صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

independent of Great Britain, they began to think One or two unsuccessful imitations of “The for themselves in literature as well as in poli. Foresters,” followed soon afterwards; but no tics; and writers on various subjects began to novelist appeared until 1798, when Charles Brockmake their appearance, and rapidly to increase in den Brown published "Wieland,” which noble numbers, dignifying and elevating their pursuit, composition gave the author a title to rank among by the extent, variety, and boldness of their pro- the most popular writers of fiction of his time. ductions, and by the genius and learning they dis- This was succeeded by Arthur Mervyn, Edgar played. But not until about the year seventeen Huntly, Clara Howard, and others, which added hundred and ninety, could American literature to the fame of the writer. These novels are chabe properly classed, or authors be designated by racterised by a richness of language, wild and names derived from their devotion to one branch brilliant imagery, and in every page betray the of learning. And although at the period we bave poet of nature, and man of genius. Brown was just named, few or no writers followed, to the ex- the pioneer in the wilds of American fiction ; and clusion of other branches of science, or other pro- like all who travel an unbeaten path, had many fessions, any one path of literature, still, with less obstacles to encounter. The novelist of that period difficulty than twenty years before, they admitted was looked upon as little better than an infidel; of classification under respective heads. Thus, in his work was seldom met with in the library of 1790, the United States could boast her historians, the learned, or the boudoir of the rich and refined ; her biographers, her jurists, her theologians, her and a devout abhorrence for works of the imatravellers, her poets, and her novelists; and so gination, was inculcated and considered a good test rapid, since that period, has been her progress in of morality. This prejudice has not yet entirely every field of literature, art and science, that at subsided; and the experience of many readers will this time she holds a proud rank in the world no doubt readily revert to instances of its exhibiof letters, to which, during the last forty years, tion like the following: “A young friend, not a her contributions in the various departments of great while since, on entering his study after his science, have been equalled by no nations except return from church, was struck with the meager England, and perhaps Germany.

