James Fenimore Cooper by Mary E. Phillips

Produced by The Million Book Project and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER by MARY E. PHILLIPS New York: John Lane Company London: John Lane: The Bodley Head Toronto: Bell and Cockburn MCMXIII Copyright, 1912 By Mary E. Phillips The University Press, Cambridge, U.S.A. Dedicated To The Young Of All Ages From The
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[Illustration: LEATHERSTOCKING.]

New York: John Lane Company
London: John Lane: The Bodley Head Toronto: Bell and Cockburn

Copyright, 1912

By Mary E. Phillips

The University Press, Cambridge, U.S.A.

Dedicated To The Young Of
All Ages From The Years Of Ten To Ten Times Ten


The intention of this simply told _personal_ life of James Fenimore Cooper, the creator of American romance, is to have all material _authentic_. The pictures of men, women, places and things are, as nearly as possible, of Cooper’s association with them to reproduce a background of his time and to make the _man_–not the author–its central foreground figure. From every available source since the earliest mention of the author’s name, both in print and out, material for these pages has been collected. In this wide gleaning in the field of letters–a rich harvest from able and brilliant pens–the gleaner hereby expresses grateful appreciation of these transplanted values. Much, precious in worth and attractive in interest, comes into these pages from the generous and good among the relatives, friends, and admirers of Fenimore Cooper. And more than all others, the author’s grand-nephew, the late Mr. George Pomeroy Keese, of Cooperstown, New York, has paid rich and rare tribute to the memory of his uncle, with whom when a boy he came in living touch. Appeals to Cooper’s grandson, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq., of Albany, New York, and also to his publishers have been met in a spirit so gracious and their giving has been so generous as to command the grateful service of the writer.

For rare values, in service and material, special credits are due to Mr. George Pomeroy Keese, Cooperstown, N.Y.; James Fenimore Cooper, Esq., Albany, N.Y.; Mr. Francis Whiting Halsey, New York City; Mr. Edwin Tenney Stiger, Watertown, Mass.; General James Grant Wilson, New York City; Mr. Horace G. Wadlin, Librarian, Messrs. Otto Fleischner, Assistant Librarian, O.A. Bierstadt, F.C. Blaisdell, and others, of the Boston Public Library; Miss Alice Bailey Keese, Cooperstown, N.Y.; Mrs. T. Henry Dewey, Paris, France; Mrs. Edward Emerson Waters, New York City; and Miss Mary C. Sheridan, Boston, Mass.

Mary E. Phillips.


A life of Cooper, written with some particular reference to the picturesque village among the Otsego hills, where he so long lived and in whose soil he, for some sixty years or more, has slept, has long been needed. That such a book should have become a labor of love in the hands of Miss Phillips is not more interesting than it is fortunate that the task should have been accomplished so conspicuously well. Miss Phillips has borne testimony to the resourcefulness and rare devotion with which the late Mr. Keese assisted her in researches extending over many years. None knew so well as he the personal side of Cooper’s whole life story; none so assiduously and so lovingly, during a long life spent in Cooperstown, gathered and tried to preserve in their integrity every significant and interesting detail of it.

The turning point in Cooper’s life was reached when he went to Cooperstown, although he was little more than a child in arms. Most curious is it that his going should have resulted from the foreclosure of a mortgage. This mortgage had been given in the late Colonial period by George Croghan, and covered a vast tract of native forest lands in Otsego. In these lands, through the foreclosure, Cooper’s father, soon after the Revolution, acquired a large interest, which led him to abandon his home of ease and refinement in Burlington, New Jersey, and found a new, and, as it proved to be, a permanent one in the unpeopled wilderness at the foot of Otsego Lake. Except for this accident of fortune, Leatherstocking and his companions of the forest never could have been created by the pen of Cooper.

[Illustration: signature ‘Francis W. Italsey’]


JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From Appleton portrait. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq., of Albany, N.Y. _Frontispiece_


COOPER’S BIRTHPLACE. Burlington, N.J. From a photograph by George W. Tichnor

THE FENIMORE BOX. (Of light and dark woods, size 12-1/2 X 6-3/4 inches.) From photograph by permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq., Albany, N.Y.


CHINGACHGOOK ON COUNCIL ROCK. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

COUNCIL ROCK. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

THE MANOR. From outline on _first_ map of Cooperstown, 1788-1790. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

ORIGINAL OTSEGO HALL. From outline on 1800-1808 map of Cooperstown. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

JUDGE WILLIAM COOPER. By Gilbert Stuart. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

GENERAL WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. From a portrait by Woods, 1812

WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, 1800. From “St. Memim’s Gallery of Portraits”

TALLEYRAND. From a portrait by F. Gerard

POINT JUDITH. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

“EDGEWATER.” By courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

MR. AND MRS. GEORGE POMEROY. By the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

THE OLD STONE HOUSE. By the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

COOPERSTOWN PRIOR TO 1835. From _The Family Magazine_, 1836-1837

DR. THOMAS ELLISON. By the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

ST. PETER’S CHURCH, ALBANY, N.Y. By the courtesy of Dr. Joseph Hooper, Durham, Conn.

STATE STREET, ALBANY, N.Y., 1802. By the courtesy of Dr. Joseph Hooper

“NEAR SHORES” OF NEW HAVEN. From an old print

DR. TIMOTHY DWIGHT. From an old print

YALE COLLEGE, 1806. By the courtesy of Professor John C. Schwab, Ph.D., Librarian, Yale University

WILLIAM JAY IN YOUTH. By Vanderlyn. From Bayard Tuckerman’s “William Jay,” etc. By courtesy of author and publishers, Dodd, Mead & Co., N.Y.

JUDGE WILLIAM JAY. From a crayon by Martin. Dodd, Mead & Co., N.Y.

SILHOUETTE OF JAMES COOPER WHEN A STUDENT AT YALE. By the courtesy of Professor John C. Schwab, Ph.D.


GIBRALTAR. From “_Le Monde Illustre_”

SAILOR’S SNUG HARBOR. From _Frank Leslie’s Weekly_, Vol. I

OTSEGO HALL GATES. By courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

BUFFALO BURNT. From an old woodcut in Spear’s “United States Navy”

THE “VESUVIUS.” From “Life of Fulton,” by J.F. Reigart, 1856



THE PORT OF BUFFALO. From an old print

CAPTAIN M.T. WOOLSEY. From Spear’s “United States Navy”



CAPTAIN LAWRENCE. From a portrait by Chappel

THE “WASP.” From an old print

FRAUNCES TAVERN. By the courtesy of Dr. Joseph Hooper, Durham, Conn.

LIEUT. GOV. JAMES DE LANCEY’S SEAL. From Vol. I, M.J. Lamb’s “History of New York City”

HEATHCOTE ARMS. From an old print

HON. CALEB HEATHCOTE. From print by V. Belch

FRAUNCES TAVERN LONG-ROOM. From “History of New York,” by Mary L. Booth, 1857 BURN’S COFFEE HOUSE. From an old print

HEATHCOTE HILL. By the courtesy of J.W. Clapp, editor _Richbell Press_, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

TANDEM. From a rare old color-print. By the courtesy of George Samuel Tucker, Peterboro, N.H.

COOPER’S FENIMORE FARM HOUSE. By the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

ELIZABETH FENIMORE COOPER IN THE OLD HALL HOME. By the courtesy of Elizabeth Cooper Keese

COOPER’S ANGEVINE FARM HOME. From “Homes of American Authors.” G.L. Putnam Sons, 1853

MAMARONECK CREEK SLOOPS. From Bryant’s “History of the United States”

JUDGE JOHN JAY. From print of Trumbull portrait

BEDFORD HOUSE. From an old print

BEDFORD HOUSE LIBRARY. From Vol. II, Lamb’s “History of New York City”

HARVEY BIRCH’S CAVE. By courtesy of Arthur B. Maurice, author of “New York in Fiction”

THE LOCUSTS OF COOPER’S TIME. From Lossing’s “Field-Book of the War of 1812”

THE LOCUSTS OF TO-DAY. By courtesy of the owner, Lawrence Durham, Esq.


ENOCH CROSBY. From “History of Westchester County, N.Y.” By Spooner and Shenard

LAFAYETTE THEATRE. From _New York Mirror_, Vol. V.

COOPER’S HEROINES. By courtesy of Rev. Ralph Birdsall and Miss Catherine N. Duyckinck

WINDHURST’S NOOK, UNDER THE PARK THEATRE. From “History of New York City,” by Mary L. Booth, 1859

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, 1822. From a photograph of the J.W. Jarvis portrait. By permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq., Albany, N.Y.

FITZ-GREENE HALLECK. From print of Inman portrait. By permission of owner, Gen. James Grant Wilson


CRO’ NEST. From “Poems,” by Joseph Rodman Drake

SAMUEL WOODWORTH. From a rare lithograph


CITY HOTEL AND WASHINGTON HALL. From Vol. II, “History of New York City,” by M.J. Lamb, and from “Valentine’s Manual”



COOPER’S NEW YORK CITY HOME IN BEACH STREET. By the courtesy of General James Grant Wilson

ST. JOHN’S CHAPEL. From _The York Mirror_


NATTY’S CAVE. From an old print

GENERAL JAMES CLINTON. From an old print

CLINTON DAM. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

“TALES FOR FIFTEEN, OR IMAGINATION AND HEART.” By permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

CHARLES WILKES. From portrait by Thos. Sully

JOHN PAUL JONES. From portrait by C.W. Peale


BRYANT, WEBSTER AND IRVING. From sketch by Daniel Huntington by the courtesy of owner, Mr. Day, Boston

THE LANDING OF LAFAYETTE, 1824. From “Complete History of Lafayette,” 1825 edition

LAFAYETTE. Portrait by Sully


JOB PRAY. By F.O.C. Darley



MRS. JAMES MONROE. By the courtesy of General James Grant Wilson

PRESIDENT’S HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C., 1825. From an old print

SUNRISE AT SOUTH MOUNTAIN. Drawn by Harry Fenn for D. Appleton and Co., N.Y.

