Biography of Washington Irving
WASHINGTON IRVING was born in New York, April 3, 1783, and died of heart disease, at Sunnyside, his country-seat on the banks of the Hudson, on November 28, 1859.
Both his parents came from Great Britain. His father had intended Washington for the legal profession, but sickness interfered with his studies, and caused him to take a voyage to Europe, proceeding as far as Rome. Returning to the United States, he was admitted to the bar; but preferring literature, he gave but little attention to the practice of law.
His first literary effort appeared in the form of a satirical miscellany, entitled "Salmagundi," published jointly with his brother, William Irving, and J. K. Paulding, in 1807-8. This publication gave ample proof of Irving's talent as a humorist, and prepared the public mind for a favorable reception of his next effort. "The Knickerbocker History of New York," published in 1809, greatly added to Irving's popularity. "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 hardiness and prolixity of the story are skillfully made to heighten humorous effect."
Upon his father's death Irving became a silent partner in his brother's commercial house, a branch of which was established at Liverpool. The firm struggled with fate for some time, then became bankrupt. Fortunately for American literature, his business failure compelled him to resume his pen as a means of support. 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 insured by his amiable temper and polished manners. 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 in 1820 to bring out "Geoffrey Crayon's Sketch Book," which was already appearing in America in a periodical form. Some stories and sketches on American themes, contribute to give it variety; of these "Rip Van Winkle" is the most remarkable. It speedily obtained great success on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1822 appeared "Bracebridge Hall," an excellent work upon a purely English subject, hence the humor is more English than American. "Tales of a Traveler" came from his pen in 1824, and Irving started for a tour on the continent. His literary work had already brought him an ample fortune, and his continued income furnished means for him to travel and enlarge the sphere of his observations. After a long course of travel he settled down at Madrid, in the house of the American...