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Cooper and His Collaborators:
Recovering Cooper's Final Intentions for His Fiction
Lance Schachterle *

Begun in the late 1960s, "The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper" (www. wjfc.org) is a critical scholarly edition subscribing to the guidelines of the Modern Language Association Center for Scholarly Editions (and to those of its predecessor, the Center for Editions of American Authors.) As editorial policy, the Cooper Edition (CE henceforth) has followed a conservative interpretation of the prevailing theory and practice used to edit American fiction in the last half century. Specifically, CE has subscribed to the rationale of Walter Greg, as practiced in the editing of nineteenth-century American texts by Fredson Bowers, G. Thomas Tanselle, and others, by invoking the crucial importance of the "author's final intentions"—identifying and preserving what the editors believe the author finally intended for every aspect of the form and substance of the work at hand. As evidence of Cooper's final intentions, CE has taken holograph witnesses (extant authorial manuscripts and revisions) as well as variants which collateral evidence (based on Cooper's known practices in the extant holograph revisions) suggests are likely to be authorial. CE scholarly texts are thus eclectic: CE editors chose variants they judge to be authorial from texts subsequent to the copy-text to create a text ideally embodying Cooper's final intentions.

In the 1980s, these governing procedures for CE practice concerning the authority of final intentions, especially the distinctions between accidentals and substantives, were strongly challenged. Cultural and language theorists, from the New Critics through the post-modernists, had questioned on social and psychological grounds the capacity of individual authors to exercise full autonomy and control over their texts. Such theorists argued that overpowering relationships to other authors, to readers, to broad cultural movements and constraints, and to the body of language itself demanded a revision of the assumption that authors consciously understood and controlled "final intentions" in their works. Jerome J. McGann's A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983) brought these arguments home [End Page 317] to the editorial community by showing from Byron's oeuvre and elsewhere that authors (especially poets) often produced multiple versions of texts for different occasions. Further, McGann argued forcefully that authors submitting manuscripts to compositors expected and often welcomed their interventions to perfect intentions indifferently realized in the manuscript delivered for composition. McGann's demonstration that Byron expected professionals in the printing shop or friends copying his manuscripts to normalize lapses and inconsistencies in his spelling and grammer rendered the concept of identifying and following authorial final intentions deeply problematic. 1

This essay approaches the still-continuing debate about final intentions in the belief that the argument is best engaged not with theories or generalities but by illuminating the discussion through examining what is known about the practice of a specific author. My aim here is to examine these questions of final intentions and of the role of authorial collaborators through reviewing what we have learned about Cooper in the course of editing the twenty volumes of "The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper." Cooper did not set out as an author consciously to enlist collaborators, in the printing shop or elsewhere. Rather, through hard-won experience in seeing his manuscrripts through the press, he came to realize and value the roles compositors and others inevitably played in getting his words before the public. His challenge was to understand these roles and then to supervise, as closely as circumstances permitted, the inevitable limited collaborations that ensued. The issues are: How and where did collaborators (licensed and otherwise) succeed—or fail—in realizing Cooper's final intentions for his works? More specifically for editorial purposes, when manuscripts of Cooper's work in his own hand are extant, should CE scholars use as copy-texts such holograph witnesses? Or should they turn to first editions for which Cooper is known to have read proof and which may benefit from the improvements of his collaborators?

Cooper and His Copyists

Fortunately for Cooper editors, Cooper in one invaluable letter briefly overcame his customary reluctance to discuss his processes of composition. When responding on 12 April 1835 to a flattering request from the then Princess Victoria for an autograph of his work, Cooper wrote to the intermediary Aaron Vail (U.S. chargé d'affairs in London) that he chose to honor the princess' request by[End Page 318]

present[ing] myself to Her Royal Highness, republican as I am, in my working clothes. In other words I send a rough manuscript precisely as it was written, and which contains a chapter of the Bravo [published in London in 1831]. The work in question was written in this manner by myself and then copied by a secretary [his nephew William and his wife Susan and daughter Susan all apparently served in this capacity]. The copy was corrected again by myself, and then it passed into the hands of the printers. The sheets were subjected to another correction, and the result was the book. Now it is more than probable that the work will differ materially from this manuscript, but they who take the trouble to compare them will have an opportunity of getting an insight into the secrets of authorship. 2

The work of several Cooper editors (see especially James P. Elliott, The Prairie, and Thomas and Marianne Philbrick, The Red Rover) confirms the broad lineaments of Cooper's description here of his habitual practice of writing, proofing, and publishing in the 1830s and beyond. Two points concerning his disclosures about his inscribing the text, collaborating with an amanuensis, and overseeing the resulting corrected copy through the press, need to be made more explicit.

First is the role of the amanuensis. Cooper indicated to Vail that he corrected the fair copy before it passed "into the hands of the printers." But he does not state that he made such corrections against the original manuscript itself. Doubtless in the commerce of his family circle he easily could have responded to queries from his copyists about passages they had difficulties with; but without a zealous comparison of their version with his original, he would not have caught plausible substitutions his copyists made, consciously or by accident. Thus the amanuensis fair copy represents a close collaboration of author and family members, but one that, in the absence of a careful comparison with the original, began the process of introducing variants into those final intentions Cooper had expressed when he completed the manuscript.

