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Washington Irving

Daguerreotype of Washington Irving
Born April 3, 1783(1783-04-03)
New York City
Died November 28, 1859 (aged 76)
Sunnyside, New York
Occupation Short story writer, essayist, biographer, magazine editor, diplomat
Literary movement Romanticism
Signature

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra. Irving also served as the U.S. minister to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

He made his literary debut in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, written under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. After moving to England for the family business in 1815, he achieved international fame with the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819. He continued to publish regularly—and almost always successfully—throughout his life, and completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death, at age 76, in Tarrytown, New York.

Irving, along with James Fenimore Cooper, was among the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving was also admired by some European writers, including Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Francis Jeffrey, and Charles Dickens. As America's first genuine internationally best-selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession, and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.

Contents

Biography

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Early years

Washington Irving's parents were William Irving, Sr., originally of Quholm, Shapinsay, Orkney and Sarah (née Sanders), Scottish-English immigrants. They married in 1761 while William was serving as a petty officer in the British Navy. They had eleven children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. Their first two sons, each named William, died in infancy, as did their fourth child, John. Their surviving children were: William, Jr. (1766), Ann (1770), Peter (1772), Catherine (1774), Ebenezer (1776), John Treat (1778), Sarah (1780), and Washington.[1]

The Irving family was settled in Manhattan, New York City as part of the city's small vibrant merchant class when Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783,[1] the same week city residents learned of the British ceasefire that ended the American Revolution. Consequently, Irving’s mother named him after the hero of the revolution, George Washington.[2] At age six, with the help of a nanny, Irving met his namesake, who was then living in New York after his inauguration as president in 1789. The president blessed young Irving,[3] an encounter Irving later commemorated in a small watercolor painting, which still hangs in his home today.[4] Several of Washington Irving's older brothers became active New York merchants, and they encouraged their younger brother's literary aspirations, often supporting him financially as he pursued his writing career.

An uninterested student, Irving preferred adventure stories and drama and, by age fourteen, was regularly sneaking out of class in the evenings to attend the theater.[5] The 1798 outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan prompted his family to send him to healthier climes upriver, and Irving was dispatched to stay with his friend James Kirke Paulding in Tarrytown, New York. It was in Tarrytown that Irving became familiar with the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, with its quaint Dutch customs and local ghost stories.[6] Irving made several other trips up the Hudson as a teenager, including an extended visit to Johnstown, New York, where he passed through the Catskill mountain region, the setting for "Rip Van Winkle". "[O]f all the scenery of the Hudson", Irving wrote later, "the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination".[7]

The nineteen year old Irving began writing letters to The Morning Chronicle in 1802, submitting commentaries on New York's social and theater scene under the name of Jonathan Oldstyle. The name, which purposely evoked the writer's Federalist leanings,[8] was the first of many pseudonyms Irving would employ throughout his career. The letters brought Irving some early fame and moderate notoriety. Aaron Burr, a co-publisher of the Chronicle, was impressed enough to send clippings of the Oldstyle pieces to his daughter, Theodosia, while writer Charles Brockden Brown made a trip to New York to recruit Oldstyle for a literary magazine he was editing in Philadelphia.[9]

Concerned for his health, Irving's brothers financed an extended tour of Europe from 1804 to 1806. Irving bypassed most of the sites and locations considered essential for the development of an upwardly-mobile young man, to the dismay of his brother William. William wrote that, though he was pleased his brother's health was improving, he did not like the choice to "gallop through Italy... leaving Florence on your left and Venice on your right".[10] Instead, Irving honed the social and conversational skills that would later make him one of the world's most in-demand guests.[11] "I endeavor to take things as they come with cheerfulness", Irving wrote, "and when I cannot get a dinner to suit my taste, I endeavor to get a taste to suit my dinner".[12] While visiting Rome in 1805, Irving struck up a friendship with the American painter Washington Allston,[10] and nearly allowed himself to be persuaded into following Allston into a career as a painter. "My lot in life, however", Irving said later, "was differently cast".[13]

First major writings

Irving returned from Europe to study law with his legal mentor, Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman, in New York City. By his own admission, he was not a good student, and barely passed the bar in 1806.[14] Irving began actively socializing with a group of literate young men he dubbed "The Lads of Kilkenny".[15] Collaborating with his brother William and fellow Lad James Kirke Paulding, Irving created the literary magazine Salmagundi in January 1807. Writing under various pseudonyms, such as William Wizard and Launcelot Langstaff, Irving lampooned New York culture and politics in a manner similar to today's Mad magazine.[16] Salmagundi was a moderate success, spreading Irving's name and reputation beyond New York. In its seventeenth issue, dated November 11, 1807, Irving affixed the nickname "Gotham"—an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town"—to New York City.[17]

The fictional "Diedrich Knickerbocker" from the frontispiece of A History of New-York

In late 1809, while mourning the death of his seventeen year old fiancée Matilda Hoffman, Irving completed work on his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809), a satire on self-important local history and contemporary politics. Prior to its publication, Irving started a hoax akin to today's viral marketing campaigns; he placed a series of missing person adverts in New York newspapers seeking information on Diedrich Knickerbocker, a crusty Dutch historian who had allegedly gone missing from his hotel in New York City. As part of the ruse, Irving placed a notice—allegedly from the hotel's proprietor—informing readers that if Mr. Knickerbocker failed to return to the hotel to pay his bill, he would publish a manuscript Knickerbocker had left behind.[18]

Portrait from 1809

Unsuspecting readers followed the story of Knickerbocker and his manuscript with interest, and some New York city officials were concerned enough about the missing historian that they considered offering a reward for his safe return. Riding the wave of public interest he had created with his hoax, Irving—adopting the pseudonym of his Dutch historian—published A History of New York on December 6, 1809, to immediate critical and popular success.[19] "It took with the public", Irving remarked, "and gave me celebrity, as an original work was something remarkable and uncommon in America".[20] Today, the surname of Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional narrator of this and other Irving works, has become a nickname for Manhattan residents in general.[21]