GLENS FALL’S CAVERNS. From “The Hudson,” by Lossing

HONORABLE MR. STANLEY. Portrait by G. Harlow, 1833

GLENS FALL. By W.H. Bartlett


THE WAGER SEAL (1 X 1-1/8 inches). By permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

BRYANT. Portrait by Barrett


HENRY CLAY. From a daguerreotype, engraved by Buttre

CHANCELLOR KENT. Portrait by Chappel

THE U.S.S. “HUDSON.” By W.J. Bennett

WHITEHALL WHARF, 1826. From “Valentine’s Manual”

KEEP OF CARISBROOK. By J. and F. Harwood, London, 1841

HAVRE, BY NIGHT. From “Meyer’s Universum”

WINDMILLS OF MONTMARTRE. From an old French print


HOTEL DE JUMIEGES. Found, verified and photographed for this Life of Cooper by kindness of Mrs. T. Henry Dewey of Paris, France

SIR WALTER SCOTT. Portrait by G.S. Newton, 1824

MISS ANNE SCOTT. Portrait by W. Nicholson

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. After portrait by Madame de Mirbel, 1830

PIERRE JEAN DAVID D’ANGERS. Portrait by D’Aubrey. By courtesy of General George T. Cruft

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From a photograph of the bust by David d’Angers, Paris, 1828. By permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

MRS. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From a photograph of a drawing made at Paris, 1890. By permission of James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From a photograph of a drawing made at Paris, 1827. By permission of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

PROF. GEORGE WASHINGTON GREEN. By special permission of Mr. William Dean Howells and Harper & Brothers

P.T. DE BERANGER. From a rare old print

TALLEYRAND. From an old engraving

DUCHESSE DE BERRI. From Soule photograph

CHARLES X of FRANCE. From Soule photograph

COOPER’S SUMMER HOME, ST. OUEN, 1827. Found, verified and photographed by the kindness of Mrs. T. Henry Dewey, Paris, France

COOPER’S ST. OUEN TERRACE STUDY. Found, verified and photographed by the kindness of Mrs. T. Henry Dewey, Paris, France

OLD MILL AT NEWPORT. From an old print


THE NEWPORT BOX. By permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.


NATTY’S LAST CALL. From an old print

THE PRINCESS BARBARA VASSILIEWNA GALITZIN From print of portrait by Hein Friedr. Fueger


LA GRANGE ARCHWAY ENTRANCE. From “Complete History of Lafayette”

HOTEL DESSEIN, CALAIS, FRANCE. From a rare old print

CLIFFS OF DOVER. By C. Stanfield


GREEN GATE, CANTERBURY. From _Port Folio_, 1814

ST. JAMES PLACE, LONDON. From Thornbury’s “Old and New London”

SIR FRANCIS CHANTREY. From _European Magazine_, 1822

SAMUEL ROGERS. Portrait by Thomas Lawrence

ROGERS’ LONDON HOME. From “Bohn’s Handbook of London”

ROGERS’ BREAKFAST-ROOM. From _Illustrated London News_, 1857

CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE. From an old print

SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH. Portrait by Thomas Lawrence


LIBRARY OF HOLLAND HOUSE. By Charles R. Leslie. Used by permission of the British Museum. From left to right, portrait of Addison, Lord Holland, Lady Holland, Dr. John Allen, Librarian Doggett

GILT CHAMBER OF HOLLAND HOUSE. From lithograph by Richardson

ROGERS’ SEAT. From Leichenstein’s “Holland House”

LORD GREY. From a portrait by Thomas Lawrence

MRS. JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART. From a portrait by W. Nicholson

JOANNA BAILLIE. From “Life and Works of J. Baillie”

SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE. From the Academy sketch, 1829

HOUSE OF THE GILLMAN’S, HIGHGATE, LONDON. From Hall’s “Book of Memories”

BOOM KEY AT ROTTERDAM. From an old etching

MT. BLANC. By J.M.W. Turner


NAHL’S MEMORIAL TO MADAME LANGHAN. From _European Magazine_, 1786



FALL OF THE STAUBBACH. From an old water color

THE DEVIL’S BRIDGE. By W.H. Bartlett, 1836

FERNEY, VOLTAIRE’S LAKE LEMAN HOME. From _European Magazine_, 1786


FLORENCE, ITALY. From an old print

PALAZZO RICASOLI, FLORENCE, ITALY. From special drawing by G. Amightti. By courtesy of Signor Agusto Ticci, Florence

HORATIO GREENOUGH. From portrait in Boston Athenaeum. By courtesy of Mr. Charles K. Bolton, Librarian

BUST OF JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. By Horatio Greenough, in Boston Public Library. By courtesy of the Librarian, Mr. Horace G. Wadlin, and photographed by Arthur Pierce Truette

CHANTING CHERUBS. Detail from Raphael’s Madonna del Trono

LEOPOLD II, GRAND DUKE OF TUSCANY. From Ballou’s “Pictorial,” Vol. XVII

PITTI PALACE, FLORENCE, 1828. From water color, 1830

COUNT ST. LEU. From “_La Jeunesse de Napoleon III_” by Stefane-Pol

LETIZIA BOUNAPARTE. From color print by de Delpech

MADAME MERE. From print of drawing by Princess Charlotte, in Vol. XX, _L’lllustration_

CHURCH OF ST. ILLARIO AND NARROW LANE. From photograph obtained by Sig. Agusto Ticci, Florence, Italy

VILLA, ST. ILLARIO. From special photograph obtained by Mrs. T. Henry Dewey, Paris, France

CHARIOT RACES, FLORENCE. From an old print

GENOA. By Vocher

LEGHORN. From an old etching

NAPLES. From an old water color

CASA TASSO AT SORRENTO. From _”Vita di Torquato Tasso_” by Angelo Solerti

CASA TASSO TERRACE-STUDY. From _”Vita di Torquato Tasso_,” by Angelo Solerti

ST. PETER’S, EXTERIOR, ROME. From an old print

ST. PETER’S, INTERIOR. From an old print

ADAM MICKIEOWICZ. From the “Life of the Poet”

PORTA RIPETTA. From an old etching


PORTA DEL POPOLO. From an old print

FALLS OF MARMORA AT TERNI. From an old print

ANCONA. By S. Prout

LORETO. From an old print

SCALLA MINELLI, VENICE. From an old print

VENICE. By J.B. Pyne


PALACE OF THE DOGE. From an old print

TASSO’S WELL. Special photograph by Marjorie Elizabeth Parks

THE BRAVO. By F.O.C. Darley



ALT MARKET, DRESDEN. From 1830 print by permission of owner, Mayor of Dresden, and courtesy of Herr Rudolf Drescher, Hanau-on-Main, Germany

LAFAYETTE’S PARIS HOME, RUE D’ANJOU. From special photograph obtained by Mrs. T. Henry Dewey, Paris, France

LAFAYETTE’S BED-ROOM. From “Complete History of Lafayette”

LOUIS PHILIPPE. From “_Galerie Napoleon_”

GENERAL LAFAYETTE. From lithograph by Delpech

QUEEN MARIE AMELIE. From an old print

S.F.B. MORSE. From _L’Illustration,_ Vols. XXXI and XXXII

N.P. WILLIS. By S. Lawrence

TUILERIES GARDENS. From an old print

TENIER’S WIFE. Portrait by Tenier. From photograph of original by permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

MRS. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER AND HER SON PAUL. From a photograph of a painting done at Paris, 1831. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

THE CHILDREN OF MR. AND MRS. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From a photograph (given by Mr. George Pomeroy Keese) of a drawing made in Paris by Miss Susan Cooper. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq. From left to right, Caroline Martha (Mrs. H.F. Phinney), Susan [unreadable] Fenimore, Anne Charlotte, Maria Frances [unreadable] Cooper



PETER PAUL RUBENS. Portrait by the artist

RUBENS’ COLOGNE HOME. From Fairholt’s “Homes and Haunts of Artists”


WATCH TOWER ON THE RHINE. From _The Art Journal_, 1880


VEVAY SHORES OF LAKE LEMAN. From _New England Magazine_

FETE DES VIGNERONS. By courtesy of Mrs. Rufus A. Kingman

NOAH’S ARK VEVAY. 1833 By courtesy of Mrs. Rufus A. Kingman

HOSPICE ST. BERNARD. By Major Cockburn

BAY OF NAPLES. By James Hakywill


COOPER’S OTSEGO HALL HOME. By courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

COPY OF COOPER’S GARDEN SEAT. From photograph by A.J. Telfer

COOPER’S LIBRARY AT OTSEGO HALL. From drawing by Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

JUDGE NELSON. From photograph by A.J. Telfer

WILD ROSE POINT OR THREE MILE POINT. From a photograph by the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

COOPER’S NEW YORK CITY HOME, ST. MARK’S PLACE. From a print by the courtesy of owner, General James Grant Wilson

HORACE GREELEY. From a portrait by J.C. Buttre

PARK BENJAMIN. From a portrait by J.C. Buttre

THURLOW WEED. From a portrait by C.B. Hall

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From a daguerreotype by Brady. By permission of owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.

COLONEL JOHN TRUMBULL. From portrait by Waldo and Jewett.


COLUMBUS’ FLEET. From an old print

THE GLIMMERGLASS. From photograph by courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

OTSEGO LAKE. Inset, Leatherstocking Falls and Natty Bumppo’s Cave, from photographs by A.J. Telfer, Cooperstown, N.Y.

JESSE D. ELLIOTT’S LAKE ERIE MEDAL. From Spear’s “History of the United States Navy”

MEDAL GIVEN TO JAMES FENIMORE COOPER BY JESSE D. ELLIOTT. From photograph by the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

ISLAND OF ELBA. From an old print

ELBA HOME OF NAPOLEON. From Abbott’s “Napoleon”

BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE. From painting by W.H. Powell




STUMP EXTRACTOR. From “The Hudson,” by B.J. Lossing

THE CHALET FARM. From photograph by the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

THE ESCAPE. From “Wyandotte.” By F.O.C. Darley

MISS CAROLINE ADRIANCE FOOTE, AGE 13. From a daguerreotype by the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

MISS ALICE TRUMBULL WORTHINGTON. From a daguerreotype by the courtesy of owner, Mrs. Alice Worthington Synnott

LIEUT. ALEXANDER SLIDELL MACKENZIE. From Duyckwick’s “Cyclopedia of American Literature”

HELL GATE. From “Pages and Pictures,” by Susan Augusta Cooper



HON. GERRIT SMITH. From an old print

WILLIAM BRANDFORD SHUBRICK. From Lossing’s “Field-Book of the War of 1812”

CHARLES MATHEWS. From “Memorials of Charles Mathew” by Mrs. Mathews

JAMES H. HACKETT. From “Modern Standard Drama”

STEWART’S MARBLE PALACE. From an old print

MISS SUSAN AUGUSTA COOPER, ABOUT 1850. From a daguerreotype. By permission of the owner, James Fenimore Cooper, Esq.


