Periodical Publication: Cooper and Graham’s Magazine
Chapter 4 of James Fenimore Cooper, Professional Authorship, and the American Literary Marketplace, 1838-1851 (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2005), available in full at the Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange (TRACE).
Copyright © 2005 by Steven P. Harthorn. Republished with permission of the author and the James Fenimore Cooper Society.
[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]
American Naval Biographies (“Sketches of Naval Men”). Graham’s Magazine 21-26 (1842-45):
- “Richard Somers,” October 1842.
- “William Bainbridge,” November 1842.
- “Richard Dale,” December 1842.
- “Oliver Hazard Perry,” May and June, 1843.
- “John Paul Jones,” July and August 1843.
- “John Shaw,” March 1844.
- “John Barry,” June 1844.
- “John Templer Shubrick,” December 1844.
- “Melancthon Taylor Woolsey,” January 1845.
- “Edward Preble,” May and June 1845.
Published in book form, revised, as Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers. By J. Fenimore Cooper. Author of The Spy, The Pilot, etc. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1846. Also 2 vols. Auburn: Derby & Jackson, 1846.
Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief. Graham’s Magazine 22 (January-April 1843).
Also published in its entirety as an extra number of Brother Jonathan, 22 March 1843, as Le Mouchoir: An Autobiographical Romance.
The Islets of the Gulf; or, Rose Budd.Graham’s Magazine 29-32 (November 1846-March 1848)
Published in book form on 21 March 1848 as Jack Tier; or the Florida Reef. By the author of “The Pilot,” “Red Rover,” “Two Admirals,” “Wing-and-Wing,” “Miles Wallingford,” etc. 2 vols. New York: Burgess, Stringer & Co., 1848.
James Fenimore Cooper is usually known as a novelist, sometimes as a historian, but seldom as a writer of magazine pieces. Despite a number of biographies and critical studies of Cooper over the years, none has adequately assessed his contribution to periodical literature. Cooper’s most significant contributions appeared in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine during a six-year period between 1842 and 1848. Surprisingly, little has been written about this publishing relationship, often leading to confusion of titles and dates when discussing the works involved. This chapter will provide a brief history of Cooper’s involvement with Graham’s Magazine, with several goals in mind. Chief among them is to pin down specific dates and documents relevant to the composition and publication of the works Cooper published in Graham’s, so as to lay a foundation for future studies. Other goals are to discover the character of Cooper’s contributions to Graham’s and to explore how this writing related to his primary career as novelist. After a general discussion of why and how Cooper became involved with Graham’s, specific consideration of the significance of the individual works will follow.
In the “Editor’s Table” column of its August 1842 issue, Graham’s Magazine announced the addition of James Fenimore Cooper to its already prestigious list of authors:
To Readers and Correspondents. — It affords us great pleasure to state that the publisher of this magazine has entered into engagements with James Fenimore Cooper, the most popular of our country’s authors, by which we shall be enabled to present, in every number, after that for September, an article from his pen. Mr. Cooper has never before been connected with any periodical. His works are so familiar to every reader in the old or the new world, that it is unnecessary to speak at length of the increase in interest and value our magazine will derive from his contributions.
Thus commenced a publishing relationship that was to last nearly six years with little interruption, remaining steady and amiable even as Cooper shifted his primary book publishing alliances. During these six years, Cooper would publish three works in Graham’s, each of decidedly different character: a series of biographical sketches of naval officers prominent in America’s short naval history (later expanded and published in book form by Carey and Hart as Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers in 1846); Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, a serialized novella of social observation narrated in the first “person” — if a piece of cloth can be labeled as such — by an embroidered linen handkerchief; and a sea story, The Islets of the Gulf; or, Rose Budd, which eventually grew to the length of a typical Cooper novel and was published in book form as Jack Tier. ¹
That Cooper’s connection with Graham’s has been largely forgotten — perhaps mentioned in passing but scarcely discussed in much depth — suggests the status “magazine writing” has held with critics then and now. Rarely have biographers and critics devoted more than a page to either the naval sketches or the Autobiography, leaving Jack Tier (essentially a “regular” Cooper novel) as the only one to receive any significant press — and that usually without much consideration of its origins in Graham’s. Even that work suffers in comparison to almost every other Cooper sea novel, enduring criticisms that many of its plot devices are rehashed from The Red Rover or The Water-Witch (revealing a strangely resilient nineteenth-century emphasis on the “incidents” of novels). Certainly, too, the non-fiction nature of the naval sketches renders them less appealing to literary scholars, and following on the heels of the History of the Navy as they do, with subject matter less ambitious and less groundbreaking, they command far less attention than even that neglected historical masterpiece. In terms of reprinting, too, these works have been largely forgotten: only Jack Tier has seen some reprinting, and even it has been out of print since the first quarter of the twentieth century. The “nonstandard” character of the other two works — nonfiction sketches and a novelette — has excluded them from the collected editions of Cooper’s novels. The exclusion of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief from these editions, despite the inclusion of other short works such as Precaution and sometimes Ned Myers, is especially puzzling, and lends support to the conclusion that throughout the last century and a half the status of this work as a “magazine piece” renders its lasting literary value lower than any of Cooper’s typical works of fiction. ² At any rate, it seems sufficiently obvious that these writings for Graham’s, produced during a decade of Cooper’s career already labeled as one of artistic decline and frantic production bordering on hackwork, seem to epitomize the lengths to which Cooper would go to keep his pot boiling in the mid-1840s.
Such conclusions would not be entirely wrong, but to take them at face value is to overlook a successful experimental phase in Cooper’s writing career, underestimate Cooper’s continuing literary celebrity, and misunderstand Cooper’s changing view of his profession as author during the 1840s. It is true, perhaps, that in more prosperous times earlier in his career Cooper would likely have considered magazine engagements of the sort he entered into with Graham’s as beneath the dignity of a prominent novelist. Throughout his career Cooper was pestered with requests to submit articles to various periodicals and gift annuals, much as he was approached with propositions to “work up” readers’ and acquaintances’ ideas, locales, and memoirs into proper literary works. He invariably turned down these entreaties, usually politely, preferring to maintain his own independence. But that is not to say that Cooper had avoided periodicals entirely before contracting with Graham’s.
Graham’s claim that Cooper had “never before been connected with any periodical” was true in the main, in that Cooper had never contracted to furnish original fiction or history in a periodical on a regular basis for pay, ³ but the venture with Graham’s was not Cooper’s first experience with periodicals. In fact, Cooper’s involvement with periodicals extends almost to the beginning of his career as a writer and continued intermittently throughout it. In 1820-1822, while still in doubt as to whether his first experiments with authorship would succeed, Cooper bolstered his new self-image as a literary man by contributing lengthy anonymous book reviews to The Literary and Scientific Repository, on topics that included naval history, trade, and polar exploration (themes which would reappear in his own works). ⁴ In 1827, 1831, and 1832, while in Europe, he submitted socially-oriented pieces to European periodicals: a brief article on “Slavery in the United States” in the Revue Encyclopedique, a review of F. de Roos’s Personal Narrative of Travels in the United States and Canada in 1826 in Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, and a brief allegorical satire in French, “Point de Bateaux a Vapeur,” in Le Livre des Cent-et-Un, respectively. ⁵ Back in the United States after 1833, Cooper contributed two pieces to the new Naval Magazine: “Comparative Resources of the American Navy” and “Hints on Manning the Navy.” ⁶ In 1838 he submitted his controversial review of J.G. Lockhart’s Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott to Knickerbocker Magazine, and in 1842 he responded to the Edinburgh Review’s attack on his Naval History with a lengthy two-part rebuttal in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review. ⁷ Also in 1842 the new paper Brother Jonathan printed a “Lost Chapter” of Home as Found, which was really no lost chapter at all but a satirical, talky “debate” between characters of the novel on social topics. ⁸ After 1842, his relationship with Graham’s was indeed exclusive, and he submitted no pieces to other American periodicals during his lifetime (only sending his Graham’s material to Richard Bentley for publication in his Miscellany). So Cooper’s connections with periodicals — not to mention his numerous letters to the New York Evening Post and other newspapers — was a longstanding “extracurricular” activity for him. Looking over this assortment of articles, one can observe that Cooper’s contributions to periodicals often occurred at crucial periods in his career: when establishing himself as an author or launching new phases of authorship, or building his credibility as an expert on nautical or social affairs. Periodicals, then, were instrumental in trying out and establishing Cooper’s public persona before the nation. His articles defined his thought more specifically than his fiction, and placed him before the public as more than an artist. Unlike his contributions to newspapers, wherein he was often inclined to express his opinions and chronicle his battles with the Whig press with bold self-assertion, most of Cooper’s magazine articles reveal a more detached, distant perspective proper to undertakings of a more literary, less personal nature. For much of his career, periodicals were a direct outlet to the public, more spontaneous than pamphlets and more dignified than newspaper submissions, and better suited to topical remarks (such as his comments about Scott) which would not likely command a pamphlet or be saleable as independent works.
In this light one can see how Cooper’s venture with Graham was a departure — though not wholly so — from his previous experience with publication in periodicals. Yet why embark upon his venture when he did, and why with Graham? Existing documentary evidence on the commencement of Cooper’s relationship with Graham’s Magazine is sketchy, but it would seem that the connection was partly the product of fortuitous circumstances, converging when Cooper was casting about for new ways to make his literary endeavors more profitable and George Graham was seeking to attract America’s most popular and respected authors to his increasingly popular magazine.
George Rex Graham (1813-1894) of Philadelphia rose from humble beginnings to become the most prominent periodical publisher of the 1840s. Taught the trade of a cabinetmaker in his youth, Graham managed to study law and become admitted to the bar before turning his interests to the literary world. In addition to his strong ambition, Graham possessed a good eye for marketable talent, and understood better than anybody else in the periodicals business that paying generously for good work and famous names would produce generous returns.
Graham founded his famous Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine by combining two Philadelphia magazines, Aitkison’s The Casket and Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. Graham had purchased The Casket, a popular but unassuming monthly owned by the founders of the Saturday Evening Post, in May 1839, when he was twenty-six years old. By 1840 he had changed its format to resemble the larger Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, and in November 1840 bought Burton’s and merged it with The Casket to form the new Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine (The Casket and Gentleman’s United). ⁹ The rise of Graham’s popularity was astronomical: in the space of the first year, subscriptions shot up from an estimated 5500-8000 (depending on whose estimate) to a claimed 25,000. By March 1842 Graham was advertising 40,000. ¹⁰
The formula of his success was nothing revolutionary in terms of content. Like Godey’s Lady’s Book (Graham’s chief competitor) and other other monthlies of its type, Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine had the usual assortment of poems, tales, biographical or historical essays, book reviews, gossipy editor’s column, music, and illustrations, including art and fashion plates. Compared to Godey’s, Graham’s sought an audience more balanced between men and women, catering to male as well as female moral sensibilities, securing more male authors as contributors, and including masculine features such as sporting sketches on hunting or fishing. This masculine content was used to good effect in keeping William Cullen Bryant away from Godey’s and secure with Graham’s exclusively when Godey’s strategy of “giving one number each year for men, and eleven numbers for milliners” was pointed out to him. ¹¹ But what really stood out in Graham’s case was the quality of the magazine’s features. By “quality” it should not be assumed that the content was always of the finest literary character: the stories were often on the sentimental or sensational sides, the poetry occasionally overwrought. As Joy Bayless noted with a fair degree of accuracy, “Philosophical discussions, controversial matter, and other subjects requiring too much mental effort on the part of the reader were not admitted.” ¹² But Graham avoided excesses in trashiness and sentimentality, and kept his standards consistently good by securing famous names and admired talent, almost all American at that. Unlike operators of other periodicals who reprinted (i.e., pirated) all the British material they wanted free of charge, due to lack of international copyright, Graham believed that audiences would pay to read a periodical filled entirely with works of native authors. He also calculated that by paying authors well, he could attract the most prestigious roster of authors and artists in America to his magazine, giving him a distinct edge in advertising. Thus by December 1842 the magazine could boast of a “corps of contributors” that included:
William C. Bryant and Richard H. Dana [Sr.], the first American poets, and the equals of any now living in the world; James Fenimore Cooper, the greatest of living novelists; Charles F. Hoffman, one of the most admired poets and prose writers of our country; Elizabeth B. Barrett, the truest female poet who has written in the English language; J.H. Mancur, the author of “Henri Quatre;” George H. Colton, the author of “Tecumseh;” H.T. Tuckerman, the author of “Isabelle, or Sicily,” etc.; the author of “A New Home” and “Forest Life,” who under the name of “Mary Clavers [Caroline Kirkland],” has won a reputation second to that of none of the writers of her sex in America; Mrs. E.F. Ellet, the well known author of “The Characters of Schiller,” etc.; Mrs. Seba [i.e., Elizabeth Oakes] Smith, whose elegant and truthful compositions are as universally admired as they are read, and several others, whom we have not now space to mention. All these, with our favorite old writers, Professor Longfellow, George HIll, Edgar A. Poe, Mrs. Embury, Mrs. Stephens, and others, we shall retain for our succeeding volumes. ¹³
Likewise he could name James Kirke Paulding, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Russell Lowell, Mrs. Lydia Sigourney, Willis Gaylord Clark, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Henry William Herbert (“Frank Forester”), and Joseph C. Neal among his list of authors. Graham took pains to remind his readers of the prestigious company they enjoyed, bragging in the pages of the issue for July 1844 that “The contributions of Henry W. Longfellow, W.C. Bryant, J.K. Paulding, James Fenimore Cooper, and of a host more of the best American writers, may now be found, almost all of them, in ‘Graham’ exclusively.” ¹⁴
Graham also made sure that the magazine was attractive visually, unlike the homely Casket that had preceded Graham’s. The pages were printed well with good, legible type. For the illustrations, he contracted for original steel and copper engravings for each number, defying the usual habits of relying on woodcuts or engravings first run elsewhere. Prominent artisans such as John Sartain (who later started his own Union Magazine of Literature and Art), A.L. Dick, and W.E. Tucker contributed their work; as Frank Mott notes, Sartain modestly attributed the magazine’s success to the pictures. ¹⁵
Glancing at rates of payment to contributors before and after Graham emerged on the scene makes it obvious why men and women of talent sought out engagements in Graham’s Magazine. One to two dollars a page for prose (double for poetry), of print small or smaller, was the approximate norm before Graham — with payment not always reliably timely. Many submissions received no pay whatever. An exceptional publication like The Knickerbocker might pay up to five dollars a page for some articles, but nothing for others. ¹⁶ Graham’s rates were not standardized, but started around four dollars a page (approximately 1000 words) and went up to ten or twelve for more famous writers. Hawthorne made five dollars a page in 1842, and Poe, never in Graham’s highest esteem, made four or five, which was still slightly better than the three dollars per page he was paid at Burton’s. ¹⁷ Catharine Maria Sedgwick was retained at the rate of ten dollars a page (matching the rate she was paid at Godey’s, with less exertion required on her part). ¹⁸ For poems Graham paid anywhere from around ten to fifty dollars each; Lowell went from ten to thirty dollars a poem between 1842 and 1845, and Longfellow from twenty-five to fifty; for Longfellow’s “The Spanish Student,” Graham paid $150.00. ¹⁹ Bryant was offered fifty dollars a poem or six hundred dollars a year for a poem a month. ²⁰ This was, as Mott notes, “almost a ‘living wage’ indeed.” ²¹ What is perhaps most amazing about Graham’s generous program is how successfully it improved Graham’s bottom line: in the first year of Graham’s he cleared an estimated $15,000 profit. ²² His wealth complemented his genial personality, making him a splendid entertainer and a great favorite among authors.
As Graham’s scheme proved practical, competitors such as Godey’s began increasing the amounts they paid to authors, and it began to be something of a contest among periodicals to boast of the sums paid to American authors — though the amounts they claimed to pay and the amounts they actually paid were sometimes quite different. High circulation was paramount to the continued health of magazines offering good pay to authors; Sartain’s Union Magazine, for instance, folded under the weight of the payments, despite paying about two-thirds the rate Graham was paying. ²³ As a rule, though, low pay remained the norm for most contributors to periodicals, making Graham’s stand out all the more for its liberality.
Such financial generosity was undoubtedly one of the key enticements for James Fenimore Cooper to join the top ranks of contributors to Graham’s. The chief problem he faced in his writing enterprises was diminishing financial return for his effort. In 1842, when Cooper first signed on with Graham’s, the market for books was in particularly bad shape, prompting him to comment to his wife, “The times are dull to a degree almost unknown, and literary property suffers with all other.” ²⁴ A sagging economy and (even more lamentable to booksellers) a boom in demand and competition for cheap literature had dropped the bottom out of the book market. Cooper’s publishers Lea & Blanchard, in common with most other booksellers, complained on 18 May 1842 that “In the wretched & uncertain state of business there is really no inducement to enter into new engagements just now of any kind…indeed no period has ever been like it since we have been in business.” ²⁵ In such an environment Cooper was eager to try out new strategies to meet the new demands for cheap literature and keep his writing career financially viable. Hoping to at least eke out a profit through a high volume of sales, in keeping with the high demand for cheap literature, Cooper tried an “experiment” in his negotiations to induce Lea & Blanchard to publish The Wing-and-Wing (the novel over which they were balking in the letter quoted above) in higher numbers at a cheap rate. From $2000 for an edition of 5000 books for The Two Admirals, published earlier in the year, his contract for The Wing-and-Wing fell to $1000 for an edition of 10,000, with Cooper supplying the stereotype plates (at a cost of about $450) and receiving bonuses if additional numbers were printed. ²⁶ With such low returns on a novel that could be expected to sell reasonably well, Cooper hardly could have anticipated much from publication of non-fiction naval biographies. For Cooper, then, the prospect of receiving ten dollars a page for material on which booksellers might not cheerfully take a risk would have had great appeal. Ten dollars a page (twice what Nathaniel Hawthorne was paid, but no more than Catharine Sedgwick received), though not as lucrative as his most successful bargains with publishers, was a decent return for his effort — another “experiment” that would prove beneficial to him. No doubt if he had driven harder bargains with Graham, he could have negotiated for more money, but Cooper had his eye on other means of making his writing for Graham pay.
