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The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences-biographical, historical, and literary-to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.
During the fierce French and Indian wars, an adroit scout named Hawkeye and his companion Chingachgook weave through the spectacular and dangerous wilderness of upstate New York, fighting to save the beautiful Munro sisters from the Huron renegade Magua. The Last of the Mohicans is the most popular of James Fenimore Cooper's five Leatherstocking Tales. With its death-defying chases and teeth-clenching suspense, this American classic established many archetypes of American frontier fiction. An engrossing "Western" by America's first great novelist, The Last of the Mohicans is a story of survival and treachery, love and deliverance. Stephen Railton, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, has written books on Cooper, Mark Twain, and the American Renaissance, and has created major websites on Twain, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and American culture. Â
About The Author Stephen Railton, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, has written books on Cooper, Mark Twain, and the American Renaissance, and has created major websites on Twain, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and American culture.
Biography James Cooper (he added the Fenimore when he was in his 30s) was born September 15, 1789, in Burlington, New Jersey, to William Cooper and Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper. In 1790 the family moved to the frontier country of upstate New York, where William established a village he called Cooperstown. Although cushioned by wealth and William's status as landlord and judge, the Coopers found pioneering to be rugged, and only 7 of the 13 Cooper children survived their early years. All the hardship notwithstanding, according to family reports, the young James loved the wilderness. Years later, he wrote The Pioneers (1823) about Cooperstown in the 1790s, but many of his other books draw deeply on his childhood experiences of the frontier as well.
Cooper was sent to Yale in 1801 but he was expelled in 1805 for setting off an explosion in another student's room. Afterward, as a midshipman in the fledgling U.S. Navy, he made Atlantic passages and served at an isolated post on Lake Ontario. Cooper resigned his commission in 1811 to marry Susan Augusta De Lancey, the daughter of a wealthy New York State family. During the next decade, however, a series of bad investments and legal entanglements reduced his inheritance to the verge of bankruptcy. Cooper was already 30 years old when, on a dare from his wife, he became a writer. One evening he threw down, in disgust, a novel he was reading aloud to her, saying he could write a better book himself. Susan, who knew that he disliked writing even letters, expressed her doubts. To prove her wrong he wrote Precaution, which was published anonymously in 1820. Encouraged by favorable reviews, Cooper wrote other books in quick succession, and by the time The Last of the Mohicans, his sixth novel, was published in 1827, he was internationally famous as America's first professionally successful novelist. Eventually he published 32 novels, as well as travel books and histories. Cooper invented the genre of nautical fiction, and in the figure of Nathaniel or "Natty" Bumppo (Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans) -- the central character in the five Leatherstocking Tales Cooper published between 1823 and 1841 -he gave American fiction its first great hero. Shortly after publishing The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper moved his family to Europe, but in 1833 he returned to America, moving back into his father's restored Mansion House in Cooperstown. He died there on September 14, 1851. Author biography courtesy of Barnes & Noble Books.
Good To Know
Cooper was expelled from Yale due to his passion for pranks, which included training a donkey to sit in a professor's chair and setting a fellow student's room on fire. Between 1822 and 1826 Cooper lived in New York City, and was a major player on its intellectual scene. He founded the Bread and Cheese Club, which had many high-profile members, including notable painters of the Hudson River School and writers like William Cullen Bryant.
Reviews Historical Contexts' concise yet thorough. Apparatus generally very satisfying in its relevance and thoroughness.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While somewhat romanticized and arguably innacurate on some points, Cooper's descriptions of the Native American cultures that dominated the Northeastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada are illuminating. Also, through Natty Bumpo's eyes we gain insight into a part of our American heritage that has been relegated to little more than a paragraph in modern history books. All the while, we're treated to an action-adventureromance story that is timeless and is at least the equal of any modern work. Finally, Cooper's social commentary on the worthy aspects of each of our disparate cultural underpinnings, their darker sides notwithstanding, can serve as a lesson to us all. I found this to be an entertaining, instructive and rivetting story, told by a storyteller of the first order who deserves his place as an Icon of American literature.
