The Spy (Cooper novel)

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The Spy: a Tale of the Neutral Ground was James Fenimore Cooper's second novel, published in 1821 by Wiley & Halsted. This was the earliest American novel to win wide and permanent fame and may be said to have begun the type of romance which dominated U.S. fiction for 30 years.


The action takes place during the American Revolution, at "The Locusts", which is believed to have been the real family home of John Jay in Rye, Westchester County, New York (known today as the Jay Estate). The plot ranges back and forth over the neutral ground between the British and Continental armies.

Harvey Birch, peddler and patriot, is a character remotely founded upon that of a real spy who helped John Jay. H. L. Barnum's The Spy Unmasked; or Memoirs of Enoch Crosby, alias Harvey Birch (1828; 5th ed., 1864) claimed to identify the historical spy.


  • Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCarl Van Doren (1920). "Spy, The". In Rines, George Edwin. Encyclopedia Americana.

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