JOE TOM. From a photograph by the courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

NATTY’S CAVE. From an old print

OTSEGO HALL–BACK VIEW. From “Pages and Pictures,” by Susan Augusta Cooper

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. From a daguerrotype by Brady. By permission of the owner, [unreadable] Cooper, Esq., Albany, N.Y.

THE SWEDISH NIGHTINGALE (JENNY LIND). Portrait by J.W. Orr From Soule photograph


DR. JOHN WAKEFIELD FRANCIS. From portrait by J. Goldbruam


CHRIST’S CHURCH, COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

FENIMORE COOPER’S SCREEN GIFT. From a print by courtesy of Miss Alice Bailey Keese

BISHOP WILLIAM HEATHCOTE DE LANCEY. From Scharf’s “History of Westchester County, NY”

DE LANCEY COAT OF ARMS. From “A God-Child of Washington,” by Katherine Schuyler Baxter



COOPER GROUNDS. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

THE CHILDREN’S TRIBUTE. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

LAKE OTSEGO. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer


LEATHERSTOCKING MONUMENT. By R.E. Launitz, N.A. From a photograph by A.J. Telfer

GEORGE POMEROY KEESE. From a photograph by permission of Mrs. George Pomeroy Keese

BERRY POMEROY CASTLE. By courtesy of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese

Acknowledgment is due The F.A. Ringler Company of New York City and Messrs. John Andrew and Son of Boston, Mass., for the care and interest they have shown in making the cuts used in this volume.



[Illustration: COOPER’S BIRTHPLACE, Burlington, N.J.]

The light of this world fell on James Fenimore Cooper September 15, 1789. The founder of American romance was born in a quaint, two-storied house of stuccoed brick which now numbers 457 Main St., Burlington, New Jersey. It was then “the last house but one as you go into the country” and among the best of the town. In a like house next door lived the father of the naval hero, Capt. James Lawrence. These two houses opened directly on the street and their slanting roofs were shaded by tall trees rooted at the curbstones. This outline of Fenimore Cooper’s birthplace is from the text-picture in “Literary Rambles,” by Theodore F. Wolfe, M.D., Ph.D. The first of his father’s family in this new country was James Cooper, who came from Stratford-on-Avon, England, in 1679. He and his wife were Quakers, and with Quaker thrift bought wide tracts of land in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Seventy-five years after James Cooper stepped on American soil his great-grandson William was born, December 2, 1754, in Byberry township, Pennsylvania.

On December 12, 1775, at Burlington, New Jersey, William Cooper married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Fenimore, whose family came from Oxfordshire of Old England, and, at intervals, held office in her provinces. James, the future author and named for his grandfather Cooper, was the eleventh of twelve children. About 1807 Cooper, by request of his mother, said he would adopt the name of Fenimore as there were no men of her family to continue it. The change was delayed by the untimely death of Judge Cooper, and also to make less difficult the settlement of his large estate. But in 1826 James Cooper applied to the legislature for his change of name to James Cooper _Fenimore_. This request was not granted, but the change to “James Fenimore Cooper” was made. Cooper’s comment on this outcome is a graphic record and “suggests,” says an authority, that “the legislature would do well to assume that a petitioner, in such a case, knew better than they did what he wanted.” The hyphen, at first used, was soon dropped. And so it was for his mother’s sake that he made world-wide his fame by the name of James _Fenimore_ Cooper.

[Illustration: THE FENIMORE BOX.]

“The Fenimore Box” is an “English measure box, curious, and centuries old, brought over by the first of the name.” It descended to Cooper from his mother, Elizabeth Fenimore, and is now treasured as a family heirloom by his grandson, James Fenimore Cooper of Albany, New York.

[Illustration: THE SUSQUEHANNA.]

As the first James Cooper and his wife were Quakers, perchance the same Quaker thrift influenced William Cooper to follow the lead of George Washington, who, two years before, in order to find out the inland waterways of our country, came from the Mohawk Valley to the headwaters of the Susquehanna–this stream which Fenimore Cooper called “the crooked river to which the Atlantic herself extended an arm of welcome.” Lake Otsego–the “Glimmerglass”–William Cooper saw first in the autumn of 1785. “Mt. Vision” was covered with a forest growth so dense that he had to “climb a tree in order to get a view of the lake, and while up the tree” he saw a deer come down “from the thickets and quietly drink of its waters near Otsego Rock.” “Just where the Susquehanna leaves the Lake on its long journey to the sea” this famous Council Rock “still shows its chin above the water and marks the spot where Deerslayer met Chingachgook the Great Serpent of the Delawares.” Now “its lake margin belongs to a grandson of the author, who also bears his name,” is a record found in Dr. Wolfe’s “Literary Haunts and Homes.” In the red man’s tongue Otsego means “a place of friendly meeting” of Indian warriors. The author of “Deerslayer” has immortalized that lake-country in the opening chapter of this book.


Of this visit to his future home and lands William Cooper has written: “In 1785 I visited the rough and hilly country of Otsego. I was alone, three hundred miles from home, without food of any kind. I caught trout in the brook and roasted them in the ashes. My horse fed on the grass that grew by the edge of the waters. I laid me down to sleep in my watch-coat, nothing but the wilderness about me. In this way I explored the country and formed my plans of future settlement. May, 1786, I opened a sale of forty thousand acres of land, which in sixteen days were all taken up by the poorest order of men.” Here William Cooper laid out the site of Cooperstown, which, until 1791, when it became the county-town, was at times also called “Foot-of-the-Lake.” He built a store for his sturdy pioneers, giving credit for their simple needs of life, and traded settlement products for them. His tenants put up log houses, and paid rent in butter, wheat, corn, oats, maple-sugar, and finally in pork;–so much that rentals known as “pork leases” were sold like farms. Money was scarce in those days,–when one John Miller, and his father, coming to the Lakeland’s point of the river, felled a pine, over which they crossed to the Cooperstown site. Its stump was marked with white paint and called the “bridge-tree” by Fenimore Cooper. His sister Nancy’s grandson, Mr. George Pomeroy Keese, from whom much will appear in these pages, has all there is left of that stump.

[Illustration: COUNCIL ROCK.]

In a few years the town’s growth gave such promise that William Cooper began to build his own home. It was generally known as “The Manor,” but the patent of Cooperstown was not according to law a manor. It was finished in 1788, when a few streets were laid out and the town’s first map was made. And October 10, 1790, he brought his family and servants, some fifteen persons, and their belongings, from Burlington New Jersey, to this early pioneer home. Mr. Keese says that “The Manor” was of wood with outside boarding, unplaned; that it was two stories high, had two wings and a back building added in 1791. It first stood facing Main St. and Otsego Lake and directly in front of the later Otsego Hall, now marked by the Indian Hunter. In 1799 it was moved down the street, and was burned down in 1812. In its time it was the most stately private house for miles around. The second home, Otsego Hall, built in 1798, was of bricks which were made at the outlet of the lake. It had seventy feet of frontage by fifty-six of depth, and had two stories with attic and basement. The main hall measured twenty-four by forty-eight feet and the rooms on either side were twenty feet wide. Otsego Hall is said to have been of the exact, generous proportions of the Van Rensselaer Manor House at Albany, New York, where Judge Cooper was a frequent visitor. His own Hall home on Otsego’s southern shore ever had “the air and capacity of a mansion and a history of hospitality well deserved.”

[Illustration: THE MANOR.]



To a friend William Cooper wrote: “I began life with a small capital and a large family, and yet I have already settled more acres than any man in America; and I trust no one can justly impute to me any act of oppression. Your good sense and knowledge will excuse this seeming boast.” He elsewhere said that he owed his success to “a steady mind, a sober judgment, fortitude, perseverance, and above all, common sense.” And here he lived as a wise and kind landlord among his people. For nine years he was First Judge of the County Court of Common Pleas, and he served two terms in Congress. Of Judge William Cooper there are three portraits,–Gilbert Stuart’s of 1797-98, Trumbull’s of 1806, and one by an unknown artist. His kindly gray eye, robust figure, and firm expression bear out the story of his life as told by these portraits.

James Fenimore Cooper, in a letter to his wife, dated Canajoharie, 1834, wrote of his father: “I have been up to the ravine to the old Frey house. It recalled my noble-looking, warmhearted, witty father, with his deep laugh, sweet voice, and fine, rich eye, as he used to light the way with his anecdotes and fun. Old Frey, with his little black peepers, pipe, hearty laugh, broken English, and warm welcome, was in the background. I went to the very spot where one of the old man’s slaves amused Sam and myself with an imitation of a turkey that no artist has ever yet been able to supplant in my memory.” This Heindrick Frey was a noted character of the Mohawk Valley over one hundred years ago.

It was, however, to the first home on Otsego’s shore that the future creator of American romance was brought when a babe some thirteen months old. Here, in the heart of the wilderness, his infancy was passed. Otsego Hall sheltered his budding boyhood and young manhood. Grace and refinement dwelt within the household; without, voices of the forest awakened and nurtured his naturally active mind, which later on was not less influenced by the mysteries of the sea. The Six Nations were yet a power in the Mohawk Valley, then the highway to the land of the setting sun beyond. And they are now remembered in the names of the principal lakes and streams of the country that once was theirs. The boy was face-to-face with the “grim warriors, braves, and chieftains that the man, Fenimore Cooper, translated into his pages, with a touch true to the red man’s life,” his instinct in trading, his friendly and hostile intent. Here Nature was his first and unforgettable teacher. From “Pages and Pictures,” by his daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper, much will be given in this book. Miss Cooper has drawn some pretty pen-pictures of her father’s child-life. She writes: “From the first bow and arrow, kite and ball, to later feats in fishing, riding, shooting, and skating, all were connected with his highland home.” He was “healthy and active; a brave, blithe-hearted, impetuous, most generous and upright boy.” Of his childhood another record is: “A gray-eyed, light-haired, ruddy boy, nimble as a deer and gay as a bird; on the lake, plying his oar lustily or trimming his sail to the mountain breeze; and whenever he found a wave high enough to lift his little boat, his veins would thrill with a strange delight, and he would ask himself whether this was like those ocean waves of which he had heard such wonders.” The little lad’s next step in learning was taken under the gentle rule of his elder sister, Hannah, who had her schooling in New York City, and afterwards improved her leisure by extensive reading. She was a model of domestic virtues and was greatly beloved, especially by the poor, to whom she was ever an angel of mercy. She often went with her father on his official visits to the seat of government, and when, in 1800, at the age of twenty-three years, she lost her life by a fall from her horse, her early death was widely and deeply mourned. Her memory was always cherished with peculiar tenderness by her brother James, the special charge of her loving care.


