About   C-SPAN Video Library   Portrait Gallery   Classroom

About this
web site
American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


Born: September 15, 1789, Burlington, NJ
Died: September 14, 1851, Cooperstown, NY

Cooper was a year old when his father, a U.S. Congressman, moved his family to the frontier settlement (now Cooperstown) he had founded in upstate New York. He attended Yale but was expelled in his junior year because of a prank. He then joined the navy as a midshipman,
Watch the video
James Fenimore Cooper,
The Last of the Mohicans
C-SPAN's Video Library: James Fenimore Cooper
but left in 1809 when his father's death made him financially independent.

For 10 years he led the life of a dilettante. His first fiction, reputedly written on a challenge from his wife, was Precaution (1820), a plodding imitation of Jane Austen's novels of English gentry manners. His second novel, The Spy (1821), was based on Walter Scott's Waverley novels but used a Revolutionary War setting and introduced several distinctively American character types. It soon brought him international fame and even wealth, which was fortunate, as he had become the sole support of his brothers' families (upon their deaths) as well as his own. The first of the renowned LEATHERSTOCKING TALES, The Pioneers (1823), introduced the wilderness scout Natty Bumppo. Public fascination with the character led Cooper to write a series of sequels in which Bumppo's entire life was gradually unfolded: The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841). The series, which contained the finest of all his books, won him a great reputation in Europe, where he lived from 1826 to 1833.

Works by James Fenimore Cooper
The Spy (1821)
The Pioneers (1823)
The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea (1823)
The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
The Prairie (1827)
The Red Rover (1827)
History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839)
The Deerslayer (1841)
Ned Myers: A Life Before the Mast (1843)
The Sea Lions (1849)

His fourth novel, The Pilot (1823), inaugurated a series of popular and influential sea novels that included The Red Rover (1827) and The Sea Lions (1849). As developed by Cooper, the genre became a powerful vehicle for spiritual and moral exploration. He also wrote a meticulously researched but highly readable History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839).

Between 1822 and 1826 Cooper lived in New York City and participated in its intellectual life, founding the Bread and Cheese Club, which had many influential members. He then returned to his estate in Cooperstown, where he was troubled by lawsuits—mostly the result of later books he wrote deploring Jacksonian democracy—and agrarian unrest. Though he wrote some of his most popular works late in life, profits from publishing had so diminished that he was unable to retire from writing.

Web sites about James Fenimor Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper, Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide
The James Fenimore Cooper Society

I   II   III   IV   V   VI   VII   VIII

C-SPAN.org    Book TV.org    Booknotes.org    Capitol Hearings.org
American Presidents.org    C-SPAN Alert!    Contact Us