Monday Motivation: Five Quotes by Author James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper, Photo: Mathew Brady, 1850
James Fenimore Cooper, Photo: Mathew Brady, 1850

For this week’s Monday Motivation, we look to the life and writings of East End author James Fenimore Cooper.

Born in 1789, Cooper grew up in Cooperstown, NY and would go on to attend Yale University at the young age of 13 before being expelled three years later. He then found work as a merchant sailor before joining the United States Navy in 1811.

Seven years later, he resigned from the Navy and married Susan Augusta de Lancey of the Shelter Island Nicoll family. While staying with her relatives, Cooper met Sag Harborite Charles Dering and entered into the booming whaling industry, which he innovated with his idea to group-fund the purchase of whaling vessels (called company ships in later years).

His first attempt at a romance novel came in 1820 with the unsuccessful release of Precaution. Undeterred, he quickly began writing The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground while staying on the East End and published it the following year. Unlike its predecessor, The Spy was one of the most popular American novels at the time and is credited with setting the precedent of a great romance novel for decades to come.

Another of Cooper’s most famous novels is The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757, which is part of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy. The series recounts the stories of the fictional Natty Bumppo, who many believe was based on Sag Harbor’s Revolutionary War hero Captain David Hand.

Cooper continued to write until his death in 1851, covering  topics such as European travels, naval history, sociopolitical satire and even Long Island in the 1849 book The Sea Lions. His final work, New York or The Towns of Manhattan, was intended to be a detailed history of New York City but remains unfinished due to his passing.

In addition to the sustained popularity of The Last of the Mohicans and other works, Cooper’s legacy lives on in other ways. A statue of him was erected in Cooperstown, he was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame and fascinatingly, the gilded wood chandelier that Hamptons-raised First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy chose for the White House library was originally owned by his family.

Here are five of his most inspiring or thought-provoking quotes to get you motivated this Monday.

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods. There is a rapture on the lonely shore.”

“All greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him, will never have any other than an existence of mediocrity.”

“Every trail has its end, and every calamity brings its lesson!”

“The air, the water and the ground are free gifts to man… Man must drink, breath and walk—and, therefore, each has a right to his share of Earth.”

“Advice is not a gift, but a debt that the old owe to the young.”

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