A letter, written by him in 1841 to his old “messmate,” Commodore Shubrick, reveals no wane of Cooper’s love for and pride in this sister, and his letter’s “political discovery” reveals that Miss Cooper’s attractions were as fully appreciated by the eminent of her own country as by those of foreign shores. So comes into these pages a youthful, slender romance of the later hero of Tippecanoe and still later President of the United States.

[Illustration: WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, 1800.]

OTSEGO HALL, COOPERSTOWN, February, 28, 1841.

I have made a great political discovery lately, which must not go any further than Mrs. Shubrick and Mary. In 1799, when Congress sat in Philadelphia, my father was a member, as was also General Harrison. You know I had a sister killed by a fall from a horse in 1800. This sister passed the Winter in Philadelphia with my father. Miss Anne Cooper [the author’s daughter] was lately in Philadelphia, where she met Mr. Thomas Biddle, who asked if our family were not Harrison men. The reason of so singular a question was asked, and Mr. Biddle answered that in 1799 Mr. Harrison was dying with love for Miss Cooper, that he (Mr. Biddle) was his confidant, and that he _thinks_ but does not _know_ that he was refused. If not refused it was because he was not encouraged to propose, so you see I stand on high grounds and am ready to serve you on occasion. Don’t let this go any further, however. I confess to think all the better of the General for this discovery, for it shows that he had forty years ago both taste and judgment in a matter in which men so often fail. Mary will open her eyes at this somewhat wider than ever, but she must not open her mouth until she gives her allegiance to him who will know all her thoughts. With best regards

_Yours as ever_,


NOTE.–Later light on the subject reveals Mr. Harrison’s “dying of love” as a hearty admiration and esteem for the rare grace and charm of character, mind, and person possessed by Judge Cooper’s young daughter.

[Illustration: TALLEYRAND.]

During 1795 many distinguished exiles came to this new-country home, and among those who found their way to Otsego Hall was the Marquis de Talleyrand, who was pleased to write an acrostic on Miss Cooper, then seventeen. The famous Frenchman’s record, in part, of this visit was “_Otsego n’est pas gai_.” Compared to the France of Talleyrand’s day this record was true. The _Otsego Herald’s_ motto of that time was

Historic truth our _Herald_ shall proclaim, The Law our guide, the public good our aim.

In its issue of October 2, 1795, appeared the celebrated diplomat’s Acrostic.

Aimable philosophe au printemps de son age, Ni les temps, ni les lieus n’alterent son esprit; Ne cedent qu’ a ses gouts simples et son etalage, Au milieu des deserts, elle lit, pense, ecrit.

Cultivez, belle Anna, votre gout pour l’etude; On ne saurait ici mieux employer son temps; Otsego n’est pas gai–mais, tout est habitude; Paris vous deplairait fort au premier moment; Et qui jouit de soi dans une solitude, Rentrant au monde, est sur d’en faire I’ornement.

In affectionate remembrance of Miss Cooper the hill just northwest of Cooperstown was named for her, and “Hannah’s Hill” commands one of the town’s finest views. In the quiet shades of Christ’s Church yard “belle Anna” rests beneath a slab bearing some lines by her father, but not her name.

The August before this sad event Judge Cooper gave the first of the many “lake parties” that floated over Otsego–“which no waters can rival.” In the fairness of her youth Miss Hannah was there with her little sister, later Mrs. Pomeroy; and also, among the gay “five and twenty friends from Philadelphia,” were their brothers. Indian canoes and flat-bottomed skiffs conveyed them to the eastern shore, where, at Two-Mile Point, a frightened fawn, startled from its forest home by the dogs of Shipman the hunter,–who later outlined “Leatherstocking,”–darted from the leafy thicket and plunged into the lake. At once all were in motion to rescue the little creature now swimming for life. It was successfully brought to land and became a great pet with Judge Cooper’s children; but one day, frightened by strange, fierce dogs, it bounded into the forest depths for refuge, and never returned.

The centennial anniversary of this first picnic was celebrated by the third and fourth generation of Judge Cooper’s descendants, who met at Point Judith to honor the occasion. Of the verses written by Mr. George Pomeroy Keese concerning this event two are:

[Illustration: POINT JUDITH.]

And one hundred years have come and gone Since our country then was new,
And now we keep in memory dear
Our love for the good and true.
To one who came to his forest home
And gave to our village its name;
To the son, the touch of whose magic pen Has lifted to world-wide fame.

In this summer of 1800 Richard, Judge Cooper’s eldest son, built his house of frame on “Apple Hill.” It was the second villa-like home in the village. Its site, now known as “Fernleigh,” is the country-seat of Stephen Clark, Esq. “Edgewater,” overlooking Lake Otsego, is the land that, after Judge Cooper’s death in 1809, fell to his son Isaac. Here, the following year, Isaac Cooper built his home of brick. Later, it changed in form, use, and ownership, but again became a family possession through the marriage of Mr. Theodore Keese with the daughter of George Pomeroy and Ann Cooper. Renewing in all ways the charm and grace of its early days, “Edgewater,” as the home of Mr. George Pomeroy Keese, the grandson of Fenimore Cooper’s youngest sister Ann, commands at the foot of the lake its length, breadth, beauty, and inspiration.

[Illustration: “EDGEWATER.”]

The old stone house, known as the “Deacon Pomeroy’s place,” that stood at the corner of Main and River streets, gives–in a quaint gable–an enduring record of romance in this sister Ann’s young-life. It was built of stone in the peculiar herring-bone style by Judge William Cooper for a wedding gift to his only living daughter, Ann, when she married George Pomeroy, grandson of Gen. Seth Pomeroy and lineal descendant of that Sir Ralph de Pomeroy who came to England with William the Conqueror. In this quaint gable appear the intertwined letters G.A.P.C.–the initials of the bridegroom and bride,–with the date 1804 beneath.

[Illustration: MR. AND MRS. GEORGE POMEROY.]

The Cooper room of this old stone house, now the home of Mrs. Benedict, a granddaughter, shelters family portraits from William Cooper’s time down to the present day–five generations. What stories might it not tell of the attractive originals? Many were the letters that Fenimore Cooper wrote from Europe to this sister, Mrs. George Pomeroy, of the old stone house.

Mrs. Benedict has also placed there many souvenirs of her sister, Constance Fenimore Woolson, gathered during-her long residence in Europe, including the author’s writing-table and her chair.

[Illustration: THE OLD STONE HOUSE.]

“Master Oliver Cory kept the village school” in those child-days of Fenimore Cooper, and long after. “He was well qualified for that post; laborious, upright, firm, yet patient and kindly by nature. His training of the boys was excellent. Saturdays were given to religious lessons, and he paid careful but quiet attention to their morals and manners.” From his sister Hannah’s teaching Judge Cooper’s youngest son went to Master Cory’s school. It was kept in “one of those tasteless buildings that afflict all new countries,” and here was called the “Academy.” It served Cooperstown in timely ways for religious and political meetings; public courts were held here, and a ball was given now and then under its roof. As to the school, time and incident brought out a taste for music in the pupils of Master Cory. It seems that Judge Cooper had brought from Philadelphia a large upright organ of imposing appearance and power, which he placed in his manor-house hall. Its arrival in the village made a summer’s sensation. When put up and adjusted, a rehearsal of country dances, reels, and more serious music came floating through the broad door and ample windows of Otsego Hall into Master Cory’s domain, the Academy, which stood in the adjoining street. As, with magic effect the strains of “Hail Columbia” poured into the schoolroom, Master Cory skilfully met a moment of open rebellion with these words: “Boys, that organ is a remarkable instrument. You never heard the like of it before. I give you half an hour’s intermission. Go into the street and listen to the music!”

[Illustration: COOPERSTOWN PRIOR TO 1835.]

These “Academy boys” were ambitious; each annual exhibition was crowded, to listen to the speeches “of Coriolanus, Iago, Brutus, and Cassius” by “raw lads from the village and adjoining farms,” in all the bravery of local militia uniform–blue coats “faced with red, matross swords, and hats of ’76.” On such an occasion James Cooper, then a child of eight years, became the pride and admiration of Master Cory for his moving recitation of the “Beggar’s Petition”–acting the part of an old man wrapped in a faded cloak and leaning over his staff. It is recorded that James had the fine, healthy pie-appetite usual to his age, for, says the record, when his eldest brother “was showing the sights of New York to the youngest, he took him to a pasty-shop, and, after watching the boy eat pasty after pasty, said to him: ‘Jim, eat all you want, but remember that each one costs the old man a lot.'” Pasty then outbalanced property for “Jim.”

In due time the lad outgrew the Academy’s instruction, but from boy to-man he never outgrew Master Cory’s affection, nor his own for the dear home scenes on the shores of the “Haunted Lake,” which he was so soon to leave for his first important schooling. The books he wrote later tell how he never forgot the howl of the wolf across the icy field of Otsego on cold winter nights, the peculiar wail of the sharp-toothed panther in the quiet wood roads, nor the familiar springs where the deer lingered latest. One autumn day, while still a pupil under Master Cory’s charge, the future author of “The Pioneers” was at play in his father’s garden, when suddenly he was surprised by a deer which came leaping over the fence from the street, almost brushing his face as it bounded away into the pine woods at the back of the house. This incident he often related to his children.

It was not long before this youngest son was sent from home. The eventful journey to Albany was made in the care of a near and worthy farmer, “who was carrying toward the Hudson a load of wheat from the fields of Otsego.” They went over the fine turnpike,–the great highway of that day,–“just finished from the Hudson to Cherry Valley.” The child had heard much of this wonder of roads from the gentlemen at his father’s table who were interested in it, and he was eager to see its toll-gates and stone bridges. After leaving “the corduroy tracks” leading to it from Cooperstown, the famous turnpike burst upon the gratified schoolboy’s vision. As they trotted slowly along the farmer pointed out, among-other marvels of the way, “a tavern for every mile” of the sixty between Albany and Lake Otsego. A long-train of farmers’ wagons, filled with the precious wheat, was slowly rolling eastward, passing-emigrant wagons of “growing families” and household gear moving westward to the great lake countries. All this delighted the boy of nine, who was finally set down at the door of St. Peter’s Rectory at Albany, New York. Here for four years he became one of the four young pupils of the Rev. Thomas Ellison, rector of the church. Dr. Ellison was an Englishman and a graduate of Oxford–a rare scholar and a king’s man. From him came Cooper’s strong preference for English church government and equally strong feeling against the Puritans of Old and New England. While the Puritan’s character was not pleasing to Cooper, he himself was called a “Puritan of Puritans,” and it was to them he referred in the following: “Whatever else I may think of the Yankees,–a calmer, firmer, braver people do not walk this earth.” Of this sentiment “The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish,” published in 1829, gives ample proof.

