Finding Lost Cooper Epigraphs

Steven P. Harthorn (Williams Baptist College) Also: Wayne Franklin and Hugh C. McDougall

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper Society Newsletter, No. 29 (Nov. 1999), No. 41 (Nov. 2004), No. 45 (Nov. 2005), No. 54 (Fall 2008), and from 2009 Cooper Conference.

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


  • The Pilot (Ch. 35) & The Two Admirals (title): Wayne Franklin
  • Mercedes of Castille (Ch. 27): Steven Harthorn
  • The Spy (Ch. 19): Steven Harthorn
  • The Water-Witch (title): Steven Harthorn
  • The Bravo (Ch. 12): Steven Harthorn
  • Mercedes of Castille (Ch. 25): Steven Harthorn
  • The Wing-and-Wing (Ch. 24): Steven Harthorn
  • Mercedes of Castille (Ch. 23): Steven Harthorn
  • The Wing-and-Wing (Ch. 11): Steven Harthorn
  • The Spy (Ch. 23): Steven Harthorn
  • Home as Found (Ch. 26): Steven Harthorn
  • The Wing-and-Wing (Ch. 9): Steven Harthorn
  • Miles Wallingford (Ch. 25): Steven Harthorn
  • Satanstoe (Ch. 12): Steven Harthorn
  • The Crater (Ch.15): Steven Harthorn
  • The Bravo (title): Hugh C. McDougall


In August 1999 the Cooper Society published James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers No. 12: The Cooper Epigraphs: The Sources of the Epigraphs (“mottoes”) in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper and Susan Fenimore Cooper (and Title page epigraphs from some non-fiction works) . Compiled by Hugh C. MacDougall.

But this compilation, made without benefit of the Internet, was unable to track down some 22 of the hundreds of Epigraphs used by Cooper (and his daughter) as title-page and chapter-heading “mottoes,” on their novels. Naturally, this posed a challenge to other Society members to identify the missing ones.

Happily, fourteen of the “lost” epigraphs have indeed been found, by Steven Harthorn (12), Wayne Franklin (1), and Hugh C. McDougall (1). Articles about the discoveries of Steven Harthorn and Wayne Franklin were duly chronicled in the Cooper Society Newsletter. Although these discoveries have been duly added to the online text of The Cooper Epigraphs, the Newsletter articles were accompanied with additional matter, and texts of obscure writings, casting additional light on Cooper’s use of Epigraphs. For this reason we herewith place the successive Newsletter articles online at our Cooper Society Website. Further discoveries will, of course, be added.

Hugh C. MacDougall, Corresponding Secretary and Webmaster. February 2010

Epigraph Found

Cooper Newsletter, No. 29, Vol. X, No. 3 (November 1999) by Wayne Franklin

The Pilot, Chapter 35 and The Two Admirals, title page:

In both locations, Cooper used the following verse:

“Come all you kindred chieftains of the deep,

In mighty phalanx round your brother bend;

Hush every murmur that invades his sleep —

And guard the laurels that o’ershade your friend!

Lines on Tripp [Trippe]

Efforts to identify the poem proved futile, though we guessed that it might refer to the death of United States Navy Lieutenant John Tripp, whose gallant behavior at Tripoli in 1804 was duly recorded in Cooper’s Naval History. The [Cooperstown] Otsego Herald of September 1, 1810 announced the following death:

“At sea, on his passage from the Havanna to New-Orleans, Lieut. TRIPP, of the U.S. Navy. He had the command of the brig Vixen, and was ordered (as we are informed) to cruize in our waters for the protection of trade. Lieut. Tripp was a brave, active officer, and had signalized himself in the Tripolitan war, in the Mediterranean.”

Cooper was visiting Cooperstown at the time. The Otsego Herald of September 22, 1810, included the following in its regular poetry column:



Moeret senex, et juvenis puer omnis et xtas.

WEEP, O my country! shed thy saddest tear,

For valour’s brightest, dearest son hath fled,

Stream all thy sorrows o’er his hallowed bier,

Whose life streams freely for they glory bled.

High raise the Column on the Lybian shore,

Where flamed his courage in the battle blaze;

The captive Christian shall the place adore,

And Turks abashed upon the marble gaze.

