Cooper as Professional Author

William Charvat * (Ohio State University)

Published as New York History, Vol. 35, No. 4 (October, 1954), pp. 496-511. (Special Issue — James Fenimore Cooper: A Re-Appraisal).

Papers from the 1951 James Fenimore Cooper Conference, Cooperstown, New York.

Copyright © 1954, New York State Historical Association.

Placed online with the kind permission of the New York State Historical Association.

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

I BEGIN With the proposition that Cooper’s significance today lies not in his mastery of fictional art (which is at least questionable), or in the viability of even his best books (which do not crowd the lists of the reprint libraries), but rather in his personality and in his character as an American citizen. For this reason he belongs with those other Americans — Franklin, Mark Twain, Thoreau, perhaps even Scott Fitzgerald — whose art and whose intellect are of less significance than their representativeness as American personalities.

Such personalities become interesting — become illuminating — for American cultural history only as they develop through contact and conflict with the forces of our national life. I hope to contribute a little to our understanding of Cooper’s public character by telling something about his professional character, and by showing how that character developed through his experiences with his publishers and the booktrade.

Let me start with some generalizations about Cooper’s place in the history of professional authorship. In his thirty-one-year writing career, he averaged a novel a year, and turned out twenty other separate book publications and a still unknown quantity of periodical contribution. He was, therefore, the first American writer of imaginative literature to make a living from writing, continuously and successfully. By these terms, he, rather than Irving, was our first professional author. By the same terms, he was the only commercially successful writer of belles-lettres up to 1850. Irving and Hawthorne are excluded because of their years in government office and the long hiatuses in their productivity; Bryant and Poe because of their work as editors; Emerson because he was primarily a lecturer; and others for reasons similar to these. Contrary to general opinion, his popularity did not decline at the end of his career; it increased. Such works as The Wing-and-Wing and Wyandotté in the 1840’s sold twice as well as The Spy and The Pioneers in the early 1820’s. In the last three years of his life, three or more less complete editions of his novels were brought out by different publishers, and in the four years after his death one house is said to have sold 300,000 copies of his works. Yet, by the 1840’s he had become a tired hack, forced to grind out two novels a year for much smaller returns than he had received in the twenties for one novel a year — and this in spite of the fact that some of the novels of the last decade were as good as those of the first. The explanation of this paradox of continued popularity, continued skill, but increasing drudgery and penury lies partly in publishing history.

Let us go back to the author. A more complete extrovert has never been known in American letters. No temperamental artist could have produced as regularly and steadily as Cooper did. After The Spy, he suffered none of the tortures Irving endured in waiting for the “right mood.” Nor did he, like Hawthorne, have to lie fallow in summer. G. C. Verplanck may possibly have been right in 1824 when he said that Cooper was “not a regular literary artizan who can do his job within a year or work by the day at so many pages a morning,” but that was before Cooper could have been sure that writing was his proper business and his life-work. Before many years he was writing on schedule — by the clock. “I said to Scott,” he wrote a friend, “that I always invented twice as much as was committed to paper, in my walks, or in bed, and in my own judgment, much of the best parts of the composition never saw the light; for what was written was usually written at set hours, and was a good deal a matter of chance.” Note the implication: that he threw away many inspirations and inventions simply because they did not turn up at the right point in the course of composition.

The power of invention, apparently, never failed him, as it often failed Hawthorne. His tank was always full; he always had more novels in his head than he had time to write. He could promise two or three novels, in advance, on specific subjects. This fertility was sometimes a nuisance to his publishers. On one occasion he promised them one novel set in Italy and another on Lake Ontario. By the time he had finished the first, he was hot with inspiration for two other novels set in Europe, and the publishers had to wait eight years for the Ontario story, which was the only one of the lot they really wanted.

He was like his assassin, Mark Twain, in letting his books write themselves. He was never bothered or slowed up by problems of form or method. Sometimes, when he was well along in a book, he had no idea what his last chapter would contain. He was not alone among novelists in starting one end of the book through the press while the other was still unwritten, but few writers have had his naively objective curiosity about how his own plot was going to turn out. He had an unshakeable confidence, which he reiterated again and again to his publishers when they worried about the drag in the first two parts of his manuscript, that the last part would be full of torpedoes which would save the story. And here is an odd fact for the critic. Though Cooper wrote primarily for his American public, and though all his full-length novels were published in two volumes in America, he thought in terms of the traditional British three-volume structure, in which form his novels appeared in England. Thus he wrote his American publishers, Carey & Lea, who had printed his Red Rover in two volumes as usual, that the first and last volumes “are the best I have ever written.” Any analysis of the form of Cooper’s novels ought to take this fact into consideration. One suspects that the structural weakness of some of his books is similar to that of many three act plays: the dramatist writes inspired first and third acts but does not know quite what to do in the second. Sometimes Cooper’s second volume seems to exist simply to separate the first from the third.

