IntroductionThough he wrote extensively throughout his life, Washington Irving is remembered essentially for two short stories. One focuses on a man who takes the world’s longest catnap, and the other is a spooky tale about a teacher who loses his head. “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” have become enduring classics, inspiring numerous film and television adaptations. Yet the erudite Irving, born and raised in Manhattan, made his name early with sophisticated satire. Politics and social issues were equally important to Irving. Following his extensive travels throughout the frontier, Irving was unabashedly critical of the United States’ dealings with Native Americans. It was not a popular stance at that time, but it typified Irving’s complexity and the hidden depths of his written works.
- Irving is considered one of America’s first great writers. His name is often mentioned with the likes of James Fenimore Cooper and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- Irving was particularly adept at short-form writing, and many of his earliest works were humorous, often satirical pieces that appeared in literary periodicals.
- Irving served in the military and fought in the disastrous War of 1812. Shortly thereafter, he retreated to England for nearly two decades to help save his family’s damaged fortunes.
- Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle” was inspired by a stay at his sister’s home in England.
- Later in life, Irving shifted the focus of his writing to a new interest: history. Though his historical work was not always accurate, it was highly romantic, reflecting the movement that would soon dominate literary writings.
All Resources by Category
- A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada - Masterplots
- A History of New York - Masterplots
- Adventure of the German Student - Masterplots
- Rip Van Winkle - Literary Characters
- Rip Van Winkle - Literary Places
- Rip Van Winkle - Masterplots
- Rip Van Winkle eNotes
- The Devil and Tom Walker - Masterplots
- The Devil and Tom Walker eNotes
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Literary Characters
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Literary Places
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Masterplots
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow eNotes
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