appearance of his book-case. On examination, he of the classes of writers abovementioned, the took from it the covers of threescore novels, the acnovelist was the slowest in his advances into pub- cumulation of years, including many of Scott's and lic favor. The severe cast of character of that Cooper's. His pious mother, taking advantage of grave generation, which still retained traces of the his absence, had torn out and burned their godless stern and severely moral tone of feeling derived contents, and replaced the harmless skeletons.” from the early settlers of the colonies, presented The next novelist of importance was Mrs. Fospowerful obstacles to the introduction of a species ter, who, inspired by the popularity of Wieland of literature, whose object was amusement, and and its successors, wrote a lively novel, called which, in the opinion of the sober people of the “ The Boarding School;” but only added another age, was akin to the sorceries of the Moabites and to a numerous species of English novels, adapted Ammonites, and a temptation of the devil. The to the taste of the day. Its success, however, was first American novelist, who had the temerity limited. Shortly afterwards, she published “ The to encounter these puritanic prejudices, was a Coquette," a fiction of the same class and degree of clergyman! the Rev. Dr. Belknap. He was an merit; but many of its incidents having actually accurate scholar, and distinguished for the sound- happened, and several of the characters which were ness of his learning in various departments of drawn with skill and truth, being prominent living science, especially legal jurisprudence, history, individuals, it created a certain kind of artificial and politics, that do not usually invite the atten- excitement, and was read by every hody. This tion of divines. Some of his opinions upon society novel was instrumental in creating a taste for and political government, were of a bold, original fictitious compositions, which was increased by the and dangerous character; and such as he did not publication of “ Charlotte Temple," a captivathink it wise to divulge without some precautions. ting fiction from the pen of Mrs. Rawson. Several He therefore, in imitation of certain French wri- other works by the same graceful writer, afterters, wrote a novel, in which he introduced many wards made their appearance, and were extensivewell-drawn characters, which he made the me- ly read and admired. Many romances, from anonydium of expressing sentiments he deemed it impru- mous authors, and from others whose names were dent to convey to lhe public through a more direct then known, but which fame has not recorded, channel. This novel he entitled "The Forest- were successively published, read and forgotten. ers.” It became very popular, and the reverend The fame of the Great Unknown, and the revonovelist, instead of being, with his book, compared lution in public sentiment in relation to fiction, at with Aaron and the golden calf, tempting men length drew many competitors into the field, both to idolatry, in lieu of pointing them to Heaven, in Great Britain and the United States. The gained by his production, deserved reputation. genius of Sir Walter Scott seemed to have enkindled a hundred minds. Among the numerous | The judgment proved to be favorable, and the candidates for norelistic honors in America, the shelves of the publishers, which had remained ungentleman whose name has given title to this invaded until this crisis, were now rapidly cleared paper, was destined to stand forth the most dis- of a work, the merits of which had been first seen tinguished. Mr. Cooper is a native of Burling- and appreciated in a foreign land. Verily, “a proton, in the state of New-Jersey. He was educated phet hath no honor in his own country.” at Yale College, and subsequently became a mid- In 1823, Mr. Cooper sent forth his third work, shipman in the navy, in which situation he acqui- "The Pioneers,” the principal scenes of which are red that nautical knowledge to which his country- laid in the American wilderness. Taught by this men are indebted for the “ Pilot,” the “Red Ro- time how to estimate their novelist, the American ver," and the “Water Witch.” At the close of press received this production more favorably, but the last war, he left the service, which after the still held back the full meed of praise, until they peace, presented no attractions to an active and could hear from the other side of the water. ardent mind, and returned to the family mansion It is not the object of the writer to discuss the of his father, Judge Cooper, then residing in New merits of these novels, but to offer a brief notice York, in the vicinity of Otsego Lake—the roman of them and their author. The“ Pilot,” the scenes tic scenery of which the novelist has described of which are laid on the coast of England, in the in “The Pioneer,” with the pen of a poet and revolutionary war, and the hero of which, who also naturalist. Retirement, to an imaginative mind, gives the title to the work, is John Paul Jones, is the parent of invention; invention pants for was published in the year 1824, and forthwith expression; the pen is at once seized as the me- became popular. The time embraced by the dium, and the hermit is converted into the author. whole book, excepting the last chapter, is less The genius of Cooper soon caught inspiration from than seventy-two hours. It is undoubtedly one of the objects by which he was surrounded, and as the best, as it certainly is the most finished, of the result of his seclusion, he produced a work of Mr. Cooper's fictions. “Lionel Lincoln” soon fiction, entitled“ Precaution.” Although this novel followed “The Pilot,” in 1825; and its popularity possesses distinguished merit, and is surpassed by was unprecedented. The scenes of this romance but two or three of Mr. Conper's later produc- are laid in Boston during its occupation by the tions, it was received with indifference by the British troops, at the beginning of the revolutionAmerican public; for Waverley and Guy Man- ary struggle. It is second, in point of merit, to nering, at this period, had created, or rather con- others by the same author, but yields to none of firmed the taste for English literature of this class, them in interest. It was this production that and a corresponding contempt for domestic talent. created in Boston and throughout New-England, " Precaution” was not only neglected, but so se- a popularity for Mr. Cooper's works, at one period verely criticised, that the author, if he had looked so great, as to become among novel readers, almost for fame to bis countrymen, would never have a mania.

But the British press, with that In 1826, Mr. Cooper sent out from his prolific justice, dignity and candor, which has almost uni- pen, another annual ;—for his appearance was now versally characterised it, in relation to American marked with the regularity of the seasons; and a literature, taught the Americans to appreciate his new novel, yearly, from the "author of the Spy," genins. The English critics .praised his book; as he was designated, had got to be as much a his countrymen re-echoed their opinions, and read matter of course, as the annual message from the and praised it also: for now that it was properly president. This, his sixth romance, is entitled endorsed, there could be no error. To the justice “ The Last of the Mohicans,” and is assimilated, and good sense of the English press, which may in the peculiarities of its principal scenes and chaclaim the distinction of giving America her most racters, to" The Pioneers,” both of which fictions celebrated novelist, Mr. Cooper is also indebted to may, with propriety, be denominated in contradisthe ultimate success of his second novel, “The tinction to “ Nautical,”—“ Indian novels:” their Spy," a revolutionary tale, which the encourage- prominent features being the portraiture of Indian ment of the British press induced him to publish, manners and customs, the peculiarities of which although not until some time afterward, in the are exhibited in the habitudes of certain aboriginal year 1822. This production now ranks one of characters therein introduced. In painting Indian the first of the Cooperian novels; yet, on its first scenes of still life, or in delineating the warrior appearance, as it had not passed the ordeal of the and hunter, the battle or the chase, our novelist, English press, which at that time governed the as he is the first who seized upon subjects so full literary taste of the American public, as absolute- of interest for the romancer, so is he alone and ly as ever the ministry governed the American unrivalled in this branch of his art. The forest, colonies, it was received with doubt and hesitation. ocean, and camp, constitute the legitimate empire No man ventured an opinion; all eyes were di- of Mr. Cooper's genius. At his bidding the savrected towards England, awaiting her decision. age warrior, the fearless seaman, the gallant sol

resumed his pen.

