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


Page 32

coast. And once more, too, the central personage is a democratic hero, Long Tom Coffin, of Nantucket, who lives and dies by the sea which has made him, as love of country made Harvey Birch and love of the forest made Natty Bumppo. Long Tom is as real as an oak; he is also as romantic as storms and tides. Thus at the outset of his career Cooper made clear his conviction—one of the most important of all the convictions which lie back of his work—that character is shaped by occupation. Aristocratic though he might be in his own prejudices, he understood the rich diversities which may be brought into fiction by the representation of men drawn from different callings, which, more than different ages or landscapes, produce differences among men.
  These three successes made Cooper a national figure, though New England, where criticism was solemn, still condescended to him. He founded the Bread and Cheese Club in New York, a literary society of which he was the moving spirit; he took a prominent part in the reception of Lafayette, who returned to a magnificent welcome in 1824; in the same year Columbia College made Cooper honorary Master of Arts. In the excitement of being a national romancer, he planned a series of Legends of the Thirteen Republics, aimed to celebrate each of the original states, but he gave up his scheme after Lionel Lincoln (1825), dealing with Boston in the days of Bunker Hill, failed to please as his earlier novels had done. His account of the battle is in his best vein; but for the rest, Cooper was too unsympathetic toward the New England character and, in spite of all his research, too little at home in Massachusetts for his imagination to be inflamed



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