Personal Recollections of Cooper
From George Washington Greene, Biographical Studies (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1860) but probably written shortly after Cooper’s death in 1851.
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George Washington Greene (1811-1883), grandson of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, first met Cooper in Paris, at General Lafayette’s house, and kept up the relationship in Italy, France, and America Cooper’s death. Greene had a distinguished career, as US Consul in Rome (1837-1845), as Professor of modern languages at Brown University (1848-1852), Professor of American History at Cornell University (1871), where he occupied the first chair in American History in the United States. He was author of a number of historical and biographic works. For correspondence by Cooper referring to Greene, see James F. Beard, Jr., Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper (6 vols., Harvard University Press, 1960-68), Vol. I, pp. 346, 389, 391, 396, 403; Vol. VI, p. 124. Though Greene’s several accounts of Cooper are more than flattering of his subject, and phrased in often flowery and pious terms, they do provide glimpses of the author of a sort that are often hard to come by. Spelling and punctuation are as in the original. Footnotes have been added to identify some of the names mentioned in Greene’s text.
— Hugh C. MacDougall (James Fenimore Cooper Society)
I shall never forget the first day that I saw Cooper. It was at good old General Lafayette’s, in that neat little apartment of rue d’Anjou, which has been the scene of so many things that have hallowed it in so many memories. And the scene of that morning was a striking one, too, and not easy to be forgotten. Some of my readers may remember that, many years ago, the demon of speculation led one of those reckless white men who have abandoned their own homes to live among the Indians, to parade some half dozen Osages through Europe, filling his purse at the expense of the poor natives, who believed all the while that they were enjoying the free hospitality of their fathers beyond the sea. Lafayette’s kind heart was disgusted by this knavery, and he had granted them an audience at his own house, in the hope of persuading them to return home while it was yet in their power. I will not attempt to describe the scene: the groups that clustered in the hall, the crowd that thronged the street, the venerable form of that great and good man, who had done so much and suffered so much, and who stood there with that calm and noble bearing, that winning smile, and that air of serene self-possession which is said never to have abandoned him, either in triumph or in trial — the bright faces and bright eyes, the curiosity of some, the kindly sympathy of others, and the unconscious objects of all this gathering, seated, with all that they had left of their former life, their wild costume and habitual apathy, on the couches of a Parisian saloon. As I was gazing on this singular scene, with feelings more easily imagined than described, I saw a gentlemen enter, whose appearance immediately called off the General’s attention from the special guests of the hour. He was evidently in the prime of life, and of that vigor which air and manly exercise give, and with something in all his movements which awakened in you an instantaneous conviction that the mind and will which governed them were of no ordinary energy and measure. I could not withdraw my eyes: I had seen heads of great men, and there were some great men close to me at that very moment — but there was none with such a full, expansive forehead, such strong, massive features, a mouth so firm without harshness, and an eye whose clear grey seemed to read you at a glance, while it met yours with the unflinching look of one that fears not to let you read him in turn. “Who is he—” I whispered to a grand-daughter of the General’s, who stood near me. “Mr. Cooper: do you not know Mr. Cooper— let me introduce you to him.” “Cooper,” said I to myself, “can it be that I am within five paces of Cooper, and that there, too, are the feeble representatives of the race around which his genius has shed a halo like that of Homer’s own heroes!” I was fresh from the “Mohicans,” and my hand trembled as it met the cordial grasp of the man to whom I owed so many pleasing hours. I asked him about the Indians. “They are poor specimens,” said he, “fourth-rate at the best, in their own woods, and ten times the worse for the lives they have been lending here.” I would gladly have prolonged the conversation, but the guests were beginning to move, and were both borne onward by the throng.