After the success of A History of New York, Irving searched for a job and eventually became an editor of Analectic magazine, where he wrote biographies of naval heroes like James Lawrence and Oliver Perry.[22] He was also among the first magazine editors to reprint Francis Scott Key's poem "Defense of Fort McHenry", which would later be immortalized as "The Star-Spangled Banner", the national anthem of the United States.[23]

Like many merchants and New Yorkers, Irving originally opposed the War of 1812, but the British attack on Washington, D.C. in 1814 convinced him to enlist.[24] He served on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, governor of New York and commander of the New York State Militia. Apart from a reconnaissance mission in the Great Lakes region, he saw no real action.[25] The war was disastrous for many American merchants, including Irving's family, and in mid-1815 he left for England to attempt to salvage the family trading company. He remained in Europe for the next seventeen years.[26]

Life in Europe

The Sketch Book

The front page of The Sketch Book (1819)

Irving spent the next two years trying to bail out the family firm financially but was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy.[27] With no job prospects, Irving continued writing throughout 1817 and 1818. In the summer of 1817, he visited the home of novelist Walter Scott, marking the beginning of a lifelong personal and professional friendship for both men.[28] Irving continued writing prolifically—the short story "Rip Van Winkle" was written overnight while staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England, a place that also inspired some of his other works.[29] In October 1818, Irving's brother William secured for Irving a post as chief clerk to the United States Navy, and urged him to return home.[30] Irving, however, turned the offer down, opting to stay in England to pursue a writing career.[31]

Irving in about 1820.

In the spring of 1819, Irving sent to his brother Ebenezer in New York a set of essays that he asked be published as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The first installment, containing "Rip Van Winkle", was an enormous success, and the rest of the work, published in seven installments in the United States and England throughout 1819 and 1820 ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" would appear in the sixth issue), would be equally successful.[32]

Like many successful authors of this era, Irving struggled against literary bootleggers.[33] In England, his sketches were published in book form by British publishers without his permission, an entirely legal practice as there were no clear international copyright laws. Seeking an English publisher to protect his copyright, Irving appealed to Walter Scott for help. Scott referred Irving to his own publisher, London powerhouse John Murray, who agreed to take on The Sketch Book.[34] From then on, Irving would publish concurrently in the United States and England to protect his copyright, with Murray being his English publisher of choice.[35]

Irving's reputation soared, and for the next two years, he led an active social life in Paris and England, where he was often feted as an anomaly of literature: an upstart American who dared to write English well.[36]

Bracebridge Hall and Tales of a Traveller

With both Irving and publisher John Murray eager to follow up on the success of The Sketch Book, Irving spent much of 1821 travelling in Europe in search of new material, reading widely in Dutch and German folk tales. Hampered by writer's block—and depressed by the death of his brother William—Irving worked slowly, finally delivering a completed manuscript to Murray in March 1822. The book, Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists, A Medley (the location was based loosely on Aston Hall, occupied by members of the Bracebridge family, near his sister's home in Birmingham) was published in June 1822.

The format of Bracebridge was similar to that of The Sketch Book, with Irving, as Crayon, narrating a series of more than fifty loosely connected short stories and essays. While some reviewers thought Bracebridge to be a lesser imitation of The Sketch Book, the book was well-received by readers and critics.[37] "We have received so much pleasure from this book," wrote critic Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, "that we think ourselves bound in gratitude . . . to make a public acknowledgement of it."[38] Irving was relieved at its reception, which did much to cement his reputation with European readers.

Still struggling with writer's block, Irving traveled to Germany, settling in Dresden in the winter of 1822. Here he dazzled the royal family and attached himself to Mrs. Amelia Foster, an American living in Dresden with her five children.[39] Irving was particularly attracted to Mrs. Foster's 18-year-old daughter Emily, and vied in frustration for her hand. Emily finally refused his offer of marriage in the spring of 1823.[40]

He returned to Paris and began collaborating with playwright John Howard Payne on translations of French plays for the English stage, with little success. He also learned through Payne that the novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was romantically interested in him, though Irving never pursued the relationship.[41]

In August 1824, Irving published the collection of essays Tales of a Traveller—including the short story "The Devil and Tom Walker"—under his Geoffrey Crayon persona. "I think there are in it some of the best things I have ever written," Irving told his sister.[42] But while the book sold respectably, Traveller largely bombed with critics, who panned both Traveller and its author. "The public have been led to expect better things," wrote the United States Literary Gazette, while the New-York Mirror pronounced Irving "overrated."[43] Hurt and depressed by the book's reception, Irving retreated to Paris where he spent the next year worrying about finances and scribbling down ideas for projects that never materialized.[44]

Spanish books

While in Paris, Irving received a letter from Alexander Hill Everett on January 30, 1826. Everett, recently the American Minister to Spain, urged Irving to join him in Madrid,[45] noting that a number of manuscripts dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas had recently been made public. Irving left for Madrid and enthusiastically began scouring the Spanish archives for colorful material.[46]

The palace Alhambra, where Irving briefly resided in 1829, inspired one of his most colorful books.

With full access to the American consul's massive library of Spanish history, Irving began working on several books at once. The first offspring of this hard work, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, was published in January 1828. The book was popular in the United States and in Europe and would have 175 editions published before the end of the century.[47] It was also the first project of Irving's to be published with his own name, instead of a pseudonym, on the title page.[48] The Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada was published a year later,[49] followed by Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus in 1831.[50]

Irving's writings on Columbus are a mixture of history and fiction, a genre now called romantic history. Irving based them on extensive research in the Spanish archives, but also added imaginative elements aimed at sharpening the story. The first of these works is the source of the durable myth that medieval Europeans believed the Earth was flat.[51] (See Myth of the Flat Earth.)

