Cooper, Style, and The Bravo

Keynote Address for the 2009 Oneonta Cooper Conference/Seminar

Lance Schachterle (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

Presented at the 17ᵗʰ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 2009.

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, Papers from the 2009 Cooper Seminar (No. 17), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Hugh C. MacDougall, editor. (pp. 46-64).

Copyright © 2011, James Fenimore Cooper Society and the College at Oneonta.

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

“Cooper” and “style”: words rarely brought together, at least in a favorable sense. When James Franklin Beard convened leading scholars for a symposium and its proceedings to memorialize the centennial of Cooper’s death in 1951, he later reported no one was willing to write on Cooper as an artist. 1

All least three reasons might explain this reluctance.

First, Cooper’s style is not, for the most part, sharply distinctive, as are the styles of his great British predecessors like Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, or Austen. Today’s readers find his style similar to that of his own contemporaries: generally more formal at all levels than modern colloquialness, articulating over-elaborate descriptions of people and landscapes, and too often tending to wooliness when personally engaged (as in the later social and political novels). Only in the creation of characters quite different from himself, above all Natty Bumppo, does Cooper’s imagination lift his writing securely to a level sympathetic modern readers might admire.

Cooper’s style has had its defenders, but curiously like Poe, not among American critics, at least until quite recently. D. H. Lawrence’s wonderfully impressionistic jabs and thrusts in his two Cooper essays praise Natty — and thus the words that embody him — as Cooper’s attempt to slough off the old skin of the conventional white gentleman and disclose the new (and brutal) American. His famous summary of the Leather-Stocking Tales as “a decrescendo of reality, and a crescendo of beauty” captures the response of many modern readers, as does his apostrophe to The Deerslayer, as “a gem of a book. Or a bit of perfect paste. And myself, I like a bit of perfect paste in a perfect setting, so long as I am not fooled by pretence of reality.” But Lawrence never descends to specifics about how Cooper’s style accomplishes these glorious ends. 2

Marius Bewley began his influential essay “Fenimore Cooper and the Economic Age” by ranking Cooper “with Hawthorne, James, and Melville as one of the four greatest novelists America produced in the nineteenth century.” His claim here, however, is based on assertions that Cooper grasped essential social and political contradictions in American life, not that he embodied those insights in prose matching that of the other three masters of the century. In “Form in Fenimore Cooper’s Novels,” Bewley follows F. R. Leavis’s strategy of quoting substantial chunks of Cooper’s prose to elicit the significant underlying thematic and moral content; in doing so, he comes closer to discussing Cooper’s style but at a high level of generality that does not descend to the essentials of sentence, phrase or diction. Finally, in the opening chapter of his study “The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers,” Bewley argues that

Cooper’s simpler, more forthright conventionality [of style] is of a more datable kind, and therefore more irritating to a certain class of readers. But even at its worst, which can be very bad, it ought not to prove a serious hindrance to the enjoyment of his work, for Cooper’s kind of artificiality is not the result of studied effect, but of his being interested in things so radically different from style that, in those passages which do not engage him deeply, he is content to move on in the stilted prose pattern of the day. But when he comes to write of those things which form his central meaning, he is unsurpassed. 3

A second reason few critics have discussed Cooper’s style is that, quite simply, Cooper rarely did himself. His letters and, to a lesser extent, his Prefaces, say very little about how he wrote, or what if any concerns or anxieties he harbored about style. Never in his letters does he appear to be self-conscious, much less self-reflexive, about how he shaped his words to effect. In Cooper we simply don’t find anything like the revelations and soul-searchings about how to write of a Poe, Hawthorne, James, or Flaubert. I have searched in vain through the Letters and Journals for evidence of Cooper’s sharing his views on prose style. Similarly, Arvid Shulenberger’s useful Cooper’s Theory of Fiction, which summarizes at a basic level what Cooper says in his fifty-seven prefaces to his thirty-two novels, indicates that beyond occasional comments on vraisemblance and the beau ideal, Cooper said little there about style. When he did, as with the letters, his concerns most often are to get his nautical technology accurately rendered. 4

And the third reason why “Cooper” and “style” are infrequently mentioned together is that, for many readers, the one critic who did address this topic — Samuel Clemens — has already said all that needs saying. Twain’s devastatingly funny 1895 “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” deservedly remains a classic of American satire which no critiques in Cooper’s defense have blunted. 5 As a result, for many twentieth-century critics of Cooper his strengths come not because of but despite the quality of his prose; his importance should be elicited from his historical precedence, his contributions to framing social debates in the early republic, or his contributions to the American romance tradition. 6

My premise in this essay is that holding Cooper up to the standards of more self-conscious authors who followed him, including Twain, tells us little about Cooper or his style. His esthetic concern matches his commercial instinct: to tell a rousing story. His deeper motives were to call attention to the problems he saw threatening the American republic rather than to call attention to himself as a uniquely-voiced author. Thus here I will begin by examining some of the authors Cooper read — or might have read — who offered precedents if not models for how Cooper narrated his novels. The points I offer are quite tentative; my goal is to open for further assessment why Cooper wrote as he did rather than to bring closure to so interesting a topic. I hope others may explore points here I merely glance at.

Finally, I will turn to Cooper’s finest European novel, The Bravo, the manuscript for which Prof. James Sappenfield and I have been studying for two decades in preparation for a scholarly edition. We have made a diplomatic transcription of the extant manuscript, which discloses that contrary to some uninformed opinions, Cooper did in fact revise as he wrote and again later as he corrected the proof sheets for the first edition. These revisions can tell us much about what aspects of style important to modern readers and critics Cooper did — and did not — concern himself with.

1. What did Cooper read? And what did he learn?

Even the masterful biography Wayne Franklin is engaged in provides few answers to these questions. We do not know what books Cooper read from his father’s library when young because we know little about its contents, much less what James dipped into. Presumably a gentleman’s library in late 18ᵗʰ century America contained the essays of Dryden, Addison, and Johnson; the proto-novels of Swift and Defoe; perhaps the more contemporary fiction of Fielding, Sterne and Smollett. In these authors Cooper could have found the more “modern” prose which succeeded the Baroque elaborations of a Milton, characterized by shorter paragraphs and syntactically simpler sentences, and far fewer Latinate quotations and references. Franklin indicates the earliest evidence for Cooper’s reading comes in 1805, after he left Yale and was tutored by William Neill. Neill later recollected that Cooper “disliked hard study” but was “extravagantly fond” of “novels and amusing tales,” among which might have been his first exposure to the works of Charles Brockden Brown. Franklin speculates that in addition to Cooper’s readings in the Mansion House, he may have been exposed to the Augustan prose masters during his earlier education under Thomas Ellison in Albany (1801-02) and perhaps read novels at Yale, despite the college’s Puritan bias against prose and dramatic fiction. But Franklin clearly indicates these leads are but speculation for which we have no evidence; even Neill’s reminiscences, written after Cooper’s death, may have overestimated Neill’s own role in developing the interest in writing which was to lead to the career of America’s first great novelist. 7

We know with more certainty that he was reading an English novel to Mrs. Cooper after her mother’s death, which — in daughter Susan’s recollection — he threw aside exclaiming “I could write you a better book than that myself!” But what the object of adverse comparison was, we do not know; guesses have ranged from Mrs. Opie’s Tales of the Heart (published by Wiley in 1820 and a prototype for Cooper’s own projected “American Tales,” advertised in 1822) to Austen’s posthumous Persuasion (1817). Wayne Franklin’s analysis of these possible candidates stresses that Cooper admired both Opie and Austen; thus the book he thrust away in disgust could well have been from one of their weaker imitators. 8 In any case, if Cooper read Persuasion or any other Austen novels, he did not absorb her lapidary style in narration or dialogue, or the subtle indirect discourse by which she disclosed how the minds of her central characters functioned. And if he read the Augustan essays, unlike his rival Irving he did not choose to emulate their balanced and contained sentence structure or their genteel humor directed to a circle of knowing, like-minded peers.

We can be more certain — for we have some documentary evidence — that Cooper read Charles Brockden Brown and Scott. In the 1821 “Preface” to The Spy, Cooper pokes fun at “the cave scene in [Brown’s] “Edgar Huntly,” which “contains an American, a savage, a wild cat, and a tomahawk, in a conjunction that never did, nor ever will occur.” 9 While all four elements of this conjunction occur in Cooper’s next novel, The Pioneers, and in some of its successors, Cooper combined them more imaginatively and credibly than Brown, in whose prose style I think Cooper found little to emulate. Brown’s Gothic prose is more dream-like than Cooper’s more objective style, though often his individual sentences pack more punch for being brief, emphatic, and cumulative. Yet Brown’s syntax and diction generally are even more formal than Cooper’s, while at the same time, his descriptions of nature are emaciated and bloodless compared to the later author’s greater vibrancy.

Chapters XVI and XVII of Edgar Huntly — which describe the hero’s escape from the Indians and the panther — well illustrate these points. After killing the panther, the starving Huntly feeds on “the yet warm blood and reeking fibres of a brute.” Soon he “bitterly lamented my inordinate avidity. The excruciations of famine were better than the agonies which this abhorred meal had produced.” After killing an Indian to escape the imprisoning cave, Huntly “did not escape all compunction in the present instance, but the tumult of my feelings was quickly allayed. To quench my thirst was a consideration by which all others were supplanted. I approached the torrent, and not only drank copiously, but laved my head, neck, and arms, in this delicious element.” 10 Cooper often enough prefers general terms to specific — “this delicious element” for “water” — but usually within the context of trying to render a description general, sometimes even scientific. Here Brown creates a disconnect between his character’s highly-excited emotions and the distanced and abstracted words selected to embody them. At his best — a level he does not sustain consistently — Cooper is less likely to create such dissonances between the events described and the words inscribing those events.

Comparisons of how the two authors rendered landscapes are also revealing. Edgar Huntly takes place in a settlement north of Philadelphia sufficiently remote from that urban center still to be subject to Indian raids, but the location never achieves the specificity with which Cooper invariably presents his settings, whether Cooperstown/Templeton, Venice, or the Antarctic. When setting out to find the mysterious Clithero, Huntly describes the environs of Norwalk as a wilderness even more barren than Cooper’s prairie:

Canst thou imagine a space, somewhat circular, about six miles in diameter, and exhibiting a perpetual and intricate variety of craggy eminences and deep dells?