A day or two afterwards I met him in the General’s bedroom, and I mention it here, as it afforded me an opportunity of witnessing his first interview with Béranger, and seeing how warmly the great poet welcomed him. And next I met him at Florence, in his beautiful little villa, just a stone’s throw from the walls. Two years had passed away, and he had been working all the while in the rich mine which his own hands had opened. His face showed it, and his manner showed it. They were the face and manner of a man whose mind is ever busy with something that he loves, who comes to his task cheerfully, and still feels bright and cheerful when he lays it aside, because he knows that there are new pleasures in store for him, when he returns to it again. One evening I particularly remember, and I am glad to record it, as it gives me the opportunity of paying a brief tribute to the memory of a common friend, who like him has sunk, in the fulness of good deeds, into the grave for which he was so well prepared, — I mean the late George Cooke, ¹ well known to all the lovers of his noble art; admired by all who had witnessed his unwearied assiduity, his admirable judgment and rare social endowments; and widely beloved for all those kind and genial dualities which make friends and bind them fast. Cooke was with me that evening enlivening our walk by his rich conversation, and feeling like myself that there was a peculiar pleasure in passing an hour with such a man in such a spot. Cooper, always brilliant when he chose, was more so than I had ever seen him; and I could not help thinking that whatever chapter he had struck off that day, it must have been a good one. Art, for which he had a deep feeling and singular justness of appreciation, came in for a share of his eloquence — for eloquence is the true word; and though I have often heard its own great masters speak of it, and Thorwaldsen ² among them, yet never did I see it awaken a nobler and purer enthusiasm than then. At last, we came to poetry — a transition always natural, but on that calm summer evening, within a few minutes walk of Santa Croce, with those Italian stars looking down upon us from their own matchless sky, and the soft breeze that swept gently over the vineyards of Val d’Arno, breathing sweetly through the open casement, and making sweet music in the tree tops; yes, there and then, the transition was natural, indeed. He spoke of Wordsworth, whom he had seen and liked, and Byron who loved so fervently his own favorite element. He spoke, too, of our own poets, his fellow laborers in a new and difficult field, then so few, though now they fill so many volumes. Bryant and Percival ³ were already the first names of our Parnassus. PercivaI he praised for the richness of his fancy, and the melody of his verse - though he condemned the indistinctness and vagueness into which he so often falls. But for Bryant he had nothing but praise. Bryant had just published the “Skies” — where Cooper saw it, I do not remember; but I well remember that he had had it copied. Neither Cooke nor I had ever seen it, and glad enough we were when he asked for the commonplace book, and seating himself by the light, read in a clear full voice, with perfect modulation of tone and a depth of feeling which showed itself in voice, manner, and all, that noble consecration of our own lovely heavens. When he had finished, he went back and selected, verse by verse, the parts which had pleased him most. Certain expressions seemed to have taken a peculiar hold of his imagination, for he repeated them over and over, and analyzed them with an almost infantile delight. It was a beautiful tribute and a beautiful lesson — one great poet praising another, and seeming to rejoice that there were other names to inscribe upon that sacred scroll, where his own stood so high.
I have often heard Cooper speak of poetry, and hardly ever without bringing in something about Shakspeare. He was the most enthusiastic admirer of “Nature’s darling” that I ever met. “Shakspeare,” he said to me one day, “is my travelling library. When I have got him with me, I never feel the want of any other book. Whatever humor I am in, he is sure to have something just suited to it. Grave or gay, practical or dreamy, lounging or wide awake, it is all one, for he has scenes and characters to fit them all. To a novel writer above all, he is an invaluable friend. Publishers will have mottoes for every chapter; and how I should get along without Shakspeare I cannot conceive. I like to take them from my contemporaries whenever I can, and particularly from our own poets. It is a kind of compliment which they have a right to, and I’m always glad when I can pay it. Sometimes, however, it is no easy thing. Many a page have I turned over and over without being able to find anything to my purpose; but I never yet turned over three in Shakspeare without hitting upon just what I wanted.”