Rewriting and revision of manuscript seem never to have caused him any pain — simply because he did not rewrite. It is perhaps unkind to say that he sent his first drafts to the printer and did his revising in later editions, but it sometimes happened. He depended heavily on publishers’ proof readers, and on that account he wrote Bentley airily, “I pay no attention to any of the spelling.” Of course he grew wary after some early disasters. Precaution was so full of blunders that Bryant was puzzled and repelled by it. A typical sentence read, “To this Sir Edward cordially assented, and the old gentle man separated.” This typographical homicide so infuriated Cooper that he threatened to sue the printer.

When he did do a thorough job of revision of an old novel he demanded handsome extra pay for it. He was quite willing to adjust the quality of the “purification” (as he called the work of revision) to the rate of pay. He told Bentley that he would revise his old novels five pounds worth or fifty pounds worth, as Bentley pleased. “This is an age,” he said in self-defense, “when good company [meaning Scott] makes an author shameless, and I believe it is very generally understood that the genius finishes to order.” “Recollect,” he wrote Bentley in the course of this bargaining, “it is harder work to read [these novels of mine] than it is to write them.” Three hundred pounds, he added, would hardly reward him for the “vexation of spirit caused by reading nine novels written by myself.”

Cooper’s stylistic slovenliness was recognized by some critics, and was attributed by his enemies to the over-rapid writing of a mercenary author. This, of course, was nonsense. But it is true that Cooper had no very high regard for the niceties of style; he was capable of saying, “I find the mere composition of a tale a source of pleasure.” The adjective mere is revealing, but it reflects no particular eccentricity in Cooper. Contemporary attitudes toward rhetoric, inherited probably from the eighteenth century, sanctioned what seems to us to be an unnecessary distinction between fine finish in prose and strength in prose, and assumed that much finishing reduced strength. These attitudes are suggested in a comforting letter written to Cooper by his friend, Charles Wilkes; “Certainly every man has a perfect right ... to exert his talents in the way he likes best. If he chooses to employ more of the labor time, to polish his works to the utmost, he may have the pleasure of thinking his fame will be more lasting, but even this advantage over more hasty productions is by no means certain, and strength is often sacrificed to polish. The one I fancy is generally an irksome task — the other often a delightful one — to embody fleeting visions which pass thro’ the mind.” This was poor advice to give to Cooper: early nineteenth century prose is full of unpolished visions which were fleeting in a sense the authors never intended. But in an age which preferred oratorical flux to concise and economical statement, Cooper’s style was the norm, and he properly concerned himself with broad rather than fine effects.

About the story quality of his novels, he had no doubts, no diffidences. The man whose second book was a best-seller went through no harrowing years of trial and error, as Hawthorne did. He burned no manuscripts in despair, and put by few if any for later rewriting. The novel he was writing was always his best, and he was all the more certain of this if his critics and publishers thought otherwise. The Bravo, he was sure, would be a hit. The Headsman would be better than The Bravo. When Carey told him that The Monikins was the worst failure of his career, he replied flatly, “It is my favorite book.” When he was writing Mercedes of Castile he thought it would become one of the “standard works of the language,” but it failed so badly that his publisher asked him for a refund. There was a touch of Colonel Sellerism in all this. He was capable of counting on receipts of $15,000 from a book which brought him one-third that amount, and five hundred dollars a year for life from another which breathed its last after three years on the market.

It was perhaps part of the secret of Cooper’s success that he was never haunted by any sense of inferiority to British novelists. He had good reason not to be. He had intended his tour de force, Precaution, to be mistaken for an English tale. “No book was ever written with less thought or more rapidity,” he slyly confessed, but though he had to remainder the American edition of a thousand copies to Harpers to get rid of it, in England it had twice the sale of The Spy, and by 1851 the British had bought five editions of it. “I take more pains with The Spy,” he said impudently, “as it is to be an American novel professedly.”