The hollows are single, and walled around by cliffs, ever varying in shape and height, and have seldom any perceptible communication with each other. These hollows are of all dimensions, from the narrowness and depth of a well, to the amplitude of one hundred yards. Winter’s snow is frequently found in these cavities at mid-summer. The streams that burst forth from every crevice, are thrown, by the irregularities of the surface, into numberless cascades, often disappear in mists or in chasms, and emerge from subterranean channels, and, finally, either subside into lakes, or quietly meander through the lower and more level grounds. 11

What is striking about this description is its hostile energy: nature consists of potential barriers — craggy eminences, deep dells, hollows, cliffs, and so on — which starkly oppose human effort. Huntly is no heroic pathfinder; he negotiates these obstacles with difficulty. And, unlike Cooper’s, Brown’s nature is noticeably colorless; indeed, it lacks any sensuous claim on our attention. 12

A good topic for further work would be to compare Cooper’s nature imagery with other descriptions of nature in American fiction before The Spy and The Pioneers. Given the dominance of domestic drama in American fiction before 1820, probably few examples would emerge. An obvious choice is Gilbert Imlay’s The Emigrants (1793) which we know was written in large part to tout the beauties of the Ohio valley where the author had real estate he hoped to sell. Given this impetus, I find Imlay’s scenery depictions generic and pallid — in the Rosicrucian style Cooper mocked (no noun or verb without at least one modifier and lots of learned allusions):

The country gently rises from the banks of the river, for nearly six furlongs, and presents a ridge, that runs parallel with it for several leagues; which elevated prospect affords the expanded beauties of the country a long distance back, and at this genial season, the earth, where Pomona reigns, yields bounteous plenty to all, and every being shares the golden stores that gild the variegated plains. 13

Cooper was not immune from over-egging the modifiers, but generally his adjectives and adverbs were more specific to the scene, while he avoided the kinds of references to Pomona that the self-made Imlay must have felt necessary to establish his credentials as a genteel author. Cooper may well never had read Imlay, but more detailed comparisons with respect to how landscape is presented in fiction before Cooper — whether or not we believe he was aware of such precedents — would be worth pursuing.

The last novelist we may be sure Cooper read was Scott. 14 Scott began his prodigious career in fiction with Waverley in 1814, and by the time Cooper published Precaution, he had produced no fewer than ten more novels. Cooper and Scott share preferences for historical fiction with at least one love interest resolved in marriage; for a mix of upper-class figures speaking proper but stilted English and more vital lower-class dialect speakers; for dramatic action scenes framed by extended descriptions of scenery and of dialogue, and for occasionally admitting elements of the Gothic supernatural eventually resolved by a natural explanation. Cooper’s style is closer to Scott’s than to any of his predecessors. Scott began the near century-long dominance of the long novel and thus moved all his elements at a measured pace, favoring lengthy descriptions and digressions in a style largely free of the grammatical lapses and awkward diction Cooper occasionally stumbled into. And Scott, as Franklin shows, provided Cooper with the specific information he needed to estimate the manuscript length of Precaution as well as a model for making writing a money-making career. 15

2. Some forays into Cooper’s style and its critics

Harold C. Martin offers a precise account of how Cooper’s style compares to that of a significant number of his contemporaries and successors. In his valuable essay “The Development of Style in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” Martin provides an objective comparison of two passages depicting men weathering a sea-storm — the earlier from Cooper’s Pilot, the later from Crane’s “The Open Boat.” Because Martin analyzes Cooper’s prose in detail and with care, I quote his discussion in full:

The most striking characteristic of this paragraph [from The Pilot 16] — for a modern reader, at least — is its syntax. The sentences are long: the first contains sixty-seven words; the last, fifty; the intermediate four average thirty-eight. All the sentences are complex or compound-complex, to use the grammarian’s terms. All of the main clauses but one (the second in the third sentence) are clear of internal complication save for prepositional phrases. That one is the second main clause of a compound-complex sentence; it incorporates, besides an early prepositional phrase, two parallel participial phrases, each of which in turn contains an infinitive phrase and a subordinate relative clause. Moreover, the simplicity of main clauses in the other five sentences is illusory, for the dependent clauses that follow each are as elaborately wrought as the main clause just described. Two have double predicates; all have internal adjectival or adverbial clauses; three have infinitive phrases, active or passive; and the last concludes with a relative clause, an infinitive, and five prepositional phrases, three of them final.

The sentences, we might say, unlike the ship, are heavily ballasted. They surge forward at the outset (only the last one has a phrase before the opening main clause), but they quickly develop complexity, yaw about, lose some of their momentum. That they do not lose more is the result of two things. Seven out of every ten words in the passage are monosyllabic. There are only five words of four syllables and two of five. The preponderance of monosyllables and the frequency of prepositional phrases produce a rising rhythm throughout. Considering the number of monosyllables it is worth noting that accented syllables come together only five times in the whole passage, twice to some semantic effect (bowed down heavily, all straining). Given the multiple iambic and anapestic feet and the few collisions of stress, the passage might indeed be unpleasantly undulant throughout if the substantive units, the combination of noun and modifier, did not generally provide emphasized clusters with falling rhythm (rushing sounds, young lieutenant, upright position, courteous champion, and so on).

In the felicity of his rhythms, as in the simplicity of opening clauses, Cooper is, in this novel, a better stylist than most of his contemporaries — Irving, of course, excepted. But the general structure of his sentences is also theirs. Even taken apart from vocabulary, this complex style indicates a deliberateness which removes action some distance from direct observation. Its lavish use of phrase and clause produces a syntactical separation of substantive and verb from modifier which reduces immediacy in perception. Its general leisureliness allows it to accommodate exposition and intermittent moralizing as well as narration without change in pace. 17

Martin finds Crane more succinct and vigorous, but he does not disparage Cooper for using the tools of his age to considerable effect. Martin provides more illumination on style by briefly comparing Cooper’s prose to shorter excerpts from Brown, Irving, Kennedy, Simms, Bird, Poe, and some lesser writers, all to illuminate similarities and differences. But Martin did not recognize that the syntactical structure governed by the punctuation he references is not Cooper’s — it’s that of the compositors of the 1849 Putnam edition which Cooper revised lightly. 18 To his credit Martin checked the 1849 text against the first edition of Charles Wiley, 1824, and reported variants only in “minor matters of punctuation.” But our experience as Cooper editors, notably the recent work on The Bravo, reminds us that Cooper punctuated both more lightly than his compositors (using the semi-colon less often, for instance). He also tended to set off phrases with commas, not by using (perhaps later) rules like restrictive and non-restrictive clauses but when he wanted to signal a shift in intonation in the reading voice.

Writing and punctuating to direct the ears of the vocal reader and a possible audience to the inflections of his own speaking voice are the characteristics of Cooper’s style most often forgotten in modern analyses. The shift in the nineteenth century from encountering fiction in the family reading circle to reading silently — accompanied by the rise of other communal forms of evening entertainment — is the least studied and least appreciated clue to what made the styles of Cooper and later writers like Crane so different.

I can’t affirm how representative the passage from Pilot is that Martin probes, but leaving the caveat about authorial punctuation aside, his comments ring true enough. What would be interesting (a thesis topic, someone?) is to use his detailed metrics to examine passages from other points in Cooper’s career to see if his style shifts in any way, or how it might differ from the style of his contemporaries. An accurate test of Martin’s grammatical analysis would require the critic to use Cooper’s own punctuation as preserved in one of his manuscripts, which are extant mainly from his work after his settling in Cooperstown in 1834. (But there are some early holographs available: Precaution, parts of The Prairie, rough drafts for The Bravo). Martin’s chapter provides some evidence for the movement in the nineteenth century to a more colloquial style, though his choice of James and Wharton and not Twain to represent the later prose suggests that delineating the evolution of a more colloquial speech was not his primary aim.

Richard Bridgman in The Colloquial Style in America does provide such an analysis. To Bridgman, the hallmarks of American colloquialness are stress, fragmentation, and repetition, attributes often taken first to be used by humorists culminating in Twain but found as early as 1824-25 in the essays John Neal wrote for Blackwood’s Magazine. 19 Bridgman agrees with Leo Marx’s judgment that Cooper’s style is very similar to Scott’s, and observes that American usage deviated from British faster in the spoken word than the written. 21 Thus authors trying to record American speech had to make sure that their readers understood that any inscribed vulgarities were those of their characters, not the author’s. Only after Hawthorne and Cooper — both of whom were often criticized by contemporaries for their stilted style — did the colloquial style begin to spill over from dialogue into narration. 21

Cooper met the challenge of registering common dialects well, first in The Spy with his New England characters, and then more complexly in The Pioneers where he captured not only the genteel diction of the Judge Temple set (including Oliver Effingham) as well as an unprecedented variety of “vulgar” characters. In Natty Bumppo and Indian John (Chingachgook) Cooper created models he developed throughout his career for the arresting speech of his most famous duo. It’s important, I think, to remember that few of his readers experienced first hand the dialect of a hunter or an Indian, and Cooper had virtually no precedents to learn from. As Cooper developed Natty through the five Leather-Stocking Tales, he faced the challenge of presenting the uneducated and illiterate hunter, guide, and trapper as both far removed from the social norms of genteel speech but also a speaker all his readers must take seriously. Natty is very likely the first dialect speaker in American fiction (save perhaps Harvey Birch) whose words register their author’s deepest concerns and thus must not be dismissed as comic. To achieve this goal, Cooper infused into Natty’s vulgar style a richer diction and syntax than one would expect from one so low born, leading critics in his own day and beyond to deride the mix. Twain of course made great verbal high jinks of these alleged inconsistencies, and Louise Pound was uncomfortable with what she called the Ossianic element in his language in one of the first serious studies of Natty’s (and Cooper’s) language in the 20ᵗʰ century. 22

Robert Spiller quickly rose to defend Cooper in American Speech, arguing that while the author “was fully capable of that grandiose and stilted style, which in his blunter utterances, he most vehemently condemned,” Cooper was usually very sensitive to verbal styles. Spiller takes as his texts Cooper’s frequent observations about proper and improper usages in his social writings and his travel books (especially that on England), where he argues Cooper more often than in his fiction “holds to his belief in a simple and direct statement of honest opinion.” 23 Spiller points to the chapter in The American Democrat (second paragraph of “On Language”) where Cooper cogently states:

The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms. To these may be added ambiguity of expression. Many perversions of significations also exist, and a formality of speech, which, while it renders conversation ungraceful, and destroys its playfulness, seriously weakens the power of the language, by applying to ordinary ideas, words that are suited only to themes of gravity and dignity.