It was delightful to hear Cooper talk about his own works; he did it with such a frank, fresh, manly feeling. I never knew him to bring them into the conversation himself, and yet, when introduced, he was perfectly willing to speak about them. He was altogether free from that egotism which makes many charming writers the very worst of companions, and equally free from that other species of coxcombry [sic] for which Voltaire gave Congreve so sharp a reproof. His habits of life may have had something to do with this. He had been a sailor — an officer — had mingled with the world — had studied mankind in actual life, and, though uncommonly patient of research, had always trusted more to observation than to books, for his knowledge of human nature. He had never been a recluse student, with all that he has written. His works were thrown off rapidly; generally in the morning, and with a resolute application of his powers that made his daily task a light one, although the results were so great. Consequently his mind had leisure and freshness to busy itself with other things. When he left his desk he left his pen in it. He came out into the world to hear and see what other men were doing. If they wanted to hear him, there he was, with no opinion that he was not perfectly ready to express, whether it concerned men or things, his own books or those of others. But he never seemed to feel that his authorship gave him a right to make himself the hero of the piece; and more than once I have been half-vexed with him for it, though it was impossible not to respect his motive. But it is so pleasant to hear a great man talk about his feelings and motives, tell little anecdotes of his own experience of life, lay bare the secrets of those processes which you have only been able to guess at by their results, and show you how strong the ties are by which he holds to our common nature. Autobiographies are the most fascinating of all books, and would be equally fascinating in conversation, if you could only have them from the right man, in the right time and place.
I have always regretted that I did not make a memorandum of my last conversation with Cooper. It was at Putnam’s that I met him — just after the appearance of the first volume of the new edition of his works; an edition which, with that of Mr. Irving’s, would, to all who know the history of them, have been sufficient to associate the publisher’s name with the annals of American literature, even if he had given no other proofs of his right to a place there. Cooper was in excellent spirits, though the disease which not long afterwards assumed so fatal a form, was just beginning to make itself felt. We walked out together, and, after a short stroll, went to his rooms at the Globe, and sat down to talk. I had never found him so free before upon the subject that interested me most — his own works and his literary habits. He talked about “Leather Stocking” — confessed freely his partiality for that exquisite creation of his happiest moments, and told how glad he had been to revive him again. “I meant,” said he, “when I brought him on the stage anew, to have added one more scene and introduced him in the Revolution; but I thought that the public had had enough of him, and never ventured it.” I tried to persuade him that the public interest had been excited, rather than satiated, by this resuscitation of their old favorite, and that the great questions of that great period would suggest things to the earnest, single-hearted woodsman, which, combined with the interest of the real historical characters that might be introduced, would afford him, perhaps, fuller scope than he had ever yet had for the development of his original conception. Washington and Natty Bumpo [sic]; another revolutionary battle, described like Lexington and Bunker Hill; and some scene that belongs to real history engraved in our memories by the same graphic power which has consecrated so many that owe their existence, as well as their interest, to the imagination of the poet. “I have thought a good deal about it,” said he, ” and perhaps I may do it yet.” But the works he had already in hand claimed his immediate attention, and before he found himself free for new labors, the progress of his disease had become too rapid to leave much room for other thoughts than those with which his mind, naturally inclined to devotion, had long been familiar.
Disease and death! It is difficult to connect such things with such a man. I owe some of my purest enjoyments to Cooper. My first recollections of that glorious world of imagination, to which I have since fled so often for refreshment and strength, are connected with his earliest works. I can remember the “Spy,” and the mixed feelings of delight and astonishment which it excited. I can remember how eagerly the papers of the day filled their columns with scenes and even chapters from his works, as they were making their way through the press. I can recollect the long parallels that were drawn between him and Scott, then still in the freshness and fulness of his strength. I can remember the pride with which I used to pronounce his name in Europe, and the familiar aspect which his familiar pages gave to languages which had not yet lost their strange and half repulsive air. And now, to take up one of his volumes and think that he is dead — to read those pages, so full of life, and remember that his has reached its close — to recall those scenes and characters that bear such enduring testimony to his creative powers, and feel that the mind which created them will create no more — to look upon those woods and waters which he has painted in all their varied aspects, and made so lovely to us by imparting to our minds the same deep emotions which they excited in his own, and reflect that no feelings or emotions of this world can ever reach him again — oh, it is indeed as if a glory had passed from the earth, and something was, and ever must be, wanting to the thought of life and the sweet face of nature herself. “I do not see Irving often,” said Cole ⁴ to me one day, as we were speaking of Irving and Cooper, “but as I pass his house in my sails up and down the Hudson, it is a pleasure to think that he lives on its banks.” And a pleasure it always is to genial minds to feel that they who have contributed to their happiness are still within the reach of their gratitude; that they can still enjoy as man enjoys, and draw some portion of their pleasures from the full though not unmingled fountain of human delights. We know how insecure — we know how chequered they are; we know that they cannot, for a moment, be compared with those of another world. But betwixt us and that world lies the grave with its untold mysteries; and however eloquently reason may appeal or faith may plead, nature still shrinks and shudders on its cold and silent brink.
