Susan Fenimore Cooper

Susan Fenimore Cooper

Miss Susan Fenimore Cooper, probably in the middle 1850’s. Photograph by W. G. Smith, Cooperstown.

This section is devoted to the life and writings of Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894), eldest daughter of James Fenimore Cooper and a distinguished writer and naturalist. She is best known for her nature diary of Cooperstown, Rural Hours, first published in 1850 and frequently reprinted. But she also wrote a novel, Elinor Wyllys; or, The Young Folk of Longbridge (1846), short stories, children’s stories, and articles on a wide variety of subjects including nature. We propose to gather material about her in this section of the James Fenimore Cooper Society, until such time as a Susan Fenimore Cooper Society is organized.

Texts at this Site

  • (1846) Elinor Wyllys; or, The Young Folk of Longbridge, Volume I; Volume II. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1846. SFC’s only published, and almost forgotten, novel. It is nevertheless good reading, combining two sub-plots: one romantic (the trials and eventual happiness of the orphaned Elinor, who has every good quality but good looks, and of her childhood companion Harry Hazlehurst), and one a mystery (an imposter claims a family fortune, setting off a search for evidence and a climactic courtroom scene). They come together in a stormy denouement off Martha’s Vineyard. [annotated text]
  • (1851) The Lumley Autograph. Graham’s Magazine, Volume 38 (January-June 1851). A very funny story with a sharp satirical bite; a cry for help from a starving poet becomes a valuable “collectable.”
  • (1859) Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1859. A children’s biography of George Washington, published to raise funds for the restoration of Mount Vernon.
  • (1865) The Church-Yard Humming-Bird. An evidently “one time” comic newsletter issued in 1865 by Susan Fenimore Cooper and friends in Cooperstown’s Christ Episcopal Church, apparently in connection with a Church fair raising money for a new Church carpet.
  • (1869) Village Improvement Societies. Putnam’s Monthly, vol. 14, issue 21 (Sept 1869). An early guide to town planning.
  • (1870) Greenough’s Chanting Cherubs. Putnam’s Magazine, vol. XXVI (February 1870). Letter to the Editor relating James Fenimore Cooper’s commissioning of Horatio Greenough’s sculpture The Chanting Cherubs.
  • (1870) Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America. Harper’s New Weekly Magazine, Vol. 41 (June — November, 1870). A reasoned argument against giving women the right to vote.
  • (1872) The County Poor-House. Facts. Harper’s Bazaar, July 20, 1872. A visit to a rural New York State county poorhouse (clearly based on that of Otsego County where SFC lived), with recommendations for its reform.
  • (1875) Orphan House of the Holy Saviour. 1875 Official Report with extensive quotations from Susan Fenimore Cooper, the Orphanage founder.
  • (1876) The Early Life of Natty Bumppo. In an introduction to The Deerslayer, Susan Fenimore Cooper imagined what Natty Bumppo’s early life might have been like. There is no evidence as to whether this passage reflected ideas suggested by James Fenimore Cooper.
  • (1879-1895) Three Stories for Children: The Adventures of Cocquelicot (1881); The Cherry-Colored Purse (1895); The Wonderful Cookie (1879) . Three stories written for children.
  • (1880) The Hudson River and its Early Names. The Magazine of American History, Volume IV, No. 6 (June 1880), pp. 401-418. The early exploration of the Hudson, and names given to it by the Dutch, French, and English.
  • (1883) Small Family Memories. From James Fenimore Cooper [grandson], Correspondence of James Fenimore Cooper, (2 vols., New Haven: Yale Univesity Press, 1922), pp. [7]-72. Written as a private memoir for her nieces and nephews, who had never known James Fenimore Cooper, this evocative account is a prime source for the private life of James Fenimore Cooper between from 1816-1828, as well as of his daughter.
  • (1883) Thoughts on Parish Life. Religious thoughts from The Churchman June 30, 1883 - October 20, 1883.
  • (1885-86) Missions to the Oneidas. Account of Christian Missions (mostly Episcopal) to the Oneida Indians, in New York and in Wisconsin. An impassioned plea on behalf of Native Americans, and condemnation of those who sought to mistreat and exploit them.
  • (1886) The Thanksgiving Hospital and Orphan House of the Holy Saviour . S. M. Shaw, Ed., A Centennial Offering. Being a Brief History of Cooperstown. ... Cooperstown: Freeman’s Journal Office, 1886, pp. 180-184. Brief histories of the two institutions.
  • (1892) The Talent of Reading Wisely. The Ladies’ Home Journal, Vol. IX, No. 3 (February 1892), p. 18. Young people should be protected from evil or trashy books and papers, and guided towards good literature (including good fiction).