Cooper was shrewd enough to foresee that if he negotiated his terms of copyright advantageously with Graham he would be able to make money twice, or even thrice, on his productions for the magazine. By stipulating in his contract that he was free to sell the work to whomever he pleased after its final number appeared in Graham’s, Cooper could resell the work in book form to his publishers (assuming correctly that the market would improve from its bottomed-out state of mid-1842). Although the resulting work would not have the attraction of a new work, and would likely not command as great a price or as large a sale, Cooper would stand to make good money off the resulting double sales: $1500, it turns out, from his naval sketches ($1000 from Graham’s, $500 from Carey & Hart for Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers), and two to three times that for Islets of the Gulf, thanks in part to his still-respectable £350 (about $1650-1700 in 1846 dollars) from his British publisher Richard Bentley. Cooper was careful to specify that he could publish his pieces simultaneously overseas (he had Bentley’s Miscellany in mind), provided that they did not appear in advance of their issuance in Graham’s. This arrangement never did work out substantially to his advantage. Although Cooper offered all three of his magazine pieces to Bentley, he only succeeded in striking a deal for The Islets of the Gulf, arrangements for the other two works being frustrated by logistical problems and other complications, as shall be seen.
As much as economics undoubtedly influenced Cooper to start writing for Graham’s Magazine, other significant intangible factors should not be underestimated. Certainly Graham’s personality, and especially that of his editor at the time, Rufus W. Griswold, proved influential in securing Cooper’s confidence. Cooper placed a great deal of value on trustworthiness in his friendships and business relationships, and likewise appreciated the appearance of candor in his associates. With the departure of his friend Henry Carey from his publishing firm Carey, Lea, & Blanchard in 1838, Cooper’s rapport with the remaining partners Lea & Blanchard declined along with his fortunes. His relations with the smaller, less competent Burgess, Stringer & Co. were much more cheerful, despite that firm’s frequent cash flow problems and less aggressive marketing. From all indications, his relationship with Graham, while not distinguished by any particular closeness, was cordial. Graham understood Cooper’s prominent status as an author and public figure and granted him considerable latitude in selecting his subject matter and in negotiating the size of the final literary product. It is well to remember that despite the hits his reputation had taken at the hands of the Whig press, Cooper retained considerable literary celebrity at the time he began to write for Graham’s. Unlike authors such as Hawthorne or Stowe, whose writing for periodicals served as apprenticeships of sorts to successful careers later as novelists, Cooper had already achieved success before turning his pen to periodicals and remained the best-known novelist in the country. Fresh from successes with The Pathfinder, The Deerslayer, and The Two Admirals, Cooper’s only real problems were battling with hostile newspapermen and not getting paid enough for his work. Graham seemed to understand, at least at first, that he was adding a famous name to his roster of stars more than he was buying any specifically “marketable” kinds of writing from Cooper. By the time of The Islets of the Gulf, which Cooper may have undertaken at a suggestion of Graham, Graham had figured out how to coax out of the ungovernable Cooper the kind of writing popular readers would most enjoy from his pen: adventures with skillful handling of scene and incident, devoid of much direct confrontation on controversial social issues.
The role of Graham’s sometime editor Rufus W. Griswold cannot be ignored, for he was chiefly responsible for recruiting Cooper as a contributor and nurturing his loyalty. Griswold, fresh with success for his anthology The Poets and Poetry of America, had been sought out by Graham only a day after Graham had received a copy of the book from its publishers, Carey & Hart. Seeking a replacement for the volatile Edgar Allan Poe, who had been literary editor for Graham’s until the beginning of April 1842, Graham offered Griswold a $1000 per annum salary and had him settled into his new editorial position at the magazine (as well as at The Saturday Evening Post, which Graham also owned) by the middle or end of May 1842. Leaving behind a wife and children in New York, Griswold took lodgings in Philadelphia and immediately began seeking out the best literary talent for contributions to the magazine, per Graham’s directives. Ingratiating and ambitious, Griswold was far more suited to this sort of recruitment than Poe, who looked down upon the magazine’s catering to popular tastes. He succeeded in recruiting many literary giants: Bryant, Longfellow, Sedgwick, Maria Brooks, Holmes, Hawthorne, Charles Fenno Hoffman, Henry William Herbert (“Frank Forester”), Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and others. ²⁷ Cooper was also a high priority, and Griswold lost no time in seeking him out.
There were more than a few ironies in this pursuit. Only three years earlier, in 1839, he had been a partner with Park Benjamin (later a defendant in a Cooper libel suit) publishing a penny daily in New York called the Evening Tattler, as well as the New York Evening Signal. Benjamin was a rabid Whig, and the Signal displayed constant animosity toward Cooper. The Tattler for 23 July 1839 cast odium upon Cooper for his libel suits, alleging that “Perhaps there never was another who has rendered himself more generally odious to his contemporaries” since “he is the branded libeller of his own countrymen and countrywomen.” ²⁸ Cooper could not have been ignorant of Griswold’s connection with Benjamin. Furthermore, Griswold had contributed indirectly to Cooper’s financial slump by forming another paper with Benjamin, the famous mammoth weekly Brother Jonathan, the “largest folio sheet in the world.” ²⁹ Although both Griswold and Benjamin soon left the paper — Benjamin forming the archrival New World — they had stirred up a cutthroat market for cheap literature. In the early 1840s, Brother Jonathan and the New World aggressively marketed cheap paperback novels (usually pirated from overseas), sold through the mail as “extra” numbers of the paper in order to circumvent the higher postal rates for books and magazines. These papers were responsible for a good part of the cutthroat competition for cheap books that had bottomed out the market in 1842 and 1843, leaving both mainline publishers and authors to cast about for ways to keep afloat.
Griswold, however, was not paralyzed by these ironies, and whatever his initial feelings about Cooper, he wasted little time in contacting him. It is not clear how Cooper and Griswold established their initial contacts, but we do know that Griswold had met Cooper at Saunderson’s hotel before August 1842, probably on 29-30 June, when Cooper stayed there during a visit to Philadelphia. Saunderson’s was not Cooper’s usual stop, his normal preference being Head’s Tavern, but he changed his environs during his visits to the city on 29-30 June 1842 and in late September to early October 1842. He mentions the place, but not by name, in a letter to William P. Barton on 30 June. Apologizing for not making it farther up the street to pay Barton a visit, Cooper writes, “I turned into this house, as I came up Chestnut Street, fagged and hot, and like my quarters well enough. It is clean, cool for Philadelphia, and has a tolerable restaurant, which, by the way, is well attended.” ³⁰ Later letters from his September-October visit list the place by name, and Cooper’s stay there is confirmed by Griswold’s mention of “when I saw you at Sanderson’s hotel” in his letter of 6 August 1842. ³¹ Exactly what transpired during that meeting, besides some discussion of Washington Irving Griswold alludes to, is a mystery, but evidently both men made good impressions on each other. By 11 July, Cooper was sending Griswold manuscript for his first installment of naval biography in Graham’s, and the two started a lasting, if not particularly close, friendship.
Griswold’s eagerness to court Cooper’s favor extended even to his absorbing some of Cooper’s biases. In a letter of 6 August 1842, he attempted to change some of Cooper’s unfavorable views of Washington Irving’s career, passing on remarks from Bryant about how Irving had praised Cooper as a writer and man of the highest order. Cooper, however, was not impressed, asserting that “A published eulogy of myself from Irving’s pen could not change my opinion of his career.” ³² His quarrel was not with Irving’s writings, but with Irving’s “meannesses” of ethics — namely, his duplicity in politics and publishing, including the way Irving, like Scott, allegedly arranged to get paid to write reviews of his own works for publication. Griswold made this allegation himself in Graham’s, condemning Scott for “puffing” his own works and claiming that “Washington Irving has done the same thing, in writing laudatory notices of his work for the reviews, and, like Scott, received pay for whitewashing himself.” ³³ When Irving’s nephew Pierre demanded specific proof (Irving himself was in Madrid at the time), Griswold “attempted to shift the blame to a ‘Mr. E.,’ an Englishman, ‘with whom his acquaintance was limited to a single interview.’” ³⁴ Considering that Cooper was often ridiculed by the Whigs as “the handsome Mr. Effingham” and derided as “aristocratic,” and that Griswold probably had seen Cooper only once at this point, the identity of Cooper as Griswold’s “Mr. E.” seems likely. Despite there being some slight substance to Cooper’s allegations, Griswold was swayed enough by Pierre Irving’s explanations to issue a lukewarm apology in the December 1842 issue of Graham’s.
Cooper even helped Griswold search for a house in Philadelphia, in order that the young man’s family might be able to join him. Griswold alludes to this fact in a letter of 22 November 1842 before reporting an event that drastically changed his life:
You may remember that you accompanied me while last in the city on a walk in search of a dwelling house. I was weary of living alone, and anxious to remove my family to Philadelphia. I subsequently succeeded in finding a place that suited me, but I have now no use for it. On the 7 th instant I left my wife in the enjoyment of health — on the 9 th I was summoned by a messenger to her funeral. God help me — She was my all in the world. ³⁵
Cooper’s response is in keeping with the mindset of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief and his other late novels, in pointing to the frailness and vanity of humankind:
The papers had apprised me of your great loss, and awakened my sincere sympathy. You must console yourself with the reflection that all who die in a good frame of mind, escape from a bad world, to enjoy a better in quitting this. The heart, however, is a poor philosopher, and time does much more than reason, or even religion, with most of us, in such distress. I remembered our walk, when I read the announcement, and got a lesson in the vanity of our wishes. ³⁶
After a lengthy and hysterical grief, which included a visitation to his wife’s tomb that rivals anything in Poe’s fictions, Griswold gradually re-assimilated to everyday life, but in moving on to new things he eventually left behind his position as associate editor at Graham’s. His resignation was announced in the October 1843 issue.
Despite quitting his editorial duties, Griswold did not sever his connection with Graham. He continued to write pieces and solicit contributions to the magazine, going so far as to serve as a witness for Cooper and Graham on a contract for additional naval biographies (see below). One particularly noteworthy piece he contributed to the magazine during this time was a biographical sketch of Cooper that appeared in Graham’s for August 1844, complete with an engraved portrait. Cooper trusted Griswold enough to let him write this biographical notice despite his claim to be “averse to all biographies of living men, as well as to the parade of publishing portraits, busts, &c.” ³⁷ Griswold’s biography was essentially a mildly worked-over version of notes he had taken during a visit with Cooper and a letter that Cooper had sent to him reviewing the history of the publication and reception of his works. ³⁸ The debt to the notes is obvious. Where Cooper points to The Pilot as being at first “doubtfully received at home,” considered a failure “Until we heard from England,” Griswold similarly states that “The success of The Pilot was at first a little doubtful in this country; but England gave it a reputation which it still maintains.” Where Cooper claims that “the views of New York Society in this book [Notions of the Americans, 1828], and those given in Home as Found, are identical, so far as they go,” Griswold dutifully notes, “I may observe in passing, that the opinions expressed of New York society in Home as Found are identical with those in Notions of the Americans.” ³⁹ Griswold’s gift, it can be seen, is his ability to transmute the frank but sometimes cranky (and slightly revisionist) directness of Cooper’s assessments into decorous statements of sympathy with the author. The criticisms Griswold introduces into the piece are expressed with suitable mildness and vagueness, leaving an overwhelmingly positive appraisal of Cooper’s career. Noting how Cooper and Bryant are outsold by more “puerile” popular authors, Griswold’s conclusion to the piece serves as an admonition to Americans to appreciate their true native artists. Although the effects of this biographical sketch would be difficult to measure, Griswold undoubtedly performed a service for Cooper in offering a review of his career that laid out many of the novelist’s major complaints about his audiences in America in a way that these audiences would find easy to stomach. Griswold would continue to bolster Cooper’s career even after the novelist died, heading up a committee for a memorial service of Cooper in early 1852. Given their mutually beneficial relationship, it is certain that Griswold played a key role in securing Cooper’s place in American literature as well as his place in Graham’s.
Besides the influences of personalities, the rapid rise in the fortunes and circulation of Graham’s Magazine may have been another intangible influence on Cooper’s decision to contribute. In 1842-3, his new novels were being published in first editions typically around 10,000-12,500 copies. Graham’s circulation, even if we factor in some inflation in the claimed numbers, was easily more than double and later even triple that figure, and included a good distribution of men and women in many parts of the country. With Graham’s immense circulation, then, it is possible that more people read Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief or Islets of the Gulf than many of his other late novels upon their first publications, and almost certainly more people saw Cooper’s “Sketches of Naval Men” than had read his more substantial History of the Navy. It is true that in many cases reprintings of his novels caused them to catch up and surpass the magazine circulation over time. It would likewise be difficult to estimate how many people who subscribed to Graham’s Magazine or picked up a copy actually read any of Cooper’s pieces. Still, Cooper’s connection with Graham’s certainly placed his writings into the hands of new audiences. No doubt at least a few readers first encountered Cooper in the character of a naval biographer rather than as a novelist when his American naval biographies began to appear in the magazine in late 1842.
First from Cooper’s pen for Graham’s was a series of short biographies of famous naval officers from the early maritime history of the United States, from the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812. These pieces were outgrowths of the brief biographical notices Cooper had included in his History of the Navy in 1839, and likely the project was one that Cooper had long entertained. But the disappointing sales of his Naval History after its attacks by critics put further historical work on the back burner; after exploring avenues of re-launching his career as a historian, Cooper had returned with much acclaim to his most famous character Natty Bumppo in The Pathfinder (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841), and from there to nautical works. It is between The Two Admirals and The Wing-and-Wing (both 1842) that he apparently resolved to pursue his project of naval biographies in earnest. His first definite intentions appear in a letter to Mrs. Cooper from Philadelphia on 18 March 1842, wherein he writes, “I have delayed writing in the hope of being home to-morrow, but a plan for a new book of Naval Biographies, detains me for authorities — I shall not probably be home before Wednesday or Thursday of next week”. ⁴⁰ Ironically, this was right during the midst of national financial crisis; only a paragraph later, Cooper mentions the resumption of payments at the Philadelphia banks as a “forerunner of better times,” but in New York a few days later was forced to admit that “times are dull to a degree almost unknown, and literary property suffers with all other.” ⁴¹ Negotiations and writing of The Wing-and-Wing demanded Cooper’s primary attentions during the next few months, and his letters do not mention the biographies again until 27 May, when he wrote to Bentley to propose a deal for The Wing-and-Wing. Cooper had not yet struck a bargain for the biographies, and at this stage his plan for the work in America clearly was to publish it in a cheap edition as a book, not as magazine pieces:
I have had a new biographical Naval Work in progress, which I will also send you in sheets. I hardly think you will publish it, after the bad success with the History, but you may do so, scot free, if you please. At all events, some of the biographies, all of which will be shortish, might serve you in the way of your magazines. My emoluments from this work, will come from an extended sale in this country, in a cheap form. ⁴²
This was before his “experiment” of publishing The Wing-and-Wing on the cheap plan and before his contact with Graham’s. Cooper’s optimism about cheap publishing continued for several years despite the lower returns, but the opportunity of making money twice on them, publishing in Graham’s and then reselling them later to be published in book form, was good enough to cause Cooper to alter his plans. In a way, his wish to make “an extended sale in this country” was fulfilled by the immense circulation of Graham’s, much higher than the edition would have sold on its own. In book form, the work was never popular enough to merit further editions or reprints after Cooper’s death.
Cooper’s offer of the biographies to Bentley for free is noteworthy. Bentley had complained for years about the losses he sustained through his publication of Cooper’s History of the Navy in Britain (a fancier and more expensive edition than its American counterpart), and Cooper may have wished to compensate. His ulterior motive, however, was likely the opportunity to reach British audiences with accurate materials about America’s nautical history — the same motive that prompted him to choose the United States Magazine and Democratic Review for his “The Edinburgh Review on James’s Naval Occurrences and Cooper’s Naval History,” noted above, since it was an American magazine that circulated overseas. ⁴³ Cooper’s purposes for this work, then, both home and abroad, were more patriotic than commercial; such had been the case with many of his other non-fiction nautical writings too. As it turned out, Cooper never reached his British audiences with these naval biographies. Despite Bentley’s expressions of thanks for the “friendly offer” and hopes to “make it severally in my Miscellany,” no copy reached him. Cooper had promised sheets in his letter of 22 September 1842, but Bentley on 29 November replied that “no portion” of it had yet reached him. ⁴⁴ The naval biographies never appeared in Bentley’s Miscellany.
It is difficult to determine exactly how Cooper’s plan turned from book to magazine publication. Perhaps his correspondence with Bentley about the Miscellany turned his thoughts in that direction. Possibly, too, as James Beard conjectures, Graham or Brother Jonathan may have expressed some interest in his “naval answers” (in response to either the Edinburgh Review or, more likely, his opponents in the Lake Erie controversy, Messrs. Duer, Burges, & Mackenzie), and Cooper may have followed up that lead with a proposal for the biographies to Graham. ⁴⁵ Whatever the case, by July he had met Rufus W. Griswold at Sanderson’s Hotel and struck his bargain with Graham to supply the biographies (apparently approximately five to ten were planned) for $10 a page. On the 11 th he sent Griswold manuscript for his first installment, the biography of Richard Somers. The logistics of getting manuscript from Cooperstown to Griswold in Philadelphia were awkward at best, going to Wiley & Putnam in New York, then to Lea & Blanchard in Philadelphia, who would deliver it to Griswold. ⁴⁶ Cooper hoped to make the September issue of Graham’s, but Griswold, sending the proof sheets to Cooper on 6 August, explained that the immense circulation of the magazine required greater lead times:
The edition of our magazine is so large that we have to complete each number from four to five weeks before the first day of the month for which it is issued. This will account for the non-appearance of your article in September. We have to give one more “fashion plate” also, and I wished to have the last one out before your articles were commenced. Among the contributors to the October number, beside yourself, are Bryant, Longfellow, Hoffman, and the clever authoress of “A New Home — Who’ll follow?” ⁴⁷
“Somers,” then, appeared in October, with the biography of William Bainbridge to follow in November. Despite Cooper’s idea of “American Naval Biographies” as the “heading” for the series, the biographies carried no series title at all until late in the series, when “Sketches of Naval Men” headed the biographies starting with that of John Barry in the June 1844 issue (Somer’s biography appearing simply as “Richard Somers. By J. Fenimore Cooper, author of “The Spy,” “The Pioneers,” etc.”). Cooper was at least satisfied with the printing; after directing Griswold to send him proofs “on good paper,” he followed up with praise that the proof was “extremely well printed” — high praise indeed from Cooper, who from the beginning of his career complained about the indignities his works suffered in the hands of compositors. ⁴⁸
After Somers and Bainbridge, Cooper planned to send Griswold his biography of Oliver Hazard Perry, but the controversy in which Cooper had become embroiled over his account of the Battle of Lake Erie in the History of the Navy, particularly with Capt. Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, caused the introduction of arguments into his piece and made it significantly longer. Writing to Griswold on 7 August 1842, Cooper hoped to capitalize on the high profile the controversy had taken:
Bainbridge is ready, and I only wait for an opportunity to send it. Perry is also ready, but I can not let you have him, unless he counts for two. I have given a critical analysis of his battle, and the biography will make three or four and twenty of your pages. Decatur and Jones were to count double, but not Perry. If you choose to take the latter on those terms, I will send it. ⁴⁹
Graham, apparently content merely to have secured Cooper as a contributor, was easily swayed on the matter, as Griswold replied on 23 August:
Although Mr. Graham, with whom I have conversed on the subject, would prefer having as many complete biographies as possible, he is, on the whole, rather indifferent on that point, and you will therefore send such ones as may be most conveniently prepared. The interest excited by recent events concerning Perry perhaps will render his the most interesting memoir that could now be given. Of course, if you send it, it will be counted as two articles. ⁵⁰
But Graham’s agreement to accept Cooper’s biography of Perry to publish in two parts created another problem: the lack of a “complete” (that is, self-contained in one issue) biography for the December issue. Griswold wrote on 9 September that “For the next number — that for December — we shall want a complete biography, as it is desirable to have no articles continued from one volume to another. For the January number send anything you please.” ⁵¹ Cooper may not have had any such “complete” biographies ready. In Philadelphia in late September and early October, he managed to complete, if not compose in its entirety, a biography of Commodore Richard Dale (in addition to striking a bargain for Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief). ⁵² Writing to Mrs. Cooper from Saunderson’s hotel in Philadelphia on 2 October, he reports:
When I got here I found I had a great deal to do, or a very little. It has resulted in the first — and I have done a great deal. I have written a biography of Dale, and it is printed. So I am in type, already, for November and December. January, Feb. and March we shall come out in the Autobiography, and then will follow, Perry, already written, in April and May.
