James Fenimore Cooper

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James Fenimore Cooper
Portrait by John Wesley Jarvis
Portrait by John Wesley Jarvis
Born(1789-09-15)September 15, 1789
Burlington, New Jersey
DiedSeptember 14, 1851(1851-09-14) (aged 61)
Cooperstown, New York
GenreHistorical fiction
Literary movementColonial Realism
Notable worksThe Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper (September 15, 1789 - September 14, 1851) was an American writer. He created the character of Natty Bumpo, the archetypal American frontiersman.

Early life[change | change source]

Cooper was born on September 15, 1789 in Burlington, New Jersey. His father was a United States Congressman. James Fenimore was one year old when his family moved to Cooperstown, New York. The community was started by his father.

Cooper was 13 when he began attending Yale University. He was kicked out for playing pranks. He blew up another student's door. He also taught a donkey to sit in a professor's chair.

Naval career and marriage[change | change source]

Cooper got a job as a seaman on a merchant ship. He joined the United States Navy at age 18. He became a midshipman, but left the Navy in 1811.

Cooper married Susan DeLancey when he was 21. They had seven children. Five lived to be adults. The first-born survivor, Susan Fenimore Cooper, became a writer and naturalist.

Writing career[change | change source]

Precaution was Cooper's first book. It was published anonymously in 1820. In 1823, he published The Pioneers. This book was the first of the Leatherstocking novels. These stories became famous for the fictional character of an American woodsman called Natty Bumppo. Cooper's most famous novel Last of the Mohicans was published in 1826. It became one of the most widely read American novels of the 19th century.

In 1826, Cooper moved his family to Europe. He wanted to make more money as an author. He also wanted to give his children a better education. He continued to write. His books published in Paris include The Red Rover and The Water Witch. These were novels about the sea. His books began taking a political angle. These books are forgotten today. He returned to the United States in 1833.

Last years[change | change source]

Cooper moved back to his ancestral home Otsego Hall in Cooperstown. His writing continued in a political vein. His readers did not like this. He returned to fiction books with The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer. These books continued the story of Natty Bumppo. Cooper spent his last years in Cooperstown. He died on September 14, 1851.

Leatherstocking novels[change | change source]

Excursion in Italy, 1838

Gallery[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]

  • Works by or about James Fenimore Cooper at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
  • Works by James Fenimore Cooper at Project Gutenberg (multiple formats)
  • Works by or about James Fenimore Cooper in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • James Fenimore Cooper at Open Library
  • James Fenimore Cooper Society Homepage Archived 2015-09-06 at the Wayback Machine
  • James Fenimore Cooper on IMDb
  • The Cambridge History of American Literature, Book II, Chapter VI, Fiction I: Brown, Cooper
  • "James Fenimore Cooper". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
  • James Fenimore Cooper Society Website
  • Essay on Fenimore Cooper: Works in biographical/historical context Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  • Thomas R. Lounsbury: James Fenimore Cooper Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine. 6th Edition. Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886 (American Men of Letters). PDF from the Arno Schmidt Reference Library Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  • James Fenimore Cooper Archived 2012-03-04 at the Wayback Machine at C-SPAN's American Writers: A Journey Through History