James Fenimore Cooper












James Fenimore Cooper (1789 –1851) was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales, featuring frontiersman Natty Bumppo. Among his most famous works is the novel The Last of the Mohicans, which many consider to be his masterpiece.  It was one of the most popular English-language novels of its time, and helped establish Cooper as one of the first world-famous American writers.

Cooper wrote five "Leatherstocking Tales", between 1823 and 1841. They are separate stories, and can be enjoyed individually. Through them all, however, strides the buckskin-clad figure of Natty Bumppo, called "Leatherstocking" by the settlers, and "Deerslayer", "Pathfinder", and "Hawkeye" by his Indian friends. An ungainly but philosophical frontiersman, Leatherstocking is the first truly American hero. His reverence for the wilderness, his skill as scout and marksman, his restlessness and enthusiasm for adventure, his cool courage in the face of death, his belief in fair play for men and chivalry towards women, and even his faithful Indian companion Chingachgook, have been copied by popular American fiction right up to the latest Western, and helped form America's image of itself.


The five "Leatherstocking Tales" are:

  • THE PIONEERS; or, The Sources of the Susquehanna (see audio # 4 below): In 1793 the aging Leatherstocking hunts on the outskirts of the New York frontier village of Templeton (Cooperstown). With his old Indian friend he shelters a mysterious young stranger who has fallen in love with Elizabeth, daughter of the village's founder. The wasteful ways of the rough settlers conflict with Judge Temple's efforts to preserve timber, fish, and game, and Leatherstocking finds the rules of civilization incompatible with his wilderness ways. The Pioneers is America's first eloquent plea for the conservation of natural resources. Cooper drew heavily on memories of early Cooperstown people, places, and scenes in this affectionate portrait of frontier life. [Published in 1823]
  • THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (see audio # 1 below); or, A Narrative of 1757 : The scene is Lake George during the French and Indian War. Leatherstocking (Hawkeye) and his Indian friends Chingachgook and Uncas lead Cora and Alice Munro and their companions into the besieged Fort William Henry, and, after its capture by the French, on an action-packed escape through the war-torn Adirondack wilderness. [Published in 1826]
  • THE PRAIRIE: A Tale (see audio # 6 below): In 1804 Leatherstocking, now in his eighties, has fled the frontier to the prairies beyond the Mississippi, where roving bands of Pawnees and Sioux fight in an ocean (or desert) of grass that seems to symbolize how man can destroy his environment. Here the old scout saves an expedition seeking to rescue the beautiful Inez Middleton, held captive by Ishmael Bush and his clan of white outlaws. [Published in 1827]
  • THE PATHFINDER (see audio # 3 below); or, The Inland Sea. Oswego, in 1759, is a remote British outpost on the shore of Lake Ontario. Leatherstocking and his Indian friend aid the besieged garrison and the crew of the warship Scud, and falls in love with Mabel Dunham, the Sergeant's daughter. Cooper drew heavily on his own experience as a U.S. Naval Officer on Lake Ontario before the War of 1812. [Published in 1840]
  • THE DEERSLAYER; or, The First War Path (see audio # 5 below): The setting is Lake Otsego, the Glimmerglass. It is the same setting as The Pioneers but in 1745 it a placid lake deep in the colonial wilderness. Young Leatherstocking, with his Indian friend Chingachgook, finds his manhood as he faces death and torture to save Hetty and Judith Hutter, and the Indian maiden Wah-ta-Wah, from a band of hostile Indians, and meets the challenge of Judith's love. [Published in 1841]

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  From LibriVox:

 1.   The Last Of The Mohicans :

The Last of the Mohicans is an epic novel by James Fenimore Cooper, first published in  January 1826.   It was one of the most popular English-language novels of its time, and helped establish Cooper as one of the first world-famous American writers. The hero is Natty Bumppo (Hawkeye).


2.  The Spy:

James Fenimore Cooper’s second novel, The Spy (1821), is based on Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly series, and tells an adventure tale about the American Revolution.


3 The Pathfinder:

Natty Bumppo (The Pathfinder) is in pre-Revolution upstate New York. An old friend, Sergeant Dunham of the 55th Regiment of Foot, asks him to guide his daughter through the wilderness to the fort at Oswego where Dunham serves. With the French engaging native Indian allies against the British and the Yankee colonists, such a journey is far from safe.

4.  The Pioneers:

The Pioneers: The Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale is one of the 5 Leatherstocking Tales.   The Pioneers was first of these books to be published (1823), but the period of time covered by the book (principally 1793) makes it the fourth chronologically. (The others are The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, and The Prairie.)

The story takes place on the rapidly advancing frontier of New York State and features a middle-aged Leatherstocking (Natty Bumppo), Chingachgook, Judge Marmaduke Temple of Templeton, whose life parallels that of the author’s father Judge William Cooper, and Elizabeth (the author Susan Cooper), of Cooperstown.  The Pioneers may be considered one of the first ecological novels in the United States.  

5.  The Deerslayer - The Deerslayer, or The First Warpath (1841) was the last of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales to be written. Its 1740-1745 time period makes it the first installment chronologically and in the lifetime of the hero of the Leatherstocking tales, Natty Bumppo. 

6.  The Prairie - The story opens with Ishmael, his family, Ellen and Abiram slowly making their way across the virgin prairies of the Midwest looking for a homestead, just two years after the Louisiana Purchase, and during the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They meet the trapper (Natty Bumppo), who has left his home in New York state to find a place where he cannot hear the sound of people cutting down the forests. In the years between his other adventures and this novel, he tells us only that he has walked all the way to the Pacific Ocean and seen all the land between the coasts (a heroic feat, considering Lewis and Clark hadn’t yet completed the same trek). 

7a. The Escape Of The American Frigate Part 1 by J.F. Cooper (5th story from Sea Stories)

7b. The Escape Of The American Frigate Part 2 by J.F. Cooper (6th story from Sea Stories)

7c. Among The Ice Floes by J.F. Cooper (7th story from Sea Stories)

8. Corporal Flint's Murder by J. Fenimore Cooper (7th story in International Short Stories # 1)



From Archive.Org:


1.  Leatherstocking Tales Radio Programs:

Two (2) Old Time Radio Dramas based on the works of James Fenimore Cooper.

The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans These shows were made in 1932.



Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences by Mark Twain - This is Mark Twain's vicious and amusing review of Fenimore Cooper's literary art.  It particularly criticized The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder. Offenses was often spelled "Offences" during Mark Twain's time.


Fenimore Cooper (3rd essay by John Macy’s Spirit of American Literature)