[Illustration: DR. THOMAS ELLISON.]

The Rev. Joseph Hooper, author of the “History of St. Peter’s Church, Albany, N.Y.,” related an incident of Cooper’s old Rectory school days there. The story came to Dr. Hooper from Mr. Edward Floyd de Lancy, son of Bishop de Lancy of Western New York, and is as follows:

It was the custom of the Rev. Thomas Ellison when he became too feeble to personally direct his workmen, to sit upon the stoop of the Rectory and watch the removal of the sandbank which covered the chosen site for the new church, corner of State and Lodge streets. Hundreds of loads had to be carted away before the foundation could be laid, and some of the carter’s pay tickets on quartered playing-cards are preserved in St. Peter’s archives. But the great hole in the ground had a great attraction for the boys of Albany, and they would leap into it to play tag and leap-frog until the stern voice of the Dominie called them to order, when they would scamper away or hide in some corner out of sight of the piercing eyes of Dr. Ellison. Sometimes they would answer him mockingly, to his great annoyance. He could not pursue them, but he could, when his own pupils joined with the other boys, as they often did, give them stern and severe lectures upon their conduct, for they were playing on ground to be used for a sacred purpose. Even the rod of correction was used without curing them of this habit. Young Cooper was often a ringleader, and their pranks would often continue until darkness concealed them from the watchful and angry Rector, to whom, nevertheless, they gave due honor and respect.

[Illustration: ST. PETER’S CHURCH, ALBANY, N.Y.]

[Illustration: STATE STREET, ALBANY, N.Y., 1802.]

From one of his “Sketches of England,” written to William, Judge John Jay’s second son, comes, in part, Cooper’s graphic description of Dr. Ellison: “Thirty-six years ago you and I were school fellows and classmates in the home of a clergyman of the true English school. This man entertained a most profound reverence for the King and the nobility; was not backward in expressing his contempt for all classes of dissenters and all ungentlemanly sects; was particularly severe on the immoralities of the French Revolution, and, though eating our bread, was not especially lenient to our own; compelled you and me to begin Virgil with the eclogues, and Cicero with the knotty phrases that open the oration in favor of the poet Archias, because these writers would not have placed them first in the books if they did not intend people to read them first; spent his money freely and sometimes that of other people; was particularly tenacious of the ritual and of all decencies of the Church; detested a democrat as he did the devil; cracked his jokes daily about Mr. Jefferson, never failing to place his libertinism in strong relief against the approved morals of George III., of several passages in whose history it is charitable to suppose he was ignorant; prayed fervently on Sunday; decried all morals, institutions, churches, manners but those of England from Monday to Saturday.”

The lad from Otsego soon became a prime favorite with his tutor, who took pleasure in teaching him. The old-fashioned, heroic romances were a rare delight to him,–a taste which was thought to come from his mother, who was very fond of such reading. One vacation, at about the age of eleven, he and a playmate lost themselves in the exciting interest of such a tale; “Don Belianus of Greece” made so deep an impression on Cooper that after reading it he said seriously to his playfellow that he would write a book himself, and would “begin it at once.” And, like “Don Belianus of Greece,” this story was to have “knights, and squires, and horses, and ladies, and castles and banners.” With the glory of his story in mind, the boy had utterly forgotten his hearty dislike of pen-work at school. But his active brain soon put to flight this hobgoblin; he thought of the bit of a blue newspaper–the _Otsego Herald_–printed in Cooperstown by the father of his comrade. So they planned to use the resting-time of the press for the printing of this new book, of which, however, only a few chapters were put in type. The new author soon wearied of his work; but none the less it was the first step in his future literary career.

During 1801 a man near fifty, cleanly clad in sailor’s gear but without stockings or neckcloth, appeared before Judge Cooper and asked if the lot between Fenimore and the village was for sale. The answer was, “Yes, but the price is high,” and naming it, the stranger requested that a deed be made out at once; he counted down the amount in gold, and gave his name as Esaias Hausman. He had built for himself a small rude house on this lot and lived alone in it for years. The secrets of his former life, his wide learning (once found teaching a college president Hebrew), and disappearance at times, were never solved. Only his death revealed a purse of gold worn between his shoulder-blades. There was no will, so to public sale went the little hut and its lake-shore lot. This man of mystery made a deep impression on Cooper’s boy-mind, and later, in 1838, was the subject of several pages of the author’s “Chronicles of Cooperstown.” Then there was James Allen,–a Scotch master-mason,–who came his way from the “Land o’ Cakes” in 1801, and found, as an employee of Judge Cooper, an opening for his trade, and soon became a great favorite with the Cooper boys. This master-mason took great pride in exact work, with which no trifling was permitted. No stone could be moved but his true eye would detect it in a flash, and wild was the fury with which his fiery trowel flew for the culprit, and with such convincing force that it was wise to avoid further meddling with the “gude mon’s” work. Of “Jamie Allen,” master-mason and staunch _auld kirke mon_, many an amusing story is told in Fenimore Cooper’s “Wyandotte, or the Hutted Knoll,” written in 1843. These men among others marked the unusual in Cooper’s vacations from Dr. Ellison’s school-rule at Albany. Later in life he wrote a lively memory-sketch of his tutor, the rector of St. Peter’s Church. But the death in 1802 of this accomplished gentleman sent his pupil–then a stripling of thirteen–to Yale. He entered the freshman 1802-3 January-term class, and, “excepting the poet Hillhouse, two weeks his junior, James Cooper was the youngest student in college.” There “his progress in his studies is said to have been honorable to his talents.” And “in the ancient languages he had no superior in his class.”

[Illustration: “NEAR SHORES” OF NEW HAVEN.]

Cooper owned to having learned little at college. When left to his own bent, his early love for out-of-door life drew him to roam the hills and explore near shores, and to his first view of the grand old ocean, which later claimed his tribute of service. For a boyish frolic in his junior year the lad left Yale, and this incident ended his college career. It is of record that Judge Cooper took the boy’s part against the faculty version and brought his son home. Yet something from his books James Cooper must have gleaned, for there is a story of a young sailor who, in some public place in the streets of an English port, attracted the curiosity of the crowd by explaining to his companions the meaning of a Latin motto.

[Illustration: DR. TIMOTHY DWIGHT.]

[Illustration: YALE COLLEGE, 1806.]

[Illustration: WILLIAM JAY IN YOUTH.]

The Albany, school-boy days of William Jay and James Cooper were renewed at Yale where was welded their strong life-friendship. On the college roll of their time appear amongst other names that of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, and the scholarly poet Hillhouse of New Haven. In the Dodd, Mead & Company’s 1892 issue of “William Jay and the Constitutional Movement for the Abolition of Slavery,” by Bayard Tuckerman, with a preface, by John Jay, appears a letter dating 1852, written by Judge William Jay to his grandson. This letter gives graphic glimpses of Yale College life during the student days there of its writer and James Cooper: “The resident graduates were denominated ‘Sirs’; their place in Chapel was called ‘the Sirs pew’; and when spoken of in college ‘Sir’ was always placed before their names. At that time the freshmen occupied, in part, the place of sizers in the English universities, and they were required to run errands for the seniors. My room-mate was Sir Holly (Dr. Horace Holly). As a mere freshman, I looked up to my room-mate with great respect, and treated him accordingly. About half past five in winter, the bell summoned us from our beds,–I rose, generally, before six,–made the fire, and then went, pitcher in hand, often wading through snow, for water for Sir Holly and myself. Of the college bell,” the letter continues: “at six it called us to prayers in the chapel. We next repaired to the recitation-rooms and recited, by candlelight, the lessons we had studied the preceding evening. At eight we had breakfast,–our meals were taken in a large hall with a kitchen opening into it. The students were arranged at tables according to their classes. All sat on wooden benches, not excepting the tutors; the latter had a table to themselves on an elevated platform whence they had a view of the whole company. But it was rather difficult for them to attend to their plates and to watch two hundred boys at the same time. Salt beef once a day, and dry cod were perhaps the most usual dishes. On Sunday mornings, during the winter, our breakfast-tables were graced with large tin milk-cans filled with stewed oysters; at the proper season we were occasionally treated with green peas. As you may suppose, a goodly number of waiters were needed in the hall. These were all students, and many of them among the best and most esteemed scholars. At nine the bell warned us to our rooms. At twelve it called us to a recitation or a lecture. After dinner we recommenced our studies for the third time, at four o’clock. During study hours the tutors would frequently go the rounds, looking into our rooms to see that we were not playing truant. Before supper, we all attended prayers in the chapel.”


Although, from the necessity of his times, Chief-Justice John Jay was a slave owner, his son, William–refined, benevolent, pleasing in manner, but with a temper easily aroused by injustice–became an early, alert, and strong advocate of the anti-slavery cause. This eminent jurist who built his life upon the plan of his words, “Duties are ours and consequences are God’s” (as did also Cooper), was graphically addressed and described by Cooper as “Thou most pugnacious man of peace.”

[Illustration: OUTWARD BOUND.]