Cooper certainly used these observations to advantage when pillorying the defective and dangerous language of an Aristabulus Bragg or a Jason Newcome, but well before Twain, Poe showed that Cooper too often violated his own precepts in his harsh and tellingly detailed review of the diction of Wyandotté. 24

Space permits only a brief comment on the style of speech of Cooper’s Indians. Again, Cooper had few precedents in fiction; the Indians in Edgar Huntly, for example, threaten but never speak. But as John T. Frederick abundantly proves, Cooper was well read in those contemporary cultural critics who emphasized the predisposition to figurative language in Indian speech. Cooper’s Indians speak either in a broken polyglot employing fragments of standard English, or, usually on more formal occasions, in translations supplied by a Natty Bumppo or the author himself which convey their discourse in grammatically formal and metaphorical styles. Critics of Cooper from Lewis Cass on have mocked such a poetic style as entirely “unrealistic,” but the evidence Frederick marshals discloses that Cooper closely followed a multitude of contemporary accounts of Indian speech that emphasized its poetic flights. 25

The language which Cooper should have registered accurately with the most ease was the discourse of his own class, which is also the style of his narration. But from his first important review, W. H. Gardiner’s of The Spy in 1822, and throughout his career and beyond, his descriptions and dialogues among low life characters were praised at the expense of the style with which his own class was depicted. 26 John F. Lynen, in The Design of the Present, advances an interesting hypothesis that might explain why Cooper’s high-born characters fall so flat. Lynen is concerned to explain how Cooper’s words create his characters, and concludes the author is most successful at inscribing self-identity when his characters are confronted by the challenges of a wilderness setting. That is, exposed to a chaotic wilderness, all his characters must struggle with threats new to them to achieve self-definition in words and acts, whereas when safely ensconced in familiar genteel circumstances, Cooper’s middle- and upper-class characters effortlessly draw their diction from the well of genteel commonplaces.

Lynen suggests that Cooper seems to have realized that if one took post-Lockean psychology to heart, one could not understand people without reference to their setting, and that while their setting is society, this in turn cannot be explained in its own terms. For its terms are society — as Cooper’s “nice” characters are simply the sum of their commonplace opinions — so that one must in the end question not the truth of those terms but their very existence as meaningful words. 27

Lynen subtly contrasts Natty’s speech with Elizabeth Temple’s, arguing that readers admire Natty’s wrestling with moral issues which test his own conventional ideas and thus define him as a distinct personality, while remaining unmoved by both the narration and dialogue of Elizabeth, which Lynen memorably describes as written “in the manner of a university president penning a report to the trustees.” Genteel characters like Elizabeth elicit from Cooper what Lynen calls an “official language” that presumes “a communal point of view” of social and moral standards, which modern readers cannot share, suspicious as we are of any such consensus. 28 Such “official language” — which is the style of much of Cooper’s own narration — presupposes that the reader, then and now, will accept Cooper’s objective of creating “the immediacy of direct perception by making it seem that the things viewed exist independently in themselves, quite unaffected by the personality of a particular observer, so that it may appear that what we see are things as anyone might see them.” On Cooper’s style, Lynen concludes:

If we are to understand why the Leatherstocking novels express what even the harshest critics concede is a profoundly significant aspect of American experience, we will have to give up the notion that Cooper wrote well in an inartistic language, and consider the advantages of a style which, for all its faults, proved serviceable enough to effect this achievement. The traits most often deplored — the stately manner and sententious commentary — are perhaps avoidable but natural results of holding us to a communal view of things. 29

I for one find Lynen’s analysis persuasive with respect to modern readers, but it fails to explain why critics of his own day mocked Cooper’s “official style,” at least when registering the genteel. In his second review of Cooper’s fiction in 1826, W. H. Gardiner wrote that:

the moment we set foot in a fashionable drawing room, we find the gentry there so abominably stiff in their manners, and with so much vulgar good breeding, and so dull, or flippant, or affected in their discourse, that we are heartily glad to escape from elegant society, and take a walk with our author into the woods, or step over to the neighbouring inn, where we are very likely to meet with somebody who can talk to the purpose in his own way. 31

Gardiner here demolishes Lynen’s assumption that Cooper’s contemporary readers — presumably mostly genteel — accepted his “official language” as embodying the expression of their own conventional consensus of social reality. That Cooper intended such a result may be true, as Lynen argues, but that he succeeded is not. I can only guess at where the problem is, and my guess is that among his family and friends, Cooper did not speak as genteelly as did his characters. His letters to his closest intimates like Shubrick, as well as to his wife, resemble the colloquial style as defined by Bridgman — stress, fragmentation, and repetition — far more than his fictional dialogues. (A thought experiment: who at a Bread and Cheese meeting would speak like Edward Effingham?) Thus I suspect Cooper — like Scott and Hawthorne — over compensated when trying to inscribe what they thought was the style acceptable to their peers by censoring what they really heard in their own inner circles. To guard against vulgarisms and thus disclosing fatal flaws in their own class standing, they left behind only what they imagined the ideally genteel would say or want to read.

3. Cooper’s style and stylistic revisions in The Bravo

When the Cooper family donated the authorial manuscript of The Bravo (1831) to the American Antiquarian Society, scholars were granted the opportunity to investigate in great detail his stylistic revisions and preferences because the manuscript is more heavily revised than perhaps any other extant witness. The Bravo manuscript also permitted what proved to be a rich investigation of the author’s teasing statement of 1835 that “they who take the trouble to compare them [the texts of the manuscript and of the final printed Bravo] will have an opportunity of getting an insight into the secrets of authorship.” The most remarkable secret within this holograph gift is that Cooper had cancelled more than two chapters (which I have called the “Eudora” episode) of his first thoughts because he recognized the direction he was taking — a sea-chase after the abducted bride of Don Camillo — was inconsistent with the overall themes of The Bravo. 31 The gift to Victoria proved to be a large chunk of the revised narrative with which he replaced the cancellation. While this discovery constitutes the best example Cooper editors have found to date that the author was willing to sacrifice his initial inscriptions in the interests of his overall design, our editorial work on The Bravo papers offers many more examples of the degree to which Cooper vigorously reworked his first thoughts. 32

Indeed, the Bravo papers offer probably the richest evidence for anyone wishing to study Cooper’s style in more detail than I have time for in this essay. In the holograph we can see Cooper rewriting phrase, sentence, and paragraph as he composed them; the hand and inks indicate such alterations occurred both in the process of composition and at some later stage of wholesale revision. The diplomatic transcription of these papers, available at used the MS Word track changes feature to show the variants between these first drafts and the 1831 printed text. The changes are numerous and often extensive, but since the actual text Colburn and Bentley used to set proof, as well as the proofs themselves, are not known to exist, we cannot tell at what stage these revisions post rough manuscript were made. (The extant papers, including the one amanuensis copy, chapter 30 in wife Susan’s hand, show no signs of the usual printer’s marks, and Bentley normally kept his setting copy since Cooper did not request its return for proofing. Cooper’s preserving the rough copy by bringing it home with him is somewhat uncharacteristic of his attitude towards such early draft papers; most of the later extant holographs now in archives were setting copy the Bentley firm used, preserved — and eventually sold to collectors.)

The efforts of The Cooper Edition since the early 1970’s to study the textual history of the twenty-two titles published to date — bolstered now by the detailed work possible with The Bravo — disclose that at least some critical opinions about Cooper’s indifference to style are no longer sustainable. For example, in 1978 Stephen Railton wrote that “to the modern taste, Cooper seems incredibly unconscious of most matters of literary craft. His nonchalant attitude toward the creative process’made him an unattractive figure to formalists.” Railton even cited Cooper’s 1835 letter to Vail, asserting that a study of the manuscript of The Bravo would not show much to dispute his claims of Cooper’s nonchalance. We have already seen above that such a study — for which Railton lacked the manuscript materials — demonstrates that he in fact was quite wrong here about The Bravo. 33 In the remainder of this paper I will try to delineate what the study of the Bravo papers discloses about what did — and did not — concern Cooper in matters of composition and revision affecting style.

My overall impression of Cooper’s stylistic revisions both at the manuscript and proof stage is that he proceeded as other editors in our series have demonstrated: he eliminated unneeded words and phrases like “that” and “such as”; he provided synonyms to avoid repeating words; and occasionally sharpened dialogue and dialect with more specific language. Occasionally he struck out a passage which dissatisfied him and replaced it (immediately or on a tipped-in sheet) with a revision. At the level of the sentence, he occasionally used directional lines within the manuscript to reposition phrases to achieve greater clarity. (Our diplomatic transcription of The Bravo working papers records such transpositions.) But other than such transpositions, he rarely rewrote sentence units to improve rhetorical clarity or variety, or grammatical precision. Nor did he anticipate the expectations of “formalists” or modern readers by shortening passages Twain (and we) find verbose, distracting or vague; he sometimes but not always replaced one word with its superior, and indeed, in proofing, he did not catch every error. 34

But the evidence shows anything but a “nonchalant” attitude towards his text: he reworked it on at least six occasions: 1) while writing the manuscript; 2) immediately afterwards in his holograph corrections; 3) his review and revisions of the amanuensis copy; 4) composing new drafts (not now known to exist) usually based on the extant witnesses from which Bentley set the 1831 first edition; 5) the Bentley proofs for the 1831 edition; and 6) the extant holograph revisions for the Bentley revised edition of 1834.