As was his practice, first with his nephew William and later with his wife and daughter, while traveling in Europe (1826 to 1833), Cooper preferred to have someone in his family circle make a fair copy for the press of his own first draft. Cooper, as we shall see, had problems enough with the New York printers who set the six novels (through Last of the Mohicans) which he published before leaving for Europe and which established his early fame. But at least with the New York printers and publishers, he had the benefit of personal associations and frequent visits to the city. However, for the seven new novels and Notions of the Americans written during the European sojourn, he had to endure printing and publishing variously in Paris, Dresden, Florence, and London.

Cooper doubtless decided that the necessity of entrusting to non-English-reading printers the setting of his manuscripts made it prudent to oversee the re-copying of the original by someone who could unpack his own dense and crabbed writing into a script easier for compositors new to his hand to [End Page 319] set proof from. Early and late, Cooper's handwriting is difficult. Writing with paternal advice to his son Paul on 9 November 1843, Cooper urged him to "attend to your hand-writing. I am a living proof of the importance of such an accomplishment" (L&J, 4.426). After Cooper began journeying in earnest on the Continent, attendance in person at the printing shop became inconvenient (though he continued insisting on reading and returning proofs); providing a fair-copy manuscript to foreign printers became all the more worth the extra labor.

Apparently anticipating the need for a confidential amanuensis while abroad, Cooper had made arrangements for his brother William's son, William Yeardly Cooper (1809-1831), to accompany the family in Europe. William faithfully carried out the copyist duties for Prairie, Red Rover, Water-Witch, and part of Bravo until his terminal illness and untimely death on 1 October 1831, after which Cooper's wife Susan and daughter Susan assumed the duties of copyists. Cooper subsequently tried unsuccessfully to persuade his niece Elizabeth Caroline DeLancey to join the Coopers in Europe to take on William's tasks (L&J, 2.159).

Only one chapter, a late one not in William's hand, survives of the amanuensis copy of Bravo, but the CE scholarly texts of Prairie and Red Rover (both 1827) and The Water-Witch (1830; in preparation) disclose William's practices as collaborator with his uncle. James P. Elliott has studied William's role in detail in his 1985 edition of Prairie, the Cooper title with the most material, in more varied forms, available for critical editing. Eliott's analysis substantiates Cooper's 1835 comments to Aaron Vail concerning his practices of composition.

The extant witnesses for Prairie demonstrate that Cooper lightly revised his manuscript, presumably before William's recopying. In his copying, William made numerous small changes, doubtless both intentional and from misreadings. William guessed at words he could not read (Cooper's "deserted swale" becomes "detested swell" in William's version); he dropped phrases and simplified or made parallel phrases and constructions; and he often imposed his own grammar and pointing, altering his uncle's characteristic rhetorical pacing. 3 Further, when he admitted defeat in reading an authorial word or phrase, William left a blank—for which often as not, his uncle, when revising William's copy, provided wording different from the original manuscript. In short, while William's fair and large hand made the labors of the Paris printers of the novel far easier than Cooper's would have, he made many small changes in accidentals and substantives that found their way into the first and subsequent editions.

Thomas and Marianne Philbrick, the editors of the CE text The Red Rover, for which William's amanuensis copy survives, report very similar findings about William's practices as copyist. They identify 740 substantive variants introduced by the amanuensis, of which Cooper caught almost half [End Page 320] (360) and restored his holograph final intentions. But for 380 other readings, William's version passed into the first edition and persisted until critical editorial scrutiny caught such errors as William's "stopping," "resumed," "superiors," "rain," and "accompanied" for, respectively, the author's "stooping," "returned," "seniors," "vain," and "unaccompanied." 4 Only (as Cooper rightly speculated to Vail) when the diligent CE editor became one of those "who take the trouble to compare them" (the various witnesses) did we gain "an insight into the secrets of authorship" in terms of Cooper's collaborations with his amanuensis (L&J, 3.145).

The second point from Cooper's letter to Vail requiring comment is the author's practice of not referring to the original manuscript when reading proofs. Except under the most unusual circumstances, Cooper read and corrected the printer's proofs set from his own manuscript or from the fair copy (in the case of Bravo, printed by Richard Bentley in London). As is known from those few cases where proofs survive (Prairie and Afloat and Ashore), he corrected errors as he saw them, and made changes in areas always of concern to him (for example, the proper registration of dialect.) But, as with the fair copy, he did not correct the proofs against either his own or the amanuensis copies. In accordance with Richard Bentley's interpretation of the legal obligations for obtaining British copyrights, Cooper's manuscripts were sent to Bentley, who kept them. Thus they were not available to Cooper when he read the proofs set from them. Indeed, he made clear to Bentley that in setting Bravo, "[i]t is not necessary to send back the copy [of "nearly all of the manuscript of second volume"], as I scarcely ever refer to it . . ." (L&J, 2.93).