Articles and Papers about Susan Fenimore Cooper

1999 Cooper Seminar at SUNY Oneonta

2001 Cooper Conference at SUNY Oneonta

2003 Cooper Conference at SUNY Oneonta

2005 Cooper Conference at SUNY Oneonta

2009 Cooper Conference at SUNY Oneonta

2015 Cooper Conference at SUNY Oneonta

Other Articles and Papers

  • (1857) John Seely Hart, Susan Fenimore Cooper in Female Writers of America, pp. 513-420, with excerpts on “spiders,” “humming-birds,” and “weeds.”
  • (1944) Cunningham, Anna K. (“a resident of Cooperstown”), Susan Fenimore Cooper — Child of Genius. New York History, July 1944. A warm and sympathetic account of Susan Fenimore Cooper — the first article about her to appear in a scholarly journal.
  • (1970) Baym, Max I. (Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute) and Percy Matenko (Brooklyn College), The Odyssey of The Water-Witch and a Susan Fenimore Cooper Letter . An 1886 letter to recipient of a manuscript page gives background on writing and publication of The Water-Witch, noting inter alia that Americans in 1830 Dresden were expected to be black.
  • (1995) MacDougall, Hugh (James Fenimore Cooper Society), We Know the Hours; What Was the Year? James Fenimore Cooper Society Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 3 (whole No. 17), December 1995, p. 3. Dating the entries in Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours.
  • (1998) MacDougall, Hugh C. (James Fenimore Cooper Society). Making a Place Historic: The Coopers and Cooperstown. A talk on how three generations of Coopers gave their differing visions of Cooperstown to the world.

Introductions to Novels by James Fenimore Cooper

From Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: W.A. Townsend and Co., 1861) [25 novels], and the Household Edition of Cooper’s Works (New York and Cambridge: Houghton, Mifflin and Co. [etc.] 1876-84) [15 novels]. These introductions contain much biographic and literary information to be found nowhere else.