In 1829, Irving moved into Granada's ancient palace Alhambra, "determined to linger here", he said, "until I get some writings under way connected with the place".[52] Before he could get any significant writing underway, however, he was notified of his appointment as Secretary to the American Legation in London. Worried he would disappoint friends and family if he refused the position, Irving left Spain for England in July 1829.[53]

Secretary to the American legation in London

Arriving in London, Irving joined the staff of American Minister Louis McLane. McLane immediately assigned the daily secretary work to another man and tapped Irving to fill the role of aide-de-camp. The two worked over the next year to negotiate a trade agreement between the United States and the British West Indies, finally reaching a deal in August 1830. That same year, Irving was awarded a medal by the Royal Society of Literature, followed by an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford in 1831.[54]

Following McLane's recall to the United States in 1831 to serve as Secretary of Treasury, Irving stayed on as the legation's chargé d'affaires until the arrival of Martin Van Buren, President Jackson's nominee for British Minister. With Van Buren in place, Irving resigned his post to concentrate on writing, eventually completing Tales of the Alhambra, which would be published concurrently in the United States and England in 1832.[55]

Irving was still in London when Van Buren received word that the United States Senate had refused to confirm him as the new Minister. Consoling Van Buren, Irving predicted that the Senate's partisan move would backfire. "I should not be surprised", Irving said, "if this vote of the Senate goes far toward elevating him to the presidential chair".[56]

Return to America

Washington Irving arrived in New York, after seventeen years abroad on May 21, 1832. That September, he accompanied the U.S. Commissioner on Indian Affairs, Henry Ellsworth, along with companions Charles La Trobe[57] and Count Albert-Alexandre de Pourtales, on a surveying mission deep in Indian Territory.[58] At the completion of his western tour, Irving traveled through Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, where he became acquainted with the politician and novelist John Pendleton Kennedy.[59]

Frustrated by bad investments, Irving turned to writing to generate additional income, beginning with A Tour on the Prairies, a work which related his recent travels on the frontier. The book was another popular success and also the first book written and published by Irving in the United States since A History of New York in 1809.[60] In 1834, he was approached by fur magnate John Jacob Astor, who convinced Irving to write a history of his fur trading colony in the American Northwest, now known as Astoria, Oregon. Irving made quick work of Astor's project, shipping the fawning biographical account titled Astoria in February 1836.[61]

During an extended stay at Astor's, Irving met the explorer Benjamin Bonneville, who intrigued Irving with his maps and stories of the territories beyond the Rocky Mountains.[62] When the two met in Washington, D.C. several months later, Bonneville opted to sell his maps and rough notes to Irving for $1,000.[63] Irving used these materials as the basis for his 1837 book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville.[64]

These three works made up Irving's "western" series of books and were written partly as a response to criticism that his time in England and Spain had made him more European than American.[65] In the minds of some critics, especially James Fenimore Cooper and Philip Freneau, Irving had turned his back on his American heritage in favor of English aristocracy.[66] Irving's western books, particularly A Tour on the Prairies, were well-received in the United States,[67] though British critics accused Irving of "book-making".[68]

Irving acquired his famous home in Tarrytown, New York, known as Sunnyside, in 1835.

In 1835, Irving purchased a "neglected cottage" and its surrounding riverfront property in Tarrytown, New York. The house, which Irving named Sunnyside in 1841,[69] would require constant repair and renovation over the next twenty years. With costs of Sunnyside escalating, Irving reluctantly agreed in 1839 to become a regular contributor to Knickerbocker magazine, writing new essays and short stories under the Knickerbocker and Crayon pseudonyms.[70]

Irving was regularly approached by aspiring young authors for advice or endorsement, including Edgar Allan Poe, who sought Irving's comments on "William Wilson" and "The Fall of the House of Usher".[71] Irving also championed America's maturing literature, advocating for stronger copyright laws to protect writers from the kind of piracy that had initially plagued The Sketch Book. Writing in the January 1840 issue of Knickerbocker, he openly endorsed copyright legislation pending in the U.S. Congress. "We have a young literature", Irving wrote, "springing up and daily unfolding itself with wonderful energy and luxuriance, which... deserves all its fostering care". The legislation did not pass.[72]

Irving at this time also began a friendly correspondence with the English writer Charles Dickens, and hosted the author and his wife at Sunnyside during Dickens's American tour in 1842.[73]

Minister to Spain

In 1842, after an endorsement from Secretary of State Daniel Webster, President John Tyler appointed Irving as Minister to Spain.[74] Irving was surprised and honored, writing, "It will be a severe trial to absent myself for a time from my dear little Sunnyside, but I shall return to it better enabled to carry it on comfortably".[75]

While Irving hoped his position as Minister would allow him plenty of time to write, Spain was in a state of perpetual political upheaval during most of his tenure, with a number of warring factions vying for control of the twelve-year-old Queen Isabella II.[76] Irving maintained good relations with the various generals and politicians, as control of Spain rotated through Espartero, Bravo, then Narvaez. However, the politics and warfare were exhausting, and Irving—homesick and suffering from a crippling skin condition—grew quickly disheartened:

I am wearied and at times heartsick of the wretched politics of this country. . . . The last ten or twelve years of my life, passed among sordid speculators in the United States, and political adventurers in Spain, has shewn me so much of the dark side of human nature, that I begin to have painful doubts of my fellow man; and look back with regret to the confiding period of my literary career, when, poor as a rat, but rich in dreams, I beheld the world through the medium of my imagination and was apt to believe men as good as I wished them to be.[77]

With the political situation in Spain relatively settled, Irving continued to closely monitor the development of the new government and the fate of Isabella. His official duties as Spanish Minister also involved negotiating American trade interests with Cuba and following the Spanish parliament's debates over slave trade. He was also pressed into service by the American Minister to the Court of St. James's in London, Louis McLane, to assist in negotiating the Anglo-American disagreement over the Oregon border that newly-elected president James K. Polk had vowed to resolve.[78]

Final years and death

Irving's grave, marked by a flag, in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Returning from Spain in 1846, Irving took up permanent residence at Sunnyside and began work on an "Author's Revised Edition" of his works for publisher George Palmer Putnam. For its publication, Irving had made a deal that guaranteed him 12 percent of the retail price of all copies sold. Such an agreement was unprecedented at that time.[79] On the death of John Jacob Astor in 1848, Irving was hired as an executor of Astor's estate and appointed, by Astor's will, as first chairman of the Astor library, a forerunner to the New York Public Library.[80]