The larger revisions affect the overall narrative more than the fine points of style. The longest change replaces the “Eudora” episode with new chapters 18 through 20 which narrate Annina’s personal deceit and the deceit of the Senate in falsely imprisoning Jacopo’s father to force him into their service. Cooper twice rewrote the chapter preceding these scenes, the seventeenth, which contains to me the most affecting scene in the novel — Jacopo’s rapprochement with Don Camillo when both recognize they have been duped by the Senate. Cooper wrote two manuscript versions of Jacopo’s conversation with and confession to the noble, but then replaced it with a third in the 1831 text, clearly concerned to register an emotional scene appropriate to the differing needs and social standing of the new allies. Further significant revisions include significantly sanitizing the initial manuscript description in Chapter 2 of Don Camillo’s rakish ways before saving Donna Violetta from drowning (a process continued into the 1831 text); canceling a premature meeting between Don Camillo and the Bravo in chapter 10, and rewriting sections of chapters 15 and 16 describing Jacopo’s attempt to prevent Antonio’s assassination. Finally, the penultimate chapter, 30 — the only chapter for which both the holograph and amanuensis copy exist — differs significantly from both extant witnesses.

Extensive revisions affect both descriptive narrations and dialogues. As we shall see, Cooper worked hard in manuscript with the passages on Venetian geology and its unique canals. Less satisfactory as examples of any kind of improvement, stylistic or otherwise, are the occasional revisions of texts Cooper imposed to direct readers” responses to Venetian politics. The long introductory paragraph beginning with “the constant struggle between the innocent and the artful” (ch. 24, III, 81; CE, 275) 35, followed by a prolix argument that the innocent have a greater chance of destruction in a culture like Venice’s, are unsuccessful to the point almost of incomprehensibility in both the early and revised versions. Cooper clearly wants here to enforce in the narrative the exposition of his Preface which characteristically sticks entirely to his abstractions about political philosophy, specifically the dangers of an hereditary aristocracy manipulating an ostensible republic. The 1831 Preface mentions Venice only twice in four pages and the plot and character of the novel to follow, not at all. But such an exposition works — comparatively — much better in the Preface than when introduced into the fictional template, and the more abstract the points Cooper tries to make in the novel, the more obtrusive they may seem. 36

Cooper is more successful in showing how the Venetian corporate system degrades the innocent and potentially humane candidates for leadership in his narration than in such obtrusive asides. Especially telling are chapters 27 and 28, when the young Senator Soranzo joins the Council of Three in place of the discharged Gradenigo. Soranzo inwardly rejoices that Camillo and Violetta have escaped, and hears enough to disturb him in and after his first secret session — especially the suspicions of a shrewd fisherman that Jacopo is being framed — to sense being trapped into a self-serving polity which will mock his youthful idealism. Yet he can see no way to escape his fate (like a free young elephant crowded on both sides by trained and experienced beasts, Cooper’s image here) of being enchained in the Venetian oligarchic corporation, made so much more potent by the anonymity of its ever-changing and ever-renewed membership.

I wish to comment more specifically on four other aspects of Cooper’s style in The Bravo that strike me as important for this novel: 1) Cooper’s attempt, largely persuasive in my view, to craft for a novel in English a language credible to Venice roughly a century before he wrote the book; 2) his characteristic desire to be precise about scientific and technological descriptions; 3) his preference for passive constructions, often in the context of naming as active agent a part of a character’s body — a gondolier’s arm or hand, the Bravo’s piercing eye; and 4) finally his extraordinary innovation into the English novel of symbolic scenes to project his underlying theme imaginatively and to tie his narrative together.

4. Creating a style for a foreign culture

By 1831 Cooper already had experience in imagining a linguistic template for a language other than his own — the four Indian/frontier novels he had written so far. But in many ways the challenge in The Bravo was even greater — at least some educated readers would know some Italian and had visited Venice. Cooper was also keenly aware that popular British authors like Byron and Samuel Rogers had already provided models for English readers of what Italy was “like.” 37 Cooper’s stay in Venice itself was comparatively brief, only ten days. “We are pleased with the novelty of the place, and have got just enough of it.” 38 “Just enough” apparently was quite enough not only to write a full-scale novel but in Gleanings in Europe: Italy to devote the better part of four letters to Venice, placing it on a level with his accounts of Florence, Rome, and Naples. 39

The question remains open to what extent Cooper captured the specific Venetian dialect rather than mixing in forms he picked up in other parts of Italy. According to the Italian Americanist Anna Scannavini, who shared her work on Cooper and Italy with me while working at the American Antiquarian Society in summer 2007, in the 1830’s regional dialects dominated the separate Italian states which of course were not united politically until a generation later — and some would say, remain culturally separate to this day. 41 Cooper was quite aware that the Venetian dialect differed substantially from the language of other parts of Italy, for in Chapter 22 Don Camillo assumes the local dialect to avoid troubles with the fishermen agitating over the death of old Antonio. How well Cooper registered specific Venetian words and phrases is open to question, since in manuscript he often supplied either Anglicized forms (“St. Agatha” for Don Camillo’s Neapolitan castle which Colburn and Bentley rendered as “Sant” Agata”) or recorded phonetically what he probably heard (“Alla videre” for what Bentley printed as “A rivederti.”) Indeed, Cooper gave Bentley license (L&J, II, 193) to allow his proof-readers and type-setters to impose their own “sufficient English authority” over any of his Italian forms they regarded as irregular; the 1831 first edition shows this authority was used liberally and without any known protest from Cooper.

Given the evidence of the Italian speakers whose language is of course rendered in English, in a mere ten days Cooper’s ear picked up idioms and local knowledge such as locations which made his depiction of Venice and her inhabitants credible. And doubtless a guidebook or two he carried home with him helped with providing details for both the novel and the travel book. Because Cooper and his readers understood the convention of presenting the whole novel in English rather than the native Italian (and its dialects) the characters actually would have spoken, Cooper did not need to significantly differentiate his speakers. The Neapolitans Gino, Stefano and Don Camillo speak — allowing for their class differences — the same “Italian” as their Venetian counterparts. Probably thankfully, Cooper did not try to give the Neapolitans or Venetians a Scots or Irish dialect to register their distinctive speech differences.

Speakers in The Bravo begin their statements frequently with exclamations like “Cospetto” or with invocations to the Blessed Mary or a favorite saint; along with abundant references to local customs and landmarks, these devices convey a persuasive sense of local color and language. The maritime language of Gino the gondolier and Stefano the felucca padrone appear convincing — Cooper doubtless was enjoying putting his fondness for sea-talk to the new challenges of canals and the Adriatic. The softness of the Italian language — something he often comments on in the novel and in his travel-book reminiscences — seems to me to imbue his prose (except for his political intrusions, which are plain old hard-core Cooper) with the mellow light and easy, flowing tonality of Italy, just as his two other European novels, The Heidenmauer (1832) and The Headsman (1833) capture the denser and more prolix syntax and grammar of the northern Goths. (Mark Twain might have admired this feat in his “The Awful German Language.”)

5. Precision with scientific and technological descriptions

Like many other visitors to Venice, Cooper was fascinated by the geology and topology that made the “City of the Isles” unique. Thus in chapter two he brings Don Camillo’s charge to the reluctant Gino to find Jacopo the Bravo to a screeching halt with a six-page digression (Vol. 1, pp. 45-51; CE, 23-25) on how the Alpine waters formed the extensive bars and lagoons in the shallow sea upon which the city was built. The manuscript page for this text is one of the most reworked within the existing papers, and it is reworked again, though more lightly, for the first edition.

Cooper struck out his first paragraph, as follows:

The City of Venice, as is generally known, is built on a multitude of low sandy isles, which rise a little above the level of the lagunes that have been formed by the {constant} deposits of the mouths of the Po, {the Adige} {and of} /aided\ those torrents which are constantly bearing the d’bris of the Alps, reduced ** by the {actions of} influence of the elements *to particles of a nearly imperceptible size*, to the head of the gulf. The action of the waves on one side and of the currents of the rivers on the other have thrown up barriers, which in the course of ages have formed the islands {which contain the city} /[named?]\. [The ** after “reduced” indicates that the phrase “to particles of a nearly imperceptible size” originally was placed after “reduced” but later moved to its present position. Curly brackets { } denote words Cooper cancelled and slanted brackets / \, his additions.]

The reworked version (not quoted here) expands this description, with special attention to the physics of how stone from the mighty Alps is ground up by water to form the “particles of nearly imperceptible size” which filled in the lagoon and created the protective bars of the Lido; Cooper further speculates on the fluid dynamics of the rushing mountain waters, the ocean tides, and the power of strong storms in shaping and reshaping Venice. His source here I suspect was a guidebook, but stylistically what matters is that Cooper wants for the benefit of “those who have never visited that remarkable town” to understand as well as he does how Venice was formed. Without such knowledge, his later descriptions of how the patricians build their gloomy palaces on sand would lose their metaphorical and Biblical impact.

Similarly, Cooper loves technology. This frustrated salt-water sailor was fascinated by the technology of the gondola, for which he offers a clear enough objective account so that an enthusiastic could build one himself.

The narrowness of most of the canals of Venice, with the innumerable angles and the constant passing {of boats}, have given rise to a fashion of construction and /of\ rowing that {is} {altogether} /are\ /{[?]} so\ peculiar to that city and its immediate dependancies /as to require some explanation\. The reader has doubtless already understood that a gondola is a long, narrow and light boat, adapted to the uses of the place, and distinct from the wherries of all other towns. {As most of the} The distance between the dwellings, on most of the canals, is so small, that the width does not admit of the use of oars on both sides /at the same time\. The necessity of constantly turning aside, to give room for others, and the frequency of the bridges and corners have suggested the expediency of {keeping} /placing\ the face of the waterman in the direction in which the {gondola} /boat\ is steering, and, of consequence of keeping him also on his feet. As every gondola {has} when fully equipt has its pavillion in the centre, the height of the latter renders it necessary to place him who steers on such an elevation as will enable him to overlook it. From these several causes, a one-oared boat in Venice is propelled by a gondolier who stands on a little angular deck /in its stern\, formed like the /low\ roof a house, {in the stern of the boat}, and the stroke of the oar is given by a push instead of a pull, as is /{most}\ common {among most other watermen} /elsewhere\. Th{e}is habit of rowing erect, however, which {necessarily} is usually done by a forward instead of a backward movement of the body, is not unfrequent in all the ports of the Mediterranean, though in no other is there /a\ boat which resembles the gondola in /all\ its {other} properties or uses. The {height} /upright position\ of the gondol{a}ier requires that the pivot on which the oar rests, should have a corresponding elevation, and there is, consequently {provided} a species of bumkin raised from the side of the boat to the desired height, and which, /{[three words unrecoverable]}\ being formed of a crooked /and very irregular\ knee of wood, has {a [?] of} /two or three\ row-locks, one above the other, to suit the stature of different individuals, or to give a broader or a narrower sweep of the blade, as the movement shall {be needed} /require\. As there is frequent occasion to cast the oar, from one of these row-locks to the other, and not unfrequently to change its sides, /{the} it [rests?] in a very open bed, and\ the instrument is kept in its place {[?]} /by\ great dexterity alone, and /by\ a perfect knowledge of the means of accommodating [sic] the force and rapidity of the effort to the forward movement of the boat and the resistance of the water. All these difficulties united, render skill in a gondola, one of the most delicate branches of the waterman’s art, as it is clear /that\ muscular strength alone, though of great aid, can avail but little in such a {pursuit without great} practice. (revised version, I, ch. 9; CE, 105-6)

Again the passage is much reworked to achieve greater clarity and precision: the narrowness of the canals prevents the use of the oar “on both sides /at the same time\”; “a crooked /and very irregular\ knee of wood, has {a [?] of} /two or three\ row-locks.” Unlike the earlier digression on Venetian geology and hydrology, this information is more directly relevant to the immediate narrative since Chapter 9 presents the gondola-race as part of the great Regatta. The race is one of the novel’s set-pieces, excitingly narrated with the interplay of the participants and the crowd, and with Jacopo’s showing his true humanity by letting old Antonio place first. Again, Cooper may have borrowed from a guidebook for these details, but I sense the experienced sailor here delighting in understanding and admiring a maritime exploit quite different from any he had encountered before.