  • (1820) Precaution. Pages and Pictures pp. 13-22 [13-24]. {Bio Info: Scarsdale, 1818-20; Cooperstown childhood}
  • (1821) The Spy. Pages and Pictures pp. 26-36 [30-40]. {Bio Info: Scarsdale, 1820-21}
  • (1823) The Pioneers. Pages and Pictures pp. 48-63 [56-71]. Household Edition pp. xi-xxxvi. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1790-1802}
  • (1823) The Pilot. Pages and Pictures pp. 72-79 [82-89]. Household Edition pp. xiii-xxiii. {Bio Info: New York City, 1822-23}
  • (1825) Lionel Lincoln. Pages and Pictures pp. 99-102 [115-118]. {Bio Info: Boston, 1824}
  • (1826) The Last of the Mohicans. Pages and Pictures pp. 121-131 [141-151]. Household Edition pp. xi-xliv. {Bio Info: Glens Falls and Long Island, 1824-25}
  • (1827) The Prairie. Pages and Pictures pp. 142-157 [164-183]. Household Edition pp. ix-xxxii. {Bio Info: Paris, July 1826-May 1827; meeting Indian delegations in Washington}
  • (1828) The Red Rover. Pages and Pictures pp. 174-183 [204-215]. Household Edition pp. xi-xxi. {Bio Info: Paris, June-Nov. 1827}
  • (1829) The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. Pages and Pictures pp. 197-212 [233-250]. {Bio Info: Switzerland, July-Oct. 1828; Florence, Oct. 1828-July 1829}
  • (1830) The Water-Witch. Pages and Pictures pp. 220-231 [258-271]. Household Edition pp. ix-xxiii. {Bio Info: England, Italy, Germany, Feb. 1828- Aug. 1830}
  • (1831) The Bravo. Pages and Pictures pp. 241-252 [283-294]. {Bio Info: Rome to Venice, Apr.-May 1830}
  • (1833) The Headsman. Pages and Pictures pp. 264-268 [308-314]. {Bio Info: Switzerland, Aug.-Sept. 1832}
  • (1835) The Monikins. Pages and Pictures pp. 274-275 [320-323]. {Bio Info: JFC’s sense of humor}
  • (1838) Homeward Bound. Pages and Pictures pp. 285-291 [335-341] {Bio Info: America, 1833-1851}
  • (1838) Home as Found. Pages and Pictures pp. 299-301 [349-353] {Bio Info: America, 1833-1851}
  • (1840) The Pathfinder. Pages and Pictures pp. 308-310 [360-364]. Household Edition pp. v-xxxiii. {Bio Info: Oswego, 1808-1810}
  • (1841) The Deerslayer. Pages and Pictures pp. 322-323 [378-381]. Household Edition pp. xiii-xl. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1835-1851}
  • (1842) The Two Admirals. Household Edition pp. ix-xvii. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1842}
  • (1842) The Wing-and-Wing. Pages and Pictures pp. 335-342 [395-404]. Household Edition pp. ix-xviii. {Bio Info: Italy, July-Aug. 1829, Cooperstown, 1842}
  • (1843) Wyandotté. Pages and Pictures pp. 347-348 [409-410] {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1843}
  • (1844) Afloat and Ashore. Household Edition pp. ix-xiv. {Bio Info: Hudson Valley and Long Island, 1811-22}
  • (1844) Miles Wallingford. Household Edition pp. vii-xvi. {Bio Info: Hudson Valley, general}
  • (1845) Satanstoe. Pages and Pictures p. 353 [420]. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1845}
  • (1845) The Chainbearer. Pages and Pictures pp. 359-360 [427-428]. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1845}
  • (1846) The Redskins. Pages and Pictures pp. 366-367 [434-437]. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1845-46}
  • (1847) The Crater. Household Edition pp. ix-xix. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1836-51}
  • (1848) Jack Tier. Pages and Pictures p. 370 [442]. Household Edition pp. vii-xiv. {Bio Info: Cooperstown, 1846-47}
  • (1848) The Oak Openings. Pages and Pictures pp. 379-383 [453-457]. {Bio Info: Michigan 1847-48}
  • (1849) The Sea Lions. Pages and Pictures pp. 389-392 [463-468]. Household Edition pp. xi-xii. {Bio Info: Long Island, 1811-26; religion}

Manuscripts (transcription)

  • (1831-1889) School Notebook begun by Susan Fenimore Cooper in Paris in 1831; reproduced with permission of the Cooper family.

Links to Other Websites

Links to online texts of Susan Fenimore Cooper’s works on other sites.

