“I am condemned to remain Eve Effingham for life”: Home as Bound
Presented at the 15ᵗʰ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 2005.
Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, Papers from the 2005 Cooper Seminar (No. 15), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Hugh C. MacDougall and Steven Harthorn, editors. (pp. 85-90).
Copyright © 2007, James Fenimore Cooper Society and the College at Oneonta.
[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]
In a review essay on the state of Cooper studies, scheduled to appear in Resources for American Literary Studies 30 late in 2005, I remarked that the critical studies of the Leather-Stocking Tales of Geoffrey Rans and William P. Kelly:
... grasp Cooper’s view of life as both painfully realistic and ultimately tragic, disclosing a Cooper who saw humans at their best struggling vainly for perfection in an imperfect world. Without a society including peers, individuals like Natty are doomed to sterile isolation. But as soon as individuals cast their lots with society, disabling pressure to conform intrudes. As Cooper wrote in The American Democrat (1838):
An entire distinct individuality, in the social state, is neither possible nor desirable. Our happiness is so connected with the social and family ties as to prevent it; but, if it be possible to render ourselves miserable by aspiring to an independence that nature forbids, it is also possible to be made unhappy by a too obtrusive interference with our individuality. 1
The story of Natty Bumppo as the American Adam expelled from Eden by this serpent of “distinct individuality” has yet to be fully written. (And, one might add, such an analysis might rehabilitate interest even in Miss/Mrs. Eve Effingham.)
I would like in this essay to address my own challenge to rehabilitate interest in the two novels in which Cooper’s heroine — named after our “common mother” (HB, p. 23 ) — appears, Homeward Bound and Home as Found. 2 My tactic is to apply Cooper’s aphorism about the possibilities of “an entire distinct individuality” to Miss and ultimately Mrs. Eve Effingham, as she struggles in the social state to find happiness without a “too obtrusive interference with” her own “individuality.”
All three of my relevant texts appeared in 1838 (The American Democrat in April, Homeward Bound in May, and Home as Found in November), two years after Cooper’s returning to Cooperstown to spend there what proved to be the rest of his life. Similar concerns circulate through all three books, principally focusing on the key issues in the quotation from The American Democrat, which I paraphrase rhetorically as “how, in the ever-changing Republic with its unease about social roles, can a person achieve a happy sense of self when the pressures to conform to the popular will are so strong?”
My thesis then is that Cooper in the Home novels was wrestling with the fundamental issues, prevalent in much European romantic literature, concerning how one could find personal happiness within society without sacrificing one’s intense sense of self-identify. I will argue further that — at least initially — Cooper daringly set out to frame the dilemmas of self versus society on the largest possible scale, by drawing the reader’s attention to the implications of Miss Effingham’s given name, as shown by several specific allusions to the Old Testament Eve in both novels. In the opening chapter of Homeward Bound, Cooper describes Eve Edenicly as a “fair-haired, lovely, blue-eyed girl” who in her second speech of the novel self-consciously invokes comparison with the Biblical Eve:
“I have been educated, as it is termed, in so many different places and countries,” returned Eve, smiling, “that I sometimes fancy I was born a woman, like my great predecessor and namesake, the mother of Abel. If a congress of nations, in any way of masters, can make one independent of prejudice, I may claim to possess the advantage. My greatest fear is, that in acquiring liberality, I have acquired nothing else.” (HB, 10-11)
What troubles Eve here is that her absence from America for twelve years and her European education in many languages and cultures have given her no real home or sense of identity. To use Cooper’s language from The American Democrat, without a sense of rooted personal past, she fears the emptiness of “an entire distinct individuality, [which] in the social state, is neither possible nor desirable.” Her acquired liberality of taste and judgment may preclude her from the “happiness ... so connected with the social and family ties” and “render [herself] miserable by aspiring to an independence that nature forbids.” She herself concluded her foreboding with “my greatest fear is, that in acquiring liberality, I have acquired nothing else.” By having Eve allude to “my great predecessor and namesake,” Cooper appears to be planning to project Eve Effingham’s journey from innocence to knowledge as a contemporary instancing of a Biblical archetype.