In summary, the first printed text of Bravo was subjected to two transcriptions of the author's extant manuscript, the fair copy and the first proofs, both of which Cooper read and revised—but not against his own final intentions inscribed in his manuscript. The experience of the CE strongly confirms Cooper's speculations—those CE editors who have "take[n] the trouble to compare" extant manuscripts with the printed texts Cooper proofread have indeed found that the latter "differ materially from the manuscript."

Cooper and His Printers

Having examined Cooper's characteristic degrees of control over his closest collaborators, his family copyists, let me turn to a more detailed discussion of his relationship with the printers of his first proofs. Except on rare occasions where time or distance precluded review, Cooper always examined and corrected the first proofs himself. For Cooper, the interventions of the printers such review disclosed were ones he alternatingly welcomed and abhorred. Unfortunately, his letters disclose far more concern with these collaborators' missteps than with their improvements.

Writing to his first publisher, Andrew Thompson Goodrich, on 2 July [End Page 321] 1820, Cooper concluded a letter filled with the anxieties of a first author with the plea to "Hasten the first proof sheet [of Precaution], as it may suggest some alterations in the Chapters and I hourly expect the "Union" in, and must go to Sag-Harbor as soon as I hear of her arrival" (L&J, 1.46). Most curious is this conjunction of concerns about his two immediate commercial prospects: authorship and whaling. At this stage in his career, Cooper knew a good deal more about the commerce of the sea than that of publishing. But in his extensive correspondence with Goodrich, we see Cooper beginning to learn the technicalities of composition, proofreading, and publishing the hard way—on the job.

After several months of intense struggle with Goodrich, the best Cooper could do to close the gap between the holograph final intentions and printed text for Precaution was to include an errata sheet. But from his experience with seeing his first manuscript through the press (discussed below), Cooper developed practices to execute textual revisions that he used throughout his career. He learned from Precaution how to define for publishers and their compositors specific and delimited roles as collaborators in trying to construct his final intentions for his major works. As we shall see, the unanticipated demand for his second novel, The Spy (1821), provided Cooper with an opportunity Precaution did not offer—to make significant revisions after the first edition for three distinct new editions (two in 1822 and one in 1831). Through 1831, his correspondence discloses that he revised, at least once, every novel he wrote. His correspondence does not always indicate all the editions he revised; editors must undertake extensive collations of all texts possibly under his control to determine which contain variants likely to be authorial. Although Cooper revised for subsequent editions only three (Pathfinder, Deerslayer, and The Two Admirals) of the twenty-one novels he wrote after 1831, for many of these titles manuscript and other pre-publication materials exist to aid the Cooper editor in determining the author's final intentions for both substantives and accidentals.

Whatever romantic notions persist about the circumstances of Cooper's writing Precaution, his correspondence with Goodrich about seeing the novel through the press is grimly realistic. As a body, these letters show Cooper beginning to develop his career-long expectations and demands for the kinds of cooperation he wanted from the printing shop. Once the proofs began to arrive, Cooper was appalled with the errors he soon detected. Cooper's first extant response of 4 July 1820, in his characteristically conversational prose, begins with polite but firm correction:

Yours has been received—I am obliged to you for any little suggestions you may make in relation to its success—but the faults I apprehend; (in the page you have sent me) rest with the printer. I have corrected it, as I am persuaded the manuscript reads—or is meant to read—in one instance they have made nonsense. I never use the term "relax from embarrassments" though "release" is what we all wish under those circumstances—the Book is certainly written hastily—but the style is not bad . . . I must revise the proof sheets myself, as I now feel certain the compositors will not be able to make it out without me—the spelling is in many cases bad—the consequences of [End Page 322] looseness in my manner of writing—I will however examine the manuscript more closely, as it proceeds and you must send me the proof sheets. (L&J, 1.46-47)

The substance here of the first sentence echoes throughout the thirty years of Cooper's career that lay ahead with respect to the dual appeal for collaboration with his various publishers: make "any little suggestions" that may improve the work's success but correct the faults that "rest with the printer." To guide this collaboration, Cooper exhorted his publishers and printers to take care where he had not, especially to understand the idiosyncrasies of his writing and orthography:

(28 June 1820): My writing is so bad and I am so very careless with it that unless great care is taken with the printing and orthography—the Book will be badly gotten up— The business of paragraphs is an important one and I have made little marks * where I think there should be a new one—the speeches should be in lines by themselves generally, but to write closely I have omitted it in many cases. (L&J, 1.44-45)

(2 July 1820): I expect the compositors will curse the scribe not a little, but they must be patient as the thing is remedyless, & by all means let them be particular to the punctuation, without which no book is "readable." (L&J, 1.46)

Cooper's first encounters with printers led him to pledge to take more care with his writing and especially the punctuation ("I have paid more attention to the pointing, and think it will be easier work as they proceed," 12 July 1820, L&J, 1.49). To aid his collaborators in the printing shop, in the same letter to Goodrich he sent them "the spelling of the names—which written off plainly on bits of papers will prevent the mistakes which occur sometimes in the manuscript, creepin[g] into the proof sheets—."

These early letters to Goodrich—like several later concerning Precaution and many about his subsequent publications—disclose Cooper's clear sense of how he wanted his publishers and printers to collaborate. His role was to acknowledge his own lapses and identify general problems (like consistency of names). Their obligation was to locate and correct these lapses, as well as to correct any other authorial oversights they detected.

