James Fenimore Cooper’s magnificent vision of American civilization was probably doomed from the outset. Yet the dream died hard, as the years (1845–1851) recorded in Volume V and Volume VI of his Letters and Journals show. Vigorous and perceptive as ever at 55, he continued to combat forces in the national life that he feared were destroying its civility and constitutional structures. When, finally, he realized that his efforts were barren, he found some solace in religion. Cooper mellowed perceptibly in his later years, and his genius for friendship is perhaps better revealed here than in earlier volumes. And his range of observation remained kaleidoscopic: the Mexican War, the Navy, the French Revolution of 1848, the theatre, and the latest New York scandal. Nor did his productivity slacken. Between 1845 and 1850, he averaged two books a year, undertook a revised edition of his works in fine format, composed a play, and, at the time of his death, had in press The Towns of Manhattan, which was to have been the first history of Greater New York City.
Volume VI provides a cumulative index to the entire edition and contains an important section of additional letters (1825–1844) discovered since the earlier volumes were published.