A Trace of James Fenimore Cooper

More v

A Trace of James Fenimore Cooper

In 1828 James Fenimore Cooper spent three

months in England, chiefly to conduct business with his British publisher,

Richard Bentley, and for most of that time he lived in London at 33 St. James

Place. This is the way he described it in Gleanings in Europe: England:

We finally took a small house in St. James’s Place, a narrow inlet that

communicates with the street of the same name, and which is quite near the

palace and the parks. We had a tiny drawing-room, quite plainly furnished, a

dining-room, and three bed-rooms, with the use of the offices, . for a

guinea a-day. The people of the house cooked for us, went to market, and

attended to the rooms, while our own man and maid did the personal service. I

paid a shilling extra for each fire, and as we kept three, it came to another

guinea weekly. (20)

As Donald Ringe and Kenneth Skaggs point out in their “Historical Introduction”

to England, St. James Place represented “a most desirable location” (xvii). It

is close to the centers of political power in England–St. James Palace,

Buckingham Palace, and #10 Downing Street are not far away. Cooper’s neighbors

on the street included William Wilberforce and Samuel Rogers, a genial and

well-connected writer; Lord Spencer and Sir James Mackintosh lived nearby as

well.

The 33 St. James Place of Cooper’s time no longer exists, but I wanted to visit

the site anyway, to try to get a feel for what it meant for him to live there.

If you walk from Trafalger Square to St. James Street, you can go along The Mall

or Pall Mall, wide streets flanked by the gigantic architecture of Imperial

Britain. St. James Place opens across St. James Street from the Pall Mall;

Christie’s, the famous auction house, is on the corner opposite. At the south

end of St. James Street stands St. James Palace, an imposing brick castle with

You Might Also Like