James Fenimore Cooper

Writer

Born: 15 September 1789
Died: 14 September 1851
Birthplace: Burlington, New Jersey
Best known as: The American novelist who wrote The Last of the Mohicans
Most surveys of American literature call James Fenimore Cooper the first truly American novelist, thanks to the success of what is called the Leatherstocking series -- novels featuring the hero Natty Bumppo: The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841). Cooper grew up in upstate New York (where his father founded Cooperstown), got kicked out of Yale (1805) and spent 8 years in the navy before beginning a career as a writer. He wrote sea-faring tales, historically-based adventures and non-fiction social commentary, and his ambitious efforts made him rich and famous. His class-consciousness and fondness for aristocracy earned him disfavor among some Americans, and his tendency toward Romanticism (in the style of Sir Walter Scott) led to a famous slam by Mark Twain ("Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses"), but his exploration of American themes and his success as a novelist have earned him a spot as one of the founders of American literature. His other works include Red Rover (1827), The Sea Lions (1849) and The Redskins (1846).
Extra credit: He wasn't born with the middle name Fenimore; it was legally added to his name in 1826.

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