Fugitive Works

With the collaboration of the “James Fenimore Cooper Society (JFCS),” Hugh C. MacDougall, secretary, “The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper” is making available on this site electronic access to all known works of Cooper not easily available in print. Many of these titles are already available through the JFCS; this site adds remaining titles and brief commentaries. Several of these works have been reprinted in the last century as noted below, and may be available through on-line agencies like abebooks.com. But some titles here are reproduced from their first and only appearance during or shortly after Cooper’s lifetime. One important collection, James Franklin Beard’s 1955 Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints edition of the Early Critical Essays 1820-1822, is available through UMI Books on Demand, and thus is not reproduced here. The book reprints four early essays known to be Cooper’s on US naval history, the whale fisheries, tariff policy, and Parry’s Northern Expedition, along with two reviews of fiction uncertain of attribution (on Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s A New-England Tale and Washington Irving’s Bracebridge Hall.) Virtually all the published letters cited in Spiller and Blackburn, Bibliography, “Contributions to Periodicals, and other Fugitive Pieces,” are printed in Beard, Letter and Journals, six vols. Wayne Franklin, Steve Harthorn, and Hugh C. MacDougall all collaborated with Lance Schachterle, Editor in Chief, in assembling this material. Their introductory comments below are attributed as appropriate. To access the document, click on the highlighted text.

“American and European Scenery Compared,” Home Book of the Picturesque, 1852. (Link via JFCS)

Cooper summarizes in one of his last works the fine discriminations he often made in his fiction and travel books between American (often New York and Hudson River) and European (often Italian) scenery-generally in the favor of the latter. His summary is balanced: “To conclude, we concede to Europe much the noblest scenery, in its Alps, Pyrenees, and Apennines; in its objects of art, as a matter of course; in all those effects which depend on time and association, in its monuments, and in this impress of the past which may be said to be reflected in its countenance; while we claim for America the freshness of a most promising youth, and a species of natural radiance that carries the mind with reverence to the source of all that is glorious around us.” (Lance Schachterle)

Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, 1843. (Link via JFCS)

The unlikely narrator is a delicately-embroidered handkerchief with clairvoyant powers, who tells her story from a French flax-field to a respectable Manhattan residence. This amusing and often biting satire about poverty and exploitation, speculation and social climbing, and greed and good taste is set amidst the French Revolution of 1830 and the American financial panic of 1837. Several reprints exist, but this version adds annotations and translations. (Hugh C. MacDougall)

Battle of Lake Erie, 117 page text, 1843. (Copy of original courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)

Cooper became embroiled in the 1840’s in a controversy about Captain Jesse Elliott’s alleged delay in supporting his superior Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry at the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. Both Cooper and an antagonist, Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, had recently written biographies of Perry; Cooper strengthened his support for Elliott in this account of the battle itself. See also Cooper’s “Elaborate Review,” below. (Lance Schachterle)

“Reply to Captain M’Kenzie’s Criticism of His Account of the Battle of Lake Erie,”

Transcribed and edited by Steven Harthorn. Literature in the Early American Republic: Annual Studies on Cooper and His Contemporaries. AMS Press, NY, 2013, pp. 1-100. Steven Harthorn has transcribed an unpublished holograph now at Yale, probably written in 1844 to refute Alexander Slidell Mackenzie’s attacks on Cooper’s personality, seamanship, and account of the Battle of Lake Erie. Cooper and Mackenzie differed over the role played by Jesse Duncan Elliott, Oliver Hazard Perry’s second in command at the American victory. Though Perry had praised Elliott in his official report, some of Perry’s supporters, including Mackenzie, regarded Elliott as a laggard in battle and chaffed at Perry’s sharing recognition with him. Harthorn surmises that although the sixty-two manuscript leaves disclose Cooper’s close attention to making his case, the author may have decided that prolonging the quarrel with Mackenzie would serve little purpose. Harthorn concludes that the “document offers insight into the controversy itself, as well as into the conception Cooper had of himself in his role as an author and a nautical historian.”

