The Two Admirals

A Tale

By James Fenimore Cooper

Subjects: Fiction
Series: The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper
Paperback : 9780887069079, 511 pages, May 1990
Hardcover : 9780887069055, 511 pages, May 1990

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Table of contents



Historical Introduction

Preface [1842]

Preface to The Two Admirals [1851]

The Two Admirals

Explanatory Notes

Textual Commentary

Note on the Manuscript

Textual Notes


Rejected Readings



Author of the first scholarly history of the United States Navy, James Fenimore Cooper had long hoped to commemorate the American Navy by representing its fleet in action. Since no such fleet existed in 1841, he reverted to the Jacobite War of 1745 when the great British and French fleets contested in the English Channel and the colonial and British fleets were one.

Ever the experimenter in fiction, Cooper achieved a metaphysical dimension by assigning personal attributes to the ships in combat, and he also implicitly recalled his long friendship with Commodore William Branford Shubrick (much later, Rear Admiral Shubrick) in the story of the friendship between his two admirals—Oates and Bluewater—of the British Navy. The result is an intriguingly realistic romance.


"In outline, The Two Admirals. as romantic as The Pilot or Red Rover. ..The details, however, are in large part solid and real, and events are so handled that they raise philosophical questions—the more interesting because Cooper keeps personally aloof and neither asks nor answers them directly—about the notion of legitimacy in government and the conventions of loyalty and obedience. " — James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper (William Sloane Associates, The American Men of Letters Series, pp. 157-58).