James Fenimore Cooper: The Critical Heritage

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

46.

Mark Twain’s classic demolition of Cooper

1895

Mark Twain, ‘Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses’, North American Review, clxi, (July 1895), 1-12.

Cooper was doubtless one of Tom Sawyer’s favourite authors. See Introduction, 36-7, 48.

Mark Twain, pseudonym for Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), made himself into an American comic legend through individual stage performances and through works such as ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog’ (1867), Innocents Abroad (1869) and Tom Sawyer (1876). Considering himself a literary realist, Twain also wrote compelling autobiographical narratives (Roughing It 1872, Life on the Mississippi 1883), as well as the increasingly bitter novels for which he is now most remembered: Huckleberry Finn (1884), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894) and The Mysterious Stranger (1916).

The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer stand at the head of Cooper’s novels as artistic creations. There are others of his works which contain parts as perfect as are to be found in these, and scenes even more thrilling. Not one can be compared with either of them as a finished whole.

The defects in both of these sales are comparatively slight. They were pure works of art. —Prof. Lounsbury.

The five tales reveal an extraordinary fulness of invention.

…One of the very greatest characters in fiction, ‘Natty Bumppo. ’ …

The craft of the woodsman, the tricks of the trapper, all the delicate art of the forest, were familiar to Cooper from his youth up. —Prof. Brander Matthews.

Cooper is the greatest artist in the domain of romantic fiction yet produced by America. —Wilkie Collins.

-276-

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