Susan Fenimore Cooper is remembered as America’s first female nature writer. Raised in Cooperstown, New York, once wild and uncharted territory, Cooper wrote essays that are littered with botanical insight and early observations of America’s natural history. Cooper’s father, James Fenimore Cooper (author of The Last of the Mohicans), maintained a close companionship with his daughter. They often served as editors of each other’s work. Cooper’s attachment to her father, combined with her father’s overbearing nature, may have contributed to Cooper’s decision never to marry. After being approached by several suitors, Cooper turned them all away because her father disapproved. Cooper’s first published work was a novel titled, Elinor Wyllys (1846), which she wrote under the pseudonym, Amabel Penfeather. Cooper’s most successful work however, is a nonfiction collection titled, Rural Hours (1850). Rural Hours is a collection of essays, published in journal form, in which Cooper presents, “the simple record of those little events which make up the course of the seasons in rural life.” Rural Hours was so successful that it was republished ten times from 1850 to 1998. After establishing her notoriety with Rural Hours, Cooper went on to write more nature essays in popular publications such as, The Atlantic Monthly, The Freeman’s Journal, Grahm’s Magazine, Harper’s New Monthly, and Putnam’s Magazine. Cooper also established herself as a successful editor for five additional books, future anthologies of her father’s works, and several monthly magazines. Cooper’s writing style is joyful and precise, often incorporating botanical knowledge with her Christian faith. Cooper’s writing presents a talented balance of science and religion, while unknowingly establishing an early record of America’s natural history. (Justin King Rademaekers)
This Western hemisphere, shrouded in mystery, has no primeval names to repeat to us for the noble streams flowing from its heart.
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Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.