The Pathfinder

or the Inland Sea

By James Fenimore Cooper
Introduction by Richard D. Rust
Notes by Richard D. Rust
Text by Richard D. Rust

Subjects: Fiction
Series: The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper
Paperback : 9780873954778, 569 pages, June 1980
Hardcover : 9780873953603, 569 pages, June 1980

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

or The Inland Sea
James Fenimore Cooper
Edited with an Historical Introduction by Richard Dilworth Rust




Historical Introduction

Preface [1840]

Preface [1851]

The Pathfinder

Textual Commentary

Note on the Manuscript

Textual Notes


Rejected Readings



With the publication of The Pathfinder in 1840, James Fenimore Cooper engaged in what he called the "hazardous experiment" of reviving one of his most popular characters who had been allowed to die in a previous novel.

Natty Bumppo—who had appeared as Leatherstocking in The Pioneers, as Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans, and who had died as the Trapper in The Prairie—appears again as the hero of The Pathfinder. Encouraged by his British publisher to write another tale of the American frontier, Cooper revived his character to take him to the shores of Lake Ontario, the Inland Sea, for an adventurous story of sailors, Indians, and hunters. Inspired by his own experiences as a mid-shipman on Lake Ontario in 1808-09, Cooper writes in his most picturesque fashion of the wilderness of the Great Lakes, the Thousand Islands, and Niagara.

"Never did the art of writing tread more closely upon the art of the painter," wrote Honoré de Balzac in his review of The Pathfinder. Cooper writes of places that were wilderness in his youth and that changed rapidly in his own lifetime as cities and commerce developed around the Great Lakes. Cooper's attitude toward this development was ambivalent, as he indicated in his Preface: "That great results are intended to be produced by means of these wonderful changes, we firmly believe...but that they will prove to be of the precise results now so generally anticipated, in consulting the experience of the past, and taking the nature of man into account, the reflecting and intelligent may be permitted to doubt."

The Pathfinder remains a classic and entertaining account of the American wilderness and of aspects of human experience in the New World.