It is thought that the novel was written after a challenge made by his wife. His biographer Warren Walker records it this way:
"... In the customary practice of the day he was reading aloud to his wife one evening from a current English novel, but found the story dull. Throwing it aside, he declared, "I could write a better book than that myself." And Susan's challenge to make good his boast resulted in his writing Precaution (1820). . ." When Cooper's work was published without a name it was anonymously accredited to an English woman. It was also published in England and was well received among the set that was fond of this style of writing. The publisher, A.T. Goodrich, later surprised the public when it revealed that Precaution was authored by a gentleman from New York. This is the work that made Cooper realize his potential as a writer.