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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 42

turned aside long enough to write in the midst of his hottest litigation. The forest even more than the ocean was for Cooper a romantic sanctuary, as it was for Pathfinder the true temple, full of the “holy calm of nature,” the teacher of beauty, virtue, laws. Returning to these solemn, dim woods Cooper was subdued once more to the spirit which had attended his first great days. The fighting years through which he had passed had made him more critical, but so had they made him more mellow in the hours when he could forget his daily conflicts. He had now gone far enough from the original conception of Leather-Stocking to become aware of traits which should be brought out or explained. It was too late to make his hero entirely consistent for the series, but Cooper apparently saw the chance to fill out the general outline, and he did it with such skill that those who read the five novels in the order of events will notice relatively few discrepancies, since The Deerslayer prepares for nearly all that follows. In The Pathfinder, undertaken to show Natty in love and to combine the forest and a ship in the same tale, Cooper took unusual pains to point out how Pathfinder’s candor, self-reliance, justice, and fidelity have been developed by the life he has led in the forest. Leather-Stocking, more talkative than before, may not seem more conscious of his special gifts, but Cooper does. Again there is abundant action: another flight through the woods with a timorous maiden, somewhat too nearly resembling the flight in The Last of the Mohicans; another siege at a block house, very much like that in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish and Wyandotté; and the more novel element of a storm on



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