The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea, by James Fenimore Cooper

Preface.

The plan of this tale suggested itself to the writer many years since, though the details are altogether of recent invention. The idea of associating seamen and savages in incidents that might be supposed characteristic of the Great Lakes having been mentioned to a Publisher, the latter obtained something like a pledge from the Author to carry out the design at some future day, which pledge is now tardily and imperfectly redeemed.

The reader may recognize an old friend under new circumstances in the principal character of this legend. If the exhibition made of this old acquaintance, in the novel circumstances in which he now appears, should be found not to lessen his favor with the Public, it will be a source of extreme gratification to the writer, since he has an interest in the individual in question that falls little short of reality. It is not an easy task, however, to introduce the same character in four separate works, and to maintain the peculiarities that are indispensable to identity, without incurring a risk of fatiguing the reader with sameness; and the present experiment has been so long delayed quite as much from doubts of its success as from any other cause. In this, as in every other undertaking, it must be the “end” that will “crown the work.”

The Indian character has so little variety, that it has been my object to avoid dwelling on it too much on the present occasion; its association with the sailor, too, it is feared, will be found to have more novelty than interest.

It may strike the novice as an anachronism to place vessels on the Ontario in the middle of the eighteenth century; but in this particular facts will fully bear out all the license of the fiction. Although the precise vessels mentioned in these pages may never have existed on that water or anywhere else, others so nearly resembling them are known to have navigated that inland sea, even at a period much earlier than the one just mentioned, as to form a sufficient authority for their introduction into a work of fiction. It is a fact not generally remembered, however well known it may be, that there are isolated spots along the line of the great lakes that date as settlements as far back as many of the older American towns, and which were the seats of a species of civilization long before the greater portion of even the older States was rescued from the wilderness.

Ontario in our own times has been the scene of important naval evolutions. Fleets have manoeuvered on those waters, which, half a century ago, were as deserted as waters well can be; and the day is not distant when the whole of that vast range of lakes will become the seat of empire, and fraught with all the interests of human society. A passing glimpse, even though it be in a work of fiction, of what that vast region so lately was, may help to make up the sum of knowledge by which alone a just appreciation can be formed of the wonderful means by which Providence is clearing the way for the advancement of civilization across the whole American continent.

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:40