With the Autobiography stretching to an additional issue, as described below, “Perry” did not appear until the May and June issues, closing out that semi-annual volume (Graham’s volumes started in January and July). Certainly Cooper’s sketch of Perry was a definite exception to Joy Bayless’s claim about that in Graham’s Magazine “Philosophical discussions, controversial matter, and other subjects requiring too much mental effort on the part of the reader were not admitted.” ⁵³ Although less technical and less combative than his other publications on the Battle of Lake Erie controversy, Cooper did not hesitate to lay out his reasoning in refuting what he felt were partisan claims by Mackenzie, a relative of Perry’s through marriage. Cooper went so far as to include diagrams with his piece, which he claimed would “cost little, and add much to the interest of the biography.” Despite the extra cost and trouble the diagrams must have brought Graham, and despite the technical and controversial nature of the sketch, Griswold’s assessment that the recent controversy over the Battle of Lake Erie would arouse interest was probably correct. Even though scholars have given priority to Cooper’s ultimate word on the subject, his pamphlet “The Battle of Lake Erie” (also published in 1843), his biographical sketch of Perry in Graham’s probably reached more readers.
After “Perry” Cooper followed up with another two-part biography, this time of John Paul Jones. As Cooper had often lamented the introduction of a fictionalized Jones as Mr. Gray in The Pilot, he undoubtedly wished to create a truer, less glamorized portrait of the Revolutionary hero. Again he argues with Mackenzie (as well as the Edinburgh Review) in lengthy footnotes, but he also praises the “industry of his [Jones’s] biographers” for rescuing Jones’s reputation from the suspicions that clouded it well into the nineteenth century. Cooper’s effort here attempts to show how weaknesses in Jones’s character were compensated by abilities that never stood in question.
After “Jones” appeared in July and August of 1843, the series of biographies became more sporadic. No further biographies appeared in that volume of Graham’s, or indeed until halfway through the next, when a short biography of John Shaw appeared in the March 1844 issue. The Shaw biography seems to be something of a one-off effort; although separated only a few months from the biographies that followed, it does not fall under the contract for those later works. Cooper may have submitted it to fulfill the remainder of his original contract, or he may have negotiated a separate price for it. Its date of publication places it nearest to the double novel Afloat and Ashore in the Cooper canon, and it is likely that Cooper borrowed incident from Shaw’s biography for a scene in his novel. In the Shaw biography, Cooper briefly describes a nighttime attack by Malay prows during a calm in the Straits of Banca near Borneo; that incident is dramatized in Afloat and Ashore when the ship John is ambushed by “proas” in a foggy calm near the Straits of Sunda, near Sumatra. ⁵⁴ Shaw’s early adventure on the China voyage gave Cooper, who had never sailed in the Pacific, credible events to dramatize. The Shaw biography, then, serves as a valuable reminder of how Cooper’s non-fiction writing, including these “magazine” pieces, are not too distant from the main canon of his fiction.
In April of 1844, only days after Lea & Blanchard had rejected the terms he offered for Afloat and Ashore, causing him to cast around for a publisher, Cooper struck a new deal with Graham for five more naval biographies. The terms, as Cooper reported to his wife, were the same as those for the original series, and with no sale for Afloat and Ashore in the works, the timing was fortunate for Cooper, who likely sought this deal with Graham as a means to alleviate his problem with selling the novel. Writing from Philadelphia on 9 April, right after signing a contract with Graham, Cooper explained:
I have delayed writing so as to have it in my power to tell you something definite ... I have not sold the novel, nor do I expect to, but I have sold five more biographies, at the old price, and touched the money. ⁵⁵
Cooper’s copy of the contract, written in his own hand, signed by himself and Graham, and witnessed by Griswold (who by now had left his editorial position but kept some ties with Graham’s), survives. Dated the same day as the above letter to Mrs. Cooper, it provides the details of Cooper’s bargain:
J. Fenimore Cooper binds himself, in the penalty of Five Hundred Dollars, to furnish Geo. R. Graham, five more naval biographies, similar in character to those already written, within the next twelve months, for which biographies the said Graham has paid $250 in cash, and given his note for the same sum, at six months from this date.
It is understood between the parties that the Copy Right of said biographies shall be the property of said Cooper, who will have a full property in the same after the several biographies shall be published in Graham’s Magazine. ⁵⁶
Below, in Griswold’s hand, is penned a brief memo: “Mem. Let Mr Graham have one of the biographies early.” With lead times for the magazine running four to five weeks, as Griswold had told Cooper in 1842, such reminders were necessary. Cooper evidently complied, for the first installment of this second series, a biography of John Barry, appeared in the June 1844 issue of Graham’s, which presumably would have gone to print around late April or early May.
This new series introduced some minor alterations in format: from here forward, the biographies appeared under the series title “Sketches of Naval Men,” with a copyright notice dated 1839 beneath. ⁵⁷ The date of this copyright notice is puzzling. Although Cooper had included material on Barry and the other officers of this second series of biographies in his 1839 History of the Navy of the United States, he did not simply reprint it here. In fact, the biography for Barry includes a correction to his earlier narration of events in the History, demonstrating that the sketch for Graham’s could not have been written in 1839. ⁵⁸ Likewise, Cooper notes in a letter from Philadelphia to his wife on 14 April 1844 that “I am writing a biography, with papers lent me, and must finish it here” ⁵⁹ — almost certainly “Barry.” The best that can be inferred from the inclusion of this 1839 date is that Cooper wished to protect the copyright for these works under the guise of publishing them as if they were covered by the copyright for the History. He had not taken out copyright for some of the sketches (as a letter from Carey & Hart indicates), ⁶⁰ and perhaps if, as described below, his Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief had indeed become subject to pirating, he may have had good reason to take this precaution. Since “Shaw” appeared only a few months earlier, though, without this copyright notice, hopes of finding a definite answer are elusive.
After “Barry,” another lengthy interlude followed until a biography for John Templer Shubrick, brother of Cooper’s best friend William Branford Shubrick, appeared in December 1844. A sketch of Melancthon Taylor Woolsey came out a month later in the new volume of Graham’s, this sketch being noteworthy for its autobiographical content, since Cooper was stationed under Woolsey in 1808-09 while building a fleet at Oswego on Lake Ontario. The final installment for this series, a sketch of Commodore Edward Preble, was another lengthy two-part work, occupying both the May and June issues for 1845. Cooper had originally promised the late Commodore’s nephew George Henry Preble that the sketch would not appear in Graham’s: “It is not my intention to put the biography of Com. Preble into Graham’s; it will be reserved for the large work, in common with most of those [which] have a freshness and importance.” ⁶¹ However, Cooper may have had to change his plans in order to meet the terms of his contract. By getting manuscript for this last biography to Graham during or before April (leaving enough lead time for the June issue), Cooper fulfilled his contractual obligation to supply the biographies within twelve months of his agreement of 9 April 1844 — assuming, at least, that “Preble,” like “Perry” and “Jones,” counted as two. One can only guess at George Henry Preble’s reaction to this change of plans.
From here the series fizzled out, even though it was clear that Cooper had further plans in mind. His letter of 7 August 1842 to Griswold, quoted above, refers to a sketch of Captain Stephen Decatur which was “to count double,” but the sketch never appeared in Graham’s. ⁶² Similarly, the American Antiquarian Society holds manuscript pages of a biography for Captain Joshua Barney, also never printed. ⁶³ In addition, Cooper had planned to add to the series a more unusual sort of biography, one of the USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides.” This work finally did appear in print, but not until after Cooper’s death, when his daughter Susan edited the unfinished manuscript and published it in Putnam’s Monthly for May and June 1853. ⁶⁴ Cooper had evidently attempted to make a deal with Graham in April 1846 for another series of five biographies, for on 1 April of that year he wrote to Mrs. Cooper from the Globe Hotel in New York: “As I wish to press a bargain with Graham of Philadelphia, I shall stay here until Friday evening and be at home on Saturday — possibly a day earlier.” ⁶⁵ James F. Beard has suggested that “Cooper probably wished to negotiate for the serialization of Jack Tier, which appeared in installments in Graham’s Magazine from November 1846 to March 1848.” ⁶⁶ This hypothesis is probably valid in part, but a deal for additional naval biographies also seemed to figure into the bargaining. Graham, unable to meet Cooper in New York as planned because of “The sudden & serious illness of Mrs. Graham,” wrote to Cooper at the Globe on 3 April with a proposal, “That I release you from writing for the present, the five naval sketches & surrender the obligation you gave me” in exchange for a ten-part novel to run in Graham’s, the first part “to be delivered by the 10 th of May.” Graham continued by stating, “I shall have no objection to purchase the Naval Byographies [sic] after the Novel is run through the work, but it would be scarcely fair, to ask me to wait that long, after having paid for them, do you think it would?” ⁶⁷ Thus anticipating and rejecting a possible counter-offer by Cooper, Graham likely relieved himself of the obligation to follow through on an earlier purchase of another continuation of the series, substituting a more marketable piece of fiction instead and putting the naval biographies indefinitely on hold. Cooper never did publish more biographies with Graham’s after serializing The Islets of the Gulf, possibly due to Graham’s temporary loss of control over his magazine, or possibly due to waning interest on either his or Graham’s part.
Cooper did, however, pursue publication of his biographies in book form. As he neared the end of his second series with Graham’s, he negotiated with Carey & Hart of Philadelphia to purchase the rights to reprint the biographies. He must have stopped in at their office, just down Chestnut Street from Graham, on Friday, 14 March 1845, for on Saturday the 15 th, Abraham Hart penned this reply for the firm:
We accept the offer made us yesterday. (The refusal of which you gave us till Monday) viz To sell to us the Entire Copy right to reprint the fifteen numbers of Naval Biography now printed in “Graham’s Magazine” for the sum of Five Hundred Dollars, you to retouch them (not to rewrite them) so as to secure to us a Copyright on those which you omitted to take out a Copy right for originally.
The “Biographies” will be published by us in two Vols. (one of them as soon as you furnish us with corrected proofs to print from) and on the day of publication of the 1ˢᵗ Vol. we are to pay you one half the above named sum ($250) in cash, and as soon as the last Biography is published in “Graham’s Magazine” we are to publish Vol 2d. & on the day of publication of Vol 2, we are to pay you the remaining sum of Two Hundred & Fifty Dollars.
Please acknowledge the rec’t of this letter by return of Mail, & at your leisure be kind enough to write us the few lines of Preface that you promised the writer[.] ⁶⁸
Cooper’s reply of 17 March acceded to the proposal, promising also to retouch four of five biographies “in time to deliver them in all next month.” A memorandum accompanying this letter itemizes them specifically: “Will sell the right to reprint the fifteen numbers of Naval Biographies for $500 — Mr. C — to retouch but not to rewrite them. | Somers–1 . No. | Bainbridge 1.– | Perry–2 | Jones–2 | Shaw–1 | Dale–1 | Preble — 2 | Woolsey 1 | Shubrick 1 | Barry 1 | and four numbers to be written.” ⁶⁹ How Cooper accounted exactly for the “fifteen numbers” is not clear: by counting each piece listed, and adding the four unwritten numbers mentioned, the total is fourteen; by considering the ones and twos by the pieces to represent (as they seem to do) the number of issues they filled in Graham’s, adding the four unwritten pieces would make a total of seventeen. Whatever the method of computing these numbers, Cooper planned his biography of “Old Ironsides” to be among the unwritten pieces, for on 13 September 1845 Hart ⁷⁰ wrote to check on its progress. He also complained about Cooper’s slow progress in “retouching” the works — evidence that Cooper’s priorities lay elsewhere at the time (probably with his Littlepage novel The Chainbearer):
We have been waiting a long time for the “Biography of Old Ironsides” which you promised should be sent us, & it has not yet been received & we are very anxious to bring out Vol. 1. –also the corrected Biography of “Paul Jones” and “Dale”.
We also sent you upwards of Six Weeks ago the reduced Diagram of Tripoli Harbour with the original for you to mark on it if the shoals were as you directed them drawn — but have not rec’d any reply. ⁷¹
Defending himself, Cooper explained that he never received a letter or any such materials, and was under the impression that “Old Ironsides” would be included in the second volume of the work. It took him nearly till November, though, to send off corrected copy of “Paul Jones” and “Perry,” and he still begged for delay on “Old Ironsides”:
As for Old Ironsides, it will be impossible for me to do justice to the subject I find, without going to Washington. You must give me time, for your own sake — Can we not fill a second volume without it, and put it in a third? But we shall see each other so soon it is not worth while to discuss by letters. ⁷²
Plans for a third volume may have gotten underway, but it never appeared. Volume 1 of the book, titled Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers, appeared March 1846, with Volume 2 following in May. Slightly revised and corrected from the biographies in Graham’s, the volumes contained all of the sketches except for that of Barry. Since that sketch was last on Cooper’s memorandum quoted above, it is possible that the Barry sketch was set aside for the proposed third volume. The sketches in Volumes 1 and 2 appeared in the order Cooper had revised them: Bainbridge, Somers, Shaw, Shubrick, and Preble in Volume 1, and Jones, Woolsey, Perry, and Dale in Volume 2.
The two volumes bound in purple cloth sold for $1.50, and included portraits of the subjects. Another edition was published in black cloth with no illustrations. Derby & Jackson of Auburn, New York, also sold the volumes under their imprint, printed from the Carey & Hart plates. After Cooper’s death, Hart sold the plates to Henry Phinney (Cooper’s son-in-law since 1849), but no subsequent printings followed. Abraham Hart did write to Cooper’s son Paul on 3 November 1852 to confirm that the copyright to “Old Ironsides” was also included in the bargain with Phinney, clearing the way for the appearance of that sketch in Putnam’s Monthly in 1853. ⁷³
Reviews of Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers were few, but strikingly uniform in their praise for a Cooper work. Graham’s undertook a brief notice of the first volume — favorable of course — beginning with the propagandistic claim that the original appearance of the biographies in Graham’s “attracted so much attention as to induce the author to issue them in a volume, with such enlargements and corrections as he has since found opportunity to make.” ⁷⁴ The Knickerbocker contained passing remarks calling the work “clearly and attractively written,” and the Southern Literary Messenger published separate reviews for each of the volumes, stating in the second one that “It is presumed other volumes will follow” and hoping that “the life of Isaac Hull may form part of one of the volumes.” ⁷⁵ Even a Whig journal, The American Review, praised Cooper’s handling of the material, even though it stuck to the Whig party line in rejecting Cooper’s arguments about the Battle of Lake Erie in “Perry”:
Of all our writers, so far, Mr. Cooper is confessedly the best suited to arrange them in sketches, or history ... The sketches are written in that strong, clear, equable narrative style which is Mr. Cooper’s forte. We do not receive the whole of his version of Perry’s career, but we commend the whole volume to our readers as quite as well worthy of their attention as the trashy novelettes of the day. ⁷⁶
This last sentence may be dubious praise, indeed. Despite a lack of penetrating insights in any of these reviews to suggest that the reviewers read the book thoroughly, the uniform statements of approval demonstrate something of the credibility Cooper had built as a historian and expert on nautical matters.
Despite Graham’s later grousing that Cooper had cost him a good deal of money but never attracted new subscribers, ⁷⁷ numerous letters from readers survive to indicate that people were paying attention to them. From New Orleans, Thomas D. Day wrote on 29 June 1846 that “I have read with much pleasure and satisfaction your lives of the naval officers of our country,” going on to say that he wanted Cooper to add that of his grandfather, Captain Elisha Hinman. ⁷⁸ Finding this wish unfulfilled, Day wrote again from St. Louis on 30 April 1847, wishing to correct a claim in Cooper’s History of the Navy by providing an anecdote of his paternal grandfather, Captain William Day. ⁷⁹ Cooper’s sketch of Oliver Hazard Perry received attention, as Cooper and Griswold had anticipated. Mackenzie certainly read it, since he mentions it in his appendix to the fifth edition of The Life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, ⁸⁰ but that would be expected since he was a party to the dispute. Another reader to comment on the Perry sketch was one Daniel Dobbins of Erie, Pennsylvania, who served on the Great Lakes before and during the war of 1812 — indeed, for a time, engaged in the same activity of fleet-building that occupied Cooper during his brief service at Oswego on Lake Ontario in 1808-09. Dobbins writes on 11 May 1843, shortly after the appearance of the first half of “Perry” but before the second, to express his support for Cooper’s portrayal and to offer documents relevant to military actions on the Great Lakes:
Dr Sir — Having read your Naval history, as also the Biography of Com Perry by Capt. A.S. Mackenzie, the Biography of Capt Jesse D Elliot by a Citizen of N. York, and the commencement of your life of Perry in the May Number of Grahams Magazine, I would beg leave to say, none of them are entirely free from errours; but I must say, you have treated ‘matters & things’ with much the most candour. As the great object of the historian is to get at the true facts, I have taken the liberty to make you an offer, which I hope you will receive in good feeling.
I commenced building the fleet at this place in the winter of 1812-13 [&] served as a sailing master under Camas [?] Chauncey, Perry, Elliot [sic] Sinclair & Baxter during the war, and under Deacon and Budd since, and resigned in 1826: — have lived in the country 43 years, and navigated the Lakes 38; so you see I must of course have a tolerable knowledge of all the transactions connected with the War on the Lakes, except the particulars of the affairs of the 10 th Sept’r 1813, as I was ordered down to this place with the Sch’r Ohio, to take up stores, and additional armament for the fleet, and did not arrive at Put in Bay, until after the action.