Reading more proofs brought more problems and more appeals for care, along with practical advice on difficulties compositors were likely to encounter in an orthography Cooper was unwilling or unable to change: "I like the frequent use of the dash—and believe they have ommitted [sic] it in one or two cases where I was at pains to insert it. They must observe however that I never use the period but close most of my sentences with the dash. This of course is not to be printed so—" (17 July; L&J, 1.50).

Cooper concluded a second letter to Goodrich of 17 July with the expectation he would soon be able to submit manuscript for the second volume of Precaution. He anticipated that in his final review of the remaining manuscript of the volume he might overlook "grammatical errors, and some words may be omitted as I read it over very rapidly from necessity. If any such meet your notice you will please alter th[is?] and I can see the proof afterwards . . ." (L&J, 1.51). Two days later, he informed Goodrich of the necessity of leaving Angevine (the farm near Mamaroneck that Susan Cooper's father gave them [End Page 323] in 1817) to attend to other business (including the newly returned whaling ship). In his absence he pressed Susan into the role of proofreader, making clear to Goodrich that her corrections should also be incorporated into what he hoped was the increasingly correct text of Precaution.

However, three letters at the end of August convey his anguish at finding the proofs of the second volume riddled with errors, most vexingly in passages where he had already provided corrections. A letter (27? August 1820) details Cooper's concerns with errors in the first volume, which Goodrich had presented to Cooper as "ready for the public eye." In addition to numerous gaffes, Cooper protested vehemently about the misuse of articles, since "the judicious use of the articles and the qualifying words—is one of the characteristic distinctions between American writers and the English[,] also of the affected sentimental and plain good sense" (L&J, 1.56).

Eight more letters follow in September with more evidence of specific passages requiring correction, resulting in Cooper's finally assenting to and composing a detailed errata notice:

[t]he evil consequences [of bad printing] pervade every chapter in the Book after the 15th and those not in commas and dashes—but in sense—grammar—and execution to an almost ruinous degree—(7-8 September; L&J, 1.58)

I send you a few more corrections for the errata—there are many more mistakes in the proof but such as will pass one or two of grammar—but I will leave them for the general apology—In future I shall not notice the spelling at all—leaving it solely for you—unless a proper name occurs spelt wrong—there are so many mistakes in the last proofs that I am afraid my corrections will be so numerous otherwise they will overlook some—the insertion or omission of the letter S—is of much more importance at the end of a word than the printers seem to think—it alters the grammar always and frequently the style materially—(12-14? September; L&J, 1.60)

And finally in an almost stream-of-consciousness blending of concerns about printers' errors, timely publication, and other business and personal matters, Cooper wrote to Goodrich in mid-month:

I return the proof—the book drags on very heavily—and I am afraid Van Winkle does not employ competent compositors—the mistakes they make are ludicrous and since I have urged the division into paragraphs they have in several instances made them in the middle of sentences . . . cannot the thing be hastened—I am extremely anxious to go to Sag-Harbor and Mrs. Cooper is afraid to undertake it [proofreading] again in my absence—the second volume is far—far better than the first—but they still leave mistakes unnoticed—the letter S at the end of words—its omission or insertion is of great importance and there are at least a dozen mistakes of that nature most if not all of which are notic'd by me— (13-25? September; L&J, 1.60-61)

When the two volumes of Precaution were finally printed and bound in mid-October, Cooper confessed he could "honestly own I am pleased with my appearance" (19-20 October?; L&J, 1.66), diplomatically blaming the faults on his own casual approach to authorship rather than on Goodrich. But seeing his first work through the press was a painful lesson in collaboration. His volcanic outburst to Goodrich of 25 August records his bitterness with how "they" (the printers) perverted his work with their unwanted interventions, [End Page 324] to the point where their collaboration destroyed his efforts. Indeed, with mock solemnity, he invited Goodrich's printers to write their own book rather than intrude on his:

if the book be printed in this careless manner revision by the author is useless—it is possible from haste there may be grammatical errors—but I wish my own language printed—having quite as much faith in my own taste as in that of any printer in the Union—let them give me a fair chance—the work is mine and I am willing to keep the faults—if they want to write I will suggest the expediency of their taking up a new subject where they can find full scope for their talents—let my book be literally my own. They cannot possibly understand my meaning as well as myself. . . . if they wish to write—let them begin de novo. (L&J, 1.54-55)

(Ironically, Goodrich's printer was the highly-respected Cornelius van Winkle, author of an important book on collaboration in the printing shop, the 1818 The Printer's Guide, or an Introduction to the Art of Printing, Including an Essay on Punctuation, and Remarks on Orthography.) 5

Precaution was a modest success, but Cooper had, as early as his third letter to Goodrich of 28 June 1820, begun work on a new work, The Spy, which he reports "my female Mentor [doubtless his wife Susan] says . . . throws Precaution far in the back-ground" (L&J, 1.44). Not until the second American edition of 1839 did Cooper appear to return to his first novel to effect a revision. While his last letters to Goodrich on Precaution disclose, on balance, his pleasure with getting his first work through the fires of collaboration with his printers, he entrusted his next two works—the ones that established his career and reputation—to the more experienced New York firm of Charles [End Page 325] Wiley. The first editions of both The Spy (1821) and The Pioneers (1823) sold very well, and popular demand in both cases led promptly to new typesettings. And both novels were among the eight novels Cooper revised in the early 1830s for the Bentley Standard Novels series. These opportunities to prepare revised editions for Spy and Pioneers provided Cooper with a new set of challenges in collaborating with more experienced and professional firms to revise early texts to embody his final intentions.