6. The “eye” as active agent

As I read The Bravo manuscript, I was struck by Cooper’s stylistic preference for naming objects or parts of the body rather than people as the agents of action, thus often necessitating a passive construction. For example, in chapter 4, when Donna Florinda lays aside the silk she has been sewing, Cooper altered his first inscription, “Donna Florinda permitted the silk on which she” by canceling “she” and replacing it with “her needle had been busy. ... ” (I, 109; CE, 49) Other examples include ears rather than people who hear, arms and hands that row rather than watermen, and the like. To the modern reader and perhaps his contemporaries, whatever Cooper gained by greater specificity is lost in greater verbosity. 41

Comparing the manuscript against the first printed copy showed that Cooper eliminated at least some of these circumlocutions in preparing the final printed text. For example, in chapter 3, Cooper wrote in the manuscript “said the voice of the girl”; the printed text is revised to “said Annina” (I, 68; CE, 18). When preparing the critical edition it will be worthwhile to count how many of these stylistic changes occur; my impression is that the printed text contains far fewer than the manuscript, with one exception — the overactive eye of the hero of The Bravo.

The most striking example of Cooper’s fixation on naming parts of the body as active agents is his frequent emphasis on the eye. As mentioned earlier, rather than telling us what Natty Bumppo — Hawkeye — sees, Cooper describes his eye detecting something, as often as not invisible to others. Perhaps Cooper’s fascination with the liquid eyes of Italians caused him to employ this stylistic device so heavily in The Bravo. I’ll confine myself just to an important example in chapter one — the book is rich with other examples.

Cooper introduces his titular character, the Bravo, within the contemporary convention of starting with his physical appearance: first his face (“cheeks” [which] betrayed rather the pallid hue of mental than of bodily disease”), moving to his physique (another Cooperesque Apollo), then his clothes (telling us his class). The first long descriptive paragraph (heavily revised even in the manuscript) concludes with “Out of this striking array of features gleamed an eye, that was full of brilliancy, meaning, and passion” (I, 18-19; CE, 12). In the next paragraph, this “eye’full of brilliancy, meaning, and passion” takes on a life of its own:

As the stranger passed, his glittering organs rolled over the persons of the gondolier and his companion, but the look, though searching, was entirely without interest. ‘Twas the wandering but wary glance, which men, who have much reason for distrust habitually cast on a multitude. It turned, with the same jealous keenness, on the next face it encountered, and by the time the steady and well balanced form was lost in the crowd, that quick and glowing eye had gleamed, in the same rapid and uneasy manner, on twenty others. (I, 19-20; CE, 12).

It is not the Bravo but his “glittering organs” that make this menacing inspection of the Carnival crowd. Why? I think Cooper is using the tools he had available to him — and which would have been familiar to his readers — to get inside the Bravo’s head through what since the English Renaissance had been considered the physical gateway to the soul — the eye. We are told the Bravo was a keen observer of all around him, apparently secure enough in his (false) reputation as an assassin to fear no one in the crowd; at the same time, the Bravo is also deeply troubled, with a glance variously described in five line as “wary,” of “jealous keenness” and “uneasy.” Lacking the tools and probably the ability of a Richardson, Sterne, or Austen to imply psychological states by more indirect means, Cooper seizes upon this hyperactive Italian eye to convey the troubled state of mind of his hero.

Many other such circumlocutions involving the eye can be understood to convey something of the psychology of the character in question: Stefano Milano’s droll habit of distorting his eye by pulling his cheek down — to signify complicity in something illegal he “won’t see” — is another case in point (I, 15-16; CE, 11) as are Donna Violetta’s “ardent” eyes. Admittedly there are many examples in the text where these circumlocutions seem just that — they do not add anything to our understanding of the character or the scene. So here is another challenge for future essayists — to probe further these curiously active organs of sensation in Cooper’s texts. 42

7. The Carnival as Unifying Symbol

My final exhibit of Cooper’s style is the brilliant opening paragraph of the novel, in its final printed form, which communicates to the reader Cooper’s thematic burden for The Bravo only upon re-readings.

The sun had disappeared behind the summits of the Tyrolean Alps, and the moon was already risen above the low barrier of the Lido. Hundreds of pedestrians were pouring out of the narrow streets of Venice into the square of St. Mark, like water gushing through some straight aqueduct, into a broad and bubbling basin. Gallant cavalieri and grave cittadini; soldiers of Dalmatia, and seamen of the gallies; dames of the city, and females of lighter manners; jewellers of the Rialto, and traders from the Levant; Jew, Turk, and Christian; traveller, adventurer, podesta, valet, avvocato and gondolier, held their way alike to the common centre of amusement. The hurried air and careless eye; the measured step and jealous glance; the jest and laugh; the song of the cantatrice, and the melody of the flute; the grimace of the buffoon, and the tragic frown of the improvisatore; the pyramid of the grotesque, the compelled and melancholy smile of the harpist, cries of water-sellers, cowls of monks, plumage of warriors, hum of voices and the universal movement and bustle, added to the more permanent objects of the place, rendered the scene the most remarkable of Christendom (I,1; CE, 5).

Railton to the contrary, formalists can find much here to engage with. Filling every rift in his prose with the ore of sharply-realized images attuned especially to our ear and eye, Cooper created a cumulative effect of great impressionist power: Venice as a vast Carnival with dozens of bit-players. As a thematic overture to the novel about to unfold, the opening paragraph of The Bravo looks forward to the similar bravura overture to Dickens’s Bleak House two decades later, with its Megolasaurus lumbering through the fog on Holborn Hill.

Yet all this bustle occurs after sunset: as Donald Ringe shrewdly observed in a paper read at this conference in 1991, 25 of the novel’s 31 chapters take place at night as Cooper adapted the conventions of the Gothic novel to his political analysis of Venice and America. 43 Cooper reinforces the dark chaos of his opening chapter by recalling this opening Carnival scene in chapters 4, 8, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24, 27, and 31. These iterations increasingly call attention not to the liberating energy of Carnival but to its specious underlying deception, repeatedly figured throughout the novel by the masks virtually all wear. (Only the rigidly honest Antonio devoutly avoids them.) For example, in chapter 24 the Senate pays the city’s entertainers to sing the praises of Venice to divert the fishermen from their anger over Antonio’s death. And Jacopo’s execution — in doubt until the fatal moment as his friends look in vain to the Doge’s palace for his reprieve — occurs in the crowded Piazza where the novel started. As that last day closes, Cooper drives home this theme with a closing brilliant paragraph for the novel:

The porticoes became brilliant with lamps, the gay laughed, the reckless trifled, the masker pursued his hidden purpose, the cantatrice and the grotesque acted their parts, and the million existed in that vacant enjoyment which distinguishes the pleasures of the thoughtless and the idle. Each lived for himself, while the state of Venice held its vicious sway, corrupting alike the ruler and the ruled, by its mockery of those sacred principles which are alone founded in truth and natural justice. (III, 286; CE, 340).

These repeated Carnival scenes, modulating ever more darkly to the final Venetian betrayal required by their “specious policy” (a frequent characterization), are distributed almost evenly through the text. Here Cooper has discovered a new way in fiction to organize and unify a narrative through carefully-crafted and repeated symbolic scenes. Dickens re-discovered this technique with his court imagery in Bleak House (1852-53), the prisons of Little Dorrit (1855-57), and the dust heaps (junk yards) of Our Mutual Friend (1864-65). But to Cooper’s lists of innovations in fiction can now be added the repeated richly-imaged symbolic scene, so much admired by later formalists critics for its power to engage the reader as an imaginative co-creator through images that grow in potency while the more prosaic narratives (and Cooper’s all too often are just that) labor less productively to convince the reason.