Eve’s liberality of judgment enabled her to agree with distinctions her father, Mr. Edward Effingham, draws concerning the superiority of European to American landscapes which bracket the novel (HB, pp. 10-11 and again at 528-30; one of Cooper’s own hobbyhorses) and to discriminate finely in the comedy as various recently-embarked travelers on The Montauk packet begin staking out social claims and identities for the month-long voyage to New York. Most importantly, she detects from prior knowledge of Paul Powis his assumed disguise as Mr. Blunt, speculating to her governess “’Do persons, then, actually travel with borrowed names, in our days?’ asked Eve, with a little of the curiosity of the common mother whose name she bore.” (HB, p. 23)
These allusions in the first two chapters of Homeward Bound make clear that Cooper intended in choosing Miss Effingham’s given name to direct his readers to the Biblical Eve, “mother of Able” (HB, p. 11) and our “common mother” (HB, p. 23). We should then be prepared to see where Eve Effingham’s curiosity leads her, perhaps to a knowledge and to a fall echoing that of the Genesis Eve. Unfortunately, whatever Cooper intended to do with this promising theme becomes submerged by the sea chase and fight with the Arabs that take over Homeward Bound; as Cooper admitted in his Preface, his original intentions to critique “a state of society in which there was no yesterday” (clearly the America of 1838, HB, vii) fell victim to impulses to develop his social comedy and analysis entirely on board The Montauk, until the book became “all ship.” (HB, v). At most Eve’s curiosity, which she says she shares with her namesake, enables her mildly to taunt and set off Steadfast Dodge (HB, 109), to add frisson by requesting a closer look at the African coast identified on page 207 as anything but “the garden of Eden” (HB, 226), and to probe Paul Powis concerning his origins (HB, 313). But of necessity Eve plays little role in the direction towards sea adventure and maritime battles Homeward Bound took.
Cooper’s formulation of the dilemma in The American Democrat of “an entire distinct individuality, in the social state, [which] is neither possible nor desirable” directly affected at least one other character in Homeward Bound, Steadfast Dodge, that self-centered Yankee spokesman for all things popular, who slyly but unsuccessfully seeks to overturn in his favor the heroic leadership of Captain Truck. Truck’s endearing idiosyncrasies — his cigars, his multiple introductions of his passengers to each other, his reverence for the law of the sea as embodied in his Vattel, and above all his reverence for the past — bolster his sense of selfhood and underpin his decisive actions. In contrast, Dodge is so caught up in the desire to mold his character to the popular will he seeks both to detect and direct, that for him an “entire distinct individuality, in the social state” is not merely “neither possible nor desirable,” it becomes utterly lost. “So much and so long had Mr. Dodge respired in a moral atmosphere of the community-character, and gregarious propensity, that he had, in many things, lost all sense of his individuality. ... ” (HB, 101). The Effinghams labor (often to the modern reader, painfully) to preserve their individuality against the popular and commonplace; in contrast, Dodge labors so hard never to depart from the popular will that he becomes a mere cipher, at his worst (in the fight with the Arabs) soliciting popular opinion for brave deeds he did not commit.
Homeward Bound concludes with the mystery of the false Sir George Templemore resolved and the mystery of Paul Powis deepening — but with little attention given to the promise to develop Eve Effingham as “our common mother.” Cooper’s longest description of her, tastefully adorned after recovering her wardrobe following Truck’s taking of The Montauk from the Arabs, is stock language denied any Biblical resonance. “The little hand and foot, so beautiful and delicate, the latter just peeping from the dress under which it was usually concealed, appeared as if formed expressly to adorn a taste that was every way feminine and alluring.” (HB, p. 442) The tastefully displayed “alluring” foot would not, I think, conjure up in Cooper’s day (much less ours) the radiant sensuality of the Genesis Eve with its pregnant connection to mothering the human race.
The sequel, Home as Found, concludes with Eve securing personal happiness by avoiding both extremes Cooper articulated as threats in The American Democrat — both “aspiring to an independence that nature forbids” (like Natty Bumppo rejecting any marital ties) or suffering from “a too obtrusive interference with our individuality” (like Steadfast Dodge). Cooper achieves this balance in his best novel of manners by contriving that manners, morals, money, and marriage all play their designated roles in the resolution of the story and in securing Eve’s happiness. (Given this theme, it’s no wonder that Cooper’s British publishers, reluctant to promote a sequel to Homeward Bound, entitled their sequel Eve Effingham — the only novel in Cooper’s works given a title derived from a woman, with the exception of the ill-fated Mercedes of Castile.)