There let the pen of artless truth record,

For glorious deeds no other pen require,

His fierce encounter on the hostile board,

Mid mingled streams of blood and smoke and fire.

There in the hottest conflict of the day,

Tell how the Chieftain infidel he slew,

All stained with blood, that still would find its way

To show his Country, how his heart was true.

Then plant the Laurel, that in Afric’s clime

Shall twin its arms around the lovely stone,

Stretching its shade down to remotest time,

And shielding honours, verdant as its own.

But here, O shame, be all thy blushes shed

On those who prowl upon his laurel leaf,

Too safe alas! For gallant Trippe is dead,

And cowards triumph o’er the fallen chief.

If sland’rous tongues can val’rous deeds outdo

Safer it were to act the coward’s part,

What warrior e’er will face his country’s foe,

If first his country point th’envenom’d dart?

Come all ye kindred Chieftains of the deep

In mighty phalanx o’er your brother bend,

Hush every murmur, that invades his sleep,

And guard the Laurel, that o’er shades your friend.

O do for him-what he for you had done,

The dead are doubly, trebly dear to fame,

Preserve the wreath, his early valor won,

Immortal honors and a deathless name.


Can anyone track this poem down further? It seems almost less a tribute to Trippe himself, than a patriotic protest against America’s temporizing naval policy of the period.

Portrait of Lieutenant John Trippe.

The “Mac-Homer” in the stanza quoted by Cooper is probably James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799), known for his austere writing style and his fascination with anthropology, particularly primitivism, which resulted in early theories of evolution. In his Of the Origin and Progress of Language   (1773-92) he drew similarities between men and orangutans, suggesting that the latter represented a primitive state of man. The “state-papers of Buffon” prompting Mac-Homer’s “deep researches” are likely the numerous volumes of Historie Naturelle by Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon  (1707-94), a French scientist who considered the two species fixedly distinct.

In Mercedes of Castile, the epigraph introduces a chapter in which the unsophisticated Sancho Mundo attempts to “botch” or patch together clumsily his own account of his findings in the new world before an audience of learned men. His shortcomings are alleviated when the hero Luis de Bobadilla, who had gone on the voyage in disguise, shares his own eloquent account under the guise that it was told him by Columbus.

More Cooper Epigraph Sources Identified

Cooper Newsletter, Vol. 43, Vol. XV, No. 3 (November 2004) Steven P. Harthorn, University of Tennessee

The epigraphs or “mottoes” James Fenimore Cooper used on the title pages and chapter openings of his novels offer fascinating glimpses into his reading habits and his thematic aims for his writing. With improvements in computerized full-text document collections it has become possible to find some of Cooper’s previously unlocated epigraph sources. Several of the ones listed below were identified using Gales Eighteenth Century Collections Online database, illustrating Cooper’s strong grounding in the literature of that period. Along with a brief description of the source, a conjecture (with no claims of definitiveness) about possible connections between epigraph and text is given below.

The Spy, Chapter 19:

“No longer then perplex thy breast, When thoughts torment, the first are best; ‘Tis mad to go, ‘tis death to stay, Away, to Orra, haste away.”

Lapland Love Song

These lines seem to have first appeared in print in Great Britain in 1712 in the pages of No. 366 of The Spectator, translating verses that had been recorded in John Scheffner’s description of Lapland, Lapponia, in 1673. From there they went on to be recorded in innumerable songbooks collecting Scotch and English songs. Several songbooks print the verses under the title Cooper gives them, including an American collection, The American songster: being a select collection of the most celebrated American, English, Scotch, and Irish songs (New York: Samuel Campbell, Thomas Allen, 1788: 191-92). In Chapter 19 of The Spy, Harvey Birch warns Captain Dunwoodie to guard carefully those who are dear to him before completing his own escape; at the Wharton estate, Francis is distraught over her brother’s capture by American forces and over what she incorrectly perceives to be Dunwoodie’s insincerity in his proclamations of love. Such situations make for a chapter where “thoughts torment” and where several characters are in straits where “’Tis mad to go, ‘tis death to stay.”

The Water-Witch, title page:

“Mais, que diable alloit-il faire dans cette galère?”

(“But what the devil was he doing in that galley?”)