One more point is worth making about this introduction. The manuscript presents us with a reading I have argued has strong symbolic significance for the whole novel. Where the first edition reported that “Hundreds of pedestrians were pouring out of the narrow streets of Venice into the square of St. Mark, like water gushing through some straight aqueduct, into a broad and bubbling basin [my italics],” the manuscript clearly inscribed “some straitened aqueduct.” “Straitened” unlike “straight” conveys a sense of covertly enforced conformity so appropriate to a novel Ringe and others have identified as a forerunner to political dystopias like 1984. Regrettably, Cooper allowed the reading of “straight” to pass in the 1831 and 1834 texts he proofed; and Webster’s 1828 Dictionary identified the two as essentially the same words based on an incorrect etymology, while the OED distinguishes the two words at that time. Cooper inscribed “strait” or “straitened” on four more occasions in the novel, all in contexts that show he distinguished, contra Webster, between the two forms; in our critical edition, Prof. Sappenfield and I intend to note these and several dozen other occasions where the extant manuscript shows a reading superior to the printed text. 44

By way of a digression — a rhetorical device used by Cooper with sometimes annoying frequency — let me suggest that an avenue worth exploring for future work on Cooper’s style would be an examination of the tonality and function of selected opening paragraphs in other novels. Taking just two examples from my own editorial work, I note that The Spy (1821) begins with a conventional action scene — “a solitary traveller” seeking comfort on a rainy evening not in Scott’s but Cooper’s Highlands. This opening gambit was so conventional a start to a presumed action story that an early reader inscribed opposite the first page the sarcastic comment “G. P. R. James always began his novels with Two horsemen seen approaching.” 45 In contrast, The Deerslayer (1841), as James Franklin Beard’s Introduction to the SUNY critical edition shows, is much more a meditation on time past and passing, and on the Glimmerglass paradise never lost because never held for long. Deerslayer begins with “On the human imagination, events produce the effects of time” — an epigram appreciated only when recollected in the context not only of Deerslayer’s removing Judith’s “ribband” from the derelict Ark and tying it to the stock of Killdeer fifteen years later, but of the three novels whose narratives chronologically succeed Deerslayer on or near the Glimmerglass — Pioneers (1823), Home as Found (1838) and to some degree, Wyandotté (1843). 46

8. Some Conclusions on Cooper’s Style

Those of us who take a precious week out of our summers to attend these splendid Oneonta conferences might wish that a detailed study of the stylistic revisions to The Bravo could exonerate Cooper of all the charges laid against his style in this essay and elsewhere. What this study does show is that Cooper reworked his prose on as many occasions as his busy writing schedule allowed — and especially if he had an opportunity for paid revisions. Never, as far as the evidence discovered to date shows, did he allow his unrevised and uncorrected first inscriptions to appear in print.

Those revisions he did make often improved his style but too many passages here, as in all his novels, continued to lay inert on the page. He wrote hurriedly and produced an enormous oeuvre — but so did Henry James. Cooper’s most impressive revisions are on a large scale — important changes in the narrative span — and less often to finer points especially of narrative. (With dialogue he always took greater care, especially if registering dialect.) The elements least satisfactory to his first readers and to those of today are his intrusive digressions on political and structural matters — a problem he began to address with some success as early as The Monikins (1835) by placing such matter more into the minds and mouths of his characters than allowing them to spring unfiltered from his own intruding editorial voice.

Other than correcting errors and avoiding verbal repetitions, his smaller-scale stylistic revisions are’as in other novels — limited in The Bravo to occasionally sharpening dialogue, especially in enriching the language of comic characters like Gino, Don Camillo’s gondolier, and in occasionally revising descriptive and narrative passages. In The Bravo I hope to have shown that Cooper’s style could at times — such as the initial and repeated Carnival scenes — be both precise and brilliant. I find his thrice-revised meeting at the heretics’ graveyard between Camillo and the Bravo, with the Bravo unburdening himself to the reluctant yet humane aristocrat, as moving a description of a human interaction as anything in 19ᵗʰ century fiction. Yet in The Bravo as elsewhere, Cooper cannot always be exonerated from violating at least two of Twain’s rules of good writing, “#13. Use the right word, not its second cousin” and “#14. Eschew surplusage.” 47

Cooper’s style matters and it has received too little attention that is both critical and sympathetic. One of the very best modern essays on Cooper’s style I have encountered is one presented at this conference in 1984, “Fictions of Violence in The Deerslayer by Michael Kowalewski. Starting with the conventional wisdom that the prose of realistic fiction is intended to be transparent (and not call attention to the author) while that of romance highly colors the story (and thus does cast the spotlight on the authorial voice), Kowalewski argues that Cooper’s romantic style insulates readers from imaginatively responding to the violence in Deerslayer as viscerally as they would in realistic fiction. “The force of Cooper’s disquisitional Augustan style immediately swamps this tiny visual rupture and reinstates the verbal frequency established all the way through the novel.” 48 The “tiny visual rupture” in question is the description of the scalped Tom Hutter, disclosed when Judith removed his cap to reveal “the quivering and raw flesh, the bared veins and muscles, and all the other disgusting signs of mortality.”

I take Kowalewski, who writes with considerable subtlety and acuity throughout, to mean that the first two phrases, “the quivering and raw flesh, the bared veins and muscles” lose their punch when subsumed under the generalization, “all the other disgusting signs of mortality,” by which Cooper’s authorial voice, always sensed by the reader, resumes “the verbal frequency established all the way through the novel.” “Verbal frequency” I believe alludes not only to Cooper’s plentitude with words (or verbosity if you prefer) but to the moralizing which accompanies this scene, which is his customary modality or frequency of discourse. I find this argument persuasive to a point — the point of departure for me being that “the quivering and raw flesh, the bared veins and muscles” do not lose for me their visceral force: try in ten words to depict a scalped man more graphically than Cooper does here.

My larger problem with Kowalewski’s excellent essay is his starting with the conventional assumption about the presence or absence of the narrative voice as a defining distinction between realistic and romantic fiction. “Nothing in a realistic sequence is to remind us that someone remains backstage designing and manipulating effects. The more successful that sequence, the more it disguises its language as “reality,” and implicitly denies that there is any authorial user of language contriving that reality.” (Kowalewski, p. 62). But I am as aware of the manipulating authorial presences of the two realists and Cooper critics, Twain and Lawrence, as I am of Cooper’s presence. The later writers may position themselves differently and eschew the most obvious authorial intrusions into their fiction, but I still detect their distinctive “frequencies” in their choices of word sequences to embody their narratives. All writing, literally, is artificial; and we have learned much in the last few decades about the complexities of its artifice. No writing is transparent in the sense of providing the reader with unmediated access to reality; “reality” is in fiction always in quotation marks and emerges imaginatively from the interaction between a specific reader and an author rendered individual and distinct by the act of choosing words.

Let me suggest an alternative to the “realist vs. romance” characterization of Cooper’s style, one closer to his own culture. I refer to William Cullen Bryant’s very measured comment on Cooper’s prose style in the 1852 Memorial to the late author:

Nor did the effect he produced upon the reader depend on any grace of style which would escape a translator of ordinary skill. With his style, it is true, he took great pains, and in his earlier works, I am told, sometimes altered the proofs sent from the printer so largely that they might be said to be written over. Yet he attained no special felicity, variety, or compass of expression. His style, however, answered his purpose; it has defects, but it is manly and clear, and stamps on the mind of the reader the impression he desired to convey. 49

The key word here I want to explore is “manly” — not a term likely to be used today favorably to describe style. Fortunately in the last thirty years American cultural historians have explored the changing concepts of masculinity from the colonial period to today. E. Anthony Rotundo’s American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era is an early (1993) but still valuable guide to this scholarship. Rotundo traces the concept of masculinity from its 18ᵗʰ century emphasis on rationality and self-control through growing recognition of masculine passion and aggression, especially of the self-made man, in the 19ᵗʰ century — always contrasting masculinity to the polar opposites of feminine nurturing and consensus-building based on morality and social bonding.

For Rotundo, aggression was the defining characteristic of the 19ᵗʰ century American male. Was Cooper’s style “aggressive”? Mark Twain immediately offered a characteristically smart answer in his “Cooper’s Prose Style”:

The style of some authors has variety in it, but Cooper’s style is remarkable for the absence of this feature. Cooper’s style is always grand and stately and noble. Style may be likened to any army, the author to its general, the book to the campaign. Some authors proportion an attacking force to the strength or weakness, the importance or unimportance, of the object to be attacked; but Cooper doesn’t. It doesn’t make any difference to Cooper whether the object of attack is one hundred thousand men or a cow; he hurls his entire force against it. He comes thundering down with all his battalions at his back, cavalry in the van, artillery on the flank, infantry massed in the middle, forty bands braying, a thousand banners streaming in the wind. 51

Wow, that’s aggressive! As always, Twain’s own campaign against his enemy author contains, within his own satiric exaggeration, some germs of truth — while Cooper’s style is not always “grand and stately and noble,” Cooper generally avoids the demotic and the vulgar, except when appropriate to characters so presented. His style is more stately and his army moves more slowly than later readers and writers often desire.

But there is not a single passage in The Bravo (which Twain probably never read) that answers to Twain’s description. Contra Twain, Cooper’s style is varied. Bravo encompasses the pointillist opening description of a masked and “straitened” Venice; the comic dialogue of the lower caste characters and the aristocratic tongues of the upper — rendered in an Anglo/Italianate patois I find credible; the comparatively fast-moving and colorful set pieces like the Regatta and Wedding to the Adriatic; the suspenseful adventure of Violetta escaping her captors, and at least two scenes of pathos to which modern readers react differently from earlier ones — Jacopo’s interviews with his imprisoned father and with Don Camillo. And in the final chapter Cooper successfully marshals his stylistic forces effectively not against a cow but against our expectations of Jacopo and Gelsomina’s being rewarded for their innate goodness.

Nonetheless, I think it is helpful to characterize Cooper’s style as aggressive. A perhaps more useful description of this aggressive “manly” style than Twain’s comes from a grand-niece of William Dean Howells who complained to the author of his lack of “virility” which she characterized as “very strong ... ; and mistrustful; and relentless; and makes you feel as if somebody had taken you by the throat; and shakes you up, awfully; and seems to throw you into the air, and trample you underfoot.” 51 While this description may have had in mind the penny-dreadfuls of a day later than Cooper’s, “strong ... ; and mistrustful; and relentless” seem to me sound characterizations for thinking about Cooper’s most common tonal approach to his audience.

To me the reason for Cooper’s manly style being aggressive has less to do with Twain’s burlesque about an inept author than with that author’s profound anxieties that his strongly-held convictions would be misunderstood. Perhaps Cooper sensed that his international readership was becoming more varied than previous audiences for American fiction. Since through his career his authorial intentions became more politically and socially polemical, he may well have feared too many readers of his romances would take the dolce without the utile. Thus in The Bravo and elsewhere, Cooper often “takes us by the throat.”

And as we know, The Bravo was deeply misunderstood. 52 Cooper made clear in his Preface that the novel was a warning that a republic can be subverted by powerful financial interests bent on preserving private wealth at the expense of public good. His aggressive interventions as authorial intrusions, I think, were his way of directing his readers” responses to the core issues of his books; if his readers failed to grasp his theme from what the plot showed them, as intrusive author he wanted to make sure his commentary told them what to think. As general, he may have mistrusted his plot to carry his message by itself; as author, he may have mistrusted his readers to get it right, without his interventions.

