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chanced upon a cabin in the forest's solitude and here confessed his
life to its inmate, Audubon, who left this "striking incident" a record
in his works. However, "Dick Fid, that arrant old foretop man, and his
comrade, Negro Sip, are the true lovers of the narrative; - the last,
indeed, is a noble creature, a hero under the skin of Congo." "The Red
Rover" is all a book of the sea. In Sir Walter Scott's journal, January,
1828, appears: "I have read Cooper's new novel, 'The Red Rover.' The
current of it rolls entirely on the ocean. Something too much of
nautical language. It is very clever, though." Its author "has often
been idly compared to the author of 'Waverley,' but to no such heritage
as Scott's was ever Cooper born. Alone he penetrated the literary
wilderness, blazing paths for those who should come after him
there"; - and a Columbus of letters for others to follow on the sea's
highway was he.

[Illustration: THE NEWPORT BOX.]

[Illustration: JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART.]

A misprint in Lockhart's "Life of Scott" made his comment on Cooper most
unfortunate by an "s" added to the word manner. Sir Walter's journal
reads: "This man who has shown so much genius has a good deal of manner,
or want of manner, peculiar to his countrymen." Cooper, hurt to the
quick for himself and his country at being rated "a rude boor from the
bookless wilds," by one he had called his "sovereign" in past cordial
relations, resented this expression in his review of Lockhart's work
for the _Knickerbocker Magazine_, 1838, and for so doing he was harshly
criticised in England. October, 1864, the literary editor of _The
Illustrated London News_ wrote: "I am almost inclined to agree with
Thackeray in liking Hawkeye 'better than any of Scott's lot.' What noble
stories those five are in which the hero is described from youth to
age!" From "Thackeray in the United States," by General James Grant
Wilson, comes: "At an American dinner table" (the talk was of Cooper and
his writings) "Thackeray pronounced Leatherstocking the greatest
character created in fiction since the Don Quixote of Cervantes"; and he
thought the death scene in "The Prairie," where the old trapper said
"Here!" surpassing anything he had "met in English literature."

[Illustration: NATTY'S LAST CALL.]

Of Natty's answer to the Spirit Land call Cooper's own words are: "The
trapper was placed on a rude seat, which had been made, with studied
care, to support his frame in an upright and easy attitude - so as to let
the light of the setting sun fall full upon the solemn features. His
head was bare, the long, thin locks of gray fluttering lightly in the
evening breeze. The first glance of the eye told his former friends
that the old man was at length called upon to pay the last tribute of
nature. The trapper had remained nearly motionless for an hour. His eyes
alone had occasionally opened and shut. When opened, his gaze seemed
fastened on the clouds which hung around the western horizon, reflecting
the bright colors, and giving form and loveliness to the glorious tints
of an American sunset. The hour - the calm beauty of the season - the
occasion, all conspired to fill the spectators with solemn awe.
Suddenly, while musing on the remarkable position in which he was
placed, Middleton felt the hand which he held grasp his own with
incredible power, and the old man, supported on either side by his
friends, rose upright to his feet. For a moment he looked about him, as
if to invite all in presence to listen (the lingering remnant of human
frailty), and then, with a fine military elevation of the head, and with
a voice that might be heard in every part of that numerous assembly, he
pronounced the word - 'Here!'

"When Middleton and Hard Heart, each of whom had involuntarily extended
a hand to support the form of the old man, turned to him again, they
found that the subject of their interest was removed forever beyond the
necessity of their care."

Concerning social life Cooper wrote: "Taking into consideration our
tastes and my health, the question has been, not how to get into, but
how to keep out of, the great world." But for the happy chance of
inquiry at the gate of a friend, the author would "have dined with the
French Lord-High-Chancellor, without the smallest suspicion of who he
was!" Of French women Cooper adds: "The highest style of French beauty
is classical. I cannot recall a more lovely picture than the Duchess
de - - [this title and blank are said to veil the identity of the
Princess Galitzin] in full dress at a carnival ball, where she shone
peerless among hundreds of the _élite_ of Europe. And yet this woman was
a grandmother!"

[Illustration: THE PRINCESS BARBARA VASSILIEWNA GALITZIN.]

In a letter dated Paris, November 28, 1826, written by Mrs. Cooper to
her sister, appears of Mr. Cooper: - "They make quite a Lion of him and
Princesses write to him and he has invitations from Lords and Ladies. He
has so many notes from the Princess Galitzin I should be absolutely
jealous were it not that she is a Grandmother. We were at a Soirée there
the other evening among Dutchesses, Princesses, Countesses, etc."

