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

By Bruce A. Rosenberg | Go to book overview

12
The Neutral Ground

Many novels, particularly novels of espionage, have a No- Man's-Land, or what Cooper called, following Scott, the Neutral Ground. In such a region one can never be certain of one's friends, and danger lurks everywhere. This danger is all the more lethal because it is hidden, or transformed, or in the guise of friends. Truth is an anomalous concept, and nobody speaks it. The environment is entirely hostile and continually on the verge of violence; yet the inhabitants do not wear uniforms, they have no identifying marks, and their intentions, their loyalties cannot be fathomed. To which side are they really loyal?

As conceived by Cooper, the idea of the Neutral Ground-- or No-Man's-Land--has become almost a fixture among espionage novel formulas. The original idea so identifies a specific land area, as was the region between the warring armies' lines during the Revolution. It is here that Harvey Birchoperates and has his home. His loyalties are known to a very few. Soldiers in the colonists' army think that he is pro- British, and the British are equally suspicious of him. The Whartons, who live in the Neutral Ground, accept him, but only warily.

The wilds are the natural habitat of Harvey Birch; he is most at home there, most at ease in those regions where most mortals fear to tread. Shunning open spaces, meadows, and built-up areas, Birch cannot be located when he is in the woods and uncharted hills. That is where he takes Henry Wharton when trying to evade rebel soldiers: they observe Birch and his charge disappear into the wilds, but cannot find them once they have gone there. Only Birch knows his way around in

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Part One - Major André 1
  • 1 - Hanging is for Spies 3
  • 2 - The Gentleman's Code 9
  • 3 - The Blackest Treason 15
  • 4 - A Gentleman's Education 19
  • 5 - The Arnold Enlistment 27
  • 6 - This is a Spy! 41
  • 7 - Posthumous Encomia 51
  • Part Two - James Fenimore Cooper 61
  • 8 - The André Affair and the Spy 63
  • 9 - André and Cooper 73
  • 10 - Cooper and the Spy Novel 83
  • 11 - The McDonald Papers 87
  • 12 - The Neutral Ground 95
  • Part Three - The Spy 103
  • 13 - An American Novel 105
  • 14 - Dramatis Personae 113
  • 15 - The Neutral Ground 135
  • References 147
  • Index 153
  • About the Author 157
  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Popular Culture 158
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