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Washington Irving: Biography

Washington Irving (1783- 1859)
Irving´s importance lies in his setting an example for others to follow. He steered American writers away from their provincial didacticism, using humor and wit. One of the first romanticists who reflected life of new US
-born in New York as a youngest of 11 children of a wealthy merchant, he studied law (lawyer at 23) but was more attracted by literature and already started to write.
-1804/1806 traveled to Europe (Holland, France, Italy) to restore his health and further his education where he collected stories and materials that he later used in his stories and essays
-He created comic character of Dutch American DIEDRICH KNICKERVROCKER- narrator of his book HISTORY OF NEW YORK which made him extremely popular, first piece of comic literature in American literature. It is a burlesque about the early Dutch settlers
-1815 he returned to Europe to take charge of family business, however, 1818 the business went into bankruptcy, so he was forced to write for living, to be a professional writer

-THE SKETCH BOOK- most successful book he ever wrote and Americanized versions of European folk tales under pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon. This book made him famous, celebrity in Europe and in USA. Some of the sketches are based upon the old Dutch and Indian legends, the great majority of them, however, depict English scenes. Much of the work on literature, expressing Irving’s quest for order and stability and his search for values in culture and tradition. It also contains two his immortal tales, RIP VAN WINKLE and THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
-RIP VAN WINKLE is a humorous story of an American citizen who bewitched fell asleep in the woods as a subject of the English king and awoke twenty years afterwards to find the county as a republic. He incorporated many foreign themes
-TALES OF THE TRAVELLER contains number of Gothic stories. Author’s interest in Gothic romances was due to his travels in Europe- Germany and France- and to his preoccupation with the folklore and culture of other nations. So much criticized he thought he would never returned to write again. Following years he worked as a politician, diplomat

-1832 - After 17 years he returned back to USA, welcomed as a great writer, he was first to achieve international fame
-1842/1845 he was back in Europe again as a politician, he was also Minister to Spain
-Last 13 years he spent back in USA in his home SUNNY SIDE at Hudson river, setting for some of his famous stories

Irving’s stories of colonial America remain his most enduring contribution to American literature. Much of his material was legendary, that is why his tales are often filled with the mysterious and supernatural. Irving’s humor, feeling for tradition, vivid characterization, American setting, absence of didacticism, and charming style represent his major assets and determine his great and acknowledged position in American literature. He wrote for pleasure, had cultivated good style, he concentrated on literary quality. His short stories are typically American product, in Europe novellas longer.

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