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Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts
by James Fenimore Cooper
The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper
Lance E. Schachterle, Editor-in-Chief
Edited by Lance Schachterle and James P. Elliott
Historical Introduction by Lance Schachterle, Wesley T. Mott, and John P. McWilliams
Explanatory Notes by Lance Schachterle
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AMS Studies in the Nineteenth Century, No. 57
The second of the three-volume series “The Littlepage Manuscripts,” The Chainbearer is Cooper’s most carefully constructed multi-volume achievement in fiction. Satanstoe (1845), The Chainbearer (1845), and The Redskins (1846) constitute a mini-epic of the settlement of upper New York State from 1758 to Cooper’s own day.
In The Chainbearer Cooper depicts how Mordaunt Littlepage, son of the hero and heroine of Satanstoe, struggles to oppose a Vermont squatter, Aaron Thousandacres, one of Cooper’s most powerfully presented patriarchs and rebels. With the help of the Dutch Chainbearer Andries Coejemans and the “just Onondago” Susquesus, Littlepage successfully defends his landownership. But Cooper interestingly tweaks the rigidity of class structure by having Littlepage marry the Chainbearer’s niece, who has descended from shabby gentility to living by manual work, carrying chain for her uncle. Thus the novel foregrounds Cooper’s sense of the upheavals the country faced in the generations after the Revolutionary War established political independence.
This text is based on a careful collation of the complete extant holograph at the American Antiquarian Society with the only text printed in Cooper’s lifetime, which the author oversaw. The editors discuss the genesis of the novel and the early reviews and provide detailed historical notes. This edition also includes an essay by John P. McWilliams on the Anti-Rent controversies of the 1840s as they relate specifically to The Chainbearer.
As with all other AMS-published editions of The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, Chainbearer will be edited to meet the exacting standards of the MLA’s Committee on Scholarly Editions.
A Note on the Manuscript