As he revised his older works for Putnam, Irving continued to write regularly, publishing biographies of the writer and poet Oliver Goldsmith in 1849 and the 1850 work about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In 1855, he produced Wolfert's Roost, a collection of stories and essays he had originally written for Knickerbocker and other publications,[81] and began publishing at intervals a biography of his namesake, George Washington, a work which he expected to be his masterpiece. Five volumes of the biography were published between 1855 and 1859.[82] Irving traveled regularly to Mount Vernon and Washington, D.C. for his research, and struck up friendships with Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce.[81]

He continued to socialize and keep up with his correspondence well into his seventies, and his fame and popularity continued to soar. "I don’t believe that any man, in any country, has ever had a more affectionate admiration for him than that given to you in America", wrote Senator William C. Preston in a letter to Irving. "I believe that we have had but one man who is so much in the popular heart".[83] By 1859, author Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. noted that Sunnyside had become "next to Mount Vernon, the best known and most cherished of all the dwellings in our land".[84]

On the evening of November 28, 1859, only eight months after completing the final volume of his Washington biography, Washington Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside at the age of 76. Legend has it that his last words were: "Well, I must arrange my pillows for another night. When will this end?"[85] He was buried under a simple headstone at Sleepy Hollow cemetery on December 1, 1859.[86]

Irving and his grave were commemorated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1876 poem, "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", which concludes with:

How sweet a life was his; how sweet a death!
Living, to wing with mirth the weary hours,
Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer;
Dying, to leave a memory like the breath
Of summers full of sunshine and of showers,
A grief and gladness in the atmosphere.[87]

Legacy

Literary reputation

A bust of Washington Irving in Irvington, New York, not far from Sunnyside.

Irving is largely credited as the first American Man of Letters, and the first to earn his living solely by his pen. Eulogizing Irving before the Massachusetts Historical Society in December 1859, his friend, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, acknowledged Irving's role in promoting American literature: "We feel a just pride in his renown as an author, not forgetting that, to his other claims upon our gratitude, he adds also that of having been the first to win for our country an honourable name and position in the History of Letters".[88]

Irving perfected the American short story,[89] and was the first American writer to place his stories firmly in the United States, even as he poached from German or Dutch folklore. He is also generally credited as one of the first to write both in the vernacular, and without an obligation to the moral or didactic in his short stories, writing stories simply to entertain rather than to enlighten.[90] Irving also encouraged would-be writers. As George William Curtis noted, there "is not a young literary aspirant in the country, who, if he ever personally met Irving, did not hear from him the kindest words of sympathy, regard, and encouragement."[91]

Some critics, however—including Edgar Allan Poe—felt that while Irving should be given credit for being an innovator, the writing itself was often unsophisticated. "Irving is much over-rated", Poe wrote in 1838, "and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation—between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer".[92] A critic for the New-York Mirror wrote: "No man in the Republic of Letters has been more overrated than Mr. Washington Irving."[93] Some critics noted especially that Irving, despite being an American, catered to British sensibilities and, as one critic noted, wrote "of and for England, rather than his own country".[94]

Other critics were inclined to be more forgiving of Irving's style. William Makepeace Thackeray was the first to refer to Irving as the "ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old",[95] a banner picked up by writers and critics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. "He is the first of the American humorists, as he is almost the first of the American writers", wrote critic H.R. Hawless in 1881, "yet belonging to the New World, there is a quaint Old World flavor about him".[96]

Early critics often had difficulty separating Irving the man from Irving the writer—"The life of Washington Irving was one of the brightest ever led by an author", wrote Richard Henry Stoddard, an early Irving biographer[97]—but as years passed and Irving's celebrity personality faded into the background, critics often began to review his writings as all style, no substance. "The man had no message", said critic Barrett Wendell.[98] Yet, critics conceded that despite Irving's lack of sophisticated themes—Irving biographer Stanley T. Williams could be scathing in his assessment of Irving's work[99]—most agreed he wrote elegantly.

Impact on American culture

Irving popularized the nickname "Gotham" for New York City, later used in Batman comics and movies, and is credited with inventing the expression "the almighty dollar".

The surname of his Dutch historian, Diedrich Knickerbocker, is generally associated with New York and New Yorkers, and can still be seen across the jerseys of New York's professional basketball team, albeit in its more familiar, abbreviated form, reading simply Knicks. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of New York City, there are two parallel streets named Irving Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue; the latter forms the core of the neighborhood's shopping district.

One of Irving's most lasting contributions to American culture is in the way Americans perceive and celebrate Christmas. In his 1812 revisions to A History of New York, Irving inserted a dream sequence featuring St. Nicholas soaring over treetops in a flying wagon—a creation others would later dress up as Santa Claus. In his five Christmas stories in The Sketch Book, Irving portrayed an idealized celebration of old-fashioned Christmas customs at a quaint English manor, which depicted harmonious warm-hearted holiday traditions he claimed to have observed in England. He used text from The Vindication of Christmas (1652) of old English Christmas traditions, he had transcribed into his journal as a format for his stories.[100] The book contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States.[101] Charles Dickens later credited Irving as an influence on his own Christmas writings, including the classic A Christmas Carol. The Community Area of Irving Park in Chicago was named in Irving's honor.

The Irving Trust Corporation (now the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation) was named after him. Since there was not yet a federal currency in 1851, each bank issued its own paper and those institutions with the most appealing names found their certificates more widely accepted. His portrait appeared on the bank's notes and contributed to their wide appeal.

In his biography of Christopher Columbus,[102] Irving introduced the erroneous idea that Europeans believed the world to be flat prior to the discovery of the New World.[103] Borrowed from Irving, the flat-Earth myth has been taught in schools as fact to many generations of Americans.[104][105]

Memorials

Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, is still standing, just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York. The original house and the surrounding property were once owned by 18th-century colonialist Wolfert Acker, about whom Irving wrote his sketch Wolfert's Roost (the name of the house). The house is now owned and operated as a historic site by Historic Hudson Valley and is open to the public for tours. The Washington Irving Memorial by Daniel Chester French stands near the entrance to Sunnyside in the village of Irvington, which renamed itself from Dearman in his memory, and visitors to Christ Episcopal Church in nearby Tarrytown, where he served as a vestryman in the last years of his life, can see his pew. His name is also frequently mentioned in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 in a recurring theme where his name is signed by other people to documents which triggers several military investigations as to who Washington Irving is. Throughout the United States, there are many schools named after Irving or after places in his fictional works. A Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum exists in Oklahoma.