“Battle of Plattsburgh Bay,” Putnam’s Magazine, 1869. (Link via JFCS)

Cooper wrote to R. H. Dana Senior on 30 October 1845 of his willingness to lecture in Boston on several topics arising from his work on the 1839 Naval History and the ensuing controversies. (Beard, L&J, 5: 92) One of these topics was the September 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh Bay on Lake Champlain, where American ships defeated a superior British invasion force from Canada. Cooper made clear to Dana he would speak extempore and would not write out his lecture. Presumably at some point he did write down his lecture, which Putnam’s Magazine in its 1869 publication indicated he presented both in Cooperstown and New York. (Lance Schachterle)

“The Chronicles of Cooperstown,” 1838 (Link via JFCS)

Cooper’s is the first history of Cooperstown and one of the first American local histories. (Hugh C. MacDougall)

“Comparative Resources of the American Navy” and “Hints on Manning the Navy,” Naval Magazine, January and March 1836. (Copy of original courtesy of Steve Harthorn)

Three years before publishing his history of the navy, Cooper published two articles (later reprinted as a pamphlet) arguing for a larger navy with an appropriate classification of officers. Beard notes (L&J 3:26-27) that the “United States Naval Lyceum” was established late in 1833 “to create an organization, national in scope, which could advance knowledge in their profession and improve naval morale. Cooper was soon made an honorary member….” The Lyceum in 1836 published a short-lived Naval Magazine, for which Cooper supplied these two articles. See also Cooper’s letter to Shubrick of 13 March 1836 (L&J 3:205-06.) Each article is signed “J. F. C.” (Lance Schachterle)

(Contributions for the Poles, 3 page pamphlet, 1831)

Beard, L&J, 2. 124-30 reprints this text in support of Polish liberty from the author’s manuscript. See also Spiller and Blackburn, 70. (Lance Schachterle)

(The Cruise of the Somers, 102 page pamphlet, 1844)

Spiller and Blackburn list Cooper as the author of The Cruise as Cooper’s without any proof. Beard, in Letters and Journals (4, 482 n3), denies Cooper’s authorship. Harvard lists the work as Cooper’s but expresses doubts about this attribution. See also Grossman, 190-91n. Cooper’s authorship is cast in further doubt because the publisher of The Cruise was Jonas Winchester, Horace Greeley’s sometime partner and therefore an enemy to Cooper and a possible target of a libel suit. (Wayne Franklin)

“The Eclipse,” written in 1831 and published in Putnam’s Magazine in 1869. (Link via JFCS)

James F. Beard, in L&J, 2. 86, n. 2, speculates Cooper wrote the article in 1831 for an annual edited by Mrs. Samuel Carter Hall. Susan Fenimore Cooper prefaces the first publication as follows: “During Mr. Cooper’s residence at Paris, he wrote, at the request of an English friend, his recollections of the great eclipse of 1806. This article, which is undated, must have been written about the year 1831, or twenty-five years after the eclipse. His memory was at that period of his life very clear and tenacious, where events of importance were concerned. From some accidental cause, this article was never sent to England, but lay, apparently forgotten, among Mr. Cooper’s papers, where it was found after his death. At the date of the eclipse, the writer was a young sailor of seventeen, just returned from a cruise. At the time of writing these recollections, he had been absent from his old home in Otsego County some fifteen years, and his affectionate remembrance of the ground may be traced in many little touches, which would very possibly have been omitted under the circumstances.” (Lance Schachterle)

“An Elaborate Review by James Fenimore Cooper appended to the Proceedings of the Naval Court Martial in the Case of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie,” 1844. (Copy of original courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)

The “Elaborate Review” is part of a long dispute between Alexander Slidell Mackenzie and Cooper for his account of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie in his History of the Navy (1839). When Mackenzie himself was court-martialed for his executing several sailors during an alleged mutiny on the USS Somers in 1842, Cooper regarded the trial as biased and made his case against Mackenzie in the “Elaborate Review.”

The Elaborate Review appended to the Proceedings was reprinted by Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints in 2002, with commentary by Hugh Egan. (Lance Schachterle)

The Edinburgh Review on James’s Naval Occurrences and Cooper’s Naval History,” The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (May and June 1842). (Link via JFCS)Part 1 Part 2

Cooper considered the 1840 Edinburgh Review of his Naval History wildly inaccurate because of its advocacy for the views of William James, a British veterinarian turned historian. James published A Full and Correct Account of the Chief Naval Occurrences of the Late War between Great Britain and the United States of America in 1817, and a longer five-volume history in 1822-24, the Naval History of Great Britain from the Declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV. In a letter of 29 April 1842 (L&J, 4:285-86) to James Louis O’Sullivan, editor of the Democratic Review, Cooper defended his sharp response to the (to him characteristic) historical inaccuracies and condescension of the Edinburgh Review. Lounsbury’s early biography of Cooper (pp. 205-08) presents the matter in detail from Cooper’s point of view. (Lance Schachterle and Wayne Franklin).