What both Bryant and Kowalewski establish is that Cooper’s style had a purpose, which for him was to enable his authorial voice to control (to many modern readers, to over-determine) how readers would respond as moral agents to his text. Cooper’s style was never intended to sharpen his readers” sensitivity to complex and ambiguous social situations within the family or small community (like Jane Austen’s) or to gently offer the security of a nostalgic past (like Irving’s or Scott’s). The troubled present and foreboding future were his concerns. Cooper’s deepest fear in The Bravo is the power of corporations — the Councils of Three Hundred, or Ten, or Three in Venice who appoint the impotent Doge; the stock-jobbing, money-making, go-getters in America whose growth in power he observed with trepidation. What most scared him about both kinds of corporations was the personal anonymity and thus absence of accountability of their members, and their virtual corporate immortality made possible by secretly adding new members and thus outlasting any single mortal.

In one of the several authorial characterizations of the secret powers of the Venetian state, Cooper wrote: “The advances of the human intellect, supported by means of publicity, may temper the exercise of a similar irresponsible power, in our own age, but in no country has this substitution, of a soulless corporation for an elective representation, been made, in which a rule has not been established, that sets at nought the laws of natural justice and the rights of the citizen.” (Vol. 2, ch. 1, p. 25; CE, 131). Yes, too many clauses here clog the thought, perhaps intentionally demanding a re-reading: but the point comes through — even “in our own age” (America, 1831), with our advanced political thought bolstered by open public discussion, we may fall victim to the machinations of a “soulless corporation.” As Bryant observed, Cooper’s style here “attain[s] no special felicity, variety, or compass of expression.” But it is manly; it “stamps on the mind of the reader the impression he desired to convey.” We need only look to today’s debates on public issues to appreciate how prescient was Cooper’s warning about the “soulless corporation.”


1 Fifteen American Authors before 1900: Bibliographic Essays on Research and Criticism, ed. by Robert A. Rees and Earl N. Harbert. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1971, p. 93; rev. ed., 1984, p. 116.

2 “Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Novels,” in Studies in Classic American Literature. London: Penguin, 1971, pp. 55, 66. The essays were first published in the English Review in February and March 1919 and in the book format in 1923.

3 The first two essays may be found in Bewley’s The Eccentric Design: Form in the Classic American Novel. NY: Columbia University Press, 1959, and the first reference is on p. 47. The second reference is from The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers (London: Chatto and Windus, 1952; repr. NY: Gordian Press, 1967), pp. 1-2.

4 Cooper’s Theory of Fiction: His Prefaces and Their Relation to His Novels. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1955. Shulenberger’s reference to fifty-seven prefaces is on p. 6. Shulenberger notes Cooper’s concerns for correct nautical jargon in his preface to The Pilot (pp. 20-21) and to The Red Rover (p. 31) and for adopting a style suitable to the general reader in the preface to the Naval History (pp. 50-51). Several letters of Cooper to his Navy friend Shubrick register similar concerns, and of course his decision to write his first sea novel, The Pilot, was based in part on detecting the technical faults of the landlubber Scott in his 1823 The Pirate.

5 Some have tried. See Beard’s 1971 bibliographical essay, pp. 92-93, for rebuffs to Twain from 1897 to the present. Lance Schachterle and Kent Ljungquist showed Twain made up all the infelicities in The Deerslayer he ridiculed; see their “ Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Defenses: Twain and the Text of The Deerslayer ,” Studies in the American Renaissance 1988, 401-17.

6 Yvor Winters was one of the first critics to counter this view and to defend Cooper as artist when he rated Cooper’s prose above that of Hawthorne: “I should like to insist that here [a speech by the comic Polwarth in Lionel Lincoln], as in other scattered passages of Cooper, there is a prose possessing at once an authentic poetic perception and a rhetorical procedure both ingenious and controlled; that these scattered passages are frequently of sufficient length to be impressive; that among them there is a considerable variety as regards the kind of prose employed; and that they display a stylist superior to any other in America — and I do not except Hawthorne — before Melville, one who in some respects foreshadows Melville, and one who can still be examined with pleasure and with profit.” See “Fenimore Cooper or the Ruins of Time” in Maule’s Curse: Seven Studies in the History of American Obscurantism (NY: New Directions, 1938; repr. Denver, CO: Swallow Book Press, 1947), p. 196.

7 Wayne Franklin, James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007, pp. 64-67. Franklin stresses Cooper’s pioneering role as an American novelist, who “had virtually no American books to read while growing up, a fate from which his own success spared his successors”.” (xviii).

Two inventories exist of Cooper family books: The Paul F. Cooper, Jr. Archives now at Hartwick College, Oneonta, and the New York State Historical Association (Cooperstown) collection donated by Dr. Henry Weil and inventoried by Hugh C. McDougall. The former collection contains many books printed after Cooper’s death, and only a few with his signature indicating his ownership. The MacDougall inventory discloses books more likely to have been in Cooper’s private library, many of which are Carey and Lea imprints published after Cooper’s settling in Cooperstown after returning from Europe. Virtually all his books printed before 1834 are political, historical, or geographical, and many are in French. Neither collection tells us anything about what he read as a boy.

8 Franklin, pp. 247-48 and note 27, p. 609.

9 The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground [1821], ed. by James P. Elliott, Lance Schachterle, and Jeffrey Walker. NY: AMS Press, 2002, p 2.

10 Edgar Huntly or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker [1799], in Three Gothic Novels. NY: Library of America, 1998, pp. 786, 797. Text based on the 1984 Kent State University Press Bicentennial Edition of the Novels and Related Works of Charles Brockden Brown, Sydney J. Krause, general editor.

11 Ibid., p. 723.

12 For enriching discussions of Cooper’s style in depicting landscapes, see Blake Nevius, Cooper’s Landscapes: An Essay on the Picturesque Vision (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976) and H. Daniel Peck, A World by Itself: The Pastoral Moment in Cooper’s Fiction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977). Peck is especially useful in stressing Cooper’s concern, in both narration and characterization, with capturing the sensual experience of the surface of things, not with looking beneath for a deeper unity like the Transcendentals. Perhaps Cooper’s curious registering what characters see or hear in terms of the agency of their eyes or ears reflects this disposition: Not “Natty saw” but “the eye of Natty detected. ... ”

13 The Emigrants, or the History of an Expatriated Family [1793], introduction and notes by W. M. Verhoeven and Amanda Gilroy. NY: Penguin, 1998, p. 246. Lillie Deming Loshe suggests other candidates for comparison in her pioneering The Early American Novel (NY: Columbia University Press, 1907; repr. 1930), as in her comment on Isaac Mitchell’s popular The Asylum, or Alonso and Melissa [1811]: “In these descriptions [of landscape] the Thomsonian and the Radcliffian nature vocabularies are strangely combined; while a zealous patriotism strives to give local col the constant mention of American plants and birds, frequently garnishing the page with explanatory footnotes full of botanical and entomological information” (56). For a review of recent scholarship on the early period of American fiction, see my “The American Novel before 1820: A Bibliographical Essay,” Literature in the Early American Republic: 2 (2010), 229-70.

14 Cooper very likely also read contemporary American writers like Irving and Sedgwick (a family friend). James Franklin Beard assigned reviews of Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s A New-England Tale and Irving’s Bracebridge Hall, which appeared in The Literary and Scientific Repository, and Critical Review in May 1822, to Cooper. But unlike the four other reviews Beard reprinted in Early Critical Essays by James Fenimore Cooper (1820-1822) (Gainesville, FL: Scholars” Facsimiles and Reprints, 1955), no external evidence exists to attribute these two reviews to Cooper and the stylistic evidence is indeterminate. Besides, in 1822 Cooper had his hands full with revisions to The Spy and with composing The Pioneers, so Beard’s attribution has not been accepted by Franklin and other Cooper scholars.

15 Cooper used the Philadelphia edition of Ivanhoe as a model to estimate the word-count needed to complete Precaution, and selected his type-font after seeing The Monastery. Through his friend and banker Charles Wilkes (who was connected by marriage to the Edinburgh literary world), he probably learned early on how the author of Waverley managed his literary business. Franklin, pp. 248-51, 255.

16 Martin analyzes the ninth paragraph in Chapter V, which may be found in The Pilot, ed. by Kay Seymour House. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986, p. 49.

17 In Style in American Fiction: English Institute Essays 1958, ed. with a Foreword by Harold C. Martin. NY: Columbia University Press, 1959, 1964, pp. 117-19.

18 See the Cooper Edition text edited by Kay Seymour House, pp. 442-43, for a discussion of these issues.

19 The Colloquial Style in America. NY: Oxford University Press, 1966, pp. 21-24. Neal loudly called attention to his colloquial style, but usually insulated himself from vulgar expressions by placing them in quotes.

20 Bridgman, pp. 7-9.

21 Thus Brackenridge, as Bridgman observes, had to select an Irish character for his hero’s lower class companion in Modern Chivalry, because his readers would have no trouble in assigning the appropriate social class. In the course of the century, however, authors became more successful in capturing a variety of both lower and middle class voices, culminating in Howell’s success with the latter. Bridgman, pp. 47-77.

22 “The Dialect of Cooper’s Leather-Stocking,” American Speech, Vol. 2 (1927), pp. 479-488. Pound provides detailed listings of Natty’s substandard diction and pronunciation, but fully recognized they contribute to an esthetic purpose. She concluded by stating that Cooper’s “departures from standard speech, being mostly archaisms, have more dignity than ours, and because of their greater simplicity and of the absence of slang and simplified spelling they are likely to remain longer intelligible” (p. 488). (Fewer readers today than in Pound’s would recognize or care about “Ossianic” elements so I suspect the mix of styles that concerned Pound is less troublesome to Natty’s modern readers.) American Speech regularly published brief notes on dialect usages including those found in Cooper, such as Steven T. Byington’s “Some Linguistic Items from Cooper’s Work,” which comments on words as various as “apt,” “whirligig,” “ship’s cousin,” “platform,” and Ithuel Bolt’s New Englandisms (from Wing-and-Wing). “Mr. Byington’s Brief Case (III),” American Speech, Vol. 20 (1945), pp. 115-17.