Though his self-respect as a writer was unmitigated, he exploited literature in a brisk and business-like fashion. In his correspondence with James Ogden, his agent in the cotton market, discussions of the saleability of his novels mingled naturally with shoptalk about other commodities. For an unwritten novel on the Great Lakes he demanded of his English publisher one hundred pounds extra because it was not only nautical but had “Indians intermingled.” A letter of 1826 to Colburn of London sets the keynote: “It is necessary to speak of these works as mere articles of trade.” The most famous of his contemporaries — Emerson and Melville — felt much the same way about their books.

These are a few of the high lights of Cooper’s professional personality, but to understand it fully we must stand as far away from it as possible and see it as a small shadow on the screen of economic and book-trade history. His thirty years of professional authorship (1821-1851) began when the business cycle was on the upswing, and ended when another era of prosperity was dawning. During those three decades there were only five years of really serious depression — the Panic of 1837 and the Debt Repudiation Depression of 1840-1843. When The Spy was published in 1821 the country had just emerged from a primary post-war depression, and the great age of river and canal traffic was under way. When The Ways of the Hour was published in 1850, the railroads had just crossed the Alleghenies and the era of national marketing had begun. Though Cooper died just as huge editions of his novels were about to be distributed in the now easily accessible trans-Allegheny region, he was historically lucky. He had reaped his biggest harvests in the two decades preceding the economic and book trade crisis of the early forties.

It was perhaps a coincidence that the Depression of 1840-1843 was contemporaneous with the worst period in the competition of British and American literature. Literary history sees the early forties as bright with promise and fulfillment, but let us look at these years from the American author’s point of view. Emerson’s Essays were on the market, but the author had to pay for their manufacture and they had a very small circulation. Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque were available because Carey & Lea could not get rid of the 750 copies they had printed. Hawthorne was wearily contriving one magazine story a month, stamped out by formula, because his collections would not sell. Irving had stopped producing temporarily and his works were almost all out of print. Thoreau inquired into literary opportunities in New York, and gave up. In a word, the commercial value of the works of these masters was close to zero. The cause was mainly — but not entirely — the competitive reprinting of British books.

Cooper was better off than most because he wrote the kind of thing that had some commercial value in any market, but consider what the competition did to him. In the 1820’s novels by Scott and Cooper sold for two dollars. In 1840 D’Israeli’s novels sold for seventy-five cents and Cooper’s for a dollar fifty. In 1843, one could buy a new novel by Dickens for ten cents and a new one by Cooper for fifty cents. A revised postal act of 1845 took the profit out of ten cent novels, competition finished off the “mammoth weeklies” which had been publishing them, and “courtesy of the trade” brought some order into the reprint business. By 1850 the retail price of American novels was back to about a dollar fifty in terms of the length of the old two-volume novel, but the conventional two- volume format itself, fortunately for the art of the novel, was on the way out. The one-volume Ways of the Hour sold for a dollar and a quarter in 1850, but Cooper’s time was almost up.

Nevertheless, he was lucky to have suffered only ten years of the competition. He was lucky in another way. During the first two decades his profits on early sales of his novels was sometimes as high as forty-five percent of the retail price — a profit never equalled by any other American author from that day to the present. The explanation of this high return is complicated, but the answer lies partly (and paradoxically enough) in the immature state of the publishing business in the 1820’s and partly in the fact that Carey & Lea carried Cooper as a kind of loss-leader. But his rate of profit slipped in the 1830’s, and in the 1840’s he had to be content with a mere twenty percent. Put the decline of retail prices and of royalty rates together and the result is this: In 1826 The Last of the Mohicans sold for two dollars, sales were 5,750, Cooper’s profit was forty-three percent, and his total take was $5,000. Sixteen years later, in 1842, the newly published The Wing-and-Wing sold for fifty cents, sales were 12,500, the royalty was twenty percent, and his profit was $1,187.50. Thus, though the sales of the later book were more than twice that of the earlier, his returns were less than one fourth. If these facts explain why Cooper had to over-produce in the forties, they also suggest a reason for his return to the adventure story after a decade of slow- selling propagandistic prose.

