The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper

The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper

The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper

The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper

Excerpt

One might almost say that Mr. H. W. Boynton and Professor R. E. Spiller in James Fenimore Cooper and Fenimore Cooper, Critic of His Times have not merely reinterpreted but even reconstructed Cooper in the general conception of him. This was a reconstruction certainly well founded and greatly needed.

The present work explores a field untouched by those two books, neither repeating what Mr. Boynton and Professor Spiller have performed so much more ably than I could do it, nor, as I see it, necessarily entering into conflict with their essential interpretations. It is offered in the hope merely of extending our knowledge of American literary history in one more interesting direction. It tells the neglected story of Cooper's association with the Democratic party, and of revenges taken upon the novelist by the offended Whigs, revenges which later generations have misinterpreted and which, indeed, have persisted in our day so vigorously as to have produced just those misunderstandings which caused the crying need for Mr. Boynton's and Professor Spiller's books. It adds some further facts and further interpretations.

The list of sources at the end of this book records the names of libraries which have contributed help to me, and to all of them I feel deeply indebted. The Morgan Library and the Library of the New York Historical Society were especially kind. The Yale University Library has been both generous and long-suffering in its assistance, especially in trusting me in the use of the Cooper collection. All who have studied at Yale admire the Yale Library for its liberal policies and its union of human qualities with efficiency, and I have many particular reasons for sharing the general gratitude. Yale would not be Yale without Miss Emily Hall, and to this book perhaps Miss Hall contributed as much as the Cooper collection.

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