Thorwaldsen, in the course of his long and brilliant career, had treated nearly every subject within the range of his art. His studio was like the Vatican itself — an almost countless line of gods and goddesses, and all the beautiful conceptions of the poetic mind of Greece, intermingled with heroes, and statesmen, and poets, and (what the Vatican has not) the saints and apostles of Christianity, in all the varieties of bust, and full drawn figure, and bas-relief. But towards the close of his life, he began to draw his subjects more exclusively from the Scriptures, and find his chief pleasure in working out his own conceptions of the human manifestation of Christ and the divine power. One of the last, if not the last, of his great series of bas-reliefs was from the life of the Saviour. I never saw the original; but one morning, in one of those pleasant hours which it was more than once my privilege to pass with the great artist in his own private studio, he took out the drawings, and showed them to me They formed a long roll of many sheets, which he unfolded carefully, and seemed to dwell upon with peculiar pleasure, as he called my attention to particular groups and figures in the series. They were beautiful indeed, and worthy of him; but strong as the impression which they made upon me at the time was, there was one which was still stronger. It was in his private studio, as I have already said, — a small square room adjoining his bed-room, hung round with casts, but with no other furniture than two or three chairs, an old bureau, a table, and his modelling stand. Here he had passed the greater part of his life — his happiest, his proudest, his most thoughtful hours. Here he had made those great works which have carried the proofs of his genius to distant parts of the earth, and will transmit his name with undiminished lustre to remote posterity. Here Byron had come to sit for his portrait to one whose imagination was as bold and as vigorous as his own. Here, too, kings and princes had brought their tributes of admiration and applause; and here, after a triumph such as no other artist had ever met before, the old man had returned, to pass a few more days in the quiet pleasures and genial occupations of his earlier manhood. As I looked around me, and thought of all that that little room had witnessed, and then, turning to that venerable form — the tranquil brow — the clear, calm eye — the strong cast, but withal mild and benevolent features, and long grey locks that shaded them, — drew to myself a hasty parallel betwixt the past and the present, I felt that there was something exceedingly beautiful in these closing hours of so beautiful a life. Beautiful and meet, indeed, that this long series of great works should close with works like these; that the thoughts which had ranged so freely with the glow of youth and fervor of manhood, should thus become concentrated upon the only subject that can cheer and sustain the faltering steps of age!
These who have read Cooper carefully will find that in his mind, also, the religious sentiment, through never dormant, became stronger and more definite as he drew nearer to the grave. It has been truly said, that there is nothing in his works which could embitter his dead-bed [sic]. From the first, they breathe a pure and healthy morality, and an earnest sense of higher duties and obligations. Nothing can be more beautiful than the religion of “Long Tom” and “Leather Stocking.” There is a beautiful mixture of simplicity and grandeur in their conceptions of the Creator. They have studied him in his own works; they recognise his power, for they have seen it manifested in its sublimest forms; they seem almost to grasp that sublimity itself in their strong conceptions, and read its awful lessons with a throbbing heart, but unaverted eye. They love him, too — for they love the glorious works that he has made; and that love, pervading their whole nature, gives worth and estimation to the meanest production of his will. And from this arises a sense of duty so deep and so firm — a perception of right so instinctive and so true — such love of justice, and such fearlessness of purpose — that, without ceasing for a moment to be the humble coxswain or unlettered scout, they are men at whose feet the best and wisest may sit meekly and learn.
