Cooper Revises the First Great American Novel

Lance Schachterle (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

Presented at the Cooper Panel of the 1990 Conference of the American Literature Association in San Diego.

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

Within three weeks of the publication of The Spy on 21 December 1821, the author and the publisher realized they had a bestseller on their hands. 1 For James Cooper, besieged by debts levied on his paternal estate, the call to prepare a second edition for the market was probably as welcome financially as for the opportunity to correct the mistakes all too evident in the first edition. For his publisher, Charles Wiley, the rapid sellout of a first printing of a novel by an American author offered the unusual possibility of doing better than breaking even on a fictional title not pirated from an established British author. 2

Whether Cooper thought these promising sales meant that a significant audience might exist for his fiction, we can never know. The Preface to the first edition of Spy disclaimed any expectation of success. While we cannot penetrate beyond this display of authorial modesty to discern Cooper’s real feelings, we can draw on the preface as Cooper’s public estimation of the chances of success for The Spy. 3 Behind the guarded and facetious language of that first edition Preface are deep fears, voiced by Cooper and echoed by his authorial successors throughout the century, that America would never be hospitable to fiction. Or, perhaps worse, fears that American readers would never warm to fiction written by fellow Americans as long as readers and critics had expectations defined exclusively by the received conventions of the mother country. In the first Preface to Spy, as in his first major work of social analysis, Notions of the Americans (1828), Cooper lamented that while the United States had secured political freedom from England, Americans remained subservient to British culture and taste.

These misgivings notwithstanding, Spy Succeeded. In fact, it was first in a series of fictional analyses of American politics and revolutions that concluded with the author’s only novel set in contemporary times, the valedictory Ways of the Hour of 1850. That Spy confirmed Cooper’s career as novelist is demonstrated clearly by the thirty novels that followed after 1821 from Cooper’s pen — novels that in so many ways grew from themes first adumbrated here. Fortunately, Cooper’s own public estimation of Spy can be inferred from evidence other than just his continued authorial activity. The surprising success of Spy’s first edition led to at least twenty-one separate reissues in the United States alone during the author’s lifetime. Of these twenty-one, Cooper revised three for American publishers and one for Bentley Standard Novels in London.

Though the degree and targets of attention in revising these four texts vary, all four editions disclose evidence of how Cooper reworked the text of Spy for audiences he conceived as quite different from that to which he so tentatively offered the first edition. For our purposes, we may infer from this evidence of textual revision how Cooper’s attitude towards Spy as an experiment in writing American fiction evolved from the first edition of 1821 through the final revised text prepared for Putnam in 1849. The documentary evidence is of two kinds: from the revisions of the text itself, and from the evolution of the introductory matter with which Cooper prefaced that text.

First, the textual revisions. The call for a new edition in the second week of 1822 gave Cooper the opportunity to cleanse the first edition of blunders perpetrated both by the compositors and himself. In the second edition, no doubt hastily prepared to satisfy market demands and released in March 1822, Cooper corrected the most egregious errors of the pre-Christmas first edition. The third edition of May 1822 not only confirmed demand for the book, but afforded Cooper time to effect a much more careful revision of the work in terms of style and mechanics. After these two revisions, carried out within less than a half-year of initial publication, Cooper moved on to the new project with his third novel, The Pioneers. He returned to Spy a decade later, when in 1831 he prepared a remarkably thorough textual revision for the London publishers Colburn and Bentley, that not only stylistically repointed hundreds of passages, but also re- envisioned how most of the major characters should be presented. Finally, for the Putnam “Author’s Revised Novel” of 1849 Cooper skimmed through the existing text and made a handful of final improvements. 4

Collectively, these revisions present inescapable evidence of Cooper’s concern as a professional author to provide his audience with accurate and expressive texts. As we shall see, this sequence of revisions — especially that prepared for Bentley for 1831 which is extant and available for study — shows Cooper intervening in the textual history of Spy to re-think in important ways what the novel meant and how this meaning should be presented to readers.

Paralleling the history of the text of Spy is the evolution of the prefatory material. If anything, the history is even more complex and revealing here: the documentary evidence is not simply of revising passages scattered through a long narrative, but of rethinking the authorial voicing and attitude towards the text and .its audience. The first three New York editions, though separated by less than six months, each carry a different array of introductory texts. The 1831 Bentley Standard Novels edition dispatches with all the earlier prefaces, to begin with a new Introduction in which — barely a decade after Spy’s appearance — Cooper attempts to fix responses to Spy as an originary work of American literary and cultural history. The final Putnam Introduction confirms Cooper’s 1831 estimation of Spy’s historical place by removing the earlier moralizing introductory comments to leave a stark record of achievement — literary and political — to speak for itself.

