James Fenimore Cooper: The Critical Heritage

By George Dekker; John P. Williams | Go to book overview

Preface

This volume in the Critical Heritage Series brings together the most important nineteenth-century critical discussions of James Fenimore Cooper. It consists of a lengthy Introduction followed by a selection of ‘representative’ reviews which, though often of little intrinsic value as literary criticism, reveal the literary values of Cooper’s century and are essential documents for the study of Cooper’s literary reputation. Our Introduction begins with a detailed survey of Cooper’s critical reception by his American contemporaries, then briefly summarizes what is known about his contemporary reception in Europe, and concludes with an extended discussion of the criticisms he received from such major writers as Melville, Conrad, Goethe, Balzac and Belinsky. Although the editors are jointly responsible for this volume and collaborated closely in its preparation, the first and third sections of the Introduction can be regarded as independent essays—the former written by Mr McWilliams, the latter by Mr Dekker. These sections, together with the Appendix listing American reviews, offer something new in the way of interpretation and information; for the rest, we claim originality only in so far as our selections include a number of interesting yet virtually unknown pieces of nineteenth-century criticism.

For advice about the Russian response to Cooper we are especially grateful to Mr M. A. Nicholson of the University of Essex. For financial and secretarial assistance in preparing this edition, we are indebted to the University of Essex and the University of California at Berkeley.

-xi-

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