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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 25

his son before the mast on a merchant vessel to learn the art of seamanship which there was then no naval academy to teach. On his first voyage the ship was chased by pirates and stopped by British searching parties, incidents which Cooper never forgot. Commissioned in 1808 as midshipman, he first served on the Atlantic and later in the same year was sent with a party to Lake Ontario to build a brig for service against the British on inland waters. He visited Niagara, served for a time on Lake Champlain, and in 1809 was ordered back to the ocean. In the natural order of events he would have fought in the War of 1812, but having been married in 1811 to Susan Augusta DeLancey, he resigned his commission, gave up all hope of a naval career, and began the quiet life of a country proprietor.
   During the nine years that followed there is no evidence that Cooper ever thought of authorship, even as an amusement, much less as a profession. Except for three years at Cooperstown, where he stood more less as heir to the manor, he lived in his wife’s native county of Westchester. Perhaps nowhere else in the United States could Cooper have led an existence so nearly resembling that of an eighteenth-century English squire. Westchester had been favored by the country gentry in colonial days and still cherished aristocratic traditions. Here Cooper was further confirmed in his theological opinions, which were orthodox and grew steadily stronger, not to say more intolerant, during his entire life; in his political doctrines, by which he belonged with few reservations to the idealistic, irascible, somewhat crude, and considerably aristocratic older democracy which had achieved the Revolution;



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