The epigraph for The Water-Witch comes from Act II, Scene 11 of Moliere’s Fourberies de Scapin. The character Geronte, duped by the scheming rogue Scapin into thinking that his son has been carried off to sea and held for ransom by a Turk galley, repeatedly utters the line Cooper quotes out of a sense of surprise, confusion, and unhappiness about the prospect of having to pay a large sum for his son’s release. In using this epigraph for the book, Cooper may have intended to highlight the sense of uneasiness that accompanies the disappearance of Alida de Barbérie, to call attention to the unusual position of Master Seadrift/Eudora Van Beverout aboard the Water-Witch, or more generally to capture some of the flavor of Scapin’s roguery in the Skimmer of the Seas.

The Bravo, Chapter 13:

“O! the days that we have seen.”


This line appears in Act III, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s 2 Henry IV, uttered by Shallow, not “Shelton,” which is likely a compositorial misreading of Cooper’s manuscript. Handwritten, the two words look similar. The line appears in a scene where Justice Shallow, charged with picking men for Sir John Falstaff’s army, reminisces with Falstaff about their younger days together. In The Bravo, Signor Gradenigo, a member of the secret council, is stirred to recollections of his own boyhood by the council’s examination of the poor, aged fisherman Antonio Vecchio, his foster brother during youth.

Mercedes of Castile, Chapter 25:

“For now, from sight of land diverted clear, They drove uncertain o’er the pathless deep; Nor gave the adverse gale due course to steer, Nor durst they the design’d direction keep: The gathering tempest quickly raged so high, The wave-encompass’d boat but faintly reach’d my eye.”

Vision of Patience

This epigraph is taken from lines 115-120 of “A [or The] Vision of Patience; An Allegorical Poem, Sacred to the Memory of Mr. Alexander Cuming, a Young Gentleman unfortunately lost in the Northern Ocean, on his Return from China, 1740, “ written by Dublin-born poet Samuel Boyse (1708-49) in 1741. An anthology, The Complete Edition of the Poets of Great Britain, vol. 10 (London: John & Arthur Arch; Edinburgh: Bell & Bradfute & I. Mundell & Co., [1792-95]), contains the text of the poem, and presumably it may be found elsewhere. In the above edition, a footnote explains that Mr. Cuming went to explore an island after his ship, the Suecia, wrecked off the Orkneys, but was never heard from again. In Mercedes of Castile, no such unfortunate fate ensues; the epigraph appears over the chapter in which Columbus and company (including the frightened Ozema) attempt to navigate their way back to Spain through fierce tempests, eventually landing in nearby Portugal.

The Wing-and-Wing, Chapter 24:

“Our dangers and delights are near allies; From the same stem the rose and prickle rise.”


These are lines from an epic poem entitled The Battaile of Poictiers under the Fortunes of Edward, Sirnamed the Black, written by Charles Aleyn (or Allen), an English historical poet during the reign of Charles I. An early edition published in 1631 appears not to contain the lines Cooper quotes, but an expanded version of 1633 does. Though Cooper may have been familiar with the poem itself, quite possibly he found the lines he quoted in an anthology of “beautiful passages” from the English Poets of the 16ᵗʰ-17ᵗʰ Centuries, such as The British Muse, or, a Collection of Thoughts Moral, Natural, and Sublime, of Our English Poets (London: F. Cogan, J. Nourse, 1788: 195). This volume and variously titled reprints contain the very couplet that Cooper uses, attributed to “Aleyn’s Poictiers.” In The Wing-and-Wing, the lines appear over the chapter in which Raoul Yvard and Ithuel Bolt effect their escape from the British warship Proserpine, using a series of artifices to elude pursuing boats. They encounter the boat of Jack Clinch, returning from a mission to Nelson to secure a reprieve for Raoul, and almost succeed in fooling him until Clinch is hailed by Lieutenant Yelverton of the Properpine, making Clinch a sort of “danger” and “delight” in one package.

