Colonel Thorn and the Writers: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Eugene Sue

As part of my immersion into the Thorn’s story, I’ve found it interesting to learn about the people around him. Particular writers’ names keep coming in connection with the family, so I will take a moment to talk about who they were, and speculate on why they might have been friends. For instance, the artist George Healey was sponsored by Colonel Thorn and they became longtime friends. I have mentioned him in an earlier post. Artists and musicians of the day relied heavily on their patrons. It was, in practical terms, these wealthy people who supported cultural movements.

The names Eugene Sue, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper have been repeatedly mentioned in connection with the Thorn’s. They were all writers, and in this post, I will delve a little into who they were…

Eugene Sue

Eugene Sue’s work was likened to Alexander Dumas, who was writing at the same time, and his most famous work The Mysteries of Paris is said to have been the inspiration for Les Mis by Victor Hugo. Below is a mention of the series success. It was the first serialised story in France, at least, and the first story to bring together characters from different social classes.

“The previous evening, at Colonel Thorne’s, Irving had discussed the works of James Fenimore Cooper with Eugene Sue, whose “Mysteries of Paris”, a series of volumes then in course of publication, was in literary circles perhaps even more the talk of the day than the early novels of Dumas.”

Eugene Sue was at the Colonel’s Great Ball of 1841 as well, and is mentioned by the newspapers…

Literature was represented by Mr. Eugene Sue, under the black velvet doublet of Torquato Tasso. [an Italian poet in 1595].

Eugene Sue
Washington Irving

Washington Irving met Herman Thorn in Paris and mentioned him on numerous occasions in letters. Irving wrote short fiction and essays and is most well known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. On June 18th, 1841 he said:

[Went in the] Ev[enin]g to Thorn's Grand Fete gardens illuminated. Introduced to Eugene Sue stout man about thirty-six strong, black beard spoke with great approbation of Cooper's writings. 
Washington Irving

His biographer later discussed Irving’s rise in staus:

Other proof of his [WI] age and altered situation came to him, too, in his recognition at Colonel Thorn’s dinner of the Marquis of Brignole-Sale, now Minister from Sardinia, whom he had first seen thirty-seven years earlier, acting in Voltaire’s Zaire, at Genoa. Brignole did not recall the young American of twenty-two, but proffered some civilities on the Columbus; it was Irving’s first hint of a service, which might prove practical, rendered him in these southern countries by his writings on Spain

. Once committed, the American Minister endured the gayeties to which his rank entitled him. He basked in the “ delicious, fascinating smiles” of the Princess Mathilde Demidov, daughter of Jerome Bonaparte ; he discussed the writing of history with the Marquis de la Grange and he talked with Count Walewski about travel in the East.‘Bulwer was now Irving’s tireless escort ; he must show him the relatives of Lafayette and Talleyrand. Irving also met strong, black-bearded Eugene Sue, vociferous about the novels of James Fenimore Cooper.

James Fenimore Cooper

So Washington Irving met Eugene Sue who was talking about James Fenimore Cooper. Small world! Cooper wrote adventure stories including the Leatherstocking Tales with the character Natty Bumpo. Irving also served as a misdhipman in the US Navy. He mentions Colonel Thorn in his letters:

[Herman] Thorn has just lost a suit with Mr. Jauncey. I believe he thought of setting up the defence that the children were not his sons, but was persuaded not to do it. Mrs. Thorn, however, talked very strongly against her daughter-in-law, who has now got $3500 per annum, for herself and children [this refers to James’s wife]. The other son-in-law de Ferussac, has also prevailed against his papa, and the whole family is broken up. Thorn himself is eyed jealously, and has more suits depending with Jauncey’s heirs.

James Fenimore Cooper

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