The New York Editions of 1821 and 1822

The prose of Cooper’s Introduction to the first edition is awkward, but the purposes are clear. Balancing the pros and cons weighs heavily on the negative when an American novelist ventures to set before an American audience a fictional tale set in their native country. To most readers — the American fair. as Cooper knew full well his audience was mainly women — absence of romantic, gothic, or aristocratic scenes proper only in European settings would, the author feared in the Preface, prove a liability. Familiarity with local manners and scenery would breed contempt; serious delineations of love — amorous or patriotic — would prove unpalatable given the closeness of the fiction to historical realities and possibly to national prejudices. While the Preface — like the dedication to Cooper’s British friend James Aitchison — hoped that American and English readers would recognize the accuracy of Cooper’s depiction of each party in the Revolution, national partiality might too easily blind readers to the balance of good and bad meted out to combatants on both sides. In sum, the Preface of the first edition of Spy strove to disarm criticism on grounds of indifference to indigenous literature, and to insulate the author of such a radical venture from the likelihood of failure.

Had the first readers of Spy reacted as had the first readers of Precaution, the premonitions of this Preface would have been fulfilled. But they did not, and the demand for a new edition elicited a “Preface to the Second Edition” which Cooper simply caused to be printed following slightly-revised versions of his first edition Dedication and Preface. This new Preface — five paragraphs and less than two pages — described the author’s “satisfaction” with the call for a new edition, and his amusement with the suggestions preferred by friends to revise the plot. Briefly but more importantly, Cooper recorded his pleasure in having the opportunity to offer the book “without the aid of printer’s journeymen, who had much too large a hand in the first edition.” Spy’s favorable reception Cooper attributes, finally, to “love of country.” 5 In this modest submission to virtues of the novel other than the author’s genius, Cooper suggested a self-evaluation of Spy that evolved through his career — that his first success achieved its acclaim by becoming emblem and element of the growth of an independent national self- consciousness.

Though in preparing this second edition for the press in March 1822 Cooper did not expunge every unwanted intervention of the “printer’s journeyman,” he did catch dozens of outright errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation; effected very brief stylistic revisions; and occasionally restored compositorial normalizations of dialect to their distinctive forms. Interestingly, his scrutiny repaired all the errors which the first important review of the book, in the North American Review for July 1822, later cited as “loose and inelegant expressions.” 6

Time permitted a much more thorough revision for the third edition of May 1822. The final paragraph of the new preface disclosed that the novel “was printed as it was written,” and “that it was printed with a very superficial revision of the press — the second edition without a proof-sheet coming out of the office. ” The excuse for these lamentable preparations was that the first edition “was published without a hope of success.” 7 Success, however, demanded this third edition. Here spelling and punctuation were perfected, countless remaining stylistic snarls untangled, and the dialect forms — so important to capturing a sense of American cultural diversity — made more consistent. Even more revealing of Cooper’s evolving opinion of Spy than these revisions is the new prefatory material. The dedication to James Aitchison — wholly rewritten from the first version — commented on the unflattering portrait of the British officer Colonel Wellmere as an inevitable consequence of combat against the British army rather than as a general view of English gentlemen. Thus Cooper addressed more directly than before the issues of national partiality only alluded to in earlier dedications to a friend, Aitchison, whom he celebrated for his equitable impartiality to British homeland and American home. 8

A “Preface to the Third Edition,” entirely new, replaced the first and second edition Prefaces. Cooper began by admitting that “it would be affectation to retain in this edition of our book, a preface, that professes to doubt of its favorable reception.” Supplanting the affected measure in the first edition of pros and cons for predicting the success of the book is an analysis of why the book admittedly has succeeded. Cooper anticipated here the arguments of Notions of the Americans six years later: common sense rules in America, so that the “originality” valued in the eccentricities beloved of British novelists must fail in American fiction. “All that glow, which can be given to a tale, through the aid of obscure legends, artificial distinctions, and images connected with the association of the ideas, is not attainable in this land of facts.” Thus, five months after Spy ventured forth, Cooper has begun to measure its success in terms of its celebration of distinctive American virtues of “invention, quickness to remedy evils, and boldness of thought.” 9

