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An Amusing and Unpublished Autograph Letter Signed by the Author of “The Last of the Mohicans,” Mentioning Jenny Lind’s Celebrated American Tour

Signed by James Fenimore Cooper

Item: 18783
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COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. (1789-1851). Prolific and influential American author of such classics as The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer. ALS. (“J. Fenimore Cooper”). 1p. 8vo. (New York, November 1850). To “Sayd” (“Little Saidee,” the niece of his friend Henry Nicholas Cruger).

On Tuesday, unless prevented by the arrival of Cousin Nina in town to hear Jenny Lind, I shall leave this at 7 A.M. for Crugerties – Socrates or XantippeHall – Harry is to meet me on the wharf and carry me home to dinner. My orders are to pick you up, by the way, and bring you on in my pocket. Clara, who is not to be dealt with so cavalierly, is respectfully invited to be of our party. I have been three times in Clinton Place within a week, and learned that you are happy where you are. You will be happier up the river, my dear, so see that your trunk is packed, and that you are on the wharf at ½ past ten on Tuesday next. – you and Clara. I have heard a most atrocious tale of one of you Crugers. It is that Uncle Peter is married to Mrs. Romayne – he 76 – she more than 70! I sent you the letter, reclaimed from the Philistines, that I write like a true man. Goodbye, Sayd…

James Fenimore Cooper was born to American merchant, land speculator and Congressman William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown in New York’s Otsego County, in the Mohawk Valley. It was on the shores of Otsego Lake, surrounded by the Iroquois Confederacy which included the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations, that he spent his formative years. He briefly attended Yale and worked aboard a merchant ship before inheriting his father’s estate and marrying Susan Augusta de Lancey. It was his wife who first challenged him to try his hand at writing a novel, which he did in 1820. Finding success with Precaution, fashioned after Jane Austen, he became a prolific author, issuing The Pioneers, the first of his Leatherstocking novels, in 1823. After spending more than a decade living with his family in Europe, Cooper returned to Cooperstown in 1834. For a time, he spent his winters in New York City, but eventually lived all year at his family home in the Mohawk Valley.

James Fenimore Cooper portrait

James Fenimore Cooper

Jenny Lind portrait

Jenny Lind

Our letter, written from New York where Cooper was spending some time, mentions Swedish coloratura soprano Jenny Lind (1820-1887), who made her celebrated American debut in New York City on September 11, 1850 as part of a tour managed by American showman Phineas T. Barnum. Lind enjoyed a sensational success, noted by Cooper in a letter to his wife from November 15, 1850: “‘Have you heard Jenny Lind?’ ‘How do you like Jenny Lind?’ are the questions that supplant ‘Fine weather to-day’ and similar comprehensive remarks,” (Correspondence of James Fenimore-Cooper). It appears, however, that the novelist never heard the Swedish Nightingale sing as he wrote in another letter to his wife, seven days later, “I have not heard Jenny, and to-night is her last. Mrs. Field has sent me an At Home for to-morrow to meet Jenny, but I do not think I shall go,” (ibid.).

Saidee was the niece of Cooper’s friend Henry Nicholas Cruger, Jr., himself the son of the governor of South Carolina and United States Congressman Nicholas Cruger. Cruger married New York socialite Harriet Douglas, at whose insistence he changed his name to Henry Douglas Cruger. His divorce from Harriet set a legal precedent long used in divorce law (Cruger v. Cruger). Following their separation, Cruger lived in Saugerties (“Crugerties – Socrates”) where he lived on his brother Lewis’ farm and practiced law. Our letter is humorously making arrangements for Saidee, who Cooper treated as an adopted niece, to visit Cooper’s home in Cooperstown, New York, roughly 100 miles to the northwest.

Harry is possibly his grandson Henry Phinney (1850-1851), the son of his daughter Caroline, who was born in February 1850 and died just over a year later in September 1851 and often referenced in his letters (Correspondence of James Fenimore-Cooper).

Our letter jokingly refers to Greek philosopher Socrates (470/469 B.C.E.-399 B.C.E.) and his wife Xantippe, who is often portrayed as a shrew, and may be a veiled reference to Cruger’s former wife. Folded with normal wear. Mounting traces on the verso. In very fine condition.

An Amusing and Unpublished Autograph Letter Signed by the Author of “The Last of the Mohicans,” Mentioning Jenny Lind’s Celebrated American Tour

Signed by James Fenimore Cooper

$1800 • item #18783

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