But unlike the contemporary English novel of manners (such as Austen’s Persuasion which may well have been a model for Cooper’s first novel, Precaution), as Cooper was painfully aware, the less developed and articulated society of America presented far fewer conjugal possibilities for Eve than would have been the case in Europe. Cooper lamented the comparative thinness of American society in many places including the Preface to Home as Found. 3 Within the conventions of the European novel of manners, to be a handsome, rich, and well-educated woman of marriageable age in America posed far greater problems than those confronting Austen’s heroines (where the military and the landed gentry provided multiple candidates, and a trip to Bath could be counted on to resolve any remaining difficulties). If Eve is to remain true to her love of fundamental American principles — to which she, her father and uncle all remain pledged despite their frequent criticisms of superficial customs and preferences — she must find a husband devoted as she is to both America and liberality. This plight deepens our interest in her and her fate — at least among readers willing to suspend disbelief to accept Cooper’s framing intellectual and cultural premises. 4
At the beginning of Homeward Bound, John Effingham laments the inevitability of the twenty-year old Eve soon marrying. In a formal written declaration, he offers his hand to his niece in what would be a marriage of convenience to unite the two Effingham lines, though the reader may suppose (as in Hardy’s The Well-Beloved) he is attracted to the daughter of the woman he loved and lost. While this proposal is never discussed within the family (it is a source of scandal to Steadfast Dodge and his friends), as Home as Found opens Eve has available several other potential mates. She respects but has no passion for the noble but conventional Sir George Templemore. Aristabulus Bragg vows to marry her the moment he sees her, but the reader can assume his intention will end only in comic refusal (as is the case). The man she favors, and knows as Paul Blunt Powis, has mysteriously returned to England at the end of Homeward Bound; when the Effinghams reach Templeton a third of the way through Home as Found, just as mysteriously he has installed himself there as “the poet.”
Homeward Bound began with Eve twice self-consciously articulating her awareness of her shared identity with the Genesis “common mother.” In Home as Found, only two references to the Biblical Eve occur, and neither draws our attention as those of the earlier novel do to Eve’s shared name, and possible shared history, with her namesake. When Paul and John Effingham look over Mr. Monday’s papers, Paul characterized the tone of one document as “written in some such spirit as that employed by the Devil when he tempted our common mother” (HAF, 301). During the Fourth of July Fun of Fire, Mrs. Bloomfield reports that “Mrs. Hawker has been near a downfall, like your great namesake, by a serpent’s [a species of fireworks] coming too near her dress. ... ” (HAF, 405). Eve is not present in the first scene; the second allusion merely illustrates Mrs. Bloomfield’s customary conversational brilliance. In short, we do not find in Home as Found the density of allusion to the Biblical Eve which characterized Cooper’s presentation of his heroine at the outset of Homeward Bound.
Home as Found is not, however, without resonances with the Genesis story, despite the absence of the strong comparisons Cooper placed in his heroine’s mouth in the opening of its predecessor. While Eve, unlike Mrs. Hawker, never confronts any serpents in the novel, she is subjected to a comically diabolical scrutiny by a mock-Satanic stand-in, Mrs. Abbott, the village busybody consumed with curiosity and jealousy about the Effinghams. In a pungently-written scene, Mrs. Abbott reports to Steadfast Dodge that a servant girl, Dorindy, hired from the village to assist the Effinghams:
maintains that it is impossible to get a sentiment out of her [Eve] concerning a single fellow-creature. When she talked of the late unpleasant affair of poor neighbor Bronson’s family — a melancholy transaction that, Mr. Dodge, and I shouldn’t wonder if it went to nigh break Mr. Bronson’s heart — but when Dorindy mentioned this, which is bad enough to stir the sensibility of a frog, neither of my young ladies replied, or put a single question. ... Instead of so much as seeming to wish to know any more, what does my Miss Eve do, but turn to some daubs of paintings, and point out to her cousin what she was pleased to term peculiarities in Swiss usages. Then the two hussies would talk of nature, ‘our beautiful nature,’ Dorindy says Eve has the impertinence to call it, and as if human nature and its fallings and backslidings were not a fitter subject for a young woman’s discourse, than a silly conversation about lakes, and rocks, and trees, as if she owned the nature about Templeton. It is my opinion, Mr. Dodge, that downright ignorance is at the bottom of it all, for Dorindy says that they actually know no more of the intricacies of the neighborhood than if they lived in Japan. (HAF, 269-70).
