James Fenimore Cooper, 1789-1851

Biographical note

Novelist, born at Burlington, New Jersey, and educated at Yale College, he in 1808 entered the U.S. Navy, in which he remained for 3 years, an experience which was of immense future value to him as an author. It was not until 1821 that his first novel, Precaution, appeared. Its want of success did not discourage him, and in the next year (1822), he produced The Spy, which at once gained him a high place as a story-teller. He wrote over 30 novels, of which may be mentioned The Pioneers (1823), The Pilot (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1826), The Red Rover (1831), The Bravo (1840), The Pathfinder, The Deerslayer (1841), The Two Admirals (1842), and Satanstoe (1845). He also wrote a Naval History of the United States (1839).

Cooper was possessed of remarkable narrative and descriptive powers, and could occasionally delineate character. He had the merit of opening up an entirely new field, and giving expression to the spirit of the New World, but his true range was limited, and he sometimes showed a lack of judgment in choosing subjects with which he was not fitted to deal. He was a proud and combative but honest and estimable man.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]



Short stories



  • Notions of the Americans: Picked up by a Travelling Bachelor [1828]
  • Letter to General Lafayette [1830]
  • A Letter to His Countrymen [1834]
  • The Eclipse [1836]
  • The American Democrat: or Hints on the Social and Civic Relations of the United States of America [1838]
  • The Chronicles of Cooperstown [1838]
  • The History of the Navy of the United States of America [1839]
  • Old Ironsides [1839]
  • Ned Myers; or, a Life Before the Mast [1843]
  • Proceedings of the Naval Court-Martial in the Case of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, &c. [1844]
  • Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers [1846]
  • New York: or The Towns of Manhattan [1851]
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