Introduction to Satanstoe (1845)

Susan Fenimore Cooper

Introductions to novels by her father, with significant biographic and literary information, were written by Susan Fenimore Cooper as prefaces to excerpts from 25 Cooper novels in Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, with Notes by Susan Fenimore Cooper (New York: W.A. Townsend and Co., 1861). She also wrote introductions to 15 (not all the same) novels published between 1876-1884 as the Household Edition of the Works of J. Fenimore Cooper (New York and Cambridge: Houghton, Mifflin and Co. [Hurd and Mifflin]).

These introductions are collected for the first time on the Cooper Society website. Lengthy quotations have been reproduced in indented form, but retaining the quotation marks of the original, and their sources have been indicated in [square brackets].

Pages and Pictures, p. 353

Contents: SATANSTOE. — Colonial days — New York a hundred years ago — Journey from Westchester to town — Extract, Dirck and Corny.

[353] IN the year 1845 appeared “Satanstoe,” a very pleasant book, giving us pictures of society in the colony of New York, some hundred years earlier. The narrative takes the form of an autobiography, purporting to have been written by a member of the Littlepage family, living on one of the “Necks” of West Chester, on the shores of the Sound, but the proprietor of extensive lands in the interior of the province. The reader follows the steps of Cornelius Littlepage in his visits to New York, his quiet but amusing accounts of the state of things in the great capital of the province at that time, in his glimpses of Albany and our Dutch ancestors, and goes with him into the wilderness, to Mooseridge, the tract of ground to be peopled and worked by the proprietor. In reading the book, at the first glance we should deem it simply a pleasant look backward at town and country, among our forefathers, while the quiet interest thrown about the different characters leads us onward, without effort, through some striking scenes. The latent object of the writer scarcely appears in this, the first work of a connected series of three, relating to the same family and the same tract of lands. We are made to see clearly, however, that the task of redeeming Mooseridge from the wilderness, and taking the first steps toward cultivation, was one requiring money, forethought, and effort. In the second work of the series we shall find the plot thickening, the cloud of disturbance drawing nearer. The name of “Satanstoe” was given to this book in a fit of intense disgust at the unmeaning absurdity of the newly-coined word of “Hurl-Gate,” which he often stigmatized as a piece of “canting corruption.” He maintained that the name of Hell-Gate should either be left in its original form or entirely abandoned for something new; and Hurl-Gate ha conceived a flagrant absurdity, quite unworthy of people of common sense.

Excerpt: “Dirck and Corny” [James Fenimore Cooper, Satanstoe [1845] (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), Chapter 4, pp. 50-55]