled to deal with Maso, Pippo, and Conrad on a charge of disturbing the peace, the bailiff is totally incompetent. During the festivities, however, Cooper leaves no doubt that the bailiff’s comical illusion of infallibility has more serious implications.

Though the chief deities at this festival of the vinegrowers are said to be Bacchus and Silenus, Cooper’s description of Bacchus indicates that he may really {64} have in mind the Greek counterpart, Dionysus, whose companion is Silenus. 92 Cooper is aware of the dual potential of the god of the vine to bring both pleasure and misery to mankind, for he comments that “in none but wine growing countries are the true uses of the precious gift understood.” 93 The god of the wine who is able to free men from care and to bring peace, law, and civilization as the patron of poets and musicians also stimulates the weakness and brutality of men. It “cheat[s] human reason, and leav[es] the undefended soul more exposed to the usual assaults of temptation (p. xx).” Cooper is predisposed to confront the symbolic values of the vine in the Christian, as well as the pagan mythos, for he links the vine to the olive “which both help to make up the sum of the picturesque, though quite as much through association as through the eye.” 94 In Vevey, Cooper is struck with the “classical associations” 95 of the vine shortly after viewing its Christian counterpart in the form of “the jar that held the water which was converted into wine by the Saviour at the marriage of Cana!” 96 The drunken carousel of Maso, Pippo, Conrad, and their fellow prisoners in the guard-house of Vevey, the besotted Antoine Giraud’s imitation of Silenus, the inept administration of justice by the bailiff who “habitually did homage” (p. 239) to the god of the vine, all suggest that this society misuses the Eucharist in favor of a pagan deity. The representation of Antoine/Silenus as a bloated idiot with lolling tongue and vacant eye is a clear illustration of Cooper’s contention that the vine robs man of his power of reason. In drawing this monstrous figure, did Cooper perhaps recall the hideous, Gothic gargoyles on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris — Associating misplaced confidence in intellectual ability with a hideous misuse of the Eucharistic wine, Cooper suggests that the administration of secular justice based on human infallibility to determine truth is a flagrant defiance of the humanistic message of the Christian Eucharist. In this land of misrule, Gaetano, Melchior, and Balthazar view the moral and spiritual deficiencies manifest by a belief in the infallible, human reason.

The pilgrims must later pass through a very sterile region on the way to the Great St. Bernard, where Cooper points out a cretin in the Valais area. Though Cooper was deeply impressed with the terrible physical plight of such beings during his trip into Italy, his brief incorporation of this cretin in The Headsman would seem to be tangential to his major concerns, until one realizes that his description of the cretin 97 is almost identical with the earlier one of Silenus: both have the lolling tongue, blunted faculties, and degraded appetites of the semi-human creature. Like Silenus, who has been cheated of his rational faculty by the wine, the cretin {65} also is “deprived in a great degree of reason.” 98 Obviously, the devotees of Silenus associated with this semi-human creature in whom the God-given rational faculty has been perverted. Discussing the cretin, Cooper shows that the intellectual power of man created in the divine image is a variant of the soul or spirit and is essentiallY part of God’s “own high intelligence.” 99 Devoid of the God-given spirit, the cretin is the reflected image of the inebriated Vevaisans. In the fashion of the Renaissance, Cooper asks, “What would become of the soul — ” if the rational faculty were annihilated. 101 The soul is in jeopardy in those creatures who irreparably damage their intellectual faculties by ignorance of the proper use of the Eucharistic wine. In the first part of the pilgrimage, Cooper shows that both Baptiste and Nicklaus “jeopard their souls” (p, 145) because of their cupidity, their deficient spiritual knowledge. Similarly, in the second section of the journey to enlightenment, egotistical reliance on man’s own knowledge and ability to determine truth also places the soul in jeopardy, for man is thereby denying his dependence on the Creator of that spiritual element which separates him from the wholly material cretin.

Cooper’s omnipotent Deity, who endowed man with a portion of His own high intelligence, is essentially a figure of mercy. His temporary, angry aspect, though apparently arbitrary, is quickly replaced by that “benign omnipotence which unceasingly pervades and governs the universe (p. 113).” Effaced by a “dark curtain” (p. 94) at the height of the tempest, Cooper’s starry images of a benign Providence quickly re-appear when the anger of the Heavens has subsided. Cooper’s two storms — on the lake and on the mountain pathway — represent the two aspects of Divine, arbitrary, impartial justice: punishment and mercy. Though the human judges in the secular sphere constitute themselves “representatives of that high attribute of the Deity which among men is termed justice” (p. 479), they implement only His punitive anger and ignore His example of divine mercy. In the inept administration of secular justice resulting from man’s misplaced confidence in his ability to determine truth, impartial, divine justice has become mere politic blindness. Cupidity has the power to influence secular justice and compound the errors of the limited, human intellect. In the third section of the pilgrimage, therefore, the best of the travellers must learn to imitate the divine example by tempering punitive justice with mercy, thus recognizing the limits of the human intellect to determine truth.

Since the arbitrary aspect of the Divinity has been amply demonstrated on the lake in the death of the Westphalian student, 101 the second aspect, divine mercy, is {66} presented to Gaetano, Melchior, and their party on the mountain pathway to the Great St. Bernard. Cooper’s respective venues are aesthetically satisfying as arbitraRY justice in the irrational, fallen world and divine mercy in the sublime, Alpine region are perfectly appropriate to their spheres. The unseasonably fierce snow storm is clearly sent to test the moral and religious principles of the pilgrims on this final and most dangerous portion of the “great highway of life (p. 352).” They must confess the hopeless inadequacy of their secular guides and rely on “the grand and ceaseless Providence of God (p. 351).” Only the chance, “providential” arrival of Uberto, the mastiff trained by the Augustines of the Great St. Bernard, prevents the travellers perishing in the storm. On reaching the House of Refuge some distance from the convent of the Augustines, they are not loath to offer thanks for their fortuitous rescue.

Whether divine justice is manifested in manifested in anger or mercy, for Cooper, it is man’s duty to accept God’s decrees with patient resignation and to maintain his faith in a beneficent Providence. Of the three most significant pilgrims, Balthazar is the spokesman for Cooper’s religious views, since he does not query divine justice despite the social calumny he suffers. He has none of the confidence in his own ability which distinguishes the bailiff, Disclaiming affiliation with both Rome and Calvin, he surpasses sectarian differences and draws his spiritual beliefs from the basic doctrines of early Christianity. Balthazar is keenly aware that his position in society violates the divine commandment not to kill. Only God’s mercy in this sublime, upper world can release him from his ignominious task and absolve him for his transgressions.

Like Balthazar, his two companions, Gaetano and Melchior, trust in a benevolent Providence, though both have suffered misfortune. The three are shown to be well-versed in religious knowledge. They come from different directions, as if by chance, like their prototypes, the Magi, to undertake a perilous journey, which tests their religious knowledge. 102 Through the concept of justice, it is clear that only Balthazar, as yet, has sufficiently perfected his religious principles to warrant his participating in a second epiphany. In the first section of the pilgrimage, Gaetano and Melchior had still considered secular justice infallible (pp. 85-89). In need of further training on this highway of life, they are tested in Vevey and are re-educated on the Great St. Bernard. To complete their journey to moral and religious illumination, these three latter-day Magi are gradually transferred to the {67} more etherial sphere in the Alpine regions above Vevey where they can more clearly discern the defects in their spiritual principles. Geographically, Cooper’s region of “holy mystery” (p. 81) is centered around Mt. Velan which he has associated with sublimity, the hand of the Creator, and the origin of the unnatural light shining on the Leman. 103 As the travellers leave Vevey after the aborted festivities and proceed to the Great St. Bernard on their way to Italy, they pass through a transitional sphere between earth and heaven. One of the peaks is a “bright stepping-stone between between heaven and earth” (p. 82), a dichotomy which Cooper repeatedly emphasizes in his natural descriptions of the path taken by the travellers as they ascend from the “repulsive and inhospitable” (p. 324) lower world. Rising above the impurities of the earth, Mt. Velan is bathed in glorious sunlight, 104 Cooper’s symbol of a purer moral region. The pilgrims should here perceive that the “moral vision becomes elevated above the impurities that cling to this nether world, attaining a portion of that spotless and sublime perception as [they] are nearly assimilated to the truths of creation; a poetical type of the greater and purer enjoyment [they] feel, as morally receding from earth [they] draw nearer to heaven (p. 339).” All travellers on this “great highway of life” (p. 362) are “obliged ... to repair those omissions and negligences of youth which would have rendered the end of [their] toil easy and profitable (p. 352).” In this Alpine region, accordingly, Cooper focuses on the moral and spiritual deficiencies of his various travellers in order to awake in them a deeper perception of Christian principles and human limitations, for in this area to which all must travel eventually, their lives are at the discretion of the Creator.

On this hazardous pathway, the moral defects of Jacques Colis prove fatal to him; his murdered corpse is found in the charnel house next to the House of Refuge on the morning following the snow storm. Spiritually deficient, he has received no providential rescue, and he now keeps company in death with three other human effigies whose pitiful remains eloquently testify how vulnerable are mortals on this perilous journey. 105 For Jacques Colis, the danger has been aggravated by his behavior in Vevey where his cupidity has amassed a fortune in gold and jewels, a temptation to envious spirits to relieve him of his wealth. In addition, his insult to the family of Balthazar raises the possibility of his being a victim of revenge. Both motives, cupidity and vengeance, originate directly from his conduct at Vevey. His violent death on the mountain, therefore, seems particularly appropriate, for human pride is inimical to the omnipotent power ruling Cooper’s venerable Alpine region.

In a description parallel to those of the cretin and the bloated Silenus earlier, Cooper presents the picture of Jacques Colis in death in a scene which “reads” like religious art in the Gothic style. Similar to the theme of last judgment often found in small statuary on Gothic cathedrals, Colis’ body is twisted in “frightful deformity” as was the cretin’s, his features are “distorted with the agony produced by separating the soul from the body,” since the material body has become a mere shell “deprived of that noble principle that likens it to its Divine Creator (p. 407).” An obvious moral warning of the consequence of pride and cupidity, the example of Jacques Colis urges the pilgrims to acknowledge the inadequacy of their human ability to fathom truth, and the dependence of their lives on divine mercy. Just as human knowledge has been insufficient Lo find the true path during the storm, so the vaunted, intellectual ability of man is also faulty during the ensuing investigation of the death of Jacques Colis. Thus, at the highest point man can reach (p. 412), the peak of his secular justice, man is shown to be continuously and ludicrously, in error, for the human judges are inclined to condemn either Balthazar or Maso, while they are eager to acquit the real culprits, Pippo and Conrad.

A second dilemma for the judges concerning the real identities of Maso and Sigismund likewise proves insoluble to the unaided, human intellect. Though Balthazar gives convincing evidence that Sigismund is the true son of the Doge of Genoa, Maso also insists on the same paternity. The truth can be revealed only fortuitously when the suspected Maso is set at liberty on the border of Piedmont. Cooper re-inforces his theme while resolving his several mysteries, for the true relationship between Gaetano, Maso, and Sigismund could not have been determined by the unaided, human intellect. In the terms of the novel, Maso’s distorted soul is another result of the limits of human justice, which punishes the child for the offense of the father. With such a state of secular injustice propagated by those whose superior intellect should prepare them to foster more just relationships between men, it is fitting that only the omniscient narrator should be able to reveal the true perpetrators of he murder to be Pippo and Conrad, those declared innocent by the guardians of the secular order. As long as this state of affairs exists, and Cooper does not suggest that it will change, Gaetano’s cry that he will atone for the injustice done Maso and his mother remains a desperate wish: Maso disappears, and Balthazar must return to his odious task. Gaetano, Melchior, and Balthazar travel in different directions henceforth, since no second epiphany is imminent.

{69} In this first phase of Cooper’s response to European, religious art, the novelist concludes in a realistic, slightly satirical vein devoid of the affirmative assumptions one may be led to expect from the Romance genre. Perhaps this is caused by the admixture of personal, religious development and public, social issues. Cooper, the “Social Critic”, and Cooper, the analyst of personal principle and integrity are so blended that satire is inevitable. No inspiring assessment of the human condition can be drawn from the puppets dancing to the tune of their own desires. But, Cooper does not intend his ship of fools to be inspiring; rather, illumination is to be drawn from those majestic, Alpine peaks which symbolized, for him, the beauty, magnificence, awe, and power of his Creator. To these peaks he will return in the later novels of the 1840’s in which we find the influence of European, religious art adumbrated as he re-fashions his vision of man’s place in the universe.

hapter 6 — THE MARIAN IMAGE: The Wing-and-Wing and Mercedes of Castile

{72} During the hiatus in writing fiction, 1833-1838, Cooper produced his travel books in which he recalled the 1826-1833 experiences with the religious art of Catholic France, Belgium, and Italy, Calvinist Switzerland, and Lutheran Germany. When compared with his Journal notes, it is obvious that these experiences have been transmuted, and that they represent an intermediate stage between the factual encounter and the imaginative vision in the fiction. Among the eighteen volumes of fiction produced between 1838 and his death in 1851, two continue the Leatherstocking saga, two present the Effingham story, three are devoted to the Littlepage trilogy, two are work of social analysis, a further three are novels of sea life, and the remaining five, the largest block, continue Cooper’s response to the European, religious matrix and together illustrate his changing vision. Of these five, it is significant that only the first two, Mercedes of Castile (1840), and The Wing-and-Wing (1842), utilize the Catholic, European setting, while the last three, Wyandotté (1813), The Oak Openings (1848), and The Sea Lions (1849), conclude his religious vision among the Protestant materials of the American setting. The religious dimension in Cooper’s fiction which became apparent in the American materials of The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829) is projected on a parabolic arc through the European novels, 1831-1842, then returns, transformed, to the American materials of The Sea Lions (1849).