But these sentiments, which are merely scattered at intervals though his earlier works, are more clearly interwoven with the web and texture of the later. The “Pathfinder” is everywhere devout; but “Hetty,” in the “Deer Slayer [sic],” is formed of materials which required a strong religious conviction to handle aright. Genius might have formed some beautiful conception, but would never have given to it that truthfulness and nature, which almost make us forget the intellectual deficiencies of the poor maiden in the pure-hearted and earnest simplicity of the believer. It could not well have been otherwise in a mind so strongly characterized by earnestness and imagination. Indeed, if I were called upon to mention any two qualities as peculiarly characteristic of him, these are the two which I should name. There was nothing morose or repulsively grave about him; but there was no trifling either. Whatever he set about, he set about it seriously; whatever he did, he did it in earnest. It was something to be done; and till it was done, his mind was filled with it as with a reality. He describes an imaginary scene with the same minute accuracy with which he relates a real event. No historian ever weighed and balanced testimony more cautiously, and no poet ever entered more earnestly or deeply into the world of his own creation. He seems to have conceived with an intensity of creative power which made his characters living beings to him, and his scenes actual occurrences. It is almost impossible, at times, to persuade yourself that he does not believe all that he is writing as sincerely as we all did Robinson Crusoe, the first time we read it. It is one of the secrets of his power; and, when combined with such a delicate perception of the beautiful, and such a deep feeling for the sublime, forms one of the rarest, as well as greatest, traits of the poetical mind. He never crowds incidents upon one another, or trusts to a rapid and constant succession of new combinations for exciting your interest. The outline of his stories is very simple; the plot a very easy one to sketch or recall; but the incidents are all told with such an air of sincerity, the details are so minute, everything seems to rise so naturally from the original conception, and follow with so little artifice or effort, that you yield yourself up to his sway without a misgiving, and go with him, as a matter of course.
It is a proof of the vigor of his imagination, that this scrupulous accuracy of detail seldom clogged or impeded its flight. Feeble wings lag and sink under such burthens. The second-class poet — we venerate Horace too much, to say the middling — rejects them as prosaic, or falls into something worse even than poetic prose, if he attempts to lift them. But the true poet feels how closely his art is allied to truth and nature, and never puts forth his strength more triumphantly than when he draws from real life, and man as his Maker has made him. His ideal is no vague and indistinct conception, hovering mist-like before the dreamy eye, with nothing in it that bears the semblance of earth or heaven, of man or beast; but clear, tangible, definite — true in its outline, true in its detail, and only deserving the name of ideal because, the creation of his own mind, it still has something about it which he can never embody or make visible, as he would wish, to the minds of others.
Compare Cooper’s conception of sea-character with Marryatt’s [sic]. ⁵ You feel at once that each is drawing from something that he has seen and studied. Occasionally in some old gallery you will come upon a picture with a head in it that you feel at once to be a portrait, and not merely a portrait, but a good likeness. You cannot always tell why you think so; sometimes it mould puzzle a painter himself to do it. But neither he, nor you either, if you know anything about art, would hesitate to pronounce it the faithful delineation of some face that once had a real existence. Now this is precisely the case with the sea-portraits of Marryatt and Cooper. They are the likenesses of real men, and true to the life, — true in costume, language, thought, and everything which goes to make up the individual of a peculiar class. There is the sailor’s tenacity, his freedom from all prejudices but such as arise from his own calling; his frankness and heartiness and restless longing for change; his recklessness of danger and improvidence of the future; with now and then a trait that in a landsman would look like want of common feeling; and occasional touches of a deeper nature and of a softness like that of woman. They are consummate artists both, and even if you had never seen a sailor or a ship, you would feel sure that the portrait was true.
