Humanity has long been fascinated by Mother Nature and its inhabitants. The first sign of written language, which consisted of animal pictures, dates back to the prehistoric times and displays our interest in the natural world around us. There have been thousands of books written in regards on the different species of animals and vegetation found in our planet. People have gone as far as to specializing in specific areas regarding animals and plants. Ways to categorize new findings exploded at the turn of the 19th century where we see a distinctive focus on cataloguing take place. We see evidence of a wide variety of species found in nature writings like that of Rural Hours (1850), written by Susan Fennimore Cooper, that show the great diversity of natural world including many different species of wildlife. Examining the many species identified in Cooper’s writings highlights the harmful effects human beings have had on the natural world that go beyond simple environmental degradation and have resulted in the loss of human-animal relationships as well as eradicating natural vegetation. Doing a close reading of Cooper’s Rural Hours, and contemporary biological studies, this paper examines the loss of some of the animal/plant species identified by Cooper, a loss both physical and intangible.
Susan Fenimore Cooper was born in Scarsdale, New York on April 17, 1813. She was the second child born to Susan De Lancey and James Fenimore Cooper but is known as the oldest since her older sister died as a child. Cooper came from an educated family. Her grandfather was a judge and her father a well acclaimed writer. She started her education in New York, “Susan was educated in excellent private schools and also by tutors.”1 On 1826, James Fenimore Cooper is appointed United States Consul for Lyons, France relocating the family to Paris. Susan continues her education in a private school located in Paris. “Not only was she educated in both American and European literature, she studied languages and art, as well as basic botany and zoology- an excellent education for a girl at the time”2 At the age of 23, she returns to America and settles with her family in Cooperstown, a town which was settled by her grandfather . Here she begins writing articles and editing her father’s work. She writes two books, Elinor Wyllys (1846) and Rural Hours (1850), the last one reaching international attention. “It was so successful that it was republished ten times between 1850 and