[Illustration: LA GRANGE, COUNTRY HOME OF LAFAYETTE.]

[Illustration: LA GRANGE ARCHWAY ENTRANCE.]

Once with and twice without Mrs. Cooper, the author visited La Grange,
the country home of General Lafayette, some twenty-seven miles from
Paris and near Rosay. He tells us that La Grange means barn, granary, or
farm, and that the château came to Lafayette through his wife; that it
had some five hundred acres of wood, pasture, meadow, and cultivated
land; that the house is of hewn stone, good grayish color, with its five
plain, round towers and their high, pyramidal slate roofs making a part
of the walls; that the end towers are buried in ivy planted by Charles
Fox. He tells how small, irregular windows open beautifully through the
thick foliage for the blooming faces of children, in their home-part of
La Grange. He gives rare pictures of the great stairway, the General's
bed-room, cabinet, and library in the tower-angle overlooking the
willow-shaded moat. Beneath this library was the author's own bed-room.
Then came the array of drawing-rooms and innumerable other rooms, where
hospitality seemed to know no limit. Lafayette's cabinet contained
many portraits, - one of Madame de Staël, and one of his own father. Of
this room, and the library, and his grand old host Cooper wrote: "I
passed much of our visit alone with him in these two rooms. No one can
be pleasanter in private, and he is full of historical anecdotes that he
tells with great simplicity and frequently with great humor." The
château stands on three sides of an irregular square, and is one of the
most picturesque structures in the country. The winding road enters a
thicket of evergreens, crosses a bridge, and passes beneath an arch to
the paved court. Together, Cooper and his host had many walks and drives
thereabouts, and, all in all, the author fell under the spell of
Lafayette's personal charm and his simple integrity of character.
Between Lafayette's richness of years and Talleyrand's old age there was
a gulf, - one had attained nearly everything worth striving for; the
other had lost the same.

[Illustration: HÔTEL DESSEIN, CALAIS, FRANCE.]

Cooper and his family entered France July, 1826, and February, 1828,
they thought the time had come to change the scene, and proceeded to
England. "I drove around to the rue d'Anjou to take my leave of General
Lafayette," wrote Cooper. To Calais they had rain and chill and darkness
most of the way. Passing through the gate, they drove to the inn
immortalized by Lawrence Sterne and Beau Brummel, where they found
English comfort with French cooking and French taste. One of February's
fine days they left the Hotel Dessein to embark for England. After a
two-hours' run the cliffs of Dover appeared on each side of that
port, - the nearest to the continent, - making these chalk cliffs seem,
Cooper says, "a magnificent gateway to a great nation." Leaving the
fishing-boats of the French coast, "the lofty canvas of countless ships
and several Indiamen rose from the sea," as they shot towards the
English shore, many "bound to that focus of coal-smoke, London." Quietly
landing at Dover-haven, they went to Wright's tavern, where they missed
the French manner, mirrors, and table-service, but "got in their place a
good deal of solid, unpretending comfort." In due time Mr. Wright put
them and their luggage into a comfortable post-coach, and on the road he
called "quite rotten, sir," to London. To Americans, at that date, the
road proved good, and also the horses that made the sixteen miles to
Canterbury in an hour and a half, where they drove to another Mr.
Wright's; going to four of the name between Dover and London, Cooper
concluded with an apology that "it was literally all Wright on this
road." The visit to Canterbury cathedral was made during "morning
vespers in the choir. It sounded odd to hear our own beautiful service
in our own tongue, in such a place, after the _Latin_ chants of canons;
and we stood listening with reverence without the screen." London met
them "several miles in the suburbs down the river," but they suddenly
burst out onto Waterloo bridge, over which they were whirled into the
Strand and set down at Wright's hotel, Adam Street, Adelphi; "and,"
wrote Cooper, "we were soon refreshing ourselves with some of worthy
Mrs. Wright's excellent tea."

[Illustration: CLIFFS OF DOVER.]

[Illustration: CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL CHOIR.]

[Illustration: GREEN GATE, CANTERBURY.]

