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Research Projects Under Way

“Cooper Biography”

Wayne Franklin (University of Connecticut) has now completed his magisterial two-volume biography of Cooper.  James Fenimore Cooper, The Early Years appeared in 2007, and James Fenimore Cooper, The Later Years, in 2017. Both are from the Yale University Press.

My review of Franklin’s second volume on Amazon may be helpful:

The second volume of Wayne Franklin’s definitive biography of Cooper covers the author’s life from his departure for seven years in Europe to his death in 1851 shortly before his sixty-second birthday. A miracle of compression of both fact and interpretation, “The Later Years” provides detailed accounts in two hundred pages of notes of Cooper’s complex financial arrangements for his publications; his text presents nuanced analyses of how each of his books in the extraordinarily productive final quarter century of his career relates to the immediate and cumulative events of his life. Franklin traces down all his many social contacts by consulting their writings for evidence of how they responded to Cooper, especially his very active engagement in European and American social and political issues. He probes Cooper’s reticent personal letters for evidence of his inward feelings and thoughts, and speculates that his occasional brusqueness and death were caused by a lifelong and increasing dependence on medicines containing mercury. He illuminates the whole trajectory of the career of America’s first internationally-celebrated novelist by remarking that of the authors who began their publications in the 1820s, only Cooper remained highly productive through mid-century. Cooper himself prohibited any biography, a prohibition his family honored which led to decades of misunderstandings about the man and his commitment to honest criticism of the new republic. Franklin’s two volumes now magisterially corrects those oversights.

Opportunities for New Editors

As noted above, only two of Cooper’s thirty-two novels have no editors assigned. His first novel Precaution has a fairly full holograph at the New-York Historical Society (NYC) and his Columbus romance, Mercedes of Castile, has a large holograph at the University of Virginia. Scholars close to those locations would be ideal candidates for editing the two remaining texts of fiction. If interested, please contact the editor in chief.

There are also numerous short and long historical and political works worth editing, especially for providing explanatory notes. A Letter to his Countrymen (1834), The American Democrat(1838), The Chronicles of Cooperstown (1838) and several historical-naval tracts he wrote would be good candidates, as indeed would be all of the lesser-known works listed in our “Fugitive Pieces” section. Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers, originally serialized and collected in 1846, is another good candidate for an editor with naval historical interests.