First edition title page
First edition title page

The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper, first published in January 1824 (though the earliest edition is actually dated 1823). Its subject is the life of a naval pilot during the American Revolution. It is often considered the earliest example of nautical fiction in American literature.


The Pilot was Cooper's fourth novel and his first sea tale. A sailor by profession, Cooper had undertaken to surpass Walter Scott's Pirate (1821) in seamanship.


The hero of the book is John Paul Jones, who appears as always brooding upon a dark past and a darker fate. Yet he is not so morbid but that he can occasionally rouse himself to terrific activities in his raids along the English coast. Another character is Long Tom Coffin, of Nantucket, comparable to Harvey Birch and Natty Bumppo from Cooper's other novels.



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