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


Page 31

appeal; but he is of the tribe of heroes to which Harvey Birch had belonged, lowly men of lofty virtues.
  At the time Cooper seems to have seen no larger possibilities in his pioneer than in his spy. He was still experimenting. The Pilot, later in 1823, took him to another region of the frontier which he knew—the sea. The instigating motive was his desire to surpass Scott’s Pirate in seamanship, but his imagination caught fire no less remarkably than when he had decided to write a purely American tale of heroism or to make a record of his youthful environment. Like The Spy, his new novel made use of the Revolutionary matter; like The Pioneers, it was full of realistic detail from his own experience. Not only did he outdo Scott in sheer accuracy, but he created a new literary type, the tale of adventure on the sea, in which, though he was to have many followers in almost every modern language, he has not been seriously surpassed for vigor and swift rush of narrative. Smollett had already discovered the racy humors of seamen, but it remained for Cooper to capture for fiction the mystery and beauty, the shock and thrill of the sea. Experts say that his technical knowledge was sound; what is more important, he wrote, in The Pilot, a story about sailing vessels which convinces landsmen even in days of steam. The novel has, of course, its conventional element: its hero, John Paul Jones, who is always dark and secret, always Byronic, always brooding upon a dark past and a darker fate. As in the earlier stories, much is made of chase and escape, complicated by the fact that here ships, not merely men or horses, must be manœuvered, in a time of bitter war, among the rocks and storms of the Scottish



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