The first two novels of this group of five, Mercedes of Castile (1840) and The Wing-and-Wing (1842) share a similar emphasis on mariolatry as a technical device to present Cooper’s vision of human fulfillment. When he began his last decade of writing fiction, Cooper had clearly become convinced that a fruitful life is contingent on subduing rampant individualism. He deeply distrusted the undisciplined ego of limited, human beings, who, in the pride of their reason, erroneously believe that they can fathom all the mysteries of the world. With Raoul Yvard, the captain of the Wing-and-Wing, they say “Man is God,” and deny any transcendent authority incomprehensible to reason. 106 Wary of the unprincipled order created by selfhood, Cooper re-affirmed the need for the “venerable and healthful restraints of the church” during his final decade. 107 Increasingly, he saw human fulfillment as dependent on subduing the potentially destructive ego by an acceptance of the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. The travel books, as well as the novels {73} set in Europe, show that in the 1830’s and early 1840’s he tends to locate these “healthful restraints” within Catholicism, not Protestantism, perhaps because this creed represents, for Cooper, established order falling victim to the divisive effects of egotistical sectarianism. Mariolatry as a fictional device in these two “Catholic” novels is thus very appropriate, since the legend of Mary may be seen as the epitome of the sublimation of selfhood. In contrast to the profane Eve who urged man to challenge God’s order and flout His decrees, by submission to the divine will Mary brings the mercy of salvation to mankind. As a mediator, she shows man the way to redemption and a fruitful life.

In these two novels, the role of the woman assumes more importance than that of the conventional, romantic heroine precisely because of Cooper’s concern with the beneficial effect of the doctrine of Christian redemption (Wing-and-Wing, p. vi). When Cooper was writing Mercedes of Castile, he brought to the attention of his friend, Shubrick, the fact that Mercedes means “Maria de las Mercedes: the Mary of the Mercies”. 108 He also instructed his publisher to retain the title Mercedes of Castile as “the story is connected with it.” 109 When Bentley ignored Cooper’s instructions and changed the title to “Christopher Columbus,” Cooper charged it was a “miserable misnomer, and a pure catchpenny.” 110 Ten days later, Cooper wrote to his wife, to whom he was utterly devoted: “You are my Mercedes.” 111 At this time, therefore, Cooper is clearly focusing on the role of the woman as an idealized figure whose religious affinities are capable of redeeming the grosser nature of man.

Mercedes and Ghita are not the first Cooperian heroines whose romantic role is secondary to their role as mediators in the redemption of man. Cooper’s overt mariolatry in the treatment of the young Ruth in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish enables him to bring Conanchet within the pale of Christianity where he can become a redemptive figure for his society. In The Heidenmauer, the otherwise colorless Meta ransoms Berchtold to effect the fulfillment with which Cooper rewards submission to orthodox, religious discipline. The marital felicity of Don Camillo and Donna Violetta in The Bravo and Adelheid and Sigismund in The Headsman is consistent with Cooper’s religious vision, for both couples recognize the principles of a religious authority that transcends immediate self-interest. The extreme idealization of Mercedes and Ghita, therefore, is a logical development of Cooper’s pre-occupation with the merciful mediation of woman in the redemption of man, which for Cooper, requires acceptance of Christian doctrine. His gentle, meek, and pious heroines {74} should not be seen as proof of Cooper’s inability to create vigorous, female characters — witness Frances Wharton, Elizabeth Temple, and Margery Waring to the contrary. Rather, Mercedes and Ghita are the products of Cooper’s concern with Christian doctrine; essentially, both heroines are Virginal mediators capable of showing the romantic heroes, Luis and Raoul, both tainted by disbelief, the way to redemption and a fruitful, Christian life.

Cooper’s conception of the Marian figures, Ghita and Mercedes, appears to have been stimulated by his experiences with European, religious art rather than by any theological tracts, though the basic Christian myth of the contrasting figures of Eve and Mary certainly provided him with his thematic nucleus. As previously discussed in chapter one, Cooper assiduously sought out the artistic works of Rubens, Raphael, Murillo, and Corregio during his travels through Belgium, Germany, and Italy. 112 These experiences with religious art particularly devoted to the representation of the Virgin Mary aided Cooper to formulate his literary conception of this figure in these later novels. Consequently, Cooper takes pains to establish the sacred affinities of Ghita and Mercedes and to disassociate them from profane interests. In temporary security on the Wing-and-Wing, Ghita sings the “Ave Maria” to Raoul, distinguishing it from the secular love songs of the troubadours to which his crew is addicted: “Thy men were at their light Provençal songs in praise of woman’s beauty, instead of joining in praise of their Creator (Wing-and-Wing, p. 188).” On the other hand, Ghita has heard Raoul’s enemies on board the English frigate singing the hymn to the Virgin. She believes that the hymn is potentially capable of redeeming Raoul from atheism, for she hopes that “the mercy of God may one day touch it [Raoul’s soul] through the notes of this very hymn! (Wing-and-Wing, p. 188). If the music is the medium, Ghita herself is to be the instrument, for the narrator comments that “a holy hope pervaded her moral system, that, in some miraculous manner, she might become the agent of turning Raoul to the love and worship of God. (Wing-and-Wing, p. 188)”

Ghita’s religious principles and her adamant refusal to compromise with Raoul’s atheism by marrying him are established during her three encounters with him prior to this evening on the Wing-and-Wing. At the third of these discussions, the implications of Ghita’s role are extended from that of the local influence of a pious woman on the man she loves to that of a universal mediator for troubled mankind. She is above the sectarian quarrels which engage the attention of Raoul’s lieutenant, the Yankee Ithuel Bolt, for she perceives that the external forms of any sect are {75} not ends in themselves as Ithuel believes, but means of demonstrating reverence for the Creator and obedience to His decrees.” Her ivory crucifix is, to her, “a representation of the sacrifice it was meant to portray,” an emblem of “divine expiation (Wing-and-Wing, p. 164).” Ghita’s religious principles are based on a perception of the original catholicity of Christianity, which stems from the gift of salvation received at Calvary, Knowing that forms in themselves are meaningless, she affirms that “the heart, the soul, must be touched, to find favor with God (Wing-and-Wing, p. 164).” Ghita’s faith and “meek dependence” are totally opposed to the call of Ithuel and Raoul for “reason in religion (Wing-and-Wing, p. 165),” since she regards the demand of man to comprehend his God as insubordination, the sin which first disrupted man’s harmonious relations with his Creator. Such insubordination, for Ghita, is comparable to mutiny and thus is an expression of an undisciplined being. To Raoul she declares: “Did one of thy followers come on this quarter-deck, and insist on hearing all thine own motives for the orders given in this little felucca, how readily would’st thou drive him back as mutinous and insolent; yet thou would’st question the God of the universe, and pry into his mysteries! (Wing-and-Wing, p. 165).” 113 Through Ghita, therefore, Cooper associates the Wing-and-Wing, its captain, and crew with the profane interests of essentially undisciplined men, which sharply contrast with Ghita’s faith and submission to the divine will.

The religious affinities of Mercedes and her role as Virginal mediator are projected by the same means: the hymns of Catholicism and the symbol of the crucifix. On the voyage with Columbus, Luis listens to the seamen singing “Salve fac Regina” which he associates with Mercedes at her devotions: “He recalled the soft thrilling notes of Mercedes’ voice, in her holy breathings of praise at his hour.” 114 Just prior to the voyage, Mercedes has given Luis a crucifix of sapphires, symbols of fidelity, in which he recognizes Mercedes’ “care of my soul (Mercedes, p. 176).” Endeavoring to break free of his sources, Cooper makes the voyage of Columbus a direct result of Mercedes’ concern that the Christian faith should be carried to the heathen for the glory of God. 115 She sees the voyage as an appropriate means of testing the religious principles of Luis whose faith, she believes, is merely a sacrificial attention to form. His parting gift, a precious necklace, is accepted rather dubiously, for she sees “signs of our different natures in these gifts (Mercedes, p. 177).” Cooper thus associates both Ghita and Mercedes with the sacred concerns of caritas, for their actions and thoughts are motivated by a desire to serve God’s {76} purposes. The extreme idealization of both heroines is consistent with the exalted role Cooper has designed for them.

Neither Luis nor Raoul immediately recognizes the exalted stature of Mercedes and Ghita. Though Luis is a “Christian knight,” a title earned by his deeds against the Moors of Granada, he yet has “far less religious faith” (Mercedes, pp. 92-92) than does Mercedes. Consequently, he initially regards her in the secular terms of Provençal courtly love. She is his lord, his King of Kings, whose favors determine his happiness: “Thou art my Great Khan, beloved Mercedes, and thy smiles and affection are the only Cathay I seek (Mercedes, p. 174).” Again, just prior to the voyage, Luis tells Columbus that Mercedes is “my polar star, my religion, my Cathay” (Mercedes, p. 206), and he anticipates doing chivalrous deeds in her honor, Thus he declares: “I will follow thy train, with a poor lance and an indifferent sword, swearing that the maid of Castile hath no equal, and ransacking the east, merely to prove in the face of the universe that she is peerless, let her rivals come from what part of the earth they may. (Mercedes, p. 206)” These are the terms of profane, courtly love, amor cupiditas, for which Columbus sadly rebukes Luis since the navigator believes Luis expresses feelings improper to one “engaged ... in a work of Heaven’s own ordering (Mercedes, p. 206).” For Columbus, the voyage, which Cooper’s Mercedes helped to launch, should be associated only with sacred interests — the spread of the gospel and the ultimate recovery of the Holy Sepulchre.

Unlike Raoul, Luis is receptive to Christian doctrine, for he has been conditioned by his cultural matrix. Luis has an “habitual respect for holy things” (Mercedes, p. 212) which contrasts with Raoul’s irreverent description of the Pope and his attendants as “a set of roguish cardinals, and other plotters of mischief” Wing-and-Wing, p. 99). Acknowledging no spiritual authority except himself, Raoul establishes his own religion in which he attempts to hear the goddess Ghita: “Thou art my religion Ghita! in thee I worship purity, and holiness” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 99), a statement she regards as blasphemy. Later, after his escape from the English frigate, Proserpine, Raoul still approaches Ghita as his “priest” and “altar” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 395). His terms are those of pagan idolatry fostered by his irreligious cultural matrix as Ghita points out: “The state of your country makes your want of religion matter of regret, rather than of accusation, but it is none the less a dreadful evil” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 47!. Both Luis and Raoul misunderstand the sacred affinities of the heroines, since their attention is engrossed by profane interests. Raoul, however, is further from the pale of redemption than {77} is Luis, for his confessed idolatry and persistent faith in his own reason preclude a proper response to the religious values of Ghita. Redemption for Luis is consequently a less difficult affair than it is for Raoul. It is accomplished primarily through his association with Columbus on the voyage to the New World, for the adventurers’ safe passage through the dangerous ocean has convinced Luis of the “constant supervision of Providence” (Mercedes, p. 391). Thus, by the time Luis meets the Indian princess, Ozema, his religious values are no longer confused. He is able to gauge the true stature of Mercedes and the precise symbolic value of the crucifix she gave him.

Luis’ attainment of religious principles is established by his interlude with Ozema. An obvious secular counterpart to Mercedes, whom she resembles physically (pp. 387-388), she is essentially innocent. Mercedes, however, is “high-souled” for her actions are disciplined by her religious principles, while those of Ozema, the heathen, are the uncontrolled “outpouring of unguided impulses” (Mercedes, p. 388). Despite her innocence, Ozema is potentially troublesome, a positive temptation to Luis which be must resist. A nymph, “timid and perfect” (Mercedes, p. 386), she is overtly associated with Eve and with Venus. In contrast to Mercedes, Ozema is the epitome of secular love, a source for misunderstanding between Luis and Mercedes on his return to Spain. His regeneration established by his association with Columbus, Luis presents the cross of sapphires to Ozema on the return voyage, in order to “lead thy pure soul to a just knowledge of thy Creator” (Mercedes, p. 433). His echo of Mercedes’ own words to himself at the beginning of the voyage deliberately marks his attainment of religious principles. Moreover, Luis now associates the “undying love” (Mercedes, p. 433) represented by the cross with divine mercy and acknowledges it as a “memorial of our blessed Redeemer, and of our own redemption” (Mercedes, p. 496). Marital felicity with Mercedes is Luis’ reward for responding to the influence of the Mary of the Mercies.