Two More Cooper Epigraph Sources Found

Cooper Newsletter, No. 45, Vol. XVI, No. 2 (November 2005) Steven P. Harthorn (Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas)

About a dozen of the epigraphs or “mottoes” James Fenimore Cooper used in his chapter openings and title pages have yet to be identified. The sources of two more, however, have recently come to light:

Mercedes of Castille (1840), Chapter 23:

“Thou seemest to fancy’s eye An animated blossom born in air; Which breathes and bourgeons in the golden sky, And sheds its odors there.”


These lines come from the thirty-two-line poem “To a Humming Bird” by John Rudolph Sutermeister (1803-1826), a minor American poet largely lost to memory today. Born in Curaçao of a Swiss family, Sutermeister (according to Samuel Kettell’s Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices, 1829) came to New York in 1811, subsequently pursuing his studies in Rhinebeck in Duchess County and Hartwick Academy in Otsego County. After a failed attempt at practicing law in Syracuse in 1824, Sutermeister became editor of the Syracuse Gazette until July 1825, when he departed for New York. Not long after, on January 16, 1826, he died of smallpox.

Newspapers seem to have been the chief venue for Sutermeister’s poetry, with few of his works being collected. An occasional poem, “Ode to Linnaeus,” was included in the pamphlet Celebration at Flushing, of the Birth-Day of Linnaeus, by the New-York Branch of the Linnaean Society of Paris in 1824 . Kettell’s Specimens of American Poetry gathered three poems — “A Contrasted Picture,” “The Lament,” and “Faded Hours” — calling attention to Sutermeister’s “pensive, and even melancholy cast” spurred by his loneliness in his adopted land, as well as noting hints of “some prophetic vision, which gave token of his early and melancholy death.”

“To a Humming Bird” originally appeared in 1824, although Sutermeister’s closing notation “Rhinebeck” suggests an earlier composition. The New Bedford Mercury for June 25, 1824 reprints the poem with attribution to the New-York Evening Post, where Cooper may have encountered it. That the Evening Post was one of Sutermeister’s preferred outlets seems confirmed by the reprinting of another poem, “The Garden,” in the Portland, Maine Eastern Argus for August 30, 1825. This piece, signed “Syracuse, (N.Y.), March, 1825,” is also attributed to the Evening Post. It seems likely that further scrutiny of the Evening Post, as well as Sutermeister’s own Syracuse Gazette, would turn up other works by this long-forgotten poet.

Undoubtedly the excerpt Cooper chose for Mercedes of Castille suits his material well. Chapter 23 marks the point where the romantic hero of the novel, Luis de Bobadilla, first encounters the beautiful Caribbean princess Ozema, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Luis’s own betrothed, Mercedes, miles away in Spain. Why or how Cooper would have had Sutermeister’s verses at hand so many years after their appearance is a more puzzling matter. Certainly by 1840 Sutermeister’s memory was not totally forgotten; a January 1844 piece in the “Editor’s Table” of the Knickerbocker recalls him as “a young and gifted poet, whose mortal part has ‘been ashes these many a year,’” speaking of his work with approbation and quoting an excerpt from “Faded Hours” as well as “A Lament” in its entirety.

The Wing-and-Wing (1842), Chapter 11:

The human mind, that lofty thing, The palace and the throne, Where reason sits, a sceptred king, And breathes his judgment tone; Oh! who with silent step shall trace The borders of that haunted place, Nor in his weakness own, That mystery and marvel bind That lofty thing — the human mind.


These lines likewise trace their lineage to the New-York Evening Post, according to the attribution given in the New Bedford Mercury for November 16, 1838. They form the first stanza of an anonymous, four-stanza poem entitled “Man.” Subsequent stanzas go on to examine “The human heart-that restless thing” and “The human soul — that startling thing!” concluding with a stanza on the insufficiency of human ability to fend off the inevitable conquests of time and death. With its suggestions of the paradoxical nature of human reasoning, the excerpt Cooper selects makes a suitable epigraph for Chapter 11 of The Wing-and-Wing, wherein the atheist Raoul Yvard, self-confident in his own rational abilities, debates his pious sweetheart Ghita Caraccioli about the existence of God.

