« PreviousContinue »
NOVEMBER 1 5, 1832.
GALLERY OF LITERARY CHARACTERS, NO. XVI.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER.
Among the frequenters of circulating libraries, and indeed in literary coteries of all kinds, Mr. Cooper is generally designated ' the great American Novelist.' When the name of a writer becomes in [this manner identified with that of his country, he may feel sufficiently assured of the permanency of his reputation. He may, with perfect safety, leave his fame to take care of itself. His is no fleeting or narrow renown; it is associated with his ' land's language.'
We are not hazarding much in saying, that no writer ever possessed the advantages enjoyed by the author of 'The Spy,' on his first outset in literary life. The very peculiarity of his situation rendered it next to impossible for him to fail in charming that large portion of the English people denominated the novel-readers. We were, indeed, at that time, as we have continued ever since, a nation of novel-readers. Scott had set his seal upon us. The author of 'Waverly,'—the great Napoleon of novelists,—had conquered the country, from one end of it to the other. Nothing, then, could be more fortunate as regards time; and as to place, what region could be so pregnant with interest, or what subject so calculated to gratify the cravings of an excited curiosity as America ?—a country which had hitherto been considered alike destitute of writers and readers,—whose soil had been pronounced, by the learned in these matters, to be essentially unfavorable to the growth of genius,—and in which one would no more think of looking for the golden graces of literature, than for dancers among the Dutch. An Esquimaux poet, brought over by Captain Parry, could hardly have excited more wonder than the 'great American Novelist,' when he made his first appearance in Europe. The world fell into a fit of admiration at the first sign of a genius on the barren waste of America, and stared at it, as the bewildered Crusoe did at Friday's footmark on the sand.