Listen here Birch Burn Gorman Frances Rose Leslie Henry Alex Waldmann Mr Wharton James Lailey Sarah Francine Chamberlain Mr Harper Timothy Watson Caesar Richard Pepple Peyton Dunwoodie Simon Bubb Captain Lawton Gerard McDermott Colonel Wellmere Adam Billington Isabella Singleton Victoria Inez HardyDirected by Sasha Yevtushenko Dramatised by DJ Britton.Team Studio managers Anne Bunting, Jenni Burnett, Alison Craig Editor Anne Bunting Production Co ordinator Beverly Taggblurb Published in 1821, The Spy was the first commercially successful American work of popular fiction On top of that, it is also generally regarded as the world s first espionage novel Until Feni Cooper, spies in fiction had been villains, the lowest of the low But in creating Harvey Birch played here by Burn Gorman , a double agent during the American War of Independence, Cooper began the tradition of spy as hero, leading to the great genre novels of the late 19th and 20th centuries.Set in Westchester County, New York State, in 1778, we meet Harvey Birch, a mysterious pedlar, when he turns up unexpectedly at The Locusts, a house in no man s land between British and American forces, owned by the wealthy Wharton family The Whartons are a family of divided loyalties one of the daughters, Frances, is engaged to an American officer The other, Sarah, is a romantic royalist Birch who, with his father, lives in a small house nearby is, it is rumoured, a double agent and both sides have put a price on his head His house has been attacked by British forces, and Birch has been forced to take to the dangerous roadTravelling on foot with his salesman s pack on his back, Birch appears to steer clear of political or military allegiances, trading with both sides Yet whenever the honour and the safety of decent people is in danger, Birch is at hand He suffers appalling indignities, is robbed, burnt out of his home by the terrifying Skinners American outlaws posing as Patriot irregulars and is sentenced to death by the American forces He never uses his privileged position to save his own skin, for, only at the very end of the story is it revealed, that he has a personal commission from George Washington himself. What an amazing story A beautiful testament to the life of the man who was Harvey Birch RTC, maybe. A Historical Adventure Reminiscent Of Sir Walter Scott S Waverley Romances, Cooper S Novel Centers On Harvey Birch, A Common Man Suspected Of Being A Spy For The BritishFor Than Seventy Years, Penguin Has Been The Leading Publisher Of Classic Literature In The English Speaking World With Than , Titles, Penguin Classics Represents A Global Bookshelf Of The Best Works Throughout History And Across Genres And Disciplines Readers Trust The Series To Provide Authoritative Texts Enhanced By Introductions And Notes By Distinguished Scholars And Contemporary Authors, As Well As Up To Date Translations By Award Winning Translators Who am I to review a book that was written 190 years ago I really enjoyed the book It s full of action, adventure and colorful characters The hero is a master of disguise Fortunately for him, people in the 18th Century were easily duped by donning women s clothing and fashioning wigs out of sheep s wool As in most of Cooper s novels, there is an old widower who has two diametrically opposed daughters There is also a conniving housekeeper, a happy go lucky slave and a circumlocutory surgeon among others I read the 1946 Great Illustrated Classics edition No, not a Classics Illustrated comic book , which contains fascinating illustrations from 19th Century editions of the book Part of the allure of reading an old library book is wondering who else has read it in the past 60 years and also how many years did it sit unread on the shelf until I borrowed it three weeks ago Everyone should read Cooper My absolute favorite JFC book, and one of my favorite books of all time. Written around 1820, this is one of James Feni Cooper s lesser known novels Modern spy novels focus on the gadgets and cleverness of the spy trade This one highlights the individual, and what it meant to be a spy in the Revolutionary War Harvey Birch led a lonely and dangerous life, hunted by soldiers from both sides, as he worked or less directly for George Washington Anonymity was crucial and he ultimately refused pay, choosing to serve his country selflessly Other humorous characters include a pompous surgeon who glories in amputations and a black servant, whom Copper gives voice to in the slang of the day Upon finishing the tale, I felt a little prouder to be an American. The law was momentarily extinct and justice was administered subject to the bias of personal interests Wonderful Romantic adventure inspired by a true story during the American Revolutionary War Well developed plot Cooper s first hit The heart which has not become callous, soon sickens with the glory that has been purchased with a waste of human life So, why hasn t it famous, and why wasn t it made into a movie Why only three stars Because, being a very early work, it lacks the stirring storytelling for his later works In fact, it s awful Twenty five years later he was compelled to admit there are faults so interwoven with the structure of the tale it would cost less to reconstruct than to repair The intervening years also witnessed the publication of Memoir of Col Benjamin Tallmadge, which revealed much about Washington s spy network that even Cooper didn t know A large portion of the inhabitants affected a neutrality they did not feel The titular neutral ground is that part of Westchester County between the British lines on Manhattan and the Continental lines north of White Plains Those who lived there were preyed on by both sides and lawless elements taking advantage of the situation The law was momentarily extinct and justice was administered subject to the bias of personal interests Pretentious vocabulary and convoluted grammar add to the reader s burden Why couldn t he call the wooden tenement of the deceased a coffin The text is also marred by period appropriate stereotypes of the two warring sides, evangelical Christians, women, and blacks, even though Cooper may have been enlightened for his day There are few who have not felt the seductive pleasure of making our injuries recoil on the author and the are some who know how much sweeter it is to return good for evil Quibbles The above mentioned writing style caused