But here the parallel stops. The limner’s task is done, and you ask for the poet. You have seen the individual as he is, acting and speaking just as thousands have acted and spoken; displaying all the qualities which the attentive eye can discover from the closest point of view. But there are other materials there which have not been used, — powers and capacities which have never been called forth, — a harder and a nobler task, which none but the poet can accomplish. You will find parallels inn Marryatt for Boltrope, or Fidd, or almost any of the characters which observation can supply; but none for Long Tom, or the Rover, which the creative power of imagination alone could conceive.
Take the scene, too, of the sailor’s life, and see how the sea and a ship look in the two writers. You find again the same detail, the same truthfulness — the same characteristics, in a word, of the observant and careful painter. But here, too, the parallel ceases. The ocean for the one is merely an element for his ships to float in, and subject to the vicissitudes of calm, and breeze, and gale. He loves the sea undoubtedly, and is glad to find himself on it; but there is no bounding of the blood at the touch of the old friend. He launches his ship and manoeuvres her, and that skilfully. He brings out the thousand incidents of cruise and voyage, and the natural dangers — the lee shore and the yawning wave. There is a poetry in the ocean which communicates itself to everything that it touches, and it is hard to conceive of a description of any of the great incidents of sea life which can be true, without awakening some poetical feeling. Thus far Marryatt is a poet. But you must not ask him for that higher poetry which proceeds from the mind itself, enabling it to invest even familiar objects with a poetic coloring, and revealing new sources of beauty and grandeur in the beautiful and the grand. You must not ask him for this, for it is not in him.
But for Cooper, the ocean was a gladness and a love. He comes to it as you draw nigh to your home, with the certainty that there are joys there which no other spot can give, and feelings which nothing else can awaken. His heart seems to bound with the wave, and his veins to thrill as the gale that has been careering so wildly over spaces immeasurable falls with its ocean fragrance on his brow. There is a music for him in the dashing wave — a human sympathy in that ceaseless heaving of the mighty billows. The calm is full of gentle thoughts and quiet longings which bring their own reward. Sky and ocean seem to mingle together, and, as the distant clouds that floating in seeming idleness through space, are still adding to their stores and moving onward towards the spot where they are to burst in whirlwinds, or fall in beneficent showers, so his dreamy eye roams listlessly over the heaving mass, drawing in thoughts and images, and strength to bring them forth. His gales are as terrific as sky and ocean and human feeling combined can make them. He watches the gathering clouds, and reads the fearful omens that lie written on their darkening folds. Nature hushes in silent awe, and the ocean itself, as if conscious of the awful part that it is about to perform in this fearful war of elements, stills for a moment its throbbing, and awaits in solemn suspense the signal of strife. Then come lurid gleams in the sky, and sudden darkness, and from afar, a hollow roaring of the rushing winds. The billows leap up in their joy to meet the wild gusts that give forth their own triumphant shout as they catch the spray on their wings, and speed it through the air. And tossing wildly and helpless like that spray, now yielding tremblingly to the shock, and now breasting the relentless billows with desperate energy, is some noble offspring of human genius, with its mingled charge of human fears and human hopes. And it is in the midst of these that he places you. It is from that wave-washed deck, your frame quivering with the quivering hull, your ears stunned by the sullen roar of the billows and the ominous sounds which the winds call forth from spar and rope, that you look forth into the gloom and strive eagerly to read the fate that lies hidden in its mysterious depths. And thus intermingling human interests with the interest which is inseparable from the great phenomena of nature, and while he gives reality to everything by the accuracy of his details, awakening the solemn sense of the awful and the sublime, by calling up the mysterious train which follows the path of the storm, and those forms, felt, but unseen, which pervade immensity as with a bodily presence, he forms the most powerful pictures that ever have been drawn of nature in her grandest and most terrific aspects.
