|Washington Irving, (April 3, 1783- November 28 1859) American
author, short story writer, essayist, poet, travel book writer,
biographer, and columnist, still best known for the short stories
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle".
Washington Irving was born in New York City the youngest of 11
children. His father was a chief petty officer in the British Navy
who became wealthy merchant in New York City, and his mother,
an English woman, was the granddaughter of a clergyman. Early
in his life Irving developed a passion for books. He studied law
privately but practiced only briefly. From 1804 to 1806 he
travelled widely in Europe. After returning to the United States,
Irving was admitted to the New York bar in 1806. He was a
partner with his brothers in the family hardware business and
representative of the business in England until it collapsed in
1818. During the war of 1812 Irving was a military aide to New
York Governor Daniel Tompkins in the U.S. Army. He saw action
in the Great Lakes.
Irving's career as a writer started in journals and newspapers. He
contributed to the Morning Chronicle (1802-03), which was
edited by his brother Peter, and published Salmagundi; or, The
Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff & Others
(1807-08).Irving's success in social life and literature was
shadowed by a personal tragedy. He was engaged to be married
to Matilda Hoffmanm who died at the age of seventeen, in 1809.
From 1812 to 1814 he was an editor of Analetic magazine in
Philadelphia and New York.
In 1809 Washington Irving wrote a comic history of the Dutch
regime in New York, A History of New-York from the Beginning
of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich
Knickerbocker who was supposed to be an eccentric
Dutch-American scholar. The Sketch Book Of Geoffrey
Crayon,Gent. (1819-20), a collection of stories including The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle allowed him to
become a full-time writer. In 1822 appeared a sequel to The
Sketch Book, Bracebridge Hall, or, The Humorists, A Medley.
After the death of his mother, Irving decided to stay in Europe,
where he remained for seventeen years from 1815 to 1832. In
1824 in England he had a romantic liaison with Mary Shelley. In
1825 he met Alexander Hill Everett who had been appointed
Minister to Spain. In 1826 he headed to the Spanish archives to
search through recently released information. In 1829-32 he was
secretary to Cornelius Van Ness at the embassy. During his stay
in Spain, he wrote Columbus (1828), Conquest Of Granada
(1829) and The Companions Of Columbus (1831), all based on
careful historical research. In 1829 he moved to London and
published Alhambra (1832), concerning the history and the
legends of Moorish Spain. The Spanish were so pleased with
Irving's writing that in 1828, they elected him to the Real
Academia de la Historia. In 1830, Irving received a gold medal in
history from the Royal Society of Literature in London, and also
received honorary degrees from Oxford, Columbia, and Harvard.
In 1832 Irving returned to New York to an enthusiastic welcome
as the first American author to have achieved international fame.
He toured the southern and western United States at times with
Charles La Trobe and wrote The Cayon Miscellany (1835) and
A Tour Of The Prairies (1835). His second western book was
Astoria about John Jacob Astor. He also wrote The Adventures
of Captain Bonneville (1837). He also wrote Recollections of
Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey, Biography of Margaret Miller
Davidson,(1841) and The Legends of the Conquest of Spain.
Between the years 1842-45 Irving was the U.S. Minister to Spain.
He was appointed by President Tyler and recommended by
Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State.
Irving spent the last years of his life in Tarrytown. From 1848 to
1859 he was President of Astor Library, later New York Public
Library. Irving's later publications include Biography of
Goldsmith, Mahomet And His Successors (1850), Wolfert's
Roost (1855), and his five-volume The Life of George
He died on November 28, 1859 at his home in Sunnyside. He is
buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
|Why Washington Irving on a St. Augustine Florida page? Part of
the Spanish reawakening in the Flagler era may have been in
part to his influencial works and may have been in the back of
Henry Flagler's mind when he picked St. Augustine and created
his hotels. Also his work on Spanish sources as minister of Spain
may have influenced the career of Buckingham Smith. Finally his
writings may have also contributed to the spread of Moorish
archtecture in St. Augustine that started with Franklin Smith and
influenced other St. Augustine buildings.
Library of Congress Photo