Probably the characteristics of a man are shown by his letters more clearly than in any other way except by personal contact. This is especially true where the letters are written to members of his family, without expectation of publication. Fortunately there are in the possession of Cooper's family some hundreds of these letters, in great part written by him to his wife; most of them are the letters of a man temporarily absent in the cities of Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, to his wife at his home in Cooperstown, giving her an account of his own activities, the news of mutual friends, and the gossip of the towns; a few are to other members of his family, and some to friends and acquaintances. This correspondence covers fifty-one years of the life of a man who lived but sixty-one. Added as an appendix is the Journal of Cooper's home life in 1848. James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) was an American novelist, travel writer, and social critic, regarded as the first great American writer of fiction. He was famed for his action-packed plots and his vivid, if somewhat idealized, portrayal of American life in the forest and at sea. In 1883 Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper, the author's eldest daughter began to write her own reminiscenes; she died after bringing them down to the year 1828. They are set out here in full for the purpose of giving as complete a picture of the life of James Fenimore Cooper as possible.