Redemption, an essentially mystical ideal able to illuminate the life of fallen man, for Cooper is simply not subject to rationalization. The Marian image in Ghita is unable to wean the atheistic Raoul from his commitment to Reason. In contrast to Luis, Raoul’s tragedy is a foregone conclusion for Cooper; yet the novel holds the interest of the audience by the intricate orchestration of incident by which Cooper traces Raoul’s fate. The series of adventures around Elba, five near-disasters, demonstrate Raoul’s presumptuous reliance on his own powers. Depending solely on his own reason to guide his actions, he persistently ignores opportunities of {78} coming to terms with his Creator. Raoul’s failure to respond to religious principles is marked by Ghita, when, after each escape, she questions him on his spiritual feelings: “is there no God for you to thank — ” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 162). By the time when Raoul, disguised as a lazzarone, appears in Naples amidst his enemies, he has both literally and metaphorically burnt his boats” behind him. Surely no reader can miss the felicity of Cooper’s choice of detail in naming the felucca Raoul burns, the Divina Providenza — Divine Providence.

In contrast to his adventures near Elba, Raoul’s escapades at Naples are less successful and finally culminate in the wreck of his ship on the rocks of the Sirens. The reader is told his “philosophy plays the very devil with [his] judgment” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 442). Misplaced confidence in his own Reason is held responsible for both the secular and spiritual misfortunes of Raoul, for the “assumed grasp of his own reason” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 1176) not only leads to his reckless masquerade amidst his enemies, but also to the folly of rejecting religious consolation in the face of death. (Wing-and-Wing, p. 370) As in The Heidenmauer and The Headsman, Cooper once more associates this daring confidence in the human intellect with the destructive actions of undisciplined beings. While the Proserpine presents a “faultless picture of nautical symmetry and naval propriety” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 179), the Wing-and-Wing is the venue for dereliction of duty, for the men have not the “rigid discipline of a regular service” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 422). In addition, the irregular philosophy of Raoul and his crew is in sharp contrast to the orthodox faith observed on The Proserpine. The rationalistic doctrines approved on board the Wing-and-Wing clearly proceed from ill-disciplined beings whose reckless confidence in their own powers engenders fatal misjudgments.

For Cooper, such spiritual deficiencies preclude human fulfillment. The full import of Raoul’s secular philosophy is intensified in the scenes exhibiting the historical figure, Nelson. Like Raoul, he makes faulty judgments when under the influence of his “siren” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 313), the worldly woman of dubious morals whom Cooper suggests has urged Nelson to procure the death of the Neapolitan Admiral Caraccioli from motives of personal vengeance. Nelson is wrecked on his “goddess Circe” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 220) as surely as Raoul on the Sirens. In both cases, Cooper’s use of pagan myth emphasizes his conviction that dedication to secular concerns to the exclusion of spiritual principles is totally destructive. The arena controlled by Nelson and Raoul is filled with death from Elba to Naples and St. Agata. Not only has Raoul slaughtered his enemies with grape and canister and left the Divina Providenza “reeking with blood” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 157), but also Nelson has gathered Naples to witness the spectacle of an aged and venerable Prince Caraccioli hanging from a spar of the Minerva. While Raoul himself falls victim on the Sirens amidst the carnage his policies have helped to create, his fate intensifies Cooper’s assertion that the tenacious pursuit of secular interests is inimicable to an insecure, unpredictable world.

In this arena of slaughter, the proper response to death becomes an important question for Cooper, because it embodies his conviction of the benevolence and wisdom of Christian redemption. Essentially, he tries to analyze human feelings when faced with the immediacy and apparent finality of death — the “passage into another state of existence [which is] as sudden as the flight of the electric spark” (Wing-and-Wing, p, 454). In her role as mediator between man and his God, Ghita is present at the deaths of both Caraccioli and Raoul. In the former case, she is able to assuage his fear of the manner of his death, and, by her emphasis on divine mercy, to bring him religious consolation. Her influence on Raoul is even more dramatic. As Cooper treats her, Ghita does not represent a sterile retreat from life resulting from immersion in religious abstractions. Cooper deliberately associates her with the preservation of life appropriate to her womanly qualities. Always, she is shown in the midst of the action, trying to save lives — temporal and eternal. Thus, Raoul spares his routed enemy when the Divina Providenza is burnt, because Ghita appears on the deck of the Wing-and-Wing, “imploring him to be merciful” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 156). She seeks out Nelson in an attempt to save Caraccioli; when the small boats from the Proserpine are trying to re-capture Raoul, Ghita points out an arch and water-cavern where he may hide from his pursuers (Wing-and-Wing, p. 399). Her energetic attempts to promote human happiness qualify her to lead a fruitful life. Her existence in the Towers of Monte Argentaro under the guidance of Carlo Giuntotardi and his sister has inculcated the lessons of decorum, moral responsibility, and religious duty. Cooper indicates her domestic virtues, in addition to her purity and innocence, for he shows her at her sewing in a moment of comparative calm on the Wing-and-Wing, and likens her to a “vestal virgin” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 220) who presides over the hearth. 116 Mindful of the vestal’s relation to a pagan mythology, Cooper is careful to add that Ghita shows in addition the “moral impression of the sublime and heart-searching truths that are inculcated by the real oracles of God“ (Wing-and-Wing, p. 220 {80} Italics mine). Unlike her counterparts in pagan mythology, Ghita specifically reflects a doctrine of redemption consequent on forgiveness for sin, if man submits his own will to that of a higher religious authority. Cooper’s virginal mediator has been fully prepared to care for both the temporal and eternal welfare of man, for she realizes that “death is terrible to all, but to those who trust, with heart and soul. to the mediation of the Son of God” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 226).

Though Raoul’s rejection of a spiritual dimension in human concerns precludes his participation in the life values which Ghita represents, yet, his professions of atheism are almost too insistent. Their repetition seems to diminish their sincerity. Perhaps the role of atheist is just another of Raoul’s masquerades, for he tries to live up to a projected image of himself whether it be the English “Sir Smees,” the Neapolitan lazzarone, or the French atheist captain of a privateer who challenges the might of his country’s religious and political foes. At the yard-arm of the Proserpine, Raoul’s attitude is influenced by his notion of the fortitude of condemned persons facing the guillotine. We is prompted to die “as he fancied it, like “un Français” for the “guillotine had brought fortitude under such circumstances into a sort of a fashion” (Wing-and-Wing, pp. 313-344). He delights in acting Sir Smees for Andrea Barrofaldi and Vito Viti, and he enjoys plying them with the supposed instructions of King George to “be prompt in calling on the superior authorities, and remember me benevolently and affectionately to them ... even down to the subordinate magistrates” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 115). Cooper indicates that Raoul “delighted in playing the part he was now performing, but he was a little addicted to over-acting it” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 115). Like his profession of atheism, his over-acting is “a weakness such as young men will fall into” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 118). On the slopes of St. Agata, he is willing to go before an altar and a priest to marry Ghita, for his “personal appearance” gives him much “self-satisfaction” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 403) in his role as a lazzarone. He tells Ghita: “You will not despise me because I am not decked as I might be for the bridal. Nothing is easier than to find an altar and a priest among these monasteries; and the hour for saying mass is not very distant. Give me a right to claim you, and I will appoint a place of rendezvous, bring in the lugger to-morrow night, and carry you off in triumph to our gay Provence” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 403). Raoul here has his two images of himself confused, for he wishes to be both a humble orthodox suitor, and a dare-devil rationalist acknowledging only the primacy of secular concern. Provence, as the home of the troubadours lauding adulterous, courtly love, is hardly {81} appropriate as a venue for the idealized Ghita. She wishes him to fuse the two images and to subordinate secular affairs to sacred responsibilities.

Cooper’s final scene for Raoul on the Sirens, where he faces the assault of his enemies, is to determine which image will predominate when, mortally wounded, he must confront the reality of death. His roles as Sir Smees and the lazzarone must now yield to that of Raoul Yvard, the atheist. He kisses his hand to Ghita with Provençal gallantry when she beckons him to “pay the debt of gratitude he owed to that dread Being who had as yet borne him unharmed through the fray” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 455). When the battle turns against him, he calls out “Sauve mon Feu-Follet,” his will o’ the wisp ship, sparkling and glowing briefly, like Raoul’s own existence, and doomed to disappear without trace into the darkness of rationalistic night. 117 Only after the “spectre of a craft” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 464) has been destroyed in the Tramontana does Raoul begin to consider the need to “Sauve mon âme,” for the angel of death, the Holy Michael, is hovering nearby. All masks fall from Raoul as, wounded, he gazes at the starry heavens and asks Ghita: “Dost thou think that one like me would be received into his [God’s] presence — ” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 475). As in other works of Cooper, the bright star, manifestation of the Creator’s power, leads the errant soul to perceptions of the religious principles it has neglected. The reader is told: “One of these gleams of truth passed over the faculties of the dying man, and it could not be altogether without its fruits. Raoul’s soul was agitated by novel sensations” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 477).

Raoul’s perception of religious truth resulting from the imminence of death demonstrates the deficiencies of his role as atheist. His philosophy has been unable to provide him with a means of grasping intellectually the enormous gulf of eternity which stretches before him. Raoul must turn to the positive hope of a life after death which redemption offers, in order to cope with the apparent finality of the grave. For Cooper, the wisdom of Christian redemption lies in this positive hope it offers to the limited human mind that one’s spirit will endure in a life after death. To reject the spiritual dimension in favor of a rationalistic atheism, for Cooper, is merely a foolish piece of play-acting, a masquerade which the reality of death unmasks.

In these two novels set in Catholic Europe, Cooper’s main focus has been on the potential for human fulfillment he sees in the doctrine of redemption. As the {82} revered mother of the Redeemer, the Virgin Mary provided him with a fictional device for projecting his analysis of human behavior. The Marian image in Ghita and Mercedes is obviously appropriate for their roles within the Catholic setting. At the same time, however, both novels show a developing ambiguity within the Catholic matrix. Cooper appears conscious of the blighting effects of the Spanish Inquisition, its militant actions inconsistent with the teaching of Christ, its excesses conducive to sectarian schism. At the court of Queen Isabella, the innocent Ozema dies before the onslaught of zealots who becloud her mind with religious dogma. She is shown as a “type of the manner in which the religion of the cross was to be abused and misunderstood” (Mercedes, p. 516). Queen Isabella’s enthusiastic promotion of the faith is “temporarily checked,” but not before she has countenanced religious persecution of Moor and Jew. Though Cooper skirts the problem of the Inquisition which his source, Prescott, had fully discussed, he does attempt to suggest imaginatively the harm such an institution does to the gentle doctrines of Christianity. 118 A second Ozema, perhaps the child of Luis and Mercedes, is briefly introduced, only to disappear in the blighting atmosphere created by a militant faith: “She appeared at court, in the succeeding reign, and, for a time, blazed like a star that had risen in a pure atmosphere. Her career, however, was short, dying young and lamented” (Mercedes, p. 530). Established, religious authority usually represented by Catholicism for Cooper, has clearly become ambiguous, indicating his religious vision is about to make a new turn.

In The Wing-and-Wing, a second dubious aspect of spirituality is suggested through Ghita and her uncle, Carlo. Because of the extreme idealization of Ghita and her exalted role, Cooper was opposed to a compromise between his hero and heroine, 119 and finally consigned her to a convent. Any other solution would have diminished his theme. Yet he is disturbed by the fact that human fulfillment for his Marian figure has been impossible. Both Carlo and Ghita verge on a sterile abstraction from worldly affairs which smacks of the eremitic retreat (Wing-and-Wing, p. 399). Both are finally unable to achieve that communal interaction in ordinary affairs which Cooper had approved in The Heidenmauer.

Two minor figures in the second novel, The Wing-and-Wing, provide the keys to the turn in Cooper’s religious vision: Clinch and Ithuel Bolt. The former’s successful life with his chosen partner is Cooper’s reward to him for being the just mean between a suffocating immersion in secular concerns and an extreme, spiritual abstraction from the world. His seamanship (Wing-and-Wing, p. 338) {83} demonstrates his discipline and becomes a function of his moral responsibility in the novel. By contrast with Clinch, Ithuel’s lack of seamanship (Wing-and-Wing, p. 60) and deficient morality indicate that the material success accorded him at the end is more a reward for injustice suffered at the hands of the English, than for any spiritual development. Ithuel’s formalistic, Protestant orthodoxy is as blighting as Queen Isabella’s religious persecution. Though he collects a widow and becomes the wealthy Deacon Bolt, the last few sarcastic lines show that he continues to serve self-interest at the expense of the opportunity for human fulfillment. Material wealth was never a measure of success for Cooper. Both Ithuel’s Protestant orthodoxy and the institutionalized Catholicism of Isabella’s Spain are rejected by Cooper as valid guides for erring humanity. In his final novels, Cooper thus turns away from the Catholic, European setting which he has shown may blight the fulfillment it was intended to foster. The role of the heroine as Virginal mediator is consequently reduced in importance in the following novels as Cooper once more turns to the American setting and its characteristically Protestant matrix. Neither Methodism nor Congregationalism accords the Marian image the same prominence as does Catholicism. In Wyandotté (1843), the hero and preserver of life is the Anglican minister, Mr. Wood. The Oak Openings (1848) and The Sea Lions (1849), which focus on the Protestant sects, Methodism and Congregationalism, are further evidence of Cooper’s turn away from the traditional, religious authority represented by Catholicism. In these last novels, the European experience provides the metaphor often for Cooper’s religious analysis, but this has become more theological and less based on the religious art of Europe itself.

hapter 7 — THE SYMBOLIC HARVEST: The Oak Openings and The Sea Lions

{85} At the end of his final decade of writing fiction, Cooper returns to the native American materials which are usually considered the staple ingredients of his novels: the prairie and the sea, the Indian and the Settler. On these elements, in The Oak Openings (1848) and The Sea Lions (1849), he brings to bear the result of his European experiences, especially his perception of the catholicity of the teachings of Christ which transcend local differences in creed. In these two novels he asserts that the common basis of all sects is a belief in the divinity of the Redeemer and the atonement at Calvary. For Cooper, there are, consequently, only two valid dogmas which may guide all Christians: “They teach us to love God, the surest way to obey him, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” 121 As Cooper moves from the materials of Catholic Europe to those of Protestant America, he is concerned with the tenets of the “Church catholic” 121 rather than with sectarian peculiarities. In The Oak Openings and The Sea Lions, Cooper demonstrates that his “Church catholic” fosters these “two great dogmas of Christianity” (Oak Openings, p. 264). The regeneration of Scalping Peter and Roswell Gardiner in these two novels thus illustrates the power of caritas to transform the desolate soul of unbelieving man and make it glow with benevolence [as one of] 122 God’s creatures. But the two novels are not religious treatises; by symbol and allegory, the theology is subordinated to the demands of fiction, imaginatively capturing the attraction of the myth of regeneration. From the American materials in these two novels, Cooper fashions his positive answer to the blighting values presented in the Mosaic dispensation of The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish and the sectarian persecution of Mercedes of Castile. Cooper seems to answer the Meek Wolfe of the earlier novel when he castigates the “high-wrought and dogmatical Calvinist, who in the midst of his very zeal, forgets that love is the very essence of the relation between God and man” (Oak Openings, p. 211). His European experiences have caused Cooper’s religious analysis to move from his rejection of sectarian schism to enthusiastic acceptance of Catholicism, and finally away from institutionalized religion towards ecumenical catholicity.

