James Fenimore Cooper: The Critical Heritage

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

21.

Leigh Hunt reviews Cooper

1831

Hunt lacks the verbal and intellectual force which Hazlitt and Thackeray bring to their reviews of Cooper, but his Liberal political bias makes him a sympathetic and in some ways perceptive reader of Cooper’s earlier novels. See Introduction, p. 38.

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), English essayist and poet, edited various liberal literary magazines, befriended Byron and Shelley, and became a poetic mentor of John Keats between 1816 and 1818.


(a) Extract from Hunt’s review of The Pilot, Tatler, ii (7 April 1831), 737.

We know enough of the sea, and of the dangers of it, to take more than an ordinary interest in the most celebrated passage of this novel: and we have read few things that have left upon us a more lasting impression. We do not like the author’s domestic painting so well, though always very clever, and often something higher, with the exception of his minuteness in painting costume, the common error of the followers of Sir Walter Scott, among whom Mr. Cooper undoubtedly ranks the first, with a merit of his own, arising from the same local novelty. Sir Walter’s details of costume are warranted, not only by his masterly mode of treating even those, but by the remoteness and peculiarity of the times and persons with whom they are connected. We cannot feel so much interest in the skirt of a modern coat, or the way in which a gentleman avoids sitting down upon it, even though the gentleman be Washington. Mr. Cooper’s women are proper cold cousins of Sir Walter’s, with the melancholy advantage of impressing you as bearing greater resemblances to the understood character of American ladies, than Sir Walter’s do, to our preconceptions, of the bonnie countrywomen of Burns and Ramsay. They seem like women in glass cases;

-162-

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