More “Missing” Sources for Cooper’s Epigraphs Found

Cooper Newsletter No. 54, Vol. XIX, No. 2 (Fall 2008) By Steven P. Harthorn (Williams Baptist College)

Over the past several years I have enjoyed trying to track down some of the unlocated sources of epigraphs (or “mottoes,” as Cooper called them) that adorn Cooper’s chapter openings and title pages. Cooper’s epigraphs not only provide suggestions of his thematic intent for his chapters but also give us interesting glimpses into his reading, with the “missing” ones, in particular, suggesting the more obscure side of it. They put us in touch with works that may now be long forgotten but once were held relevant, maybe even meaningful. The detective work is fun, too. Below are listed six epigraphs with their likely sources identified (although in several cases it is entirely possible that Cooper encountered the same pieces elsewhere) and their connection to the chapters they head. With these found, about half a dozen remain to be identified.

The Spy (1821), Chapter 23:

And now her charms are fading fast, Her spirits now no more are gay; Alas! that beauty cannot last! That flowers so sweet so soon decay! How sad appears The vale of years, How changed from youth’s too flattering scene! Where are her fond admirers gone? Alas! and shall there then be none On whom her soul may lean?

Cynthia’s Grave

These lines form one of the twelve stanzas of a sentimental poem entitled “Female Celibacy; Or, The Grave of Cynthia,” which appeared in the British periodical The Gentleman’s Magazine in June 1813. The author — anonymous, in keeping with the custom of the times — is credited simply as “the Author of the “Bachelor’s Soliloquy,” a poem that had appeared in an earlier issue. “Female Celibacy” laments the loss of the young and virtuous Cynthia, who, despite a plethora of suitors during her stunted life, is nearly forgotten after her death. In the passage Cooper quotes, Cynthia is not long in the grave, while the living, fickle as they are, have already moved on to other things. No doubt Cooper considered the passage suitable for Chapter 23 of The Spy, wherein Isabella Singleton is mortally wounded by a Skinner’s bullet intended for Captain Lawton. We discover, as Isabella dies a properly melodramatic death in the next chapter, that her love for Major Peyton Dunwoodie (the fiancé of her friend Frances Wharton) has gone unrequited, and she passes from life with all likelihood of suffering the same fate as poor Cynthia.

Homeward Bound (1838), Chapter 26:

Hark! was it not the trumpet’s voice I heard? The soul of battle is awake within me. The fate of ages and of empires hangs On this dread hour.


This is a frustrating one: the author of this passage would seem most likely to be the British dramatist Philip Massinger (1583-1640), yet any search of his works will be in vain. The epigraph comes instead, strangely enough, from a contemporary of Cooper, British poet Felicia Hemans (1793-1835). In The Works of Mrs. Hemans; with a Memoir of Her Life, by Her Sister (1839), we discover that that the passage in question came about as a kind of practical joke. Hemans’s sister Anne Browne explains:

It was either during the present [October 1820], or a future visit to the same friends [the family of Henry Park, at Wavertree Lodge, near Liverpool], that the jeu d’esprit was produced, which Mrs Hemans used to call her “sheet of forgeries” on the use of the word Barb. A gentleman had requested her to furnish him with some authorities from the old English writers, proving that this term was in use as applied to a steed. She very shortly supplied him with the following imitations, which were written down almost impromptu; the mystification succeeded perfectly, and was not discovered until some time afterwards.

Apparently the resulting verses, which included imitations of Spenser, Sidney, Percy, Shakespeare, and Surrey in addition to the Massinger spoof, achieved sufficient circulation to reach Cooper, who, it appears, was ignorant of the deception. His oversight provided a source of mirth for Anne Browne, who footnoted the “Massinger” passage (and that passage alone) by gloating:

An amusing proof of the success of this imitation has recently appeared, in the selection of the first four lines of this passage for a motto to one of the chapters of Mr Cooper’s “Homeward Bound,” where they are given as a real quotation from Massinger.

Deception or not, the lines make a fitting motto for Chapter 26 of Homeward Bound, wherein the male passengers and crew of the Montauk launch an offensive against the “Arabs” who have taken their ship.

Incidentally, for those looking for the “barb” reference, the rest of the passage reads:

Why am I not in arms? Bring my good lance, caparison my steed! Base idle grooms! are ye in league against me? Haste with my barb, the holy saints, Ye shall not live to saddle him to-morrow!