However, the first editions of The Spy and The Pioneers, published by Charles Wiley of New York, are almost as error-laden as Precaution; indeed, Pioneers also required an errata note. For better or worse, no correspondence between Cooper and the publishers survives regarding the lapses of these first Wiley editions. Fortunately, Cooper's second and third novels proved to be sufficiently popular successes that the market immediately demanded new editions for both. As the CE critical editions show, in both cases Cooper worked hard and fast in these new editions to repair the blunders that had escaped his notice in proofing the first editions. 6

After the enormous success of Spy at home (and its pirating in London), Cooper pursued the potential British market for Pioneers vigorously, and initiated practices that continued for much of his career of sending his London publishers corrected proofs of his American first editions. To John Murray, the first London publisher to issue a Cooper novel by arrangement with the author, Cooper sent the following instructions for collaboration on the first British edition of The Pioneers:

I ought in justice to myself to say, that in opposition to a thousand good resolutions, the Pioneers, has been more hastily and carelessly written than any of my books—Not a line has been copied, and it has gone from my desk to the printers—I have not to this moment been able even to read it—The corrections I have made are from Queries of Mr. Wiley, or by glancing my eye over the work, so that if you find any errors in grammar or awkward sentences you are at liberty to have them altered— Though I should wish the latter to be done very sparingly, both because that one mans [sic] style seldom agrees with anothers [sic], and because a similar liberty was abused to a degree in "Precaution," that materially injured the Book— (L&J, 1.86)

From a collaborator's point of view, this combination of license to correct and of caution to respect "one mans style" must have been perplexing, doubtless even more so to London publishers with an established British house style than to Goodrich (who received similar entreaties to correct Cooper's lapses without interfering with his meaning.) Three weeks later, Cooper sent the remaining text (in "two complete sets and part of a third") for Murray's next volume, with a detailed commentary on how to respond to authorial revisions made on the various proofs:[End Page 326]

You will perceive that corrections are made in some of the pages that are omitted in the duplicates—I wish them all to be made. The difference arises from my making corrections as my eye accidentally detected the error—The words "kind of" and "sort of" occur too frequently in the book, though sometimes properly—You are at liberty to strike out most of them—

I am ashamed to say that I have not even read the printed book, regularily [sic]— but I trust much to your proofs— (L&J, 1.91-92)

Clearly Cooper expected his new London publisher to exercise a prudent, limited collaboration in preparing the novel for British audiences. In 1831, Cooper returned to both Spy and Pioneers to prepare revised texts for the "Bentley Standard Novels" series. He continued to count upon his British publishers, now Colburn and Bentley, to instruct their printers to rectify errors Cooper missed in preparing these early novels for re-issue in texts he revised with more care than at any other occasion in his career. "I return the whole of Spy, corrected," he wrote to Colburn and Bentley from Paris on 12 April 1831. "The proof-reader must be careful, and consult the sense, for it is possible in the haste which you have exacted I may have made one mistake in correcting another. The book was full of faults and I am amazed to see how many had crept in through the carelessness of the printers, though Heaven knows, there were enough of my own" (L&J, 2.67-68).

The interleaved text Cooper prepared for the Standard Novels revision of Spy is extant, and provides scholars with the best evidence we have of the kinds and degrees of changes Cooper made while revising the novel he deemed the most in need of "a severe pen." 7 The interleaved revisions include hundreds of changes, ranging from full pages through the smallest details of the text (often involving the heightening or consistent registration of dialect). Cooper even attended to punctuation changes, providing a good case study of how authors can revise accidentals as well as substantives. In the first paragraph alone of the revised Spy, he deleted six commas, presumably to pick up the narrative pace. On the front of the interleaved copy, Cooper further instructed the British printers as follows: "note Bene—No attention will be given to the spelling, except in words of local use, the names, or those which are evidently intended to be corrupt. The proof reader will take care of the others." 8 In other words, in making his revisions Cooper sanctioned the British compositors and proofreaders to correct errors in common words that missed his attention, but to respect any changes he made in formal names or in dialect ("words of local use . . . or those which are evidently intended to be corrupt.")