Now sir, should you wish it, I can give you some information on the subject, and can show you some falsehoods shared [?] by even Com. Perry himself as per Capt. Mackenzie’s book. ⁸¹
This letter not only attests to the wide reach of Graham’s Magazine but also calls attention to the distinctions between Cooper’s roles as novelist and historian. Whereas one could hardly argue with many of the prerogatives of fiction, in writing biography Cooper’s attention to fact becomes the paramount concern. As a “sort of public property,” as Thomas Day had labeled him, Cooper was open to challenge by readers who felt free to contribute their corrections to his historical narrative. Though slightly defensive in his reply that “I never flattered myself with having written a history without errors,” Cooper promised Dobbins a copy of his pamphlet “The Battle of Lake Erie,” recounted his own history on the Lakes, and accepted Dobbins’s offer for materials, which were subsequently sent. ⁸²
Cooper’s acceptance of material from Dobbins points to one other noteworthy aspect of the Naval Biographies: their collaborative nature. Although his novels were largely the products of his private writing time, for the biographies (as for the Naval History) he actively sought out materials to fill gaps in his knowledge. Usually these gaps consisted of scraps of personal information — names, dates, or minor details. As early as July 1842, Cooper employed Griswold to seek out details for the Somers biography: the name of one of Somers’s sisters, and the date of Somers’s birth. To get this information, Griswold had to interview Somers’s sister, Mrs. Keen, whose memory was so bad that Cooper feared she had forgotten her own name. ⁸³ Cooper had been unsuccessful in securing much information on a previous visit, but Griswold was successful in securing a family register with the desired information. ⁸⁴ After all this trouble, however, the biography ran in Graham’s without benefit of the corrections. ⁸⁵ Cooper relied on collaboration for other biographies as well: for that of John Templer Shubrick, he had the best of sources, that officer’s brother and Cooper’s best friend, Commodore William Branford Shubrick. Writing to his friend on 4 September 1842, Cooper thanks him for his assistance and acknowledges the collaboration required for such a project:
My Dear Shubrick,
Yours received, with the facts concerning your brother. I am getting on fast with the biographies, but want a vast deal of aid. ⁸⁶
The dangers and the rewards of this method of writing are summed up best in a letter Cooper wrote to George Henry Preble. George Henry Preble was himself working on a genealogical work including biography of his late uncle the Commodore, and had written Cooper on 4 September 1842 to correct an error about Commodore Preble in Cooper’s History of the Navy. In response, Cooper on 9 September thanked him for the corrections, described his biographical project, and requested further communications between them:
Your letter reached me this evening, and I feel much obliged to you for the attention. The short biographical notices in the Naval History formed no part of the original design, and were introduced somewhat hurriedly, as the book went through the press. The design principally was to show the materials of which the service was formed. They have been all struck from subsequent editions. That of Com. Preble was taken principally from a flow[e]ry and worthless book, that contains some six or eight other sketches. I thought it might be trusted for a few facts, and I soon after ascertained that most of even these facts were wrong.
I am glad, however, to open a communication with some member of your family for the following reasons. I am now collecting materials for a large work on Naval Biographies, and have even written several of the lives. A few of them will appear, monthly after Oct. next, in Graham’s Magazine, though their ultimate destination will be a book in two vol. Octavo. You will find that of Somers, in the October number. Bainbridge will follow, and then Perry and Paul Jones. I have had serious thoughts of coming to Portland [whence G.H. Preble had written] expressly to obtain the facts in relation to Com. Preble, but your letter may put me on a new track.
Of course I do not expect any gentleman who has been at work on so interesting a subject to abandon it on account of my intended work. It is probable we shall not interfere with each other, as my sketch will necessarily be confined to some forty or fifty pages. Any facts I learn will be cheerfully communicated, and I should be grateful to obtain all I can; particularly as to the birth, family, and early career of my subject. I ought to have known the duty on which Com. Preble died, as I belonged to the Vesuvius myself, in 1808, and we had a tradition in her to that effect. But the difficulty of collecting a mass of minute facts is most discouraging. In the case of Somers, I relied on his sister for the members of his family, and she actually mislead [sic] me, though I discovered the error in time to correct it in proof. She forgot one sister altogether!
Repeating my thanks for the information sent, will you permit me to invite all your family to aid me with such information as they possess. The disease of which the Commodore died, and any circumstances connected with that event would be particularly useful. ⁸⁷
Cooper later wrote Preble to thank him for supplying extensive material, saying that “Information of precisely this nature, was just what I wanted” and requesting that Preble, a naval officer himself, induce other officers to write him “in reference to any officer who is dead,” citing a plan to write “notices of most of those who have had any standing in the service, including, in a few instances, midshipmen.” ⁸⁸ Undoubtedly, the “difficulty of collecting a mass of minute facts“ caught up with Cooper before his project was realized, thwarted in part by the logistical burdens of corresponding and collaborating with others.
The “Sketches of Naval Men” for Graham’s, then, may have ultimately convinced Cooper that novel writing was, at his age, still an easier career path to pursue, but still the series was a moderate success for him. The complex publishing history of the sketches demonstrates the flexibility Cooper enjoyed once his commitment to Graham was secure. Graham clearly valued the status that came with having the names of Cooper, Bryant, Longfellow, and many of America’s other literary giants all displayed on the title page of his magazine, and he made no harsh demands as to the specific content he required from his star authors. The sketches placed Cooper before a large public as a serious and credible historian and likely helped to keep up interest in Graham’s Magazine among male readers. Finally, they were easily as successful in a pecuniary sense as any of his novels between late 1842 and 1846 — more so than many, if English receipts are ignored. Although Cooper had written many pieces about naval matters for free or even at risk of loss as a service to his country, the naval sketches were profitable for him (albeit occasionally more troublesome to write than he had reckoned), demonstrating that with proper backing he could reach wide audiences and still get paid well. Although he still recognized the supremacy of the book as a lasting medium, his moderate success with Graham’s could have only added to his existing suspicions that booksellers were duplicitous and unwilling to compensate well the true producers of literary art. Cooper would give vent to these suspicions in his next piece for Graham’s, his short fiction Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief.
Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, a story set in Paris and New York in 1830-32 and narrated by a fine linen handkerchief, was Cooper’s first serialized piece of fiction, planned from the start to appear in parts. Cooper seems to have had his initial inspiration to write the story sometime around late August or early September 1842. Writing to Bentley on 22 September, he remarks, “A thought flashed on my mind the other day, for a short magazine story, and I think I shall write it. It will be called ‘The Auto-Biography of a Pocket Handkerchief.’ Do you want such a thing for your miscellany? If so how shall it be sent, and on what terms?” ⁸⁹ Within a week of writing Bentley he had struck a deal with Graham, as he reported to his wife on 29 September: “I have sold the Autobiography to Graham, 50 pages for $500. I shall finish it as soon as Le Feu-Follet [The Wing-and-Wing] is off my hands — but, I must come home to write the three last chapters.” ⁹⁰ The specific terms Cooper and Graham negotiated in their memorandum of 24 September 1842 called for Cooper to furnish manuscript “of a tale to be called ‘Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief,’ to be published in Graham’s Magazine, in numbers, of from twelve to sixteen pages each, and to consist of not less than two and not more than four numbers.” Cooper was to deliver the first number “in time to appear in the magazine for February 1843, and the succeeding numbers in intervals of one month.” For this, he was to be paid ten dollars per Graham’s page. The two parties further agreed to suspend publication of “certain naval biographies already contracted for” during the appearance of the tale in Graham’s. ⁹¹
Certainly these were good terms for Cooper considering the amount of time he figured the work would take to write. He intended it to be the product of a couple of weeks, telling his wife on 2 October that he would be at leisure to “concoct” anything new “after about a forthnight’s work on the autobiography.” ⁹² His confidence was premature. Occupied with seeing The Wing-and-Wing and some of the naval biographies through the press, and delayed by unforeseen difficulties in the writing of the work, the Autobiography took longer than Cooper had expected. By 22 November Griswold had not yet received the second number, reminding Cooper, “We should like to have the second chapter as soon as may be, as the February number is already partly in the hands of the printers.” ⁹³ On the 26ᵗʰ Cooper bluffed for more time, putting a positive spin on the situation: “The second part of the Tale is nearly done — so near, it might be sent on Tuesday. I shall keep it, however, unless directed otherwise, until next week when I shall carry it to Albany, and send it to Wiley & Putnam, to save postage. You can write me again, if you wish a different disposition.” ⁹⁴ One is naturally led to suspect stalling tactics in Cooper’s proposed arrangement to hold the manuscript an extra week. Cooper’s delay may have come from alterations in his plans for the work. On the last page of manuscript of the first installment sent to Griswold, Cooper includes a short note to Griswold which mentions a divergence from some previously settled ideas:
I send the copy by mail, for want of a private opportunity. It is so expensive, however, as not to be continued. Let me have early proofs, and by no means print without them.
J. Fenimore Cooper
Rev. Mr. Griswold.
I shall bring Adrienne on the scene again, and have a little altered the plan to do so.
How Cooper’s new plan differed from his original is unknown, but the story eventually ended up somewhat longer than originally intended. During October he wrote to his wife the work would appear in January, February, and March, that the naval biographies would resume in April, clearly suggesting three installments for Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief. ⁹⁵ But at the end of the second installment of manuscript, Cooper wrote, “(to be continued)” while Graham’s printed “[Conclusion in our next.]” (167). Instead of only three installments, the work took four, causing Graham to announce the conclusion of the work again at the end of the third installment (wherein both Cooper’s manuscript and Graham’s agree in stating “(To be concluded in our next.)”). Despite all of these delays and alterations, the finished work appeared pretty much according to schedule, leading off the January 1843 issue of Graham’s. It was continued in the February, March, and April numbers.
Around the time that the final number in the April issue was being prepared for distribution, a pirated version of the work appeared in New York. Brother Jonathan had obtained the work and printed it as one of their “Extra” numbers on 22 March 1843, giving it the title Le Mouchoir: An Autobiographical Romance. ⁹⁶ How this happened is not entirely clear. Griswold wrote Cooper on 3 April 1843: “Doubtless you have seen the pirated edition of the ‘Autobiography.’ The sheets of our April number were obtained by some means in advance of this publication, and Wilson & Co. issued the story two days before Graham’s copies were in New York.” ⁹⁷ Griswold makes no further speculation about how the accident occurs. Nor do we know Cooper’s reaction: no response to the intelligence Griswold related exists in his surviving correspondence. Were one to play detective, certainly neither Cooper nor Griswold would be easy to clear entirely as suspects. Griswold had created the Brother Jonathan with Park Benjamin, serving with him as co-editor of the gargantuan weekly; Cooper had made previous submissions in the form of letters and his “Lost Chapter” of Home as Found. Whatever secrets may be imagined, it does seem unusual for the litigious Cooper that no lawsuits emerged from this incident. Apart from an abundance of misprints revealing the haste of the compositors, the Brother Jonathan text makes several minor innovations upon the original Graham’s text, chief among which is the introduction of chapter divisions, eighteen in all, where the original had none. ⁹⁸ It is this version that Bentley discovered in London and used as the basis for his own publication of the work as The French Governess; or, The Embroidered Handkerchief. When Cooper had inquired of Bentley whether he might be interested in the piece for his Bentley’s Miscellany, Bentley had replied that he would be eager to receive short pieces of 8-10 pages for his Miscellany, for the rate of 12 Guineas for 16 printed pages. As was often the case, he suggested that Cooper’s title was “somewhat open to objection.” ⁹⁹ The transaction apparently was never completed. With the version in Brother Jonathan already in print, Bentley’s chance to secure copyright in England was lost, and he apparently reprinted the work gratis, no record surviving that Cooper ever received a dime for it. ¹⁰⁰ Judging by Griswold’s inquiry to Cooper on 22 November 1842, it is questionable whether Bentley had ever received any sheets directly from Graham’s anyway: “I forgot whether you wished to have proofs of ‘The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief’ sent to you for transmission to Bentley. If you desire it I will forward any number that may be needed.” ¹⁰¹ Again, on record at least, Cooper seems to have expressed little in reaction.
Still more drama surrounds the publication of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief. Some controversy arose over whether Cooper was really the author. During a visit to Philadelphia, he stopped in at Carey & Hart and heard of the rumor from Abraham Hart. In a letter to his wife from Philadelphia on 26 November 1845, he reports, “[Abraham] Hart [of Carey & Hart] told me that Pocket Handkerchief was ascribed to one of my daughters, and this book [Elinor Wyllys] to the same person. I gave the prescribed answer, and carried matters off well.” ¹⁰² On 30 November he followed up: “I have given the quietus to the Pocket Handkerchief story, by saying firmly that I wrote the tale myself, and would not have allowed my name to be affixed to any thing I had not written.” ¹⁰³ Exactly who was responsible for the conjecture is unclear, but apparently, since he had a “prescribed answer” ready, Cooper was not totally surprised to hear the rumor that Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief was written by the author of Elinor Wyllys and “The Lumley Autograph.” These two pieces, a novel and a short story, were from the pen of Susan Fenimore Cooper, Cooper’s eldest daughter; Cooper was acting as Susan’s agent to get the works published. In his letter of 30 November, he mentions both pieces in close proximity to his mention of Pocket-Handkerchief: “Elinor will be published in a few days”; “I have spoken to Graham about the Autograph, and he has asked for the manuscript to look it over. I shall ask at least, $25 for it, and I think he may take it.” ¹⁰⁴ As it turns out, Elinor Wyllys was being published by Carey and Hart, who were also contracting for Cooper’s own Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers. “The Lumley Autograph” was less fortunate: despite shopping the story around to Graham and Bentley, Cooper found no buyer. Trying again in 1850, he offered the story to Graham “as an old acquaintance, for fifty dollars.” ¹⁰⁵ The story finally appeared in Graham’s in January and February 1851. ¹⁰⁶ Strangely enough, Cooper’s name does appear in the copyright application for Elinor Wyllys as “Author,” as opposed to the entry he made for Susan’s 1850 work Rural Hours as “Proprietor,” leading some to speculate his involvement in the authorship of that book, for which he supplied a preface. ¹⁰⁷ The notion that Susan could have had some collaborative involvement in Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief is tantalizing enough, especially since we are left to wonder what Cooper means by his “prescribed answer,” but plausible as it may seem, no evidence exists that her influence on the work extended beyond the usual feedback Cooper sought from family members. Barring any unforeseen revelations, all of the existing evidence, both within and without the text, points to the conclusion that James Fenimore Cooper was indeed the author of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief.
Given the contrast of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief from Cooper’s usual body of fiction, especially its amateurish use of a “juvenile literary form” (as James Grossman calls the first-person narrative by an inanimate object), ¹⁰⁸ it is easy to understand why someone might have entertained doubts about the story’s authorship. But there are plenty of elements in the story that are indubitably typical of Cooper. His typical digressions on the fallacies of popular opinion are present (26-27, 139, etc.), and references to Thomas Cole (147), Sir Walter Scott(170), and other figures are consistent in character with Cooper’s remarks about them elsewhere. Jabs against editors and Yankees appear (58, 108-110, 214). One even finds names that would reappear in later works: the character Betts Shoreham shares a name with seaman Bob Betts of The Crater (1847); Julia Monson lends her surname to Miss Mary Monson of The Ways of the Hour. On a larger scale, it is easy to find echoes of past methods in the way he handles his social satire, and manifestations of themes such as the omnipotence of God, the necessity for contentment, and others that would take on greater significance in his later fiction. It is perhaps surprising to discover so many connections in so minor a work. Indeed, Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, though of little lasting literary merit, is an important transition piece for Cooper that provides a fascinating look at how his attitudes of authorship were changing in 1842 and 1843, revealing his growing frustration with the processes by which intellectual and artistic property became subservient to the whims of the marketplace.
The title of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief (despite Richard Bentley’s opinion of it) immediately points to a feature of this work that departs from the norm of almost all of Cooper’s previous fictions. The work uses a first-“person” point of view, being narrated by a fancy linen handkerchief, of the type “used more for show than for blow,” as Warren Walker quaintly expresses it. ¹⁰⁹ This work was only the second in which Cooper used the first person; the first was his 1835 satire The Monikins, an allegorical fantasy that has often been called Swiftian in its satirical methods. Robert Spiller has described The Monikins as being in “the mock-realistic tradition of Swift and Defoe,” with its long opening discourse on the birth and upbringing of the narrator, and its descriptions of absurd things with scientific minuteness. ¹¹⁰ A similar description could easily apply to Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief. In fact, the experimental Monikins, with its unlikely cast of talking manikin-monkeys, stands in many respects as the Autobiography’s closest relative among Cooper’s other writings, with their unlikely characters, improbable happenings, and pointed social satires. As in The Monikins, Cooper’s “mock-realism” often bogs him down in details, digressions, and sermons (thankfully, Cooper was under no pressure with the Autobiography as he was with The Monikins to pad the work to the standard three-volume length deemed indispensable in Britain).
If the use of the first-person was unusual for Cooper’s fiction up to this point, his use of an inanimate object as narrator is perhaps even more remarkable. Cooper’s telling of the tale through an embroidered linen handkerchief as his narrator may have been, as Grossman says, an indulgence in a “juvenile” literary form; his interest in ascribing human characteristics and sentient thought to objects and making them characters in his books, however, was not new. Recall his proposal to Bentley for what was eventually to become The Two Admirals: a story with only ships as characters — no men — each ship exhibiting its own unique characteristics. Cooper viewed his concept as a sort of rule-breaking, avant-garde innovation, and in the case of ships one can see the poetic truth he hints at: ships (like cars today, perhaps) do take on their own “personalities” and are rendered more interesting by their distinctiveness. But a pocket-handkerchief is another matter; certainly it is hard, at times, to take the piece seriously when his narrator intrudes. Although never known for his expertise with the “light touch,” Cooper certainly invites playfulness. He makes little effort to explain away the improbabilities of his narrator, leaving readers to wonder how a handkerchief might have “a certain heaviness about the brain” (107) or possess “vegetable clairvoyance“ that allows the handkerchief to share the experiences of its plant ancestors (14) or to know what is happening in remote portions of a house (182). ¹¹¹ Cooper may have been employing such silly, “juvenile” first-person narration as a means to distance his authorial voice from the material and allow deliberate outrageousness. By making a material object both the teller of the tale and the temporary center of interest for certain of the characters of the tale, Cooper could more effectively construct his critique of rampant materialism in America.