Between the first edition in late December 1821 and third edition in May 1822, 8000 copies of Spy were put into print — an extraordinary demand in the early Republic for a novel about America written by an American. In roughly four months, Cooper saw a book whose success he publicly doubted in its very Preface command a large audience and soon a largely favorable critical review. 10 In that same first edition, Cooper sarcastically dismissed English — and by extension, American — critics who expected “an account of American manners” to consist of nothing but “the cave scene in Edgar Huntley, because it contains an American, a savage, a wild cat, and a tomahawk.” 11 Buoyed by his success with Spy, Cooper continued work on his second American novel The Pioneers, begun in late 1821 just when Cooper most doubted, but most needed, his unexpected triumph with his first novel set in America. And he learned from his success: Pioneers, you may recall, contains far more than one American, the first great Indian in American literature, a finale set in a cave, and two wildcats. With Spy, Cooper’s course as an American novelist was set. 12

The Bentley Standard Novel Edition (1831)

When Cooper returned to Spy in spring 1831, he was an established author roughly in the middle of his seven-year visit to Europe. Eight more novels had issued from his pen, including the first three Leather-stocking stories. But returning to his early fiction to write introductions and further improve the texts was as attractive financially as esthetically. “Spy and Pioneers will require a severe pen, particularily [sic] the latter,” he wrote to Colburn and Bentley on 21 March 1831 from Paris, “and interesting Introductions might be written to each. The facts which suggested the character of the Spy is of interest. ... Still the chief labor would be in the corrections, purifying the style and repairing the blunders of the press.” 13

The documentary record of Cooper’s “chief labor” for Spy happily is available for scrutiny at the Berg Collection, and in it we can see Cooper’s hand revising roughly 8000 words and 500 punctuation marks. Scarcely a page of Spy is untouched; many are extensively revised and some more than half rewritten. Pacing is improved by deletion of superfluous adverbs and adjectives, and dialogue is tightened by dropping unneeded tags identifying speaker and mood. Experience may have brought a more certain sense of social level: the heroine is less often just a “maiden,” and her aunt rarely a “spinster” in the new version. The comic Dr. Sitgreaves is usually a “surgeon” and not vaguely an “operator.” Perhaps in deference to the intended British audience, the villain Colonel Wellmere is less often identified simply as “the Englishman” — as if that term automatically connoted rakish deceit.

As with the New York editions, Cooper paid special care to render dialect forms consistent and distinctive. In fact, he specifically instructed the British typesetters to set his inscribed dialect variants and not to correct them to standard forms. Cooper worked hard to register the social and regional variations of his common characters. Betty Flanagan’s Irish Americanisms are elaborated upon, as is the colloquial speech of such figures as the black slave Caesar, the New York rustic figures Katy Haynes and Sergeant Hollister, and the New England hero Harvey Birch.

Perhaps in response to reviews like the North American Review that found Cooper’s depiction of Washington too grandiose, the author stripped Washington of unneeded exhibitions of grandeur in every act and movement. Some retooling of elements of the plot also occurred: the wounded George Singleton and his sister Isabella (whose unbridled admiration for the young male hero causes suspense enough for the heroine) were made less important through occasional deletions in their roles. But most significant was the considerable attention given to Harvey Birch. While his distinctive Yankee twang was not substantially reduced, his stumbling into grammatical lapses was reduced. No longer does he spit copious tobacco in the Wharton’s drawing-room. The ambiguity of the sentiments about the rebels that he displays publicly was enhanced to preserve his role as double agent, while his ultimate nobility in refusing Washington’s cash reward became somewhat less melodramatic. And in at least four key scenes, when caught between his assumed role as traitor and his real dedication as patriot, Birch indulges in far less self-pity. Cooper muted Harvey’s theatrical displays of emotional chaos, occasioned by the clash of his self- justifying patriotism with the need to appear false to those he secretly served. In these crucial scenes, Birch is more often in command of his wits rather than at the mercy of his perilous situations.

The evolution of Cooper’s style and attitudes revealed in his revisions of the text is paralleled by the maturing of American institutions, at least as viewed by Cooper in his new introduction to the Bentley Standard Novels edition. “Ten years have been an age with most things that are connected with America; and, among other advances, that of her literature has not been the least,” he wrote in the penultimate paragraph. Writing from Paris in April 1831 as an author who had published ten novels in eleven years, Cooper must have regarded his own success as a signal instance of that “advance.” The final paragraph of the Bentley Introduction celebrated “a brighter prospect” that “is beginning to dawn on the republic,” a brighter prospect that, among other things, had shown that American audiences can embrace “a book that treated of its own familiar interests.” 14 Cooper’s fears expressed in the New York prefaces that Americans would reject a work set on native soil had simply proved wrong, a recognition made now by an author established by the very success of the book whose failure he had publicly anticipated a decade earlier.