It should be observed, too, that this is not the only remarkable characteristic of his descriptions. They are as varied as they are truthful and poetical. He has introduced storms into all of his sea novels, and yet there are not two of them that are alike. The materials of course are the same — winds, water, and a ship. But his study of nature had been so careful, and his observation so minute, that without ever ceasing to be truthful, he seldom repeats a circumstance that he has introduced before. He felt like Scott, that the true source of abundance is in a careful study of real objects, and that the imagination is never more vigorous than when it is nourished by extensive and cautious observation. Every other path leads to mannerism and endless repetitions. Raphael ⁶, in a curious letter to his friend Castiglione ⁷, complains of the difficulty of getting good models, and says that to help himself out in the work which he was then painting, the exquisite frescoes of the “Farnesina,” he drew from a certain ideal (una certa idea) which he had formed for himself. But there was scarcely a position in which the human form can be placed which he had not studied again and again from the living model: and the heads in some of his finest studies still bear witness to the scrupulous fidelity with which he performed his task. The truth of the ideal depends upon the truth of the real; and though broader in its bearings, and more enduring in its nature, it can never wholly shake off its dependence upon that humble offspring of earth.
But it was not to attempt an analysis of Cooper, either as an author or as a man, that I took up my pen. What Bryant has done so happily in his address, as remarkable for the just conception which he had formed of his office, as for chastened beauty of execution, it would be presumption in me to repeat. It has been proposed that a monument should be erected to Cooper, and his statue placed in some spot where the stranger may see how America honors the sons who have proved themselves worthy of her. A subscription for this purpose has been already opened, and there are names on the list which are a monument in themselves. Can the effort fail in a city where money is daily lavished for things that perish and are forgotten. One great tribute ⁸ has already been paid — the most solemn, the most beautiful page in the history of American literature. Webster, Irving, Bryant, Bancroft, Halleck — the statesman whose voice, in our greatest peril, has been raised triumphantly for our salvation; the writer whose pen, like that of his own favorite, has touched nothing which it has not adorned; the poets who have drunk from the same pure fountains from which Cooper drew the freshness and vigor of his own inspirations; the historian who has told the marvellous tale of our country’s progress, in pages of generous sympathy and gorgeous eloquence; all uniting to give in the presence of sympathizing hearers their tribute to the name, at the side of which their own will one day be inscribed so honorably. Surely such an appeal will not have been made in vain. This outpouring of feeling from the great and the honored, must be followed by some enduring testimonial of public approbation. The green shade of some one of our parks will yet be adorned with the faithful representation in marble, or in bronze, of those noble features which we shall never see again. It will stand where we can gaze upon it, while we listen to the murmur of the gushing waters, and strengthen ourselves by the refreshing indulgence of gratitude and admiration. The traveller from distant lands who has been lured to our woods and prairies by the magic of his pen, will come hither with his offering of praise. And all they who love their country and look trustfully to the future, will find new sources of trust and hope in this public recognition of our duties to the past.
We trust that some other friend of Cooper will follow the example of Dr. Francis ⁹ and give the world his recollections. The Doctor himself cannot have exhausted his store, and if he could but find time in the midst of his professional labors, to fill up the sketch which he has begun with so much good taste and such admirable judgment, he will add greatly to the important services which he has already rendered to the cause of pure and healthy literature.
[by Hugh C. MacDougall]
1. George Cooke (not identified)
2. Bertel Thorwaldsen (1768-1844), Danish sculptor.
3. James Gates Percival (1795-1856), American poet.
4. Thomas Cole (1801-1848), American landscape painter and “founder” of the “Hudson River School” of landscape painting.
5. Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), British naval officer and author of many sea stories for boys.
6. Raphael (1483-1520), Italian painter.
7. Conte Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), Italian diplomat and writer.
8. Greene refers to the Memorial Meeting held in Metropolitan Hall, New York City, on February 24, 1852, chaired by Daniel Webster and with a principal address by William Cullen Bryant. The record of this and other memorial meetings can be found in Memorial of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1852), which we have placed online at this website.
9. Dr. John Wakefield Francis (1789-1861), American doctor; lifelong friend and personal physician of Cooper; his account is found in Memorial of James Fenimore Cooper (see footnote 8).