The story itself, as divided into its four installments in Graham’s, can be summed up briefly as follows. The story opens with a long discourse on the origins and opinions of the handkerchief, explaining, by means of its “hereditary mesmerism” or “vegetable clairvoyance“ (14) its evolution from flax to fine linen cambric. Along the way, the narrator, while still flax in the fields of Normandy, absorbs from a “distinguished astronomer” who sat in the field healthy instruction on the vastness of the universe, the power of the Creator, and the necessity for contentment (14-23). Taking readers through the processes of harvesting, processing, weaving, and bleaching, the handkerchief explains how portions of the finished bolt of cambric absorbed divergent political prejudices, some pro-Bourbon “legitimist” and some pro-revolutionary “liberal” views before the French “July Revolution” of 1830. The handkerchief narrator, as it turns out, comes from the “center gauche“ or center left of the cloth, being relatively free of blind partisan sentiment (26-28). It is with various sentiments, then, that the pieces of cloth contemplate their futures, some hoping to become the property of royalty, others horrified at the thought of deferring to rank and station. The handkerchief narrator is excited to find that it is to be purchased by Adrienne de la Rocheaimard, an orphaned granddaughter of a Vicomtesse, and decorated with fine antique lace as a gift for the Dauphine, who had established a pension for the Vicomtesse in compensation for the loss of her estate during the French Revolution. Before the transaction occurs, though, the “July Revolution” of 1830 dethrones the Bourbons once again, eliminating the Vicomtesse’s pension and plunging her and Adrienne into poverty.
To make ends meet, the Vicomtesse sells off items from her trousseau, but this can only last so long, especially since goods were commanding only about a twentieth of the value they had before the revolution. Succumbing to old age and misfortune, the vicomtesse falls ill, and Adrienne takes a position as a seamstress for a millener to support her grandmother. Here, as well as in her attempts to dispose of some of her own valuables, Adrienne’s innocence and lack of experience with the wily arts of commerce cause her to be exploited mercilessly. The milliner pays Adrienne a mere fifteen sous a day, despite reaping greater profits from Adrienne’s superior skill. As her fortunes sink, Adrienne in desperation resolves upon a plan to purchase the fine cambric (the handkerchief narrator) to embroider and sell for profit, rather than as a gift as originally planned. Pages are dedicated to describing Adrienne’s selfless dedication to her work as she subsists upon her last morsels of bread and water in order to provide small comforts for her dying grandmother. Just as she completes her exquisite masterpiece, the vicomtesse dies. Lacking any money to provide a decent burial, Adrienne sells the handkerchief to Desiree, a commisionaire (commission agent) who offers to make the funeral arrangements and purchase the handkerchief for forty-five francs — about ten dollars, according to Cooper (122), and far less than the value it should have commanded.
Here the first and longest installment ends. Cooper made but small concession to the serial form of the story, a one-sentence paragraph stating: “The manner in which Desiree disposed of me shall be related in another number” (98). Cooper evidently tinkered with ways to end this first installment, writing and then erasing a different sentence: “I saw Adrienne no more, for Desiree soon disposed of me, in the manner I shall presently relate.” Following, he wrote “(To be continued),” a clear indication that the divisions in the story were directed by Cooper from the start.
As it turns out in the second installment, Desiree does not immediately dispose of the pocket-handkerchief, as Cooper had originally planned, but holds it for “some two or three years” as a “species of corps de reserve“ (99), patient to reap her profits. ¹¹² Eventually she crosses paths with a flashy Yankee, Colonel Silky, and sells the handkerchief to him for five napoleons, or a hundred francs — a profit of fifty five francs, but far less than the 155 francs she had hoped to receive. The “Colonel,” in turn, smuggles the handkerchief on his person duty-free into America to place it for sale in a shop on Broadway, of which he is a sleeping partner. Embroidered handkerchiefs are the current rage of fashion among the extravagant young ladies of New York, particularly the nouveau riche, with particular attention given to the price one’s handkerchief commands (“One doesn’t like to have such a thing too low,” 123). It is not long, then, before Bobbinet, the shop owner, resells the handkerchief for one hundred dollars — a figure which makes it “the highest-priced handkerchief, by twenty dollars, that ever crossed the Atlantic ocean” (124), and indeed, the first “three-figure” handkerchief in America. The buyer is Eudosia Halfacre, daughter of a fervent land speculator whose wealth, on paper at least, is estimated in the millions. Just as Eudosia is displaying her prize at a fancy party, news flutters across the room that Jackson’s removal of funds from the Bank of the United States has caused panic in the financial market. With her father now facing bankruptcy, Eudosia can hardly keep such an extravagant ornament, and the pocket-handkerchief finds itself once again in the shop of Bobbinet, having been sold back for fifty dollars.
In the third number, another owner, Miss Julia Monson, comes to possess the pocket-handkerchief. She also pays “only“ 100 dollars for it, a discount for “regular customers” from the $120 the store ought to ask “in justice to ourselves” (172). Even as she heads home from the shop, though, Julia is already half-embarrassed about her purchase. She resolves not to show the handkerchief to the family’s French governess, Mademoiselle Hennequin, partly out of recognition of the governess’s superior taste, but mostly out of jealousy and shame, for Julia admires the same young man, Betts Shoreham, whose attentions are directed at the less attractive governess. During one of Betts Shoreham’s visits to the Monson household, Julia is horrified when Betts and her father (ignorant of Julia’s purchase) decry the reckless extravagance of paying even $75 for a single handkerchief. What is worse for Julia, in a subsequent visit by Betts she interrupts a private conversation between Betts and Mademoiselle Hennequin, and leaves the room flustered and embarrassed, leaving her pocket-handkerchief behind. Mademoiselle Hennequin, seeing the handkerchief for the first time, is strangely affected. While nothing of this mystery is revealed at first, Julia is courted by the mercenary Tom Thurston, who hopes to secure himself a fortune and a bride.
The fourth number brings matters to their conclusion and, despite the humor and excitement in its pages, can be summed up quickly. Tom Thurston’s gamble fails when Mr. Monson, in a humorous game of brinksmanship, suggests that Julia’s fortune will match Tom’s contribution dollar-for-dollar. As to the mystery of Mademoiselle Hennequin and the pocket-handkerchief, it is easy enough to guess that this young French woman is none other than Adrienne, who, encountering her own creation before her very eyes, is overcome with sorrowful recollections. How the pocket-handkerchief’s “vegetable clairvoyance“ failed to recognize Adrienne immediately is accounted to the passage of time and its “poor memory” (227), but as Hugh C. McDougall has properly pointed out, “the heroine-handkerchief’s protracted failure to recognize her maker, when she has proved so sensitive to her surroundings in every other fashion, is simply unbelievable.” ¹¹³ Betts and Adrienne, who turn out to be distant cousins, marry, and Julia returns the handkerchief to its creator, although Betts pays her $125 in order that Adrienne may truly call the work her own — indeed, her “friend” (254).
Critics who have given Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief a passing moment or two of notice have correctly observed that the work is a tart critique of materialism. George Dekker and Robert Emmet Long barely break the sentence mark in their mentions of the work, Dekker calling it “anti-Whig” and “an attack on the commercial values of New York Society”; Long “a satire of wealth and vulgarity in New York.” ¹¹⁴ Hugh C. McDougall, a staunch defender of this underdog piece, states that “‘Autobiography’ is clever social satire — exposing with equal vigor those who exploited the poor in Paris, and those who lived only to make and display their wealth in America. It presents a vivid picture of an era of wide-open and unrestrained economic expansion, in which traditional cultural values bowed before the growing might of the “almighty dollar.” ¹¹⁵ James Grossman, who offers the most extensive critique of the work, wisely highlights Cooper’s use of “hard facts and figures” in the story, including account statements, in demonstrating that “The process of turning human labor into profitable merchandise is as brutally impersonal in Cooper as in Marx.” ¹¹⁶ These claims are founded upon good reason, as the overall purpose of the story is to satirize the avarice, ambition, and vanity of certain kinds of people, particularly the upwardly mobile in America. Cooper’s interests here are undeniably commercial; the world he satirizes one of commodification. But within this broad sweep Cooper suggests an element much closer to his avocation as author: what is the status of taste, of true craftsmanship, of art, in a world like this?
Although the portions of the tale which are set in America and contain the most social satire are perhaps the most appealing to the modern critic, it is the story of the handkerchief’s embroidering by poor Adrienne in the first number that attracts attention to Cooper’s concerns as an author, suggesting his attitudes about the state of his current literary ventures. This portion of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief gives an unusually conspicuous place to the process of artistic production. The pocket-handkerchief figures in the story as a painstakingly crafted, highly wrought piece of work — nigh unto a work of art. As such, it is often made to suggest or parallel Cooper’s sentiments toward artistic production and the accompanying passage of such work into the marketplace, becoming a symbol not unlike the mechanical butterfly in Hawthorne’s “The Artist of the Beautiful.” Cooper has less allegorical flair, of course; ¹¹⁷ and it is doubtful whether the handkerchief can be said to have true allegorical value anyway. Thus it cannot be said that the pocket-handkerchief equals, say, a novel, but is more generally suggestive of a finely crafted work, not quite “art” in its purest sense but exhibiting the taste and skill that characterize artistic productions.
Cooper also endows this section of the story with a good deal of pathos that could be easily dismissed as one of Cooper’s literary excesses were it not for its connection to the embroidering of the handkerchief. Hugh C. McDougall is probably correct in observing that from a standpoint of sentiment, “the telling of Adrienne’s sad plight in Paris becomes a bit overwrought,” ¹¹⁸ yet this pathos may indicate Cooper’s identification with the plight of his artist, Adrienne. Cooper’s sympathy may have also influenced his decision to use the first-person narrator, in order to distance himself from exposing too much direct authorial point of view (as he had hazarded to do in Home as Found). Parallels to Cooper’s own career are too numerous to ignore, and, as demonstrated below, the elements here fit together to provide stimulating insights into Cooper’s frustrations with his work since returning to America, especially during the hard times during which the story was written.
It is fitting that Cooper’s first tale for Graham’s portrays a person driven to produce artistry out of a sense of material necessity. Cooper himself, as has been noted above, began his connection to Graham’s during a period of unprecedented low returns for his work — sinking, in the space of a single year, 1842, from $2000 from Lea & Blanchard for rights for 5000 copies of The Two Admirals to only $1000 for 10000 copies of Wing-and-Wing. ¹¹⁹ In the past, Cooper had the leverage to negotiate perquisites such as free copies of every new book that Lea & Blanchard published (part of the agreement for The Deerslayer) ¹²⁰; by 1844, he could not even secure a satisfactory contract for Afloat and Ashore. At the same time, his British publisher Richard Bentley was reducing the size of his editions and the amount of his payments to Cooper. These developments caused Cooper to distrust the candor of his publishers. Bentley’s proclamations that the market for fiction was depressed became a virtually constant chorus from the 1830s on, and in America at Lea & Blanchard, after a series of failed travel books, a set of controversial social novels, and the departure of his friend Henry Carey from the firm, he no longer enjoyed the welcome reception at the firm that he once did, even though his newest Leatherstocking tales and The Two Admirals were popular books. After Carey’s departure, Cooper’s correspondence with Isaac Lea becomes merely businesslike, and William Blanchard, never renowned for his talent, seems to have been no great favorite of Cooper, who wryly remarked in one letter that “If little Blanchard scolded his printers half as much as he scolds me, your books wouldn’t be so damnably printed.” ¹²¹ Although some of the troubles in 1842 were out of Lea & Blanchard’s hands due to the troubled economy, sufficient grounds for Cooper’s doubt can be found in Washington Irving’s comment to George Palmer Putnam that Lea & Blanchard had let all of his old books go out of print, having nearly persuaded him they were “defunct.” ¹²² Cooper’s sense that he is being exploited, undervalued and underpaid for his superior work, finds vent in Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief. The work, then, serves as an admonition that creative work of superior ability and taste must be recognized, respected, and remunerated properly, according to its true value as art.
Adrienne, despite her original wish to embroider a fine linen handkerchief with antique lace as a gift to the Dauphine, is reduced by political and economic forces outside of her control to taking up the same project as a means of support. Cooper is keen to emphasize Adrienne’s superior skill, which places her so far above the everyday seamstress, that the two can hardly be considered to occupy the same sphere. Such skill gives her knowledge of and control over her art: “Adrienne was unusually skillful with the needle, and her taste had been so highly cultivated, as to make her a perfect mistress of all the proprieties of patterns” (71-2). Yet the work Adrienne undertakes is physically and emotionally draining. She works “not only until her fingers and body ached, but, until her very heart ached” (83). As she nears completion of the embroidered pocket-handkerchief, she finds her happiness not what she had anticipated, merely because “hope had exhausted her spirit” (85). When she finally does complete the handkerchief in a morning of frantic labor, ¹²³ she suddenly throws it down and bursts into hysterical sobs and tears (88). Her work is so exhausting not only because of the demands placed upon her by external circumstances but also because her artistic standards are still high. Despite turning her attention to profits, her pattern is still the one she prepared for the Dauphine, and Cooper states throughout the book that the work is better than the ordinary glitz that adorns other handkerchiefs. The good taste of Adrienne’s design, Cooper suggests, compensates for the otherwise extravagant character of the embroidered-handkerchief genre: “They were not simple, vulgar, unmeaning ornaments, such as uncultivated tastes seize upon with avidity, on account of their florid appearance; but well-devised drawings, that were replete with taste and thought, and afforded some apology for the otherwise senseless luxury contemplated, by aiding and refining the imagination, and cultivating the intellect” (72).
The parallels to fiction-writing here are difficult to overlook: Cooper’s own involvement in novel-writing, a genre often attacked for its frivolity and negative influence on character, is redeemed by its ingenuity and positive influence on character. Certainly one does not normally credit pocket-handkerchiefs with the abilities of “refining the imagination” or “cultivating the intellect,” yet Cooper seems to be deliberately emphasizing such qualities not for their own sakes, but as a broader statement about the possibilities of the creative artist — the reasons, indeed, that they should be valued by society and compensated accordingly. One noteworthy element here, too, is Cooper’s emphasis on the physical and emotional costs to the artist who creates such exceptional work. Although Cooper’s confidence in his abilities as an author has often been noted, Cooper was more close-lipped about the real difficulties and doubts he faced during the creative process. Despite evidence that many of his books, including his very successful The Spy and The Pilot, hung in the balance while he figured out how to finish the innovative works he had started without a great degree of planning, Cooper in his correspondence usually puts on a brave face. His frequent comments to his family about his health, though, are easily observed, as he became more engrossed with ailments as he progressed through his fifties during the 1840s. In Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, Cooper seems to be hinting that authorship takes its toll both physically and mentally, and that this cost, however intangible it is, should also be accounted for in the compensation a creator receives for his or her work.
In the story, though, Adrienne, despite her obvious skill, is ruthlessly exploited by the calculating milliner, “paid merely as a common sewing-girl, though her neatness, skill and taste might well have entitled her to double wages” (73). As Cooper notes, “Those who live on the frivolities of mankind, or, what is the same thing, their luxuries, have two sets of victims to plunder — the consumer, and the real producer, or the operative” (73). Threats of exploitation surround the very production of the masterpiece Adrienne has been contemplating and continue throughout the work, as people unassociated with the actual creation of art seize every advantage to profit from it. Once again Cooper includes details relevant to his own work as an author. As Adrienne discovers she is being paid less than the milliner’s other seamstresses despite the greater profit her work brings, she gently attempts to resolve the situation. The milliner recognizes what a prize she has in Adrienne, and, as Cooper explains, has two alternatives: “to offer a higher price, or to undervalue the services she was so fearful of losing. Her practiced policy, as well as her selfishness, counseled her to try the latter expedient first” (82). The milliner, scolding Adrienne for her impertinence, threatens to let her go if she will not work for twelve sous, then, out of seeming generosity, offers to let her continue at fifteen, although Adrienne is taking home more work than ever (82-83). The handkerchief narrator, though superior understanding, recognizes the situation for what it is — one of the “artifices of the selfish and calculating, one of their most familiar frauds being to conceal from the skillful their own success, lest it should command a price in proportion to its claims” (81). Adrienne, by failing to assert her worth at this moment, is putting her future well-being in jeopardy, causing the narrator to interject, “Poor child! Little did she think that she was establishing precedents against herself, by which further and destructive exertions might be required” (83-4). The fear of losing all of her income keeps her in a virtual state of indenture.
At the very moment when Adrienne finishes the handkerchief in an outpouring of emotion, commercial rapacity intrudes again, this time in the person of Desiree, the commissionaire. Desiree had kept abreast of the progress of the handkerchief by bribing the girl of the house, and under the pretence of inquiring about the apartment, comes to see Adrienne. Desiree, like the milliner, undervalues Adrienne’s work in hope of obtaining it cheaply, shaming Adrienne for the price she paid for the lace and giving low estimations of the time required to make such an exquisite piece: “Ten for the handkerchief, twenty for the lace, and fifteen for the work make forty-five francs — parole d’honneur, it does come to a pretty price for a handkerchief. Si, we must ask forty-five francs for it and then we can always abate the five francs, and take two napoleons” (91). For the cambric fabric alone, Adrienne had paid twenty-eight francs. After her grandmother dies that evening, Adrienne is induced to take Desiree’s price just to cover funeral expenses.
In the ensuing trades, people with no connection to the creation of the handkerchief connive to profit from Adrienne’s artistry. Desiree receives from Colonel Silky more than double what she paid; Silky, in turn, profits hugely from the sale of the handkerchief by his partner, the shopkeeper Bobbinet. Cooper takes every opportunity to expose the ruthless cunning of such dealers. Bobbinet, in his private account book, even attempts to increase his enormous profit by scrimping on a twenty-five cent charge and selling the pattern for later reproduction:
Super-extraordinary Pocket-Handkerchief, French cambric, trimmed and worked, in ac. With Bobbinet & Gull.
To money paid first cost — francs 100 — at 5.25… $19.04 65/100
To interest on same for…
To portion of passage money… .04
To porterage… .00 ¼
To washing and making up… .25
(Mem. See if a deduction cannot be made from this charge.)
By cash for allowing Miss Thimble to copy pattern, not to be worked until our article is sold… 1.00
By cash for sale, &c….
These account statements are not unlike those exchanged between Cooper and his publishers, printers, and stereotypers, or those entered into the cost books of Lea & Blanchard. The provision for copying the pattern, “not to be worked until our article is sold,” is particularly striking for its similarity to terms that would be struck with publishers. The marketing tactics used by shopowners, the milliner, Bobbinet & Co., and others in the tale also smack of tactics used by publishers: to undervalue the work to its author and complain about poor prospects in the marketplace, but once the work is securely in hand and the producer paid, to hyperbolically and cunningly promote it and reap the profits. Cooper also risked suffering in the same way, since he had long ago abandoned publishing on the shares system (splitting risks and profits with his publishers) in favor of the more certain income of a fixed payment for sale or lease of his copyrights. It must be said, however, that when looking at the situation with more objective hindsight, Cooper fared relatively well during these times and negotiated better terms than most. His critiques, then, must be seen as the exaggerations they are; it is unlikely even, given the satirical tenor of the book, that Cooper intended the facts and figures to stand as entirely realistic representations of commerce in America.