Without question this passage emerges from the backbitings of Dodge and Mrs. Abbott, but the language rings with energy — some village tragedy “which is bad enough to stir the sensibility of a frog” — and such energy I think has Cooper’s imaginative engagement behind it. At the outset of Homeward Bound, Eve mused that:
“I have been educated, as it is termed, in so many different places and countries ... that I sometimes fancy I was born a woman, like my great predecessor and namesake, the mother of Abel. If a congress of nations, in any way of masters, can make one independent of prejudice, I may claim to possess the advantage. My greatest fear is, that in acquiring liberality, I have acquired nothing else.” (HB, 10-11)
Dorindy’s prosings doubtless were something to bear. But her reference to Eve’s conversations about “our beautiful nature” with its hint of ownership, “as if she owned the nature about Templeton,” raises fundamental and still-troubling questions of ownership of the land Cooper explored in Pioneers. And in failing to take any interest in the difficulties of people in the village to which she had returned as the principal heiress, she displays none of the better characteristics of charity which Cooper knew made aristocracy at least tolerable. Elizabeth Temple befriended the socially far inferior daughter of the local minister, and eventually extended her warmth even to Natty Bumppo. But here Eve Effingham — if Dorindy via Mrs. Abbott is to be believed — retreats into the hermetically-sealed world of reminiscing about Europe rather than learning about Templeton in the present. Eve demonstrates a refined esthetic taste but fails entirely to experience sympathy or moral engagement. This failure seems sadly to illustrate her fear that “in acquiring liberality, I have acquired nothing else.”
Mrs. Abbott notwithstanding, Eve and Paul do find happiness in their Garden of Eden, as they exchange their first confidences and fears in the garden path behind the mansion-house. Paul Blunt Powis Assheton Effingham — to give all his names their due — is revealed as the son of her uncle John Effingham, who had already before this revelation willed half his estate (thus reducing Eve’s share) to the promising young man. Paul and Eve’s marriage renders further testamentary maneuvers moot, as both sides of the Effingham family unite to consolidate the cultural and financial estates of the family that attempts to regulate Templeton. Paul’s background — as indicated by his multiplicity of names — destabilizes the plot until those mysteries are resolved, yet that background also confers a cosmopolitanism and liberalism to match Eve’s.
But the resolution that Paul is John’s son and Eve’s third cousin does create a familial closeness between the two that is troubling, and not just to Steadfast Dodge and Mrs. Abbott. I believe Eric J. Sundquist’s contention that their marriage is incestuous goes too far in the service of his Freudian reading of the novel. 5 But Cooper makes clear they enjoy not only conjugal felicity but — as Eve puts it — are each other’s closest living relatives: “We are each other’s natural heirs. Of the name and blood of Effingham, neither has a relative nearer than the other, for, though but cousins in the third degree, our family is so small as to render the husband, in this case, the natural heir of the wife, and the wife the natural heir of the husband.” (HAF, 504) 6 And Eve’s playful taunting of Paul about this consanguinity carries some sting at the end: “You abridge me of my rights, in denying me a change of name. Half the young ladies of the country marry for the novelty of being called Mrs. Somebody else, instead of the Misses they were, while I am condemned to remain Eve Effingham for life.” (HAF, 450)
Given his estimation of the quality of males available to his paragon Eve — a mere English baronet would not do and is reserved for the lesser star, Grace van Courtland — Cooper restricted the choice of mates for the Eve of the Home novels almost as tightly as did the God of Genesis. Paul’s wife emerges not from his rib but his father’s brother’s wife (and his own father’s true love). While I have rejected Sundquist’s pronouncement of incest, my sense remains that — as in much romantic literature of the period — the inability of the lovers to reach beyond the family bloodline suggests a diminution of choices driven by a fear that exogamy will cause “a too obtrusive interference with our individuality.” Only a man as close to her lineage as Paul is seems, in Cooper’s vision, able to give her the space she needs to preserve and develop that individuality fully. As she herself recognizes, to venture out of the charmed circle of the Effinghams simply is not possible.
