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James Fenimore Cooper: Sea Tales: The Pilot/The Red Rover (Library of America)

James Fenimore Cooper: Sea Tales: The Pilot/The Red Rover (Library of America) (Hardcover) by James Fenimore Cooper (Author), Kay Seymour House (Editor), Thomas Philbrick (Editor)

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Summary

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Having invented the novel of the western frontier, Cooper went on to invent the sea novel. "The Pilot"'s shadowy hero--modeled on John Paul Jones--leads the American Navy in dangerous raids on the English coast. In "The Red Rover," a notorious pirate is chased by a disguised agent of the Royal Navy. Romance, adventure, political intrigue, revelations of mistaken identity--here is Cooper at his best: a painter of brilliant seascapes, a riveting narrator of suspense.

Contemporary Review

From a survey of James Fenimore Cooper's work in the January 1852 issue of The North American review:

The Pilot is usually considered the best of Coopers sea tales. It is in truth a masterpiece of his genius; and although the reader is apt to pass with impatience over the long conversations among the ladies at St. Ruth's, and between Alice

Dunscombe and the disguised Paul Jones, yet he is amply repaid when he follows the author to his congenial element.  The description of the wreck of the Ariel, and the death of Long Tom Coffin, can scarcely be spoken of in terms of too much admiration. Long Tom is to Cooper's sea tales what Leatherstocking is to the novels of the forest, a conception so original and forcible, that posterity will hardly suffer it to escape from remembrance.

Other Reviews

4 out of 5 stars The Red Rover is wonderful!, October 7, 2000

By A Customer

Instead of reading from the beginning, I started with The Red Rover first. I enjoyed it immensely; it was filled with sailors' superstitions, eery encounters with unknown ships, and many tales of the 'unexplained' occurances on sea. There were wonderful descriptions from Cooper that appealed to the senses. The Red Rover is a page-turning tale of suspense. The reader is left to ponder over the identity of the captain Red Rover and the nature of his near magical power over his men, yet Cooper gives the reader a slap in the face when we realize that it is our hero, "Wilder", who is not what he seems! The story continues and ends with more identity-revealing. I finished The Red Rover with a dazzled mind, and then turned to The Pilot. Expecting more intriguing tales of the sea, this book was a let-down in that it nearly focuses on two young lieutenants trying to kidnap their lovers from England and whisk them away, back to America. Redeeming the tale slightly is the vague pilot himself, never named, but patterned on a heroic and rather "chivalrous" John Paul Jones

4 out of 5 stars Another solid Library of America title...., June 6, 2006

By nto62 (Corona, CA USA)

Comprising two novels, Sea Tales reflects Cooper's interest in matters maritime. More famous for The Leatherstocking Tales which brought us The Last of the Mohicans, few know that Cooper wrote a history of the US Navy which is considered a classic of naval literature. In Sea Tales, Cooper extends his fascination with a fictional bent. The Pilot begins off the shores of England during the American Revolution. To fulfill a secret mission, Cooper chooses one of America's early naval heroes as his protagonist, but leaves only clues as to who this might be. We follow our hero and his allies through twisting and often improbable plots. Yet, as his mission occurs mainly on shore, we find a "sea tale" that is surprisingly landlocked.

Not so in the second story, The Red Rover. Here Cooper casts us upon the savage sea with a vengeance as a buccaneer and the British navy scheme and maneuver to gain the upper hand. The Red Rover is clearly the better of the two tales, but modern readers must be prepared for a verbose narrative with bulging descriptives and implausible plot twists that wouldn't fly in a latter day novel.

Library of America publishes a product that truly finds the sweet spot between quality and price. I own many Library of America editions and they do not disappoint. James Fenimore Cooper's Sea Tales is no exception. Cooper's content is as pleasurable as the book within which it is bound. If you enjoy 19th-century literature, the sea, sailing, or simply authors who truly relish the story they're telling, you'll want to devote the time and expense. 4 stars.

