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Essays on Nature and Landscape

Essays on Nature and Landscape

Susan Fenimore Cooper
Rochelle Johnson
Daniel Patterson
Foreword by John Elder
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Essays on Nature and Landscape
    Book Description:

    Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894), though often overshadowed by her celebrity father, James Fenimore Cooper, has recently become recognized as both a pioneer of American nature writing and an early advocate for ecological sustainability. Editors Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson have assembled here a collection of ten pieces by Cooper that represent her most accomplished nature writing and the fullest articulation of her environmental principles. With one exception, these essays have not been available in print since their original appearance in Cooper's lifetime. A portrait of her thoughts on nature and how we should live and think in relation to it, this collection both contextualizes Cooper's magnum opus, Rural Hours (1850), and demonstrates how she perceived her work as a nature writer. Frequently her essays are models of how to catch and keep the interest of a reader when writing about plants, animals, and our relationship to the physical environment. By lamenting the decline of bird populations, original forests, and overall biodiversity, she champions preservation and invokes a collective environmental conscience that would not begin to awaken until the end of her life and century. The selections include independent essays, miscellaneous introductions and prefaces, and the first three installments from Cooper's work of literary ornithology, "Otsego Leaves," arguably her most mature and fully realized contribution to American environmental writing. In addition to a foreword by John Elder, one of the nation's leading environmental educators, an introduction analyzes each essay in various cultural contexts. Brief but handy textual notes supplement the essays. Perfect for nature-writing aficionados, environmental historians, and environmental activists, this collection will radically expand Cooper's importance to the history of American environmental thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-2635-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    John Elder

    A central achievement of the recent scholarship in environmental literature has been rediscovering neglected authors who still have much to contribute to the conversation of nature and culture. The renewed attention to Susan Fenimore Cooper’s writing has been one of the most dramatic cases in point. Not only has she become widely recognized as a pioneer practitioner of American nature writing, but her approach also feels remarkably pertinent to our concerns today. As Cooper reflects upon both the natural history and the human doings of her rural community, she adopts what might now be called a bioregional perspective. She also...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxxii)
    D. P.

    When Susan Fenimore Cooper (b. April 17 , 1813; d. December 31, 1894) published Rural Hours in 1850, she became one of the most accomplished nature writers in the United States.¹ Her literary representation of a year in the life of her Otsego Lake region (including its flora, fauna, climate, economy, geology, and human inhabitation) received unanimous praise from the reviewers for clarity, grace, and purity. In 1850, however, she was yet at the beginning of a prodigious literary career that spanned fifty years, beginning with her only novel, Elinor Wyllys, in 1845 and concluding with a children’s short story...

  6. Editorial Principles
    (pp. xxxiii-2)
  7. A Dissolving View
    (pp. 3-16)

    Autumn is the season for day-dreams. Wherever, at least, an American landscape shows its wooded heights dyed with the glory of October, its lawns and meadows decked with colored groves, its broad and limpid waters reflecting the same bright hues, there the brilliant novelty of the scene, that strange beauty to which the eye never becomes wholly accustomed, would seem to arouse the fancy to unusual activity. Images, quaint and strange, rise unbidden and fill the mind, until we pause at length to make sure that, amid the novel aspect of the country, its inhabitants are still the same; we...

  8. Introduction to John Leonard Knapp’s Country Rambles in England; or, Journal of a Naturalist
    (pp. 17-23)
    S. F. C.

    It is now nearly five-and-twenty years since the “Journal of a Naturalist” first appeared in England. The author, Mr. Knapp, has told us himself that the book owes its origin to the “Natural History of Selborne,” a work of the last century, which it is quite needless to say has become one of the standards of English literature; and the reader is probably also aware that the honors acceded to the disciple are, in this instance, scarcely less than those of his master—the “Journal of a Naturalist,” and “Selborne,” stand side by side, on the same shelf, in the...