The Wing-and-Wing (1842), Chapter 9:

Now in the fervid noon the smooth bright sea Heaves slowly, for the wandering winds are dead That stirred it into foam. The lonely ship Rolls wearily, and idly flap the sails Against the creaking masts. The lightest sound Is lost not on the ear, and things minute Attract the observant eye.


“Richardson” here is Captain David Lester Richardson (1801-1865), who served in the East India Company’s Bengal army, founded the London Weekly Review after returning to England, and eventually became a professor of English at Hindu College in Calcutta, India. He also edited The Bengal Annual: A Literary Keepsake for 1833 (but published in 1830), and it is in this volume that we find Cooper’s epigraph, part of a poem called “Ocean Sketches.” The passage Cooper quotes begins part three of the poem, which is subtitled “A Calm-At Mid-Day”; other sections of the poem are “A Breeze,” “A Storm,” “Sun-Rise,” “Sun-Set,” and “Night,” suggesting Richardson’s aim of capturing the sea in several of its varied moods. Richardson would also include this poem in his later collection Literary Leaves; Or, Prose and Verse Chiefly Written in India. It seems likely that Cooper encountered the poem in some version of the latter edition, for Richardson in his earlier version writes “calm bright sea” rather than the “smooth bright sea” of the later edition.

Chapter 9 of The Wing-and-Wing does indeed display relative calm in the Mediterranean around the bay of Naples, but that calm is deceptive, as Raoul Yvard, becoming complacent, is nearly taken in by a British deception.

Miles Wallingford (1844), Chapter 25:

O I hae scarce to lay me on,

If kingly fields were ance my ain;

Wi’ the moor-cock on the mountain-bree,

But hardship na’er can daunton me.

Scottish Song

Cooper used these lines to highlight the bleakness of Miles Wallingford’s situation in Chapter 25 of this continuation of Afloat and Ashore. Miles loses his crew to British impressment, undergoes capture by both French and British, and loses his ship, the Dawn, to a storm while escaping through the Irish sea, only to suffer upon his rescue further humiliation as a captive of the British. Making an escape to Hamburg, Miles expects to find letters establishing his credit, but here, too, he is disappointed, leaving him destitute in a foreign land. Not yet completely in despair, Miles, along with his companions Neb Clawbonny and Moses Marble, sign on as hands aboard an American vessel in order to work their way home.

The “Scottish Song” Cooper quotes is one that appears in Robert Chambers’s The Scottish Songs (1829)   under the title “To Danton Me [Jacobite Song],” or with music in volume two of James Hogg’s The Jacobite Relics of Scotland: Being the Songs, Airs, and Legends, of the Adherants to the House of Stuart (1821). The two versions have different lyrics at some points, but both preserve the passage Cooper quotes — proclaiming, in either version, a never-say-die spirit despite a truly lost cause.

To Daunton Me

To Daunton Me

Satanstoe (1845), Chapter 12:

Then the wine it gets into their heads, And turns the wit out of its station; Nonsense gets in, in its stead, And their puns are now all botheration.

The Punning Society

“The Punning Society” is the title of a goofy comedy routine in an anthology, The General Reciter; A Unique Selection of the Most Admired and Popular Readings and Recitations, including Dramatic Scenes, Tales, Odes, Orations, with an Infinite Variety of Wit, Humour, and Fun; Exhibiting a Specimen of Excellence in Every Possible Style of Composition , published in London and Halifax in 1845  . The piece is a mixture of madcap verse (perhaps intended to be set to music) and chatty prose exchanges filled with horrid groan-inducing puns: “[Speaker 1:] Tommy still keeps weak in his legs. [Speaker 2:] I know, he has been weak this fortnight”; or this one: “Do you know why the rum’uns go it so much, Mr. Squeak? ... Because they are lads of spirit.” A refrain runs:

So, huzza for our Punning Society,

Jovial fellows we all are well met,

All things are done with propriety,

— Then hurrah for so jovial a set.

How Cooper came across this volume is anyone’s guess, but such goofiness is perfectly appropriate for Chapter 12 of Satanstoe, wherein Corny Littlepage, under the influence of the fun-loving prankster Guert Ten Eyck, endures such hijinks as sledding down the main street of Albany and stealing dinners — to his considerable embarrassment when Anneke Morduant witnesses his escapades. “No man,” Cooper writes, “can bear to be rendered ridiculous in the presence of the woman he loves.”

