Autograph Letter, signed (“J. Fenimore Cooper”), to Charles Gosselin, Cooper's French publisher. James Fenimore Cooper.

Cooper on Literary Life in Paris and the ‘Lawless’ Sioux

Autograph Letter, signed (“J. Fenimore Cooper”), to Charles Gosselin, Cooper's French publisher.

[Paris: n.d., first week of April 1827].

Ink on wove paper, 26 lines (approx. 350 words). 1 page with conjugate blank addressed in ink M. Gosselin. 1 vols. 7-1/2 x 5-1/4 inches (19 x 13 cm). Cooper on Literary Life in Paris and the ‘Lawless’ Sioux. Old folds. Fine. Green morocco-backed slipcase with chemise Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper 109 (published, with transcription errors, on the basis of a 1937 catalogue description). Item #319952

An excellent letter of American author James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), during his first residency in France (1826-8), where he “found himself moving in the best Paris society. He became a close friend of the marquis de Lafayette” (ANB). It was a prolific period: Cooper finished writing The Prairie, the third of the Leatherstocking novels, and wrote The Red Rover. The first editions of these works were published in Paris, and many of Cooper’s works were published in French translation by Charles Gosselin, who brought out the authorized French edition of The Prairie in 1827.
Cooper writes to Gosselin in English (in part), “As to the translations of course you will see it is my interest that you should retain them. But a gentleman … with whom I dined the other day at the Duc de Broglie told me, that an Admiral was actually employed in translating The Pilot at present &c. … You will recollect that I have not seen a single page of the translation of The Prairie, before its being printed.” Cooper would insist upon review of the nautical chapters of the translation of The Red Rover.

He also discusses a recently published work by Chateaubriand, “Madame de Broglie has lent me The Natchez, but I have not read it”. The Duchess de Broglie was the daughter of Madame de Staël and kept the best literary salon in Paris. Cooper considers Chateuabriand's source material and mentions the Sioux. “They are notoriously the most troublesome and the most lawless of all the western Indians. He has probably gained his information from the old French writers, half a century old, while I have consulted our own means of intelligence, and my own observation, of course my own description is a little poetic, as it should be, but in the main it is correct enough.”

Choice letter documenting Copper’s literary activities, his ease in French literary circles, and above all his keen sense of the importance of appropriate and authentic sources for historical novels on American themes.

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