Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy birthday, James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper
It is the birthday of writer James Fenimore Cooper (1789), who was among the most popular 19th century American authors. His Romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826) is his most well-known work.

The Last of the Mohicans was the second in a series of five novels focused on the character Natty Bumppo, a white man who grew up among Native Americans and became a fierce warrior. He was a sure shot with his flintlock rifle, living by the rule, "One shot, one kill."

Other books in the series  are The Pioneers (1823), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841). They are known as the Leatherstocking Tales for Bumppo, who was called Leatherstocking by European settlers.

Cooper was admired throughout the world. Among his fans were transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau (who was a student at Harvard when Cooper's books came out), French novelist Honoré de Balzac, and Austrian composer Franz Schubert (who read Cooper's novels on his deathbed.) French novelist Victor Hugo said Cooper was the master of modern romance.

He had his detractors, too, among them Mark Twain, who thought Cooper's characters were shallow and his plotting flawed. Cooper also incurred the wrath of the Whig-leaning press, who attacked his politics and made scurrilous remarks about him. Cooper sued for libel and won.

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