The second night in London Cooper, stretched out on a sofa, was reading,
when some street musicians began to play beneath his window several
tunes without success; "finally," he wrote, "the rogues contrived, after
all, to abstract half a crown from my pocket by suddenly striking up
'Yankee Doodle!'" After some hunting they took a small house in St.
James Place, which gave them "a tiny drawing-room, a dining-room, three
bed-rooms, offices, and house-service for a guinea per day." A guinea
more weekly was added for their three fires, and their own maid and man
gave personal service during this London season. Of his man-servant
Cooper wrote: "The English footman I engaged is a steady, little, old
man, with a red face and a powdered poll, who appears in black breeches
and coat, but who says himself that his size has marred his fortune. He
is cockney born, about fifty; quality and splendor act forcibly on his
imagination, and he is much condemned in the houses where I visit on
account of his dwarfish stature"; and we are told that the English favor
pretty faces for their maids and fine figures for their footmen.

[Illustration: ST. JAMES PLACE, LONDON.]

To a Mr. Spencer whom Cooper met in France was due the visit soon paid
him by his near neighbor, the author of the "Pleasures of Memory." Of
Samuel Rogers Cooper wrote: "He very kindly sought me out"; and, "few
men have a more pleasant way of saying pleasant things." His visit was
followed by an invitation to breakfast the next morning. Cooper
continues: "It was but a step from my door, and you may be certain I was
punctual." He found the poet's home perfection for a bachelor's needs;
only eighteen feet front, but the drawing-room and dining-room were
lined with old masters. And in the bow-window stood the "Chantrey Vase,"
placed by its maker when artist workman in the room where he later
dined as Chantrey the sculptor and Rogers' honored guest. The library
was filled with valuable books and curiosities in history, literature,
and art. Of this poet's dream-home Cooper wrote: "Neither he nor any one
else has a right to live in so exquisite a house and expect everybody to
hold their tongues about it. Taking the house, the host, the mental
treats he dispenses, the company, and the tone, it is not easy to
conceive of anything better in their way. Commend me in every respect to
the delicious breakfasts of St. James Place!" On one occasion, "Rogers,
talking of Washington Irving's 'Columbus,' said, 'in his airy,
significant way,' as Moore called it, 'It's rather long.' Cooper turned
round on him and said sharply, 'That's a short criticism.'" This
banker-poet could be severe on his English friends too, as it appears
"Lady Holland was always lamenting that she had nothing to do. One day,
complaining worse than ever that she did not know 'what to be at,'" said
Rogers, "I could not resist recommending her to try a novelty - try and
do a little good."

[Illustration: SIR FRANCIS CHANTREY.]

[Illustration: SAMUEL ROGERS.]

[Illustration: ROGERS' LONDON HOME.]

[Illustration: ROGERS' BREAKFAST ROOM.]

Through Samuel Rogers Cooper was soon dining at Holland House, in the
much-carved and gilded room where Sully and embassy supped in 1603. By a
word to the porter, Sir James Mackintosh had planned a pleasant
half-hour for his American friend in the gardens, where was Rogers'
seat, and then in the library on the second floor, where he saw its
each-end tables. The generous space between is said to have been paced
by "Addison when composing," and his inspiration quickened by kindly
"bottles placed on them for that purpose." The artist Charles Robert
Leslie caught a rare glimpse on canvas of this library, in which appear
his friends Lord and Lady Holland, who were also the host and hostess of
Fenimore Cooper. We are told by him that the dining-table was square;
that the host had one corner and the hostess the centre; and the
American author, "as the stranger, had the honor of a seat next to Lady
Holland." When talking, he was offered by her a plate of herring, of
which he frankly avowed he "ought to have eaten one, even to the fins
and tail"; but little dreaming of their international worth just then,
the herring were declined. With good humor his hostess said: "You do not
know what you say; they are _Dutch_." With some vigor of look and tone
Cooper repeated - "Dutch!" The reply was: "Yes, Dutch; we can only get
them _through an ambassador_." Then Cooper rose to the occasion by
replying: "There are too many good things of native production to
require a voyage to Holland on my account." Of their host Rogers' record
was: "Lord Holland always comes down to breakfast like a man upon whom
sudden good fortune had just fallen - his was the smile that spoke the
mind at ease." And after his death were found on Lord Holland's
dressing-table, and in his handwriting, these lines on himself:

Nephew of Fox and friend of Gay,
Enough my meed of fame
If those who deighn'd to observe me say
I injured neither name.

[Illustration: ROGERS' SEAT.]

"Here Rogers sat, and here forever dwell
With me, those Pleasures that he sang so well."

After dining at Lord Grey's Cooper wrote of him: "He on all occasions
acted as if he never thought of national differences"; and the author
thought him "the man of most character in his set." We are told that
England is the country of the wealthy, and that the king is seldom seen,
although the royal start from St. James for Windsor was seen and
described as going off "at a slapping pace."