In accordance with this change in his vision, Cooper has chosen to locate much of the action of The Oak Openings and The Sea Lions away from the {86} sectarian origins of his characters, in neutral ground: the Michigan Prairie, and the Antarctic wastes. Cooper is seeking a locale uncolored by the religious affinities of any specific creed. Thus the Quaker bee-hunter, Ben Boden, and the Puritan Waring family are brought from Pennsylvania to Michigan in 1812 in order to witness the regeneration of the Indian, Scalping Peter. The Unitarian, Roswell Gardiner, is sent away from his Congregationalist community of Oyster Pond on Long Island to the icy wastes of Antarctica in order to experience that humility which Cooper regards as the pre-requisite to faith. Unitarianism is on a par with the atheism of Raoul Yvard for Cooper. The American materials do, however, provide an extra dimension for Cooper, since they allow him to emphasize the common brotherhood and common guilt of man through the racial conflicts of the Indians and the Settlers. Consequently, the novelist asserts the universal need of redemption and the regenerative power of love which, he believes, are the products of unquestioning faith in the Trinity. Such faith Cooper found in the Italian people and made integral to The Wing-and-Wing. 123 The American materials in The Sea Lions show the novelist confronting the covenants of faith and works within a Protestant culture which preached justification by faith alone.

As a result of Cooper’s pre-occupation with faith in the divinity of Christ and the function of divine grace in the regeneration of man, he is less concerned with the Marian image of his heroines as mediators in man’s redemption. His Protestant, American heroines, Margery Waring and Mary Pratt, are far less idealized than are his Catholic figures, Ghita and Mercedes, in accord with their diminished role in the regeneration of man. Only their names indicate their Marian image in Cooper’s fiction. Although Margery and Mary still function as repositories of orthodox, religious principles and play an important part in making Scalping Peter and Roswell Gardiner receptive to spiritual experience, these two Protestant heroines are only subsidiary agents in the regeneration of Peter and Roswell, in relation to the more important effect of Parson Amen on Peter, and the lessons of the Antarctic wastes on Roswell.

Cooper’s return to American materials thus modifies the artistic method he employed in response to Catholic, European culture. Though pride of reason is again his target in the character of Roswell Gardiner as it was in Raoul Yvard of The Wing-and-Wing, the heroines now are tangential in awakening, in Peter and Roswell, faith in the Incarnation and Passion of Christ. Instead, the Apostolic ministries provide Cooper with the motifs on which to base his narratives of con{87}version. Thus in his preface to The Sea Lions, Cooper commends St. Paul’s most comprehensive but brief definition of Faith” (Sea Lions, p. 7). Describing Mary Pratt’s uncle, the avaricious Deacon of Oyster Pond. Cooper says that he “apparently performed all the duties that his church required of its professors in the way of mere religious observances; yet was he as far from being in that state which St. Paul has described succinctly as “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” as if he had been a pagan” (Sea Lions, p. 60). Later, in the Antarctic wastes, Cooper shows Roswell meditating on “the declaration of John the Baptist, the simple and unpretending histories of the Gospels, the commentaries of St. Paul, and the venerable teachings of the Church” (Sea Lions, p. 407), all of which awake his faith in the divinity of the Redeemer. St. Paul hovers over the regeneration of Scalping Peter also, for Cooper allows Parson Amen to declare: “Even Saul of Tarsus was bent on persecution and slaughter, until his hand was stayed by the direct manifestations of the power of God” (Oak Openings, p. 222). To the Parson, the ferocity of the Indians is caused by “those evil spirits, whom St. Paul mentions as the powers of the air” (Oak Openings, p. 223). These Protestant, American materials clearly lead Cooper to confront justification by faith unaided by that institutionalized religion which he had come to distrust. 124 Yet his positive theme, the transforming power of caritas, is in marked contrast to the negative reaction which American materials had drawn from him in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. The difference is a direct result of his European experiences, which enabled him to perceive and express the catholicity of Christianity as it is manifest in the Incarnation and Passion of Christ.

Cooper’s Journals for 1 January-14 May 1848, show that he was engaged in a systematic reading of the Bible, from St. John through Revelation then back to Genesis and Numbers; at the same time, he was writing and revising The Oak Openings, which he finished 27 May 1848. By 18 July 1848, Cooper wrote to his London publisher, Richard Bentley, that he WaS planning one more, “The Lost Sealers”. the alternate title to The Sea Lions. 125 These two novels would seem to be greatly influenced by Cooper’s Bible readings at this time. Thus Cooper particularly commends those passages which pertain to faith, the divinity of Christ, and the command to love one another: he notes the “martyrdom of Stephen”; Galatians 5 is a “noble chapter”; of the Pauline epistles he likes Corinthians least, but praises Hebrews and James and thrills to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis. On 5 March 1848, Cooper records that he read “the three epistles of St. John and that of St. Jude. The celebrated passage touching the divinity of Christ, is so embedded {88} in similar doctrine that it strikes me the whole chapter must go if these two verses go. Put is not the entire New Testament full of this doctrine — The pride of man makes him cavil at that which he can not comprehend, while every thing he sees has a mystery in it!” 126 The passages which Cooper commends all share St. Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith, not works, while the “noble chapter” stresses one of Cooper’s “two great dogmas of Christianity” — “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14). Significantly, however, that command appears to stress works in addition to faith, an opposition which must have confronted Cooper in the different emphasis given the story of Abraham and Isaac by St. Paul (Romans 4-5) in comparison with the Genesis account. As Cooper develops The Sea Lions, he seems to indicate that the apparent opposition of faith and works has been resolved for him by the Apostle James: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is a lifeless thing” (James 2:17). In The Oak Openings and The Sea Lions, Cooper demonstrates the vitality of faith if it is united with works to transform the desolate soul of unbelieving man. In Cooper’s vision, the works do not contribute to the transformation, but are a manifestation of it, the result of man’s renewed faith.

In The Wing-and-Wing, Cooper had already confronted the opposition of faith and works. Though an infidel, Raoul Yvard’s practice towards his fellow creatures is benevolently motivated, for he releases the Englishman, Clinch, in return for the seaman’s generous endeavors to obtain a reprieve for him, and resists the more rascally expedients of Ithuel Bolt. On the other hand, while Ithuel’s religious theory is intact, his practice is abominable, for he is motivated only by self-interest and a dire hatred of his enemies, the English, who had once impressed him on the Proserpine. Cooper compares Ithuel to Milton’s Satan the embodiment of anti-love: “He sat ruminating, in bitterness of spirit, like Milton’s devil, in some of his dire cogitations” (Wing-and-Wing, p. 81). Hatred for the injustice suffered motivates all Ithuel’s actions. As Deacon Bolt, he operates according to a code of retribution, not love. Borne away in the Holy Michael, Ithuel is rightly associated with death, for he lacks the vitality of faith united with works. Cooper has thus suggested that the coalition of “Death-in-life” is that of the self-centered soul, like Ithuel, whose existence is unrelieved by Christian practice, For Cooper, both lack of faith and an empty formalism are requited by death.

In The Wing-and-Wing, this “death-in-life” condition of a superficial faith divorced from Christian practice is not at the center of the action. Cooper develops {89} this condition more fully in The Sea Lions, for Ithuel’s chief characteristics — lack of love, greed. formalism, a selfish indifference to his fellow creatures — are predominant in Deacon Pratt and the two Daggetts. Cooper presents them as diseased souls who succumb to death, for the worship of gold, homage to Mammon, has corrupted their spiritual nature. Thus the elder Tom Daggett arrives in Oyster Pond with a tale of wealth to be won from a fabulous Sealer’s Land in the Antarctic, and pirate gold buried on a West Indian key; choosing his confidant with care, in order to ensure that he will not be neglected, Daggett relates his tale to the deacon whose “appetite for gain” he “managed so well to whet ... that henceforth there was no trouble in procuring the deacon’s company” (Sea Lions, p. 46). Cooper continuously associates this wealth with disease and death; Tom Daggett is “obviously wasting away with disease;” he is “conscious of the decay which beset him” (Sea Lions, p. 27); though he falls victim to a “rapid consumption” (Sea Lions, pp. 53), Cooper indicates that he exhibits a “general decay” (Sea Lions, p. 41). Death has already overtaken Daggett’s former shipmates, who shared knowledge of his tale of wealth, and the dying seaman easily infects a kindred soul, the deacon, with his own fatal disease — a single-minded pursuit of gain, a disease of the soul to which the deacon is already susceptible, for “many an unfortunate fellow-citizen in Suffolk had been made to feel how close was the grip of his hand, when he found himself in its grasp” (Sea Lions, p 21).

Symptoms of disease become more apparent in the deacon in proportion to his increasing greed. The “feverish excitement” (Sea Lions, p. 46) roused initially by Daggett’s tale becomes an “agitated and unsettled state of mind” (Sea Lions, p. 122) when the deacon’s very existence is identified with profit: “An undue love of money, ... slowly but surely usurp[ed] the entire sway over a being that was once subject to many masters. ... Nearly all his passions now centred in this one, ... His fellow-men, his kindred included, were regarded by him as little more than so many competitors, or tools” (Sea Lions, p. 102). The deacon’s lack of human sympathy is the dangerous weakness in his constitution which directly contributes to the rapid progress of his disease, until his sunken eye, tremulous voice, and mental confusion proclaim the “failing health” (Sea Lions, p. 201) of one in whom “desires for wealth [became] more grasping, as he was losing hold on life” (Sea Lions, p. 315). Though the deacon receives a handsome return on his investment from a consignment of whale oil which Gardiner sends from Rio de Janeiro, the deacon’s covetousness can not be satisfied unless the pirate gold and his ship are {90} also within his possession. But the desire for gold is a liability which “preyed upon his vitals, like an ill-omened bird” (Sea Lions, p. 460). When Roswell finally returns with the gold, the deacon is on the verge of death, for Mammon has control of his soul. Cooper explicitly relates his condition to that of the deceased Tom Daggett: “it is a sad commentary on the greediness for gain, manifested by this person [the deacon] that ere the adventure he had undertaken on the strength of Daggett’s reluctant communications was brought to any apparent result, he himself was nearly in the condition of that diseased seaman” (Sea Lions, p. 329).

Deacon Pratt’s death is a marvellous piece of theatre on Cooper’s part. Since, for the deacon, “Mammon was uppermost in the place of the Deity” (Sea Lions, p. 56), his grip on the pirate gold is appropriately fatal to him; his diseased soul, which has served the idol, Mammon, goes to hell. Cooper suggests that greed and covetousness. which impel a lack of human love and generosity on the one hand, and deficient love of God on the other, are overt symptoms of service to the powers of anti-Christ. Paying homage to the “evil spirit of covetousness” (Sea Lions, p. 460) throughout his life, the deacon is requited for his idolatry at death, when “the demons who had watched him, and encouraged him in his besetting sin, laughed at this consummation of their malignant arts” (Sea Lions, p. 4711). When the deacon’s soul goes to hell, the “angels in heaven did not mourn” (Sea Lions, p. 474), since his existence has been untouched by the warmth of Christian love and charity.

