The Soldier Boy, or, Tom Somers in the Army A Story of the Great Rebellion (TREDITION CLASSICS)

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Doe M. Blouse -- literally, Mr. Smock, from the costume then worn by ordinary French workmen. They have come, they tell Cooper, to explore basic truths, and they are horrified by what they have learned about America. In America, they say, "the people have rights that belong to the elite, and the consequences are frightening: there is corruption everywhere, egotism reigns, social chaos mingles social classes, Christians are savages, savages are Christians, blacks are white, whites are mulattos, and even the water has changed to rum.

When Cooper reminds them that there are no steamboats crossing the Atlantic which was the case in , they refuse to believe him, and ask how he, a sailor, can deny a fact well known throughout Europe from the Mediterranean to the Arctic. Their litany of error continues: The official name of America is "The United States of North America," and if the American Constitution says otherwise it must be wrong. Americans pay huge taxes. American streets are blocked with chains on Sundays. It took a violent uprising before American boats could sail on the Sabbath.

American women drink tea at home with missionaries while their husbands read newspapers in their clubs, and then sew shirts for the poor until midnight.

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Two Congressmen fought it out on horseback, with pistols and swords, on the floor of the House of Representatives, and only ceased when artillery arrived. Rejecting all corrections, the "Three European Ideas" disappear, oblivious to Cooper's protestations. Significance: An amusing piece of light humor, reflecting Cooper's often frustrated efforts to teach Europeans about the American he loved. Finding it: The original French version can be found "on line" at the French National Library website.

Next Week: "The Headsman" -- tribulations of the hereditary public executioner of Berne, Switzerland, when his son falls in love with an aristocrat. If inherited high status is bad -- what about inherited shame and detestation? The Headsman; or, The Abbaye des Vignerons. Background: In , Cooper and his family spent two months -- their second Swiss vacation -- at Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva.

James visited the Castle of Blonay overlooking the town, and with a friend ventured further afield to the famous Pass of the Great St. Bernard, between Switzerland and Italy, where monks and their famous St. Bernard dogs have for centuries rescued and cared for travellers trapped in the heavy snows. Vevey has since the 17th century been famous for its periodic "Festival of the Winegrowers" "vignerons" sponsored by the local Abbey of St.

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Urbain, and featuring a famous allegorical procession at which prizes are awarded for the best wines. Cooper just missed the Festival of , but he learned enough about the one held in to make it a centerpiece of this novel -- nowadays the Festival is held only four times a century -- most recently in The Story: In the 18th century an overloaded boat sets sail from Geneva.

Baron de Willading is taking his beautiful but ailing daughter Adelheid to Vevey, accompanied by her suitor, a poor but honest Swiss soldier named Sigismund, and by a long-time old friend from Genoa, Signor Grimaldi. The "Winkelried" carries an unruly crowd of passengers -- not to mention two large dogs which figure so frequently in Cooper novels -- a St. Bernard named Uberto and a Newfoundland named Nettuno. Panic ensues when the passengers realize that the boat also carries the feared and detested Balthazar -- hereditary executioner headsman of the Canton of Berne -- who is blamed, and almost murdered, when the boat encounters a sudden heavy storm.

The real identity of the honest Sigismund, and the fate of his love for Adelheid, become involved with the unhappy public executioner and his family, as the story moves through the pageantry of the Festival of the Winegrowers in Vevey to the Castle of Blonay, to end in a vivid and wintry climax at the famous Monastery at the Great Saint Bernard Pass. Significance: As in his other two "European novels" Cooper explores moral and social evils which had always existed in Europe, but which he feared might still threaten the new democracy being built in America.

Thus "The Bravo" deals with faceless bureaucratic tyranny by an aristocracy of wealth, and "The Heidenmauer" with greed and fanaticism and how men can rationalize and even sanctify deeds of profound evil. Wherever or whenever they are set, Cooper's novels always address eternal questions -- and usually questions peculiarly relevant to the American experience.

Fiction On Order

Next Week: Returning disillusioned to America, Cooper rebukes his reading audience, and announces prematurely the end of his writing career, in "A Letter to His Countrymen. A Letter to His Countrymen. Cooper was deeply disappointed at the generally cool reception his latest novels had received at home -- which he attributed, with some accuracy, to political animosity in the Whig-controlled American press.

He was also very upset by the hostile reaction at home and by American diplomats abroad to an article he had written for General LaFayette, proving that democratic government in America cost less than royal government in France. But Cooper was genuinely distraught; he even refused an invitation to a welcome-home party offered by his old New York writer friends. He was determined to cease writing novels for what he considered an ungrateful audience.

One novel already in the works, a few books of non-fiction he had long contemplated, and he would seek something else to do. And he would do it back home in Cooperstown. Already, Cooper had begun negotiations to buy back his father's old home at Otsego Hall, and to remodel it in the Gothic style he had come to love in Europe.

In the mean time, he fired off a page book outlining his discontents. Much of it is devoted to a detailed dissection of a critical American newspaper review of Cooper's novel "The Bravo," trying to prove wrongly, as it turned out that it had been written by a Frenchman and deliberately "planted" in order to discredit him.