Nevertheless, such critiques offer sufficient insight into where Cooper places the blame for the low appreciation of artistic productions during the early 1840s: on scheming, profit-worshipping middlemen and indeed even, as the later portions of the book suggest, on the mass public, who through its susceptibility to fashion, hysteria, and greed fails to seek true refinement, taste, and value. Cooper, unlike Hawthorne, identifies no “scribbling women” as the cause for his languishing fortunes, nor does he, like Melville, look with suspicion at industrialism as a root cause for trouble. Just as astutely as these two authors, though (and several years earlier, when arguably the crunch in publishing was at its worst), Cooper identifies the “cupidity of trade” (91) and its accompanying “great game of brag” (256) as the great impediment to true artistry in America. Hardly revolutionary in this observation, Cooper is nonetheless daring enough to confront his readers with it in the pages of one of America’s most popular monthly magazines. ¹²⁴ Whether or not readers responded to either the story or the social criticisms within, though, is a mystery. No reviews of the work are known, ¹²⁵ and no correspondence has been found to suggest any particular reactions to the work. Cooper never attempted an experiment similar to Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief again, and seldom mentioned it again. Around the time the last installment appeared in Graham’s, Cooper, met his old shipmate from 1806, Ned Myers, and subsequently developed a much more successful approach to using first person narration that would see him through several novels. By the time he agreed to write another piece of fiction for Graham’s three years later, neither he nor Graham apparently wished a repeat of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, and the resulting work, The Islets of the Gulf, looked very much like a regular Cooper novel.
The Islets of the Gulf; or, Rose Budd is a sea story set in New York and the Dry Tortugas of Florida during the Mexican War, circa 1846. In it, the hero Harry Mulford, a first mate on the brigantine Molly Swash comes to discover that his captain, Stephen Spike, is really a smuggler engaged in selling gunpowder to the Mexicans. He also finds that the grizzly old Spike has designs on a young woman on board, Rose Budd, who is traveling with her aunt and servant as a means of restoring her health. While Spike attempts to elude a government sloop suspicious about his movements, Mulford tries to elude Spike and make Rose safe — falling in love in the process, of course. Mulford and Rose are aided by Jack Tier, a short, dumpy little cabin steward who knows Spike of old and has decidedly conflicting emotions about him. Brutality and grotesqueness abound in the work, and after a climactic boat chase in which Captain Spike tries in vain to lighten his boat by coldly dumping overboard crew and passengers (Rose’s aunt among them), the mortally wounded Spike is told the secret of Jack’s true identity as Spike’s long-abandoned wife, Mary, or Molly, Swash.
Islets of the Gulf was Cooper’s fulfillment of a request by Graham in April 1846 for a new serialized novel to run through ten numbers of his magazine. Graham was clearly losing his enthusiasm for Cooper’s ongoing series of naval biographies, which, as he later complained several years later, never attracted new subscribers to the magazine. ¹²⁶ Wishing to put his famous novelist to better use, he proposed a suspension of the biographies while Cooper wrote a new nautical tale. His specifications reveal his characteristic interest in suiting the popular taste: “I should like the novel to be a sea story full of incident, and I think character –for a little love “goes a great way” in making a magazine sketch attractive & popular with the readers of the lighter magazine.” ¹²⁷
Despite expressing a wish in his proposal to receive the first part of the tale by 10 May (a mere month later), the two parties did not actually sign a contract for the work until 3 June, with Cooper agreeing to supply the first installment of five numbers (averaging ten Graham’s Magazine pages apiece) ninety days thereafter, the remaining five in 180 days. Cooper further agreed not to republish the tale in America until it had appeared in its entirety in Graham’s (or December 31, 1848 — whichever came first), the copyright remaining in his name. He could, however, sell the tale for publication outside the country before that time, provided that no part of the tale should appear elsewhere before it appeared in Graham’s. ¹²⁸ While negotiations were underway, Cooper contacted Bentley to see if he might be interested in purchasing, bluffing (most likely) that other offers from Europe awaited if Bentley did not accept. As a hint to offer a good price, perhaps, Cooper sought sympathy for his plight: “For a remunerating price, I am ready to give as strong a nautical tale, as any body going, but the publishers pay so little now, as almost to induce me to turn to some other pursuit. I do not like change, but shall be driven to something of the sort, without an increase of price. I can not write a book for the sum I receive, and do justice to any one.” ¹²⁹ The way Cooper links the potential quality of his work to its price point is interesting for the way he turns the question into a matter of willpower on both sides. In one sense his argument is valid, in an odd sort of way, for his career: his most acclaimed works tended to be those produced when he was receiving huge sums for his work: Mohicans, Prairie, and Red Rover especially. Perhaps, Cooper hints, he can return to those days again if given suitable rewards for his art. Conversely, the statement also saddles Bentley with some of the blame for the commercial failure of most of his 1840s novels in England, his pay not being significant enough to ensure a work of success. Cooper is, of course, overlooking many of the commercial failures of his own causing which might have been prevented had he taken his publishers’ advice (on matters even as simple as titles). Cooper’s manipulations notwithstanding, Bentley cleverly turned Cooper’s words to his own advantage, converting Cooper’s implied threats into implied promises for a good novel, responding that “I gather from your letter that you mean to make this ‘a strong nautical tale.’” ¹³⁰
Cooper’s negotiations with Bentley did end up having a good deal of influence on its final form and scope. Bentley had always been averse to accepting novels that did not conform to the traditional “triple-decker” three-volume format common in Britain. Short works such as Ned Myers and works with “continuations” such as Homeward Bound/Home as Found or Afloat and Ashore were sources of worry for Bentley, and he provisionally advanced on Cooper’s new nautical tale with the understanding that it would be “of the usual extent of your other novels, that is, of such amount as to make three fair volumes.” ¹³¹ Although Cooper had irritated Bentley numerous times by ignoring Bentley’s admonitions but still seeking full price, in his negotiations for The Islets of the Gulf (for which Bentley adopted the title Captain Spike) Cooper anticipated Bentley by proposing two-thirds their usual recent rate, since the work would be about two-thirds the size of one of Cooper’s regular novels. Still, Cooper hoped for a chance to expand the work to the usual size, and included a proposal that Bentley pay the full price if he could get Graham to agree to the expansion: “I am willing to extend the story to three volumes, and think I can make a better story by so doing, but I do not know whether he [Graham] wishes such a change, or not. I propose therefore, that you pay me one third less than £350, for the tale as now settled, or the £350, if I can effect a change with Graham, in the length of the story.” ¹³²
While in Philadelphia between 30 August and 3 September 1846, Cooper probably wished to discuss with Graham the possibility of extending his story. He may have missed Graham entirely, since Graham was traveling and not due back until 2 September, or, if he did see Graham, no decision was reached. Instead, Cooper received a letter from someone at the magazine office (not Graham himself) instructing him to stick with the original plan: “On confering [sic] with Mr Graham we have come to the conclusion that we would prefer the Sea Story should be the length agreed upon. You will therefore please finish it the short road.” ¹³³ Likewise, as he forwarded proof to Bentley on 22 September, Cooper remarked, “The story will be in ten parts, and for the short price, of course. It is nearly written, and I will take care of your rights.” ¹³⁴
Shortly thereafter, though, Cooper apparently gained the leverage he needed to renegotiate, but not through circumstances he would have anticipated. On 6 November 1846, Graham wrote with some urgency:
I am sorry to say we have met with an accident with the MS of the Islets of the Gulf”. In moving my office from 89 to 129 Chestnut St, it has been lost or mislaced[sic], and after four days of patient search, I have advertised it, with a hope that if dropped by the porter in the street it can yet be recovered.
Now as the January part should be in type now. — how shall we get along. Can you write me out four or five pages so as to give a part — if only a short one — in that number. Delay is impossible, and as I reprint for the benefit of new subscribers, the two past parts, we could get along with a short one for January. In the mean while I hope the missing MS will be recovered
Please write me by return mail
Yours truly / Geo R Graham ¹³⁵
Six days later, the missing pages of manuscript still had not turned up, forcing Graham once again to request that Cooper rewrite those parts which had been lost:
After the most patient search we have come to the deliberate conclusion that, that [sic] the MS has either been stolen or is irrecoverably lost. We have advertised it extensively in the city papers but have heard nothing of it, and the January part should now be in type we are very much embarrassed about it.
Will you do us the favor of writing off at once from your notes, 4 or 5 pages in the January number. we will pay you for your trouble whatever is fair and right to not disappoint us in this, as we rely very much upon the effect of this novel, in inducing a renewal of subscriptions for the new year. Should anything be heard of the MS I will write you by the first mail, but I have given it up. ¹³⁶
Traveling to Philadelphia around 25 November-4 December, Cooper most likely obliged Graham’s request, announcing to his wife the vague information that “The manuscript is gone, and an agreement is on the tapis that I find to my liking. It will give me a $1000 at no great trouble.” Quite possibly the “agreement” Cooper referred to was that in which he consented to rewrite three lost portions of the manuscript and extend the publication of The Islets of the Gulf to fifteen numbers (subsequently becoming seventeen through subdivision of the last two parts). An undated, unsigned copy of the agreement — possibly a rough draft — survives. ¹³⁷ According to the terms stated there, Cooper was to receive $500 from Graham for extending the tale; the extra £116 2/3 he would receive from Bentley, presuming an exchange rate of around $4.82 per British pound sterling, would add roughly another $562 to the total, thereby approximating Cooper’s off-the-cuff estimate of a thousand dollars. ¹³⁸ Cooper reported the change of plans to Bentley on 27 March 1847:
The story has been finished for some time, and, by a new arrangement with Mr. Graham it will make a full book. This will entitle me to the £350 ... Now, Mr. Graham has been desirous of having seventeen numbers, instead of fifteen, which would make one of my ordinary tales, as to length. To this I have consented, cutting two of the last parts into four ... I think the succeeding chapters of this story will have interest. Graham had three parts stolen in manuscript, and I have been obliged to rewrite them. This has impaired their interest, for one never writes as well, on such subjects, as at the first heat. ¹³⁹
Cooper did rewrite the missing parts, but of course there is no easy way to tell today how much their interest was “impaired” by the rewriting. The January 1847 issue of Graham’s appeared in the format Graham had mentioned in his letter of 6 November 1846, with the first and second numbers reprinted “for the benefit of new subscribers” and the newly rewritten third number. ¹⁴⁰ The rewritten fourth and fifth numbers appeared in subsequent months, and publication suffered no more dramatic turns throughout the run of the story, in America at least. ¹⁴¹ The last two numbers, as the contract had provided, were split to make four, perhaps so as to extend the climax and denouement of the tale into a new volume of the magazine without ending it in a January issue.
The regular divisions in the story show how Cooper had become more seasoned to magazine writing since Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, which had consisted of four numbers of decidedly unequal size. Cooper approached the writing of Islets of the Gulf much as he would his regular novels. He included an epigraph, or “motto,” as he called them, at the opening of each number, as well as one under the title of the work, just as he would include them at the beginnings of chapters and on the title pages of his novels. Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief has neither of these features. Although his installments were longer than his normal chapters, Cooper merely doubled their length (except for the last numbers). Thus, when published in book form as Jack Tier, the seventeen (really fifteen) numbers corresponded closely in length to the usual thirty or thirty-one chapters in many of Cooper’s novels. His adherence to his novelistic practices may have been behind the story’s expansion from the ten original numbers; as Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief had shown, Cooper struggled in his attempt to write a shorter story, and he may have found himself falling back into his normal habits when envisioning the scope and size of the work. It would certainly not be the first time a Cooper novel grew beyond its bounds. Certainly the fact that he completed the novel long before portions of it were due suggests his acquired competence in producing a fiction of his usual size. Thus he could, while traveling on business in Detroit in October 1847, direct his son Paul to take the next installment of manuscript for the story — in the family’s “Big Bible,” as usual, and send it on to Graham. ¹⁴² Cooper was not scribbling out each number in Dickensian fashion, rushing to meet each monthly deadline.
That is not to say, however, that Cooper made no concessions to the story’s serial publication. He paid particular attention to the endings of his chapters. Thomas Philbrick has claimed that Cooper’s technique of ending on a suspenseful note resembles conventions similar to those employed by magazine writers Charles Peterson and William Clark, who had earlier contributed sea stories to Graham’s. ¹⁴³ Thus he ends the first installment with the starring ship of the story, the brig Molly Swash, striking the Pot Rock off of New York, even though in the second number it turns out that no damage was done. ¹⁴⁴ At other times Cooper ends on a note of particular irony, such as in the penultimate chapter when the dying Captain Spike shrinks with disgust upon discovering that the short, dumpy tar Jack Tier is really his long-ago abandoned wife, Mary — or Molly — Swash. An even more distinctive feature appears at the very beginning of the story. Islets of the Gulf has perhaps the best opening of any Cooper novel. It is the only work of his to open in media res with conversation (“D’YE hear there, Mr. Mulford?”), immediately immersing readers in the action of the story. The opening, like the setting of the work, takes on a decidedly modern character, again in contrast to the desultory eighteenth-century style prerequisites of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief.
Undoubtedly with the adaptations required for magazine publication some side effects would occur. Thomas Philbrick has singled out what he considers to be the most unfortunate consequences Cooper’s method of publishing the tale:
One other effect of serial publication on Jack Tier is the slipshod finish of the narrative. Although Cooper’s novels are never impeccable in their details, Jack Tier contains more than its share of inconsistent and tautological passages: Spike’s boatswain, for example, is variously named Rove (p.36), Clench (p. 72), and Strand (p. 463); the reader is first told that Spike knows the name of a certain naval officer (p. 127), but later in the narrative it appears that he does not (p. 178); a bag of gold has been stowed aboard a schooner first by Mulford (p. 321) and then by Jack (p. 439); Cooper’s phobia against “Hurl Gate” as a bowdlerized version of “Hell Gate” manifests itself twice in the novel (pp. 35, 81-82); and two tedious, nearly identical, and entirely unnecessary explanations of the method of determining longitude are supplied (pp. 94-99, 223-227). ¹⁴⁵
These claims deserve some attention, since they highlight Cooper’s method (or lack thereof) of composing and publishing the work. It is true that Cooper was never foolproof with names, and he sometimes forgot minor details such as the stowing of the gold cited above. But it is worthwhile to note that in several of Philbrick’s comparisons of inconsistencies, one of the passages cited falls within the three numbers (Chapters 3, 4, & 5) that Cooper was obligated to rewrite: the assignment of the name Clench to the boatswain, the mention of Spike’s knowing the officer’s name, the second reference to “Hurl Gate,” and the first discussion of longitude. It is possible that Cooper introduced errors not present in his original telling of the story when forced to rewrite from memory. Then, too, Philbrick may be overstating his case on the last two examples he cites. In both cases, Cooper clearly states that it is the second time these matters have come up: Mrs. Budd’s “Hurl Gate” as a recurring example of her ignorant know-it-all-ism; the explanation of measuring longitude with chronometers as an example of the difficulty in getting women to understand technical matters. Indeed, this last example seems to be introduced by Cooper as a sort of education (complete with review) of his female audience in Graham’s.
Many of these textual “problems,” then, can be dismissed as either purposeful (if not wholly satisfying) authorial inclusions or as accidental mishaps from either the composition or the editing process. Cooper did write his fiction in a fairly linear fashion from beginning to end. What he wrote at the “first heat” was essentially his finished product, to be edited mildly for style and conciseness (Twain advocates will doubtlessly find this difficult to believe), turned over to printers or stereotypers, and corrected again at the proof stage. ¹⁴⁶ The structure of Islets of the Gulf compliments that writing style, adopting, as Philbrick notes, a more straightforward and simplified plot than some other of his novels. ¹⁴⁷ Still, beyond the first couple of installments at least, he did not compose the piece in monthly parts, serial fashion, but finished the work and merely submitted it in pieces. This method would have distinct repercussions on the editing process: no longer would Cooper be able to read proof sheets for half or all of the work together, or in the space of a day or two. Instead, sheets would be available by the chapter as each new issue of Graham’s was set it type. Being unable to read and edit his text with much continuity, Cooper may have allowed more errors to slip past him, although there is little to suggest that Islets of the Gulf is outrageously error-prone.
Much can also be learned about Cooper intentions for Islets of the Gulf by examining portions of the manuscript that survive. The American Antiquarian Society holds two surviving fragments in its collection, manuscript pages 1-6 and 17-32. ¹⁴⁸ A detailed textual study is certainly beyond the scope of this work, but in this case the first page of manuscript reveals several interesting details about the story. The Molly Swash was almost a schooner instead of a brigantine: before the first line was out, Cooper had changed “Capt. Stephen Spike, of the schooner” to “Capt. Stephen Spike, of the small, half-rigged brig-” and then just “Capt. Stephen Spike of the half-rigged brig-.” These details were changed before Cooper composed the next line, because that line starts with “antine,” the continuation of his amended description of the craft. Such indecision over ships would matter little to most landsmen, but for Cooper the character of the ship would have much influence over the character of the story. A schooner might offer a truer reflection of the vehicles actually used by smugglers, but a brigantine would be a more “classic” ship for smugglers, calling to mind the mystical brigantine Water-Witch from Cooper’s 1830 romance of that name. Scholars have frequently noted how this story, though its bleak, almost naturalistic portrayal of Stephen Spike’s depravity, stands as something of an antidote to the romantic, Byronic pirates of The Red Rover and The Water-Witch. ¹⁴⁹ Choosing a brigantine rather than a schooner reinforces the suggestion that Cooper’s project was more anti-romance than realism, even though he never entirely sheds the aura of romance that surrounds adventure of the sea.
Another set of early changes in the manuscript subtly reshapes first impressions of Harry Mulford, the upstanding hero of the work. In one place, “During the three months I’ve been with them” is changed to “During the twelve months I have been with them,” and in another, “May I ask” becomes “May I enquire.” The effect of both of these changes is to make Mulford more formal, respectable, and gentlemanly — and unfortunately for Cooper, more like the typical “wooden” heroes in Cooper romances that critics were so fond of mocking. The change in Mulford’s duration with the ship may have come about as a way to make his moral dilemma more plausible; after only three months on a ship one would not be expected to have developed a strong sense of loyalty to the vessel, whereas in twelve months a sailor could grow fond of his ship yet still remain unacquainted with the illegal dealings of his master. These alterations undertaken early in the progress of the work reveal Cooper undergoing the initial process of decision-making that would permanently affect the character of the work, however his plans for it may have changed as his writing progressed.