modern readers to stop and re read often Also, though Cooper wrote of territory he lived in, some descriptions seem improbable, such as being able to see Long Island Sound and the Hudson River from a single vantage point, not to mention a chain of sentinels from the waters of the Sound to those of the Hudson I have heard the good Mister Whitefield say that there was no distinction of color in heaven Still, for the student of the American Revolution and nineteenth century literature, the effort is rewarded In the hands of a good script doctor, it d make a good movie Does redacted think I have exposed my life, and blasted my character, for money Tell them I would not take the gold. view spoiler 1 2 Henry Wharton creeps into no man s land to spend an evening with his family.2 2 Soldier Henry Wharton must stand trial as a spy If found guilty, he will hang hide spoiler My current reading of The Deerslayer has turned my attention to works by Cooper that I ve read already, a couple of which I haven t reviewed here before now Published in 1821, The Spy was only Cooper s second novel, and the first to be much a literary success set mainly during the Revolutionary War in 1780, to be exact Cooper himself was born in 1789 , it also marked his first foray into historical fiction It s very much the production of a fledgling writer still developing his craft it doesn t have even as much technical proficiency as The Last of the Mohicans 1826 , nor as matured a moral sensibility in some areas I ve read it twice the first time was as a kid , but that s primarily because, when I was homeschooling our daughters, I felt that my memory of it needed a refresher.Set in Cooper s native state of New York, the subtitle of this book is A Tale of the Neutral Ground The area referred to is the no man s land between New York City and its immediate environs, held by the British, and the American positions further up the Hudson, where they held their line defending the approaches to Albany Villagers and landowners between the two might be exposed to the raiding parties of both sides neither of whom were always scrupulous about respecting civilian life and property and to collateral damage in any battles between elements of the two armies Not surprisingly, it was also a hotbed for guerillas and spies Loyalties in the area were mixed of all the thirteen colonies, New York had the highest proportion of Loyalists, or Tories and was actually the only one of the thirteen to furnish men for the British army than for the American one All of these conditions are faithfully reflected in the novel.Our protagonist here is young landowner Harvey Birch, a secretive fellow without a family, whose farm suffers much neglect in the course of his mysterious comings and goings He s generally thought by his neighbors to be a spy the question is, for which side And Cooper will enlighten us on that score only in his own good time But we re also soon introduced to his wealthy Tory neighbors, the Whartons, who early on welcome the family s heir, Captain Henry Wharton of the British Army, who s visiting them in disguise He s genuinely NOT a spy but the fact that he s out of uniform could get him hanged as one, if he happens to be captured by the Americans In the course of the book, we also meet George Washington whom Cooper portrays as involved in hands on intelligence gathering, and prone to travel around in disguise, than he probably actually was Some other engaging characters populate the novel as well, and the author does deliver a plot with considerable action and intrigue Also on the positive side, he does not demonize the British and their sympathizers one despicable villain here is British, but he earns the contempt of the other Brits, to their credit, and the American guerillas in the area don t earn any plaudits for good behavior, either.Cooper s style here is typical of the Romantic school of that day his syntax is often convoluted, he s got a big vocabulary that includes plenty of long words that he s not afraid of using, and he has a very deliberate mode of storytelling But I don t consider any of these aspects of early 19th century diction to be faults as such, and I actually didn t think the dialogue was as unrealistically ornate as it sometimes becomes in The Last of the Mohicans the latter was actually the only Cooper work I ve read so far where I had a real problem with the style There are no real moral conflicts or choices here that face the characters and cause them to grow Despite the opportunities for dialogue between the partisans of popular democracy and of aristocratic monarchy, these are mostly ignored this is not really a novel that explores the ideology of the American Revolution Readers should be warned that tragic events are a staple of Romantic fiction and the final chapter, which is projected 33 years into the characters future, during the War of 1812, to tell us what became of several of them, relies implausibly on a lot of coincidence, and could better have been left out, IMO Racial insensitivity towards blacks also mars this work Harvey uses the n word, and while Cooper s treatment of Mr Wharton s slave Caesar is in the main positive and sympathetic, he couldn t resist humorously implying that a fall on his head couldn t hurt him much The humor doesn t succeed, to put it mildly By 1826, the author s recognition of non whites as equal parts of the human race had advanced significantly but at this point, he still had quite a ways to go.For readers interested in the fiction of this period, or in Cooper s work in general this novel is worth reading and it s not without its rewards in its own right But it doesn t deserve than three stars in my estimation, and I wouldn t suggest it as a first introduction to Cooper s novels. I put off reading this book for a while because I knew it would be an important one, and I wanted to really read it Well, I really read it, and it was fantastic I feel kind of numb now that it s over It was different than I had expected I guess I thought it would be complicated and extensive, but it was beautiful in it s simplicity It was as if the American War for Independence was spread across Google Maps, and then you zoomed in, on just one little area, a house, or maybe a neighborhood and watched the goings on.
Susan Feni Cooper was also a writer.Series
- 412 pages
- The spy
- James Fenimore Cooper
- 16 August 2019 James Fenimore Cooper