List of works

Title
Publication date
Written As
Genre
Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle 1802 Jonathan Oldstyle Observational Letters
Salmagundi 1807–1808 Launcelot Langstaff, Will Wizard Satire
A History of New York 1809 Diedrich Knickerbocker Satire
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. 1819-1820 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories/Essays
Bracebridge Hall 1822 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories/Essays
Tales of a Traveller 1824 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories/Essays
The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus 1828 Washington Irving Fictional Biography/History
The Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada 1829 Fray Antonio Agapida[106] Romantic history
Voyages and Discoveries
of the Companions of Columbus
1831 Washington Irving Biography/History
Tales of the Alhambra 1832 "The Author of the Sketch Book" Short stories/Travel
The Crayon Miscellany[107] 1835 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories
Astoria 1836 Washington Irving Biography/History
The Adventures of Captain Bonneville 1837 Washington Irving Biography/Romantic History
The Life of Oliver Goldsmith 1840
(revised 1849)
Washington Irving Biography
Biography and Poetical Remains
of the Late Margaret Miller Davidson
1841 Washington Irving Biography
Mahomet and His Successors 1850 Washington Irving Biography
Wolfert's Roost 1855 Geoffrey Crayon
Diedrich Knickerbocker
Washington Irving
Biography
The Life of George Washington (5 volumes) 1855-1859 Washington Irving Biography

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Burstein, 7.
  2. ^ PMI, 1:26, et al.
  3. ^ PMI, 1:27.
  4. ^ Jones, 5.
  5. ^ Warner, 27; PMI, 1:36.
  6. ^ Jones, 11.
  7. ^ PMI, 1:42-43.
  8. ^ Burstein, 19.
  9. ^ Jones, 36.
  10. ^ a b Burstein, 43.
  11. ^ See Jones, 44-70
  12. ^ Washington Irving to William Irving Jr., September 20, 1804, Works 23:90.
  13. ^ Irving, Washington. "Memoir of Washington Allston", Works 2:175.
  14. ^ Washington Irving to Mrs. Amelia Foster, [April–May 1823], Works, 23:740-41. See also PMI, 1:173, Williams, 1:77, et al.
  15. ^ Burstein, 47.
  16. ^ Jones, 82.
  17. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. (Oxford University Press, 1999), 417. See Jones, 74-75.
  18. ^ Jones, 118-27.
  19. ^ Burstein, 72.
  20. ^ Washington Irving to Mrs. Amelia Foster, [April-May, 1823], Works, 23:741.
  21. ^ Oxford English Dictionary.
  22. ^ Hellman, 82.
  23. ^ Jones, 121–22.
  24. ^ Jones, 121.
  25. ^ Jones, 122.
  26. ^ Hellman, 87.
  27. ^ Hellman, 97.
  28. ^ Jones, 154-60.
  29. ^ Jones, 169.
  30. ^ William Irving Jr. to Washington Irving, New York, 14 October 1818, Williams, 1:170-71.
  31. ^ Washington Irving to Ebenezer Irving, [London, late November 1818], Works, 23:536.
  32. ^ See reviews from Quarterly Review and others, in The Sketch Book, xxv–xxviii; PMI 1:418–19.
  33. ^ Burstein, 114
  34. ^ Irving, Washington. "Preface to the Revised Edition", The Sketch Book, Works, 8:7; Jones, 188-89.
  35. ^ McClary, Ben Harris, ed. Washington Irving and the House of Murray. (University of Tennessee Press, 1969).
  36. ^ See comments of William Godwin, cited in PMI, 1:422; Lady Littleton, cited in PMI 2:20.
  37. ^ Aderman, Ralph M., ed. Critical Essays on Washington Irving. (G. K. Hall, 1990), 55–57; STW 1:209.
  38. ^ Aderman, 58-62.
  39. ^ See Reichart, Walter A. Washington Irving and Germany. (University of Michigan Press, 1957).
  40. ^ Jones, 207-14.
  41. ^ See Sanborn, F.B., ed. The Romance of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, John Howard Payne and Washington Irving. Boston: Bibliophile Society, 1907.
  42. ^ Irving to Catharine Paris, Paris, 20 September 1824, Works 24:76
  43. ^ See reviews in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Westminster Review, et al., 1824. Cited in Jones, 222.
  44. ^ Hellman, 170–89.
  45. ^ Burstein, 191.
  46. ^ Bowers, 22–48.
  47. ^ Burstein, 196.
  48. ^ Jones, 248.
  49. ^ Burstein, 212.
  50. ^ Burstein, 225.
  51. ^ Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. Praeger Paperback, 1997. ISBN 027595904X
  52. ^ Washington Irving to Peter Irving, Alhambra, 13 June 1829. Works, 23:436
  53. ^ Hellman, 208.
  54. ^ PMI, 2:429, 430, 431–32
  55. ^ PMI, 3:17–21.
  56. ^ Washington Irving to Peter Irving, London, 6 March 1832, Works, 23:696
  57. ^ Jill Eastwood (1967). "La Trobe, Charles Joseph (1801 - 1875)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2. MUP. pp. 89–93. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020077b.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  58. ^ See Irving, "A Tour on the Prairies", Works 22.
  59. ^ Williams, 2:48–49
  60. ^ Jones, 318.
  61. ^ Jones, 324.
  62. ^ Williams, 2:76–77.
  63. ^ Jones, 323.
  64. ^ Burstein, 288.
  65. ^ Williams, 2:36.
  66. ^ Jones, 316.
  67. ^ Jones, 318-28.
  68. ^ Monthly Review, New and Improved, ser. 2 (June 1837): 279–90. See Aderman, Ralph M., ed. Critical Essays on Washington Irving. (G. K. Hall, 1990), 110–11.
  69. ^ Burstein, 295.
  70. ^ Jones, 333.
  71. ^ Edgar Allan Poe to N. C. Brooks, Philadelphia, 4 September, 1838. Cited in Williams, 2:101-02.
  72. ^ Washington Irving to Lewis G. Clark, (before January 10, 1840), Works, 25:32-33.
  73. ^ Jones, 341.
  74. ^ Hellman, 257.
  75. ^ Washington Irving to Ebenezer Irving, New York, 10 February 1842, Works, 25:180.
  76. ^ Bowers, 127–275.
  77. ^ Irving to Thomas Wentworth Storrow, Madrid, 18 May 1844, Works, 25:751
  78. ^ Jones, 415-56.
  79. ^ Jones, 464.
  80. ^ Hellman, 235.
  81. ^ a b Williams, 2:208–209.
  82. ^ Bryan, William Alfred. George Washington in American Literature 1775–1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952: 103.
  83. ^ William C. Preston to Washington Irving, Charlottesville, May 11, 1859, PMI, 4:286.
  84. ^ Kime, Wayne R. Pierre M. Irving and Washington Irving: A Collaboration in Life and Letters. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977: 151. ISBN 0889200564
  85. ^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 179. ISBN 086576008X
  86. ^ PMI, 4:328.
  87. ^ Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", quoted in Burstein, 330.
  88. ^ Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. "Address on the Death of Washington Irving", Poems and Other Writings, J.D. McClatchy, editor. (Library of America, 2000).
  89. ^ Leon H. Vincent, American Literary Masters, 1906.
  90. ^ Pattee, Fred Lewis. The First Century of American Literature, 1770–1870. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1935.
  91. ^ Kime, Wayne R. Pierre M. Irving and Washington Irving: A Collaboration in Life and Letters. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977: 152. ISBN 0889200564
  92. ^ Poe to N.C. Brooks, Philadelphia, 4 September 1838. Cited in Williams 2:101-02.
  93. ^ Jones, 223
  94. ^ Jones, 291
  95. ^ Thackeray, Roundabout Papers, 1860.
  96. ^ Hawless, American Humorists, 1881.
  97. ^ Stoddard, The Life of Washington Irving, 1883.
  98. ^ Wendell, A Literary History of America, 1901.
  99. ^ See Williams, 2:Appendix III.
  100. ^ Restad, Penne L. (1995), Christmas in America: a History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-510980-5 
  101. ^ See Stephen Nissebaum, The Battle for Christmas (Vintage, 1997)
  102. ^ See Irving, 1828; and his 1829 abridged version.
  103. ^ See Irving, 1829, Chapter VII: "Columbus before the council at Salamanca", pp. 40-47, especially p. 43.
  104. ^ Grant (Edward), 2001, p. 342.
  105. ^ Grant (John), 2006, p. 32, in the subsection "The Earth - Flat or Hollow?" beginning at p. 30, within Chapter 1 "Worlds in Upheval".
  106. ^ Irving's publisher, John Murray, overrode Irving's decision to use this pseudonym and published the book under Irving's name—much to the annoyance of its author. See Jones 258-59.
  107. ^ Composed of the three short stories "A Tour on the Prairies", "Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey", and "Legends of the Conquest of Spain".