In the Bentley Preface Cooper strove to place Spy firmly in the cultural history that led to this “brighter prospect.” Central to the Preface is his revelation that the impetus for the story came from a tale heard long ago from a distinguished New York patriot (in reality, John Jay) who had recalled working with “an agent whose services differed but little from those of a common spy.” In assisting Jay to frustrate the movements of New York Tories, this man was invaluable. “He was poor, ignorant, so far as the usual instruction was concerned, but cool, shrewd, and fearless by nature.” 15 Like Birch, he refused payment for his services — at least, on the first offering in the history narrated by Cooper’s Preface.

Cooper’s telling this story grounded Spy in the history of the country, and of the patriotic struggle to achieve political independence. Cooper further fixed Spy as a cultural artifact in the subsequent history of achieving cultural independence through a sequence of fifteen footnotes appended to passages in the narrative. These notes, presumably added first for the British audience of the volume who would be unfamiliar with geographical and historical references, disclosed other points within the story where Cooper’s interpretation of historical evidence was crucial to how he wanted his readers to respond to Spy. For example, Cooper cited the involvement of his wife’s family on the Tory side, with a Colonel DeLancey serving as a leader of the Cow-boys or British guerillas. In the longest note, he recounted another possible source for the story, in addition to Jay’s tale, of a yeoman named Elisha H — who protected his identity as a double- spy for the Americans by a quick-witted response to the British general Sir Henry Clinton.

More important, on two occasions Cooper used the notes to contrast the patriotism motivating so many of the Americans with the self-interest motivating British protagonists. An elaborate footnote recounts the stern refusal of the yeoman who captured Andre to release him despite the rewards offered. 16 Another note, introduced when young Wharton seems in danger of being hanged by the Americans as a spy, reminded the reader that Nathan Hale was brutally treated by the British who dispatched him with no respite. These notes add to Cooper’s sense that Spy, though clearly fiction, both grew out of history and in turn was becoming part of the further history of Americans recalling — or better, actually creating — a national historical past. 17

The Putnam “Author’s Revised Edition” of 1849

Cooper’s final attempt at making Spy a “usable history” for American culture occurred in his preparation of the novel for the “Author’s Revised Edition,” a complete revised edition proposed by G. P. Putnam which Cooper did not live to finish. As with other Putnam editions, Cooper made only a few changes to the text of the novel. In contrast, the Putnam introduction, while clearly derived from that prepared for Bentley, recorded Cooper’s final estimation of what he believed he had wrought in the novel whose initial success, almost three decades before, had confirmed his movement to the profession of letters.

The Putnam Introduction drops the first two paragraphs of the Bentley source, which had moralized upon the virtues of patriotism — perhaps as a palliative to British audiences about to be offered a novel depicting American triumphs. The Putnam Introduction, after a prefatory paragraph, moves straight to the narration of the putative historical source in Cooper’s recollections of Governor Jay’s dealings with his agent. Thus Spy as an originary myth of American patriotism is the focal point at the beginning of the author’s final view of what he had accomplished in his first great novel.

Only in the last three paragraphs does the Putnam Introduction diverge significantly from the Bentley. In these paragraphs Cooper illuminated his perception of the direction of both his fiction and his country between 1831 and 1849. The final two paragraphs expand Cooper’s historical vision of the importance of Spy beyond literary history. At the end of the 1831 Preface Cooper had saluted a “brighter prospect ... beginning to dawn on the republic.” Eighteen years later the dawn has grown brilliant in Cooper’s eyes. In the last chapter of Spy written in 1821, Cooper described an American victory in the War of 1812 when on 25 July 1814 the young Winfield Scott commanded American forces in one of the few land victories of the second national conflict against England. Writing now in 1849, Cooper declared that

A great change has come over the country since this book was originally written. The nation is passing from the gristle to the bone, and the common mind is beginning to keep even pace with the growth of the body politic. The march from Vera Cruz to Mexico was made under the orders of that gallant soldier [Scott] who, a quarter of a century before, was mentioned with honor, in the last chapter of this very book. Glorious as was that march, and brilliant as were its results in a military point of view, a stride was then made by the nation, in a moral sense, that has hastened it by an age, in its progress toward real independence and high political influence. The guns that filled the valley of the Aztecs with their thunder, have been heard in echoes on the other side of the Atlantic, producing equally hope or apprehension. 18