[Illustration: CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.]

[Illustration: SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.]

[Illustration: HOLLAND HOUSE.]

[Illustration: LIBRARY OF HOLLAND HOUSE.]

[Illustration: GILT CHAMBER OF HOLLAND HOUSE.]

[Illustration: LORD GREY.]

[Illustration: MRS. JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART.]

But it was in that dreamland of Rogers' that Cooper's heart found its
greatest joy. There he met the artists, - Sir Thomas Lawrence, handsome
and well-mannered; Leslie, mild, caring little for aught save his tastes
and affections; and Newton, who "thinks himself" English. Here, dining,
he meets again Sir Walter Scott, his son-in-law and later biographer,
Mr. Lockhart, Sir Walter's daughters, Mrs. Lockhart and Miss Anne Scott.
He says Mrs. Lockhart "is just the woman to have success in Paris, by
her sweet, simple manners." He had a stately chat with Mrs. Siddons, and
Sir James Mackintosh he called "the best talker I have ever seen; the
only man I have yet met in England who appears to have any clear or
definite notions of us." Rare indeed were these flash-lights of genius
that Samuel Rogers charmed to his "feasts of reason and flow of soul."

[Illustration: JOANNA BAILLIE.]

[Illustration: SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE.]

With Mr. Southby Cooper went to see Coleridge at Highgate, where, he
says, "our reception was frank and friendly, the poet coming out to meet
us in his morning-gown. I rose to take a nearer view of a little
picture, when Mr. Coleridge told me it was by his friend Allston." From
the bard of Highgate they went to see Miss Joanna Baillie at Hampstead,
and found her "a little, quiet woman, a deeply-seated earnestness about
her that bespoke the higher impulses within; no one would have thought
her little person contained the elements of a tragedy."

[Illustration: HOUSE OF THE GILLMAN'S, HIGHGATE, LONDON.]

An Amsterdam engagement for early June called Cooper and his family from
London before the end of the season, and prompted him to say, "The
force of things has moved heavier bodies." Quitting England was by no
means easy, but "the weather was fine and the North Sea smooth as a
dish." They paddled the whole night long in their "solid good vessel,
but slow of foot." With morning "a low spit of land hove in sight, and a
tree or a church tower" rose out of the water, - this was Holland. At
Rotterdam "the boat was soon alongside the Boom Key." With some
fluttering about the dykes and windmills of Dutchland, a flight through
Belgium soon brought them once more to Paris.

[Illustration: BOOM KEY AT ROTTERDAM.]

Cooper was a keen observer and a calm critic of both home and foreign
folk. That he was stirred to strong words by unpleasing comments on his
country appears in his "Notions of Americans: Picked up by a Traveling
Bachelor." This book of facts, showing wide and accurate knowledge, was
intended to enlighten and clear away mistakes. Instead of this, it drew
upon its writer critical fire both at home and abroad, and was the first
of the many shadows of his after life. His stories of our new country
taught Europe more about America than Europe had ever learned before.
His love for, and faith in, his own country were strong. Abroad he was a
staunch defender of her free institutions, and foreigners deemed him
more proud of his American birth than of his literary birthright of
genius; and yet, at home he was voted "an enemy of all that the fathers
of the Republic fought for." However, the opinion of those who knew
Cooper best was given by his Bread and Cheese Club friend, Dr. John
Wakefield Francis, as, - "He was an American inside and out - a thorough
patriot." It was said that as an aristocratic American he never
presented letters of introduction. Yet in foreign lands his society was
sought by the most distinguished men of his time. However of this, the
rare pleasure of these London days he ever held in warm remembrance.

Flying from the summer heat of Paris, the family soon left for
Switzerland with a team of sturdy Norman horses, a postilion riding the
near beast. It slipped and fell, rolled over and caught its rider's leg
beneath, but was saved its breaking by the make of his old-fashioned
boot, "so with a wry face and a few _sacr-r-r-es,_ he limped back to his
saddle."

In their salon of the inn at Avallon were curious emblem pictures of
different nationalities: one a _belle_ of fair hair; another a _belle_
of raven locks; a third a _belle_ of brown ringlets; - all these for
Europe; but for the United States was "a _wench_ as black as coal!" So
thought Switzerland of us in the days of 1828. One lovely day Cooper
"persuaded A. to share" his seat on the carriage-box. Rounding a ruin
height "she exclaimed, 'What a beautiful cloud!' In the direction of her
finger I saw," wrote Cooper, "a mass that resembled the highest wreath
of a cloud; its whiteness greatly surpassed the brilliancy of vapor. I
called to the postilion and pointed out the object. '_Mont Blanc,_
Monsieur!' It was an inspiration when seventy miles by an air line from
it. This first view of the hoary Alps always makes a thrilling moment."