dier, move, speak and act with wonderful reality. I with which they are invested, when exhibited to But in the streets of a city; in the green fields ; the reader through their seductive pages. The in the parlor or in the bower, he is not so entirely novelty of the subjects and characters on which at bome; and the details of rural and domestic life, Sir Walter Scott exercised his pen, contributed are apparently unsuited to the character of his essentially, not only to the popularity of his novels genius. His mind is deeply imbued with love for in England, but especially in America. Here, the stern and the sublime: as a poet, he doubtless we knew but little or nothing of highlanders would have written very much like Campbell. from observation; and our imaginations exaggera

In 1827, Mr. Cooper published his seventh ro- ting what little knowledge we did possess through mance, entitled “The Prairie,"- -a fiction of the distorted and imported traditions, prepared us for same species of the Pioneers, and by judicious the reception of romances (such as Scott's earlier critics esteemed one of the best from his pen. novels,) professing to portray the more romantic The "author of the Spy” bad now attained to that features of their manners and habits. Aside from degree of popularity, when, at length, an author's their intrinsic merit, the novels of Cooper, also, productions are received unquestioned, read with from causes similar to these, became universally out criticism, and have become a part of the cur- popular in England. An Englishman who has rent literature of the age. The words “By the never visited America, has peculiar ideas of that author of the Spy," on the title page of a novel, terra incognita, an American forest, and of its was now sufficient for its introduction, unread, not aboriginal inhabitants. His imagination invests only into the boudoir, but into the libraries of men both with a sort of oriental interest, of which an of taste and learning. Having successfully over- American cannot well conceive. This can be come the rapids, quicksands and whirlpools which readily referred to that “distance which lends obstructed bis onset, Mr. Cooper had now only to enchantment to the view," and that leads us, this spread his sail, recline at ease in his bark, and, side of the Atlantic, to view all connected with wafted by the breezes of popular favor, glide England through a singularly false medium; an peacefully over the placid sea of literary fame. illusion, which, by merely substituting the telesco