This "note Bene" on the manuscript revisions for Spy captures Cooper's expectations for his collaborators in the printing and proofing stages: correct [End Page 327] those errors you believe are authorial oversights but preserve those unconventional forms that you believe are intended as such. However, the achievements of Cooper's collaborators in this regard were often indifferent. As the textual commentaries of many of the CE texts show, Greg and Bowers were correct in arguing that successive re-composition of texts such as Cooper's tended to move unconventional forms, especially dialect, towards conventional ones. 9

The CE texts of Spy and Pioneers also disclose that the Bentley compositor followed Cooper's interlineated corrections with remarkable fidelity (dialect aside), occasionally correcting errors Cooper had missed. Subsequent letters to Bentley concerning the three historical novels set in Europe show Cooper's appreciation of their workmanship. Concerning The Bravo, set in Venice, Cooper admonished Bentley's staff in early June 1831 to respond appropriately to both American and Italian forms:

Let me beg you will have the revises carefully read. I pay no attention to any of the spelling, except in words of particular signification and proper names. There is a great difference in the spelling in England and America. We use one g in wagon, no u in honor and words of that class, e in visiter &c &c. The Italians spell feluca with one c, and I have corrected the proofs in that manner, but if your reader thinks there is sufficient English authority to use two cs he is at liberty to do so— (L&J, 2.93)

Here as in all other London editions, Colburn and Bentley consistently followed British usages in the spelling variants Cooper cited, with no known protest from him.

Even after his return to the United States and residency in Cooperstown, Cooper continued to entrust Bentley's staff with the difficulties of printing from his manuscripts, as shown in his letter of 6 July 1837 concerning his naval history:

. . . I have sent you the manuscript of this work, instead of printed sheets. It is pretty carefully corrected, but will require a vigilant proof-reader, one like him who corrected the Headsman. I might have sent a more fairly written copy, but I thought it might be some little compensation for the extra trouble, if I gave you the original, in my own hand. Some one may give you a few pounds for it, possibly. (L&J, 3.269)

Cooper again praised the Headsman (1833) proofreader when sending the manuscript of Homeward Bound on 17 October 1837:

The manuscript is corrected with some care, and is copied pretty plainly, but I beg you will give it a thorough reader, and one who will attend to the sense. The person who read Headsman is a capital fellow, let him be who he may. (L&J, 3.298)

Cooper and John Fagan

In the productive final decade of his career beginning in 1840, in which Cooper wrote sixteen of his thirty-two novels, for the most part the author [End Page 328] relied on his own handwriting to produce clear enough copy for his printers. Manuscripts from this last decade show an author determined to make his hand easier to read. During revision, Cooper often reshaped letters and, crucially, by writing on lined folio sheets he avoided overcrowding his lines of script (except at the unlined tops of pages where he often reverted to his old habits of packing the lines in!). And from at least 1838, Cooper began to rely more on a new form of publishing, involving his adapting of a fairly new printing technology: stereotyping of standing type to enable printing (and reprinting) from metal copies of hand-set type-pages without the expense of recomposition. In his professional career, Cooper probably came to trust no one in the publishing business more than John Fagan, who regularly made stereotype plates for the Philadelphia firm Carey, Lea, and Blanchard. Carey and Lea had published Cooper's last novel completed in America before his departure to Europe, The Last of the Mohicans, in 1826 (which, according to Robert Spiller, Fagan stereotyped.) 10 Upon Cooper's return to the United States in 1833, Carey became his favored American publishers until their collapse in the 1840s and his shifting of business to New York publishers in 1844. Even after Cooper no longer used the Philadelphia publishers, he counted on Fagan to oversee the typesetting and to prepare the stereotyped plates for all his works from Home as Found (1838) to Ways of the Hour (1850).

As James Franklin Beard notes, "[t]heir relationship was a particularly close and happy one, especially after Cooper began [with Afloat and Ashore] the practice of financing the stereotyped plates of his books and leasing them to publishers or booksellers for stated periods" (L&J, 4.446). For example, Cooper counted on Fagan to deal with a minor problem of inscription that vexed him through his career—keeping the spelling of his characters' names consistent. As he wrote to Fagan on 4 March 1845 of his new book Satanstoe:

You will find the name of the heroine printed "Aneke"—It must be altered wherever it occurs to "Anneke," or with two nn's—I add, when it is used the first or second time, "Anne"—This must be altered in this way, "Anneke (Anna Cornelia, abbreviated)." (L&J, 5.12)

Instructions of such complexity betoken a collaborator who had earned Cooper's trust. Perhaps this trust was in part born of economic necessity. Having in Fagan a trusted collaborator probably assisted Cooper materially in the 1840s when he was publishing typically two books a year (and for each receiving half or less the income his earlier fiction had generated).

Further evidence of Cooper's close working relationship with Fagan comes from the CE text of the two volumes of Afloat and Ashore (1844), edited by Thomas and Marianne Philbrick. The editors have shown that Fagan not only corrected Cooper's manuscript readings (and inevitably introduced errors in the process); he also freely made small stylistic changes and queried Cooper both on dubious readings and passages where he disagreed with Cooper's intent. Fagan's copy-editing in preparation for initial [End Page 329] typesetting and subsequent stereotyping often effected Cooper's desire to save the author from grammatical lapses. Without any known protest from Cooper, Fagan subjected Cooper's manuscripts to careful and detailed copy-editing involving hundreds of small, silent changes of Cooper's holograph, in both accidentals and substantives. But by consulting the extant manuscripts, the editors have identified over 1,100 substantive variants between the manuscript and the first American edition where neither Fagan nor Cooper noted the corruptions of Cooper's final intentions as inscribed in his manuscript. 11