“John Barry,” Graham’s Magazine, 24 (June 1844), 267-73. (Copy of original courtesy of Wayne Franklin)

The “Barry’ life was the only one not reprinted in Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers. (Wayne Franklin)

“The Lake Gun,” The Parthenon, 1850. (Link via JFCS)

This political fable takes the form of an Indian legend of New York’s Seneca Lake, castigating New York politicians in the 1840’s and especially New York Senator (later Secretary of State) William Seward (“See-wise.”). (Hugh C. MacDougall).

Reprinted with an introduction by Robert E. Spiller by William Farquhar Payson, NY, 1932.

“Letter to General Lafayette,” 50-page pamphlet on the French Finance Controversy, Paris, December 1831.

Cooper argues for the cost effectiveness of the (American) republican form of government. Robert Spiller reprinted the French and English texts, with a bibliography, for the Facsimile Text Society of the Columbia University Press, NY, in 1931. Because copies of this text are readily available second-hand, it is not reproduced here. (Lance Schachterle)

“A Letter to his Countrymen,” 106-page pamphlet, 1834. (Link via JFCS)

Cooper angrily attacks American press reviews of The Bravo and Heidenmauer, presents a theory of limited Constitutional powers and the dangers of legislative usurpation, and says he is giving up writing for ever. (Hugh C. MacDougall). James Franklin Beard commented the work as a “masterpiece of miscalculation” (L&J, 3, 6.)

Reprinted, most recently, in The American Democrat and Other Political Writings, ed. Bradley J. Birzer and John Willson. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2000. (With complete American Democrat and several letters from Notions of the Americans.)

New York, 1851 (Link via JFCS)

Cooper’s last work is a long introduction to a never-completed history of New York City, “The Towns of Manhattan.” Cooper outlines the glorious prospects for its commercial prospects, in light of the depending national crisis brought on by political demagoguery and North-South sectionalism. (Hugh C. MacDougall)

Reprinted by William Farquhar Payson, NY, 1930.

“Old Ironsides,” Putnam’s Magazine, 1853. (Link via JFCS)

A history of the United States frigate Constitution, posthumously published from notes left by Cooper. (Hugh C. MacDougall)

“Point de Bateaux à Vapeur-Une Vision (No Steamboats-a Vision), 1832. (Link via JFCS)

Written by Cooper in French, this article satirizes European misconceptions about America. With a translation (based on the contemporary 1834 English version from the American Ladies Magazine) and comments by Hugh C. MacDougall.

Review of J. G. Lockhart’s Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Knickerbocker Magazine, October 1838. (Copy of original courtesy of Steve Harthorn.)

While praising Scott as a great writer, Cooper’s review expressed serious concerns about what he viewed as Scott’s violation of the proper ethics of authorship. Scott not only reviewed his own books, but claimed to found the Quarterly Review as politically neutral while secretly steering the Review towards pro-Tory positions. Cooper also objected to Scott’s allowing Lockhart access to his diaries, enabling Lockhart to express negative views on living contemporaries; finally, Scott was guilty of writing deceptive letters of introduction. Cooper’s eagerness to take on this review may have been yet another attempt to further his arguments about an author’s duty to his society, contemporaneous with his suits against hostile editors and continuing his own self-defense about the import of The Bravo. (Steve Harthorn)

Review of Basil Hall’s Travels in North America,” Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, October 1831. (Copy of original courtesy of the Bowdoin College Library.)

Cooper contests Basil Hall’s data and interpretations on a favorite topic-the cost of maintaining a genuine republic, and concludes by justifying in part the wars with England by referring to his own experience with British impressment while on board the Sterling in 1806-07. (“America”)(Lance Schachterle)

“Slavery in the United States,” Revue Encyclopedique, April 1827; reprinted in the American Historical Review, 1930.

Robert E. Spiller provides a commentary and a translation of Cooper’s French article, in this 1930 article.

Tales for Fifteen, by Jane Morgan, 1823. (Link via WJFC)

Cooper wrote these two short stories about adolescent girls at the very beginning of his career, in emulation of contemporary sentimental fiction. The tales were not published until 1839. (Lance Schachterle) The heroine of “Imagination” carries her romantic day dreams to ludicrous extremes-the story is still very funny. “Heart” is a more pathetic tale of fidelity in love. (Hugh C. MacDougall)

Reprinted with an Introduction by James Franklin Beard, Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints, 1977.

Upside Down; or the World in Petticoats, 1850. (Link via WJFC)

This text is the only surviving scene from Cooper’s only play, a comic farce aimed at radical reformers and the nascent feminist movement, which was produced (briefly) in New York in 1850. This text, with accompanying explanatory material (including a scenario of the whole play), was originally published in February 1992 as Cooper Society Miscellaneous PapersNo. 1. (Hugh C. MacDougall)