[Illustration: MONT BLANC.]

Later came morning rides and evening strolls. The modest stone
country-house which they took for economy and the author's love of quiet
home-life was _La Lorraine_, and belonged to the Count de Portales of
Neufchâtel. There was a high field near, where, one day, when Mr. Cooper
was teaching his little son Paul the "mysteries of flying a kite," they
caught the rare fleeting glimpse of a glittering glacier. _La Lorraine,_
only half a mile from Berne, is noted as "one of the pretty little
retired villas that dot the landscape," with "the sinuous Aar glancing
between" it and the town. The trim little garden and half-ruined
fountain were well shaded by trees, and the adjoining farmhouse and
barn-yard, all Swiss, made a fine playground for the children's summer
holiday. The house and its furniture they found "faultlessly neat."
There was a near-by common where hoops, rope-jumping, and kites could be
enjoyed. From this point and the cottage windows "was a very beautiful
view of the Alps - an unfailing source of delight, especially during the
evening hours." Cooper has given some fine descriptions of their life in
the glow of this Alpine country; of harvest-time and mountain gleaners.
He tells of a visit to Hindelbank to see the sculptor Nahl's wondrous
idealism in stone, which represents a young mother, the pastor's wife,
and her babe. The infant lies in passive innocence on its mother's
bosom, while her face is radiant with the light of a holy joy on the
resurrection morn. Her hand is slightly raised in reverent greeting of
her Redeemer. Of this work Cooper writes: "I take it to be the most
sublime production of its kind in the world." And they found it in "one
of the very smallest, humblest churches in Europe."

[Illustration: LA LORRAINE VIEW OF BERNESE ALPS.]

[Illustration: NAHL'S MEMORIAL TO MADAME LANGHAN.]

In the small, uncarpeted study of _La Lorraine_ a new book was planned
and begun. For the story's setting the author's mind turned to the
far-away, new home-country, and early frontier life in Connecticut.
There he brought the transatlantic Puritan and the North American Indian
together - the strong, stern Puritan family affection in close contact
with the red-man's savage cruelty, dignity, and his adoption of a white
child. A fair-haired little girl is torn from her mother and cared for
by a young Indian chief, once a captive in the white settlement. Years
pass over the bereaved family, when an Indian outbreak restores the lost
child to her parents' roof as "Narra-Mattah," the devoted wife of a
Narraganset warrior-chief, and the young mother of his little son. This
book draws a strong picture of pure family devotion; even the old
grandfather's heart, beneath his stiff Puritan garb, beats an
unforgettable part. Sorrow for the lost child gave the story its
name - "The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish" (then thought to mean in the Indian
language, "Place of the Whip-poor-will")and it has been said to
describe the settlement of the Fenimore family in America.

[Illustration: NARRA-MATTAH.]

Many and interesting were their excursions. One was to Interlachen, with
its glimpse of the Jungfrau, and the Lauterbrunnen valleys "full of
wonder and delight." At Lauterbrunnen they walked to the famous Falls of
_Staubbach_, which Cooper describes and explains as meaning "Torrents of
Dust."

[Illustration: CONNECTICUT EMIGRANTS.]

As the summer had fled autumn winds began to whistle through the lindens
of _La Lorraine_, and the snow began to fall upon its pretty garden,
warning the author to fly south with his fledglings and their mother
before the Alpine passes were closed by real winter. Cooper resigned
the consulate at Lyons, which was given him solely "to avoid the
appearance of going over to the enemy" while abroad. A carriage and two
servitors were engaged. One of these, Caspar, had his soldiering under
the first Napoleon, and many were the camp tales he had to tell in a way
to please his employers. At the old town of Alstetten, with painted
wooden houses at the foot of the Am Stoss, they arrived, more than ready
for breakfast, which was somewhat delayed because, said Cooper, "our
German was by no means classical; and English, Italian, and French were
all Hebrew to the good people of the inn." It was "easy to make the
hostess understand that we _wished_ to eat, - but _what_ would we eat? In


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Online LibraryMary E. PhillipsJames Fenimore Cooper → online text (page 7 of 13)