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


Page 37

the themes and characters preferred by Smollett, Cooper was at some pains to invent all his details “without looking for the smallest aid from traditions or facts.” His plot, however, follows the romantic mode: an imperial-souled hero, wounded in his sensibilities, has long been a successful pirate under the scarlet flag, but, in spite of his evil deeds, has so much conscience left that he can be converted in a dramatic moment, subsequently to expiate his sins by services to the Revolution. This story could not have made The Red Rover one of Cooper’s best tales. There must be taken into account also the solid basis of reality exhibited in the book’s seamanship and, less remarkably, in the characters of the old tar Dick Fid and the slave Scipio Africanus. The excitement is less sustained than in The Pilot, but portions of the narrative, particularly those dealing with storms, are tremendous. The ocean here plays as great a part as Cooper had lately assigned to the prairie. One voices the calm of nature, the other its tumult; both tend to the shaping and discipline of man. If the theme of The Red Rover is conventional, so is that of The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), an episode of King Philip’s War, in which frontier material indeed appears but in which it is overmuch involved with colonial history and with Cooper’s anti-Puritan prejudices.
  What may be called his first period had come decisively to an end. Since 1826, when he went with his family to Europe for a foreign residence of seven years, Cooper had been growing steadily more critical and less romantic. His universe was enlarging. He found his books well known in Europe and society disposed to make much of



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