The tone here is far removed from the halting deference to British taste evidenced in 1821; a quarter century has passed, and the other side of the Atlantic has experienced American guns as well as novelists. Cooper’s fictional depiction of Scott’s 1814 victory in New York appears a premonition of Scott’s real successes in Mexico three decades later. In writing these words Cooper seemed to regard the triumph of Spy as a contribution to this very “progress toward real independence and high political influence” which here he celebrates. By promoting cultural independence in the Spy, Cooper may have promoted the conditions that nurtured American westward expansion far beyond the Hudson which formed the border of the history Spy recounted from the 1780’s.

Cooper’s confidence in the achievement of Spy is shown further by a striking admission of his earlier doubts that the book could find an audience. The first of the three new paragraphs reveals publicly what hitherto Cooper had confided only in more limited autobiographical accounts — that Spy had been rushed to completion at the behest of a publisher growing nervous about its length and direction. “As the second volume was slowly printing, from manuscript that was barely dry when it went into the compositor’s hands, the publisher intimated that the work might grow to a length that would consume the profits. To set his mind at rest, the last chapter was actually written, printed and paged, several weeks before the chapters which precede it were even thought of.” 19 The extraordinary frankness of this admission can be appreciated only by recalling the timidity of Cooper’s first Preface of 1821, and the halting increase in confidence of the 1822 prefatory material.

But in 1849 Cooper can afford this admission, because by 1849 both Spy and American literature had a history — an evolution not anticipated by the neophyte author in 1821. The paragraph recording Cooper’s pressing Spy to a denouement begins by suggesting that “in the first quarter of the present century” an American author had so little hope of success that the casual approach to composition just described was not surprising. 21 By specifying the era, the “first quarter of the present century,” in which little hope of reward engendered corresponding slight planning and labor, Cooper marked a passage in American cultural history now fully traversed. For in 1849 Cooper wrote as an author of over fifty titles, historical, political, cultural, and fictional. Be had helped, in major ways, to create that very history upon which the late Spy Preface now rested.

Significantly, the final Preface for Spy Was undertaken to prepare his first triumph as the first volume in the first complete revised edition of his works undertaken in America. 21 This “authorized” edition — “authorized” both in the personal and public sense of an acknowledged monument to his labors — commemorated his contribution to establishing the cultural independence he had yearned for in the first Preface to Spy in 1821. Among other reasons for calling The Spy the first great American novel is thus its central importance in creating, for critics, readers, and authors, a sense of possible greatness achievable for American fiction.


1 Charles Wiley wrote to Cooper on 7 January 1822 that “’The Spy’ has succeeded over and beyond my own expectations.” See Henry W. Boynton, James Fenimore Cooper (NY: Century, 1931), p. 94, as cited in Alexander Cowie, The Rise of the American Novel (NY: American Book Co., 1948, 1951), p. 773.

2 For a review of scholarship on American book publishing in the early republic, see Cathy N. Davidson, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (NY: Oxford, 1986), especially chapter 2. Davidson estimates, p. 37, that “early American printers did publish some one hundred American novels before 1820,” despite the slim prospects of financial gain.

3 The Prefaces to Cooper’s novels would repay study for evidence of his evolving attitudes towards authorship and his fiction. The scholarly edition being printed by the SUNY Press, Albany, generally makes every Preface and Introduction for each title conveniently available.

4 The SUNY edition of The Spy, in preparation, identifies for the first time the extensive revisions Cooper made for these editions, and corrects errors in current bibliographies (such as the false statement in Robert E. Spiller and Philip C. Blackburn, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper [NY: R.R. Bowker, 1934], p. 21, that the second and third New York editions were printed from the same plates as the first.) Wiley’s type-setters followed the first edition closely for convenience, but a collation of the texts soon reveals numerous variants in the two later editions.      Tremaine McDowell, “James Fenimore Cooper as Self-Critic,” SP, 20 (July, 1930), pp. 508-16, examined carefully the differences between the first edition and the Bentley, but was unaware of the existence of the holograph revised text which Cooper had prepared far the London printers. Thus he could not state with certainty which variants were Cooper’s revisions and which were typesetters errors or changes.

5 James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy, second edition (NY: Wiley, 1822), “Preface to the Second Edition,” xi-xii.