Bibliography

  • Burstein, Andrew. The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving. (Basic Books, 2007). ISBN 978-0-465-00853-7
  • Bowers, Claude G. The Spanish Adventures of Washington Irving. (Riverside Press, 1940).
  • Hellman, George S. Washington Irving, Esquire. (Alfred A. Knopf, 1925).
  • Grant, Edward. (2001) God & Reason in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-80279-2 hardcover; ISBN 978-0-521-00337-7 softcover.
  • Grant, John. (2006) Discarded Science: Ideas that seemed good at the time ... [sic], ff&f (Facts, Figures & Fun), publisher, ISBN 978-1-904332-49-7 hardcover.
  • Irving, Pierre M. Life and Letters of Washington Irving. 4 vols. (G.P. Putnam, 1862). Cited herein as PMI.
  • Irving, Washington. The Complete Works of Washington Irving. (Rust, et al., editors). 30 vols. (University of Wisconsin/Twayne, 1969-1986). Cited herein as Works.
  • Irving, Washington. (1828) History of the Life of Christopher Columbus, 3 volumes, 1828, G. & C. Carvill, publishers, New York, New York; as 4 volumes, 1828, John Murray, publisher, London; and as 4 volumes, 1828, Paris A. and W. Galignani, publishers, France.
  • Irving, Washington. (1829) The Life and Voyage of Christopher Columbus, 1 volume, 1829, G. & C. & H. Carvill, publishers, New York, New York; an abridged version prepared by Irving of his 1828 work.
  • Jones, Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original. (Arcade, 2008). ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4
  • Warner, Charles Dudley. Washington Irving. (Riverside Press, 1881).
  • Williams, Stanley T. The Life of Washington Irving. 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1935). ISBN 0781252911

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Aaron Vail
U.S. Minister to Spain
1842–1846
Succeeded by
Romulus M. Saunders

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

There is a healthful hardiness about real dignity that never dreads contact and communion with others, however humble.

Washington Irving (1783-04-031859-11-28) was an American author of the early 19th century.

Contents

Sourced

  • Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.
  • I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories.
  • There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.
    • Tales of a Traveler (1824).
  • The almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, seems to have no genuine devotees in these peculiar villages; and unless some of its missionaries penetrate there, and erect banking houses and other pious shrines, there is no knowing how long the inhabitants may remain in their present state of contented poverty.
    • The Creole Village published in The Knickerbocker magazine (November 1836). This is origin of the expression almighty dollar. See Edward Bulwer-Lytton for "the pursuit of the almighty dollar". Compare: "Whilst that for which all virtue now is sold, And almost every vice,—almighty gold", Ben Jonson, Epistle to Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland.
  • Free-livers on a small scale, who are prodigal within the compass of a guinea.
  • There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.
    • "The Adventure Of The German Student".

