Cooper, Susan Fenimore
COOPER, Susan Fenimore
Also wrote under: Anabel Penfeather
Daughter of James Fenimore and Susan de Lancey Cooper
Susan Fenimore Cooper, the daughter of the great American novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, lived the first four years of her life in Cooperstown, which was founded by her grandfather. She later moved with her family to Mamaroneck, New York. Her education was received in boarding schools in New York and Paris.
In 1833 Cooper returned to Cooperstown, where she remained till her death. She never married. Most of her community activities centered on humanitarian efforts. Devoted to her father, Cooper served for many years as his copyist. Her literary achievements include fiction, articles, biographical sketches, a series of prefaces for the edition of her father's works, and her best known work, Rural Hours (1850). Her novel, Elinor Wyllys; or, The Young Folk at Longbridge (1946), was published under the pseudonym Anabel Penfeather, and was originally thought to be the work of her father, who edited it and wrote the preface.
Rural Hours is a year-long journal of life in a rural American community. Its concerns are mainly the natural events of the four seasons which structure the work. In this it bears a great resemblance to Thoreau's Walden, published four years later, and, in its treatment of local folklore and Indians, to his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Its gentle humor often brings to mind Emily Dickinson's similar treatment of birds, bugs, and other natural subjects. An 1851 illustrated edition included color plates of birds and plants native to the region of Cooperstown. There were two English editions in 1850 and 1855.
After Rural Hours Cooper took on a number of editing tasks culminating with Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (1861), a volume of selections from 25 of her father's writings. For this volume she wrote an introduction including a biography of James Fenimore Cooper.
Country Rambles in England; or, Journal of a Naturalist by J. L. Knapp (edited by Cooper, 1853). The Rhyme and Reason of Country Life; or, Selections from Fields Old and New (edited by Cooper, 1854). Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America (1858). Worthy Women of Our First Century (1877). William West Skiles: A Sketch of Missionary Life at Valle Cruis in Western North Carolina: 1842-1862 (1890).
Birdsall, R., The Story of Cooperstown (1917). Cooper, J. F., Legends and Traditions of A Northern County (1921). Cunningham, A. K., "Susan Fenimore Cooper, Child of Genius," in NYH (July 1944). Jones, D., introduction to Susan Fenimore Cooper's Rural Hours (1968 ed.).
Otsego Farmer (4 Jan. 1895).
—JOANN PECK KRIEG