American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

THE RED ROVER (1827). James Fenimore Cooper’s* (1789-1851) second sea novel, The Red Rover opens in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1759, where young Harry Wilder and his companions, Dick Fid and Scipio Africanus, await berths. Fid and S’ip hire out aboard the Dolphin, pirate* ship of the protagonist Red Rover, while Wilder becomes captain of the Royal Caroline, which sets out to sea shadowed by another vessel and beset by storm. Abandoned by his crew, Wilder and his three female passengers are rescued by the mysterious pursuer, the Dolphin. Fid and S’ip, happily reunited with their leader, recount having rescued him as a small boy adrift at sea. The Red Rover seizes a British cruiser, the Dart, and through remarkable coincidence Wilder is discovered to be Henry de Lacy, the long- lost son of one of the three female passengers. Moved by this reunion and by Wilder’s noble spirit, the Red Rover spares him from the vengeance of the pirate crew. He sets his crew on land with all their booty, sends Wilder and the hostages away aboard the Dart, and remains alone on his ship with his cabin boy. From a distance Wilder watches the Dolphin catch fire and burn as a small boat appears to put off from the sinking ship.

The novel then leaps forward twenty years, to Newport in 1779, where the Red Rover and Captain Henry de Lacy meet again, now as two heroic captains of the Continental navy. Wounded, clutching an American flag, the Red Rover utters dying words of triumph.

The Red Rover was adapted for the stage by Samuel Chapman in 1828.

Brad S. Born