In the main, then, Cooper was true to Graham’s request to supply a work with a good deal of love and adventure — one, too, without too much “controversial matter.” Cooper attained this latter quality by keeping a greater authorial distance from the material. To some this approach might suggest hackwork, but it could also be an indication of Cooper’s awareness of what kind of material Graham was seeking. Situated as it is after Afloat and Ashore and the Littlepage Trilogy, and right before The Crater (which was written while Islets of the Gulf was appearing in Graham’s), The Islets of the Gulf is striking for its lack of anything substantially self-referential. There is no first-person (or, in the case of The Crater, first-person-like) narration; no references to anything of note in Cooper’s past or even anything that was particularly vexing him in the present (his usual gripes about “Hurl Gate” notwithstanding). But Cooper did set the novel in the present, and in that sense the work is connected not only to its nautical predecessors The Red Rover and The Water-Witch, as has often been noted, but also to social predecessors such as Homeward Bound. Unlike that book, though, The Islets of the Gulf is not a “society” novel; Cooper was not struggling with an experimental novel of manners here. Nor is it really much of a commentary on military matters. Despite Cooper’s great relish in analyzing the Mexican War, armchair-quarterback fashion, in his letters to his best friend Commodore William Branford Shubrick, he manages to distance himself from issues surrounding the war more easily than from issues close to home (particularly those involving property) in other books. Cooper treats the leading Mexican character of the novel, Señor Montefalderon, with respect and dignity as a good man who has been forced into awkward circumstances by his country. In his later preface to Jack Tier Cooper writes that he considers the Mexican people (as opposed to the Mexican government) “mild, amiable, and disposed to be on friendly terms with us.” ¹⁵⁰ Like the setting of the work itself, in relatively “neutral ground,” (or waters really), Cooper occupies the fringes of the war without becoming directly engaged in polemical efforts for or against it. With such distance, Islets of the Gulf is a fairly self-contained work, and probably his most successful handling of present-day settings, if not his most ambitious.
In another sense, though, Islets of the Gulf seems calculated to disturb the sensibilities of typical magazine readers, especially women. The atmosphere of the novel is bleak and harsh from the start. All is flawed: Spike’s brig, while beautiful and fast, is too old to be insured; his crew, except for Mulford, is composed entirely of sober, middle-aged men. Mrs. Budd is smug in her nautical malapropism and fancied importance. Mulford carries too much pride in his profession until he is brought low by disaster. The heroine Rose is ailing, and she proves herself susceptible to much of her aunt’s ignorance. As the novel progresses, Spike’s self-centered depravity is all the more confirmed, the end of the story displaying his full brutality and inability to repent. The gruesome death of Mrs. Budd, whose hands are cut off while she clings to the side of Spike’s boat, and the loathsome revelation that Jack Tier is Molly Swash after twenty years of seafaring life disguised as a man, are incidents designed to shake readers’ expectations, both moral and literary, through their “unnatural” character — the very word some reviewers used to describe the denouement of the work. These scenes are correctly noted for their powerful moral implications, as manifestations of Cooper’s themes of divine omnipotence and human insignificance, ¹⁵¹ but they have literary implications too as subtle assertions of Cooper’s control of the narrative as author.
As Islets of the Gulf was nearing the end of its run in Graham’s, Cooper was preparing the work for publication in book form with Burgess & Stringer in New York. Instead of keeping The Islets of the Gulf as his title, or even “Rose Budd,” as he preferred to call the story himself, Cooper changed the title of the book version to Jack Tier; or, The Florida Reef. His preface states his supposed reasoning for the change:
This work has already appeared in Graham’s Magazine, under the title of “Rose Budd.” The change of name is solely the act of the author, and arises from a conviction that the appellation given in this publication is more appropriate than the one laid aside. The necessity of writing to a name, instead of getting it from the incidents of the book itself, has been the cause of this departure from the ordinary rules. ¹⁵²
Note that these lines do not say who created the “necessity of writing to a name.” The construction used here gives the impression that Cooper was given a title specification — say from Graham, for instance — and obligated to write a story around it. The first page of the manuscript, however, renders Cooper’s claim suspect. The title itself — and consequently the name of the heroine — underwent a change before Cooper had even reached the second page. He had originally considered naming his heroine “Ruby Blossom,” entering that name as the title at the beginning of the first page. Canceling that, however, he changed to “Rose Budd” before reaching page two, where “Rose Budd” is entered as the running title. ¹⁵³ This change would be an insignificant curiosity in itself were it not for Cooper’s claim. He seems to have had freedom to choose whatever name he wished for his heroine. As writing proceeded, perhaps he did become constrained by the provisional title of the work, but the evidence would suggest that this constraint was likely one of his own imposition. His continued reference to the story as “Rose Budd,” rather than Islets of the Gulf (the primary title for its publication in Graham’s) also hints at a self-imposed “necessity of writing to a name.” At least one can understand his desire to remove the emphasis on Rose, the traditional heroine, and place it on Jack Tier/Molly Swash, the subversive heroine, since the real climaxes of the book emphasize physical and moral ugliness. The multiplicity of titles for the book, though, prompted needling from at least one reviewer:
As this novel has already appeared by monthly instalments [sic] in Graham’s Magazine, under the title of “Rose Budd,” most of our readers will recognise here an old friend under a new name. It would seem to be a troublesome matter to decide upon the most appropriate appellation for the work. At the moment of writing this we perceive that it is advertised in London by the title of Captain Spike; and although the unprincipled captain has no claim upon our sympathies, and we begin to look upon him with dislike and mistrust at an early stage of the story, we are disposed to think that either he or his vessel has the strongest claim to the honor. ¹⁵⁴
With its new title, the book was published by Burgess, Stringer & Co. on 21 March 1848, selling in two volumes with cheap brown paper covers for twenty-five cents a volume, or in cloth for 75 cents per volume. Exact details of Cooper’s arrangements for this book with his publishers are not known — records for the firm being scarce — but most likely on terms similar to those he had settled for Satanstoe and The Chainbearer (both 1845), namely, a first edition of approximately 3500-3600 copies for around $1050, with stereotyping to be undertaken at his cost and the price of additional editions to be negotiated. ¹⁵⁵ A stereotyping bill from John Fagan does survive, placing Cooper’s expenses at $349.29. ¹⁵⁶ Cooper’s profit from the first edition, then, was probably around $700 — less than half of what he had received from Graham for the piece. When adding these book profits to his $1800 profit from Graham’s, however, ¹⁵⁷ along with the much more respectable £350 he received from Bentley (about $1650-1700 in 1846 dollars), Cooper’s earnings look much more, making it perhaps one of the more lucrative novels of his late career.
Cooper was pleasantly surprised by the success of the book too. He had not anticipated much from a work that had already appeared in print in a popular magazine, going so far as to tell Bentley not to worry about the closeness of publication dates between Captain Spike and The Bee Hunter (Bentley’s titles for Jack Tier and The Oak Openings, respectively): “Burgess & Stringer have the same reasons for wishing to keep back ‘The Oak Openings’ as you, they publishing Spike early in March; but I do not think that a book which has gone through a magazine can greatly harm a new work.” ¹⁵⁸ By 1 April 1848, however, he was reporting success of the work — as well as his opinion of it relative to The Crater — to his wife, in a letter that unfortunately does little flattery to either his or Griswold’s critical acumen:
By the way, I hear that Jack Tier takes unusually well. Griswold told me, yesterday, that it was thought one of the very best of my books. I do not so regard it, certainly, but condensed I dare say it reads off smoothly enough. The Crater is worth two of it. It is selling well. I have bought Now and Then [by Samuel Warren], but Griswold says that people are disappointed in it. Something Eyre [i.e., Jane Eyre] is much talked of, but he puts the Bachelor of the Albany [by Marmion W. Savage] among the very best books of the season. Or as he politely expressed it, after Jack Tier, The Bachelor comes next. I should think there is nothing in common between them. ¹⁵⁹
Critics, however, had mixed reviews. Godey’s, with subtle tweaking of its rival publication, anticipated “a ready sale” for the novel, its prior publication in Graham’s not preventing “its being sought f those not familiar with that work.” The reviewer objects that “The progress and denouement of the tale are improbable and unnatural, a fault not often to be found in Cooper’s writings.” ¹⁶⁰ The reviewer for The Literary World praised Cooper’s portrayal of Captain Spike and his brig, but dismissed the rest of the cast as “non-entities” and the plot as “reminding the reader strongly of the Water-Witch, as the same game of hide-and-seek is carried on throughout.” ¹⁶¹ A British reviewer in The Spectator said Cooper was showing clear signs of “exhaustion,” but blamed some of the flaws of “structure and stuffing” in the work to its magazine publication, claiming that “scenes have the air of being planned for separate exhibition.” ¹⁶² Other reviews of the novel seem to be few and far between, suggesting not only a weak distribution of review copies by Burgess & Stringer but also a critical indifference toward a work appearing as “an old friend under a new name.” ¹⁶³
After The Islets of the Gulf Cooper’s connection with Graham’s ended. Cooper never resumed the series of naval biographies for Graham, and never published another piece in his magazine (although he did get his daughter Susan’s “The Lumley Autograph” published there in 1851). The magazine changed hands after Graham’s financial failure in 1848, attributed to excessive living and poor business decisions. From Philadelphia on 21 July 1848, Cooper’s stereotyper John Fagan inquired in a P.S., “Have you heard of the failure of Graham of this city? He is utterly ruined by profuse living and stock speculations. But I presume that he paid you all, some time since.” ¹⁶⁴ Graham published a notice of his misfortunes in the October 1848 issue, stating that as a result of forgetting his “own true interests” he had lost his “proprietory interest in this Magazine,” but would stay on as an editor (his “first love”) under a “liberal arrangement” from the present publishers. ¹⁶⁵ Graham was eventually able to regain control of his magazine in 1850, but by then neglect, the passage of time, and stiff competition from other publications such as the new Harper’s New Monthly Magazine made the magazine a difficult enterprise. A letter of Graham’s from 25 October 1853 shows how serious the threat from the Harpers had become; writing to George Palmer Putnam (another former Cooper publisher) to congratulate him on the success of his new periodical, Graham writes: “The success of ‘Putnam’s Monthly’ is the salvation of ‘Graham’ for it will stop the prevailing opinion in the trade and among the public that Harper is to swallow us all.” ¹⁶⁶ Such close combat from a man who had dominated America’s periodical field a decade before indicated that Graham’s time had indeed passed. ¹⁶⁷ Working his way down in the world from there, Graham would die in obscurity nearly fifty years after his heyday of the mid-1840s, being supported in his old age, ironically, by a man who had once stood in awe of Graham while sweeping sidewalks as a boy. ¹⁶⁸
Of Cooper’s legacy as a contributor to Graham’s Magazine, a few assessments can be made. Although Spiller and Blackburn’s claim that Cooper’s writing for Graham’s was “a vain effort to adapt his ability to the requirements of the literary monthly magazines” ¹⁶⁹ goes too far in its condemnation, it is true that Cooper never became a magazine writer in the typical sense. As a latecomer to periodical publication, already established as a prominent author, Cooper entirely bypassed a growing genre of short-story or “tale” writing that served as “bread and butter” for many of the succeeding generations of authors. Unlike most of the authors of this period still studied today (Hawthorne, Irving, Melville, Poe, Sedgwick, Simms, and Stowe among them), Cooper wrote no short stories for periodical publication. ¹⁷⁰ This fact has become surprisingly relevant to Cooper’s lasting reputation and continued study today. In an age of fat anthologies with small selections for any individual author, Cooper is more and more often encountered only in excerpts, having little in the way of complete short tales that are illustrative of his characteristics. But at least Cooper was spared the oblivion destined for many of the celebrated tale-writers of his day. To be sure, Cooper’s career never rested on his contributions to periodicals, including Graham’s, since he was known as a novelist from the start and never abandoned this primary career while contributing magazine pieces. During the six years with Graham’s, for which he wrote three works, he published numerous other works, including Wyandotté (1843), Ned Myers (1843), Afloat and Ashore (1844), Satanstoe (1845), The Chainbearer (1845), The Redskins (1846), and The Crater (1847), as well as shorter productions such as his pamphlet “The Battle of Lake Erie” (1843) and his “Elaborate Review” of the Mackenzie court-martial (1844). Graham’s never took precedence over Cooper’s other interests, particularly his novels, which he conceived as grander artistic ventures than his smaller-scale experiments for the magazine.
The findings discussed in this chapter suggest that Cooper succeeded in adapting his writing and his sense of authorship to fit the new realities of his situation with Graham’s much more successfully than Spiller and Blackburn’s claim would suggest, yet was still never quite certain of how to handle writing for a large and popular periodical. The naval biographies were successful enough as adaptations to the norms of periodical publishing: self-contained in one or two numbers, they required no great continuity, and Cooper could negotiate to extend the series at will. Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, with its strange narrator, unequal section divisions, unintended lengthiness, and awkward plotting, represents Cooper’s attempt to truly experiment with the possibilities of a new fictional form, free from the usual bounds of a novel. It was an experiment that only partially succeeded, never attaining any lasting importance in his view or, apparently, those of his readers, even though it does contain themes close to Cooper’s heart. By the time of Islets of the Gulf, Cooper had figured out how to adapt more conventionally novelistic material to the episodic installment format of the magazine — a retreat from the experimental course, but one with more certain success. Even here, though, his surprise at the success of Jack Tier suggests that he was at a loss for feedback from his initial publication of the work in Graham’s, and also uncertain as to how periodical publication would affect sales of his books. In his surviving correspondence Cooper himself rarely discusses the reception of his pieces for Graham’s, no doubt because he had no way of knowing, as he had with his novels, what the initial sales and critiques of the pieces were. For Cooper, always writing to a public rather than a coterie, this new method of reaching wide audiences must have come as something of a mixed blessing.
On the whole, though, Cooper’s six-year venture with Graham’s Magazine ranks as one of the happier developments in the last decade of his career. In exchange for letting his famous name be used to bolster the prestige of Graham’s literary corps, Cooper was given reasonable pay — indeed, for Islets of the Gulf, the highest sum Graham had paid for a single work. ¹⁷¹As the diversity of the works covered here demonstrates, he was given considerable flexibility to negotiate the size and character of his work without suffering indignity from publishers over experiments that did not prove profitable. Although George Graham’s appreciation of Cooper was apparently proportional to the novelist’s usefulness for selling his magazine, Cooper did have a genuine advocate in Rufus Griswold during and after the young editor’s tenure with Graham’s Magazine, a circumstance which played some part in the revival of respect for Cooper’s achievements among those who had denigrated them in the 1830s and early 1840s. Promoted in the most prominent monthly magazine of the day, Cooper reached wide new audiences through his connection with Graham’s. Despite initially failing to capitalize artistically on this opportunity with works that would capture the fancy of the reading public, Cooper did succeed in making his venture with Graham’s Magazine a creative outlet and a financial success during difficult years for book publishing in America.
1. Since the difference in titles between the serial and book forms of these works can easily cause confusion, it may be wise to note the system of terminology used here. Typically, scholars indiscriminately tend to use the titles of these works in book form even when referring to their appearance in Graham’s — thus Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers for the naval biographies or Jack Tier for The Islets of the Gulf. Since the initial appearance of these works in Graham’s is significant here, a closer distinction may be more useful. Thus The Islets of the Gulf will be used unless specifically referring to the book version, Jack Tier; likewise “naval sketches” or Graham’s sometime title “Sketches of Naval Men” versus the book form Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers. Thankfully amid all this confusion, Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief tends to be the preferred title for this work to this day, and will be used here except when referring to the pirated Brother Jonathan text, Le Mouchoir.
2. No reprints of Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers have appeared since Cooper’s lifetime. Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief appeared in a pirated version as an “extra” number of Brother Jonathan magazine on March 22, 1843 under the title of Le Mouchoir, an Autobiographical Romance. Apart from contemporary editions in Britain, France, and Germany, no others followed until 1897, when a limited scholarly edition of 500 copies, edited by Walter Lee Brown, was issued (Evanston, Ill.: Golden Booke Press). Brown’s annotated text, established in consultation with the original manuscript and all textual variants, bears the distinction of being the first scholarly critical edition of any Cooper work, nearly three quarters of a century in advance of any other. Another edition, also limited to 500 copies, was privately printed in 1949 as a festschrift in honor of Gregory Lansing Paine, using the Graham’s text without annotation. As for The Islets of the Gulf, after appearing in book form as Jack Tier, or, the Florida Reef in 1848 (English title: Captain Spike), it was regularly included in sets of Cooper’s works until these sets went out of print in the first quarter of the twentieth century. See Robert E. Spiller and Philip C. Blackburn, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (1930; New York: Burt Franklin, 1968) for details.
3. He may have received payment for his article “ The Edinburgh Review on James’s Naval Occurrences and Cooper’s Naval History,” published in the United States Magazine and Democratic Review for May & June 1842. Cooper is possibly referring to this piece in his letter to Mrs. Cooper, 22 March 1842, in which he writes, “I think I have made a better arrang[e]ment with my naval answers than giving them to the Boston Notion. I have some prospect of receiving $300 for them“ (Letters and Journals 4:251). Also, Letters and Journals (4:286) notes that John Louis O’Sullivan, the founder of the magazine, had often asked Cooper to contribute articles for pay. No presently known evidence either confirms or denies that Cooper was paid for this piece; the $300 figure does seem high.
4. Cooper’s known reviews of this era are collected and reprinted in facsimile by James Franklin Beard in Early Critical Essays, 1820-22 (Gainesville, FL: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1955).
5. [“Slavery in the United States,”] Revue Encyclopedique 34 (April 1827): 239-43; [“America,”] [A review of F. de Roos, Personal Narrative of Travels in the United States and Canada in 1826...], Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine 32 (October 1831): 297-311; “Point de Bateaux a Vapeur,” Paris, ou Le Livre des Cent-et-Un 9 (1832): 221-50. The latter piece was translated into English, with some portions of the French text omitted, as “No Steamboats — A Vision,” appearing in The American Ladies’ Magazine 7 (1834): 71-79.
6. The Naval Magazine 1 (January 1836): 19-33; 1 (March 1836): 176-91.
7. [Review of J.G. Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.], Knickerbocker Magazine 12 (October 1838): 349-66; “The Edinburgh Review on James’s Naval Occurrences and Cooper’s Naval History,” The United States Magazine and Democratic Review 10 (May and June 1842): 411-35, 515-41.
8. Brother Jonathan 1 (January 1, 1842): 19-22.
9. Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850 (New York: Appleton, 1930) 545. The full title of the magazine for the first two years of its existence was Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine (The Casket and Gentleman’s United). Embracing Every Department of Literature: Embellished with Engravings, Fashions, and Music, Arranged for the Piano-Forte, Harp, and Guitar.