Lest its importance be lost, let me praise at once the Barnes and Noble Classics edition of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS for its bit more than one page long essay -- 431f-- after the end notes -- called 'INSPIRED BY THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.' By Stephen Railton, 'INSPIRED' lists and describes notable cinema inspired by Cooper's masterpiece. They begin with D. W. Griffith's 1909 one reeler, LEATHER STOCKING and move along through the 1920 Maurice Tourneur version with Wallace Beery as the satanic Magua and 1924 and 1936 versions by director George B. Seitz, the last starring Randolph Scott 'in perhaps the performance of his career.' Michael Mann's Oscar- winning 1992 THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is great fun but bears very little resemblance to Cooper's original. *** The last words of this great novel give a sense of what the point of the yarn is. They are solemn remarks by ancient chief Tamenund, well over a century old, whose name is also preserved as Tammany and in 'Tammany Hall.' He concludes thus the funeral rites for Cora and Uncas: 'It is enough,' he said. 'Go, children, of the Lenape, the anger of Manitou is not done. ... The pale-faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red-men has not yet come again. The day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis [turtles, totem, i.e., of Delawares of the eastern seaboard] happy and strong and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.' 'Ch XXXIII' *** This book is probably too leisurely for children or even college students who are not English majors. Read it for a sad meditation on why American Indians and European whites never found a way to live together as equals and form an entirely new North American civilization -- much as the Normans had done in Saxon England. Fenimore Cooper makes much of white prejudices against interracial marriages. That Scottish Cora could love and be loved by the last Mohican Indian, gorgeous young Uncas, was thinkable to Cooper's readers only because far back in time she had had a West Indian granddam of color. *** Cooper also notes that the massacre of surrendered troops of Fort William Henry by Indian allies of the French was the second such incident to blot the copy book of the Marquis de Montcalm. *** A final historical suggestion by Cooper is that the Indians could have made themselves as much junior partners of the colonials as the savage Highlanders of Scotland eventually became of Scottish lowlanders and the vastly more numerous English. But the Indians could not unite. They spent too much time killing and raiding other Indians to resist the all-conquering European whites. --- -OOO-
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While somewhat romanticized and arguably innacurate on some points, Cooper's descriptions of the Native American cultures that dominated the Northeastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada are
illuminating. Also, through Natty Bumpo's eyes we gain insight into a part of our American heritage that has been relegated to little more than a paragraph in modern history books. All the while, we're treated to an action-adventureromance story that is timeless and is at least the equal of any modern work. Finally, Cooper's social commentary on the worthy aspects of each of our disparate cultural underpinnings, their darker sides notwithstanding, can serve as a lesson to us all. I found this to be an entertaining, instructive and rivetting story, told by a storyteller of the first order who deserves his place as an Icon of American literature.
Read An Excerpt From Stephen Railton's Introduction to The Last of the Mohicans We must not fall for the fiction Cooper uses to organize the story he tells in The Last of the Mohicans. There has never been a "last" Mohican. The tribe Cooper refers to by that name survives to this day, on a small reservation in Wisconsin. According to Cooper's version of the Mohicans' story, the death of Uncas in the middle of the eighteenth century is the last act in the tragedy of a once-mighty nation. There are a number of tragic elements in the real history of the people who, when they learned to write English, referred to themselves as the Muhheakunnuk or Moheakunnuk, but the story they have written with their actions is that of a people who, while remaining true to key elements of their heritage, made great efforts to adapt to and earn a place in the new world that descended on them with the arrival of the traders and settlers from Europe. As Patrick Frazier recounts that story in The Mohicans of Stockbridge, the tribe accepted Christianity about two decades before the events Cooper dramatizes in the novel; two decades after the supposed death of the last Mohican, they fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War. When the tribe relocated from Massachusetts to the vicinity of New York's Oneida Lake in the mid-1780s, just a few years before the infant James Cooper was carried to Cooperstown on the banks of nearby Lake Otsego, they took with them a letter from George Washington attesting that the Muhheakunnuks "have fought and bled by our side . . . as our friends and brothers . . . [and] as friends and subjects to the United States of America." No efforts could stop the tide of white pioneers from diminishing their population and driving them farther west, but like nearly all the original Native American tribes, they survived despite the centuries of cultural loss, economic