Found in Marcia Schuyler
Written by James Fenimore Cooper
"I believe I could write a better story myself!" With these words, James Fenimore Cooper laid aside the English novel which he was reading aloud to his wife. A few days later he submitted several pages of manuscript for her approval, and then settled down to the task of making good his boast. In November, 1820, he gave the public a novel in two volumes, entitled Precaution. But it was published anonymously, and dealt with English society in so much the same way as the average British novel of the time that its author was thought by many to be an Englishman. It had no originality and no real merit of any kind. Yet it was the means of inciting Cooper to another attempt. And this second novel made him famous.
When Precaution appeared, some of Cooper's friends protested against his weak dependence on British models. Their arguments stirred his patriotism, and he determined to write another novel, using thoroughly American material. Accordingly he turned to Westchester County, where he was then living, a county which had been the scene of much stirring action during a good part of the Revolutionary War, and composed The Spy—A Tale of the Neutral Ground. This novel was published in 1821, and was immediately popular, both in this country and in England. Soon it was translated into French, then into other foreign languages, until it was read more widely than any other tale of the century. Cooper had written the first American novel. He had also struck an original literary vein, and he had gained confidence in himself as a writer.