Not only did Cooper entrust his new books during this period to Fagan, he counted on Fagan to see through the press the eleven revised texts he prepared, at the end of his life, for the "Author's Revised Edition" issued 1849-51 by George P. Putnam. The first book in the series was the much-revised Spy, for which Cooper admitted continued concern with printers errors:

The English edition [the Bentley Standard Novels revision] from which you will print has many mistakes I find; principally from not reading my writing well [the reference is presumably to Cooper's extant holograph revisions for Bentley, which are more detailed and numerous than any other extant authorial revisions except The Prairie.] They often mistake an "on" for "in," my o resembling an i. I find other mistakes. You will have to read the proofs carefully, and let nothing unintelligible pass. In very difficult cases, the proof might be sent to me. (L&J, 6.15)

Cooper's implied license here, to "let nothing unintelligible pass," is for him an extraordinary show of confidence in a collaborator who over the years clearly he had grown to rely on implicitly—a collaboration far different from his first with Andrew Thompson Goodrich in 1820. In the absence of textual witnesses, however, assessing Fagan's role versus Cooper's own in making the comparatively few revisions CE editors consider substantive in the Putnam texts is difficult at best. 12

Conclusion: What Cooper Intended His Collaborators To Do

The answer to the first question posed early in this paper should be fairly clear: "How and where did Cooper and his collaborators (licensed and otherwise) succeed—or fail—in realizing Cooper's final intentions for his works?" From Goodrich to Fagan, Cooper expected those professionals in printing [End Page 330] and proofreading, with whom inescapably he had to collaborate, to distinguish between his errors and oversights (which they were to set right) while preserving faithfully what he told John Murray was "one mans style" (clearly his own) which "seldom agrees with anothers" (L&J, 1.86). Cooper pressed into collaboration even artistic friends like Horace Greenough, to whom on 17 February 1830 he sent a manuscript letter (to the Edinburgh Review, never published) with the injunction "to read, for typographical and grammatical errors, and when these are corrected, I shall want to see a proof myself" (L&J, 1.404). Typographical and grammatical errors—or, as indicated elsewhere, inconsistencies in proper names or even (to the trusted Fagan) anything "unintelligible"—he expected his collaborators to correct. But concerning substance and style, he was firm. From Precaution on (when he distinguished between British and American conventions in using articles) he brooked no interference with his final intentions with respect to substantives. Even suggestions for "improvements" from the trusted Fagan the Philbricks have shown in Afloat and Ashore often met with peremptory rejection. 13

In short, he intended his collaborators to perform the services of copy-editors, but no more. As he specified on 18 June 1839 to Richard Bentley, he preferred his English publisher to print from corrected American proofs, not the manuscript British copyright law required Bentley to have: "So many improvements in style &c are made in going through the press, that I greatly prefer sending the sheets [along with the manuscript]" (L&J, 3.393). He required typesetters and proofreaders to correct any minor errors, but also to capture his final intentions for style and substance as he inscribed them. As he wrote to wife Susan on 22 May 1850 when attending to business in New York, including proudly seeing daughter Susan's Rural Hours through Putnam's press, "I . . . hav[e] got the printer cornered, so that he must do his duty" (L&J, 6.80). No where in his extant correspondence is there evidence he entertained collaborative suggestions of any more substance, except perhaps for dutiful references to accepting the advice of his "female Mentor," wife Susan, in general ways in his early fiction. 14 After he was established as an author, he rarely changed his mind about the shape of his projects. (At least one example of altering his original intentions does exist: after cajoling Bentley for several years about a pet experiment, to write a novel with ships— [End Page 331] not humans—as characters, he backed off from this radical project in The Two Admirals by introducing human actors as well as the fleets they command. 15

The second question raised in this essay was: "For editorial purposes, when manuscripts of Cooper's work in his own hand are extant, should CE scholars use as copy-texts such holograph witnesses? Or should they turn for copy-texts to first editions for which Cooper is known to have read proof and which may benefit from the improvements of his collaborators?" This question is crucial for framing the debate about recovering authorial intention. Using the holograph where extant as copy-text grants final authority to the author alone, at the expense of losing any improvements the author may have desired and expected from professional collaborators. Using as copy-text any authorial version (subsequent to the extant holograph) upon which collaborators have made sanctioned or unlicensed revisions potentially captures those collaborators' improvements but at the price of introducing non-authorial variants.