  • (1845) Elinor Wyllys; a Tale. “Ed. by James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.” In Three Volumes. London: Richard Bentley, 1845. English edition, published before the American one. Google Books. Page images. [includes all three volumes]
  • (1850) Rural Hours, by A Lady. New York: George P. Putnam, 1850. The original edition. Google Books. Page images
  • (1853) Susan Fenimore Cooper, ed., John Leonard Knapp, Country Rambles in England; or Journal of a Naturalist; with notes and additions by the Author of “Rural Hours”. Buffalo: Phinney & Co., 1853.
  • (1859) Sally Lewis and Her Lovers. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 18, issue 108 (April 1859), pp. 644-653. Short story about young love — “A Ghost Story: Founded on Fact.”
  • (1859) Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1859. Children’s biography of George Washington, published as a fund-raiser for the restoration of Mount Vernon.
  • (1861) Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, with notes by Susan Fenimore Cooper . Short essays by SFC relating to each novel chosen, plus an extract of its text, and illustrations. Google Books. Page images
  • (1868) Bits. Putnam’s monthly magazine of American literature, science and art Volume 12, issue 8 (August 1868), pp. 145-148. 16ᵗʰ century French fashions; 17ᵗʰ century French omnibuses; early precursors of the electric telegraph.
  • (1870) The Magic Palace. Putnam’s monthly magazine of American literature, science and art Volume 15, issue 26 (February 1870), pp. 160-163. Account of a palace of ice built in Russia in 1739.
  • (1870) Insect-Life in Winter. Putnam’s monthly magazine of American literature, science and art Volume 15, issue 28 (April 1870), pp. 424-427. Anecdotes of survival of insects in winter in France.
  • (1870) Madame Lafayette and Her Mother. Putnam’s monthly magazine of American literature, science and art Volume 16, issue 32 (August 1870), pp. 208-213. Accounts of General Lafayette’s wife and mother-in-law, based on Lafayette family memoirs.
  • (1872) Two of my Lady Loves. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 45, issue 265 (June 1872), pp. 129-133. An old man encounters an old widow, and a young girl.
  • (1876) Rear-Admiral William Branford Shubrick. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 53, issue 315 (August 1876), pp. 400-408. Biographic sketch of Admiral Shubrick (1790-1874), a lifelong intimate friend of James Fenimore Cooper and his family.
  • (1877) Mrs. Philip Schuyler — A Sketch. In Mrs. O.J. Wister and Miss Agnes Irwin, eds., Worthy Women of Our First Century, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1877, pp. 71-112. Biographic sketch of Mrs. Philip Schuyler (Catherine Van Rensselaer) (1735-1803)
  • (1878) Otsego Leaves. Four part series published in Appletons’ journal: a magazine of general literature:
  • Birds Then and Now. Volume 4, No. 6 (June 1878), pp. 528-531. Decrease in New York birds.
  • T e Bird Mediaeval . Volume 5, No. 2 (August 1878), pp. 164-167. Anecdotes of birds in colonial New York.
  • The Bird Primeval. Volume 5, No. 3 (September 1878), pp. 273-277. A glimpse of birds before the coming of Europeans.
  • A Road-side Post-Office. Volume 5, No. 6 (December 1878), pp. 542-545. Local anecdote of mail delivery and young romance.
  • (1887) Rural Hours (by season) from the 1887 author’s revised edition, which reduced the original 1850 text by about one-third.
  • (1887) A Glance Backward. Atlantic Monthly, vol. 59, issue 352 (February 1887), pp. 109-206. Biographical background to James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy (1821). Cooper’s childhood and life in Westchester County (1789-1821).
  • (1887) A Second Glance Backward. Atlantic Monthly, vol. 60, issue 360 (October 1887), pp. 474-486. Biographic background to James Fenimore Cooper’s novels written or based in Italy (1828-30), The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish, The Water-Witch, and The Bravo. Cooper in Italy (1828-1830).
  • (1890) William West Skiles: A Sketch of Missionary Life at Valle Crucis in Western North Carolina, 1842-1862 . Edited by Susan Fenimore Cooper. New York: James Pott & Co., 1890. Biography of an Episcopal Missionary in North Carolina.
  • (1893) Lament for the Birds. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 87, issue 519 (August, 1893), pp. 472-474. Lament for the gradual disappearance of songbirds from the Cooperstown area.

Other Links

  • Geo.metry — the online learning center: Web pages compiling online materials relating to Susan Fenimore Cooper


  • Checklist of the writings of Susan Fenimore Cooper
  • Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson, eds., Susan Fenimore Cooper: New Essays on Rural Hours and Other Works (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2001). 14 essays