Cooper explicitly relates the deacon’s diseased condition to self-interest, an empty formalism, deficient faith and charity; isolating himself from human sympathy he represents all that is opposed to vitality, for he has forgotten to practise Cooper’s “two great dogmas of Christianity” — love of the Creator and charity towards one’s fellow men. Thus he at first resists Mary’s suggestion that Dr. Sage should be brought across from Sag Harbor to attend to the dying seaman, Daggett, for the deacon begrudges the expense he might incur and is afraid that the doctor, too, might learn of Sealer’s Land and the pirate gold. Deacon Pratt is quite content to let Daggett die, until he realizes that he himself still does not have all the necessary information from the seaman to find Sealer’s Land and the West Indian key. Cooper presents the deacon’s opposition to saving life in terms of the sophistry of a Sabbatarian: “I’m not certain it is lawful to work boats of a Sabbath, child”, he tells Mary. Echoing Christ’s rebuke to the Sabbatarians (Luke 6:9), Mary replies: “I believe, sir, it was deemed lawful to do good on the Lord’s day” (Sea Lions, p. 35). Since the deacon would he “right sorry ... to have him die — just yet” (Sea Lions, {91} p. 36), he allows Roswell to fetch the doctor provided that both of them “volunteer” (Sea Lions, p. 39) their services. Though the “Pharisee” himself visits the dying Daggett three times on the Sabbath in order to find out the necessary locations of Sealer’s Land and the key of gold, he cautions the seaman against discussing his tale with the doctor: “It’s the Lord’s day, ... and it is not seemly to dwell too much on worldly interests on the Sabbath” (Sea Lions, p. 50).

The deacon’s empty formalism is a convenient excuse for his avarice and intense self-interest — qualities which make him overtly opposed to life and in league with death. Representing the full development of the “death-in-life” condition which Cooper sketched in Ithuel Bolt, the deacon has “all the usual sectarian terms at the end of his tongue; ... apparently performed all the duties that his church required of its professors, in the way of mere religious observances; yet was he as far from being in that state which St. Paul has described succinctly as “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” as if he had been a pagan. It was not the love of God that was active in his soul, but the love of self” (Sea Lions, p. 60). Consumed by the disease of devotion to self-interest, the deacon’s deathlike form is a reflection of his morbid spiritual condition; deficient in faith, and destitute of charity, he is the epitome of the lifeless state of a faith divorced from works. Without the sustaining warmth of generosity, and Christian love, the deacon finds that the “Pharisaical” creed of his cold and narrow soul leaves him “grop[ing] about in the darkness” (Sea Lions, p. 462) of damnation, as he exchanges the living hell of his “death-in-life” condition for the everlasting hell of ultimate corruption.

In pursuit of the same wealth which has engrossed Deacon Pratt, Captain Jason Daggett of Martha’s Vineyard, the dead seaman’s nephew, has outfitted his own Sea Lion and shadowed the Sea Lion of Oyster Pond down to the Antarctic seas; Jason Daggett does not know the exact location of Sealer’s Land and the key himself, but he correctly assumes that Roswell Gardiner will unwittingly lead him to the wealth he desires. Like the deacon, Daggett’s single-minded devotion to gain earns him death in the Antarctic wastes where the power of God as it is manifest in the awful grandeur of that icy world should have raised him above self-interest. Amidst the abundance of Oyster Pond, “a sort of a garden compared with much of the sterility that prevails around it” (Sea Lions, p. 19), Deacon Pratt takes God’s bounty for granted and has no reverence for the beauty of Creation; the natural world exists to be exploited for his own profit: “It was little, that {92} Deacon Pratt thought of views, or beauty of any sort” (Sea Lions, p. 26). On the towering rocky mountain which overlooks Sealer’s Land, Jason Daggett evinces a similar indifference to the majesty of Creation: “Tis a remarkable spot, as no one can deny, ... but I like its abundance of seal the most of all. I cannot say I have much taste for sights, unless they bring the promise of good profit with them” (Sea Lions, p. 272). 127 Cooper provides a precise gauge of this mercenary nature; in comparison with Gardiner’s reaction to the same scene — “And if any place on earth can particularly incline one to worship God, surely it must be some such spot as this!” (Sea Lions, p. 271) — Daggett’s greedy exploitation of the natural world is a direct repudiation of God, for he is not at all “incline[d] to worship.”

To emphasize the fact that Daggett has indeed repudiated his God, Cooper associates this “intensely covetous” man who “lived for little else than for gain” (Sea Lions, p. 272) with Deacon Pratt’s idolatrous worship of Mammon. His “lust for gold” (Sea Lions, p. 272) and tenacious regard for property forges a “cold, worldly spirit” (Sea Lions, p. 272) within him; lacking the vital warmth of a sustaining faith, Daggett is unable to survive the rigors of an Antarctic winter when his cupidity leads to the wreck of his ship on the ice floes. Though the crews of both ships are stranded by the field of ice which blocks their escape northward, Daggett rejects the opportunity for mutual cooperation and insists that “each party act for itself, and take care of its own” “(Sea Lions, p. 399). Maintaining a firm hold on his property, he refuses to allow his wrecked ship to be broken up for fuel to provide warmth for the two crews throughout the winter. Daggett’s obstinate selfishness and lack of generosity are re-inforced by the comparison of his behavior with the greater humanity of the crew from Oyster Pond, for his command, that each look out for himself, occurs just after Roswell’s men have rescued Daggett and his crew from an avalanche. Daggett’s “cold, worldly spirit” conditions his unproductive life, because the sterility of his soul cannot sustain any “spiritual fruits” (Sea Lions p. 273). Deficient in both faith and works, Daggett’s “cold, worldly spirit”, unable to generate the vital warmth of Christian love, places in jeopardy both his physical and eternal lives.

On the coldest night of October, at the end of the Antarctic winter, Roswell and seaman Stimson find Daggett almost frozen stiff, surrounded by the rigid forms of his dead crew. Cooper suggests that his frozen condition is the externalization of the internal state of Daggett’s soul, for his plight can be directly attributed to his concern for property and devotion to the principle of gain. Thus he has with{93}drawn to his wrecked ship in preference to staying in the warmer quarters of a hut on Sealer’s Land with Gardiner and his crew, lest the seamen from Oyster Pond use the wreck for fuel; with an eye on his property, Daggett has chosen to be dangerously isolated from human help, on the coldest night of the year. His concern that his ship should not be consumed as fuel even for his own men results in the lack of warmth and subsequent frozen condition in which Gardiner finds Daggett. The extremity of his physical state is thus a function of his morbid spiritual condition; 128 the agonies which Daggett endures to have the frost removed from his system show that Cooper’s hell is the sterile, covetous soul which induces a chilling indifference to God and man.

Cooper presents the possibility of relief for this dire spiritual state by means of an analogy between climatic conditions and the state of man. The seasonal cycle holds out the hope of returning spring at this extreme point in the Antarctic winter for “it often happens in climates of an exaggerated character, that these extremes almost touch each other, as they are said to meet in man” (Sea Lions, p. 421). Consequently, in the extremity of his physical and spiritual plight, Daggett begins to disregard property in a desperate struggle for life. When he implores Gardiner: “If you have any feelin’ for a fellow-creatur’ in distress, warm me up with one swallow of that coffee!” (Sea Lions, p. 426), it is the first time that he expresses concern for life in preference to property; this “grasping seeker after gain ... asked for the means of preserving life, and thought no more of skins, and oils, and treasures on desert keys” (Sea Lions, p. 426). Cooper associates Daggett’s brief fight for life with his confession: “I’ve loved money most too well” (Sea Lions, p. 442). This tardy acknowledgment of his deficiencies is unable to arrest the progress of his disease, however, since he tries to make his wife and children excuses for his own cupidity. As in Ithuel’s case, a deep love for man and God form no part of Daggett’s composition; consequently, Cooper declares that “the decay reached the vitals” (Sea Lions, p. 443), and Daggett’s soul “took its flight towards the place of departed spirits, in preparation for the hour when it was to lie summoned before the judgment seat of God” (Sea Lions, p. 442). For Cooper, his death is due to the hellish state of his loveless, sterile soul.

Through Deacon Pratt and the two Daggetts, Cooper has thus fully developed the implications of Ithuel Bolt’s “death-in-life” condition, as they personify the morbid state of an empty formalism devoid of charity. Unable to enjoy rewarding human relationships, they center their lives on a gnawing fear of losing their {94} property; in effect, they induce their own hell during the course of their earthly existence.

In The Oak Openings, the destructive pursuit of wealth is not an important issue; rather, Cooper focuses on the other predominant characteristic of Ithuel Bolt — an equally destructive lust for vengeance which is inimical to the human fulfillment embodied in Cooper’s contention that “love is the very essence of the relation between God and man” (Oak Openings, p. 211). In the relations of the tribeless Indian chief, Scalping Peter, with Margery Waring and the Methodist Parson Amen, Cooper presents the regeneration of Peter when the vengeance in his heart is displaced by the message of unbounded love he intuits in the Incarnation and Passion of Christ. The influx of divine grace enables Peter to “put on the new man” (Eph. 4:24) and subsequently engenders a warm and fruitful relationship between him and the flourishing family of Margery Waring and her husband, Ben Boden. In contrast to the morbid condition personified by Deacon Pratt and the two Daggetts in The Sea Lions, the figure of Scalping Peter embodies the power of Christian love to transform a desolate soul and make it fruitful; in Peter, Cooper renders the vitality of faith united to works.

When Scalping Peter first appears on the Kalamazoo River in the company of Parson Amen and an American soldier, Corporal Flint, he is obsessed with a grand scheme of retribution to be unleashed against all settlers. Unknown to the Parson and Corporal Flint, Scalping Peter plans to attend a war council of the tribes in the oak openings of Prairie Round, further up the Kalamazoo. Against the background of the hostilities of the war of 1812, Peter persuades Ben Boden and his party, whom he meets at the mouth of the Kalamazoo, to return to Prairie Round. Though the parson and the corporal have much trust in Peter, he treacherously intends to deliver the scalps of all six whites to his Pottawattamie allies as the first victims of his revenge: “Hatred, inextinguishable and active hatred, appeared to be the law of this man’s being; and he devoted all the means, aided by all the intelligence he possessed; to the furtherance of his narrow and short-sighted means of vengeance and redress” (Oak Openings, p. 214).

Peter’s design for retribution has more extensive implications than redress of wrongs and defense of his homeland against an invader, for Cooper raises him above the annihilating rivalry of Metacom and Uncas in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish; thus he tries to impress on the council of tribes the “great evil of an Indian’s {95} raising his hand against an Indian” (Oak Openings, p. 252) and attempts to include Ben Boden’s Chippewa friend, Pigeonswing, in his grand design for “the regeneration and union of the people of his race” (Oak Openings, p. 192). Peter recognizes a universal spirit presiding over all races on earth, but, like Ithuel’s, his “Great Spirit” would seem to be a God of Wrath who “governs all; rewards all; punishes all” (Oak Openings, p, 262); Peter’s Great Spirit lacks that dimension of love, which, for Cooper, distinguishes the Christian’s God. Since regeneration is a testimony of divine love, Peter’s design, ironically, cannot be fulfilled under his code of vengeance. Rather, it would ensure the figurative accuracy of Parson Amen’s theory that the Indians are the “Lost Tribes” of Israel, for Peter’s code of vengeance would entail their earthly and spiritual destruction.

Because Peter regards “all things through a medium of revenge” (Oak Openings, p. 277), Cooper indicates that he is almost removed from humanity and separated from God. Thus Peter has no tribe, no wife or children: none knows his origins or claims a close relationship with him. His influence on the tribes derives from his fearful reputation with the scalping knife, but no “Indian could say even of what tribe he was born. The totem that he bore on his person belonged to no people then existing on the continent, and all connected with him, his history, nation, and family, was conjecture and fancy” (Oak Openings, p. 197). The snake emblem on his breast, which none of the Indians recognizes, re-inforces Cooper’s suggestion that Peter is the extreme representative of fallen man. 129 The hatred which consumes him is an inhuman condition hostile to the image of the divine nature bequeathed to man at his creation: Peter’s “fierce and malignant passions” are “such as a merciful and a benignant deity never wishes to see in the breast of man” (Oak Openings, p. 278); for Cooper, not hatred and vengeance, but “love, mercy, and truth” are “Godlike, and bring us near the very essence of the Divinity” (Oak Openings, p. 265). Peter’s code of vengeance thus severs him from the Deity; precludes regeneration, and threatens an eternal death. Fallen man, separated from the divine image of a God of love, becomes satanic when he is motivated by hatred. Like Ithuel Bolt, Peter is associated with Milton’s devil, for his “very soul had got to be absorbed in this one notion of retribution” (Oak Openings, p. 277). As the serpent sought “The only two of mankind, but in them/The whole included race, his purposed prey”, 131 Peter contemplates the destruction of Margery and Boden in order to “strangle in their cradles” (Oak Openings, p. 330) an entire race. Cooper’s fallen man carries within him that satanic hatred for humanity which isolates him from a divine order of love.

{96} Peter begins to be reclaimed from his “fiendish” (Oak Openings, p. 215) state when he responds to the humanizing influence of Margery. Owing to Cooper’s emphasis on a fruitful human existence engendered by a code of love which regulates the relations between God and man, his Protestant, American heroine is herself a more human figure than are his etherealized Catholic, European heroines. Emphasizing Margery’s domestic virtues, 131 Cooper shows her attending Peter like a daughter, until her kindness and gentle manners “appeared to win on this nearly remorseless savage, in spite of his efforts to resist her influence” (Oak Openings, p. 216). Margery notices: “When I am by, Peter always seems more human ... Peter is no enemy of mine” (Oak Openings, p. 322). He begins to reconsider his fiendish designs as a direct result of Margery’s generous spirit; in response to Peter’s lament for the miserable condition of the Indian when his land and game are gone, Margery impulsively exclaims: “The red man has as good a right — nay, he has a better right to this country than we whites; and God forbid that he should not always have his full share of the land!” (Oak Openings, p. 329). Her sympathy has a powerful effect on Peter: “His fierce will was in the process of being brought in subjugation to the influence of his better feelings. At first he appeared bewildered; then compunction had its shade; and human sympathy came last, asserting its long dormant, hut inextinguishable power” (Oak Openings, p. 331).