Cooper suggests their marriage will be happy. His description of Eve the day after her marriage, enrobed in a tight-fitting gown that “left more charms to be imagined than it displayed,” (HAF, 501) is as close to anything in Cooper’s works a modern reader might be tempted to call sexy. And the author takes the unusual step of looking two years beyond their nuptials to narrate Nanny Sidley’s delight in being able to mother yet another child, a daughter duly named Eve. Yet the very naming of the daughter after the mother underlines the recirculation of names among the Effinghams (as among the Coopers with the author’s descendants) that suggest an unwillingness to enlarge the family circle outside a hermetic group. (A hermetic circle made the tighter by Cooper giving to his hero the same given name as his only surviving son — Paul.) Truly, as Eve has said, “I am condemned to remain Eve Effingham for life.” (HAF, 450)
Eve Effingham’s initial fears that “in acquiring liberality, I have acquired nothing else” (HB, 11) prove partly true. Clearly, her education in liberality prepares her for the marriage to Paul Effingham through which she achieves the happiness of escaping “an entire distinct individuality.” She escapes both horns of Cooper’s dilemma of preserving happiness in the early republic. Through marriage she avoids “render[ing] [herself] miserable by aspiring to an independence that nature forbids.” And by marrying one so close to her in character as well as name, she also avoids the possibility of being “made unhappy by a too obtrusive interference with our own individuality.” Within Cooper’s views of social placement, Eve’s translation from Miss to Mrs. Effingham comes at a price, as Eve herself notes, but a price clearly worth paying. Miss Eve is now wife, and as Mrs. Eve, mother to another Miss Eve, is contributing to the continuity of the Effinghams and all they represent as bulwarks of liberal values.
Within both Home books, Eve’s progress from Miss to Mrs. Effingham makes sense because in both novels, the dominant fear is of intrusion, just as anxiety and unease about isolation informed Cooper’s treatment of Natty Bumppo. Virtually all the satire of Home as Found depicts the psychic distortions which afflict the inhabitants of New York City and Templeton who fear being themselves if that self be shown to be unpopular. Only the Effinghams and their close circle of friends escape this “too obtrusive interference” and can speak their minds. The Commodore, one of Cooper’s most endearing spokesmen, helpfully glosses this dilemma of preserving happiness in the early republic thusly: “Self has got to be the idol, though in the general scramble a man is sometimes puzzled to know whether he is himself or one of his neighbors.” (HAF, 481)
Yet the scope of Eve’s and the other Effinghams’ happiness seems markedly circumscribed. Whatever intentions Cooper had at the outset of the two novels to cause the story of the Genesis Eve to reverberate throughout his tale of an American girl born in 1818 largely evaporated at the novels progressed, as we have seen — though the narrowness of options for mates lingers on, sardonically I would argue. Cooper assures us Eve’s life with her closest living relative will be a happy marriage, but readers from 1838 to the present have always wondered — what is it that the Effinghams really do to stay happy? (The observed options in the novels appear limited to reminisce, discriminate, converse, admire, and rant — but all done most tastefully.) While Cooper satirizes much of the “go-aheadism” of Templeton’s inhabitants, their energy makes all the Effinghams look effete in comparison. 7 We may, in the end, well wonder with Mrs. Abbott, who observes: “I wish I knew, now, whether Eve Effingham has really been regenerated!” (HAF, 473)
Finally, what is the future for Templeton? The Pioneers concluded with the union of the Temple and Effingham lines, promising a bright future for Templeton under a family uniting the considerable strong qualities of character and action of Elizabeth and Marmaduke Temple with Oliver Edwards Effingham. Natty Bumppo’s famous departure for the West (“He had gone far towards the setting sun, — the foremost in that band of Pioneers, who are opening the way for the march of the nation across the continent”), 8 along with Chingachgook’s death, registers changes the reader senses as inevitable within the larger scope of The Pioneers. In contrast to Natty, the Temples and Effinghams are taking root in the village in which they live, to direct its growth in prosperity and civilized law.
The conclusion is quite the opposite in Home as Found. The now-extended circle of Effinghams prepares to take leave for France and Italy, in the autumn, apparently having surrendered any intentions of providing Templeton with cultural much less political leadership. And just as Natty Bumppo headed west in the earlier novel, so here Aristabulus Dodge — now married to Eve’s French maid Annette — prepares to move west, “to practice law, or keep school, or to go to Congress, or to turn trader, or to saw lumber, or, in short to turn his hand to anything that offered ... .” (HAF, 488) Flawed though he is, Aristabulus, Cooper had made clear, is as good a citizen as the town of the Temples and Effinghams can offer. Absent both his energy and their discernment, the prognosis for Templeton in the early republic suggests some of the less happy parts of the Book of Genesis.
1 The American Democrat. Intro. by H. L. Mencken (New York: Knopf, 1931; repr. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1981), p. 232.
2 My references to both novels are from the W. A. Townsend one-volume edition illustrated by F. O. C. Darley, published in 1860. References to Homeward Bound are noted in parentheses as HB and to Home as Found, as HAF, followed by the page number of the Townsend/Darley edition.