23 American Speech, Vol. 4 (1929), pp. 294-300; quotation from p. 294.

24 Graham’s Magazine, 24 (November 1843), pp. 261-64; reprinted in Fenimore Cooper: The Critical Heritage, ed. by George Dekker and John P. McWilliams. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, pp. 207-17.

25 “Cooper’s Eloquent Indians,” PMLA, 71 (1956), pp. 1004-17.

26 W. H. Gardiner, North American Review, 15 (1822), pp. 250-82, as reprinted in Dekker and McWilliams, pp. 55-66; Gardiner’s comments on Cooper’s language come at the end of his review. Contemporary reviewers also sniffed at the dialogue Scott and Hawthorne provided for their higher-born characters, suggesting the problem of their registration was not Cooper’s alone.

27 The Design of the Present: Essays on Time and Form in American Literature. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969, p. 185.

28 Lynen, p. 195.

29 Lynen, p. 197.

30 Gardiner’s review of the five novels after Precaution; North American Review, 23 (1826), pp. 150-97; quotation from the reprint in Dekker and McWilliams, pp. 107-08.

31 Cooper to Aaron Vail, 12 April 1835, L&J, III, p. 145. Cooper’s letter accompanied a gift to then Princess Victoria, arranged by Vail, of several leaves from The Bravo. See my “A Long False Start: The Rejected Chapters of Cooper’s The Bravo (1831),” in The Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 115:1 (2006), pp. 81-126, for an account of this gift and a transcription of the cancelled matter. Through the generosity of the publishers, this article is also available in “The Bravo Project” section of the CE website at

32 As was his practice Cooper read and revised the proofs for this first edition, which were prepared not from his manuscript but from amanuensis copy (for which only copy for chapter 30 survives). Our editorial work to date shows extensive revisions to these proofs, including rewriting the penultimate chapter, number 30, which differs almost entirely from both the holograph and amanuensis. Prof. Sappenfield and I regard the surviving papers for this novel as rough working copy, and are taking as copy-text for our critical edition the first London edition; for a detailed discussion of our textual strategy, see my “Editing Cooper’s The Bravo (1831): A Work in Progress”, Textual Cultures, 3:2 (Spring 2008), 1-16.

Cooper cared enough about this novel to insist on revising it for the Bentley Standard Novels series in 1834. Writing to Bentley on a variety of projects on 13 February 1832, Cooper stated that “I wish to correct a copy for you, for there is here and there a sprinkling of nonsense, for want of close proof-reading.” See L&J, II, p. 185.

33 Stephen Railton, Fenimore Cooper: A Study of His Life and Imagination. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978, pp. 6 and 24. Railton’s study probes Cooper’s relationship to his father and thus he seeks in part to treat Cooper’s writings as a flow of consciousness unimpeded by any distancing artistic control as the author wrestles with paternal dominance.

The work on Bravo as well as the twenty-two titles now available in the scholarly “Writings of James Fenimore Cooper” also discloses how wrong William Charvat was when he wrote in “Cooper as Professional Author” that “[r]ewriting and revision of manuscript seem never to have caused him any pain — simply because he did not rewrite.” Though fewer Cooper manuscripts were available a half-century ago than now, enough material was accessible to correct Charvat’s judgment had he bothered to look. His essay appeared in James Fenimore Cooper: A Re-Appraisal. Cooperstown: New York State Historical Association, 1954, p. 499.

34 An amusing example occurs in the printed and (inaccurately) proofed text at III:1, p. 16 where Don Camillo sees “the features and glaring eyes of old Antonio, fixed in death.” In manuscript Cooper inscribed a more appropriate “glassy eyes” for the corpse. The error here inverts the holograph vs. printed text reading in The Pathfinder where Richard Rust corrected the printed “glassy” eye of the living Chingachgook with the manuscript reading of “glaring.” See The Pathfinder or The Inland Sea [1840]. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981, p. 473.

35 Quotations to the printed text of the novel will be to both the first edition of Colburn and Bentley, 3 vols., London, 1831 and to the Cooper Edition (CE) scholarly text by myself and James A. Sappenfield, forthcoming; as here, the passages are cited in the text.

36 Of special interest are Cooper’s occasional comparisons of Venice to “us” — the United States of 1831. In the graveyard scene, chapter 17, he comments on both the religious freedom in the US which makes separate burial places for different religions unnecessary, and on private vengeance enacted by a hired assassin being far less likely in a land where a much greater sense of personal equality dominates. In chapter 23 (III, 23; CE, 271) he again compares “the security against popular violence and popular insults” in Venice to the happier situation in “these free states,” by which presumably he means the US. Curiously his first inscription in the manuscript was “in our own free states.”

37 Cooper, who had been well received in London by the banker-poet Samuel Rogers, wrote, in describing Venice, of his indebtedness to Rogers, Byron, “Monk” Lewis and Shakespeare on 19 January 1832. (L&J, II, 178).

38 Letter to Horatio Greenough, L&J, 1, 143.

39 Cooper’s Letters XXIX to XXXIII narrate his stay in Venice. Many of the scenes described in The Bravo are recounted here but more briefly, including Cooper’s elaborate descriptions, discussed below, of the geology of Venice and the technology of the gondola. Appropriately Cooper writes as a tourist of a Venice a century later than the time period of the novel; his descriptions are objective tour-guide stuff, not modulated with the gloom and menace they convey in the novel. He spends more time on Venetian art especially the painters, and confines his social criticism to suggestions for a new mode of building to reduce fires. See Gleanings in Europe: Italy, Historical Introduction and Explanatory Notes by John Conron and Constance Ayers Denne, with text established by Denne. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981.

40 See my “Editing Cooper’s The Bravo (1831): A Work in Progress,” Textual Cultures, pp. 1-16, for more information on Cooper’s usages of Italian and Venetian, and on Prof. Scannavini’s study of the contemporary reception of Bravo in Italy. Prof. Scannavini treats Cooper’s use of the Italian language thoroughly in her “Explanatory Notes” to the forthcoming CE edition text.

A recent book by Ronnie Ferguson, A Linguistic History of Venice (Florence: Olschki, 2007) provides the first modern history on the Venetian language. Ferguson treats in great detail the linguistic features of “Venetan or Common Veneto” (p. 22), which because of the cultural influence of both Latin and the Florentine/Tuscan dialect never became the preferred language of the Venetian upper classes. Because Ferguson’s book may be difficult to find, I quote here the summary first paragraph from the TLS review of 12 December 2008 (p. 31) by Roderick Conway Morris:

“Although Venetian is routinely referred to as a “dialetto” in Italy, this has become misleading in that it is now widely and unthinkingly interpreted as implying that Venetian is a dialect of Italian. In fact Venetian predates Italian by hundreds of years. It grew naturally and autonomously out of the late Latin spoken in the north-east of the peninsula. Italian, on the other hand, was an artificially created language, based primarily on vernacular Tuscan and the works of Tuscan writers, notably Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio, and forged by scholars and humanists in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries in an attempt to found a national language, written and spoken, for the entire population of the yet to be unified country. More or less universal knowledge of Italian was only achieved in the second half of the twentieth century.”

41 I can only speculate on Cooper’s reasons for this stylistic preference: perhaps he wanted to underline the physicality of the scenes in ways which H. Daniel Peck and others have stressed as his preference for the optical rather than transcendent eye. See my note 12, above, and Peck’s first chapter, “The Primacy of the Image.”

42 At least one contemporary reviewer noted Cooper’s penchant for Italian eyes. In an unfavorable review which lamented the absence of the author’s usual descriptions — the reviewer doubtless was thinking only of American scenes — Bravo was dismissed as a “book of eyes.” The New England Magazine, II. 83-85.

43The Bravo: Social Criticism in the Gothic Mode,” in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, No. 8. Oneonta, NY: State University of New York College at Oneonta, 1991, p. 132.

44 All these instances show Cooper using the form with strong connotations of difficulty or constriction: “straitened avenues” at 1, 51 (CE, 25) which 1831 misread as “strait”; “the republic’s straits” which clearly refers to the needs of the nobility to borrow from the Jews, at 1, 153; CE, 67; “that straitened town” at III, 3 (CE, 243) which describes the tangled slum where Annina lives — Cooper made his meaning quite clear in 1831 by changing “straitened” to “confined” in his holograph; and finally at III, 93 (CE, 279) where Gino refers to the unlikelihood of his master’s receiving a young lady now that he’s secretly married by revising the AMS in 1831 to “Perhaps my master might, on a strait, receive one of the sex. ... “

45 Inscription from the copy of a Carey and Lea text which Colburn and Bentley, at Cooper’s request, had unbound and interleaved for Cooper’s use in preparing his revisions for the 1831 Bentley Standard Novels revised edition; the authorially-revised text itself is in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.

46 Let me offer a final suggestion for future study: Cooper’s recycling of scenes from Shakespeare. In chapter XIII, the reminiscences of the aged Venetian Senators of their youthful romances clearly echo the similar scene in 2 Henry IV, III.ii between Justice Shallow and Falstaff. The chapter epigraph here is to “Shelton,” which Stephen H. Harthorn corrected to “Shallow” in his “More Cooper Epigraph Sources Identified,” The James Fenimore Cooper Society Newsletter, November 2004, p. 5.

47 “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses,” North American Review (1895), as reprinted in Fenimore Cooper: The Critical Heritage, p. 278.

48Fictions of Violence in The Deerslayer", James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, ed. George A. Test. Oneonta: State University College of New York, 1985, p. 69.

49 Memorial of James Fenimore Cooper. New York: Putnam, 1852, p. 71.

50 The Twain reference is quoted from the epigraph to Kowalewski’s essay.

51 For the Howells reference, see Everett Carter, Howells and the Age of Realism (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 12, as quoted in Rotundo, p. 226. This characterization of “manly” sounds like much of Cooper, though it leaves aside those puzzling novels like Home as Found and The Red Skins which are elegies for the land-owning class Cooper reluctantly but honestly recognized were incapable of asserting their dying class against the strengths of the new financial oligarchy.

52 Some early politically-conservative critics viewed the novel through the lens of Cooper’s contemporary political writings supporting the liberal causes championed by Lafayette in France, and distorted the novel accordingly, leading Cooper to a campaign of self-defensive clarification culminating in the 1834 A Letter to His Countrymen. The best source still for these issues is Dorothy Waples, The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1938.