What follows is a humorous essay by Mark Twain (1835 – 1910), written in 1895 as satire and literary criticism of the work of James Fenimore Cooper (1789 – 1851). Not included here are quotes from Yale University’s Thomas Lounsbury (1838 – 1915), Columbia University’s James Brander Matthews (1852 – 1929); and English novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins (1824 – 1889) which preceded the essay and raved about Cooper as a great novelist. Note that some of the language reproduced here is offensive.
It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English Literature in Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper’s literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper.
Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in Deerslayer, and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.
There are nineteen rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction—some say twenty-two. In Deerslayer Cooper violated eighteen of them. [Read more…] about Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences