-- (1) All three novels are about the fictitious Effingham family. The great great grandfather of the hero of HOMEWARD BOUND, was Edward Effingham. He fought loyally for Britain in the American Revolution and lost all his vast properties in central New York State and elsewhere. He had a pre-war but now rebel friend and business partner named Temple. Judge Temple quietly bought up his old partner's confiscated properties at war's end. Around 1790 on the shores of Lake Otsego Judge Temple founded the village of Templeton. By the end of THE PIONEERS a mysterious male descendant of Colonel Effingham had married the daughter of Judge Temple and thereby acquired title to the united properties of Temples and Effinghams.
NOTE: THE PIONEERS is thinly veiled history and biography. For James Fenimore Cooper's father had founded Cooperstown on Lake Otsego -- the fictional Templeton. And James grew up there; and in later years, as a world famous novelist, bought back his old family estate and moved there with his family.
-- (2) The 25 year old romantic hero of HOMEWARD BOUND appears around 1835 aboard a passenger ship bound from London to New York in an assumed identity as Mr Blunt. After a dozen years in Europe, three Effinghams are returning home on the same sailing packet: widowed Edward Effingham and 20-year old daughter Eve along with John ("Cousin Jack") Effingham. Both men are brother's sons, born on the same day. Each was 50 years old on the October day their passenger ship left London. They are surprised to find the man they had met years before in Vienna as Paul Powis now calling himself Blunt. Their made-in-New York sailing ship, the Montauk, for mysterious reasons, is pursued all the way to America by a British warship. On route, in their efforts at evasion, their master, Captain Jack Truck is caught by a storm, his ship dismasted and left helpless in shallow but protected waters off the Atlantic coast of north Africa. In battles with the Arabs who have captured the Montauk, young Blunt/Powis proves the Achilles among the male passengers and crew who retake the ship. Eve and Paul fall in love but tell no one, not even each other.
-- (3) Back to the PIONEERS.
That novel of 1823 introduced to the world Cooper's most famous single character: Natty Bumppo, hero of THE LAST OF THE MOHCANS and four other Leatherstocking tales. Natty, aka Hawkeye, Deerslayer, Pathfinder, etc. by his Indian friends and enemies, and his Mohican Indian chief friend Chingachgook had been scouts of the British Army during the revolution and apparently served under Colonel Edward Effingham. The quintessential American: Natty Bumppo! The old Colonel had lost his mind and was being discreetly and without publicity cared for in 1790 at Lake Otsego by Natty and Chingachgook (now a converted Christian known as Indian John). They teach woods lore to the young Effingham who marries the young Temple to start the Effingham series of novels. Natty would die in his 80s out on the Nebraska plains around 1820. The Templetons and others pay respect to his memory and spirit in HOME AS FOUND.
Do you really need all that background to read with enjoyment the third novel in the trilogy: HOME AS FOUND? I am afraid you do. Cooper himself says that you do and refers you to THE PIONEERS for a detailed description of the interior of the Effingham manor ("The WIgwam") in Templeton.
HOME AS FOUND is not an easy read. It was only on a second reading that I truly found pleasure in Cooper's loosely plotted, often static novel. It is full of little vignettes, picnics, fishing excursions and such like, any one of which might have been spun into a short story or even novella or a satire or a political broadside. HOME AS FOUND is thought to be THE most autobiographic of Cooper's novels and shows him immersed in quarrels with the citizens of Templeton about his property rights. Ho hum!
The novel's thin romantic plot ends with the marriage of Paul Powis to Eve Effingham. Paul and Cousin Jack learn that they are son and father. So two second cousins marry and strengthen the ancestral Temple-Effingham claim to the Wigwam and its very large associated fortune. By novel's end they have produced a daughter. The Effinghams then disappear from literary history.
In large part Cooper intends in this novel to hold up an American mirror to American ways. I835-6 America is shown in HOME AS FOUND as it appears primarily to the wealthy, polyglot, cultivated Effinghams, to their servants and others returning to The Wigwam after a dozen year absence -- or by yet others seeing America from various aspects. By and large, America has fallen off from its almost miraculous revolutionary wars, an era of Washington and Franklin. In 1835 it is busy expelling Indians west of the Mississippi, with South Carolina invoking "nullification" and threatening secession from the Union. Money-grubbing is the national passion. The goal is to get rich quickly by speculating in western lands. Religion is being leveled and desanctified in the name of the common man and majority rule.
Let's end with a brief look at a possible first mention in literature of America's national pastime: baseball. Readers probably know that Cooperstown, NY houses the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. And scholars think that baseball was played in Templeton/Cooperstown and described in 1838 in HOME AS FOUND. Certainly a bunch of trespassing boys are accustomed to playing "ball" on the grounds of The Wigwam. And they hit their ball with sticks -- some good long distances. Bases and base-running are not mentioned, however. The newly returned Edward Effingham orders the boys to play somewhere else.
You will read about early steamboats plying the Hudson River and also crossing the English Channel, with hints they will soon sail the Atlantic, too, as passenger ships -- replacing luxurious sailing packets like the Montauk. You will also see canal boats and early railroad trains. There is something for nearly everyone in HOME AS FOUND.
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