Booktrade forces affect an author’s pocketbook, and they often affect the quantity and quality of his production. But between these forces and the author stands the individual publisher, who can, if he is as competent in his line as the writer is in his, serve as a buffer between the brute economic pressures of trade and the writer’s desire to create according to his inner drives. If there had been no Charles Wiley in New York in 1821, no Carey & Lea in Philadelphia in 1826, and no John Miller or Richard Bentley in London, Cooper’s career and fortunes would have been different — economics or no economics. It could not have been mere luck that he gravitated toward the best literary publishers of his day. The best are always those who have a genuine interest in writers and writing, take pride in getting good names on their lists, and joy in making attractive books. Cooper might have worked with the Harpers in New York, but he sensed that in those days the powerful brothers were mere merchandisers. He might have worked with the great John Murray of London, and did for a while, but he found Murray cold, supercilious, and unapproachable.

The fact is that the hard-boiled Cooper needed appreciation, comfort, and encouragement from his publishers. He required of them also an integrity, candor, and loyalty equal to his own. Two of them, Wiley and Miller, he stayed with even after he knew they were bankrupt, and he helped to finance them. The two stronger ones, Carey & Lea and Bentley, he stayed with for seventeen years — a record equalled by no other American writer of his day. The connection was not an easy one for either of these publishers. Cooper was bad tempered, imperious, often unreasonable, dilatory about meeting crucial deadlines, and almost completely unwilling to accept advice. As trade and copyright conditions backed the publishers against the wall, he fought their reductions of payments to him dollar by dollar.

There is no place here for an account of either Miller or Bentley, or of the immense differences between the British and American booktrades. It is worth pointing out, however, that his English receipts, though large, were much smaller than his American ones; and that in spite of the fact that America exasperated him, he wrote for his American public rather than his English one. “With me,” he said, “it is a point of honor to continue rigidly an American author.” And when Bentley on one occasion annoyed him, he wrote him bluntly, “You know I consider all editions but the American as reprints, and if you cut capers with the book I [shall] wash my hands of it.”

On the American Side, Charles Wiley was one of the major personalities of the publishing world. His contribution to the first American literary renaissance — or rather, nascence — was great, for he was one of the very few publishers of the time who had any faith in native literature. He and the printer, C. S. VanWinkle, with whom he was closely connected, saw through the press during the years 1819-1821 most of the works that constituted that early flowering. Irving’s Sketch-Book, Halleck’s poem, Fanny, Cooper’s The Spy, and Dana’s Idle Man were on their lists. Indeed, of the major titles, only Bryant’s 1821 Poems was out of their hands, and Wiley assisted in the distribution of that too. This flowering, though less lush than that of 1850-1855, is of great historical importance, for it brought about the transition from the gentleman-amateur-author phase of American letters to the professional and commercial phase. It was the unexpected but well-publicized commercial success of The Sketch-Book and The Spy that drew scores of hopeful writers into the market and led to the establishment of the literary profession in the United States.

But if Irving and Cooper began as amateur writers, VanWinkle and Wiley were also amateur publishers. They had poor facilities for distribution, and for lack of capital they had to serve as agents rather than as genuine publishers for Irving and Cooper, who financed their own works. In fact, the position of the two pairs of men represents an odd reversal of what we think of as the norm, for the authors in this case supplied the capital, and took the risks and the profits, and the so- called publishers received a commission equivalent to an author’s royalty.

Wiley’s great distinction lay in his being (except perhaps for Mathew Carey) the first of America’s “author’s publishers” — that is, the kind of publisher who takes a deep personal interest in writers and in the contents of their books. Long before the reign of G. P. Putnam in New York and James T. Fields in Boston, this prototype of Maxwell Perkins rejoiced in the society of writers, encouraged them, and entertained them in the back room of his store in Reade Street which Cooper christened “the Den.” But, though he put his imprint on five of Cooper’s novels, he was financially so unstable that when he died in 1826 the novelist got back a number of his unpaid promissory notes to remember him by. But Cooper’s loyalty to him never wavered, and in after years he thought of him as “Poor Wiley, whom I loved, credulous and weak as he was in some respects, though at bottom an excellent fellow, and of great good sense — nay, even of talent.”

After Wiley’s death Cooper felt free to go to the firm of Carey & Lea of Philadelphia, which had been beckoning to him for several years. Mathew Carey, who founded the firm in 1785, was, with Isaiah Thomas, one of the two great bookmen of the late eighteenth century — not merely a bookseller but a distinguished editor and author in his own right. In 1817 he took into the firm his son Henry C. Carey, who was to become a noted economist; it was with this Carey that Cooper carried on most of his correspondence.