Margery is thus an important, initial influence on Peter, for she causes him to respond to human generosity and weans him from his fiendish condition. Yet her diminished stature, in comparison with that of Ghita and Mercedes, makes her incapable of effecting Peter’s regeneration by herself. Her role is to return him to the human pale by awakening in his breast sympathy for his fellow creatures; to make him responsive to spiritual experience and thus eligible for regeneration. Peter’s awakening humanity demonstrates the vitality of the “two great dogmas of Christianity”, for Margery’s principles inspire her generosity towards a fellow creature and kindle in Peter a sympathetic response. For Cooper, “these sudden impulses in the direction of love for our species, the second of the high lessons left by the Redeemer to his disciples, are so many proofs of the creation of man in the image of his maker” (Oak Openings, p 330).

Peter’s awakened humanity induces him to arrange the immediate marriage of Boden and Margery in a vain attempt to procure a safe passage to the settlements for them. The limited extent of Margery’s influence on Peter, however, is apparent in his continued determination to kill the rest of the party; despite his long association with the gentle parson, Peter confesses to Boden after the marriage: “I do {97} not understand a religion that tells us to love our enemies, and to do good to them that do harm to us ... ,I shall not believe that any do this, till I see it“ (Oak Openings, p. 334, Italics mine); he asks for a practical example of faith in action. Peter’s re-birth in the image of his Maker is effected by the manner of Parson Amen’s subsequent death. as he dies blessing his enemies, according to the gentle doctrines which he expounds to the Indians just before his death. In the regeneration of Scalping Peter, the Parson plays St. Stephen to Peter’s Saul of Tarsus.

Parson Amen’s martyrdom as he dies under the blow of a stone hatchet, is, for Donald Ringe and James Grossman, a representation of the crucifixion. 132 Only in the broadest sense reflecting the spirit of Christian doctrine, however, can it be said that “it is Christ himself who is present and who suffers in the person of the martyr.” 133 Since the Parson discourses eloquently on the Incarnation and the Passion, Cooper specifically locates his martyrdom after the Crucifixion; like St. Stephen, whose martyrdom Cooper noted in his journal when he was writing The Oak Openings, 134 the parson is catechised on Christian doctrine by representatives of his “lost tribes Of Israel”, just prior to his death. In contrast to Conanchet and Jacopo, whom Cooper does develop as types of Christ, the Parson is not mocked or reviled by his enemies, Distinguishing the manner of the Parson’s death from that of Corporal Flint shortly afterward, Cooper shows a fearful Flint recalling the tree of Calvary and the forgotten doctrines of his youth as he contemplates his own painful death on a tree. 135 Had it accorded with Cooper’s intentions, the Parson would have died on the tree along with Flint; his death by stone, however, associates him more closely with Stephen and allows Cooper to show the power of divine grace transforming Peter. Armed with his faith, the Parson dies firmly believing that all that happened was in furtherance of the great scheme of man’s regeneration and eventual salvation” (Oak Openings, p. 390). To complete the association of Amen and Peter with St. Stephen and St. Paul, Cooper ironically allows the Parson, who trusts Peter, to tell Boden: “Even Saul of Tarsus was bent on persecution and slaughter, until his hand was stayed by the direct manifestation of the power of God. I can see glimmerings of this spirit in Peter” (Oak Openings, p. 222).

The power of divine grace is manifest in Peter as he witnesses the Parson’s death. Amen’s lack of fear or imprecations, and his doctrines, prayers, and blessings impress Peter with the “moral beauty” (Oak Openings, p, 392) of the parson’s teachings, but he cannot understand the principle of forgiveness, until Amen shows him that a code of retribution violates divine precept; in accord with Cooper’s earlier {98} association of vengeance with satanic opposition to the Deity, Amen tells Peter: “The devils tell us to revenge, but God commands us to forgive” (Oak Openings, p. 395). Most importantly for Peter’s regeneration, the parson proceeds to practise his faith and prays for mercy on Peter’s behalf. By Amen’s example, Peter is completely reclaimed from his former inhuman state and recognizes the power of divine love. When the Parson dies under the tomahawk, Peter’s entire frame trembles in sympathy: he “shuddered from head to foot. It was the first time such a weakness had ever come over him” (Oak Openings, p. 401).

Cooper contrasts the approach to death of Amen and Flint, for the corporal’s imprecations and frantic threats of revenge on his tormentors serve to emphasize Amen’s magnificent serenity and boldness in his day of judgment. In Cooper’s terms, he personifies the perfect love which casts out fear; he is therefore an appropriate figure to articulate a regenerating doctrine of love which combats the influence of a code of vengeance. As Peter hears the missionary’s dying prayers, his “soul [is] ... shaken. The past seemed like a dream to him while the future possessed a light that was obscured by clouds. Here was an exemplification in practice of that divine spirit of love and benevolence which had struck him, already, as so very wonderful” (Oak Openings, p. 401). Following the text of St. James, Cooper has to show that Peter can now implement this new faith, before he can receive the hope of eternal life implicit in regeneration; for Cooper, the vitality of faith when it is united with works invigorates man himself and produces the “new birth”.

The extent of Peter’s transformation is demonstrated during the flight to the settlements of the Boden party. Having laid aside his arms lest he be tempted to kill the Pottawattamies, Peter now uses his wits to ensure the party’s escape from the pursuing Indians. Through his association with Margery, he learns more of the Bible and Christian doctrine: he becomes again a little child as he makes his “confession of faith” (Oak Openings, p. 428) and tries not to hate his antagonists, Bear’s Meat and Bough of the Oak. Without Peter’s active help, the whites could not have eluded the Indians at the mouth of the Kalamazoo and again near Lake St. Clair; the flight to the settlements is thus a test of Peter’s faith in action — a test he passes easily to “become a new man” (Oak Openings, p. 456), for, like Saul, his soul “had been touched by the unseen, but omnipresent, power of the Holy Spirit” (Oak Openings, p. 455). Peter’s experience during the flight prepare him for an influx of divine grace which completes his regeneration initiated by his {99} association with Margery and Parson Amen. Cooper asserts: “if meekness, humility, a wish to learn the truth, and a devout sentiment toward the Creator, are so many indications of the ‘new birth,’ then might this savage be said to have been truly “born again” (Oak Openings, p. 457). When Peter is shown in later life, amidst the flourishing family of Margery and Ben Boden and their descendants, he is associated with a warm and affectionate family circle whose very existence is a direct result of the transformation of Peter’s heart when Christian love displaced satanic hatred. Through the scriptures, he has become convinced that the Incarnation and the Passion were decreed for the salvation of all mankind, irrespective of race; none can doubt that he receives his “Crown of Life” (James 1:12) for the unbounded love he now manifests towards God and man.

Cooper’s narrative of the relations between Parson Amen and Scalping Peter to some readers may seen extremely idealized in its conclusions; yet the horrific reality of the deaths of Amen and Flint balances the tendency to idealize Peter after his regeneration. The contrast thus becomes an artistic method of expressing the depths to which human nature can sink when it is motivated by hatred, and the heights to which it can rise when transformed by love. Cooper is convinced that “the whole scheme of Christ’s redemption and future existence is founded in love, and such a system would be imperfect while any were excluded from its benefits” (Oak Openings, p. 394). His treatment of Scalping Peter with its concomitant stress on a common humanity regenerated by the power of divine love is, for Cooper, a logical result of Christian doctrine when a code of retribution is supplanted by the principles of divine love.

In The Sea Lions, Mary Pratt and the Bible she gives to Roswell, the seaman Stimson, and the Antarctic experiences, play similar roles in the regeneration of Roswell Gardiner, 136 to those of Margery and her Bible, Parson Amen, and the Pauline influx of divine grace, in the regeneration of Scalping Peter [in] The Oak Openings. This obvious structural parallel between the two.novels in which Cooper focuses on the regeneration of man raises the questions of what regeneration meant to the novelist, and how it influences both the secular and sacred aspects of human affairs. Peter and Roswell are finally shown amidst an affectionate family circle, Cooper’s gauge of a fruitful, earthly existence: in the “pleasant idea of ‘home’, ... is concentrated all that is blessed in this life, the pale of Christian duties and charities excepted” (Sea Lions, p. 292). Cooper accords such felicity within a family group only to those characters who guide their secular affairs according to the {100} principles of orthodox Christianity; the destinies of Don Camillo and Donna Violetta in The Bravo, Meta and Berchtold in The Heidenmauer, Adelheid and Sigismund in The Headsman, Mercedes and Luis in Mercedes of Castile, all illustrate this consistent emphasis of Cooper. When secular affairs are not guided by divine precept, Cooper shows that qualities predominate which thwart human happiness — selfishness, intense rivalry, lack of cooperation, irresponsibility; thus Raoul Yvard of The Wing-and-Wing, despite his engaging personality, must keep company with Odo von Ritterstein of The Heidenmauer, Jacques Colis of The Headsman, and Deacon Pratt and the two Daggetts in The Sea Lions.

These destructive qualities are present, in varying degrees in the unregenerate Peter and in Roswell, whose pride of reason — his esteem for his own intellect — causes him to reject the divinity of Christ; each manifests an “obstinate confidence in himself” (Oak Openings, p. 458), until an influx of faith substitutes “an humble distrust of his own judgment, that rendered him singularly indisposed to rely on his personal views, in any matter of conscience” (Oak Openings, p, 459). In both, renewed faith erases the “idol. ... of self” (Sea Lions, p. 443) and stimulates concern for others, generosity, and responsibility. Orthodox Christianity is thus not an artificial system fabricated to support a priesthood, but represents God’s plan to promote happiness for His creatures.

At the climax of the Antarctic winter, Cooper associates warmth with Roswell’s returning faith and its positive expression in those qualities necessary for a fruitful life. In contrast to Daggett’s cold, sterile spirit, Roswell is “warming with the new-born faith, of which the germ was just opening in his heart” (Sea Lions, p. 413). Standing in the open air on the “severest night of the whole season” (Sea Lions, p, 413), Roswell is yet “in a pleasant glow”; while conversing with Stimson, he insists three times that he does not feel the cold, for the “active workings of his mind have brought him to an excellent condition to resist the sternness of the season” (Sea Lions, p. 415). Since Cooper has associated “cold” with the selfish, “worldly spirit” (Sea Lions, p. 272) of Jason Daggett, Roswell’s unusual warmth is a gauge of his regenerate state, which is manifest in his generous response to the cry for help he hears from Daggett’s wreck. The “spirit of rivalry” (Sea Lions, pp. 146, 178, 184) which had controlled his responses to Daggett during the storm off Cape Henry and on the whaling expedition, is now displaced in Antarctic by a “benevolent” (Sea Lions, p. 418) attempt to rescue Daggett and his crew. The competitive attitude displayed when Roswell hoped to exclude Daggett {101} from sharing the wealth of Sealer’s Land lead to his irresponsible conduct off Cape Henry, where his attempt to outsail Daggett’s Sea Lion endangered his whole crew; however, in the Antarctic wastes, he learns to place the lives of his men above considerations of property, and, unlike Daggett, uses both ship and cargo to preserve the lives of his crew. When Roswell first arrived in Sealer’s Land, he declared: “Every man for himself in this world is a good maxim” (Sea Lions, p. 262); by the end of the Antarctic winter, however, the fatal example of Daggett has taught Roswell that cooperation is necessary to human survival. His generous attempts to aid Daggett in repairing the latter’s leaking schooner, in cutting it free from the ice, and in alleviating Daggett’s final agonies measure the moral change in Roswell since the time when he had competed with Daggett off Cape Henry. On this coldest night of the Antarctic winter, the vitality of Roswell’s new faith generates in his heart a warm concern for his fellow man.

Associating warmth, faith, and life, Stimson instructs Roswell in the means of preserving both physical and spiritual lives. 137 Having wintered formerly near Cape Horn, Stimson has the experience to guide Roswell’s party. He arranges for the insulation of the hut at the base of the rocky mountain on Sealer’s Land; he instructs the men to “bring out warmth from the heart” (Sea Lions, p. 369) with daily cleansing that carries the overtones of ritual baptism; he emphasizes “coffee must be hot”: “Without warm food, men can no more live through one of these winters, than they can live without food at all” (Sea Lions, p. 385). For Stimson, ultimate sustenance comes from the spiritual food of Christian doctrine, as he advises Roswell: “We must keep ourselves warm, sir, by reading the Bible” (Sea Lions, p. 395). Stimson has no qualms at reminding Roswell to read those passages pertaining to the divinity of Christ, which Mary Pratt has marked for special study on his “voyage of life”, 138 a study completed only in the “terrible four weeks” (Sea Lions, p. 402) of September. The coldness of the season continues as long as Roswell fails to accept completely the vital warmth of the spiritual food Stimson offers. Thus the “gloomy month” of September passes during which Roswell’s Bible readings influence his opinions, but are finally unable to “remove doubts that had so long been cherished, and which had their existence in pride of reason” (Sea Lions, p. 403).

