The Neutral Ground: The André Affair and the Background of Cooper's The Spy

The Neutral Ground: The André Affair and the Background of Cooper's The Spy

The Neutral Ground: The André Affair and the Background of Cooper's The Spy

The Neutral Ground: The André Affair and the Background of Cooper's The Spy

Synopsis

Examining Cooper's second novel, The Spy, in new and startling ways, Rosenberg finds that it is the first popular spy novel, making Cooper the father of this genre as well as the Western.

Excerpt

Mabie Tavern, Tappan, New York. This public house was one of the few secure buildings in this small village, the site of Major André's incarceration and trial; nearby, General Washington had established his headquarters, and a sizable force of the Continental Army was encamped there. On the morning of 2 October 1780, Major John André breakfasted at eight on food sent from Washington's mess. After he had finished he was told the hour, but not the mode, of his execution. He is said--by Dr. James Thatcher, Continental Army surgeon, who was there--to have received the news "without emotion" (Andreana 1865, pp 58ff.). Then he carefully, creaselessly, dressed himself in his fresh regimentals, "with as much composure as though he were going to a ball" (Hatch 1986, p. 272). All the others present were "affected with silent gloom" (Andreana 1865, pp. 58ff.). Earlier, his tunic had been brought from New York City along with fresh linens, by Peter Laune, his batman. He was an officer of the Fifty-Fourth, and would proudly proclaim it on that day to all of his surrounding enemies. If he was nervous or fearful there is no record of it. a moment of dramatic and didactic contrast followed: Laune could not remain composed throughout this preliminary drama, and was brusquely rebuked by his superior: "Leave me till you can show yourself more manly" (from Dr. Thatcher journal in Andreana 1865, pp. 58ff.).

Yet if this is high tragedy, these nearly last words do not ring quite true; perhaps tragedy is the wrong genre. For, as . . .

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