During the twenties and thirties Carey’s was easily the second (for years it was the first) most powerful general publishing firm in America. Older by thirty-two years than its leading rival, the Harpers of New York, it had developed the Southern Atlantic, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Valley market so extensively by the time of Cooper’s arrival in 1826 that in terms of geographical coverage its distributive facilities were unmatched. It was probably not only business experience, astuteness, capital, and salesmen like Parson Weems that kept the company going in an era when publishing firms were short-lived, but also a strong family bond of the kind that cemented the house of Harper for three- quarters of a century.

Until about 1844 the Careys and their partners were easily the most distinguished literary publishers in the United States, and their influence on the course of literary history is incalculable. Even in the eighteenth century Mathew Carey had made a name in literary circles by editing and publishing the first successful literary magazine, the American Museum, whose contributors included the best writers of the nineties; and he had edited and published some of the best early anthologies of American verse. But poetry was not his forte, and it was probably true, as Poe remarked bitterly in 1829, that the Careys had always declined to publish the work of American poets at their own risk. In drama they were not specialists like Longworth of New York, but between 1807 and 1819 they brought out at least seven plays by American dramatists, including four volumes of a projected set of Dunlap’s works.

Their great strength was in native fiction. By 1850 they had published 237 works of fiction by American authors, their closest rival being the Harpers with 188. Inasmuch as their list included the complete works of Irving, Cooper, and Kennedy, and some of the work of Mrs. Rowson, John Neal, Simms, Sedgwick, and Bird, to say nothing of short stories by Poe, their house may be said to have been the center of fiction production in the twenties and thirties. Add to this record their ownership of one of the leading critical journals of the twenties — the American Quarterly Review — (jealous New Yorkers said that the Careys now had a critical organ like John Murray, with an editor hired to puff their own publications), and their pioneer editing of one of the earliest and certainly the greatest literary annual — the Atlantic Souvenir, and one does not wonder that in their heyday they were courted by most American authors. The rumor that in 1836 they paid $30,000 to native writers was probably no exaggeration.

When one looks at their fiction record closely, however, an historical truth emerges. Before 1820 they published only two American novels; in the next decade, thirty-four (almost triple the output of their closest competitor); in the next decade, 142 — which was tops in the trade. Their sudden expansion into large scale American literary publishing after 1820 was due mainly to one fact: their early recognition of the commercial value of the work of Scott, Byron, and their contemporaries, and their speed, skill, and resourcefulness in exploiting that work in America. They recognized the gold mine as early as 1817 (the year of the founding of Harpers, who were to be their successors in the field), and by 1822 they had put John Miller on salary to buy early copies of Scott’s novels. By 1832 they had published at least eleven first American editions of Scott, and for a while they led the American trade in printing Dickens. In 1825 the Harpers guaranteed a Boston correspondent that they could win out in the competition for a new British work against any firm in the country except the Careys.

But though the Philadelphians were pioneers in a trade which was to become almost lethal to native authorship, and though they declined to deal in unprofitable native poetry, their standards were not exclusively commercial. In the twenties they were attracting and seeking Americans whose names would add prestige to the firm’s list, and like all good publishers (but like few publishers of their time) they experienced professional pleasure in linking their name with that of a distinguished author on a title page. They were sure of Cooper’s distinction when they read The Spy, but, adhering to the ethics of their trade, they had kept their hands off Wiley’s author. During their bargaining for The Last of the Mohicans, they wrote Cooper, “when an author makes an arrangement with us, he is never disposed to leave us. We have had within six months, applications from seven authors, all of reputation, who are disgusted with their publishers.”

This statement represents the dawn of the modern author publisher relationship in America — a relation based on the conviction that there is no monetary or legal substitute for mutual confidence. For seventeen years the Careys patiently demonstrated to Cooper that they were doing everything a publisher could possibly do for an author, that they valued their association with him, but that they must be guided not only by his interests but their own, and by intelligent trade practice. Their surviving letters to him are models of candor, tact, sympathy, firmness, and humorous indulgence.

They needed all of these qualities, for Cooper was something of a spoiled child. Accustomed during his years with Wiley to taking the lion’s share of the profit of his books, and to being his own judge of their saleability, he insisted on extraordinary prerogatives in his dealings with the Careys. His novels had to be accepted, sight unseen, on the basis of a bare description of theme and scene, and he had to be guaranteed a flat sum for the right to publish the unseen book for a stated period. Sometimes, when a hook failed, they got a rebate from him or a reduction on the price of the next book, but always the entire risk was theirs.