Roswell’s biblical study and conversations with Stimson do make him responsive to spiritual experience; but the natural phenomena have the greatest power to impress him with a sense of his own insignificance in this region which is the {102} ultimate testimony of the “might and honor of God” (Sea Lions, F. 225). Accordingly, the Southern Cross causes Roswell to “meditate seriously on his true condition in connection with the atonement that he was willing to admit had been made for him, in common with all of earth, at the very moment he hesitated to believe that the sufferer was, in any other than a metaphorical sense, the Son of God” (Sea Lions, p, 408). The “feeling of spring” (Sea Lions, p. 404) in the air when Roswell responds to the religious associations of the Southern Cross becomes the warmth of a spring “thaw” (Sea Lions, p. 431) after the majesty and mystery of the firmament awakens in him the humility which is Cooper’s stepping-stone of faith. Returning life in the natural cycle thus is indicative of the birth of a new spiritual life in Gardiner, a traditional association of spring, which unites Cooper’s triad of motifs — warmth, faith, and life — and enables his narrative of the “lost sealers” to become an allegory of resurrection. Gardiner’s unregenerate state has been dispelled by the warming power of his faith in “God’s [Son]” who, “comes back in his course, to drive the winter away” (Sea Lions, p. 375).

In this purgatorial region beyond the “Ultima Thule” (Sea Lions, p. 214) of known experience, Roswell receives the promise of eternal life after he acknowledges the divinity of Christ. His renovated spiritual state determines the route by which he leaves Sealer’s Land — not by Daggett’s path to death, but by the passage into life embodied by the concept of resurrection. Gardiner’s reduced schooner, indicative of his humble acceptance of faith, must thus pass by the flaming cloud which is an emblem of God’s care for His people. 139 Baptized into Christ in Antarctica, Gardiner recognizes the benevolence of God’s control over the potentially fatal power of the flaming volcanic crag and thus acknowledges the power of divine love in decreeing the Incarnation and Passion in order to save man from ultimate corruption.

Roswell’s “Crown of Life” is received as a result of his faith in the “first fruits” of Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23); but the harvest of his own new born faith is gathered on his return to Oyster Pond, where he is rewarded by marriage to Mary Pratt and a flourishing, family life. In his final occupation as a miller, Roswell Gardiner cultivates a fruitful, earthly existence, the harvest of his his Antarctic experiences. For Cooper, regeneration thus enables man to benefit, in his earthly state, from the spiritual gifts of a benevolent Deity, when he subordinates secular affairs to religious responsibility: Christianity is thus not an abstract system for Cooper, but provides the only means of ensuring human fulfillment.

{103} Cooper’s religious vision, admittedly, contains little that is, theologically speaking, original. What is remarkable for his position in American literature, however, is that he was the only nineteenth-century American novelist of international stature who turned to orthodox Christianity for his themes. Secondly, from his very first novel, Precaution, published in 1820, these themes are evident and continue throughout the thirty years of his writing career. It is also evident from this study of his developing artistry, that this artistry frequently remained still-born until the impact of Cooper’s experiences with European religious art and culture generated the modes of aesthetic expression. In the twenty years between The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), and The Sea Lions (1819), Cooper’s artistic modes evolve from mere biblical quotation to ritual, motif, image, and finally, symbol and allegory in his continuing search for on aesthetic form by which to convey his vision.

hapter 8 — LAST JUDGMENT: Epilogue

{107} The consuming interest in Christian doctrine, rite, and sacrament which pervades the fiction of James Fenimore Cooper in the twenty years, 1829-1849, makes him unique among nineteenth-century American romantic novelists. For no other American novelist of international stature is reality defined by the principles of orthodox Christianity which conditions both his religious vision and the artistic methods he employs to articulate it. The eight novels on which this study has focused — The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), The Bravo (1831), The Heidenmauer (1832), The Headsman (1833), Mercedes of Castile (1840), The Wing-and-Wing (1842), The Oak Openings (1848), and The Sea Lions (1849), — indicate that Cooper’s experiences with the diverse religious cultures of Europe greatly aided him in articulating his vision, for they provided him with the motifs on which to structure his perception of the universality of the Christian doctrine of redemption.

With no confidence in the natural man who is not guided by Christian principle, Cooper asserts that only the doctrines and practice of Christianity provide an opportunity for man to enjoy a fruitful life in his earthly existence; for Cooper, no political or economic philosophy alone is able to redeem man from the inequities of his fallen state. By 1848, an optimistic Cooper can declare: “We are ... in safe and merciful hands, and all the wonderful events that are at this moment developing themselves around us, are no other than the steps taken by Providence in the progress it is steadily making toward the great and glorious end!” (Oak Openings, p. 330). In Cooper’s scheme, the real enemy of man, which thwarts human fulfillment, is the exaltation of self that inspires his deadly sins — greed, covetousness, hatred and pride, especially the intellectual pride of reason which engenders religious skepticism.

When the crucial importance of Cooper’s Christianity in determining his themes and methods is recognized, the stature of his fictional preoccupations is raised; instead of inept socio-political documents, his works become integrated expressions of a quest for spiritual awareness. Because of his firm commitment to the Christian spiritual and ethical system, he presents definite solutions to the problems confronting his characters; always he suggests there is a specific code of conduct and manner {108} of thinking which his characters should follow. Their destinies are determined according to their response to Christian principles. Cooper’s definite code of conduct is in marked contrast to the lack of solutions and ambiguous moral values presented in the works of Melville and Hawthorne. The different approaches to religious and ethical questions is reflected in a corresponding difference in mode of artistic expression. While the acknowledged symbolism of Hawthorne and Melville gives them a vehicle to embody the unresolved tensions in their spiritual and ethical ideas, it is displaced in Cooper’s artistic construct by the emblem bearing Christian associations. The symbol, as Charles Feidelson discusses it, is a material form of no specific meaning; 141 it is generative within itself and consequently able to subsume paradoxical opposites. The symbol is thus a flexible artistic mode for a fiction which presents no solutions to the common dilemmas of mankind. On the other hand, Cooper’s emblems are closely tied to the Christian tradition of the artistic mimesis of figurative reality; their tangible form is, accordingly, often indistinct, for the sensory representation of real form is not paramount in Christian art. 141 Thus Cooper’s Ruth in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish and his Ghita in The Wing-and-Wing are indistinct as actual people, but they are powerfully present in the figurative reality of their religious roles. Cooper’s emblems, as distinct from symbols, have specific meanings within the context of Cooper’s fiction. Often they are not generative within themselves, but they become so in relation to his pattern of motifs which provides the structure of Cooper’s themes. If Cooper’s fiction is approached as an artistic construct based on the emblematic representation of Christian figurative reality, rather then by the imperatives of Jamesian realism, it demonstrates an aesthetically effective attention to the organic unity of theme and form.


Chapter 1: An Affair of Faith

1 James F. Beard, ed., The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, 6 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1960-1968), II 168. All references to Cooper’s correspondence are to this edition, hereafter cited as Letters and Journals.

2 Howard Mumford Jones, “Prose and Pictures: James Fenimore Cooper,” Tulane Studies in English, 3 (1952), 137.

3 Robert E. Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times (New York: Minton, Belch & Co., 1931).

4 Dorothy Waples, The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper (1938; rpt. New York: Archon Books, 1968).

5 Charles A. Brady, “James Fenimore Cooper 1789-1851: Myth-Maker and Christian Romancer,” in American Classics Reconsidered: A Christian Appraisal, ed., Harold C. Gardiner, S.J. (New York: Scribner’s, 1958), p. 64.

6 Donald A. Ringe, “Cooper’s Last Novels, 1847-1850,” PMLA, 75 (1960), 586.

7 Frank M. Collins, “Cooper and the American Dream,” PMLA, 81 (1966), 82.

8 Thomas R. Lounsbury, James Fenimore Cooper (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882), pp. 22-21, 245.

9 Marcel Clavel, James Fenimore Cooper: Sa Vie et Son Oeuvre, La Jeunesse (1789-1826) (Aix-en-Provence: Imprimerie Univ. de Provence, 1938), p. 622.

10 Quoted by Henry Walcott Boynton, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Century Co., 1931), p. 221.

11 William C. Brownell, “Cooper,” in American Prose Masters (New York: Scribner’s 1923), p. 41.

12 Beard, Letters and Journals, 1, 149-151.

13 Ibid, I, 149.

14 Charles Muscatine, “Gothic Form and the Knight’s Tale,” in Pastoral and Romance: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Eleanor Terry Lincoln (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1969), pp. 225-234.

15 Beard, Letters anal Journals, I, 267.

16 Anna Jameson, Legends of the Madonna (1851; rpt. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1911), p. 126.

17 Jameson shows that the galleries in these cities at this time had some fine examples of paintings of the Virgin Mary. She also discusses Raphael and Murillo whose paintings are dedicated to mariolatry. Murillo did twenty-five paintings of the Immaculate Conception for the Spanish Franciscans who championed this dogma. See Jameson, pp. 140-149.

18 Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, pp. 58-59, 118, 169.

19 Anna Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art (1848; rpt. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1892), pp. 57-71. She notes that a St. Nicholas with the Coronation of the Virgin was in the collection of Samuel Rogers; Legends, p. 201. Cooper twice reminds himself of the history of St. Nicholas; see Letters and Journals, I, 311, 319.

20 Beard, Letters and Journals, I, 326.

21 Ibid, I, 351.

22 Ibid, I, 352.

23 Ibid, I, 369.

24 Ibid, I, 326.

25 Ibid, I, 393-394

26 Ibid, I, 426.

27 Ibid, II, 301.

28 Ibid, II, 303.

29 Ibid, I, 284.

30 James Fenimore Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland. By an American, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1836), I, 70-71.

31 Beard, Letters and Journals, IV, 423.

32 Boynton, p. 371.

33 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, 1, 22.

34 Ibid, II, l86.

35 Inebriation, misuse of the vine, is a prominent thematic concern in Cooper’s fiction, to indicate fallen, unregenerate man. For example, Saucy Nick in Wyandotté, Gershom Waring in The Oak Openings, and the unregenerate Stimson before his infusion of faith in The Sea Lions. This past fault is the one humanizing trait allowed him.

36 James Fenimore Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland. By an American. Part Second (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1836), II, 5.

37 Ibid, I, 186.

Chapter 2: Mosaic and Iconographic: The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish

38 Beard, Letters and Journals, I, 264-268.

39 Donald A. Ringe, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1962), p. 50.

40 James Fenimore Cooper, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (New York: Hurd & Houghton; 1872), p. 17.

41 During the scene in the orchard when Conanchet is about to restore Narra-mattah to her mother, Cooper indicates what the Wish-ton-Wish means to him in the novel. Narra-mattah tells Conanchet that, during her years away from her family she has often heard a voice calling to her which “names a mighty and just Spirit, it telleth of peace, not of war; it soundeth as one talking from the clouds; it is like the falling of the water among rocks. Narra-mattah loves to listen, for the words seem to her like the Wish-ton-Wish, when he whistles in the woods.” (p. 377)

42 Ringe, James Fenimore Cooper, p. 51.

43 Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, pp. 55-58. These emblems appear in Cooper’s descriptions of Ruth (Narra-mattah) at different times: her eyes are compared to those of a dove (p. 470); she is the apple on to which a thorn has been grafted “and the fruit is good” (p. 443); at other times she is the “daughter of the morning” (p. 373) and the “driven snow” (p. 375), which, Cooper says, is the meaning of her Indian name. In Switzerland, Cooper saw some pilgrims returning from Our Lady of the Snows — Notre Dame des Neiges — which may have influenced his choice of this name (Beard, I, 310). Twice in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish Cooper compares his fictional setting with that of Switzerland. Essentially, these attributes of the Virgin are emblems employed in the religious art which Cooper saw in the European galleries. He may be transferring them from art to his narrative medium. See Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, 2 vols. (New York: New York Graphic Society, 1971), I, 26-124. Also, Heather Child and Dorothy Colles, Christian Symbols (London: G. Bell, 1971).

44 Cooper, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, p. 23. The botanical details of the first settlement are given as oaks and maples in the forest on the perimeter of the cultivated area. Otherwise, Cooper emphasizes the blackened stumps of trees which have been cut down. Nowhere does he indicate specific varieties within the settlement itself. He has an opportunity to do so, moreover, when Mark Heathcote looks out over his domain the evening when the lamb is killed. However, only the river winding through the settlement remains the same. Cooper would seem to be presenting deliberately two views of the same scene to carry a specific meaning — a technique favored by his friends of the Hudson River school of painting, The Last of the Mohicans, and later in Satanstoe. This method adopted from painting has been closely investigated by Donald A. Ringe, The Pictorial Mode (Lexington, Ky.: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1971). Also, see Howard Mumford Jones, “Prose and Pictures: James Fenimore Cooper,” Tulane Studies in English, 3 (1952), 133-154.

45 James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie (1827: rpt. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1950), pp. 416-417. The willow is chosen by Ishmael who lives according to the Mosaic code, as does the second settlement in the valley of of the Wish-ton-Wish.