Leaving Yale to the more studious, no doubt the young man enjoyed this brief period of home-life and the distinguished guests drawn by its hospitality to Otsego Hall. Yet even this could not for long hold him there. Perhaps he was influenced by what he heard from them of the great outside world, and he, too, wished to see what it was like. As a stepping-stone to a commission in the navy, Judge Cooper secured a berth for his son, who shipped as a sailor before-the-mast in the _Stirling_, of Wiscasset, Maine, John Johnston master and part owner. In the care of a merchant, young Cooper went down to the docks to look about the ship and sign the articles, and the next day he returned in his sailor’s garb. The _Stirling_ was taken into the stream, and his new comrades, a mixture of nations,–four Americans, a Portuguese, a Spaniard, a Prussian, a Dane, an Englishman, a Scotch boy, and a Canadian,–tumbled aboard, not quite themselves; but by night they were in working trim. The young commander was described as “kind and considerate of all hands,” and the ship as “carrying a motley crew.” When “all hands” were called to get the _Stirling_ under way, Cooper, with another boy, was sent aloft to loose the foretopsail. With eager will he tugged stoutly at “the robbins,” when the second mate appeared just in time to prevent him from dropping his part of the sail into the top. The good-hearted mate had a kindly mind for the “new hand,” and the men were too busy to notice small failures aloft. Young Cooper soon found an old salt who taught him to knot and splice with the best of them, and old Barnstable was repaid for these lessons by the merry times they had together when they got ashore. However, with her cargo of flour, the _Stirling_ sailed from New York in the autumn of 1806 for the English market at Cowes, and therefore when Cooper should have been taking his class degree at Yale, he was outward bound on the sea’s highway. Being to the manor born did not admit the sailor before-the-mast to the captain’s cabin, but no doubt the long, rough voyage of forty stormy days did make of the young man a jolly tar. Through her usual veil of fog came Cooper’s first view of Old England when threatened with Napoleon’s invasion. Forty-odd sail of warships were sighted by the night-watch when the _Stirling_ passed the straits of Dover at daybreak. They gave the young man an object-lesson that he never forgot, in the watchfulness and naval power of Great Britain. The _Stirling_ had but dropped anchor in English waters when she was boarded by a British man-of-war’s boat-crew, and one of her best hands was forced into the English navy service, and another sailor barely escaped, he having satisfactory papers. At London a third hand was lost, and Captain Johnston himself was seized by a press-gang.

[Illustration: GIBRALTAR.]

Finally, in round-jacket and tarpaulin, the future guest of Samuel Rogers and Holland House, planted his feet on British soil. At London he saw about everything a gay young fellow of seventeen in sailor’s gear could, of that wonderful city,–or so thought Ned Myers, one of his shipmates, who was with him most of the time. Concerning these jaunts Myers says: “I had one or two cruises of a Sunday in the tow of Cooper, who soon became a branch pilot in those waters about the parks and the West End, the Monument, St. Paul’s and the lions; Cooper took a look at the arsenal, jewels, and armory [Tower of London]. He had a rum time of it in his sailor’s rig; hoisted in a wonderful lot of gibberish.” And with his fine stories of each day’s sights in old London town, the young sailor would make merry evenings for his forecastle comrades, of whom it is recorded his strength could lay flat on their backs in two minutes.

In January the _Stirling_ spread her sails for another stormy passage,–to the straits of Gibraltar. On running out, the ship was boarded by a gun-boat officer, who tried to press a Swede; whereupon, young Cooper thinking it an insult to our flag, began high words with the Englishman, but was soon silenced by Captain Johnston. The _Stirling_ met with various stirring adventures, being chased by a Bay-of-Biscay pirate and rescued by the timely appearance of a British cruiser. It was thick westerly weather when they ran into the straits, and as the English fleet was off Cape Trafalgar, Captain Johnston realized the danger of being run down in the night, and came on deck during the middle watch for a sharp lookout on the forecastle. Night orders were given when came the warning, “Sail ho!” and through the mists and shadows was seen dimly a two-decker bearing directly clown upon them. The Captain ordered the helm “hard up!” and called Cooper to “bring a light.” With a leap he rushed to the cabin, seized the light, and in half a minute it was swinging from the mizzen rigging, his promptness saving the ship. So near were the two vessels that the deck officer’s voice was distinctly heard calling his quarter-master to “port the helm.” As the great mass swept by them she seemed about to crush their railing with the muzzle of her guns.

While the _Stirling_ was lying off the old Moorish town of Almaria, Cooper and others were sent ashore in a jolly-boat to boil pitch. To return to the ship they put off in a heavy sea, knowing it would be difficult to work through the surf; but orders were orders, and delay would not help. So off they plunged, when suddenly a breaker “took the bow of the boat, and lifting her almost on end, turned her keel uppermost.” All hands got safely ashore–how, none could tell. A second launching resulted as the first, but with a third they succeeded in forging their way out, and boarded the ship. Later they ran short of provisions. But the _Stirling’s_ return cargo was brought back safely to London, where the ship lay at anchor for two months or more, and then sailed in July for America. After a voyage of fifty-two days she dropped anchor at Philadelphia, September 18, 1807. So much for this good ship named for Stirling Castle of Bonnie Scotland.

Such were the lessons young Cooper learned in this rough but manly school. A brother officer who knew him well said, “He was active, prompt, and efficient, a pleasant shipmate, always ready to do his duty, and rigorous too in exacting it of others.” Of Cooper’s “Naval History” was added, “It is the noblest tribute ever paid to a noble profession.” Aboard the _Stirling_ on these several cruises Cooper learned much that afterwards appeared in his sea tales. It was of this sea-service that he wrote, “I have been myself one of eleven hands, officers included, to navigate a ship of three hundred tons across the Atlantic Ocean; and, what is more, we often reefed topsails with the watch.” Of the _Stirling_ he wrote, “The ship was on a bow-line most of the time”; and he thought her “one of the wettest ships that ever floated when heading tip against the sea.” A lively account of this eleven months’ service is found in Cooper’s story of “Ned Myers.” This life of his shipmate aboard the _Stirling_ was written in 1843. The old salt was a battered hulk in the “Sailor’s Snug Harbor” when Cooper was on the crest of the wave of his literary fame, and the old sailor, wondering if this Cooper could be the comrade of his youth in the _Stirling_ days of yore, wrote, after the twenty-five years of separation, to inquire. The answer was, “I am your old shipmate, Ned.” Later, “Ned” was invited to visit the Hall. Many remember the interesting two in 1843. “Hardly a day passed that they were not seen, as the heavy Hall gates swung open at eleven o’clock, coming out for a morning walk or a sail on the lake;–Cooper’s portly form, and by his side a shriveled figure with halting step, leaning heavily on a crooked stick which served for a cane. They were as strong in contrast as it was possible for men to be.” It was during this visit that the old sailor spun his life-yarn in his own way and Cooper wove it into his book, “Ned Myers.”

[Illustration: SAILOR’S SNUG HARBOR.]

Perhaps the following interesting Cooperstown story of Cooper’s youth is of the time of his return from his _Stirling_ voyage. One day a merry group of young men proposed a footrace, the course to be around the square–a distance of about one hundred yards. James Cooper was named as one of the runners, and his rival was soon chosen. According to custom, the village boys, girls, men, and women were spectators. Like a mettlesome steed in curb young Cooper looked at the wager,–a basket of fruit,–then at his race-mate, and accepted the challenge, but not on even terms. It was not enough for a sailor simply to outrun a landsman; he could do more. A little girl stood near, her bright face eager with watching for the fray. Cooper turned quickly and caught her up in his arms, and with the pride and muscle of an athlete exclaimed, “I’ll carry her with me and beat you!” Away they flew, Cooper with his laughing burden upon his shoulders; one corner was turned, and the excited crowd saw with surprise James Cooper with his small rider keeping pace with the other flying youth. Another, and the other corners were soon passed; both sprang like race-horses near the end of the course, but Cooper, with his little black-eyed girl aloft and the perspiration pouring down his manly brow and cheeks, was the first to reach the mark, and amidst such cheers and hurrahs as only pioneers can freely give, and as freely enjoy. The fruit he had won, but soon it was shared by all around. That little girl, later the wife of Captain William Wilson, often told the story of her ride on pleasant James Cooper’s shoulders.

[Illustration: OTSEGO HALL GATES.]

While never a rhymester, Cooper, in his early manhood and at rare times after, did write occasional sentimental and comic verses that betokened both clever imagination and other merit. Into the _Otsego Herald_ printing-office a poor epileptic ballad-singer came one day to ask help from a group of gentlemen A purse was made up for him, but he, looking among them, said if one of them would write for him “a few verses–something new”–they would be worth more than the silver given him. Young Cooper offered to try, and asked on what subject he should write “There’s nothing sells like ballads,” was the reply. So the ballad was promised; and some thirty or more pathetic verses were written at once, about the small frontier village recently burnt by troops under Colonel Murray during the close of the last war with England. This ballad bore the high-sounding title of “Buffalo Burnt, or the Dreadful Conflagration.” It won such success among the farm-house gentry that the singer returned for another ballad and obtained it. Some years later Mr. Cooper was invited to a tea-party in a near village, when a young lady, led to the piano for music, began to sing, much to the author’s disturbing amazement, “Buffalo Burnt, or the Dreadful Conflagration.”

[Illustration: BUFFALO BURNT.]

So passed the pleasant vacation days of our young sailor, whose training before-the-mast enabled his father to obtain for him a midshipman’s commission in the United States Navy, for which James Cooper reported for duty at New York City, January 12, 1808. At the age of nineteen he first served aboard the _Vesuvius._ Thence he was ordered to Oswego, New York, to build the brig _Oneida_ for Lake Ontario service, and which the spring of 1809 saw launched.

[Illustration: THE “VESUVIUS.”]

[Illustration: ONTARIO FORESTS.]

While the war flurries which called for the building of the vessel were tethered, Cooper had learned his lesson in ship-building, ship-yard duties, and water-border life; and these served him more than thirty years later in his matchless Indian story, “The Pathfinder.” Miss Susan Cooper has left some interesting pages of this period of her father’s naval service; in part they read: “In 1808 several young officers under Lieutenant Woolsey were ordered to the shores of Lake Ontario for building a small vessel of war. Among them was Mr. Cooper, then a midshipman in the service. Their road lay for many a mile through the forest to the mouth of the Oswego River,–their destination,–where the _Oneida_, a brig mounting sixteen guns, was built and launched. They enjoyed the wild coloring of frontier life They roamed the forests and explored the shores in leisure hours. Cruises among the Thousand Islands were frequent; many were the fine fish caught and good chowders eaten. The picturesque beauties of the region, the countless islands, were greatly enjoyed and never forgotten by the young midshipman.” The youthful officers were ordered to Buffalo, and stopping for the night at a rude frontier inn, it was Cooper’s duty to inquire what they might have for supper. “Mine host shook his head ruefully; he could promise very little. ‘Give us what you eat yourself; you must have food of some kind,’ said Cooper. Mine host looked melancholy; on his honor he assured the young officers he had absolutely nothing to set before them but game, steak, and brook-trout; and, maybe his wife could find cranberries for a tart! A month earlier they should have had a dish of fried pork fit for the President, with a pumpkin pie after it. ‘Game’s plenty, but nothin’ else!’ added the publican with a sigh. Mine host was pining for pork! On this expedition Mr. Cooper saw Niagara for the first time. He was struck with the grandeur of the cataract, but felt its sublime character far more deeply on a later visit–after his return from Europe.”


[Illustration: THE PORT OF BUFFALO.]