  9. Introduction to The Rhyme and Reason of Country Life: Or, Selections from Fields Old and New
    (pp. 24-44)

    The ancient classical writers of the world are thought to have shown but little sensibility to that natural beauty with which the earth has been clothed, as with a magnificent garment, by her Almighty Creator. Those of their works which have been preserved to us are declared by critics rarely to bear evidence of much depth of feeling of this kind. The German scholars are understood to have been the first to broach this opinion—the first to point out the fact, and to comment on what appears a singular inconsistency.

    “If we bear in mind,” says Schiller, “the beautiful...

  10. Preface to the 1868 edition of Rural Hours
    (pp. 45-46)
  11. Later Hours
    (pp. 47-63)

    May 25th, 1868.—Early this morning there was great agitation in the tree-tops waving near us. For an hour, or more, there was high tragedy hovering over the pines and maples. The birds, of course, are in the midst of their spring joys, and family cares, and they are very numerous this year, more so than usual. The large pine overshadowing our cottage roof, at the northward, has several nests, and appears a favorite resort of the robins. Early in the morning a great hawk came sailing over the river, from the eastern hills, and wheeling in airy circles above...

  12. Village Improvement Societies
    (pp. 64-77)

    Among the substantives in common use, which have very materially changed their meaning within the last two centuries, we may include the word village. This is a common noun which represents, to-day, an entirely different combination of ideas from those which it conveyed to the minds of our ancestors two hundred years ago. The English village, in the reign of the Stuarts, could boast little of the character of “Merry England” in its outer aspect. Hedges and orchards, a little green, and a May-pole were there, perhaps,—not always, however,—and a lowly church, old and ivy-covered, such as George...

  13. Otsego Leaves I: Birds Then and Now
    (pp. 78-86)

    Any one who has had the happiness of living in a country-home, and on the same ground, during the last twenty years, must naturally have been led to observe the birds flitting about the gardens and lawns of the neighborhood. And it matters little whether that country-home be in a village or among open farms. Many birds are partial to a village-life. The gardens and fruit-trees are an attraction to them. Nay, there are some of the bird-folk who seem really to enjoy the neighborhood of man. Among these are the wrens, the robins, the cat-birds, and, to a certain...

  14. Otsego Leaves II: The Bird Mediæval
    (pp. 87-96)

    Here and there, in looking over old records or family legends of colonial years, the mediæval period of American story, we gather glimpses of bird-life, somewhat dim and indistinct, perhaps, yet sufficiently clear to have a degree of interest. We seem to hear the far-away flapping of wings, the echo of song; we have a vision, as it were, of the winged creatures flitting to and fro about the homes of the early colonists.

    The Dutch were a race not unkindly in household life. Most of the country-homes of the Dutch colonists, whether your manor-house of some importance or the...

  15. Otsego Leaves III: The Bird Primeval
    (pp. 97-109)

    An ancient tree of great height, a grand old column of the wilderness, stood rooted on a hill-side, overlooking a highland lake. The tree was an elm. The lake lay in the heart of a forest of varied growth, where oak, maple, chestnut, elm, ash, hickory, were blended with the evergreen pine and fir. The same forest stretched in one unbroken canopy a hundred leagues to the eastward, where it met the Ocean. Toward the setting sun it seemed boundless to the few human beings who, at that remote period, wandered among its shadows. It was a vast wilderness, full...

  16. A Lament for the Birds
    (pp. 110-114)

    In the country about the head-waters of the Susquehanna the hills were all crowned some forty years since with a stern crest of spearlike pines, living and dead, rising to a great height above the lower wood. (Those wild old pines have now nearly all fallen from the heights about Lake Otsego.) The living trees still showed a scanty foliage, in irregular whorls, colored with the dark emerald-green of the white pine. Many others were mere gray skeletons, ghosts of trees as it were, destroyed by forest fires of the past, but still erect in death. It is surprising how...

  17. Emendations
    (pp. 115-118)
  18. Textual Notes
    (pp. 119-120)
  19. Explanatory Notes
    (pp. 121-128)
  20. Index
    (pp. 129-131)