The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
VI. Fiction I.
§ 22. Return to America and Ensuing Controversies.
|Before he returned to New York in November, 1833, he was warned by his friend S. F. B. Morse that he would be disappointed. Cooper found himself, in fact, fatally cosmopolitan in the republic he had been justifying for seven years. Always critical, he sought to qualify too sweeping praise of America precisely as he had qualified too sweeping censure in Europe. But he had not learned tact while becoming a citizen of the world, and he soon angered the public he had meant to set right. The result was the long and dreary wrangling which clouded the whole remainder of his life and has obscured his fame almost to the present day. If he had attended the dinner planned in his honour on his return, he might have found his welcome warmer than he thought it. If he had been an observer keen enough, he would have seen that the new phases of democracy which he disliked were in part a gift to the old seaboard of that very frontier of which he had been painter and annalist. But he did not see these things, and so he carried on a steady fight, almost always as right in his contentions as he was wrong-headed in his manner. From Cooperstown, generally his residence, except for a few winters in New York, to the end of his life, he lectured and scolded. His Letter to his Countrymen (1834), stating his position, and The Monikins (1835), an unbelievably dull satire, were the first fruits of his quarrel. He followed these with five books dealing with his European travels and constantly irritating to the people of both continents. He indulged in a heated altercation with his fellow townsmen over some land which they thought theirs, although it was certainly his. In 1838 he published a fictious record, Homeward Bound and its sequel Home as Found, of the disappointment of some Americans who return from Europe and find America what Cooper had recently found it. He proclaimed his political principles in The American Democrat (1838). Most important of all, he declared war upon the newspapers of New York and went up and down the state suing those that had libelled him. He won most of the suits, but though he silenced his opponents he had put his fame into the hands of persons who, unable to abuse, could at least neglect him.