In rambling fashion, he goes on to denounce the tendency of Americans at home to get their opinions from foreign sources, and of Americans living abroad to poor-mouth their country's institutions in order to cuddle up to foreign aristocrats.

The Soldier Boy, Or, Tom Somers in the Army a Story of the Great Rebellion -

He explores the American political system he finds after seven years abroad, discussing the roles of the Presidency and the Congress, of the press and of the parties, and finding little that he likes. A strong supporter of President Jackson and the concept of political democracy while at the same time defending cultural elitism and the rights of property , Cooper believed that the anti-Jackson Whig Party was pushing America into the hands of a corrupt aristocracy of wealth, using the tools of demagogy and a controlled press to mislead the people and gain their votes.

Congress, he believed, was increasingly under the thumb of the new men with money. Significance: "A Letter to His Countrymen" is a book only a biographer could love, and it did little to enhance Cooper's reputation. Nevertheless, it contains important clues as to Cooper's political and social philosophy -- ideas which he would express much more effectively four years later in "The American Democrat.

Your compiler has also placed it on-line on this website at A Letter to His Countrymen. Next Week: The Monikins," is Cooper's strangest and perhaps his funniest novel, a tale of biting satire in which civilized monkeys in Antarctica "ape" the political and cultural ways of England and America. The Monikins. Background: "The quill and I are divorced The tales are done.

There are a few half unfinished manuscripts on other subjects to finish, and I turn sailor again -- or something else Settling temporarily in New York City, Cooper bought back his father's old home in Cooperstown Otsego Hall and remodeled it in the Gothic style pointed windows, towers, and fake battlements. By he and his family were permanently established back in the village of his childhood.

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One of those manuscripts was "a little work, of an entirely new kind, nearly done" -- "The Monikins. It would be his last "novel" for several years. The Story: Sir John Goldencalf has risen from nothing -- his father, a foundling, had became enormously wealthy by inside trading on the stock market and marrying his employer's daughter. Determined to do good in the world, Sir John buys himself a seat in Parliament, and invests in economic enterprises all over the British empire, on the theory that only those with a "social stake" in the economy can truly represent the people. He is in love with a girl from a good family.

But his life is about to change. In Paris, Sir John and a casual acquaintance Captain Noah Poke of Connecticut rescue four monkeys from an organ-grinder, only to discover that they come from a civilization of talking monkeys "monikins" living in Antarctica.

Sir John escorts them home in Captain Poke's ship "The Walrus" where he finds the twin monkey nations of Leaphigh and its former colony Leaplow. Sir John and Captain Poke explore these strange lands for months, encountering various adventures along the way and enduring the hardships of a land where nobody eats anything but nuts. Finally there begins a "great moral eclipse," in which all true values are replaced by the all-mighty dollar -- and our travellers flee back home to Europe where -- might it all have been a delirious dream?

Fiction On Order

Sir John concludes with a list of what he has learned in his travels:: as "That of all the 'ocracies aristocracy and democracy included hypocrisy is the most flourishing," and "That truth is a comparative and local property, being much influenced by circumstances; particularly by climate and public opinion.

Significance: "The Monikins" is a sarcastic, sometimes labored, but often hilarious satire on British and American society and politics -- a forerunner of both "Animal Farm" and "The Planet of the Apes. Finding it: "The Monikins" was reprinted separately once in but must otherwise be sought in sets of Cooper's works, or on-line. Next Week: We begin examining Cooper's five travel books based on his seven years in Europe -- some of them masterpieces of travel writing.

Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland.

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Background: In , back home permanently in Cooperstown, Cooper turned to a series of travel books based on his seven years in Europe He made use of his extensive travel journals as well as of his phenomenal ability to recall places and events. All five books use the format of imaginary letters to friends back home, but they differ considerably in content.

Some are mostly travelogue, with occasional digressions.

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Others comment extensively on the European political, economic, and cultural scene -- always addressed to an American audience. The Story: Cooper's first travel book is based on a summer July-October that the Cooper family spent near Bern, and making excursions through Switzerland's magnificent Alpine scenery. The Cooper family including five children and Cooper's year old nephew William Yeardley Cooper, who had come to Europe as Cooper's secretary and copyist had left Paris by carriage in early July, They settled at a villa La Lorraine outside the Swiss capital of Bern.

From there the older members of the family James, his wife, his year old daughter Susan, and William made two week-long excursions through Switzerland's mountains, travelling by boat, carriage, on horseback, and on foot. Then, leaving the family at La Lorraine, James Fenimore Cooper went on two trips alone, accompanied only by a guide. The first was a strenuous day hike through the Alps to the source of the Rhine; the second a trip by boat around Lake Geneva.

Cooper was impressed by the pilgrim shrine at Einsiedeln, which he would use as the setting for part of his novel "The Heidenmauer. As snows began to fall, Cooper packed up his family, and took them over the mountain passes still infested with bandits to Florence in Italy.