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The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief

by James Fenimore Cooper


The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper
Lance E. Schachterle, Editor-in-Chief


Edited by Matthew Wynn Sivils and James P. Elliott

LC 2012016733
ISBN-10: 0-404-64484-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-404-64484-0
Clothbound:
Price $124.50

AMS Studies in the Nineteenth Century, No. 54

“Cooper enthusiasts will find much to applaud in the two most recent [Cooper Edition titles], The Bravo and The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief. . . . The texts of both of these volumes display the quality paper and clear typography common to other titles from AMS, making these books a pleasure to read. . . . [I]t is in the details that many of the true merits of scholarly editions emerge, and . . . these two new Cooper Edition titles will provide a wealth of historical, biographical, and textual resources—as well as plenty of good reading from Cooper’s own writing.”

—Steven Harthorn, James Fenimore Cooper Society Newsletter

Written during one of James Fenimore Cooper’s most productive periods, The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief stands as a testament to the inventiveness of this literary icon. This 1843 novella is one of Cooper’s most experimental works of fiction, and not just because it is narrated by a clairvoyant French pocket handkerchief. It marks Cooper’s first attempt at serial fiction; it is his only novella; and it is one of his earliest uses of first-person narration.

The story follows a pocket handkerchief’s epic journey from the flax fields of Normandy to the war-torn streets of Paris and then across the Atlantic to the opulent homes and ballrooms of New York’s elite class. At the core of this book is Cooper’s complex social commentary, which draws upon 1830s French revolutionary politics to address the dangerous greed and cultural shortsightedness he saw in his own nation. The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief is one of Cooper’s most deceptively ambitious works, one that employs the travels and opinions of an ornamented pocket handkerchief to comment upon the troubles of 1840s America.

Meticulously edited, this edition has earned the coveted seal of the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions (CSE). The text of this edition is based on Cooper’s original manuscript, now housed in the archives of the Huntington Library, and it incorporates the changes Cooper made for the novella’s serialization in Graham’s Magazine.

A thoroughly researched historical introduction and detailed explanatory notes provide readers with the context necessary to fully enjoy this unique book by one of America’s most innovative writers.


Contents
Acknowledgments
Illustrations
Historical Introduction
The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief
Explanatory Notes
Textual Commentary
Note on the Manuscript
Textual Notes
Emendations
Rejected Readings
Word-Division



Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789–1851.
The autobiography of a pocket handkerchief / James Fenimore Cooper ; edited by Matthew Wynn Sivils and James P. Elliott.
     p. cm. -- (AMS studies in the nineteenth century, ISSN 0196-657X ; no. 54)
     Includes bibliographical references.
     ISBN 978-0-404-64484-0 (cloth : acid-free paper)
     1. Handkerchiefs--Fiction.
     I. Sivils, Matthew Wynn, 1971-
     II. Elliott, James Paul, 1945-
     III. Title.
PS1405.A8 2012
813'.2--dc23                                                       2012016733