5 out of 5 stars "I lov'd the King. God bless him!", May 16, 2009

By  T. Patrick Killough "All about Patrick: www.... (Black Mountain, NC United States) (REAL NAME)       

In 1823 James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) invented a new novelistic genre: the sea tale. He not only created that novelty, he underlined it through subtitling THE PILOT: A TALE OF THE SEA. Despite its subtitle most of the action of THE PILOT took place on or near the land of the northeastern coast of England. Five years later Cooper's second sea tale, THE RED ROVER, sailed off into deeper waters of the wide Atlantic, but not all that far from the coastlines of North America and the Caribbean. Never mind, the sea adventure tale genre was launched. And James Fenimore Cooper would write again and again adventures set on the salt waters of the seven seas as well as fresh waters of the Hudson and Kalamazoo rivers, Lakes Ontario and Otsego ("Glimmerglass") and others.

For Cooper had been a professional sailor before becoming America's first novelist able to live by his writings. And those wide-ranging works treated not only politics, cross-cultural comparisons of America and Europe but even included a still read history of the young United States Navy.

The 1991 Library of America presentation of THE PILOT and THE RED ROVER is 902 pages long. The two sea tales take up 868 pages of smaller than average print. The succeeding scholarly apparatus consists of Chronology (869 - 881) -- a detailed literary life of James Fenimore Cooper -- Note on the Texts (882 - 885) and Notes (886 - 902). The only obvious reader aids lacking are maps of northeastern England and the nearby "German Sea" as well as Rhode Island and the route of the Red Rover in its chase and naval engagements.

THE PILOT (pp. 1 - 422)

This is a novel of John Paul Jones, founder of the American navy, and his carrying the revolutionary war to the enemy. In this tale the locale is Northumberland on England's northeastern seacoast. By chance an American loyalist has taken his daughter and niece -- the daughter of his dead brother -- from rebel South Carolina to the mother country, not seen by his family in a century. His repurchased ancestral home is five miles from the sea. And John Paul Jones, the novel's mysterious pilot, and others are commissioned by the Continental Congress to wreak reprisal on the foe. The British take American hostages. So the Americans take British hostages to trade for their countrymen. Jones has six captives in mind, including two peers of the realm.

His plan against Northumberland is complicated by two young women and a young sailor, children of three sisters. They are more flexible in their loyalties. One women will readily give up her aging relative/protector to go anywhere with the rebel she loves. But one cousin will stay with her loyalist uncle despite her lover's rescue of her in Jones's raid. Jones's onetime lover refuses to join his rebellion and they part forever. How does the novel's South Carolina heroine find true love? Read THE PILOT and find out. The last intelligible words of old Carolinian, ever loyal to Britain, are "I - I - I- lov'd the King -- God bless him ---." -OOO-

THE RED ROVER (pp. 423 - 868)

In 1759 in Newport, Rhode Island, we meet Captain Heidegger, master, allegedly of a mysterious ultra-sleek slaver in the outer harbor. Not long after a passenger packet puts to sea bound for the Carolinas, Heidegger proclaims himself the dreaded buccaneer, the Red Rover, and makes a long pursuit of the richly laden packet. Through perils of sea, storms, fog and of various other sorts, Heidegger defeats a British man-of-war pursuing him. He ends up freeing people you would not expect him to free, releases his pirate crew from their oaths of loyalty and disappears. At novel's end, Heidegger reappears, now in true identity. Some previously unacknowledged relatives gather at his deathbed. We learn that all along the dreaded Red Rover was a disguised colonial patriot, warring against the King years before the Colonies proclaimed their independence. The Rover's dying words salute American independence: "...we have triumphed!" -OOO-

THE PILOT and THE RED ROVER: two novels by James Fenimore Cooper that probe the issues that lead some people to stay loyal to a flawed ruler and others to join the other side.


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