10. Mott 552; Graham’s 20 (March 1842): 154.
11. Joy Bayless, Rufus W. Griswold: Poe’s Literary Executor (Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 1943) 56 (Rufus W. Griswold to William Cullen Bryant, 17 December 1843).
12. Bayless 53.
13.Graham’s Magazine 21 (December 1842): 344.
14.Graham’s Magazine 26 (July 1844): 48.
15. Mott 547.
16. Mott 505-06.
17. Mott 506-07.
18. Bayless 60.
19. Mott 506-07.
20. Bayless 55.
21. Mott 506-07; Bayless 56.
22. Bayless 53.
23. Mott 510.
24. Letters and Journals 4:251.
25. Letters and Journals 4:290.
26. Contracts for both works are held in the Lea & Febiger Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
27. Bayless 55-62.
28. Evening Tattler [New York] 23 July 1839; Bayless 30.
29. Evening Tattler [New York] 11 July 1839.
30. JFC to William P. Barton, 30 June 1842: Letters and Journals 4:300.
31. Rufus W. Griswold to JFC, 6 August 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
32. JFC to Griswold, 7 August 1842: Letters and Journals 4:305-07.
33. Graham’s Magazine 21 (October 1842): 219; Bayless 62.
34. Bayless 63. See Pierre M. Irving, The Life and Letters of Washington Irving (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1864) 3:265.
35. Griswold to JFC, 22 November 1842: Letters and Journals 4:322.
36. JFC to Griswold, 26 November 1842: Letters and Journals 4:321.
37. JFC to John Louis O’Sullivan, 29 April 1842: Letters and Journals 4:286.
38. Two letters on this subject survive, the one sent to Griswold around 27 May 1844 (in response to a letter from Griswold requesting his “notes” for the sketch) probably being a loose reconstruction from memory of an earlier version Cooper probably wrote circa January 1843. Beard explains the situation admirably in Letters and Journals 4:462.
39. JFC to Rufus W. Griswold, [27 May-June? 1844]: Letters and Journals 4:460, 461; Rufus W. Griswold, “Our Contributors. — No. XIII. James Fenimore Cooper.” Graham’s Magazine 26  (August 1844): 91, 92.
40. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 18 March 1842: Letters and Journals 4:250.
41. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 18 March, 22 March 1842: Letters and Journals 4:250, 251.
42. JFC to Richard Bentley, 27 May 1842: Letters and Journals 4:292.
43. JFC to John Louis O’Sullivan, 29 April 1842: Letters and Journals 4:286.
44. Richard Bentley to JFC, 8 July 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; JFC to Bentley, 22 September 1842: Letters and Journals 4:315; Bentley to JFC, 29 November 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
45. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 22 March 1842: Letters and Journals 4:251; see Beard’s note on 252.
46. See JFC to Griswold, 11 July 1842: Letters and Journals 4:301.
47. Rufus W. Griswold to JFC, 6 August 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
48. JFC to Rufus W. Griswold, 11 July 1842, 7 August 1842: Letters and Journals 4:301, 305.
49. JFC to Rufus W. Griswold, 7 August 1842: Letters and Journals 4:305-06.
50. Rufus W. Griswold to JFC, 23 August 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
51. Rufus W. Griswold to JFC, 9 September 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
52. If written in its entirety, Cooper may have been carrying a copy of Mackenzie’s Life of Paul Jones (Boston, 1841), since he quotes and refutes several of Mackenzie’s claims in a footnote. Since Cooper presumably read proof for the Dale biography while in Philadelphia, the possibility of the footnote being a later addition seems remote. The manuscript of the Dale biography has not yet been examined for signs of whether Cooper composed parts of it before his trip to Philadelphia. For Cooper’s agreement for Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief on 24 September, see below.
53. Bayless 53.
54. “John Shaw,” Graham’s Magazine 24 (March 1844): 109; Afloat and Ashore (Philadelphia: Published by the Author, 1844) 59-63.
55. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 9 April 1844: Letters and Journals 4:448.
56. Contract with George Rex Graham, 9 April 1844: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
57. The complete heading: “Sketches of Naval Men. By J. Fenimore Cooper, author of ‘The Pioneers,’ ‘Red Rover,’ Etc. [Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by J. Fenimore Cooper, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Northern District of New York.]”
58. In the first and second editions (1839 and 1840) of the History of the Navy, as well as in the abridged edition of 1841, Cooper had claimed that John Barry’s brig Lexington had been the first regular cruiser to get to sea under the new American government during the Revolution (103-04, 1839 ed.). In the sketch for Graham’s, however, Cooper makes a correction: “The distinction has been claimed equally for Hopkins and Barry, and in the Naval History we were disposed to accord the latter the precedency. After an examination of his own private papers, however, we see strong reasons for thinking it must have been Com. Hopkins [Commander-in-Chief for the new American fleet, who had sailed a month before Barry]” (268). The posthumously published edition of 1856 (New York: Stringer & Townsend) reiterates this correction (508).
59. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 14 [April] 1844: Letters and Journals 4:454.
60. “…so as to secure to us a Copy right on those which you omitted to take out a Copy right for originally.” Carey & Hart to JFC, 15 March 1845: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
61. JFC to George Henry Preble, USN, 27 January 1843: Letters and Journals 4:348.
62. JFC to Rufus W. Griswold, 7 August 1842: Letters and Journals 4:305-06.
63. James Fenimore Cooper MSS Collection, American Antiquarian Society. Box 1, Folder 29 (MS on Naval Matters) and Folder 30A (Naval Episode).
64. “Old Ironsides,” Putnam’s Monthly 1 (May, June 1853): 473-87, 594-607.
65. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 1 April 1846: Letters and Journals 5:128.
66. Letters and Journals 5:128.
67. Graham to JFC, 3 April 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
68. Carey & Hart to JFC, 15 March 1842: Letters and Journals 5:18.
69. JFC to Carey & Hart, 17 March 1842: Letters and Journals 5:17-18.
70. Carey had died on 16 June 1845. Cooper conveys his sympathies in his letter of 17 September, “having no notion he was so low”: Letters and Journals 5:54.
71. Carey & Hart to JFC, 13 September 1845: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
72. JFC to Carey & Hart, 1 November 1845: Letters and Journals 5:95.
73. Abraham Hart to Paul Fenimore Cooper, 3 November 1852: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
74. Graham’s Magazine 28 (May 1846): 240.
75. Knickerbocker 27 (June 1846): 564; Southern Literary Messenger 12 (Mar, July 1846): 190, 453.
76. The American Review: A Whig Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Science 3 (June 1846): 673-74.
77. Mott 507.
78. Thomas D. Day to JFC, 29 June 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
79. “It becomes me not to intrude upon your notice in this manner, but claiming you as I do as a sort of public property, an American author, as a part and parcel of American literature in which we all have an interest, at the same time respectfully apologizing for the freedom.
In your first edition of Naval History of the U.S. vol 1 page 91 (I think) you remark in a note at the bottom of the page that only one instance was known of an officers leaving the British Navy in consequence of the revolution[.] I beg leave to relate another instance, that of my paternal Granfather Capt Willliam Day, the circumstances of which I will relate if I may thus trespass upon your patience so far. ...” Thomas D. Day to JFC, 30 April 1847: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
80. Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, The Life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, 5ᵗʰ Ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1845) 281, 288, etc.
81. Daniel Dobbins to JFC, 11 May 1843: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
82. JFC to Daniel Dobbins, 20 May 1843: Letters and Journals 4:384.
83. See JFC to Griswold, 11 July 1842: Letters and Journals 4:301-02.
84. See Griswold to JFC, 6 August 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; and JFC to Griswold, 7 August 1842: Letters and Journals 4:305-07.
85. Griswold reported that Somers’s parents had four children, but the biography reports only three; Somers’s birthdate is estimated to have been in 1779, rather than listed as 15 September 1778 as Griswold had ascertained. Graham’s Magazine 21 (October 1842): 157, 158.
86. JFC to William Branford Shubrick, 4 September 1842: Letters and Journals 4:310.
87. JFC to George Henry Preble, 9 September 1842: Letters and Journals 4:312-13.
88. JFC to George Henry Preble, 27 January 1843: Letters and Journals 4:348.
89. JFC to Richard Bentley, 22 September 1842: Letters and Journals 4:315.
90. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 29 September 1842: Letters and Journals 4:316.
91. Memorandum of Agreement between George R. Graham and J. Fenimore Cooper, 24 September 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
92. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 2 October 1842: Letters and Journals 4:318.
93. Griswold to JFC, 22 November 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
94. JFC to Griswold, 26 November 1842: Letters and Journals 4:322.
95. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 2 October 1842: Letters and Journals 4:318.
96. Le Mouchoir: An Autobiographical Romance. By J. Fenimore Cooper, Esq. Author of “The Spy,” “The Pilot,” “Home as Found,” “Wing-and-Wing,” “The Two Admirals, &c. Brother Jonathan , Extra Sheet. Number XXII. Wilson & Company, Publishers. New York, March 22, 1843.
97. Rufus W. Griswold to JFC, 3 Apr 1843: MS, American Antiquarian Society.
98. The Brother Jonathan version could not have been composed from the manuscript, as the variants noted in Walter Lee Brown’s critical editon reveal (Evanston, Ill.: The Golden Booke Press, 1897). Whereas the manuscript and Graham’s versions often differ from the Brother Jonathan text, in no case does the Brother Jonathan version agree with the manuscript while differing from Graham’s.
99. Bentley to JFC, 29 Nov 1842: Letters and Journals 4:315.
100. At this time Bentley could secure Copyright on foreign work such as Cooper’s provided that it appeared in England before publication elsewhere. This arrangement, which was struck down in the courts in 1848, did not ordinarily pose any significant danger to Cooper’s U.S. copyright interests.
101. Griswold to JFC, 22 November 1842: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
102. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 26 November 1845: Letters and Journals 5:99.
103. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 30 November 1845: Letters and Journals 5:102.
104. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 30 November 1845: Letters and Journals 5:102.
105. JFC to Graham, 14 September 1850: Letters and Journals 6:214.
106. Graham’s Magazine 38 (January and February 1851): 31-36; 97-101.
107. “The right whereof he claims as Author”: Copyright certificate for Elinor Wyllys, Northern District of New York, 21 October 1845. Cooper MSS Collection (Box 5, Misc. business papers), American Antiquarian Society; Copyright certificate for Rural Hours, 22 June 1850. Cooper MSS Collection (Box 5, Misc. business papers), American Antiquarian Society.
108. James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Sloane, 1949) 170.
109. Warren S. Walker, Plots and Characters in the Fiction of James Fenimore Cooper (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1978) 130.
110. Robert E. Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times (1931; New York: Russell & Russell, 1963) 238.
111. Page references are from Walter Lee Brown’s critical text of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief (Evanston, IL: Golden Booke Press, 1897). The manuscript for this work is currently held in the collection of the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA; Brown’s edition establishes the Graham’s printing as the base text and notes significant variants with the MS, Brother Jonathan, and Bentley texts.
112. Warren Walker incorrectly states that Desiree “immediately” resells the handkerchief. Walker 131.
113. Hugh C. MacDougall, Introduction to online text of Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, James Fenimore Cooper Society Website. URL: http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/texts/pocket.htm.
114. George Dekker, James Fenimore Cooper: The Novelist (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967) 150; Robert Emmet Long, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Continuum, 1990) 139.
115. MacDougall, “Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief.” Originally printed in the Cooperstown, NY Freeman’s Journal, 12 July 2002 as part of the series “The Cooper Bookshelf”; republished on James Fenimore Cooper Society Website. URL: http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/journal.htm.
116. Grossman 172.
117. Although in some of his late novels, particularly The Crater and The Sea Lions, he would develop allegory with reasonable amounts of sophistication, most of his allegories up to this point were fairly heavy-handed and obvious.
118. MacDougall, “Introduction.”
119. Contracts for both works are preserved in the Lea & Febiger papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
120. Manuscript contract for “The First War-Path” (later known as The Deerslayer), Lea & Febiger papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
121. JFC to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 1 April 1838: Letters and Journals 6:325.
122. The Complete Works of Washington Irving: Letters, Volume IV, 1846-1859, Eds. Ralph M. Aderman, Herbert L. Klienfield, and Jennifer S. Banks (Boston: Twayne, 1982) 344.
123. Cooper, incidentally, did most of his writing in the morning hours.
124. Given this critique of human greed and pride, it is hardly surprising that Cooper’s sermons on human insignificance and Christian humility, contained in the awkward digressions in Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, would recur in almost all of Cooper’s novels that followed.
125. Littrell’s The Living Age reprinted from The Foreign and Quarterly Review an article purporting to be a “review” of four novels, including Bentley’s British edition of the Autobiography, The French Governess. No mention of the work actually appears in the article, however, the reviewer merely using the occasion for an unfavorable evaluation of Cooper’s career.
126. Graham’s Magazine 43 (November 1853): 552.
127. Graham to JFC, 3 April 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
128. Contract with George R. Graham & Co., Philadelphia, 3 June 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (YCAL MSS MISC Group 450, F-2).
129. JFC to Bentley, 28 May 1846: Letters and Journals 5:148.
130. Bentley to JFC, 25 June 1846: Letters and Journals 5:158.
131. Bentley to JFC, 25 June 1846: Letters and Journals 5:158.
132. JFC to Bentley, 20 July 1846: Letters and Journals 5:156.
133. Geo. R. Graham & Co. to JFC, 16 September 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
134. JFC to Bentley, 22 September 1846: Letters and Journals 5:169.
135. Graham to JFC, 6 November 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
136. Graham to JFC, 12 November 1846: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
137. Memorandum of Agreement with George R Graham to extend Rose Budd to 15 numbers [n.d., 1846-47?] (MS, American Antiquarian Society, Cooper Papers, Box 5, Folder 22):
In consideration of Five Hundred dollars to him in hand paid, by the said G.R. Graham & Co, the said Cooper binds himself, his heirs and assigns to extend the said tale of Rose Budd, to fifteen numbers, or to five additional numbers of the same average length as the ten numbers previously contracted for, and also to rewrite Parts IV & V, the manuscript of which has been delivered to said Graham & Co and lost; the said five additional numbers to be sold to Graham & Co, on the same terms and for the same use, as the ten numbers previously agreed for; it being understood however that Graham & Co may subdivide the matter, at their pleasure, in such a way as to extend the publication of the tale in their magazine so far as to include the <magazine> publication for March 1848, within its limits.
138. Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange rate between the United States dollar and the British pound, 1791-2000,” Economic History Services, EH.Net, 2001. URL: http://www.eh.net/hmit/exchangerates/pound.php. [no longer online - Ed.]
139. JFC to Bentley, 27 March 1847: Letters and Journals 5:198-99.
140. This third installment contains a feature that sets it apart from virtually all of Cooper’s U.S.-published fiction. A comical woodcut, entitled “Josh educating a Pig,” appears opposite text from the reprinted Part I, from which the image is loosely based. It depicts the ship’s old, black “cabin boy,” Josh, demonstrating how he keeps the livestock from taking over the aft portions of the ship by pouring boiling water on a pig as Jack Tier and Mulford(?) look on. How or why this image came to be included is a mystery. No other illustrations accompany any of the other parts of the story. Graham’s Magazine 30 (January 1847): , 55.
141. In England, Bentley suffered some temporary anxiety when some proof sheets did not reach him as anticipated, fearing that they were lost in an American packet ship recently sunk at sea, but later wrote to report that he had “needlessly alarmed” himself. Bentley had reason to worry: if Graham’s preceded him in publishing, he would lose his copyright for the work. See Bentley to JFC, 4 December 1847 and 11 March 1848.
142. JFC to Mrs. Cooper, 20 October 1847: Letters and Journals 5:243.
143. Thomas Philbrick, James Fenimore Cooper and the Development of American Sea Fiction (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1962) 203.
144. Graham’s Magazine 29 (November, December 1846): 215, 277.
145. Philbrick 318. Page numbers Philbrick cites are from the Townsend “Darley” edition.
146. For some of his novels Cooper employed an amanuensis, particularly while in Europe where for a time his nephew William transposed Cooper’s manuscripts into a much more readable hand for European printers. During the 1840s, however, Cooper submitted manuscripts to printers in his own hand, placing special confidence in his stereotyper John Fagan of Philadelphia.
147. Philbrick 203.
148. Manuscript pages of Rose Budd (Jack Tier), Cooper MS Collection (Box 1, Folder 22), American Antiquarian Society.
149. See Grossman 225-26; Philbrick 203-05; Donald Ringe, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Twayne, 1962) 131-32.
150. Jack Tier; or, The Florida Reef (New York: Burgess, Stringer, & Co., 1848) 1:iv.
151. e.g., Ringe 132-34, Philbrick 209.
152. Jack Tier iii.
153. Manuscript pages of “Rose Budd” (Jack Tier), Cooper MS Collection (Box 1, Folder 22), American Antiquarian Society.
154. The Literary World 3 (April 1848): 189.
155. See JFC to James Kirke Paulding, 9 May 1846: Letters and Journals 5:131; and JFC to Mrs C., 3 October 1845: Letters and Journals 5:73.
156. John Fagan, Bill to J. Fenimore Cooper for stereotyping “Jack Tier”: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
157. Graham’s Magazine 43 (November 1853): 552.
158. JFC to Bentley, 10 February 1848: Letters and Journals 5:280.
159. Letters and Journals 5:330.
160. Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book 36 (June 1848): 366.
161. The Literary World 3 (April 1848): 189.
162. The Spectator 21 (25 March 1848): 302.
163. The Literary World 3 (April 1848): 189.
164. Fagan to JFC, 21 July 1848: MS, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
165. “Editor’s Table,” Graham’s Magazine 33 (October 1848): 240.
166. GRG to GPP, 25 October 1853: MS, George Palmer Putnam MSS Coll. (Box 2, folder 7), Princeton University Library.
167. Graham also opined that his unfavorable review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as “a BAD BOOK” speeded his magazine’s decline. See Mott 553-54.
168. Mott 554.
169. Robert E. Spiller and Philip C. Blackburn, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Burt Franklin, 1930, 1968) 8.
170. He wrote one short story, “The Lake Gun,” for publication in a miscellany, The Parthenon, in 1850. His early tales “Imagination” and “Heart,” published in 1824 by Charles Wiley as “Tales for Fifteen,” were reprinted by Boston publisher George Roberts — after much searching to find a copy of the book — in his Boston Notion (30 January 1841 and 13 & 20 March 1841, respectively) and Roberts’ Semi-Monthly Magazine (1 & 15 February 1841, 1 & 15 April 1841, respectively).
171. Graham’s Magazine 43 (November 1853): 552.