The General Reciter

Title page of The General Reciter.

The Crater (1847), Chapter 15:

I beg, good Heaven, with just desires, What need, not luxury, requires; Give me, with sparing hands, but moderate wealth, A little honor, and enough of health; Free from the busy city life, Near shady groves and purling streams confined, A faithful friend, a pleasing wife; And give me all in one, give a contented mind.


This passage can be found in an anthology entitled The Poetic Wreath: Consisting of Select Passages from the Works of English Poets, from Chaucer to Wordsworth . It was first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1839, but Cooper more likely saw it in the edition issued that same year by his Philadelphia publishers Lea & Blanchard. The poem from which Cooper excerpted this passage is untitled but situated in a section of poems on the theme of “Content”; it praises contentment as “The good golden mean” between the “sordid poor and miserable great” and proclaims, “’Tis only he is rich that wishes for no more.” The lines Cooper quotes form the final stanza. Although no author is listed, the poem is cited as coming from Poems on State Affairs, 1703 — a work better known as Poems on Affairs of State, which collected a number of well-known poets anonymously.

In The Crater, Chapter 15 opens with a portrayal of the bliss that Mark Woolston and his wife Bridget enjoy on Mark’s reef after being reunited; it is their first chance to enjoy a honeymoon, despite being married before Mark’s voyage. Their state of contentment, alas, must give way to preparations for the welfare and security of their colony, yet through it all, Mark seems to carry a deep appreciation of the proper priorities of life.

Title-page Epigraph of The Bravo (1831)

Hugh C. McDougall, from paper “Message to America — Cooper’s The Bravo“, presented at the 2009 SUNY Cooper Conference.

The Bravo, title page:

“Giustizia in palazzo, e pane in piazza”

(loosely translated, “A just Government and a Prosperous People”)

Though this “motto”, in various forms, can be found in many sources as an Italian saying, Cooper probably got it from Pierre Antoine Noel Mattieu Bruno, Count Daru, (1787-1829), Histoire de la République de Venise (Paris: Chez Firman Didot, Père et Fils) 8 volumes, 1826, Volume VII, Book XXXIX, p. 296: “Le maxime de ce gouvernement, relativement à la class popularie, était pane in piazza, giustizia in palazzo, pain au marché, justice au palais.”

Many more recent writers about Venice have noticed the phrase. Thus:

  • Leon Galibert, Histoire de la République de Venise. Paris: Furne et Cie., 1847 ” ... et justifier ainsi cette maxime fondamentale de la politique venetienne: Pane in piazza; giustizia in palazzo (abondance sur les marches; bonne justice au palais).” (p. 226)
  • Pompeio Molmenti. Venice. Part II, The Golden Age, Vol. I. Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche, 1907 [translated by Horatio Forbes Brown] “In short both written and customary law were of a nature to satisfy the demands of a people jealously addicted to equity and whose motto was pane in piazza e giustizia in palazzo.” (p. 26)
  • Rachel Swete Macnamara, “The Sibyl of Venice”, The Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. XLI, January-June, 1908, pp. 91-101: “That is Francesco,” she murmured. ‘He is one of the few who has the old motto on his gondola — ’Pane in Piazza; Giustizia in Palazzo’’”
  • Virginia Wales Johnson, Many Years of a Florence Balcony. D. Estes and Co., 1911 “Further in shadow of garden hedge a group of the unemployed sat on the grass, and listened to a paper read aloud by one of the number. ” Pane in piazza, giustizia in palazzo“ proclaimed the orator. ... ” (p. 174)
  • Joseph Spencer Kennard, Goldoni and the Venice of His Time. New York, MacMillan, 1920: “The Greek, the Turk, the Oriental, the Jew, all relied on obtaining fair judgment from the people whose rallying cry was ” Pane in Piazza, Giustizia a Palazzo“. (p. 54)
  • Jack Beeching, The Galleys of Lepanto. Hutchinson, 1982 “[The] Doge verified the stocks of grain; to buy bread for her people, Venice every year had to earn and spend millions. Pane in piazza, giustizia in palazzo. ... ” (p. 151)