Knickerbocker's History of New York (1809)

  • How convenient it would be to many of our great men and great families of doubtful origin, could they have the privilege of the heroes of yore, who, whenever their origin was involved in obscurity, modestly announced themselves descended from a god.
    • Book II, ch. 3.
  • Who ever hears of fat men heading a riot, or herding together in turbulent mobs? — No — no, ‘tis your lean, hungry men who are continually worrying society, and setting the whole community by the ears.
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.
  • His wife "ruled the roost," and in governing the governor, governed the province, which might thus be said to be under petticoat government.
    • Book IV, ch. 4.
  • They claim to be the first inventors of those recondite beverages, cocktail, stonefence, and sherry cobbler.
    • Book IV, ch. 241.

The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1819–1820)

  • There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams, and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.
    • "The Wife".
  • Those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home.
  • A tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.
    • "Rip Van Winkle".
  • That happy age when a man can be idle with impunity.
    • "Rip Van Winkle".
  • Luxury spreads its ample board before their eyes; but they are excluded from the banquet. Plenty revels over the fields; but they are starving in the midst of its abundance: the whole wilderness has blossomed into a garden; but they feel as reptiles that infest it.
    • "Traits of Indian Character".
  • Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.
    • "Philip of Pokanoket : An Indian Memoir".
    • A more extensive statement not found as such in this work is attributed to Irving in Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book (1923) edited by Roycroft Shop:
Great minds have purposes, others have wishes. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.
  • The first part of this statement is quoted without attribution as early as 1897, and is widely attributed to Irving separately as well as in this joined form, but in research for Wikiquote, no original source has yet been found.
  • A woman's whole life is a history of the affections. The heart is her world: it is there her ambition strives for empire; it is there her avarice seeks for hidden treasures. She sends forth her sympathies on adventure; she embarks her whole soul on the traffic of affection; and if shipwrecked, her case is hopeless — for it is a bankruptcy of the heart.
    • "The Broken Heart".
  • Language gradually varies, and with it fade away the writings of authors who have flourished their allotted time; otherwise, the creative powers of genius would overstock the world, and the mind would be completely bewildered in the endless mazes of literature. Formerly there were some restraints on this excessive multiplication. Works had to be transcribed by hand, which was a slow and laborious operation; they were written either on parchment, which was expensive, so that one work was often erased to make way for another; or on papyrus, which was fragile and extremely perishable. Authorship was a limited and unprofitable craft, pursued chiefly by monks in the leisure and solitude of their cloisters. The accumulation of manuscripts was slow and costly, and confined almost entirely to monasteries. To these circumstances it may, in some measure, be owing that we have not been inundated by the intellect of antiquity; that the fountains of thought have not been broken up, and modern genius drowned in the deluge. But the inventions of paper and the press have put an end to all these restraints. They have made everyone a writer, and enabled every mind to pour itself into print, and diffuse itself over the whole intellectual world. The consequences are alarming. The stream of literature has swollen into a torrent — augmented into a river — expanded into a sea.
    • "The Mutabilities of Literature".
  • There rise authors now and then, who seem proof against the mutability of language, because they have rooted themselves in the unchanging principles of human nature. They are like gigantic trees that we sometimes see on the banks of a stream; which, by their vast and deep roots, penetrating through the mere surface, and laying hold on the very foundations of the earth, preserve the soil around them from being swept away by the ever-flowing current, and hold up many a neighboring plant, and perhaps worthless weed, to perpetuity.
    • "The Mutabilities of Literature".
  • The great British Library — an immense collection of volumes of all ages and languages, many of which are now forgotten, and most of which are seldom read: one of these sequestered pools of obsolete literature to which modern authors repair, and draw buckets full of classic lore, or “pure English, undefiled” wherewith to swell their own scanty rills of thought.
    • "The Art of Book-Making".
  • His [the author's] renown has been purchased, not by deeds of violence and blood, but by the diligent dispensation of pleasure.
    • "The Westminster Abbey [The Poets' Corner]".
  • The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal — every other affliction to forget: but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open — this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.
    • "Rural Funerals".
  • They who drink beer will think beer.
    • "Stratford-on-Avon".

Mahomet and his successors (1849)

  • In his private dealings he was just. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and poor, the powerful and weak, with equity, and was beloved by the common people for the affability with which he received them, and listened to their complaints.[...] His military triumphs awakened no pride nor vain glory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes. In the time of his greatest power he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity. So far from affecting a regal state, he was displeased if, on entering a room, any unusual testimonials of respect were shown to him. If he aimed at a universal dominion, it was the dominion of faith; as to the temporal rule which grew up in his hands, as he used it without ostentation, so he took no step to perpetuate it in his family
    • Mahomet and his successors, George P. Putnam, 1850, p. 330-339.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WASHINGTON IRVING (1783-1859), American man of letters, was born at New York on the 3rd of April 1783. Both his parents were immigrants from Great Britain, his father, originally an officer in the merchant service, but at the time of Irving's birth a considerable merchant, having come from the Orkneys, and his mother from Falmouth. Irving was intended for the legal profession, but his studies were interrupted by an illness necessitating a voyage to Europe, in the course of which he proceeded as far as Rome, and made the acquaintance of Washington Allston. He was called to the bar upon his return, but made little effort to practise, preferring to amuse himself with literary ventures. The first of these of any importance, a satirical miscellany entitled Salmagundi, or the Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff and others, written in conjunction with his brother William and J. K. Paulding, gave ample proof of his talents as a humorist. These were still more conspicuously displayed in his next attempt, A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by "Diedrich Knickerbocker" (2 vols., New York, 1809). The satire of Salmagundi had been principally local, and the original design of "Knickerbocker's" History was only to burlesque a pretentious disquisition on the history of the city in a guidebook by Dr Samuel Mitchell. The idea expanded as Irving proceeded, and he ended by not merely satirizing the pedantry of local antiquaries, but by creating a distinct literary type out of the solid Dutch burgher whose phlegm had long been an object of ridicule to the mercurial Americans. Though far from the most finished of Irving's productions, "Knickerbocker" manifests the most original power, and is the most genuinely national in its quaintness and drollery. The very tardiness and prolixity of the story are skilfully made to heighten the humorous effect.

