The Sea Lions

Or, The Lost Sealers

By James Fenimore Cooper
Introduction by James P. Elliott, Lance Schachterle
Text by James P. Elliott, and Lance Schachterle

Subjects: Fiction, American Literature, American History, New York/regional
Series: The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper
Hardcover : 9781438489056, 496 pages, April 2023
Paperback : 9781438489063, 496 pages, October 2023

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Table of contents

Historical Introduction

The Sea Lions

Explanatory Notes
Textual Commentary
A Note on the Manuscripts
Editorial Procedures
Rejected Readings
Textual Notes
Word Divisions
Appendix 1

An exciting adventure tale of sealers caught in the Antarctic ice in the early nineteenth century and forced to winter over in extreme conditions.


The Sea Lions (1849) is the twelfth and last of Cooper's sea novels, a genre he largely invented. Drawing upon memories from nearly three decades earlier of his own ventures in whaling and his reviews of accounts of exploring and hunting in cold seas, Cooper fashioned an exciting tale of two small vessels capturing seals near the Antarctic Circle. When the sealers are trapped by the ice and forced to winter over in extreme conditions, Cooper's hero undergoes a spiritual transformation amidst the sublime threat of hostile Nature. The editors argue that this transformation parallels Cooper's gradual shift from a religion of Nature to his embracing Trinitarian Christianity. In expanding the scope of his sea fiction to embrace spiritual questions, Cooper anticipates Melville, who reviewed the novel favorably. This scholarly edition, the thirtieth in The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper series, presents an accurate text that draws upon both the American first edition and the British first edition, for which the editors have determined Cooper provided some revisions not found in his American text. The edition provides extensive historical, cultural, and geographic explanatory notes. The editors also provide a full scholarly apparatus discussing their editorial choices, and the edition has been approved by scholarly peers in the Committee for Scholarly Editions of the Modern Language Association.

Lance Schachterle is Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Arts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. James P. Elliott is Professor Emeritus of English at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. R. D. Madison is Professor Emeritus of English at the United States Naval Academy.


"Schachterle and Elliot provide a detailed, multifaceted historical introduction that greatly enriches the experience of reading The Sea Lions." — H-Net Reviews (H-Environment)