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Susan fenimore cooper essays on nature and landscape
In his essay on "American and European Scenery Compared," Cooper informs his readers that although the Rocky Mountains "possess many noble views," they are not as picturesque as the region around Lake Como because they lack the "accessories" of manmade art, "for a union of art and nature alone can render scenery perfect" (56). In "A Dissolving View," an essay on autumn scenery, Susan Cooper echoes her father's sentiments about the relationship between picturesque scenery and signs of human habitation. She writes that "There is something of a social spirit in the brilliancy of our American autumn" (81-82). Although she allows that a "broad expanse of forest is no doubt necessary to the magnificent spectacle," Cooper adds that "there should also be broken woods, scattered groves, and isolated trees; and it strikes me that the quiet fields of man, and his cheerful dwellings, should also have a place in the gay picture" (82). Signs of human settlement soften the scene. "The hand of man," she writes, "generally improves a landscape" (82).
In his monograph on Cooper's landscapes, the late Blake Nevius writes that when Cooper moved his family to Westchester County and began to supervise the improvement of his grounds, he was undertaking a task that was quite new. Nevius observes that "The art of landscape gardening was then in its infancy in America" (65). In her "Introduction" to Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, Susan Cooper recalls her father's efforts at improving "Angevine," providing evidence that Cooper was interested in the theories of landscape gardening that were just coming into America in the 1820s. She contrasts her father's efforts with the general state of American landscape design at the time.
susan fenimore cooper essays on nature and landscape
I have found no evidence of any return correspondence that indicates how closely or successfully Paul was able to follow his father's plans but the above letter certainly attests to Cooper's having imbibed the new spirit of landscape design and his continuing efforts to unify art and nature. When read along with his daughter's writings on rural landscapes, Cooper's correspondence provides us a glimpse of an emerging aesthetic of American landscape design.
Susan Cooper's imaginative rearrangement of the Otsego landscape shows the influence of her travels in England and on the continent and the effects of theories of landscape design advanced by Downing and others. Her writings deserve to be read more closely both for what they tell us about her father's interest in landscape design and for what they reveal about her own thoughts on the topic. We might also consider the degree to which she has instructed us in how to read her father's fictional landscapes.
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In this essay Parmentier argues for a more 'natural' form of landscape gardening. "Our ancestors gave to every part of a garden all the exactness of geometric forms: they seem to know no other way to plant trees, except in straight lines; a system totally ruinous to the beauty of prospect" (184). Fessenden must have felt that Parmentier's essay would appeal to his audience. A glance at the contents of the rest of Fessenden's book and a quick study of the ornamental shrubs and plantings listed for sale in nursery catalogues from the 1820s and 1830s testify to the growing sense of horticultural sophistication in American during this period. It was due to the efforts of landowners such as Cooper and promoters of horticultural change such as M'Mahon, Parmentier, and Fessenden that American taste in landscape design began to change. Downing deserves considerable credit for his pioneering work in allying garden and house design but it is not necessary to create the illusion of an American gardening wasteland prior to his arrival on the scene.
The best evidence of how successful these American gardeners were in changing American attitudes toward landscape design is to observe how closely Susan Cooper in Rural Hours (1850) follows the principles laid down some twenty years earlier by Parmentier and others. Rural Hours is organized according to the passage of the seasons, beginning with spring and concluding with winter. In his introduction to a reprint of Rural Hours, David Jones writes that this work, read in conjunction with William Cooper's A Guide in the Wilderness; or, the History of the First Settlements in the Western Counties of New York with Useful Instructions to Future Settlers (1810), and James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers (1823), provides one family's history of the growth of Cooperstown (Jones, xxxiii).
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In 1851 George Putnam, "believing that ample material...exists for illustrating the picturesque beauties of American landscape" and determined "to ascertain how far the taste of our people may warrant the production of home-manufactured presentation books," published The Home Book of the Picturesque; or, American Scenery, Art, and Literature (New York: Putnam, 1851). In his "home-manufactured presentation-book" (the predecessor of our contemporary coffee-table book) Putnam offered readers thirteen engravings of American scenes by American artists and twelve essays on American scenery by eminent American writers. Artists whose works were reproduced included Asher B. Durand, Frederick Church, and John Kensett. Among the writers represented were James Fenimore Cooper and Miss [Susan Fenimore] Cooper.
JSTOR: Essays on Nature and Landscape
Her father's early attempts to improve his ancestral grounds attest to his belief that the hand of man improved the landscape. The evidence that Cooper took a genuine interest in the improvement and design of the landscaping surrounding his estates seems clear. When he returned to Cooperstown in 1813 with his wife and young family, after resigning his naval commission, Cooper set about learning the art of farming, which he practiced at Fenimore Farm. In a 30 June 1814 letter to his wife, who was visiting her family in Mamaroneck, Cooper remarked on the slow progress of his improvements at Fenimore. "I am clearing the Lawn burning stumps &c. We have already made great alterations in its appearance, but hay harvest & the house put me back so much that you will find but few of the anticipated improvement[s] completed." (L&J, I, 32).
Essays on nature and landscape (eBook, 2002) …
My primary sources for information about Cooper's interest in horticultural experiments and landscape design were his letters and journals. To put Cooper's views on landscape design within an historical and aesthetic framework, I read Ulysses P. Hedrick's A History of Horticulture in America to 1860 (1950), and Andrew Jackson Downing's influential work, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America; with a View to the improvement of Country Residences (1841). I also examined the writings of Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper, particularly Rural Hours (1850), and A Cooper Gallery: or Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (1865). In the process of examining what Susan Cooper tells us about her father's landscaping projects, I discovered that she had well-formed opinions on the management of wood lots and the improvement of grounds and was not shy about informing her countrymen of their aesthetic shortcomings.
Læs om Essays on Nature and Landscape
. See Blake Nevius, Cooper's Landscapes: An Essay on the Picturesque Vision (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976); H. Daniel Peck, A World By Itself: The Pastoral moment in Cooper's Fiction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977); Warren Motley, The American Abraham: James Fenimore Cooper and the Frontier Patriarch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
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