Upon the death of his father, Irving had become a sleeping partner in his brother's commercial house, a branch of which was established at Liverpool. This, combined with the restoration of peace, induced him to visit England in 1815, when he found the stability of the firm seriously compromised. After some years of ineffectual struggle it became bankrupt. This misfortune compelled Irving to resume his pen as a means of subsistence. His reputation had preceded him to England, and the curiosity naturally excited by the then unwonted apparition of a successful American author procured him admission into the highest literary circles, where his popularity was ensured by his amiable temper and polished manners. As an American, moreover, he stood aloof from the political and literary disputes which then divided England. Campbell, Jeffrey, Moore, Scott, were counted among his friends, and the last-named zealously recommended him to the publisher Murray, who, after at first refusing, consented (1820) to bring out The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (7 pts., New York, 1819-18 20). The most interesting part of this work is the description of an English Christmas, which displays a delicate humour not unworthy of the writer's evident model Addison. Some stories and sketches on American themes contribute to give it variety; of these Rip van Winkle is the most remarkable. It speedily obtained the greatest success on both sides of the Atlantic. Bracebridge Hall, or the Humourists (2 vols., New York), a work purely English in subject, followed in 1822, and showed to what account the American observer had turned his experience of English country life. The humour is, nevertheless, much more English than American. Tales of a Traveller (4 pts.) appeared in 1824 at Philadelphia, and Irving, now in comfortable circumstances, determined to enlarge his sphere of observation by a journey on the continent. After a long course of travel he settled down at Madrid in the house of the American consul Rich. His intention at the time was to translate the Coleccion de los Viajes y Descubrimientos (Madrid, 1825-1837) of Martin Fernandez de Navarrete; finding, however, that this was rather a collection of valuable materials than a systematic biography, he determined to compose a biography of his own by its assistance, supplemented by independent researches in the Spanish archives. His History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (London, 4 vols.) appeared in 1828, and obtained a merited success. The Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus (Philadelphia, 1831) followed; and a prolonged residence in the south of Spain gave Irving materials for two highly picturesque books, A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada from the MSS. of [an imaginary] Fray Antonio Agapida (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1829), and The Alhambra: a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1832). Previous to their appearance he had been appointed secretary to the embassy at London, an office as purely complimentary to his literary ability as the legal degree which he about the same time received from the university of Oxford.

Returning to the United States in 1832, after seventeen years' absence, he found his name a household word, and himself universally honoured as the first American who had won for his country recognition on equal terms in the literary republic. After the rush of fetes and public compliments had subsided, he undertook a tour in the western prairies, and returning to the neighbourhood of New York built for himself a delightful retreat on the Hudson, to which he gave the name of "Sunnyside." His acquaintance with the New York millionaire John Jacob Astor prompted his next important work - Astoria (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1836), a history of the fur-trading settlement founded by Astor in Oregon, deduced with singular literary ability from dry commercial records, and, without laboured attempts at word-painting, evincing a remarkable faculty for bringing scenes and incidents vividly before the eye. The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (London and Philadelphia, 1837), based upon the unpublished memoirs of a veteran explorer, was another work of the same class. In 1842 Irving was appointed ambassador to Spain. He spent four years in the country, without this time turning his residence to literary account; and it was not until two years after his return that Forster's life of Goldsmith, by reminding him of a slight essay of his own which he now thought too imperfect by comparison to be included among his collected writings, stimulated him to the production of his Life of Oliver Goldsmith, with Selections from his Writings (2 vols., New York, 1849). Without pretensions to original research, the book displays an admirable talent for employing existing material to the best effect. The same may be said of The Lives of Mahomet and his Successors (New York, 2 vols., 1849-1850). Here as elsewhere Irving correctly discriminated the biographer's province from the historian's, and leaving the philosophical investigation of cause and effect to writers of Gibbon's calibre, applied himself to represent the picturesque features of the age as embodied in the actions and utterances of its most characteristic representatives. His last days were devoted to his Life of George Washington (5 vols., 1855-18J9, New York and London), undertaken in an enthusiastic spirit, but which the author found exhausting and his readers tame. His genius required a more poetical theme, and indeed the biographer of Washington must be at least a potential soldier and statesman. Irving just lived to complete this work, dying of heart disease at Sunnyside, on the 28th of November 1859.

Although one of the chief ornaments of American literature, Irving is not characteristically American. But he is one of the few authors of his period who really manifest traces of a vein of national peculiarity which might under other circumstances have been productive. "Knickerbocker's" History of New York, although the air of mock solemnity which constitutes the staple of its humour is peculiar to no literature, manifests nevertheless a power of reproducing a distinct national type. Had circumstances taken Irving to the West, and placed him amid a society teeming with quaint and genial eccentricity, he might possibly have been the first Western humorist, and his humour might have gained in depth and richness. In England, on the other hand, everything encouraged his natural fastidiousness; he became a refined writer, but by no means a robust one. His biographies bear the stamp of genuine artistic intelligence, equally remote from compilation and disquisition. In execution they are almost faultless; the narrative is easy, the style pellucid, and the writer's judgment nearly always in accordance with the general verdict of history. Without ostentatiol or affectation, he was exquisite in all things, a mirror of loyalty, courtesy and good taste in all his literary connexions, and exemplary in all the relations of domestic life. He never married, remaining true to the memory of an early attachment blighted by death.

The principal edition of Irving's works is the "Geoffrey Crayon," published at New York in 1880 in 26 vols. His Life and Letters was published by his nephew Pierre M. Irving (London, 1862-1864, 4 vols.; German abridgment by Adolf Laun, Berlin, 1870, 2 vols.) There is a good deal of miscellaneous information in a compilation entitled Irvingiana (New York, 1860); and W. C. Bryant's memorial oration, though somewhat too uniformly laudatory, may be consulted with advantage. It was republished in Studies of Irving (1880) along with C. Dudley Warner's introduction to the "Geoffrey Crayon" edition, and Mr G. P. Putnam's personal reminiscences of Irving, which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. See also Washington Irving (1881), by C. D. Warner, in the "American Men of Letters" series; H. R. Haweis, American Humourists (London, 1883). (R. G.)


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