By the end of the twenties the pattern of profit and loss on Cooper’s books had become clear to them, and they revealed it to him. Paying him $5,000 per book, they lost money if the first year’s sales were less than five thousand, broke even if they were 5,500 and made a reasonable profit if they reached six thousand. After the first year each book joined the Cooper sets, which were printed from the original plates and sold at trade sales at reduced rates. Up to 1829, they told him, only The Red Rover, which sold 6,500 copies, had shown them a clear profit. They considered that sale as “fixing the utmost limits to which the sale of a popular book can be pushed. It required great popularity to sell so many, and we cannot always calculate upon such a number.” Unfortunately, no records of the size of the later and cheaper reprintings survive; we have thus lost a valuable index to the growth of Cooper’s reading public.

The firm professed no great faith in the longevity of his books. When they took a new novel they bought the right to reprint it for from two to four years. Old copyrights they bought for periods of up to fourteen years for only $500 apiece. Apparently the reprints sold poorly, for they wrote him in 1829, “The sale of books in this country is only for a few days or weeks, and then they pass away, almost as if they had never been.” This conviction may have been a reflection of the old religious prejudice against fiction, long considered ephemeral diversion rather than a branch of “polite” literature. The fact that they let Cooper’s copyrights get out of their hands suggests that they did not suspect that his novels would become classics.

The rest of the Carey-Cooper story, covering as it does Cooper’s political decade (the thirties), and the cheap-book war, is one long diminuendo. The Careys published his travel books reluctantly, steadily reduced their payments for propaganda novels, and in 1843 ceased to be his publishers.

Looking back over the years of the Carey-Cooper connection, one sees Cooper’s professional interests coming into conflict with what might be called, in one sense, his intellectual integrity, and in another, a wrong-headed obsession. For ten years, from 1830 to 1839, Cooper wrote no book that was not political, propagandistic, or controversial. Nothing that he wrote in that decade ranked, or ranks, with the general public as a Cooper classic. Yet it was the period when he revealed himself as a vigorous and interesting intellect. To his publishers it was a fascinating but painful spectacle.

The Careys had been fairly shrewd interpreters of the public taste for Cooper’s novels. They knew in advance when a sea or frontier story would be a hit, and they predicted rightly that the heavily propagandized stories would not be popular. Yet they were not infallible in their judgment of the public. They had a low opinion of the saleability of Notions of the Americans, and correctly estimated that the first sales would be about 2,500; but they published seven more editions before they were through with it. One understands their persistence in trying to hold him to his tried-and-true themes, but one regrets that Carey and Bentley both firmly vetoed his plan to write a tale “in which ships would be the only actors.” In 1841 he actually began the story with “all ships and no men. It is an experiment certainly, but so was the Pilot.” Like most publishers, they liked only those experiments which succeeded. Cooper himself had taken the risk on all his early and successful experiments.

Looking back over the record, one sees Cooper In his pre-authorial days playing at avocations — seamanship and farming — as if no deep necessity lay behind any of them. Writing Precaution was also avocational, but the experience gave him an itch that kept him scratching the rest of his life. Almost over night the gentleman- amateur became a professional, defying the myth, inherited from the Renaissance but then current in America, that the gentleman may write, but not for money. But the code of gentleman determined the character of the professional writer. That code required that he be completely independent, that he be beholden to nobody. Cooper’s life-long attitude was not that he wanted to sell something, but that he had something that publishers wanted to buy, and that the public might buy it from the publishers if they chose. Accordingly, he considered criticism of his books an impertinence; never let himself get into a position where a publisher could reject his manuscript after reading it or pay him according to actual sales; and declared that a writer is not indebted to the public which buys his books. Thus, even within the system of democratic patronage of literature, Cooper refused to be patronized. His readers seemed not to care. Confounding critics and publishers alike, they made his best novels into classics simply by continuing to buy them.

* William Charvat, Professor of English at Ohio State University, is writing a history of professional authorship in America. This paper is based, for the most part, on unpublished Cooper correspondence at Yale University, records and correspondence of the Carey firm, now deposited in the Pennsylvania Historical Society, and the correspondence of Richard Bentley, in the British Museum and elsewhere.