3 See the Preface to HAF, vii: “The governing social evil of America is provincialism; a misfortune that is perhaps inseparable from her situation. Without a social capital, and with twenty or more communities divided by distance and political barriers, her people, who are really more homogeneous than any other of the same numbers in the world perhaps, possess no standard for opinion, manners, social maxims, or even language. Every man, as a matter of course, refers to his own particular experience, and praises or condemns agreeably to notions contracted in the circle of his own habits, however narrow, provincial, or erroneous they may happen to be. As a consequence, no useful stage can exist; for the dramatist who should endeavor to delineate the faults of society, would find a formidable party arrayed against him, in a moment, with no party to defend. As another consequence, we see individuals constantly assailed with a wolf-like ferocity, while society is everywhere permitted to pass unscathed.” While the last two sentences closely anticipate Cooper’s own problems with the reviewers of the Home novels, the tenor of this analysis applies equally to Eve Effingham.
4 Clearly not all readers share my sympathetic response to Eve. George Dekker, in the best all-around survey of Cooper’s fiction, presents probably the more common view: “Eve Effingham, who is supposed to be elegant beyond the comprehension of most of his stay-at-home American characters, is in fact such an arrogant cosmopolite, so deficient in tact and insensitive to the feelings of her cousin Grace Van Courtland, that she is easily the most loathsome of Cooper’s heroines.” James Fenimore Cooper the Novelist (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967), pp. 156-57. Eve is no Elizabeth Temple, braving the forest to bring Natty Bumppo his gunpowder. But then the Templeton of 1836 is not that of 1793, as Cooper makes clear when showing that in Home as Found (as opposed to the time of The Pioneers) the young ladies of the mansion-house cannot assume they would be treated respectfully at a public ceremony (the drunken Fourth of July Fun of Fire, HAF, pp. 350 ff.). I would argue that indeed Eve is not Elizabeth; her character is closer to those Henry James would later delineate. James’s heroines are of course presented with much greater psychological acuity within a far more complex society, but many face the same problems Eve does with respect to finding happiness in a world where sharp divisions in cultural heritage and position often control and limit choices.
5 Eric J. Sundquist, Home as Found: Authority and Genealogy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979). Sundquist provides a stimulating analysis, especially on naming and language in the novel. But his contention that Paul and Eve’s union is incestuous is driven by his desire to see their relationship as a Freudian displacement of Cooper’s with his dead sister Hannah. Marriage among cousins much closer in degree than Paul and Eve was not uncommon in the nineteenth century, given the paucity of opportunities in the higher classes for young people to meet each other outside the large extended family circle.
6 Cooper delineates five separate generations in his three Cooperstown/Templeton novels: Major Effingham (the British officer and earliest owner of the land, secretly protected by Natty Bumppo in his cave); his son, Edward Effingham (Marmaduke Temple’s silent business partner); his son Oliver Edward Effingham (the ostensible hero of The Pioneers who marries Elizabeth Temple); the cousins Edward and John Effingham (whose precise relationship to the previous generation is never disclosed), and their children, Eve and Paul. Both in the preface to Homeward Bound (vii) and the text of Home as Found (p. 420) Cooper locates the action of the books in 1836, so that the fifty-year old Effingham cousins must have been born in 1786, seven years before the action of The Pioneers takes place. The most precise inter-generational linkage in the text is Eve’s declaration that Paul is Edward Effingham’s great grandson (HAF, 450). As Paul’s third cousin, she must also be a direct descendent of Edward Effingham. As many have noted, in narrating the density, complexity, and obscurity of this dynasty, Cooper anticipates Faulkner.
7 Interestingly, Cooper spares Edward Effingham most of the pains he himself needed to take to defend his property rights in the “Three Mile Point Controversy.” When in Chapters 14 and 15 of Home as Found, Templeton’s inhabitants lay claim to a popular picnic site they have grown accustomed to frequenting absent the Effinghams, Edward drafts a notice to the local paper which he entrusts to Aristabulus Bragg to insert. (Bragg is horrified by this intrusion on the popular will but too much in awe of the Effinghams not to submit.) The locals loudly protest in a public meeting the newspaper notice to avoid trespassing on Effingham property, but after this ebullition of the popular will, opposition to the Effinghams ceases entirely and the controversy never re-appears in the novel. The parallel events in Cooper’s own life of course led to protracted controversy which long engaged Cooper’s energy, and led to ill-will in Cooperstown against the family which some inhabitants say persists to this day.
8 The Pioneers, or Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale. Historical Introduction and Explanatory Notes by James Franklin Beard; text established by Lance Schachterle and Kenneth M. Andersen, Jr. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980), p. 456.