46 James Fenimore Cooper, The Deerslayer (1841; rpt. New York: New American Library, 1963), pp. 478-481.

47 Harold N. Moldenke and Alan L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (Waltham, Mass.: Chronica Botanica Co., 1952), pp. 106, 175, 181, 183. The sycamore here is not the sycomore up which Zacchaeus climbs; that tree is very valuable for its fine fruit. Rather, the sycamore of the north-eastern United States is the platanus occidentalis or plane tree, which also grows in the Jordan valley, but has berry-like fruit which are inedible. The sycomore is not indigenous to New England. The em>sycamore , like the willow, elm, and sumach, is deciduous while the sycomore is evergreen.

48 A.W. Anderson, Plants of the Bible, (London: Leighton-Straker, 1957), p. 27. Moldenke, pp. 184, 194.

49 D.W. Robertson, Jr., “The Doctrine of Charity in Medieval Literary Gardens: A Topical Approach Through Symbolism and Allegory,” in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, ed. Lewis E, Nicholson (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1967), pp. 165-183. Cooper was very interested in church history and exegesis: he read Eusebius, a follower of the great exegete, Origen. His cumbrous rhetoric was not to Cooper’s taste, (Beard, V, 285.)

50 A. E. Harvey, The New English Bible Companion to the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970), p. 172.

51 Kay Seymour House, Cooper’s Americans (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1965) pp. 120-125.

52 Cooper, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, p. 329.

53 Cooper, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, p. 229, 385.

54 Cooper, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, p. 316.

55 House, p. 121.

56 Cooper, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, p. 473.

Chapter 3: Ethics and Ritual: The Bravo

57 Beard, Letters and Journals, V, 179.

58 Susan Fenimore Cooper, 482.

59 Beard, Letters and Journals, II, 77.

60 Ibid, II, 178.

61 In the controversy following his support of Lafayette in the Finance dispute, Cooper explained that The Bravo was to “exhibit the action of a narrow and exclusive system by a simple and natural exposure of its influence on the familiar interests of life.” Quoted by Robert E. Spiller, “James Fenimore Cooper” in Six American Novelists of the Nineteenth Century: An Introduction, ed. Richard Forster (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1961), p. 28. Susan F. Cooper also suggests that her father was more concerned with these “familiar interests of life” than with the support or critique of any particular political theory; she records that, while studying works on Venetian history, her father was horrified at the state’s “heartless trifling with every sacred right of individuals” (Susan F. Cooper, 483).

62 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, I, 146.

63 James Fenimore Cooper, The Bravo: A Tale (New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1872), p. 9. All references are to this edition.

64 Susan Fenimore Cooper, 482. (Italics mine)

65 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 99.

66 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 150-152.

67 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 80-81.

68 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 25.

69 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 178-179.

70 A. E. Harvey, The New English Bible Companion to the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970), pp. 192-193.

71 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 220-221.

72 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 224.

73 Cooper, The Bravo pp. 334-336.

74 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 456.

75 Cooper, apparently adopted the name and character of “Gelsomina” from an Italian peasant girl of the same name who became one of the Cooper household at Sorrento. Susan Fenimore Cooper says the actual Gelsomina, like her namesake in the novel, was simple and childlike, yet singularly faithful to duty. Susan adds that she was a great favorite of the family and declares that “something of the simplicity, innocence, and excellence of this young creature would seem to have been given, with her name, to the jailer’s daughter, in the Bravo.” See Susan F. Cooper, 485. Cooper’s choice of the barefoot Carmelite is also drawn directly from his actual experiences in Italy, for Venice was one of the main centers of the decalced friars.

Chapter 4: Miracle and Mystery: The Heidenmauer

76 Marius Bewley, The Eccentric Design (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1959), p. 56. Also, James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: William Sloane, 1949), p. 80.

77 James F. Beard, II, 140.

78 Beard, II, 145.

79 Beard, II, 258.

80 Beard, II, 256.

81 Grossman, p. 80.

82 James Fenimore Cooper, The Heidenmauer (New York: W.A. Townsend & Co., 1861), p. xxviii.

83 Northrop Frye, “The Argument of Comedy,” in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism, rev. ed., ed. Leonard F. Dean (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1967), pp. 78-89.

84 Cooper, The Heidenmauer, p. 181.

85 Cooper, The Heidenmauer, pp. 388-391.

86 Dom Hubert Van Zeller, The Benedictine Idea (London: Burns & Gates, 1959), pp, 31-33.

87 Cooper, The Heidenmauer, pp. 166-168.

Chapter 5: Illumination and Allegory: The Headsman

88 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, I, 71. Also, Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, Part Second, II, 150.

89 James Fenimore Cooper, The Headsman (New York: Townsend & Co., 1859), p, 339. All references are to this edition.

90 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, I, 185.

91 The significance of the beacon and castle of Roger de Blonay is clarified in the travel books, See Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland. Part Second, II, 175-176.

92 The musical accompaniment, the goat of lechery, the fauns clad in tiger-skins, and the nereids dancing around the “youthful god” are particular attributes of Dionysus as represented in art; moreover, Silenus accompanies Dionysus to whom he first gave the vine, not Bacchus. Cooper seems to have been a student of the classics; his tutor at Yale was James Luce Kingsley, Professor of Hebrew, Creek, Latin, and of Ecclesiastical History. See Beard, Letters and Journals, I. 4-5; 217-218. Though Cooper learned of the tradition of the Abbaye des Vignerons from the Vevey boatman, Jean Descloux, he did not witness the ceremony itself, in abeyance at the time of his visit. Perhaps aided by guide books, Cooper, therefore, seems to have amassed the details himself by drawing on his stock of classical lore.

93 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland. Part Second, II, 3-16.

94 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, I, 22.

95 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, II, 186. Thus prior to this, Cooper refers to the “paternal vine” — an unusual modifier. He may have in mind the identification of Christ with the vine: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husband man.” (John 15:1). See also, Sketches of Switzerland, I, 147.

96 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland. Part Second, I, 201.

97 Cooper, The Headsman, p. 324.

98 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, II, 391.

99 Cooper, Sketches of Switzerland, II, 195.

100 Ibid., II, 195.

101 The student would appear to have none of the cupidity of the patron and the cheese merchant that might justify his sharing their fate. Cooper suggests his untimely fate is simply an example of the arbitrary justice of an angry God when His wrath is unleashed at the sin-laden vessel. Perhaps he is a scapegoat.

102 Cooper had just visited the shrine of the Magi in Cologne. The apocryphal knowledge of these “Three Kings” varies in the several manuscripts. Essentially, they had a greater awareness of religious affairs than their contemporaries had, and they travelled from three different directions to prove the validity of their religious knowledge by being able to find the Saviour in Bethlehem. See, C. Horstmann, ed., The Three Kings of Cologne (London: Early English Text Society, 1886). Cooper does not follow the details, merely the general myth of the three travellers, and then responds to it.

103 Cooper, The Headsman, pp. 81-83.

104 Cooper, The Headsman, p. 345.

105 Cooper, The Headsman, pp. 377-382.

Chapter 6: The Marian Image: The Wing-and-Wing and Mercedes of Castile

106 James Fenimore Cooper, The Wing-and-Wing (New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1872), p. 477. All references are to this edition.

107 Cooper, The Wing-and-Wing, p. v.

108 Beard, Letters and Journals, IV, 54.

109 Ibid., IV, 61.

110 Ibid., IV, 96.

111 Ibid., IV, 101.

112 See chapter 1, pp. 7-10.

113 Cooper gives Strand, the boatswain of the Proserpine, a speech on mutiny which echoes Ghita’s words. It suggests her analogy between insubordination to secular authority and illegal challenge to divine doctrine. See Wing-and-Wing, p. 364.

114 James Fenimore Cooper, Mercedes of Castile (New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1872), p. 364. All references are to this edition.

115 See the conversation between Mercedes and Queen Isabella, Mercedes of Castile p. 141.

116 Cooper uses sewing in Mercedes of Castile also, to indicate the domestic virtues of both Isabella and Mercedes. See pp. 98, 123, 141.

117 Cooper, The Wing-and-Wing, p. 459.

118 William H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella Catholic, rev, ed., 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Lippincott & Co., 1878), I, 325-328; II, 150-162. See Cooper’s preface, p. ix.

119 Beard, Letters and Journals, IV, 328. Cooper wrote to Shubrick whose wife and daughter had protested the fate of Raoul: “As for marrying Ghita to that atheistical scamp, Raoul, the ladies must excuse me. I preferred killing him and putting her in a convent!”

Chapter 7: The Symbolic Harvest: The Oak Openings and The Sea Lions

120 Words in brackets added by transcriber to fill an evident gap in the original text.

121 James Fenimore Cooper, The Oak Openings (New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1872), p, 265. All references are to this edition.

122 James Fenimore Cooper, The Sea Lions (1860); rpt. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1965), pp. 387, 456. All references are to this edition. In his last decade, Cooper distinguishes the “Church-catholic” from the “Church of Rome” when he wishes to make it clear that he is focusing on the concept of a universal Christianity, rather than on any particular creed. Thus in 1843, he writes: “In this part of the diocese, we have no fear of Rome. But would it not be healthful for some among us to remember that there is to be a general union of all the churches, making a truly catholic body; and does any sane man suppose that any particular branch of the Church is now so infallible, that this can he done without mutual concessions — ” (Beard, Letters and Journals. IV, 423); in 1846, Cooper writes to the editor of The Evergreen, a letter explaining the clerical customs of the “Church of Rome” as distinguished from those of other branches of the “Church Catholic” (Beard, V, 158).

123 In another letter to The Evergreen, 1847, Cooper declares: “I like the people of Italy, too. They are full of feeling, and grace, and poetry, and a vast number are filled with a piety that their maligners would do well to imitate” (Beard, V, 179). Cooper explicitly associates this piety with indifference to the accumulation of worldly goods, in The Sea Lions: “Men cease to dwell so much on riches in Their inmost souls, when the means of obtaining them would seem to have got beyond their reach. ... Man, as a rule, is far more removed from the money-getting mania in Italy, than in almost any other portion of the Christian world” (Sea Lions, pp. 259-260).

124 Cooper’s disgust with the clergy reached a peak during the Bishop’s controversy, 1845: “My respect for the clergy, as a body, is entirely gone. I do not believe they are as fair, or as much to be relied on, in a matter of principle, as most educated laymen” (Beard, V, 81). Cooper increasingly turns to the teachings of the Bible, unalloyed by what he considered the theories of human fancy; such theories he ridiculed in the ideas of Parson Amen in The Oak Openings, for the pious missionary distorts scripture to fit his favorite notion that the Indians are literally the lost tribes of Israel.

125 Beard, Letters and Journals, V, 374.

126 Ibid., V, 291.

127 The seals, at first, excite the cupidity of the unregenerate Gardiner as well as Daggett and Deacon Pratt; after vanishing at the onset of the Antarctic winter, in re-appear with Gardiner’s returning faith. By tracing the motif of the seals, Philbrick has shown that “in this one detail, Cooper thus restates symbolic terms the main elements of his theme: man’s sinful pride and greed, the consequent sterility and desolation of his spirit, and the revivifying humility that comes with a proper understanding of his place in the universe.” See Thomas Philbrick, James Fenimore Cooper and the Development of American Sea Fiction (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ, Press, 1961), p. 249.

128 Philbrick suggests that Cooper found a relation between his metaphysical theme and the physical conditions of the natural world in the text of St. Jude 1:12-13 where those who deny the divinity of Christ bear the qualities of “sterility, storm, and darkness: all primary properties of the appalling Antarctic winter” (Philbrick, p. 233). Daggett is not an explicit Unitarian like Roswell Gardiner, but he too evinces supreme confidence in his own powers, until humbled by the might of the Antarctic winter.

129 Cooper, The Oak Openings, p. 177.

130 John Milton, Paradise Lost, Bk. IX, 414-416.

131 Both Margery Waring and Mary Pratt are shown sewing, as were Ghita and Mercedes; however, Cooper’s American heroines here also cook, keep house, and take care of the family silver — all of which serve to make them more human than their European counterparts, in accord with their diminished role in man’s regeneration. Unlike Ghita, Mary Pratt is given one moment of weakness when she almost relents in her opposition to marrying Gardiner while he persists in denying the divinity of Christ.

132 Donald A. Ringe, “Cooper’s Last Novels, 1847-1850,” PMLA, 75 (1960), 586.

133 Grossman, p. 230.

134 Beard, Letters and Journals, V, 274.

135 Cooper, The Oak Openings, pp. 413-414.

136 See Philbrick, pp. 238-244. The Antarctic environment has a threefold function; it provides a demonstration of the power of the God who controls it, a token of the qualities of the God who created it, and as man’s means of access to that God” (p. 241).

137 Tracing the significance of the figure of Stimson to Cooper, Philbrick shows that the seaman embodies the “power of simple faith” (p. 239).

138 Philbrick has demonstrated the relation of The Sea Lions to the genre of allegorical voyage which had as its destination, the South Pole. He has also shown that Cooper was influenced by the painter Thomas Cole’s allegorical panorama “The Voyage of Life”. See Philbrick, p. 237.

139 A.E. Harvey, The New English Bible Companion to the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970) p. 556.

Chapter 8: Last Judgment: Epilogue

140 Charles Feidelson, Jr., Symbolism and American Literature (1953; rpt. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1970).

141 Erich Auerbach, Mimesis (1946; rpt. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1957), pp. 42-43, 64, 490.

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