The popularity of the Prairie was unprece- pic for the microscopic distance, it has been proven dented by any previous works from the same pen. may easily be dispelled. Mr. Cooper, therefore, 60 At this period, the English language presented the far as the English public were concerned, had his remarkable feature of two of its writers, natives work half done to his bands; and his pictures of laof different lands, engrossing the whole field of dian character and western life and adventure, were romance, controlling the public taste, and each received in Great Britain with unbounded enthufounding at the same time, in opposite hemispheres, siasm : race-horses and club-boats were named an immortal school of fiction. Scott opened the after his novels; pretty villas were christened with treasures of the highlands, and scattered their half a dozen Indian monosyllables, and savage inexhaustible stores throughout Christendom : and warriors in full costume stalked among masqueby the power of his unaided genius, he has thrown raders in the halls of mirth and fashion. a classic interest orer the hills, glens, towers and In 1828, the " Red Rover” made its appearance, lakes of his native country, as imperishable as and won for the author fresh laurels, both from his the charm which the epic poets of Rome and countrymen and Europeans. His works had not Greece bave thrown around their lands. Cooper only reached Great Britain, but previous to this unfolded the mysteries of the pathless wilderness, time had drawn the attention of Germany and snatched its native lords from the oblivion into France, into the languages of which nations they which they were sinking, and bade them live, were translated, and received with a popularity before the eyes of the admiring world, in all the rivalling that which they had met with in Engpoetry and romance of their characters. The land and the United States. Perhaps no novel has magic of his pen has invested the forest with an been more extensively read by all classes of sointerest such as genius can alone create. He has ciety, then this last mentioned production. The so portrayed the character of a primitive people, whole of this year, with the exception of a few who were men until the contact of civilization weeks spent in England, was passed by Mr. made them brutes, that, when they shall at length Cooper in France, Belgium and Holland. The live only in the page of history, it is alone through year 1829, which he also spent on the continent, the inspired pen of the novelist, that future ages was marked in his literary history by the publicawill most delight to contemplate their character. tion of two works—“The Notes of a Travelling Both Scott and Cooper have thrown an exag- Bachelor," and the “ Wept of the Wish-Tongerated poetic interest around the characters they Wish.” Neither of these productions materially most loved to draw; and the rude highlander of increased his popularity as a writer. The first was the Scottish hills, and the savage of the American not a fiction. Mr. Cooper had been so long treating wilds, are, perhaps, equally indebted to the ima- his friends to an annual hamper of champaign, that gination of the novelist for the peculiar charms they would not put up with healthy cider, though bearing the same brand. He had created and only knightly lovers sighing at their feet, or breakfostered a taste for fictitious compositions, and he ing lances and heads to attest their devotion. Solely could not complain. The young ladies pouted their by his genius and industry, he had laid the foundapretty lips from vexation, and would not read it tion for a school of romance as original, as extenfrom sheer spite. The young gentlemen took sive, and destined to be as perpetual as that instiit up cavalierly, and determined to read and abuse tuted in another land by the author of Waverley. it out of revenge. The “Travelling Bachelor" In quitting a field where he reigned without a was read, nevertheless, with approbation by a rival, to adventure on unfamiliar ground, evinced, large class of readers, whom his novels had not at least, temerity; and, if it did not endanger the reached. It proved to be a work displaying the fame he had already won in many a tilt, it at least finest powers of the novelist, and although of a promised no adequate honors to one who had aldifferent character from his former productions, ready plucked unfading laurels. The “ Bravo," well worthy to rank among them, and advance however, attested on every page, the legitimacy of undisputed claims to a high place in the branch of its authorship—the genius of Cooper pervaded the literature to which it belongs. “The Wept of the whole. There were two causes, however, which Wish-Ton-Wish,” an Indian tale, or novel, pub- militated against its unmixed popularity, in Englished soon afterwards in the same year, was far land and in America; although in Italy, France from obtaining the popularity of its predecessors. and Germany, it was preeminently successful. The In 1830, Mr. Cooper omitted sending forth his English palate was sated with continental producannual fiction. This year, also, he passed on the tions from English pens, in every possible shape. continent, during which period, we believe, he was The Bravo was regarded as only another of this acting as our consul at Lyons. In 1831, he pub- genus, although coming from a source which enlished the “Water Witch,” a nautical novel. It forced its favorable reception. It is not, however, redeemed the doubtful success of “ The Wept of here to be understood, that the Bravo was an poputhe Wish-Ton-Wish," which, to pursue a figure lar in England; viewed with some of its contembefore adopted, cast a brief shadow, as if from a poraries, it was only comparatively so. Its receppassing cloud, upon the bright waters over which tion was infinitely more flattering than that which his bark bad hitherto been prosperously careering. usually attended the best continental novels of the The apparent resemblance, which, in treating simi- sanie class. In the United States it was not well lar themes could not be avoided, without too mani- received, although the causes just advanced, could fest artifice, between this work and the “Red not, in this country, affect it. The objection, a Rover,” caused some severe and not always just somewhat invidious one, was, that it was a foreign criticisms from the press, on its first appearance; work; and, many thought, with equal jealousy, but this did not affect its popularity, which even- that Mr. Cooper should have exhausted Ameritually equalled, if it did not surpass, that acquired can subjects before he resorted to the hackneyed by the production with which it was compared. themes of Italian story. There may, perhaps, be The Water Witch was not only dramatised and some foundation in a wholesome national pride for successfully performed on the American boards, these prejudices. They materially affected his but, also, many of the previous novels by the same popularity in the United States, although his fame author, received this testimony of popularity. was too firmly established to be sensibly moved by

In 1832, Mr. Cooper was still residing in Eu-it. It has been accurately remarked by Sir Walrope, where he had been since 1828, touring ter Scott, that the reputation of an author is neither through England, Belgium, Germany, France gained nor lost by a single production. and Italy. As the fruit, no doubt, of a some-time In 1833, “ The Heidenmauer" (heathen-wall) sojourn in Venice, he gave to the world this year, or “The Benedictines,” followed the Bravo. The his twelfth book and eleventh novel, “The Bravo scenes of this fiction are likewise laid in Europe. of Venice.” This was the first time Mr. Cooper This work, also, had to contend with the prejuhad placed the scenes of his fictions in other than dices abovementioned. It was moreover written his native land. Up to this period he had been with somewhat less vigor and beauty of style, emphatically a native novelist. He had explored than characterised the former works by the same the empire of American fiction, before untrodden, author. His spirit seemed to languish beneath and proved to the world that Europe was not alone a foreign sky, and labor and art to have sucthe land of story. He had shown ihat ivied walls, ceeded the freshness of inspiration. A comparitime-worn castles and gloomy dungeons, were not son of his two last works with the Prairie and necessary to make a land a land of romance; that Red Rover, showed clearly that America was the war of the revolution rivalled, in romantic inte- the empire, as well as the birthplace, of Mr. rest, the wars of the crusades; that the Indian war- Cooper's genius. rior equally with the turbaned Saracen, was the The thirteenth novel of the “Author of the theme of the romancer; and that heroes need not Spy,” and his fourteenth work, was published always to be clad in iron mail, nor heroines have in 1834. It is entitled “ The Headsman of Berne.”