dispossession, white aggression, discrimination, and neglect. That true story, however, is one the United States is still reluctant to tell, and repressed almost completely throughout the nineteenth century as the pioneers moved westward across the continent. On the other hand, Americans loved the story Cooper tells in Mohicans. Published in 1826, it was Cooper's sixth novel; he was already America's most successful novelist, a position he held through most of his career, and among the thirty-two novels he wound up writing before his death in 1851 were a number of best-sellers. The Last of the Mohicans was first among them all: his most popular book, and one of the most widely read American novels ever. Like most of Cooper's novels, especially those he wrote in the first half of his career, it derives from the model of the historical romance that Walter Scott established in Waverley (1814). The subtitle of Cooper's novel-A Narrative of 1757-echoes Waverley's subtitle, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, and in his preface to the book's first edition Cooper warns mere novel readers that by "narrative" he means historical fact, not imaginative fancy. But the project of The Last of the Mohicans is myth making, not history writing, and the myth it makes served contemporary readers precisely by replacing history as the nation was enacting it with a story about the fate of the Indians that both moved and reassured the whites who were in fact (but not in Cooper's fiction) the agents of that fate. As Cooper tells the story, the first person to label Uncas "the last of the Mohicans" is actually his own father. Chingachgook himself is still a vigorous warrior, and the narrative repeatedly refers to Uncas as "young" and "youthful"-that such a father would be anticipating the death of such a son rather then looking forward to his eventual marriage and children seems to violate the truths of the human heart, but as Cooper tells the story, even Uncas accepts his ominous title. In fact, he enters the narrative exactly at the moment in chapter III when Chingachgook tells
Hawkeye that when Uncas dies the whole tribe will be extinct, "for my boy is the last of the Mohicans." "Uncas is here!" is the next line, as "a youthful warrior" steps out of the woods to join the conversation. "Here," this introduction to him implies, "but not for long"-Uncas will figure throughout the novel as a character with an expiration date. As a rescuer of the story's two white heroines and as the lost prince of the Delaware nation, Uncas is regarded by both the narrator and the white characters with considerable admiration. His head may be naked except for its "scalping tuft," but the narrative calls it "noble." Alice looks upon him as a heathen, "a being partially benighted in the vale of ignorance," but she also associates his "graceful," "dignified," "pure," and "proud" form with classical ideals, "some precious relic of the Grecian chisel." Cora goes further: "Who that looks at this creature of nature, remembers the shade of his skin!" To her, that's a rhetorical question, but her companions' "short and embarrassed silence" in reply keeps the line between races firmly in place. Combined with the epithet "the last," that racial boundary lets readers know that all the sympathetic admiration they bestow on Uncas is extended provisionally. Within those limits, the narrative allows Uncas to grow increasingly heroic. After the first rescue scene, for example, while his father scalps the Mingoes they've slain, Uncas hurries with Duncan, the white officer and gentleman, to the side of the two white maidens. Duncan is not ashamed to cry at the sight of their deliverance. Uncas doesn't go that far, but his eyes nonetheless "beam with a sympathy that elevated him far above the intelligence and advanced him probably centuries before the practices of his nation." While that sentence doubtless sounds patronizing, if not racist, to most twenty-first century readers, Cooper's books display more respect and admiration for Indian characters like Uncas than was the norm in his culture. Indeed, his depiction of Uncas as so noble a savage came under attack from a number of critics. A novel like Robert Montgomery Bird's Nick of the Woods (1837), also a best-seller, was written expressly to contest Cooper's "poetical illusions" and "beautiful unrealities" by describing instead what Bird in his preface calls "real Indians," who are unrelievedly "ignorant, violent, debased, brutal." Mark Twain made the same argument in Roughing It (1872), and began a sequel to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) that takes Huck and Tom into the Indian Territory so he can debunk Cooper's romances by exposing the boys to a series of atrocities committed by treacherous Indians. In 1851, shortly before Cooper's death, the Chippewa chief and activist George Copway publicly thanked the novelist for having created Uncas as a "hero" who "possesses all the noble traits of an exalted character," an Indian whom Native Americans could read about with pride. Yet although Cooper advances Uncas centuries ahead of his tribesmen, he is careful never to suggest that the last Mohican could progress to the point where he belongs inside American civilization. He lifts Uncas high enough to make his passing tragic-but readers mourn for him at the end, as they admire him throughout, from within the safety of a world out of which he has already disappeared.
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