When the _Oneida_ was launched the gallant young officers resolved to celebrate the event by giving a ball. “This was an enterprise of a desperate character;–building a brig hundreds of miles from a ship-yard was a trifle to giving a ball in the wilderness. True, one fiddle and half a dozen officers were something; refreshments and a military ball-room might be hoped for; but where, pray, were the ladies to come from?” They would not think of dancing with each other, and ladies must be found. Vigorous efforts were made by sending boats in some directions and carts miles in others, to invite the ladies; and they accepted. As the hour drew near a very delicate point came up for decision–the honors due different fair claimants. After a council of war, Lieutenant Woolsey gave to his master-of-ceremonies these orders: “All ladies, sir, provided with shoes and stockings are to be led to the head of the Virginia reel; ladies with shoes, and without stockings, are considered in the second rank; ladies without shoes or stockings you will lead, gentlemen, to the foot of the country dance!” Such was a grand military ball in Oswego County in 1808-9.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN M.T. WOOLSEY.]

About this time occurred an amusing incident of their raw young mess-servant, fresh from Ireland: “A table-cloth had taken fire and was in full blaze; Paddy was at the moment filling a teapot from an ample kettle in his hand. ‘Pour the water on the table!’ called out one of the officers. ‘Sure, the wather is _hot_, your honor!’ exclaimed Paddy, in great dismay, holding the kettle at a very safe distance from the blazing cloth, and his face such a picture of helpless despair as to make Mr. Cooper heartily laugh at every after-thought of it.”

The passing of thirty or more years made of this light-hearted young midshipman a well-known writer, with the purpose that his next book should tell of this unforgettable region of the great lakes. He wished to-bring into it the sailors and Indians as, by coming in close contact with them, “he knew their personalities and characteristics.” Then, forest scenes without “Natty Bumppo” could scarce come from his pen after the drawings of old “Leatherstocking” of “The Pioneers,” “Hawkeye” of “The Mohicans,” and the “aged trapper” of “The Prairie.” So it came about that “Natty, the lover,” stepped into these pages–Natty, “so simple, so tender, so noble and true–what shall be said of him? We must all needs love him; it is not with words but with tears that we wring his hand and part from him on the lake shore” as “The Pathfinder.” Glowing and brave proved his Mabel, as “the bubble of a boat floated on the very crest of a foaming breaker,”–yet not for him. But the ripple of the lake’s waves and rustling of forest leaves are as unforgettable as the low, sweet tones of “Dew-of-June.” Of “The Pathfinder” and Cooper Balzac wrote: “Its interest is tremendous. He surely owed us this masterpiece after the last two or three raphsodies he has given us.”

[Illustration: THE PATHFINDER.]

[Illustration: A BUBBLE OF A BOAT.]

In the year 1809 Cooper was attached to a gun-boat serving on Lake Champlain, and on November 13 following, he was ordered to the _Wasp_, under Capt. James Lawrence, of Burlington–a personal friend, and also the heroic commander of the _Chesapeake_ in her action with the _Shannon_, in which his last words were, “Don’t give up the ship!” It was aboard the _Wasp_ that Cooper’s lifelong friendship with Commodore Shubrick of South Carolina began, who, like himself, and a year younger, was a midshipman. To this friend the author dedicated “The Pilot,” “Red Rover,” and other stories.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN LAWRENCE.]

[Illustration: THE “WASP.”]

Political feeling ran high in those early days of 1809, and prominent persons did not escape from their opponents with hitter feeling only. So it came about that in December of that year, Judge Cooper, on leaving a hot convention, met his death,–the result of a blow on the head, as he was coming down the steps of the State capitol at Albany, New York. No one of his day who was engaged in the work of large buying and selling of land made so deep an impression as did Judge Cooper on his times, and on his author son, whose land books disclose to posterity with historic exactness the hardships and values of the pioneers of our country.

After Judge Cooper’s death Richard Fenimore, his eldest son, became the head of the family, and it was to him that James wrote from

New York, May 18th, 1810

I wrote you yesterday, a letter in a great hurry, as its contents are of some importance. I employ the leisure time offered today, to inform you more fully of my views.

When you were in the City, I hinted to you, my intention of resigning at the end of this session of Congress, should nothing be done for the Navy–my only reason at that time was the blasted prospects of the service. I accordingly wrote my resignation and as usual offer’d it to Capt. Lawrence, for his inspection–he very warmly recommended to me to give the service the trial of another year or two–at the same time offering to procure me a furlough which would leave me perfect master of my actions in the interval–I thought it wisest to accept this proposition–at the end of this year I have it in my power to resign, should the situation of the Country warrant it.

Like all the rest of the sons of Adam, I have bowed to the influence of the claims of a fair damsel of eighteen. I loved her like a man and told her of it like a sailor. The peculiarity of my situation occasion’d me to act with something like precipitancy. I am perfectly confident, however, I shall never have cause to repent of it–. As you are _cooly_ to decide, I will as _cooly_ give you the qualities of my mistress. Susan De Lancey is the daughter of a man of very respectable connections and a handsome fortune–amiable, sweet-tempered and happy in her disposition.–She has been educated in the country, occasionally trying the temperature of the City–to rub off the rust–but hold a moment, it is enough she pleases _me_ in the qualities of her _person_ and _mind_–. Like a true quixotic lover, I made proposals to her father–he has answered them in the most gentlemanly manner–. You have my consent to address my daughter if you will gain the approbation of your mother–He also informs me that his daughter has an estate in the County of Westchester in reversion, secured to her by a deed in trust to him–. I write all this for _you_–you know _I_ am indifferent to anything of this nature. Now I have to request–you will take your hat and go to mother, the boys, girls, and say to them have you any objection that James Cooper shall marry at a future day, Susan De Lancey. If any of them forbid the bans may the Lord have forgiven them–for I never will–. Then take your pen and write to Mr. De Lancey stating the _happiness_ and _pleasure_ it will give all the family to have this connection completed–all this I wish you to do immediately, as I am deprived of the pleasure of visiting my flame until this is done, by that confounded _bore_, delicacy–be so good as to inclose the letter in one to me, at the same time don’t forget to inclose a handsome sum to square the yards here and bring me to Cooperstown.

I wish not to interrupt you in your attempt to clear the estate–my expenditure shall be as small as possible.

_Your brother,_ James Cooper.

The de Lanceys were Huguenots and their loyalty to England during the Revolution made several of them British officers. Although Cooper was ever a staunch American, this incident, with several others in his later life, seemed unfavorable to some few who were only too willing to question his loyalty.

[Illustration: FRAUNCES TAVERN.]

[Illustration: GOV. JAMES DE LANCEY’S SEAL.]

[Illustration: HEATHCOTE ARMS.]

Miss de Lancey’s great grandfather, Stephen, was the first of this aristocratic Westchester-County family on American soil. He fled from Normandy on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and in 1686 came to New York. Here his son James became chief-justice and lieutenant-governor, and married Ann, eldest daughter of the Hon. Caleb Heathcote, lord of the manor of Scarsdale, Westchester, and whose manor house was Heathcote Hill, which their fourth son, John Peter de Lancey, Cooper’s father-in-law, inherited from his mother. One of a number of services the old-world Derbyshire Heathcote-Hill family rendered to its country was giving to the Bank of England its first president. The de Lancey name still clings to the new-world history in Fraunces Tavern, built by Stephen de Lancey in 1700, for his home. Sixty-two years later it became the tavern of Samuel Fraunces. In 1776 and 1783 it was the headquarters of General Washington, and in its famous _Long Room_ “The Father of his Country” made his farewell address, and bid adieu to his generals. Number 130 Broadway was the de Lancey home of 1730, and here was given the first inauguration ball of our nation. On this site was built “Burn’s Coffee House,” which teemed with interesting events. The City Hotel took its place in 1806. John Peter de Lancey married Elizabeth, daughter of Col. Richard Floyd, and in 1789 came to Heathcote Hill, Westchester County, which he rebuilt on the site of the old manor house, burned down. In this home he lived out his days. Here his son, William Heathcote, Bishop of Western New York, was born; and also his lovely daughter, Susan Augusta; here she was wooed and won by the handsome young naval officer, and on New Year’s day, 1811, became Mrs. James Cooper. In 1899 Dr. Theodore F. Wolfe writes of Cooper and Heathcote Hill–that some of the great trees which waved their green leafage above him lingering here with sweetheart or bride yet shade the grounds, but the household that welcomed him and gave him a beloved daughter lie in a little grass-grown cemetery near to this old home. Mrs. Cooper had a sweet, gracious way of guiding by affection her husband, and he gave her his heart’s devotion through the forty years of their happily mated life. Cooper and his young bride began life by playing a game of chess between the ceremony and supper. Then, he driving two horses tandem, they made their wedding journey to Cooperstown in a gig. His furlough ended a few months later, and to please his wife, he resigned in May from the navy. Long afterwards he wrote, “She confesses she would never have done for Lady Collingwood.” For a year or more Cooper and his wife lived with her father at Heathcote Hill, Mamaroneck, New York, and afterwards in a near-by cottage on the “Neck,” which Cooper named “Closet Hall” because it was so small, and he described it as the home of the Littlepage family in “Satanstoe.” Only two old willows remain of the group that almost concealed Cooper’s wee house, now entirely rebuilt, and they named the place as the home of Alice B. Havens, who wrote here some of her poems and stories–so Dr. Wolfe writes of Closet Hall. After some brief housekeeping in this “wee home,” the young people again made a part of the family at Heathcote Hill, where they lived until 1814. Then, with the two little girls born to them, they went for a short time to Cooperstown, and thence to their Fenimore farm of some one hundred and fifty acres along Otsego’s southwestern shores. “On a rising knoll overlooking lake and village a handsome stone house was begun for their life home.” The near-by hill, called Mount Ovis, pastured the Merino sheep which he brought into the country. He loved his gardening, and was active for the public good, serving as secretary of the county Agricultural Society, and also of the Otsego County Bible Society. In the full flush of youth and its pleasures there were the pleasant diversions of driving, riding, and rowing. So lived flute-playing Cooper, brave and handsome, at twenty-five.

[Illustration: HON. CALEB HEATHCOTE.]

[Illustration: FRAUNCES TAVERN.]

[Illustration: BURN’S COFFEE HOUSE.]

[Illustration: HEATHCOTE HILL.]

[Illustration: TANDEM.]