VOL. IV,-48

With the Water Witch, Mr. Cooper appears what reserved, but his address is courteous and to have bidden adieu to the American soil as pleasing. He is at present a resident of New a novelist, and to have left the field to the nu-| York, and will doubtless yield to the renewed merous aspirants for his fame, who now began inspiration of the native American muse, and to occupy the arena. The scenes of this norel are entwine bimself for many succeeding years around laid in Switzerland. Its appearance revived in a our hearts; for we are reluctant to believe, that measure the waning popularity of its author in he has yet filled up the measure of his country's the United States, although his countrymen were honor. not pleased that their most distinguished novelist should expatriate both himself and his novels. The Headsman is marked with all the beauties of Mr. Cooper's best and most popular compositions.

A REVERIE. We believe it was previous to the publication of this romance, that the author received the appoint

A summer morning! How the balmy air

Comes blandly through the blind! The fragrancy ment of Charge d'Affaires for the United States at Paris. “The Monikins,” Mr. Cooper's four- Is borne upon its wings, and it hath stirred

Of myriad flowers and fields of budding grain, teenth and last novel, followed the Headsman. It The leaves of yonder tree whose shade I love. bore few traces of our author's manner, and was Is it their rustling, or the murmured hum limited in its popularity.

Of tiny wings, sporting upon the rays In 1835, some political strictures appeared from of the warm sun, which bids the ear to mark, the pen of Mr. Cooper, that were roughly handled But not to weary, of the silentness ? by the American press. In 1836, two series of It whispers peace ; it hints of melody, “Sketches of Switzerland, by an American,” As when the memory of a favorite air and in 1837, “England, by an American,” and Dwells in the soul, its tones, its cadences, “Gleanings in Europe,” were given to the pub- All save its soothing harmony, forgot. lic from the press of Carey & Lea, who have uni- In such an hour-so still, and yet not dull, formly, we believe, been Mr. Cooper's publishers. So resonant of life, and yet so calmThese works, completing his nineteenth and last How am I prone to think upon her love book, and being his thirty-eighth volume, produced Whose spirit's elements are the radiancy, in the space of nineteen years, bear testimony that the loveliness and freshness of the morn; the pen of the novelist has parted with no modi- And from my weariness lured a little way, cum of the strength and beauty of style, with By the mild beauty of the Sabbath time, which he has clothed his description of American To yield my soul to fond imaginings. scenery in the pages of the Spy, Prairie and Pio

Hark! from the shadows of that leafy grove, Mr. Cooper has suppressed many portions Tones of exulting music, half subdued of the original manuscript of the Sketches of By distance, rouse my lately listless ear. Switzerland, for reasons which he has slightly Sweet songster, born of a mysterious race ! touched upon in his preface. These volumes do How oft upon thy fellows have I gazed, not relate exclusively to Switzerland: France, And as I marked the bright intelligent eye, Germany, Italy and Holland, are included in the Turned up to mine as if 'twould read my thought, observations of the writer. The first volume Or saw one hover round my lonely path, opens at Paris in 1828, and leaves the author at Now perching here, and then a little on,

As if to lure me to his secret haunt, Milan. The second volume also begins at Paris, and the reflections of the writer embrace some of He sought communion with me. Who hath heard

Deep in the verdurous wilderness, have deemed the countries above-named. We are particularly Their song more eloquent than simple speech, struck with the boldness and truth of Mr. Cooper's And while his sympathies answered joy for joy, caustic remarks in his volumes on England, in re- And pensiveness for sadness, hath not wished lation to Americans at home and abroad. He has To know each incident of the tale, thus told herein shown himself an able, impartial and fear- To the far wandering, ne'er returning winds, less censor of the foibles and faults of his country- Or, haply to a fellow? Who hath seen men. These last works have been favorably re- Their air-borne flights, now piercing through the clouds, ceived, although the bold attitude the writer has Now sweeping down to earth, now skimming o'er assumed, has elicited severe and often merited The unruffled surface of the mirror lake ; criticism. Mr. Cooper is now in his fiftieth year; was on the maple leaf, by some old wood,

Or who hath watched, ere yet the hectic flush his figure rather above the usual height, robust, When in their companies they disappeared and slightly inclined to portliness. His forehead In ether's mazes, and when half a year is massive, and of an intellectual shape, and his Had passed, beheld them to their ancient nests, eyes lively and expressive, denoting a thinking Greeting the earliest blossoms of the Spring, man and a close observer. His appearance is All pilotless returned, and marvelled not commanding. His manners are perhaps some- If more than instinct did not shape their flights ?


« السابقةمتابعة »