6 The North American Review (15 [July 1822], 275-76) commented that “loose and inelegant expressions, and even sentences of ungrammatical construction, are more frequent than they could have been with the ordinary care of an ordinary writer.” The second edition independently corrected all the errors the Review cited. It also made the color of Captain Wharton’s hair consistently black, and caused Dr. Sitgreaves to establish a cigar comfortably in his mouth — not the cigar-box, as the first edition put it. An alleged error about the darkness of the night in which the Skinners fired Harvey’s house was a misreading by the reviewer, who confused the description at the end of Chapter 14 with that of the next night at the beginning of Chapter 15.      Throughout his career, Cooper resented this review as a typical example of New England condescension to New York writers. But, in fact, the reviewer, W. H. Gardiner, was generous overall in his evaluation of the novel, and in the final paragraph paid the author of Spy high praise for “having struck into a new path ... he has laid the foundations of American romance, and is really the first who has deserved the appellation of a distinguished American novel writer” (p. 281).

7 James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy, third edition (NY: Wiley, 1822), “Preface to the Third Edition,” v-x.

8 According to James Franklin Beard, James Aitchison was “an Englishman of some talent, learning, and cultivation, a welcome visitor of the Coopers.” In a letter of 4 July 1820 to Andrew Thompson Goodrich, Cooper recounted Aitchison’s favorable opinion of the manuscript, a view Cooper treasured for he counted “Mr. Aitchison, as good an English or classical scholar as the country affords.” See The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960), I, 47, hereafter cited as L&J.

9 The Spy, third edition, op. cit., vi.

10 According to Alexander Cowie, p. 123, Spy Sold 8000 copies in four months — very considerable sales for the early republic. (For a discussion of American print runs in the early nineteenth century, see Davidson, pp. 17-18, who cites nearly 40,000 copies of Rowson’s Charlotte Temple sold by the first decade of the century, and indicates that, “in contrast, by 1825 a press run of ten thousand copies for an American novel was not unheard of.”

11 James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy, first edition (NY: Wiley, 1821), vi-vii.

12 In his “Historical Introduction” for The Pioneers (Albany: SUNY Press, 1980), James Franklin Beard reviews the impact of the success of Spy on Cooper’s work on its immediate successor.

13 L&J, II, 63.

14 James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy (London: Colburn and Bentley, 1831), “Introduction,” xi.

15 Ibid., vii.

16 Life masks at the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown depict Paulding and his two colleagues — evidence of the veneration these patriots were once held in.

17 Cooper’s first audiences responded to Spy as if it were transcription of fact. In 1828, H. L. Barnum published The Spy Unmasked, or, Memoirs of Enoch Crosby, alias Harvey Birch, the hero of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy (NY: Harper). Throughout his career Cooper denied Barnum and Crosby’s claims (see, for example, his letters of 14 March 1831 to Colburn [L&J, II, 63] and of 2 August 1850 to Benson John Lossing [L&J, VI, 2121). James H. Pickering, who published a facsimile of Barnum’s book (Harrison, NY: Harbor Bill, 1975), argues Crosby’s life comes as close as any other known source to that depicted by Cooper. But in a note to the Bentley Standard Novels edition, Cooper himself suggested another real-life hero, Elisha H------, whose quickness emulated Harvey’s own. Other contestants for the original of Harvey Birch also appeared. A review in Niles’ Weekly Register (23, February 1823, 354) remarked on the petition of one David Gray to the Massachusetts legislature asking for compensation because he claimed “during the revolutionary war to act as a spy, and is the identical personage so celebrated in the popular novel of the ‘Spy,’ under the name of Harvey Birch.” Spy’s success as a celebration of American history is further evidenced by the widespread popularity of plays derived from Cooper’s narrative, and the rapid assumption of Birch and others into contemporary iconography. For a thorough review of both theatrical and visual representations of Spy, see Dorothy Waples, The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938), pp. 63-64, note 139.

18 James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy (NY: Putnam, 1849), “Introduction,” xi-xii. Cooper often commented on how quickly history seemed to move in the new country, in Notions of the Americans (1828) and again in the first paragraph of Deerslayer (1841).

19 Ibid., xi.

20 Ibid.

21 Beard stresses the importance of Putnam’s desire to enshrine Cooper in American literary history though issuing a complete “Author’s Revised Edition.” (See L&J, VI, 3-6.) Only Irving had been so treated previously; in 1849. Hawthorne and Melville were still a few years from their greatest achievements.