Cooper’s mother was then living with her older sons at Otsego Hall, and it is recorded that “she took great delight in flowers, and the end of the long hall was like a green-house, in her time”; that “she was a great reader of romances; a marvelous housekeeper, and beautifully nice and neat in her arrangements: her flower-garden at the south of the house was considered something wonderful in variety of flowers.” Between her Old-Hall home and the families of her children,–Richard’s on “Apple Hill,” Isaac’s at “Edgewater,” Nancy’s at the “Old Stone House,” and James’s at “Fenimore,”–these years were full of charm and interest for them all, which later became sweet and enduring memories. Sadness crept in, through the loss of James’s daughter Elizabeth; but two more came to lift this shadow in the Fenimore home.

In 1817 Cooper and his young family started for a few month’s visit to Heathcote Hill, and later in this year he lost his mother. As the stone house, then building at Fenimore, burned down in 1823, the land was sold later, and the few months’ expected absence grew into seventeen years. Perhaps it was this thread of loss added to his wife’s wishes that led Cooper to build a country home on the Scarsdale farm,–a portion of the de Lancey estate, which came to Mrs. Cooper after her marriage. Here he built the picturesque home in which his literary career began. “Nothing that Cooper knew remains excepting the superb land and water view,” which drew him to place this home of his there, and he has pictured mile upon mile of the shimmering, sail-dotted Sound in scenes of his “Water Witch.” It is of record that the windows of the room in which he wrote “Precaution,” “The Spy,” and “The Pioneers” overlooked this enchanting vista which then and later claimed place in his books. It was four miles from Mamaroneck and some twenty-five from New York City. The height on which the new house stood was called Angevine, from a former Huguenot tenant. It gave a glorious view over miles of fine wooded country, with a broad reach of Long Island Sound beyond, over which were moving white, glittering sails “a sailor’s eye loves to follow.” Of active habits and vigorous health, Cooper threw himself with almost boyish eagerness into the improvement and beautifying of this homestead,–planning the barn, building the then new zigzag, ha-ha fence, watching the growth of shrubs and trees that he had transplanted, and with cheering talk lightening the labors of his workmen.




“In 1818 Cooper was made paymaster, and in the next year quartermaster in the Fourth Division of Infantry, New York State Militia. As Governor Clinton’s aid, in blue and buff uniform, cocked hat, and sword, and title of colonel, he would go to reviews on his favorite horse, ‘Bull-head.'”

At that time each village on the Sound had its sloop which carried the farmer’s produce thrice a week through the perils of Hell Gate to Fulton market, and brought back tea, sugar, cloth, calicoes, and silks, and, perchance, some volume fresh from the London press,–a bit of Byron’s brilliance, a romance from the unknown author of “Waverley,” one of Miss Edgeworth’s charming tales, or the more serious religious work of Wilberforce–which had “arrived by packet-ship from England”–the next day’s papers would announce. Lucky was thought the household that could first cut the pages of the new print.

Reading, which always enters so naturally into country life, made pleasant their evening hours and rainy days at Angevine. Mr. Cooper was a fine reader. His voice was deep, clear, and expressive, and during those quiet country evenings he often read aloud to one “who listened with affectionate interest through a long life,” and he read to her with special pleasure. For Shakespeare he was always ready. Pope, Thompson, and Gray were also in favor, but not more than a page or two at a time of Milton. He thought that Shakespeare should have written “Paradise Lost.” “He took the greatest delight in the ‘Waverley’ novels, and never doubted they were written by Walter Scott, the poet. On one occasion a new novel chanced to lie on the table and he was asked to read it. The title and look of the book were not to his taste; he opened it, however, and began. Suddenly, after reading through a few pages, it was thrown aside in disgust: ‘I can write a better book than that myself!’ was his exclamation.” Mrs. Cooper laughed at the absurd idea that he, who disliked writing even a letter, should write a book, and playfully challenged him to make good his word; and when urged to begin, he at once outlined a tale of English high-life. As the story grew, the writer became interested, and before long the first pages of Cooper’s first book, “Precaution, or Prevention is Better than Cure,” were written. When finished, much to his amazement, Mrs. Cooper further urged him to publish it; so, with the manuscript, they set out in their gig to seek counsel of the Jays at Bedford, and other friends, who approved. “One lady, not in the secret, felt sure she had read it before.” It was published, without the author’s name, August 25, 1820, and was credited to an English woman. A.T. Goodrich, the publisher, surprised the public by declaring it the work of an American gentleman of New York. It was soon republished in England, and claimed the attention usually accorded that style of book in its day. Whatever of its worth, the work had awakened Cooper’s powers; and its modest success in a field new to him led his friends to urge him to write on subjects that were in near touch with his daily life. None knew better than he the frontier and sea-faring life of his own and earlier times. So, then, for home-country subjects, and thinking it would be his last attempt, he exclaimed, “I will write another book!” and soon decided on patriotism as its _motif_. At this period many were the visits to Judge Jay’s Westchester home at Bedford. The house, part of wood and part of stone, had a spacious, comfortable piazza along its front. The interior had more of cheerfulness than of elegance, but a great air of abundance, and was a peaceful shelter for the waning days of that eminent statesman and patriot. Of this household Cooper wrote later: “I scarcely remember to have mingled with any family where there was a more happy union of quiet decorum and high courtesy than I met with beneath the roof of Mr. Jay.” To no place more fitting than his wistaria-covered library could Cooper have gone for patriotic inspiration. The venerable Judge, as he smoked his long clay pipe, used to delight in telling anecdotes of the Revolution, “the truth of which,” he said, “never had been and never would be written.”

[Illustration: JUDGE JOHN JAY.]

[Illustration: BEDFORD HOUSE.]


One summer afternoon, while sitting on his broad piazza under the lindens, Cooper, with others, listened to the Judge’s recital of the story of a spy’s great struggles and unselfish loyalty while serving his country in the American Revolution, and the story gave Cooper an idea for his “Harvey Birch.” The fact that strolling peddlers, staff in hand and pack on back, were common visitors then at country houses, became another aid. “It was after such a visit of a Yankee peddler of the old sort, to the cottage at Angevine, that Harvey’s lot in life was decided–he was to be a spy and a peddler.” It was something to the author’s after regret that he drew the dignity of George Washington into the “Harper” of this story.

[Illustration: HARVEY BIRCH’S CAVE.]

“The entire country between the Americans on the skirts of the Highlands and the British on Manhattan–or ‘the Neutral Ground’–suffered more in harried skirmishes, pillage, violence, fire, and the taking of life itself, than any of its extent during this strife.” Scarsdale and Mamaroneck were in this region, with White Plains close by. Fort Washington was on a near height, and Dobb’s Ferry a few miles off. “The Coopers’ daily drive from Angevine discovered a pretty thicket, some swampy land, and a cave in which to hide the loyal, to be fed by friendly hands at night until escape was possible. There were also at hand the gloomy horrors of a haunted wood where gliding ghosts fought midnight battles”–all of this the farmers _knew_ and could tell of, too. One of them, “Uncle John,” lived just below the home hill in a wee cot of four walls, each of a different color–red, yellow, brown, and white. He frequently came up the Angevine-home hill to tell, between his apples, nuts, and glasses of cider, tales of what he, too, _knew_, to a good listener,–the master of the house. Then there was “Major Brom B., a hero of the great war, with his twenty-seven martial spirits, all uniformed in silver gray, his negro Bonny and his gun, ‘the Bucanneer,’ had not its fellow on the continent.” These were all aids, and sources of unfailing interest about the many Westchester chimney firesides of that day. In his “Literary Haunts and Homes,” Dr. Theodore F. Wolfe tells of a fine, old-time home, beyond the valley below Cooper’s Angevine farm, where he placed many an exciting scene of this coming tale. In 1899 Dr. Wolfe notes the house as changed, only by a piazza across its front, from the days when Cooper knew it well, and that it was pleasantly shaded by many of the fine, tall trees that gave it the name of “The Locusts,” which it kept in his story as the home of the Whartons. The descendants of the family he used to visit still live there, and one of them showed Dr. Wolfe all that was left of “The Four Corners,” Betty Flanigan’s hotel, whence Harvey Birch, Cooper’s hero, escaped in Betty’s petticoats. Cooper made these familiar scenes of southern New York the background of his second book, “The Spy, a Tale of the Neutral Ground,” which also was published, without the author’s name, December 22, 1821. Its success called for a new edition the following March, and its translation into many foreign tongues. Of Cooper’s “Betty Flanigan” Miss Edgeworth declared, “An Irish pen could not have drawn her better.” Except Irving’s “Sketch Book,” his “Knickerbocker’s History of New York,” and Bryant’s thin volume of eight poems, there were few books by native writers when “The Spy” appeared; and “then it was that the new world awakened to the surprising discovery of her first _American_ novelist. The glory that Cooper justly won was reflected on his country, of whose literary independence he was the pioneer. ‘The Spy’ had the charm of reality; it tasted of the soil.” While the American press was slow to admit the merit of “The Spy,” a cordial welcome was given the book in “The Port Folio.” It was written by Mrs. Sarah Hall, mother of the editor, and author of “Conversations on the Bible.” This act of timely kindness Cooper never forgot. June 30, 1822, Washington Irving, from London, wrote Mr. John E. Hall, the editor: “‘The Spy’ is extremely well spoken of by the best circles,–not a bit better than it deserves, for it does the author great credit.”



[Illustration: ENOCH CROSBY.]

In 1826, when “The Spy” was before the footlights in Lafayette Theatre, on Broadway, near Canal Street, Enoch Crosby, the supposed original spy, appeared in a box with friends, and “was given thunders of applause.” From “Portraits of Cooper’s Heroines,” by the Rev. Ralph Birdsall of Cooperstown, is gleaned: On the walls of the Newport home of the Rev. John Cornell hang two old portraits that have close connection with the inner history of “The Spy.” To their present owner they came from the New York home of his mother, the late Mrs. Isaac Cornell, and to her they came from the Somerville, New Jersey, home of her father, Mr. Richard Bancker Duyckinck, who in his turn received them from his aunt, Mrs. Peter Jay,–the subject of one of these portraits and at one time mistress of the Jay mansion at Rye. Over one hundred years ago it was that, from the walls of this rare old home at Rye, Westchester County, the grace of these ladies on canvas caught James Cooper’s thought to use them, by description, in his coming book, “The Spy.” Chapter XIII describes closely the personal appearance and style of dress of these portraits. “Jeanette Peyton,” the maiden aunt of Cooper’s story, owes her mature charm to the portrait of Mary Duyckinck, wife of Peter Jay. From the “cap of exquisite lawn and lace,” her gown of rich silk, short