To establish a text that most fully represents Cooper's intentions at all stages of his engagement with his text, CE editors exercise critical judgment to identify those post-copy-text variants certain or likely to be authorial and incorporate them into the copy-text (always the holograph if available), rejecting variants not believed to have authorial sanction. To use again Cooper's words to Aaron Vail when forwarding the manuscript for Princess Victoria, the CE critical editors have "take[n] the trouble to compare them" (the manuscripts with subsequent authoritative witnesses) and have thus seized the "opportunity of getting an insight into the secrets of authorship." These "secrets" enable the CE to identify Cooper's final holograph intentions, as disclosed by the extant witnesses closest to his hand, while also preserving those variants in subsequent witnesses which the editors deem likely to be authorial. 16

With respect to editorial policy for authorial final intentions, one other issue needs to be discussed. Authors may well revise a text for audiences different from the original one and with a different intention in mind. In such cases, the revision could well be considered a new work whose variants should not be conflated with the text of the first edition.[End Page 332]

The question for Cooper thus is: when he revised earlier texts, did he consider himself to be perfecting his initial intentions? Or was he creating a new work as well as a new text? The best evidence on this issue is the text he revised most in his life, The Spy. His two revisions accomplished within months of the December 1821 first edition for the most part correct egregious errors, which (as with Precaution) doubtless resulted from both his and the printers' lapses. When the author returned to the work in 1831, he not only provided much more extensive rewrites of many passages, but (as he did for all the Bentley Standard Novels texts) he added footnotes identifying specific historical references. His immediate audience for these notes was obviously British, and one might argue that because of this new audience and context, the Bentley text thus is a sufficiently different work such that its variants should not be conflated with the text of the first edition.

However, in writing to Bentley on 14 March 1831 (L&J, 2.60-61) about the project for the new texts for the Bentley series, Cooper emphasized continuity—rather than an esthetic disjuncture—with the earlier texts. He called Bentley's attention to his earlier attempts in "revising the books," which he had already done in "[a]ll the American editions" which were "cursorily revised down to Pilot." For Spy he looked forward in a new Preface to putting down the claims of "an impudent rogue in America, who pretends to be the original of the Spy . . . I should not dislike an opportunity of stating what gave rise to the conception of the character—." Cooper's emphasis falls on making the Bentley revisions the embodiment of his final intentions coincident with those original objectives that failed in execution because of earlier editions "full of errors." Arguing that "it is harder work to read these things than it is to write them," Cooper somewhat disingenuously asked "Do the public care enough about these things? How much will you give a volume, or rather a book, for new prefaces, notes and hints explanatory." But Cooper immediately added that the "new prefaces, notes and hints explanatory" must be shared with his American audiences: "In every case, I must condition for the privilege of giving the same notes and prefaces simultaneously to Messrs Carey and Lea, for with me, it is a point of honor to continue rigidly as American author."

As I have argued elsewhere, 17 Cooper's intention with the notes here is to open up the historicity of The Spy, which was part of his initial conception. ("The task of making American Manners and American scenes is an arduous one," but clearly one he accepted with energy as he wrote to Goodrich when Spy was draining his imaginative energy away from Precaution; see L&J, 1.44). In each text of Spy he revised after the first, he realized these intentions with language of increasing precision as well as with notes explicating his original intentions because of what, for his readers, increasingly was becoming American recollection rather than immediate experience. But the record shows he viewed his labors as progressively refining and clarifying [End Page 333] his original aims, rather than creating (as Byron clearly did) variant texts reimagined for new audiences.

One letter from late in Cooper's life nicely captures Cooper's recognition of his need for collaborators in the process of getting his words before his public. Often the extant letters of Cooper's last several years disclose an author more willing than earlier to let his guard down. These letters show Cooper communicating with chatty, human affection to family members and with conversational warmth to those colleagues—principally John Fagan and, in more guarded ways, Richard Bentley—with whom years of collaboration had yielded a measure of trust. Let me conclude with one of the happiest examples of such letters, a mock-humorous, tongue-in-cheek but revealing letter to the New York Typographical Society, a professional organization that literally embodied Cooper's dependence on collaborators from the printing shop. Writing on 5 January 1850, twenty months before his death on 14 September 1851, Cooper made his last recorded comment on his collaboration with those professionals who saw his various inscribed final intentions into print. Declining with regret an invitation to the annual dinner in January 1850 of the printers' society to celebrate the first career of Benjamin Franklin, Cooper wrote:

Man and boy, my connexion with your craft has now lasted quite half a century. Commencing as a caprice, the accidents of life have caused it to become a very serious occupation. Amateur and writer, I have got to be so familiar with types as to regard them as old friends. 18

After a long paragraph celebrating "the increasing list of American writers"—who owe their existence in part to their collaborations with the sponsors of the printers' dinner—Cooper assured the members of the New York Typographical Society that

[A]fter all, then, we [authors] shall owe our immortality to you. In short, we are mutually necessary to each other, and the circumstance should produce and perpetuate good feeling between us.

Franklin, and others of name, connected with your art, will be properly remembered in your toasts, and I crave permission to offer one that refers to a member of the craft who might otherwise be overlooked, viz—

THE DEVIL—a link between the author and the printer; may he come with queries well put, and return with every error corrected. (L&J, 6.107-108)

After a long career as recorded in the letters presented here of being bedeviled by links between the author and the printer that often failed to "return [End Page 334] with every error corrected," Cooper's jovial salutation recognized at last that, with respect to communicating his final intentions, author and printer were, of necessity, "mutually necessary to each other, and the circumstance should produce and perpetuate good feeling between us." Given the difficulties Cooper's crabbed manuscripts and exigent but often vague demands imposed on the society of typographers for three decades, his final acknowledgment of mutual need was not only just but also generous.

Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3891
Print ISSN
0081-7600
Launched on MUSE
2007-05-03
Open Access
No
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